The Learning Never Stops

Written with love, by Karley Kiker

If I had to pick a movie title that best describes marriage, one of the first that comes to mind is The Neverending Story. There are endless opportunities to learn, grow, and develop both as an individual and as a couple inside the context of marriage. As I've worked on this column over the last few months I've had "opportunities" to stretch and develop even more than usual, and by that I mean I've constantly seen my own weaknesses exposed as I've attempted to help strengthen the relationships of others. It's humbling to look in the mirror and realize that, after just submitting a blog post on dying to self and putting your spouse first, you've spent the day completely consumed by your wants, your needs, your plans, your priorities. In other words? I'm no more of an expert on this thing called marriage than anyone reading this column—I just jumped on the chance to document what I'm learning in and on the journey! Here's what I've seen so far.

The Learning Never Stops - Marriage Advice, Marriage Blog

On my worst days, I'm selfish and self-seeking, sometimes even actively looking for fault in the way my husband loves and serves me; saying things like "I deserve better than this" in my head (or under my breath). On my good days, I'm giving love in response to being loved; having fun and laughing and making memories and being thankful for the gift God has given us in marriage. But on my best days, I'm loving Taylor like my Savior has loved me. Pursuing his heart. Seeing him for who he really is. Celebrating what makes him come alive. Speaking life and truth into him when he can't see or feel those things for himself. Looking for ways to serve him. Forgiving him without holding on to hurt and offense.

"When you know, you know."

I heard it so many times in reference to the daunting prospect of determining if a potential husband was "the one", but I never understood what it meant until the knowing actually happened.

"What do you mean, I'll just know? Will something change physically? Will I hear an audible voice? Will I suddenly mature out of Disney movies, calling my mom three times a day, feeling awkward while alone in public, and avoiding laundry for as long as possible, and instantly be able to visualize myself throwing dinner parties, doing expert wine and cheese pairings, actually making the bed, and birthing 2.5 children?"

For me, mostly, the answer to all of the above proved to be a resounding no. Weirdly, though, something did happen physically during the I-know that-I-know moment. 

Taylor and I were sitting on the beach talking. Adventure, travel, dreams, plans. But mostly, Jesus. No matter which topic we landed on, everything was Him, because He was the lens. In my own life, I've seen again and again that there's no adventure better than the one He's planned. No travel experience can bring the kind of ultimate fulfillment, joy, and satisfaction He does. No dreams have life without Him, no plans have merit without His orchestration. When I realized that Taylor saw life like this—no separation between his faith and his day-to-day, his decisions informed and his perceptions shaped by Christ—it's like a spear went through my soul.

There is not really an elegant way to say that, because it was not gentle. It was sudden, sharp, and intense—like a valve or a switch flipped on that enabled me to recognize and know and see Taylor in a deeper way than what our surface conversation could have enabled me to. The whole thing literally took my breath away. I remember actually gasping at one point because I was so flooded by the overwhelming desire to lay my head on his shoulder, see a thousand sunsets sitting right beside him, gain access to the emotional space he kept so well-guarded, pour salve into wounds he carried that had not healed, speak truth over any lies that held his mind captive, and protect and nurture his dreams until all of them came true.

As Taylor's wife, I now have the opportunity to do each and every one of these things on a daily basis...and yet so often in the day-to-day of an ordinary life lived side-by-side, I choose to fill my time with what's mundane over what's eternal. Too often I forget that marriage isn't just an institution meant to bring me personal happiness and companionship, but a sacred endeavor in mutual sanctification. More and more I see that marriage is deep ministry; the kind that scrapes down, shakes up, carves out, and digs in to everything that hurts in order to bring about wholeness. Or at least it can be, if we're willing to go there with our spouse and if they're willing to do likewise.

In the moment that I realized Taylor was "the one", I saw him. Not just the him that he is right now, but a flash of who he's going to be when he's walking in the fullest expression of who and what the Lord created him to be. The Taylor I caught a glimpse of was stunning in every sense of the word—assured yet humble, wide open, blazing with the knowledge of the Father's love for him, confident in the calling upon his life. And as the years go by and three years of togetherness turns into 30, it's my deepest hope that through marriage, I'll help reveal what's been inside of him all along, and that he'll do the same for me. That together, we would reflect the astounding love the Father has lavished upon us to the praise and glory of His name.

Am I there yet? No. But together, we're pushing forward in this neverending story...and we're grateful for every minute of it.

