Posts Tagged marriage

Two Years

Our family - Gerald, me, & pug Chloe

Our family – Gerald, me, & pug Chloe

Two years ago today, we were heading off to Kemper Lakes Golf Club to celebrate our marriage. So much has happened in that short amount of time. This second year of marriage was by far the most challenging so far (even though I know we don’t have much to compare it to, but it was hard for various reasons). Not only did we go through more major life changes (buying a house, getting a dog, getting pregnant, etc.), but we had some unexpected things come up that we had to deal with and begin to heal from. That’s a process in itself, but I believe we’re headed in the right direction.

If I could choose one word to mark this year of marriage, it would be grace.

We had to learn to give more grace to one another and we were reminded of and experienced God’s grace more deeply. Grace is a hard thing to give. You don’t want to give it because of the circumstances, but you know it’s what Christ calls us to if we’re to follow His example. That’s what makes grace and forgiveness so powerful. They’re both so undeserved.

So my prayer for this third year of marriage is that we will continue to grow in grace and forgiveness in our love for one another. I’m sure we’ll need it in many doses when Baby Stroud comes along later this year, but we’ll also need it as we continue to heal from the past. We’re grateful for the love and support of those who witnessed our marriage two years ago. We still covet your prayers as we journey in this life together and I’m looking forward to seeing how God will work in each of us individually and as a couple in the years to come.

So, happy anniversary, Gerald! I am blessed to be able to do life by your side. If we could get through this tough and stressful year together, we can get through anything! I love you!

Our family plus Lexie (pug on the left)

Our family plus Lexie (pug on the left)

 

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Another Wedding!

This has been a busy last week of the year. It was full of family, friends, & celebrations. This past weekend, I gained another brother when my little sister got married. The wedding was beautiful (I wouldn’t have expected less from an artistic bride), but I think I’m still recovering from it. It was a long day, but I’m so glad I was able to be a part of it as the matron (sounds old) of honor. As we went through wedding week, it reminded me a lot of where I was almost exactly one year and five months ago, except this time I walked down the aisle in a different role.

So here are a few pictures from the wedding for your viewing pleasure.

Wedding Uggs for the bride from her bridesmaids

Wedding Uggs for the bride from her bridesmaids

I got a lot of MOH ideas from Pinterest, including one of having women write letters to the bride for her to read as she’s getting ready on her wedding day. So I had bridesmaids, friends, women in our church, fellow pastor’s wives (my sister’s now a pastor’s wife), her new sister-in-law, and our mom write letters for the book. I just put them all in a binder and had the last letter be a letter from the groom.

Reading Letters to the Bride

Reading Letters to the Bride

Wedding Pug

Wedding Pug

We loved that it snowed a little on the wedding day after not having much snow at all this month. It made for some beautiful wedding pictures. I can’t wait to see how they all turned out!

Beautiful bride

Beautiful bride

I hate walking down the aisle since I don’t like being the center of attention, but I loved how they did my hair & the dress (by Landa Designs). I walked way too fast in my own wedding & I walked fast here too. 🙂

Photo by Gerald Stroud

Photo by Jenn Lee

Here comes the bride

Here comes the bride

Even though this next picture is a little blurry, I loved watching Pearson (the groom)’s face. They didn’t do first look pictures, so the first time he saw his bride was walking down the aisle. He could barely hold back his tears. Precious moment.

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My sister kept the decorations simple–mostly just candles, but it looked beautiful.

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First dance

First dance

Centerpieces

Centerpieces

Sprinkles cupcakes instead of a cake

Sprinkles cupcakes instead of a cake

My husband & me

My husband & me

And for your viewing pleasure, my husband surprised my sister & her husband at their wedding reception with a Gangnam Style dance along with his little dance crew. The kids are so cute!! My hubby’s got some good moves of his own too. He’s a WAY better dancer than me!

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One Year

It’s hard to believe that one year of marriage has flown by so quickly. Timehop has been helping me relive my wedding planning process and preparation by reminding me of tweets, Facebook posts, and Foursquare check-ins I made exactly a year ago each day.

One year ago today, I woke up super early (maybe it was around 4 something) just because I couldn’t sleep anymore. The night before I tried sleeping earlier because we had an early wake up call for hair and makeup. I spent my last night as a single woman in my old room at my parents’ house. As I lay in bed, I cried. I wasn’t sad–I was excited and nervous–but I think it hit me that I was actually leaving my family (though not geographically) and beginning my own new family with Gerald. It made me miss the provision and care of my parents even though I’d already been living on my own for the past year. I guess the magnitude of what it means to leave your family and cleave to your spouse really hit home. Marriage is definitely a milestone and life-changing event in one’s life.

