This Sunday, June 16 is my husband and I’s 2nd anniversary. As I sit here by his side while he recovers from surgery, I’ve been thinking through our last 2 years and wanted to put pen to paper (or keys to screen) the biggest lessons I’ve learned in our 730 days since we said I do. Not that we know it all - by all means we have much more to learn. But, we have to start somewhere, right?

So, here goes. To all those that have been married much, much longer, we hope to learn from your wisdom and be where you are some day.

Marriage is sacrifice.

You don’t always get what you want, and it’s not always perfect.

4 weeks into marriage I remember standing in my kitchen doing the dishes. Eliseo was at work at the restaurant and I was cleaning up from a dinner I had just made. We had gotten in a slow rhythm of me cooking him dinner while he was at work so he could come home late at night, heat it up and have food before he climbed in bed.

It was working for us, until this night. This night I was tired, and cranky, and just exhausted. So, I stood at the sink and cried. My hands were slowly spinning the soapy sponge in a circular motion, scrubbing at whatever scraps were caked on the pan I had used to cook. Tears streamed down my face as my only though was, I just want to go home. I want to go to my parents house where my mom was always so gracious to cook dinner and I didn't have to clean up after anyone and I could walk away from my adult responsibilities for an hour. I wanted to go home where I could sit on my mom's lap and have her play with my hair and listen to my dad laugh at a kids movie while we ate popcorn. No joke, y'all, this was my thought.

It was in that moment, standing in my kitchen, I realized the reality that marriage is a sacrifice. It's putting another person above yourself, even if it seems like the smallest of ways, because you are now a team and teammates don't give up on one another. It's a sacrifice to lay down your own selfish desires to do what's best for the both of you, even when you want to only have it your way.

Marriage refines you.

I remember going into marriage thinking I was a pretty good version of myself. I didn’t have many flaws in my mind, because who thinks they actually do? Marriage opened my eyes to a bright reality that this is not true, on multiple occasions. A couple short weeks into marriage Eliseo sat me down and asked me what he does on a daily basis (or enough for me to notice) that annoys me.

Seizing the opportunity to share my insights, I thought this was a great, open conversation. Until he asked that he share his. I remember thinking he can’t really have anything on his mind. One habit, maybe. He came up with multiple. M U L T I P L E. Humbled is the word I would use to describe myself in that moment. They were minor things, but actions I didn’t even realize I did, nor thought anything of. Moving in with another person and letting them speak truth into not only your habits in actions, but your character in words, refines you. 

Marriage is full of joy.

The advice given by most when choosing your spouse is to marry your best friend. There's a reason for that, y'all. I married the one person that can make me laugh harder than anyone on the planet, while at the same time make me feel like I'm the most loved human being in the world. We don't like all the same things, nor do we always want to do what the other person wants to do, but somehow we work.

Believe me when I tell you, I can't sit in front of a screen and play video games, much like he has no desire to explore barren lands and pose in front of a camera. We were made to be different, and that's okay. It's what makes us, us. In the midst of those differences, though, we find joy in simply being together doing whatever it is that we chose to do because we like each other's company.

Never go to bed angry.

My grandmother used to tell me this when I asked her about her marriage - this was always the one piece of advice she gave when given the opportunity. I pretended to understand why it was so important to her, but I never really did until a few months ago. One night I got mad at Eliseo. Not a cute little "you're being mean haha" mad, but legit mad. The "I'm going to put 4 pillows between us and pretend you're not in the same bed as me" mad. Serious thinking over here. Except that didn't do it justice for me.

So, I went downstairs and slept on the couch. Why? I couldn't even tell you now. But in the moment it was real. The really sad part, however, is that Eliseo didn't even know I was mad. Not until the morning when he saw I wasn't in bed next to him. Let me tell you, that's not a good way for your spouse to find out your feelings toward them. He, rightfully so, was upset because I didn't communicate with him but rather let my feelings boil. We found ourselves in a merry-go-round of anger toward one another because of the reactions of the other. I got mad, so he got mad. So of course, I got mad that I had to defend myself and he couldn't read my thoughts. Round and round we went, when in reality this could have all been avoided had I voiced my feeling prior to climbing in bed the night before.

Letting things settle and fester does nothing for either one of you, trust me.

Grace is your best friend.

This one is key in my opinion. Not that they all aren't. This one, though, is like the best smoothie you've ever had. All the other points are the fruit that gets mixed in, this is the culmination of them all. It is extremely easy to let things build up in your marriage. The annoyances, the hurtful words when one spouse is tired, the selfish moments of choosing what you want over what's best for the other - these are all seemingly "minor" moments that can easily add up.

It's like each one is a brick stacked on top of one another. Each minor moment represents a brick added, and soon enough you have a wall between the two of you. Unless grace exists. Grace not only says everything is okay, it truly forgives. Grace accepts the fact that your spouse will not change automatically just because they now have a ring on their finger. Grace learns and moves forward. It embraces an apology and communicates through the situation. Grace leans over and says they're sorry in complete humility, even when pride says it's not your fault. Grace gives you the strength to sacrifice. Grace makes joy abound all the more.

Marriage is not always about feelings.

It is, but it isn't. There are some days you wake up and you don't feel like you're on your honeymoon again. I remember listening to our marriage mentors during counseling talk about this. In fact, many told us prior to marriage that it's continual hard work in many ways, but this is a big one. Eliseo and I were, of course, on the pre-marriage "everything is amazing we can't wait to be married" high that comes with engagement and I couldn't fathom our feelings being any different.

We rode that high for a while. A long while, actually. Until we were right around our one year mark and we were faced with the blinding reality that we were on separate vision tracks for our life together and we both want different things. We can look back and laugh about it now, but in the thick of things you don't want to admit that those who advised you were right. This is where the "for better or for worse" comes to fruition and you realize those aren't just words, they're a covenant. It's a promise that on the days the feeling may not be in full force, the truth is. Love is a daily choice. One well worth making day in and day out, but a choice nonetheless.

Marriage is about Jesus.

Eliseo and I have been asked multiple times what we have learned in marriage, but also what we wish we had known before we got married. This point right here, this is it. It's a mindset, a truth to live by and an umbrella to live under. Marriage is not the end all, be all of life. It does not all of a sudden make you the happiest person on earth forever when you say I do (don't get me wrong, our wedding day is at the top of the list for all the happy feels! But don't overlook this point). It does not make all your problems go away, or fix all the things you don't like about yourself.

Marriage does, however, give you a person to walk through life with. It gives you a hand to hold in the hard times, a smile to brighten your day and arms to hug you in the best and worst of times. It gives you a person to point you back to truth when the ground beneath you seems to be wavering.

If you're always looking to your spouse to be everything you think you're missing in life, you're missing out on the point of marriage. Marriage is meant to make you more like Jesus, and that my friends, it definitely does. Marriage shows you the flaws within you in the best of ways. You have a person walking through life with you in every way imaginable - one that knows you inside and out - who can point you to the only perfect Being to refine the broken parts of you. That, in and of itself, makes marriage a beautiful thing.

The past two years have been nothing short of amazing. I love living life with my sweet husband, learning the truth about ourselves and our Savior day in and day out. He has taught me more about myself and about my God than I could have ever imagined when I said I do to him outside that beautiful white barn. It has been worth every single tear and heartfelt laugh.

*all photos in this post were taken by Kayla Havens Photography