6 Reasons to Marry Your Best Friend

Today I’m supposed to talk about my best friend, which is going to get really sappy really quickly because Will is my bestest best friend. But before I get to him, let me say that I have amazing friends, all different, and all special to me in their own ways and for various reasons. I’ve got friends I’ve had since before I can remember having friends. I’ve got friends with whom friendships were forged under the most trying of circumstances – adolescence. I’ve got friends from college who watched me (and bore with me) as I did a fair amount of growing up and becoming myself, making a fool of myself as expected along the way. I’ve got friends from New York who took on the big city with me, who didn’t bat an eye when I started cutting my clothes up and got my nose pierced, but loved me, accepted me, and appropriately challenged me. I’ve got friends from Raleigh, who, though they are my most recent acquaintances, have become family. Literally.

And when I say literally, I literally mean literally. Whitney has spent the last couple of Christmases with my family, yes, and she is very close to literal family, but I’m talking about the friend who is now actually my family – my husband. We sometimes have surreal moments when we just can’t believe that we are married because still, after two years together, only a quarter of our relationship has been romantic in nature. We were friends for six years before we ever got together, so we often find it hard to believe that we get to kiss each other whenever we want, and we often find it hard to believe that there was ever a time we didn’t kiss each other.

Smooching is only one perk of marrying your best friend, though. Here are some more:

1. Hanging out with friends is simple.

We each have some friends that the other doesn’t know (or doesn’t know well), but we don’t hang out with them all that often because they don’t live nearby. If they did, we’d try to hang out with them a little bit more. The friends we hang out with the most are the ones we’ve both known for years, the ones we knew before we ever got together, the ones who, when we started dating, said, “Well it’s about time!” So I almost never have to go to awkward parties with Will’s friends and make small talk (introvert problems), and he’s only had to do that once or twice with my friends and family. Nope, none of that. We just hang out with people we both know and love.

2. Spending time together is fun and easy.

You’re friends! You’ve already spent time getting to know each other and developing “your things” – the things you always do together and/or the things you only do with each other. You have your favorite restaurants and hangouts, you have your inside jokes, you probably enjoy a lot of the same things, and you know what to expect from each other. Sure, Will and I have our disagreements, and we get frustrated with each other at times, but for the most part, being together is enjoyable. We don’t get tired of each other. We just do the things we’ve always enjoyed doing together, and it’s great!

3. The relationship moves at a comfortable pace.

I have two things to say about this. First, a lot of Christians get married lightning fast. The joke is that they just want to have sex, but they have to get hitched first, so they speed the process along. I’m sure there’s some truth to that, but I sincerely hope it’s not the whole truth because marriage is a huge step, and you really should be sure you’re ready to commit to marriage with that specific person before you do it. Otherwise, you are likely in for a bumpy road and a lot of heartache. I believe it is entirely possible to meet, fall in love with, and commit to a person for the rest of your life in a very short span of time (my parents did it), but it’s rare. By marrying your best friend, you can take it fast AND slow at the same time. A lot of people we met when we were engaged (or about to get engaged) were shocked that we’d only been together for such a short time, but as soon as we told them we’d been friends for six years, they were fine with us getting married.

Second, I always hated online dating because it took me six dates to decide whether I liked a guy enough even to be friends with him, much less date him. But by the time you’ve been on six dates with someone, news flash, you’re dating. The pace of it always made me uncomfortable. But with Will, I already knew I liked spending time with him as a friend. I then learned pretty quickly that I loved being in a relationship with him, that in fact I loved him. With that knowledge, stepping into engagement was a no-brainer, and even though marriage is a scary prospect that brings a lot of change, we were WAY ready for it by the time our wedding day rolled around.

4. There aren’t a lot of surprises.

Will and I were friends for six years. By the time we started dating, I knew what foods he liked, I knew how he liked to spend his time, I knew (more or less) how tidy he was, I knew the kinds of things he would want to do and the kinds of things he’d need to be coerced into doing. By the time we got married, I knew even more, and that knowledge has been invaluable. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest, and I think that’s the case because there’s just such a steep learning curve if you haven’t been living together beforehand. But when you marry your best friend, you know what you’re getting for the most part.