Thankfully, Gerald and I are blessed to live near both of our parents. They’ve been so supportive of us during this first year of marriage and we’re very grateful to them all. This year hasn’t been easy. It was full of its challenges, but also full of joys. I love doing life together with my husband and building a life together. We’ve had big career changes and adjustments this year (for both of us), looking at the possibility of purchasing a home (I still need to write a blog post on this journey), new fellowship groups and changing friendships. We’re still learning how to be the best husband and wife to each other and hopefully with each passing anniversary, our marriage looks a little more like Christ.

July 30 last year was one of the most wonderful days of my life. Everything was practically perfect and I love reliving the moments through the beautiful pictures our photographer took. As wonderful as our wedding day was, it was only the beginning. I’m looking forward to many more enjoyable days and years to come. 🙂

On our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic

Family vacation in Puerto Vallarta

As a side note, we don’t always take tropical beach vacations. I just happen to like the pictures we have together in those locations. Maybe a goal for year two of marriage is to take more photos together. 🙂

One year & counting!

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A Weekend to Remember

For Christmas my parents gave Gerald and me a registration to the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage conference. They even gave us one night in the conference hotel (which happens to be 15 minutes from where we live) to help us “get away” from the busyness of life at home. We may only be 8 months into our marriage, but this past weekend’s conference was refreshing and reminded us of the importance of our marriage relationship and the things we need to do to make it work. The conference seemed to come at the perfect time too because this past week I was a lot more cranky and irritable at home, which I know didn’t help Gerald and my relationship. We’d both been so busy (even serving together) that I think we needed this time to step away from regular life and to just focus on time with each other and on our marriage.

FamilyLife has a variety of speakers that go on these conferences, which happen all across the country. We got to hear from Brian and Jennifer Goins and Brett Ray. They were great, entertaining speakers who also really knew how to hit home with their points.

We received A LOT of information all weekend long at the conference, but here are a few key things I took away from it:

1. Our marriage is the priority relationship. My relationship with Gerald is the most important human relationship in my life. Even above our relationships with our friends, with our families, and our future children. Our individual relationships with God should be our number one priority, but after that, we need to be focused on building our relationship with one another. Everything else should center around that. For me, that reminded me that even my personal needs and desires–like wanting to stick to my workout schedule or whatever other selfish things I may want to do. Marriage reveals just how selfish you are and I need to change my attitude and perspective and get back to focusing more intentionally on my relationship with God and with Gerald.

2. I need to respect my husband unconditionally. Ephesians 5:33 (ESV) says, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” When Jennifer spoke in the women’s only session on what it means to be a godly woman, she said we should put the word “unconditionally” in front of love and respect. As women, we want our husbands to love us unconditionally–even when we’re unlovable. But then we can’t take our side of the verse and only want to respect our husbands when they deserve it or earn it. This was challenging to me. Respect is a choice to receive your husband in spite of his weaknesses. I want to try and develop an attitude of unconditional respect toward Gerald.

3. It all comes down to my trust and faith in God. I love these quotes from our workbook: “A supportive wife trusts her husband to make decisions even if they are sometimes wrong (from your perspective), trusting that God can correct him and change him. A supportive wife has faith that God is in control of her life, her marriage, her children, her present circumstances, and her future” (emphasis mine). This is why my relationship with God needs to be my top priority. That relationship will help me to have a better, more loving, more respectful relationship with my husband. And if he is also seeking God, then I can trust that God is speaking to him and that my husband is listening. I don’t want to get in the way of God’s voice. I want my husband to do what God tells him to do, not what I tell him to do.

There are a lot of other things we learned too, especially in the area of communication and in the future with being mothers and fathers. If you are married (or even if you’re engaged–they have special sessions for you), I’d highly recommend attending one of these conferences. It’s worth the money! Think of it as a lifelong investment (because even after all your kids are gone, the one person you will still have in your life [hopefully] is your spouse). I could tell more stories like about how got to practice conflict resolution at the end of our Saturday date night, but maybe that’s for another post. 😉

At the end of the conference, they had all the married couples stand and hold each others’ hands and recite some vows to each

Photo from our wedding day (Megan Chan Photography)

other. These vows were essentially the marriage vows. It was pretty emotional just looking into Gerald’s eyes and saying those words again (or in a different way since we wrote our own wedding vows). The hard part now is being back in “reality” and putting what we learned into practice. So if you think of it, please pray for us as we seek to have our marriage mirror God’s example.

