Inspirational

Growth Is Not Linear

Growth Is Not Linear

I believe that plants are my love language. If they were an animal, I would call them my spirit animal. Alas, they are not. I can not explain to you the joy I experience from plants of all varieties. Succulents are my favorite, followed closely by roses. Within the last few years, as my illnesses and symptoms have evolved, I have found myself gravitating into the plant and gardening section of every store I pass. Home and garden stores have been added to my list of Self-Care Day destinations, and I often come home with a new, tiny, potted friend. I pour my soul into watering them just enough and never too much, and I may or may not whisper encouraging words to them as they work hard to grow and bloom into their most beautiful forms. These tiny plants offer me hope and teach me about growth and life and perseverance. They show me what it looks like to find the light and drink it in deeply and slowly. 

The unique design of each individual plant is what draws me in and leaves me in wonder of their Creator. How can these tiny little things be full of so much beauty and life? Their flowers and colors are beautiful, no doubt, but it is the depth and the dirt of the roots below the surface that allow them to thrive. How magical that the most important and vital component of a plant’s growth - the root system - is hidden beneath the surface. It is intricate and complicated, and yet it is designed with a life-sustaining purpose. There are seasons in which the flowers blossom and bloom with vividly bright colors, followed by seasons of withering and apparent death. And yet, as long as the roots continue to drink of the water provided to them, the flowers will one day bloom again. 

I believe it is the same with us. 

Our root systems - the foundational stuff that we dig our heels into throughout all seasons - will be the stuff that either sustains us or causes our withering. My root system is my faith in God. The Bible talks about living our lives rooted in God, strengthened in our faith, overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:7). It says that as long as we plant our souls in the depths of God’s love for us, and consume the life-giving messages from God in the Bible, we will continue to thrive. There will be times that we flourish and blossom with bold colors and warm souls into the people that He has created us to be. But at times there will be seasons of drought. Our hearts may close up and our brightness of hope may fade, but as long as we are planted in faith and rooted in God’s love, we will survive and bloom another day. 

I know this may seem hard to believe, and those doubts are personal to me, too. For years I’ve walked back and forth across the fine line of growing and withering. When I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome at 12 years old, I had no idea what the future could look like. It felt like my life had been ripped out of the ground, roots and all, and thrown away. For years I was consumed by pain and controlled by medications and physical therapy appointments, succumbing to the demands of the health care world. But eventually, after a lot of hard work and trial and error, I found myself in a season of remission. I could walk again, return to school, and live a life of normalcy. In a life of illness and pain, there are distinguishable seasons of improvement or deterioration of the frail body and the fragile spirit. 

It felt like my life had been ripped out of the ground, roots and all, and thrown away.

At times, it felt like I was growing rapidly and blooming for all the world to see. While in remission, I was afforded an opportunity to live fully and freely, with my illness a mere afterthought. It seemed as if I was becoming the most beautiful version of myself, and I naively believed that nothing could change that. I would just continue on this upward trajectory of growth forever, until all thoughts of pain and illness were just specks of dirt beneath me. My confidence was high, my hope was abundant, and my growth was on an incline.

With a mentality like this, the changing of the seasons is always shocking and confusing. No one had ever told me that with remission comes the threat of relapse. I was completely caught off guard the day that I walked into school on my own two feet and left in a wheelchair just a few hours later. The pain was back, my muscles contorted, and my life was forever changed.  It’s as if you go to bed on the final warm night of summer and awaken to the first bitter freeze of winter, skipping the autumnal chill altogether. Everything freezes in time. Lungs tighten and you can see the puff of each tight breath in small clouds before you. This is the time to be dormant. All growth halts for a season, and petals fall to the earth below. It looks like death. It may even feel like death. All signs of the brilliant beauty of life silently fade away. 

I was completely caught off guard the day that I walked into school on my own two feet and left in a wheelchair just a few hours later.

With that initial relapse and each subsequent worsening of symptoms, it has felt as if my stem has been cut and all growth and progress has been lost. I fear that I will have to start over - to be replanted once again. In my trajectory of growth it has meant relearning how to walk several times, teaching my brain that touch is not a painful stimulus, and accepting all over again that suffering is never my fault and it’s okay to seek help. 

What else do we do in this season? When the joy and excitement of progress and new growth comes to an abrupt end? It feels heavy and dark. How does one survive? 