5. You always have a buddy.

We fully acknowledge the fact that we are disgustingly sweet a LOT of the time, and the romantic part of being in a good relationship is GREAT. But sometimes, you just don’t feel lovey-dovey. Sometimes you feel wretched and gross and gassy, and you don’t want to be touched. Sometimes you’ve had a hard day, and you don’t want to deal with it. You just want to watch TV and veg out. Sometimes you’re tired and don’t feel sexy at all. And in those moments, the good thing about being married to your best friend is that you’ve always got a buddy. You’ve always got your friendship – your simple enjoyment of each other’s company – to fall back on. You CAN just veg out together and watch TV. You CAN just lie next to each other in bed and look at Facebook. You don’t feel the need to constantly impress each other, and you don’t have to worry when the googly-eyed phase of your relationship stops being a 24/7 thing. Our googly eyes come and go, but our friendship fills in the gaps in between.

6. You can talk about everything.

I mean everything. Everything from the frequency and consistency of your bowel movements to theories on life and purpose. And when things are tough and you need to talk to someone, you’ve always got your best friend there with you, wanting to hear what you have to say. And when things are absolutely abysmal and you would rather not talk about it because you think it will hurt too much, you’ve got your best friend there too, encouraging you to keep talking or just letting you cry it out.

If you didn’t marry your best friend, I don’t think it’s too late to be married to your best friend. We got there slowly, and with a lot of movies. I think you can too. Find some common ground, have fun together, make jokes, laugh, flirt, watch silly TV shows, talk about your poop, ask about each other’s day, talk about your hopes and dreams and theories on life and purpose, and maybe do a little smoochin’.

*This post was co-written by Will and Beth. We are also available for parties…but bear in mind, we are very awkward at them.*

Sad Days

I start crying out of nowhere sometimes. My tears are usually triggered by something specific, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes I just ache. I’m just sad, and it comes out. Will asks me what’s wrong, where my tears are coming from, and I say, “I’m just sad.” That’s all there is to it sometimes. We lost our daughter. We will never hear her giggle, never teach her silly songs, never kiss her sweet head as she “reads” us a book. We will never clean her poop out of the bathtub, never lie in bed with her until she falls asleep, never fight with her about how many bites of food she has to take before she can be finished with dinner. We will never rock her to sleep, never hate that her heart is broken, never want to choke the boy who broke her heart. We will never worry when she’s out on a date, never stress out about how much her wedding is going to cost, never rush to her side when she’s all grown up but still needs her parents. We will never celebrate her victories, never post her graduation pictures on Facebook, never look her in the eye and tell her how proud we are of her.

Some of these things are silly, I know, or gross – not exactly the things you look forward to about being a parent – but the truth is I want them all, and I’m sad that I won’t get them with Ella. Even if I get to be a mom to other kids, I’ll never have those experiences with my first baby, and that’s just sad.

5 Things to Heal the Soul

Everybody has their own remedies for a hurting soul. I’ve already talked about time and God and how you have to participate in the process, but here are my favorite ways to pass the time, connect with God, and receive the good to dilute the bad.

  1. Music – I’m working on a post for next week with the mix I’ve made. I’ve been listening to it over the past week or so as I’ve made and tweaked it, and it’s really good. Music is just good for the soul no matter how you’re feeling.
  2. Rest – Y’all know I love my sleep, and when I say rest is good soul-healing, that includes sleep, but it also includes waking rest. Lie quietly for ten minutes (or five if you’re antsy), and just breathe. Just breathe in and out and let everything go. Rest in bed, rest in a bubble bath, rest while lying in the grass with the sun on your skin. Just give yourself a break. Ordinary life is hectic enough. When you’re recovering from a trauma, you need this even more.
  3. Food – By this, I don’t mean eating your feelings or whipping your appetite into shape. I’m not talking about using food or your control over it to momentarily feel better. Enjoy your food. Appreciate it. Use delicious ingredients in your cooking, and really savor the flavor as you eat. Take your time chewing and really tasting each bite. And be grateful for it.
  4. Hugs – Hugs are awesome.
  5. Laughter – We watched a lot of comedies in the weeks immediately following our miscarriage, and sometimes we felt guilty about laughing so much, but boy did we need it. I’m sure there’s some sort of chemical process that happens in your body to make you feel good when you laugh. I won’t pretend to understand it, but I know it works.

What about you? What heals your soul?