If you’d like to go on a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember, check the website here for upcoming dates and locations near you.

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Before the Ring

 I heard a little commentary on the radio this week talking about the benefits of pre-engagement counseling. Some people may think it sounds strange to do pre-engagement counseling. but if you’re in your 20’s or older, shouldn’t all the relationships you’re in be taken seriously? If you’re not dating to see if you could marry the person, then why date in the first place?

Gerald and I did pre-engagement counseling either in our first year of dating or slightly after (I can’t remember). At the time though we didn’t actually call it pre-engagement counseling. We met with our pastor (before he actually became our pastor), who had a counseling degree, and he took us through some relationship exercises. One of the main areas we looked at was communication because we’d been arguing a lot and we wanted to fix this.

Here are some benefits of pre-engagement counseling that I’ve discovered (my husband may share my thoughts or have additional ones):

1. We learned about each other’s values. You may know some of your signficant other’s values from dating the person and spending time with him/her, but when we actually had to sit down and think about how we view family, spiritual life, finances (though we skipped this part because we weren’t actually engaged), etc, it helped us to begin to see how our personal values fit together. We’re shaped by our own families, which can be challenging when you marry someone who does things differently and in ways you’re not used to doing them. So we became more aware of these differences in pre-engagement counseling, but once we were engaged, began to see how we could compromise and work together to take our differences and create our own family culture.

2. We learned to communicate better. As I mentioned before, Gerald and I had an argumentative period during our dating relationship. Some people might decide at this point that the relationship is too hard and that we’re too different for this to work, but we decided to stick with it and work through our problems. It’s easy being reminded of active listening and really hearing what the person is trying to say, but it’s harder to put it into practice. During our counseling sessions, our pastor would often ask questions like, “What do you most appreciate about Gerald?” and have me look at Gerald and talk to him as I responded. This was a great exercise because it forced us to actually sit down, look each other in the eyes, and say things to each other that we either don’t communicate as often as we should. At times it made me emotional, but so often we would just say things to each other in passing or on the phone. There’s nothing like telling someone something face-to-face. We also learned how to argue and resolve conflict while  dating, which has resulted in less conflict in marriage (so far).

3. We became better prepared for engagement. Getting engaged is a huge step. I wanted it to happen since our first dating anniversary, but it was also scary to think about at the same time. We both took engagement seriously because we take marriage seriously. Marriage is for life. By going through some counseling sessions during our dating years, we saw that we were both committed to the relationship and wanted to make it work. We were also encouraged by hearing from other married couples in our church about how they’ve been encouraged by our relationship. This gave us more confirmation that God was leading us toward marriage. We’d been meeting with our pastor and his wife every so often while dating, but we actually only had one official “pre-engagement counseling session” before actually getting engaged. Then it became pre-martial counseling. We also met separately with a husband and wife from church when we started dating as a mentoring/accountability relationship. Those meetings were invaluable and guided us through our three years of dating.

I don’t think every dating couple needs to have pre-engagement counseling, but if you are thinking about getting engaged or think your relationship is heading that way, I would recommend it. Pre-engagement counseling provides the opportunity to evaluate and look at your relationship in an objective way (since you’re not already committed to marriage through an engagement ring). Although it would still be painful, it’s still better to get out of the relationship before the ring rather than after it’s already on her finger (and even better than after you say “I do”). Pre-engagement counseling also shows how highly you both value marriage. You believe it’s important enough to make sure you’re both prepared to get engaged. Pre-marital counseling is important too, but it can be challenging to go through those meetings all while planning a wedding. It’s stressful! So the sooner you can be preparing for marriage (even before the ring), the better off your relationship will be. Whether or not you actually marry the person you’re dating, the pre-engagement counseling will save you both extra heartache.

Do you think pre-engagement counseling is helpful? Would you consider doing pre-engagement sessions? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

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A New Identity

The day I become Mrs. Stroud

“What’s your name?” a TSA agent asked me as she checked my boarding pass before allowing me to go through security at the airport.

“Christine Stroud,” I replied without hesitation, watching as she glanced between my boarding pass and my new driver’s license.

This exchange happened this past weekend when I traveled to Texas for an author event (Go Big by Cory Cotton of the trick-shot basketball entertainer group Dude Perfect…check them & the book out!). Slowly I realized that after nearly two months of marriage, I’m actually getting used to my new last name. It didn’t seem as strange to say it out loud for all the times people asked me for my name (getting my rental car, checking into the hotel, etc.). It seems like a small thing, but it’s actually quite significant.