We dig deeper. We find our roots planted firmly below the surface in our hope and faith in God. It seems to be the perfect time to exist in a quiet stillness, in a forced focus on the source of life instead of distracted by the fleetingness of life, itself. Because sometimes relapse happens or pain worsens, and that steady upward trajectory of growth takes a sharp downhill turn. It's in those times that the substance of our roots will make the difference between spiritually surviving or dying.      

...relapse happens or pain worsens, and that steady upward trajectory of growth takes a sharp downhill turn. It’s in those times that the substance of our roots will make the difference between spiritually surviving or dying.

And then we gently remind ourselves that the outward growth may have paused for a moment, but the inward growth continues. This is merely a break for our hearts to be re-centered and prepared for future seasons of life; to be grown and stretched in new and different ways. It can be a reflective time to look back on what we have achieved and how far we have come. We can smile at the memories of how brilliant our colors were and how empowered we felt by our sweet nectar. We can (and should) express our gratitude to our Maker for His creativity and stability that allow us to become who we are. 

All the while, we wait. We sit in the dirt of life. Things get messy here. It’s easy to feel less than in this season - less pretty than others, less worthy than others, less bold, less loved. It is likely that there will be times when we are overwhelmed by the distraction of our withering leaves and the fraying threads that weave together our broken spirit. These are the times that we can only see the current destruction, and no current beauty at all. The thought of a growing future seems unrealistic and unattainable. 

But God is a perfect gardener. He tends to us daily and exceeds each and every one of our needs. He knows when our spirits have run dry and need refreshing. He knows when we feel stranded in the darkness of our circumstances and He shines light on our souls that never fades. His word is nourishing food for our spirits. 

What I am particularly grateful for is that He loves us in all of our forms. He rejoices and celebrates with us when we bloom big and beautiful, but He does the same when we wither and fade. He is never-changing and ever-constant through our ever-changing seasons of growth.

Growth is not linear. It was never designed to be an easy or straight path. Instead, it was created to challenge us and push us to new heights, while allowing for periods of rest and reset. It may look dark and bleak at times, but hope is never lost if we keep it rooted deeply in Jesus. 

We will one day bloom again.


Written by: Ally Zinsmeister

If you could earn a medical degree through patient experience and hours of watching Grey’s Anatomy, Ally would be a top-rated specialist. Yes, Ally’s our favorite kind of sick chick — she’ll order a lavender mocha, but she’s not above straight black coffee, her first (and only) post-surgical request is chicken nuggets, her idea of a good time is organizing (color-coding and alphabetizing, anyone?), and her go-to party trick is showing off her magnetic back (courtesy of her spinal cord stimulator)! But aside from all her sweet and relatable quirks, this Texas native is incredibly passionate about faith, advocacy, adoption (both dogs and someday children), and she even serves as an amazing leader on two of our volunteer teams! Through her own battle with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Ally keeps us all guessing what barrier she’ll overcome next, with the help of her service dog, Malibu, of course! One thing’s for sure — we all love our Ally.


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Armwrestling with God

Armwrestling with God

I think I laughed out loud when the nurse on the phone told me I had to go to the emergency room. At 17 years old I felt fine, but my symptoms suggested otherwise. My unquenchable thirst, frequent urination, and mysterious twenty-pound weight loss did not seem too concerning when I was focused on graduating high school the next month. Still, I went to the ER, thinking of it all as an adventure. 

The "adventure" lost its luster and turned to shock when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes later that afternoon. The surprise of my new life-sentence was dulled by overwhelm and cluelessness — I knew nothing about diabetes and all of the medical phrases confused me. My body was broken and I needed to learn how to take care of myself. 

The doctors explained to me that I would essentially need to learn how to take over the role of my pancreas — a juggling act in which I would balance food and medicine. Suddenly my health depended on my ability to count carbohydrates and protein and calculate the right amount of insulin to give myself. That afternoon I had to get over my discomfort with needles when I gave myself my first injection of medicine — the beginning of my new normal. 

Control — that was the name of my new game. I needed to take control for the sake of my health. But taking over the role of an organ challenged my own perceptions of control and deeply impacted my relationship with God. During a time that I needed to grab onto my faith more than ever, I grabbed God’s hand only to begin an “armwrestling match.” 