Light Incoming

Thirteenth century Persian poet, Rumi, said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” The band Roman Candle sings, “Come tell me something, any words are fine…let me know if the big light is shining on me.” Rock bottom is usually where people finally allow others to help them. The vulnerability that comes with grief, loss, or injury can actually be the thing that allows light, love, and healing to enter. When you get to that point where you can no longer keep a stiff upper lip, you either shut everything out and sit alone in your depression or risk letting something in, knowing that even if it is good, it will still hurt at first. And because it hurts, it’s really tempting to close yourself off again because, let’s be honest, you’ve had enough pain for a lifetime already.

But friend, I beg you to grit your teeth and bear the initial sting because it will get better. A sharp pain for a short time that leads to long-term healing is better than a deep ache that never ends. So let people love you. Speak the name you don’t dare say for fear that it will rip your heart in half all over again. Talk about your grief, and hear others well when they say, “Yep. Me too.” Feed yourself good things – good words, good music, good food, good relationships, good touch. Be kind to yourself.

I know being kind to yourself sounds both like common sense and like an impossible task all at once sometimes. If you’re having trouble with it, here are some suggestions:

  • Listen to a good album.
  • Take a hot bath or shower.
  • Eat something delicious.
  • Take a nap.
  • Hug somebody.
  • Do some light exercise (or heavy if that’s what you need, but the goal is to be kind to yourself, not punish yourself).
  • Get outside, and breathe deeply.
  • Read a good book.
  • Play a game.
  • Watch a comedy.
  • Enjoy a hot cup of something (coffee/tea/hot chocolate).
  • Go swimming, and just float.

Let the light in, friends. Don’t let the darkness permeate every space inside you. The darkness gets to a point where it feels comfortable, but it’s killing you. The light hurts for a moment, but it is the only way to really live.

Healing

They say that time heals all wounds, but I don’t think I believe that. I think it takes time for wounds to heal, but I don’t think time itself is the healer. I’ve read a lot of the internet, and I’ve come across a whole slew of message boards where women who’ve lost a child to PPROM discuss their struggles. And there are plenty of ladies out there who seem no better off after two years than other ladies after two months. But then there are ladies who seem further along in their healing process at six months than ladies who’ve waited six years. I’m very careful to use the word “seem” in this discussion because I clearly have no idea what’s really going on in their hearts. I can only see what gets typed on the internet. But everyone is different, so I think there must be more at play than just time alone.

As a Christian, I believe that God is the best healer there is, but I think I also play a role in my own healing, so the whole process is a sort of dance, a cooperative effort, a give and take that eventually results in acceptance of my situation and myself in it.

Everyone participates in this process in their own way, so it can take more or less time depending on who you are, and it looks different for everyone because God relates to unique people in unique ways designed to best engage them. For some people, reading about God’s loving nature and promises in scripture is the only thing that helps them feel better. Other people connect with God more through music. Some of us need to feel a physical presence, and for that, God gives us people to hug. Some of us need to feel peace in the midst of turmoil, and for that, he gives sleep. Some of us need chocolate cake for a week, and for that, God gives us old high school friends who own a bakery and are willing to make deliveries.

My temptation is to say that your healing will only go as quickly as the extent to which you engage with God in his healing offerings, but I don’t know if that’s true. I just don’t know. And I won’t attempt to box up healing in a tidy 3-step process because it’s not that simple. What I have experienced, though, is that when I acknowledge the good things in my life – our friends and family, the support they’ve shown us, my cuddly husband, the love I feel for others, the love they show me, the freedom I feel to be myself knowing that God accepts me completely, good sleep, good music, a great job with amazing coworkers and students, chocolate cake, etc. – when I acknowledge all these good things, it feels like they replace little bits of the bad.

Maybe that’s what Isaiah was getting at when he said that the Lord had anointed him to provide for those who grieve, to give them “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3). Maybe everyone who has loved and supported us through the loss of our daughter has been anointed by God to provide for us, to switch out the bad for the good, little by little. And maybe very slowly, I’ll even start to find good things in what right now feels like an entirely bad situation. I’ll let you know if/when that happens, but in the meantime, thank you for everything. I hope you know how big a part of my healing you’ve been so far, and I want you to know that I see it, and I appreciate it more than I can say.

Letting Go of Grief

I don’t think anybody wants to grieve. I don’t think anyone likes it. I don’t think people hang onto it because they enjoy it. I think that if they’re afraid to let go, it’s because the grief is the only connection they feel to the person they’ve lost. Nobody wants to grieve, but people who are grieving have already lost someone important. When we tell them to let go or move on from their grieving phase before they’ve worked through it, they may feel like we’re asking them to give away the person they’ve lost all over again. That’s not cool.

