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My husband & I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary last weekend, on Sept. 8th (the feast of the Nativity — the birth of Mary!).

In six years we’ve supported each other through major job changes, a few moves, and a handful of health problems. We’ve traveled more than we thought we would, we’ve renovated a house, tried our hand(s) at gardening, and have grown our ministry way beyond a level I thought it would ever reach (we’ll soon reach more than half a million people praying more novenas!). I think that’s the # of cups of coffee we’ve had together too — just the way I like it. 😊 But most importantly, in six years, we love each other more than we did on this day six years ago, and we’ve both grown more into the people we were made to be. It’s been good and it’s been sanctifying & refining, and John-Paul has been the best. ❤️

Here are six things I’ve learned through six years of marriage:

1. Life is unpredictable. And I mean this in every way possible… For starters, in the way that your lives change as the two of you become one — you may have known that’s what was going to happen, but I bet you didn’t know exactly how it might hurt (growing pains!) and how it might heal. In the way that you can’t possibly know what, “in sickness and in health” means until you’re living those vows out. In the way that you can’t possibly foresee how God uses your spouse, and the suffering either one of you endures, to sanctify you and make you a better, holier woman and holier marriage.

2. You have to be the face of mercy to your husband. This is seriously the best thing you can do for yourself AND for him. He should work on being the same for you. I’m not talking about the kind of mercy that is only about forgiving and forgetting (although both are still really important!); I’m talking about the kind of mercy that guides you to ask for forgiveness, to go to confession, to do penance, and to truly, “sin no more.” I’m talking about talking like Jesus to one another, and acting like Jesus towards one another.

We have the great responsibility of guiding our spouses to Heaven, and so we must ask ourselves each week how we’re doing that for our spouse; are we imitating Jesus’ love for them, are we bringing them closer to Him through the sacraments and through our love of the Lord? And, this one is so important to me, you should try as you can to extend the love the two of you share to the people closest to you. Because the day you get married is the day you, “stop thinking about yourselves and (you) start thinking of others!” (Fr. Jason Kuritz). It’s easy to let other work overwhelm you and to stop working on yourself and your relationship with your husband, but this is the most important work you will do in this lifetime other than working on your relationship with God; put everything else aside.

3. That my husband, as wonderful and as awesome as he is, cannot be my everything and he cannot be my first priority. He’s gotta come second to God, and I also need friendships outside of our marriage. Our friendship, the one between him and I, is something that I can’t even just use the word, “friendship” to describe — because it is SO much more than that and in so many ways. And since I have something that is SO much more than that, I can also use something that is just a little less than that… and that something is friendship and community; friendship with faith-filled womenIt is life-giving and it is one of the best things for my marriage.

4. The best thing you can do for your spouse is to commit to work on your own spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health. It’s easy to look at our husbands and want them to change, but the bigger transformation will happen when we work on ourselves. Our goal is to become a saint, and so we must encourage each other to become the best version of each other. We have to start with wanting that for ourselves, and doing the work.

5. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. This one has been a long time coming… But I’ve learned a lot about letting expectations die in the past five years; expectations of what life was supposed to look like & what we were supposed to look like. Our picture doesn’t look like I thought it would, and it has included a lot more suffering than I could have imagined. Thankfully, we’ve been able to work through those sufferings, and now we no longer also have the cross of disappointment to carry — just the cross that really exists (not the one we created — that’s the disappointment one), and we’re able to carry it better. And this makes life easier, and so much more enjoyable. We take things as they come now, and without expectation. And this is the better way, I believe.

In marriage, whether it’s five years or fifteen, you will grow, you will change, you will move forward, you’ll take a few steps back, you’ll suffer, and you can feel freer than ever before.

Love is truly empowering, and especially if it’s the sort of love that imitates the love Christ has for us. And that kind of love can sustain us through anything. It has for me, at least, these past six years.

6. Being comfortable together — with who you are, with where you are, with the reality of your life — is an amazing feeling, but it’s also important to help each other go a little beyond that and get outside of your comfort zones so that you can grow, transform, and become more and more of the person you were created to be. And sometimes, it seems like our greatest potential — both as individuals in our marriage and as a couple, has been just outside that circle of comfort.

Going outside of your comfort zone also requires you to become more dependent on God to guide you & carry you through, so that you’re not relying on just yourself anymore — such important tenets for us.

I love to be comfortable with John-Paul, but if neither of us encouraged the other to try more — something new, to go out on a limb, to have greater faith and just do X, Y, or Z, then I think we’d either get bored, too complacent, or stifled by a lack of growth. And growing — this is something we were made for.

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” – Pope Benedict XVI 

Happy anniversary to the beautiful & kind man who grows alongside me! It’s been a sanctifying path and one I wouldn’t walk on with anyone else.