During a time that I needed to grab onto my faith more than ever, I grabbed God’s hand only to begin an ‘armwrestling match.’

In my heart I wrestled with God especially in those early months and years following my diagnosis. I had trusted God before I was diagnosed. As a child I experienced Him as a constant and a comfort through each move around the United States as part of my father’s military career. Each location introduced unique challenges but also introduced new adventures, lessons, and memories. So as I faced my diagnosis, that was my mindset: this is just a new phase. Surely this illness has purpose. 

But the “shiny newness” of my mindset slowly faded away as doubts and frustrations kept coming. It faded to anger as I struggled with my body’s new balancing act. High blood sugars at dinner would sometimes swing dangerously low at two o’clock in the morning, leaving me crying in my bedroom while I drank a juice box in record speed. It faded to grief as I grieved the life I lost and the future I had previously imagined. So I tightened my grip and flexed my control in this armwrestling match with a God who I now believed had been careless with me. After all, I couldn’t see the purpose in this pain. 

It faded to grief as I grieved the life I lost and the future I had previously imagined.

In the months following my diagnosis, I started attending university with a faint, hesitant trust in God, and an ever-tightening grip of control. Chronic illness intensified the pressure of life, and it felt isolating to explain my illness to new friends who had no idea what my harsh, daily realities looked like. So amidst the pressures and unknowns, I tried to control my blood glucose levels perfectly, which is nearly impossible. I tried to control everything outside of the illness. I kept careful control of my calendar, and filled it to the brim with classes and events. If I couldn’t keep my blood glucose levels balanced, I could at least control what I did, where I went, and who I spoke to. I took ownership of my illness begrudgingly, and in the process, I pushed God aside in this area of my life, and struggled to figure out where I stood in my faith. 

Yet over the course of time, my strength was waning and the false grip of control I thought I had was slipping. Looking back on old journal entries, the pages are filled with loneliness and frustration as I struggled with learning how to take care of my illness and how to be a college student. One entry reads, “I’m exhausted. I’m tired of being strong all the time but I know that no one else can take care of me.” Those words came from wrestling with control and the frustration of isolation. I was angry with God, armwrestling with Him about the purpose of my illness, and my faith had remained barely an afterthought on the back-burner. As I came to terms with that frustration, I slowly began to look back to my faith for rest and strength.

While I had been armwrestling with God and struggling on my own, God had been trying to take my hand and assure me that this pain had purpose.

While I had been armwrestling with God and struggling on my own, God had been trying to take my hand and assure me that this pain had purpose. My diagnosis, along with everything else in my life, was a part of His grand and specific plan for me. This assurance came through family and friends who were willing to help and learn, even if they could not fully understand. Assurance came through worship and learning about God’s character and who He truly is. Support and encouragement came through my small group Bible study and in online communities, including People Hope. My faith slowly rekindled as I came to terms with my anger and grief and then surrendered them to God. I thought I was the only one who could take care of myself, but I learned that others could help. More importantly, I learned that God cared for me. Through this time of wrestling, I learned I could trust Him in all things and that I did not have to rely on myself for worth or control. 

That assurance changed everything and continues to impact me as I write this now after four years of living with my diagnosis. I can look back at those initial hardships and appreciate how they have prepared me for future challenges. My family, friends, and faith sustain me in the difficult moments that I still experience. Faith in a loving God, especially in this life with chronic illness, has the power to transform struggles into celebration. I couldn’t see it for a time, but there truly is incredible purpose for this pain. 

This much I know for sure — there is no sense in armwrestling with a God who is simply trying to gently lead you by the hand into the most purposeful, unique plan for your life. 

This much I know for sure — there is no sense in armwrestling with a God who is simply trying to gently lead you by the hand into the most purposeful, unique plan for your life. 

Releasing control and simply holding His hand rather than gripping it for a struggle is not always easy, but it truly is a hopeful act. Hope in God gives us the freedom to let go of these false grips of control we have in the unhealthy areas of our lives so that God can have control over our unique, grand stories. For me, it was a relief to turn back to God and fully know and feel that He had always been in control of my story. I didn’t need to cling to my own sense of control - I could trust in God’s control and continue to have hope in every high and low. 

Hope is stronger than shame, more ferocious than anger, more consistent than confusion, and more abiding than heartache. Hope is sweeter than control. Where in the world did I get the idea that I could win an armwrestling match against God anyway? 