If you are grieving, please take your time. You’ll know when you’re ready to take each next step, so don’t let anybody else tell you that you have to do something before you’re ready. If you’re afraid to let go of your grief, I think you’re probably not ready yet, and that’s ok. Just breathe. I am no expert. I’m not a counselor. I do have a degree in Psychology, but it’s just a BA, so that’s pretty useless. But I know that grief is complicated, and it’s messy, and everyone walks through it differently because people and situations are different. It takes time, and it’s hard, and you go through the stages over and over again before you come out the other side.

I know I’ve said it before, but I’m so thankful for my friends and family who have supported me and not pushed me to do anything I’m not ready for. And I’m not ready to let go of my grief. If I’m honest, it does scare me. But knowing I don’t have to let go of it yet gives me the freedom to work through it at my own pace so that one day, when I get to that small, quiet room of acceptance, I can look back on my grief and call it a job well done. I can know that I didn’t rush it, I didn’t cut corners, I didn’t try to be a hero. I grieved fully and honestly, with kindness for myself.

Stages of Grief

My writing prompt for today says, “What is the hardest stage for you in Kübler-Ross’s model of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance?” I think it’s kind of an odd question because grief is just hard – all of it. Every stage feels foreign and awful, and none of it feels like you being you. It all feels like some sad person is living in your body, making you tired, making you avoid people, making you eat chocolate cake for breakfast.

I don’t know how acceptance feels yet, but I imagine that even it will feel wrong in some way, like I’m not respecting my daughter or something. Maybe it won’t. Maybe it will feel very peaceful and loving and still. Maybe I’ll be able to be kind to myself at that stage. We’ll see.

Right now, if I had to choose, I think I would say anger and bargaining are the hardest for me. Anger is hard because I am not an angry person, and I don’t like how it feels to be angry. Bargaining is hard because I’m a very logical person, and bargaining is both completely logical and completely illogical at the same time. I’m positing all these what-ifs and playing them out to their logical ends in my mind knowing all the while that they are impossible and/or imaginary.

Grieving is hard work. From the outside, it might look like you’re just powering through all five seasons of Chuck on Netflix, but that’s just background noise. What you’re really doing is searching for yourself under all the crap that has fallen on you. You’re hoisting the big pieces out of the way and calling all your strong friends to help you lift big chunks of emotional iron, and after a while, you can hear a very faint voice that sounds like you saying, “I’m here. I’m under here.”

Even after you pull yourself out of the rubble, you’ll find that you have all sorts of bumps, bruises, and cuts (or in my case, stretch marks) that need time to heal. When they do, you then have new scars to get used to seeing. They will be all you see when you look in the mirror for a long time, but slowly, slowly, you begin to accept them and they become a part of you. At least that’s what I’m told.

If I’ve learned anything from the grieving process, it’s that grief is work, and it’s hard, and the best way to do it is not to do it alone.

Risotto Recipe

And now a break from our regular programing to bring you something delicious. I posted a picture of my dinner on Facebook, and everyone wanted the recipe, so here it is. I can’t take any credit for it. We got it from a weekly meal planning thing we have, which, for the most part, serves more as weekly meal inspiration than actual planning, but this recipe is SO SO SO good. I only had to tweak it a little bit (tweaks included in recipe below). Bon appetit!

Risotto with Roasted Cauliflower and Walnuts

risotto

  • 2 large heads cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (32-oz) carton vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 6 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted, coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place a large roasting pan in oven; preheat oven and pan to 450 degrees. In a  large bowl, toss cauliflower with oil, salt, and pepper; transfer to preheated pan and roast for 20 minutes or until golden and tender, turning once.

Toast walnuts lightly; set aside.

Bring broth and 3 cups water to a simmer in a saucepan. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; cook onion in butter 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; add rice, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in wine; bring to a boil, and cook until liquid evaporates, stirring constantly. Add broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly after each addition. Continue adding broth mixture and cooking until rice is al dente (about 20 to 30 minutes total). Remove from heat, and vigorously stir in Parmesan cheese.

Toss cauliflower with walnuts, basil, lemon rind, and red pepper; serve over risotto.

