What I Learned About Life on Our Two-Year Anniversary

Heshan and I were married two weeks before my 30th birthday and three months before his 32nd. While I sometimes wish we’d met and married earlier, started a family in our 20s, and gotten a head start, overall I know that the timing was perfect for us. Last weekend we walked over the threshold of our two year anniversary, and I started thinking back to our wedding day. I didn’t have any fairy tale ideas as to what our wedding or our marriage would be like before I walked down the aisle, but it’s safe to say that I also had no idea what was in store (and how much harder but better it would all be than I had imagined). If pulling off a wedding was our first big feat as a unit, then it was also full of a few lessons that have held true for all the days since.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

1) We can’t do it alone. Our wedding day was definitely a labor of love for the people in our life. We knew right away that we wanted to marry on a budget. We also knew that we didn’t want the focus to be on us so much as on our family and friends who would travel to celebrate with us and also God’s love for us as a community. We chose to put a verse from 1 Corinthians 13 on each table as a reminder to ourselves of what love in community looks like. Steph and I painted 5×7 frames from Ikea and she printed off each verse and inserted it over craft paper. We added butterfly stickers from a scrapbooking set from Michael’s.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

My mother-in-law gifted us with all of the flower arrangements on our tables and down the aisle. We ordered in bulk from the floral section of our grocery department, and she glued red ribbon at the top of each vase. I didn’t see these until our wedding day, and they took our breath away.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Heshan and I wrapped peaches in copper tissue paper that we hand stamped with a short quote about love. We wrapped wire leaves around the top, and our friends set them out at each place setting as a gift for all of the guests. Our wedding was literally pieced together with the hard work of people we love, and our marriage looks a lot like that today.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

2) It doesn’t always go according to plan, but it all works out in the end. When Heshan proposed, I was convinced that I could plan our wedding for $3,000 in just a few months. My initial plans involved a big backyard, a pot luck buffet, grocery store flowers, and homemade cupcakes.

In the end, our wedding took place at a gorgeous tree farm in Southern Maryland (complete with bunnies and butterflies), and we couldn’t have asked for a better setting.

Photo by Annabelle Dando
We went far above our $3,000 plans, thanks to the generosity of family and friends. While we did buy flowers in bulk for the centerpieces and aisle markers, Heshan spent up to include special details like the bouquets and a photo booth for family and friends.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando
One of the best decisions we made was to work with Annabelle Dando to capture our day. Looking back at our photos, I’m so grateful for way she documented our big day and captured the moments that flew by so quickly. (Also, she’s an incredible woman through and through and it’s clear everything she does is done with love.)

Photo by Annabelle Dando
3) We’re blessed with a lot of amazing people
.We had a small wedding with only 44 guests, but the people who made the trip to celebrate with us have been the ones who have stood by us every day since. We married at a time of big transitions for both of us, and in the past two years we’ve formed friendships with people who I wish could have celebrated with us on our big day. But the people who were there continue to be huge blessings in our lives. We’ve gone on adventures and international trips (I totally count Canada as international, you guys), we’ve held pot lucks and movie nights (and maybe even a few Fruit Ninja nights too), and even though life seems to be calling some of us in different directions, they’re the family God’s given us and we’re thankful for them everyday. They also climbed up on ladders to string those lanterns you see in the photo below, so we’d like to think they risked life and limb for our big day. (P.S. our friend Erin totally got engaged after catching that bouquet, so I’d like to think our wedding day was kind of a big deal for her, too.)

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando
4) Everyday should be a celebration
. Everyone says it, but it’s true. The wedding day is just a day. At the same time, it taught me a lot about taking time out to celebrate. It’s easy for me to focus on the bills and the jobs and stress of living in NYC and spend my days waiting for that amazing “someday” that I keep praying for. As we’re moving forward in our marriage, God’s teaching me the value of celebrating the everyday and finding that “someday” today. He’s also teaching me to continue splurging on the meaningful things even when I want to be tight-fisted, to make time for community, and to live with less fear and more faith (and a lot more dancing).

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando


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Marriage and Happy Beginnings

why marriage isn't a happy ending, but a beginning {}

 photo by (the always amazing) Annabelle Dando

I get to spend my days dreaming up ways to make wedding planning easier, and I can honestly say I love every second of it.  There’s something about marriage – even as I wish that churches and communities would stop defining people by terms like “couples” and “singles” – that is worth celebrating. But whenever I hear people talk about a marriage or wedding as a “happy ending” I don’t really get it. Inside, the wheels start turning.

Hesh and I married two weeks before my 30th birthday and 2 months before his 32nd, and for the life of me I’m still trying to figure out what about marriage looks like an ending.

Our incompleteness now that we’ve found our “better half”?

Our search for love?

Or if we take the “unhappy ending” perspective, our personhood? Our independence? Our freedom?

Or all of the above if we’re to believe anything society has to say about walking down the aisle?

I actually firmly believe in biblical definitions of and mandates for marriage: two becoming one, building a relationship on respect and love, mutual servanthood, and all of that. Even though I’m still learning what it l means and I don’t always get them right. And I’m the first to make jokes about my “better half” when the moment is right. I know at the end of the day marriage is a monumental shift and a bonding of two people together, and I know that this is in and of itself awesome .