Written by: Stephanie Hudak

If you love cozying up in your favorite blanket with a good book, Stephanie might just be your long-lost best friend. Not only is she a vibrant member of our Tribe, she also works with the USO helping to serve thousands of military members and their families, and she’s passionate about all people having access to insulin! We’re proud to share her beautiful insights, but we’re also proud to learn that her coffee order is a cappuccino in her favorite travel mug, that she played trumpet for 11 years, that Cuban sandwiches are her jam, and that she dreams about writing a book someday. Yeah, Stephanie’s our kind of girl.


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Ask Us Anything: Relationships with Chronic Illness Part II

Ask Us Anything: Relationships with Chronic Illness — Part II

Dating, marriage, and relationships with chronic illness...let's talk about it! Hear from our Founder, Anna, and her husband, Randy, as they open up about what they've learned through their relationship. Hear from both perspectives — healthy and chronically ill — about your most frequently asked questions! They're sharing their wins and losses, ups and downs, and what has worked (or not) in their relationship, all while answering questions YOU submitted! 

Did you miss Part I?!

Be sure to check it out for even more laughs and questions answered!


About our Fave Couple: Anna & Randy Kowlessar

What can we say about these two?! Anna is our fearless leader, the Founder of People Hope, and your ever-relatable, chronically ill pal. Randy, a marketing, branding, and design expert, is the entrepreneurial wiz behind his company, Hello Randy. Is “power couple” too strong a phrase? What you really need to know about these two is that they really are best buddies. Their strong, foundational friendship is evident from the first moment you meet them, and their bond is one-of-a-kind. A core value in their marriage is to “leave people better than you find them,” and it certainly shows in the way they cheer for and champion others.


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People Hope is 100% donor-funded by people just like you, and we need your help to keep publishing hope-giving resources like this one! You can make a gift right now, or even sign up to join our Core Team of monthly supporters for as little as $10/month!


Disclaimer: The content in this video is reflective of Anna and Randy’s personal opinions and experiences, and should not be taken as professional counsel. While they’re sharing what has worked in their specific relationship, every relationship is different. We highly recommend seeking out professional counseling from trained and qualified therapists if you’re in need of personal counsel and/or relationship guidance.

Ask Us Anything: Relationships with Chronic Illness - Part I

Ask Us Anything: Relationships with Chronic Illness — Part I

Dating, marriage, and relationships with chronic illness...let's talk about it! Hear from our Founder, Anna, and her husband, Randy, as they open up about what they've learned through their relationship. Hear from both perspectives — healthy and chronically ill — about your most frequently asked questions! They're sharing their wins and losses, ups and downs, and what has worked (or not) in their relationship, all while answering questions YOU submitted! 

And don’t forget to tune in to Part II on Tuesday, February 26th for more laughs and to hear more of your questions answered! Nothing's off limits…and yes, they're "going there."


About our Fave Couple: Anna & Randy Kowlessar

What can we say about these two?! Anna is our fearless leader, the Founder of People Hope, and your ever-relatable, chronically ill pal. Randy, a marketing, branding, and design expert, is the entrepreneurial wiz behind his company, Hello Randy. Is “power couple” too strong a phrase? What you really need to know about these two is that they really are best buddies. Their strong, foundational friendship is evident from the first moment you meet them, and their bond is one-of-a-kind. A core value in their marriage is to “leave people better than you find them,” and it certainly shows in the way they cheer for and champion others.


Want to see more videos like this?

People Hope is 100% donor-funded by people just like you, and we need your help to keep publishing hope-giving resources like this one! You can make a gift right now, or even sign up to join our Core Team of monthly supporters for as little as $10/month!


Disclaimer: The content in this video is reflective of Anna and Randy’s personal opinions and experiences, and should not be taken as professional counsel. While they’re sharing what has worked in their specific relationship, every relationship is different. We highly recommend seeking out professional counseling from trained and qualified therapists if you’re in need of personal counsel and/or relationship guidance.

7 Healthy Steps to Plan a Sick Wedding

7 Healthy Steps to Plan a Sick Wedding

This one’s going out to all my ladies because statistically you gal pals are the ones planning your weddings, and let’s face it, girl talk is fun.

