Year Two: So Much Harder, So Much Better

Last year I wrote a post celebrating my first anniversary with my dear husband Casey.

For those who don’t know, we got married two weeks before the start of my senior year of college — not exactly common, and to many people, absolutely insane.

Folks always asked me if it was hard being a student and married, and I would always answer that it’s life that’s hard — not marriage. Having a best friend and teammate to walk through the challenges alongside makes the valleys so much easier to traverse. Just last month I shared that very same sentiment in my toast at my little sister’s wedding — she’s also a new bride going into her final year of undergrad.

And after experiencing another year of marriage myself, my opinion hasn’t changed.

The Challenges

In the last 12 months we’ve moved “there and back again” to Scotland, made and said goodbye to a host of new friends, started new jobs and lost old ones, traveled Europe and slaved away at school work, job-searched, panicked about finances and oh — got pregnant and had a baby.

And guess what? Moving is hard. Job searching is hard. Losing a job is hard. Managing money is hard. Changing your plans is hard. Pregnancy? A challenge. Being overdue? Obnoxious. Giving birth? Almost unbearable. The first month of caring for a newborn? The most physically and emotionally draining experience of my life.

Year two of marriage has undoubtedly been “harder” than year one — but it’s also been better.

The Strength

Our alma mater loved its motto: “Strength rejoices in the challenge.” Amazingly, that saying applies to 2 a.m. nursing sessions and diaper changes way more than all-nighters spent writing English papers.

And guess what’s way more rewarding than an A on an exam? Seeing your partner in crime holding your precious baby in his arms when dawn rises.

I’ve undoubtedly fallen more in love with Casey as I watch him come face to face with adversity. Have we always gotten along? Never argued? Consistently seen eye to eye? Of course not. We’ve hurt each other, lost our tempers, and said things we had to apologize for later.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but we are growing together and sometimes the stretching hurts.

The Adventure

Yet looking back on this year as a whole, I don’t remember the arguments and tears — I remember us conquering each and every one of life’s surprises together: Whether it was an unexpected positive pregnancy test, $600 medical bill or dreaded pink slip.

My hashtag for the pictures I’ve posted this year has been #mckeeadventures — Adventures always come with difficulties, but there’s joy, excitement and expectation in the word “adventure.”

Sure there have been challenges this year, but it’s also been so much fun. We saw London, Dublin and Rome. We trekked through the Scottish Highlands and marveled at the Isle of Skye. We visited castles and countrysides; We explored mansions and mines; We snapped pictures of the end of a rainbow and met amazing people who we will never forget.

And even if it’s been the most difficult challenge of all, our first month as parents has been a glorious blur of joyful (and tearful!) moments. We are so blessed by this “little nugget” of cuteness that’s forcing us to become more selfless people.

If this is our hardest year of marriage, then it’s also our happiest.

The Source

And of course, it’s our freedom to rest in God’s never-ending faithfulness that has made our relationship with one another at all successful. I fail Casey. He fails me. God? He has never failed us.

That doesn’t mean that He hasn’t taken us through some tough times (be them so slight compared to what others are enduring right now), but He has never let go. When Casey and I have nothing left to give each other, the Lord fills our cup to overflowing. He has provided for us in miraculous ways and watched over us in ways we don’t even realize. We know that none of this would work without His never-ending grace.

So to Him be the glory for every good and perfect gift in our lives.

And to Casey? I love you, babe. Here’s to a lifetime.


Evelyn’s Birth: July 19, 2017

Disclaimer: This is a birth story. Although I kept it as un-TMI as humanly possible, if birth freaks you out, I’d stop reading right about now. —- It was the morning of my sister’s birthday, July 18, and I woke up around 5 a.m., frustrated with the on-and-off-again contractions that had kept me awake during

Read More

The Overdue Diaries: 40 Weeks 2 Days

  Yes, I know. I’m not really overdue. Most first time moms are late. The baby will come when she comes. It’s all in God’s timing. In fact, my husband would like to remind me that my US doctors gave me a due date of Wednesday, July 12 (two days from now…) and since they

Read More

On Losing My Job 2 Days Before My Due Date

My alarm started buzzing at 6:15 a.m. this morning. The last of our family members that traveled cross-country for my little sister’s wedding would be leaving promptly at 8:15 to catch flights, so I wanted to be up for “coffee time” to say goodbye before settling down with my laptop and getting to work. After

Read More

What I Didn’t Know Nine Months Ago

  “That can’t be…That can’t be…me?” I stared at the side-by-side image that’s now on your screen. Fresh-faced and innocent, there’s November Natalie, beaming and slightly-freaking-out after reading the word “Pregnant” on that fateful test. Swollen and worn-down, there’s Natalie of Today (38 weeks pregnant tomorrow), protruding belly button and flabby arms, ready any day

Read More

The Hidden Costs of Pregnancy

I’m cheap. Ok, some people like to use the term “frugal,” but really, purchasing things can cause me great anxiety. Especially if it’s anything I can convince myself I can live without. So pregnancy has really thrown me — and our budget — for a loop. I figured I would need to buy some maternity

Read More