Establishing Holiday Traditions As A Couple

Written with love, by Karley Kiker

My family followed several holiday traditions when I was growing up. For Thanksgiving, no matter which city or state we were gathering in, mom always ordered our turkey from a company based in her hometown of Tyler, Texas. We also had a tradition of opening one Christmas present a day early, and we spent almost every Christmas Eve at an annual holiday party hosted by my parents' close friends. My mom started a collection of Barbie ornaments for me when I was very young, and continued the tradition of gifting me with the new “holiday edition” Barbie ornament all the way through college. Each of these traditions are tied to memories I hold near and dear to my heart, which is why this year, I want to be intentional about starting a new tradition (or two) with Taylor. A few ideas I'm tossing around: 

 

1. For the Creatives: Design your own holiday card

Taylor and I had our first go at this two years ago, and I have to admit…we weren't thrilled with how the print job turned out. And yet, it made me so happy to see the little Christmas postcard we created together ("Beachy and Bright" was our theme) on the refrigerator at my in-laws' home. Our card wasn't perfect, but it also wasn't a carbon copy of anyone else's. This year we found a new printer, and I'm hoping to send out another card that's uniquely "us." Over the years I know it will be fun to see how our style has evolved! 

 

2. For the Jet-Setters: Collect an ornament from every place you've traveled together

Unboxing ornaments each year is such a wonderful way to revisit the memories they're linked to. Give yourself the chance to do just that by purchasing an ornament as a souvenir during every trip or vacation the two of you take together. Whether it's a hand-carved wooden shoe from Holland or a merry-and-bright palm tree from Barbados, each ornament you place on the tree is sure to transport you back to some of your favorite times together! 

 

3. For the Foodies: Contribute a signature dish to family gatherings

Mom's macaroni. Grandma's chicken and dressing. Uncle Joe's green bean casserole. What will the two of you bring to the table this year (and for many years to come)? Select a holiday staple, such as potatoes, then discuss ways to put a unique spin on the dish to make it all your own. Standard mashed potatoes, meet bleu cheese infused potatoes au gratin.

 

4. For the Party People: Throw an annual (themed) holiday bash

Maybe it's a fancy sit-down dinner with friends. Maybe it's an Ugly Christmas Sweater party for your church home group. Either way, if you're happiest when you're hosting, get started on those invites and make your fête an annual festivity!

 

5. For the Homebodies: Reserve a "decorating day" and deck the halls together

If nesting is your thing, set aside a special day—perhaps the day after Thanksgiving—to turn on the Christmas music, pull out those holiday items from the attic, and start decorating. In our house we have a relatively strict "no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving" policy (although I may or may not break said policy when Taylor's not around), which makes it so special when it's time to turn on my favorite holiday playlists and start trimming the tree.

3 Things in 3 Years of Marriage | From His Perspective

Written with love, by Karley Kiker

It was so important to me that in my book, Hitched in a Hurrythe wedding was never referred to as "the bride's day." True, Taylor wasn't quite as involved in the detail selection process (see: table linens and floral arrangements), but that shouldn't have relegated him to the role of co-star in the movie titled Karley's Big Day.

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 Marriage Advice - Marriage Blog

Our wedding day was also the first day of our life together as teammates, and thinking about that fact helped me keep my eyes on the prize throughout the planning process: a marriage built to last rather than an event that's over in 24 hours. I included a chapter written by Taylor in my book, and his perspective is every bit as important to me today. That’s why I'm turning today's column over to him! I love and value his point of view and I think you'll find it eye-opening, too. So without further ado, here are three things my husband has to say about our first three(ish) years of marriage! 

 

Q: What have you learned in the last three years?

"I have learned in marriage to be less selfish and to take my wife into consideration when planning activities. I can't just make decisions based on myself and what I want. (I mean I can, but it wouldn't be a good thing.) I've also grown in my ability to be vulnerable and I'm learning to use words to describe how I feel. Early in our marriage my instinct was to shut down if I got frustrated, but that didn't lead to things getting fixed."

 

Q: What do you enjoy about marriage?

"One of the best things about marriage is that I have a lover and a best friend always with me. I have someone around constantly who knows me—good, bad, and ugly—and still loves me anyway. My wife is strong in areas where I'm weak, and vice versa."

 

Q: What would you tell a single guy considering proposing marriage?

"It's kind of funny but I would say don't rush into it, and at the same time, if you know she's the one then don't wait. Do not just get married because you've been in a relationship for a long time. Marriage demands self-sacrifice and compromise. It will be tough for a lot of guys because you go from doing whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want, with as much accountability as you want, to (if you want a good marriage) making 99% of decisions together."