After the popping of the question and the saying of the “yes,” comes the hard part — planning what is widely advertised as “the most important day of your life.” For me, our wedding was the best day ever, but all that pressure certainly didn’t help anything. Add in my chronic illness and the whole planning process became a recipe for disaster. I learned a lot through each meticulous plan, and while there’s an infinite number of different kinds of brides, these were the 7 steps that worked for me!

1. Erase the word “perfect” from your prenuptial vocabulary.

In fact, you may want to erase it from your post-nup vocab, too. Planning what is essentially a gigantic party for everyone you’ve ever met and held dear (as well as a bunch of people you’ve never met but apparently your parents and future in-laws hold dear), is a task that’s filled with mega-pressure from day one. Don’t let it freak you, though. As much as you can, as often as you can, try to let go.

Practically speaking, Randy and I got this one right from the beginning, by each making a list of our top 5 priorities that actually mattered most to us. Without this quick step at the very beginning, it would have been so easy to end up over budget and overly stressed. When you get that bridal tunnel vision (and unfortunately that’s almost a guarantee at some point on your matrimonial adventure) it’s hard to keep perspective and easy to start to feel like even the little ultimately-insignificant details are worth your time and energy. After all, no one ever remembers the beige undertones of your flower girl’s tights or the fact that some of the tables had slightly smaller centerpieces. Narrow it down and keep your focus there. And by focus I mean your valuable-and-not-infinite energy. Things are going to go wrong on your wedding day — something always does. Know that ahead of time, become okay with that ahead of time, and as long as you end the day married…mission accomplished, my friend! Let the rest go, girl.

Practical step:

Plan a time to sit down with your fiancé when each of you can go through this exercise. Secret ballots, though…no peeking! On separate pieces of paper, each write down your top 5 priorities and rank them in order of importance to you (florals, attire, venue, photography, food, music, etc.). When you’ve each ranked your top 5 priorities, compare lists and discuss what matters most to each of you. If there’s any overlap on your lists…make that a priority. And whatever stole the #1 slot for both of you is important to keep in mind, too.

2. Take the help!

My saint-like mother is no-doubt chuckling reading this because she’s far more qualified to be writing the whole article than I am. She planned the vast majority of our wedding, and Randy and I genuinely couldn’t have done it without her. Whether it’s a mom or a group of close friends, your bridesmaids or siblings, ask for help and delegate, delegate, delegate. And hey, if your budget allows, get yourself a wedding planner! It wasn’t in the budget for us, but more power to you if you can hire a new bff to make everything magical. 

I’ll tell you right now that this thing is impossible to plan strictly solo, especially with your body’s surprising and sometimes unfortunate “bag of tricks” (read also: symptoms). And this is one of those seasons in your life where everyone is cheering you on, and so many people are eager and willing to help. Swallow your pride and take the help.

Practical Step:

Call, text, or send smoke signals to your close friends and family, and ask them to help you with specific projects. Delegate by handing off clear and direct tasks so that you can cross it off your list, and they know exactly what they’re agreeing to. And then leave the ball in their court by asking them to followup with you when the task is completed. With a reliable friend and successful communication, you shouldn’t need to hover or check in on their progress.

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3. Put it ALL on the table.

In addition to planning a wedding, you’ll also be doing all the last-minute prep for your husband to become your #1 partner in your journey to health and wellness. You don’t want to go into marriage with your brand new husband in the dark about your symptoms, the cold hard truth about your illness, or even what you’d like his role to be when you’re having a flare or a particularly hard season. They’re men, ladies, not mind-readers. Let this become your mantra. 

It’s officially time to make sure that he understands your health at great length. If it’s redundant and he’s already up-to-speed, great! But this man is about to become your “in case of emergency” contact. He’s walking into the role of official caretaker, and at times he’s going to need to be your health advocate. Now is not the time to be shy. Does he know how to handle your health scares and flares? Does he know even the correct terminology so that he can communicate with first responders or doctors if need be? 

Practical Step:

Plan a time to have one big health conversation with your fiancé. Make it a fun time with your favorite coffee drinks or sitting in a park, but really talk through everything and anything you can think of from the details of your symptoms to your primary care doctor’s name to what you each expect his role to practically look like as he becomes your official caretaker.

4. Plan A is important, and Plan B is non-negotiable.

Now I don’t want to overwhelm you sister-friends, but in addition to making arrangements for bridesmaid dresses and reception centerpieces, you may also want to consider giving some serious thought to creating an environment that will accommodate you in case your symptoms are flaring on your wedding day. 

