Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Anniversary Weekend

Because we live and work on a college campus with students who are beginning to set their aspirations for life and take their first steps towards creating that life, Neal and I forever get the question, "I want a marriage like yours. How??" While this question is at once both a lot humbling and a little encouraging, it still stumps me as far as what to say. Not because we don't work hard at our marriage, and not because we don't have intentionality in our relationship, but because my first thought is, "Because Neal's so good. Without him, left up to me, this thing would not be good!!"

No, he's not perfect, and yes, a marriage really is the coupling of two sets of strengths and weaknesses. But this man has got a gift for leadership, gentleness, patience. It goes a long, very long way. But, what I'm meaning to say besides all this, is that I came up with one little practical answer for the question. Celebrate.

Celebrate anniversaries as special (not necessarily expensive!) as you possibly can. Make a big deal of one another. Create time to intentionally make big of the beautiful thing, valleys and mountaintops, that God has done in your joined lives. Go all out, whether it's going to the most beautiful picnic spot you can possibly find, sharing a cup of beloved high end coffee, spending a whole day together, or going to the top of one of the tallest buildings in Chicago for dessert.

Because maybe, if you treat your relationship as small, mundane, ordinary, and passed-over, then that's what it might become. I'm no expert, and I know I have a lot to learn... but just thoughts.

Regardless of what we've been able to do to celebrate in the past, and regardless of what we'll be able to do in the future, Neal and I have one tradition that will always be. Want in on it? Cards. Simple enough, right? But not the kind of cards where you write, "Happy Anniversary, I love you, Love your wife (or husband)." The kind that are completely covered on the inside, and then carried over onto the back, our own written words, scribbled in mad love. Specific words of thanks, encouragement, support, hopes, memories, and at times, even mourning together the sad things. The most special part of our anniversary date every year is reading those cards out loud to one another. Yep, we cry, and it's my favorite part of our celebration.

So, I feel satisfied that through our anniversary this year, I found a little, tiny piece of an answer to a very big question. Celebrate. Because celebration lifts us from the mundane. Celebration brings life alive. Celebration helps us believe again and cherish what we've been given.

Here are some pictures from our anniversary weekend. Thursday, a little "day of" dinner out (because I'm such a "day of" person, are you?) Friday, celebrating a friend's engagement. Saturday, official anniversary celebration day.

{Surprise trail of notes for Neal's office}
{Dinner at Penny's Noodles}
Every single time we've been there, we've sat at the same corner window table.
I love things like that.
When a table can become part of your story.

{Mr. Kite's Candy Shop}

For after dinner treats

Munched on our Mr. Kites treats here (and people-watched!)

{Goodies ready to celebrate with our newly engaged friends}
Congrats Allie and Joel!

{Crisp Saturday morning walk through the park}
Destination: Starbucks and the Farmer's Market

{Division St. Farmer's Market}

{Sitting a spell back at the park, one of our favorites}
Cold air, coffee, conversation


{Anniversary dinner at North Pond in Lincoln Park}
A beautiful fine dining restaurant in the park. We've been wanting to go here for years.

{Restaurant Scenery}
It sits all alone on the north pond of Lincoln Park... so romantic.

{Cupcakes at Molly's}
Boston Creme Pie and Cookies & Cream

Later that night, we went home and changed into sweatpants and hoodies and sat out at Montrose Harbor watching the last fireworks of the season. We made a little fire and peppermint hot chocolate, and we both agreed we could have stayed for hours. Maybe we did, I'm not sure. It was just perfection.

Are all our days so perfect? No. We are just normal, and even on our celebration day I had to come back home for the afternoon and rest because my pain was too bad. So don't get any ideas about a perfect couple, or a perfect life, because if that couple exists, it's not us! But we talked lots about how this anniversary truly has been the best one ever. I think in the face of suffering, goodness is just that much sweeter.


ilene @ muchloveilly said...

oh ash!! i loved reading this post - esp since i know you guys are both so REAL.

and i admit, my heart ached a little bit more 'cause you guys went to so many of my fave places.

except it didn't ache when i saw you are both wearing long-sleeved shirts/jackets. craaaazy?! it's so HOT down here. not rubbing it in your face - but sort of. ;)

missing you, friend. congrats to you and neal! you guys deserve it!!!

Kirra Sue said...

awwww. this was so sweet. i loved reading it. thanks for sharing love! i'm so thankful for you two. the day seemed PERFECT, and i'm so grateful for that. how sweet too that the Lord has given you one another during this trying time. He is so good. Happy Anniversary!!! you know how much i love those anniversaries so know i'm rejoicing with you guys over your 4 years!!!

p.s. your outfit was to die for- way to go with the colors, and who tried the boston cream pie cupcake?! isn't it the BEST? maybe?! gosh, i dream about that cupcake. :)

Anonymous said...

Well written, my friend. I especially like the clincher: "I think in the face of suffering, goodness is that much sweeter." How true. Thank you for sharing these happy memories. I love you and delight in your happiness.