When I first came back to work after my wedding and honeymoon, I couldn’t even answer the phone with my first and last name anymore. It just felt so weird to say “Stroud” instead of “Wong.” The name felt foreign coming from my lips when referring to myself. At the same time, it was strange (and exciting) to see my name differently on my new social security card, my new license, in the “from” line on my emails, and even just signing cover letters with my new name.

After this weekend, I realized that telling people my name is Christy Stroud is becoming more normal. I’m coming to a point where I’m embracing my new identity and if people still accidentally refer to me as Christy Wong, I’m thinking, “But that’s not my name anymore.”

It’s the same way in the Christian life. I’m not saying this to spiritualize it, but it’s something that I really thought about as I realized that my new last name is becoming more normal to me. Once we become Christians, we have a new identity–a life transformed by Christ. Our outer appearance may not have changed (and my appearance after marriage hasn’t changed much either), but the way we view ourselves does. I should no longer view myself as a sinner, but as a saint saved by the grace and blood of Jesus Christ. I also no longer view myself (as much) as a Wong, but I’m starting to see myself in my new identity as a Stroud and as a wife. Ultimately though, the only identity I should be the most concerned about is understanding who I am in Christ. Even though I went through a name change, my identity in Christ is the one thing that stayed the same. I’m glad my parents gave me that reminder too in the name they gave me–“Christine” means “follower of Christ.” I hope that in all the other roles I take on over the years, I will remember that my worth is found in Him (not even in being a Stroud) :).

Do you know where your identity lies? 

 

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One Month

Gerald and I have now been married for exactly one month! That time has just flown by. We’re back to regular life now–I’ve been back to work for three weeks and Gerald just started back at work this week (he works in a school). So far life together has been great. Already in this first month, there are a few things I’m discovering about myself in my new role as a wife:

  • I’m enjoying cooking! I used to feel like Gerald and I would split the cooking more evenly at home, but for the most part, I’ve been doing nearly all the cooking. Not because Gerald’s not willing, but because I want to cook for him. I’ve been proud of myself for trying new recipes (so all those cookbooks people gave us are coming in handy!) instead of just making the same meals over & over again (which I used to do when I lived alone this past year). My bridesmaid and college roommate told me how much she enjoys cooking for her husband because it’s her way of demonstrating love to him and now I can see what she means. I feel the same way. We’ll see if it stays that way though once we start having kids. 😛
  • Grace abounds. During our last premarital counseling session our pastor told me that he has seen how I’ve become more gracious (or willing to give grace) in these past few years of dating. I think I’ve seen how giving grace is more important in these first few weeks. I’ve been willing to just overlook clothes all over the floor, do the dishes myself, clean the bathroom counter or the hair in the drain, let the toilet seat stay up…among other things. I don’t know if I’m just being more gracious because we’re newlyweds and I’m trying to avoid conflict, but we’ve had our share of conflict in the dating years and I think it may be more that I’m just realizing that some things are not that big a deal and it’s okay. I can be willing to do things to help Gerald out. He does things that I don’t want to do like take out the trash, kill all the bugs, etc. He even did some cleaning for us last week before people came over since I was working and he was home. I know I’m also more aware of the way I ask Gerald to do things like pick up his clothes, for example. I’m trying to be more aware of my tone and the way I ask things so they don’t come across as critical and demanding (a problem that used to lead to many more arguments). Marriage is a teaching tool from God about His love for us and how we can demonstrate that to others!
  • I love doing life together. No more phone conversations at night when we were both tired from days at work. All we have to do is come home and we get to just “be” together. We have our daily conversations, but I also just appreciate always having Gerald there even if we’re not doing anything together at the moment. It’s just a comfort knowing that he’s around. He’s my partner, my best friend, and my husband. It’s wonderful knowing you have someone who is there to support you and be with you through all of life. 🙂
We’ve had a busy and full first month together, so here are some photos just to show you what we’ve been up to.
First, a couple days after the wedding, we went on our honeymoon to the Dreams Palm Beach resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It’s such a beautiful and green country, but definitely poor. As we drove through the countryside it reminded me of being in Mexico by seeing how the people live compared to how we were living in the resort (all-inclusive!). That’s definitely not the typical Dominican life. We did have Tropical Storm Emily around for a little while which led to some on and off rain and some cloudiness, but the beginning and end of the vacation were nice & sunny, which led to HORRIBLE sunburn on our last full day. By then we were ready to go home!

We had dinner every night at one of the themed restaurants on the resort.

