5 lessons learned from 5 years of marriage

This summer Paul and I celebrated 5 years of marriage. Both of us find it hard to believe that its already been FIVE years! How in the world is that possible? Even though at times we have felt the weight of that time together, there are moments that we simply are amazed at how time has flown by.

5 lessons from 5 years of marriage

I think that when you are in the process of being engaged and contemplating what it means to commit yourself to another person for the rest of your life, it's important to gain perspective and wisdom from others around you who have experience in the subject. Granted, everyone's situations and relationships are different so its always wise to seek out those who share with you certain characteristics and qualities that the two of you also have. 

That being said, I wanted to share some of my biggest insights after being married to Paul for these past 5 years. For some perspective:

  • We have lived in 5 different houses, moved to a new state twice, I quit my corporate job and started my own business, we are raising two teenagers (my step-kids) and we lost a dog all during this time.
  • We both have a relationship with Jesus Christ and he remains at the center of our marriage although we have definitely gone through periods where we were very close in our walk and relationship with him and times where we were very far away. I'll let you guess which of those times were the hardest in our marriage. ;-) 
  • We were both in our mid-30's when we got married and had a lot of stuff "figured out" by then. I think this has contributed greatly to our love and respect for each other

Alrighty, five major lessons learned from 5 years of marriage.....

The first year

We both heard over and over again...."the first year is the hardest". Especially since we didn't live together (which we don't think is necessary or Biblical) before hand. On the contrary, we thought our first year of marriage was the BEST and we had so much fun that year! 

The first year we learned what it means to be pretty much attached to your best friend all the time. You have to figure out how to live in the same space, how to compromise, what the important things are (and aren't) and you get to say fun things like "my husband" and "my wife". And honestly, I think our first year was so fun and successful mostly because of the next insight from these past few years. 

Talk it out

We decided long before we said "I do" that we would talk things out. No matter how small. Leaving things unsaid does NOTHING to benefit or grow your marriage. When something is bothering you, no matter how small, discontent and bitterness grows like weeds.

I can't tell you how many times these past 5 years one of us has said, "the way you said that hurt my feelings" or "what exactly did you mean by that because to me it came across like.....". Right then and there we were able to clarify or explain things and talk it out until the issue was squashed. 

This one is SO HARD but SO WORTH IT! You don't always have the option to address something right then and there so you have to be committed to bringing it up later even though the moment might not seem right or you might be tired and not interested in having a "conversation". Trust me, do it.

All of those little things add up over time and create giant blowouts that no one wants. To this day, Paul and I have never had a major fight and I don't say that to sound like we have a perfect marriage. We have done a lot of work to maintain open lines of communication all the time and it can be exhausting at times, but in the end it keeps us from holding things in until they have to come out (by way of yelling and screaming.) 


Most people who end up in marriage usually will have a similar sense of humor. I've seen it with the couples I've worked with and also with friends. Laughter and humor is something that joins us together with similar people with similar outlooks. DON'T stop laughing together. Be silly. Have fun. 

The realities of life are hard and can be dreary and boring. Shake it up and take care of responsibilities but continue to look for the good in each other and enjoy those qualities that you fell in love with from day one. Just yesterday Paul and I were laughing so hard while we were driving around doing errands because we both made the effort to stop thinking about all the things we had to do and we just enjoyed being with each other. Make it a priority. 

Love Languages

I can't recommend the book The Five Love Languages enough. We read this before we got married and its had only what I can image as a huge impact on our marriage. We figured out so early on how we both speak and feel loved and that has made a huge difference. 

Paul is a total acts of service guy, but I am totally words of affirmation. If Paul only tried to show love to me by doing things for me and never affirming me with words I would probably not feel nearly as loved by him as I do now and vice versa. 

Understanding these basic ways we feel and show love will not only make your marriage relationship more smooth, but pretty much ALL relationships you have in your life (kids, parents, clients...) Learn the language and then speak it. 


As a Christian, I have a strong belief that marriage is an earthly picture of our relationship with Jesus in covenant with God. If you aren't a believer, that may sound a little strange to you, but to me it is the only way that marriage even makes sense. Putting two imperfect people together and expecting anything good to come out of that is seemingly impossible without God as an example of what love actually looks like. 

Bottom line, it's extremely hard to give grace to someone when you have never experienced receiving that grace and the ultimate grace was given to us by Jesus on the cross. Once your heart is open to that, you can be with another person in a way that's not possible otherwise. 

Prayer is essential to this. Praying with another person can be an extremely vulnerable thing to do, but I can tell you from a LOT of experience these past 5 years that times when Paul and I prayed together and for each other on our own regularly things were not nearly as difficult as times when we didn't. Its a daily struggle but when we make the time and effort to do it, we only benefit from it. 

If you are about to enter the marriage covenant, I am so excited for you! Marriage is an amazing blessing provided to us by God and although there is a lot of noise in society that says marriage isn't worth it, trust me, it is! 

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2016 Connect Retreat // Recap

2016 Connect Retreat at WinShape Retreat Center

WHERE do I even begin!?

How about the beginning...thats always a good spot right? ;-)

I don't actually remember the first time I came across info on the Connect Retreat. I've run across info/education by Zach & Jody since maybe day three of being interested in photography (thats how integrated they are in the photography world) and so I've heard bits and pieces about this Retreat for a while. 

It wasn't until Paul and I started to give working together in this business some more serious thought that I kind of woke up and started to actually pay attention to what this Retreat was all about. 