Co-Cooking

Will and I cook really well together, and this recipe is perfect for it. You can definitely do it alone, but it’s really easy to do together as well. I chop the onions while Will preheats the pan in the oven, preps the broth, and melts the butter. Then he makes the risotto while I do the cauliflower/walnut mixture. It’s super easy, and for the most part, we don’t get in each other’s way. Happy cooking!

Dealing with Disappointment

I’m going to start out here by stating the obvious: Losing a baby is more than just a disappointment. However, I think the ways we deal with mere disappointment are also helpful in dealing with complete and total heartbreak. The timing and intensity just changes.

Moping

The first thing I do when I’m disappointed is mope. If I lose a game of Phase 10, I might mope for about a minute. If I teach a lesson that flops, I might mope for 5 minutes. If I were to lose something very valuable, I would mope a little longer. When we lost our baby, I sat around in my PJs for a month. It’s all relative.

I think moping is your brain’s way of shutting everything else down so you can focus on coping with your loss. You think about it a lot so you can come to terms with it, so you can get used to it. We do it when we go through good changes too. When Will and I got engaged, we called everyone we knew to tell them about it, we posted it on all social media, I looked at my ring constantly, I blogged about it, we said to each other, “Can you believe we’re getting married?!” To this day, we still look at each other now and then and say, “How did this happen? We got MARRIED. Can you believe it?”

Of course when you wallow in your good fortune, we don’t call it moping – we call it relishing – but it’s the same thing. You spend a lot of time thinking about it to wrap your brain around the idea. It’s kind of like breaking in a new pair of shoes. You have to wear them a lot so your feet can feel at home in them.

This is why I don’t think moping is a bad thing, even if you’re just doing it because you lost at Phase 10. The only thing you have to watch is how long you’re moping. It’s all relative. If you mope for three days after losing a stupid card game, that’s too long. If you only mope for three days after losing a human being, I am concerned that you are suppressing your grief. I think a psychologist or counselor could probably tell you how long is too long to mope after a miscarriage, but since I am neither, all I have to say is, “Do you need chocolate cake? And if so, what is your address?”

Faking It

You get to a point in the moping when you think, “Ok this has gone on long enough,” but you still aren’t quite ready to go back to completely normal. The in-between period, at least for me, is characterized by just lying about it. It’s not a bad thing. You’re not trying to deceive other people. It’s just that transitions are hard, and sometimes you have to pretend you’re ok in order to convince yourself that you’re really ok. You’ve probably been ok for a while but just didn’t believe it. It’s like when you lose a bunch of weight and look AWESOME in smaller clothes, but you’re stuck in the mindset that you shouldn’t be wearing those clothes because you’re too big. You just have to wear the clothes for a while before you feel comfortable in them and confident that they’re really “you.”

Did you know that if you hold a pencil in your teeth (thus forcing yourself to make a very awkward smiling face), you’ll eventually start to feel happy? Or that if you stand in a victorious pose for a minute, you will actually feel more powerful? It’s true. Watch this video if you don’t believe me. “Fake it ’til you make it” is a real, scientifically proven thing.

Sometimes we just need to hold our own hand for a little while.

Again, the faking-it period after losing a game of Parcheesi is about 30 seconds. I think I’m in the faking-it phase after my miscarriage now, and I don’t know how long it will last, but it feels a lot better than moping, so I’m going to try and keep it up until I get to the actually-ok phase.

Actually Okay

I don’t know, practically, how one moves from faking it to actually being ok again because I’m not there yet. I’m told, however, that ever-so-slowly, you just get there. One day at a time, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually, you arrive at a different place. For me, I think the process is going to be long and involve a lot of movies and carbohydrates. My friend Derrick told me once that any bad situation can be improved with mint chocolate chip ice cream and The Three Amigos. I also find that cuddling helps. As with all things grief related, I’m sure it’s different for everyone, so whatever works for you, let it work, take your time, and we’ll all meet up when we get there.

Ella’s Song

I walked four months with Ella
Barely knowing she was there,
And now, although she’s gone,
She travels with me everywhere.

I knew that she would change me,
But I had no way of knowing
She could break my heart and fill it
Even as she was going.

My broken heart cried out for help.
The answer came from above:
“Ella’s life and death will grow
Redemption, hope, and love.”

Though I’ll never see her take a step
Or utter her first word,
Her purpose isn’t finished yet,
Her song is still to be heard.

I’ll walk with Ella always,
Carrying her song,
And those for redemption, love, and hope
May walk and sing along.