Dinner at Portofino, the Italian restaurant

Our first excursion was the Bavarro Runners, which we would HIGHLY recommend if you go to Punta Cana. You basically go on a tour of the countryside to see more of the DR and get to experience lots of Dominican history and life. Plus the traditional Dominican food they gave us for lunch was SO GOOD.

Horseback riding on one of our excursions!

Gerald drinking sugar cane juice on the Bavarro Runners tour.

 

The other excursion we went on was the Marinarium. It was a snorkeling trip where we got to swim around the reef for a while and see lots of fish. Then we went into this special aquarium in the middle of the ocean to swim with sharks and sting rays. I would’ve liked it more if it wasn’t so cloudy on this day. After snorkeling they take you to a shallower part of the ocean to swim and they sort of have a swim up bar, but the water was FREEZING!! I did like eating fresh coconut on the boat though!

Us with a sting ray!

Here you can kind of tell how sunburned we were. You can’t tell that it hurt every time I moved when my clothes rubbed against the burn. Next time, I’m going to spend a little more time in the shade!!

Drinks for the road. Goodbye, Punta Cana!

This past Saturday, Gerald and I held a second wedding reception at our church for a lot of the youth group members and members of our young adult fellowship that we couldn’t invite to our wedding. A lot of people who came to our wedding came to this reception too, but that’s alright. This is one event I DID NOT plan for (shocker, I know). We just kind of threw it together the week of. I even made a little photo slideshow from the wedding 15 minutes before the reception began (thank you, iMovie)! Either way though, it still turned out great. Special thanks to our parents for helping out too.

Centerpieces

The good thing was I got to reuse a lot of the things we used for the rehearsal dinner and for the wedding (like the picture frames and other pictures I hung up). I also wore all my wedding jewelry again and Gerald wore the new free suit he got from Men’s Warehouse (since we rented so many tuxes for the wedding).

Our wedding cake!

My mom surprised us by having Lovin’ Oven Cakery remake our wedding cake! We only had a top tier of cake at the wedding anyway (the rest was cupcakes). It still looked just as amazing & tasted great too!

Us with our new cake (& the pug came too)

Cutting the cake (again)

This time, Gerald put some frosting on my face after cutting the cake. It was a little awkward and weird doing it again, but that cake is worth it.

Group Shot

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate with us again or for the first time. We love you!
One month of marriage down, and hopefully many more to come!

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Goodbye, Single Life!

This is going to be a quick entry, because I’m getting married TOMORROW!! I still can’t really believe that the wedding’s tomorrow. It doesn’t feel like it to me. Gerald and I were talking and we think it’s because we’re still in the planning/preparing mode. So especially for someone like me who loves to plan, it’s almost like just getting ready for another event. After tonight though when everything’s done and I have nothing left to plan or prepare, I think it will hit me more. I’m really excited about everything and just to see how it will all come together though!

I won’t post any pictures yet of the decorations and other shots from prep week, but my cousin Justine is amazing at decorating and all the place cards Melissa designed look great on the screen we have at the reception. 🙂 You’ll just have to wait to either see it in person or for the pictures.

This morning started out with a great run (my last one as Christy Wong–I realized now in races I’m going to have to put my new name!). Now I have to start cooking for the bridesmaid brunch I’m hosting at my condo and then we get to go get pampered by getting mani/pedis before the rehearsal tonight.

Still, even with all the time and money that goes into this one day, I know that it’s only the beginning. Marriage is more than just the wedding day and Gerald and I are looking forward to sharing this life together.

If you have any marriage advice, feel free to share! 🙂

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Day of Dialogue

As a youth leader, I know how important it is to talk about God’s design for relationships. Gerald and I even did a workshop about opposite sex friendships (with a little about dating) at our recent youth retreat. It was one of the topics our kids voted on that they wanted to learn more about.

So I’m excited about this Day of Dialogue that Focus on the Family is putting on for high school and college students on April 18, 2011. This is a chance for high school and college students to begin a conversation about God’s love and what the Bible says about His redemptive design for marriage and sexuality. With all the distorted beliefs about marriage and sexuality that bombard teens and young adults today, this is a much needed discussion to have.

Teens and young adults can sign up to participate in this discussion on April 18 and can download conversation cards, posters, and t-shirt designs to help promote the event at their schools and campuses. I’m going to promote this to the high school and college students at my church and hopefully some of them will take the initative to join the discussion. Sometimes in discussions like these, having one of your peers talk about these issues with you is more effective than having an adult leader do it.

Is anyone else participating in the Day of Dialogue? If you’re a youth leader, will you consider encouraging your teens to do it?

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