A Christian marriage conference for couples who work together. Seriously? Yes, seriously. 

I was a little trepidatious to sign up because while Paul is a huge support and encouragement to me, he doesn't have a huge role in the business right now mostly due to time constraints. He has a full time job that keeps him plenty busy and until he retires, it's not really an option for him to join me in a larger capacity. 

I knew that it was in our future though and there is nothing wrong with being proactive right? I kept a close eye on registration opening up and we signed up right away. Thank goodness because all 64 spots were sold out within hours. 

This was a year ago. 

We've been looking forward to really finding out what all of this was about for this entire year. With a move and adjustment to a new state and retirement getting closer and closer every day, we knew that this would be a time for us to not only grow closer in the Lord as a married couple, but also get some valuable advice and strategy for working together in the future. 

I don't think either of us were prepared for what actually went down at this stunningly gorgeous and quiet place nestled in the rolling green hills of Georgia. 

We knew there would be some amazing speakers. We knew there would be some great learning about what it means to work together as husband and wife. We knew there would be beautiful landscape and time to just enjoy the time away with our spouse. We knew there would be waffle fries. 

Wait. What? 

Yes, the Winshape Retreat Center is founded by the same family that founded Chick-fil-a. And yes, we did get some waffle fries during a few lunches. 

What we didn't know is how powerfully the Holy Spirit was going to show up. Through the incredible worship provided by Copperlilly to the vulnerability that was shared through every single speakers talks...hearts were opened and walls were broken down. It was a powerful thing to witness and be a part of. 

We had a great small group of couples that talked through painful things they were going through in their families and their marriages and made awesome connections with many other couples that were there as well. We also laughed as much as we cried (I think? We cried a LOT!) and it was an amazing thing to be able to "connect" with so many other like-minded individuals who has experiences to share and stories to tell that we could all learn from. 

Ok! So here's a little recap from the trip. We arrived at the airport on Monday and had a quick lunch (Chick-fil-a of course!) and then found our car buddies! We were so blessed to have the opportunity to ride to and from with Andrew and Janelle Vick. We had never met them or even really talked to them before, but we talked and chatted and laughed the entire way. Loved them! 

When we arrived at the sprawling and stunning Berry College Campus we couldn't stop saying......WOW. Everything was so beautiful and serene. The Winshape Retreat was tucked in the back on a hill and we made our way there and were greeted with staff to take our bags and a welcoming committee that drew us in and made us feel like we were home!

We checked into our room and took a brief little walk around the campus just taking it all in and enjoying the fact that we were finally there!

At dinner the first night we met our small group and got to know them and then headed to the first session with Zach & Jody. From the moment worship started we knew something special was happening. Zach started sharing and there was not a dry eye in the house. We had small group meetings that night in which we were able to connect even more with the other couples in our group. It's amazing how the Lord uses all of us to do His work!

The next day we had a morning session with Katelyn and Michael and again, tears were shed and hearts were moved. After lunch we headed outside for our "experiential learning" activities!! What in the world? Ha! They were super fun though and insightful. Paul and I learned a lot about each other through each activity and made memories that we will likely remember for a very long time!

After some afternoon rest and dinner we had another session and more time with our groups and then s'mores and root beer floats!!! We were halfway through and didn't want it to end!

On Wednesday we took a group photo and then had a morning session with Amy & Jordan and then some breakout sessions in the afternoon.

Photo by Allen Adams! Nice work Allan getting everyone in!

The peeps who associate with Rising Tide Group also took a pic!

Then something amazing happened.

Paul and I went on a short drive around Berry College to just get a way for a few minutes and check out the campus. During that drive we were having some serious talks about our direction with business, how everything was going to work and we were getting nowhere. I don't even really remember the drive because I was so deep in thought and feeling desperate about the future. 

Then we get back and it was time for our session with Katelyn & Michael about making big decisions. It was during the session that Paul and I came to a solid understanding of what our working together life might look like. We were blown away. Literally all of the stuff we were questioning only a few minutes earlier was essentially answered in a matter of minutes. 

Seriously ya'll. It was freeing. 

And I say y'all now because it's just such a fun and friendly thing to do!! 

(I am obviously a master at snapping at the exact moments eyes are closed!)

Later that day we met up with some awesome new friends Kristy & Vic and did a photo swap. (More to come!) It was so incredibly fun and I'm so glad we were able to photograph each other! And you will not see me in a dress for the foreseeable future so enjoy it while you can! LOL. 

We had dinner under the stars that night and then one last session where the Holy Spirit showed up in a major way. I haven't felt that in a long time and it was refreshing for the soul. This was DEEP friends. Way deeper than I ever expected this to go. And it was beautiful. Vulnerability is an amazing thing we need much more of in this world in order to truly connect with one another. 

Our small group!!!

We met some great couples and connected with so many that it was impossible to get photos with everyone! But we did get a chance to grab a photo with Kristy and Vic and our new awesome friends Luke and Ashley Beasley, love them!!! And then we also grabbed a photo with the lovely Miss Katelyn, who is an amazing blessing and influence to so many. 

If you've made it this far, I applaud you. I know it was a lot...but sometimes it takes a lot to really share what something meant to you. I know many people were incredibly affected by this Retreat, myself included and I think there is value in sharing that. Not only was our business strengthened, our walk together in marriage as a picture of Christ and the Church was also strengthened, which really....is the only thing that eternally matters. 

And OOOPS!! Look what we did!