But I don’t get the “ending” part of that phrase “happy ending.” Because for the life of me, in the two short years of my marriage I haven’t found a good opportunity for the credits to roll and to call this thing smooth sailing from here.

Marriage is hard. It’s happy, but it’s hard. It’s daily. It’s a new beginning, and it’s also more of the same.

What I’ve come to find is very little ends at the end of the aisle. While we exchange our vows and promise to be together until death do us part, and we begin what will ideally be a lifetime of commitment and getting to know each other more and more, we’re still bringing ourselves into the equation. Whatever personality quirks or hang ups or issues or cultural influences or even traditions and passions and dreams and fears, anxieties, and past experiences, even in the best of marriages and especially in the best of marriages, those things come with us. They don’t end. Some of them will benefit the marriage and some of them are smoothed away with time. Like iron sharpening iron, or even as one of my former pastors put it, sandpaper smoothing down a block, which is probably exactly how it feels.

But marriage isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning. Of whatever crazy new change this union of two people is bringing about.

And it’s not an ending to some perceived incompleteness that comes before the rings have been exchanged. No matter how much our culture tries to tell us so, there is nothing about saying “I do” that makes us a more full person. There is no moment after the wedding night in which one of the two wakes up and says, “everything I’ve ever wanted in life has finally been fulfilled.”

At least not for long. Because if we subscribe to that model of thinking there will always be something next to make us feel incomplete until we’ve checked it off the list: children or a house or getting the job of our dreams. And then living where we want, having that perfect wardrobe, or even wearing the right size jeans. There will always be something telling  us we’re incomplete if we’re willing to believe that lie.

Marriage is after all modeled on the gospel. God’s first institution to unite humanity in a relationship so intimate that it hints of God’s love for us (even as it’s not the only form of human relationship that does so – consider parenting or care giving or even the faithfulness that comes with long term friendships and family relationships). And like the gospel, it transforms us into a new creation and it teaches us something about faithfulness and endurance and love that doesn’t give up even when it really, really wants to. It’s about commitment to a person who doesn’t always deserve it and love for someone even when we can’t always feel it.

When we make marriage about a happy ending we forget about the lifetime – literally – of the hard work of loving and surrendering and serving and honoring and cherishing and trying to figure out what all of that means that comes afterward. Marriage is a beginning and a blessed one, but a beginning nonetheless and it usually has nothing to do with getting what we want or tying life up with a pretty bow and everything to do with becoming more like the One who created it in the first place. Because it’s only in Christ that we’re complete and it’s only in Him we stake our personhood.

He’s our alpha and our omega. The beginning and the end. And married or single or something in between, our happiness is really only found in Him.

p.s. I love how Rachel at Our Yellow Door puts it,too!

Kim from

Linking up with Community Brew at Wetherills Say I Do

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Name that movie!

stephanie_david_scott_henderson_photographyour wedding day

I love listening to some of my favorite pastors and ministers online throughout the week; they always offer so much wisdom and perspective. Recently my husband turned off the TV and tuned in to Gary Thomas, an international speaker and bestselling author of faith, marriage, and parenting books including his latest, The Sacred Search.

Gary delivered a five session Sacred Marriage conference at our church in May that we meant to attend but didn’t because life happens and it snuck up on us. Oops.  Thankfully, the whole conference audio is available online through Reston Bible Church’s website in five audio sessions including downloadable conference booklets. So my hubs started tuning in and I listened along with him, and let me tell you… it’s good! Gary has a way with words, a simple, straightforward approach that’s funny, engaging, down to earth, and impactful.

Honestly, it’s so good it’s worth a listen even if you’re not yet married.

I thought it’d be fun to share links to the audio sessions here for anyone else that’s interested. Each session is about an hour long, but it goes quickly and is a fun listen.  After the first session my husband said he was so glad he turned the TV off and listened to Gary instead. That means it’s at least as entertaining as Duck Dynasty, right?!?

Full disclosure: we haven’t listened to the full conference yet. But maybe we can work our way through them together… only separate… not like together-together, but like together “in spirit.”

Audio is available as streaming, or you can download the free MP3s and listen on the go, from Reston Bible Church:

Sacred Marriage Conference – Session 1: Sacred Marriage (by Gary Thomas)

Sacred Marriage Conference  – Session 2: Sacred History (by Gary Thomas)

Sacred Marriage Conference – Session 3: Sexual Saints (by Gary Thomas)

Sacred Marriage Conference – Session 4: Extravagant Love (by Gary Thomas)

Sacred Marriage Conference – Session 5: Q&A (by Gary Thomas)

Just Married!

Hi friends! I’m married! It’s been a really amazing week. I don’t even know how to put it into words, so I’ll probably share it all in pictures.

We just left for our honeymoon today! I hope I get lots of reading and writing time in on while we’re relaxing and having fun. I have a lot of friends to catch up with and lots to share.

I hope all of you are feeling blessed and loved this weekend. I’m reminded of how much more God loves me than I can even imagine every time He allows my plane to land safely on the runway.

I do not like planes. But like life, I’ve learned that while I may not like the trip, He always has something incredible for me at the other side. Like the view outside my window right now. Isn’t it crazy how traveling can expand our horizons and draw us so much closer to God as we admire all His works. Going to new places always does that to me.