For me, this was non-negotiable. Many of you know that I was blessed to have hundreds of people all over the world praying for me on my wedding day that I would be healthy and unusually symptom-free. After all, there is that fear we all have that our wedding day will somehow also be one of those horrible flare days. My day came and I had no flares, no nasty symptoms, no crazy health scares, but I also had peace of mind because I had fully prepped for a very different scenario. For instance, I was concerned about not being able to stand for the whole wedding ceremony, so we reserved a chair in the front row just in case, complete with secret hand signals with a trusted friend who would have, should the worst have happened, discreetly brought it up front. We had communicated our plan B to the entire wedding party at the rehearsal as well as the pastor so that everyone could keep going and play it cool rather than alarm our guests and cause a big scene. This is just one of the contingencies I made. I also listened to James Taylor all day to relax and help my anxiety, stashed snacks and medicine everywhere I went all day, and sat down at every opportunity. But I can’t tell you how much relief it gave me to know that, should the worst have happened, it wouldn’t become a big scary “to-do” for my guests, or a moment of unprepared panic for me.

Whatever your biggest health concerns are for that day, if there’s anything that could help address it, go the extra mile and treat yourself to some peace of mind!

Practical Step:

Either on your own or with your fiancé or a bridesmaid, grab some paper and write down the big health-related fears you have for your wedding day. Next to each fear, write a plan that will help you address that fear. This can be something tangible (like a chair in case you can’t stand), or even a perspective shift and something you’re going to mentally think and focus on anytime that fear pops up.

5. Honeymoon Day 1: REST.

The day after your wedding you’ll be tired. Emotional exhaustion from seeing everyone who matters to you the day before and bawling your eye-sockets out and living through the best day of your life will have set in. If not, congratulations…and are you sure you’re reading the right article? 

You might be thinking, “Wow, the day after the wedding will be a sexy little day and/or a great day to hop on the first plane out and whisk my newlywed husband away for a honeymoon extravaganza.” Thank the good Lord himself that we were given this advice before our wedding because we most certainly did NOT whisk ourselves away in those first 24 hours. What we did instead was sleep, newlywed-sexy-time, sleep, and watch Fixer Upper in the bed of our honeymoon suite hotel room while eating pizza and leftover wedding cake. This was a lifesaver and neither of us can stress that enough. Even my healthy husband was so thankful in retrospect that we didn’t jump on that midnight plane. 

Practical Step:

Add this conversation to your checklist. Find a time to talk to your future groom about planning to rest the day after your wedding! Why? Because once again I remind you, they’re men, ladies, not mind-readers! Communicate those expectations and have a chat!

6. Say “it’s okay” to not having sex that day.

I can almost hear the roar of shock and awe as women clutch their pearls and fan their flush cheeks. But this is real and let’s talk about it! While the events of our wedding night are strictly private, what I can tell you is that this is a very honest conversation that Randy and I had BEFORE our wedding. Again, emotional and physical exhaustion may well have set in by dusk on your big day, and there’s a lot of pressure to have sex on your wedding night. While sex is a gift and the most intimate way to connect to your freshly-hitched spouse, if you’re not feeling up to the horizontal mambo that night (gross, even writing that feels sleezy), it’s okay. No guilt, girlfriend! No shame! You’ve got your whole life to connect sexually. Just talk it out ahead of time!

Practical Step:

DO NOT FORGET TO TALK TO YOUR FIANCÉ ABOUT THIS. Whether you end up doing what married folks do or not that night, this is a conversation you need to have before your big day. Talk about all of your expectations for the wedding night, yours and his, particularly any concerns you might have about your health in relation to sex. Unvoiced expectations will almost always lead to frustration and disappointment.

7. Spend more time planning for your marriage than your wedding day.

By far this step outweighs the rest. Your wedding will be special and magical because it’s the day that starts your journey, but it is just one day. 

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Randy and I went through weeks and weeks of pre-marital counseling with a married couple. There was a curriculum, homework, and a LOT of hard questions. I realize that adding “one more thing” on your bridal plate doesn’t sound enticing, but how good is it to talk through so many of the hard things ahead of time and save yourself some of those “first year of marriage fights” that we’ve all heard about? Admittedly, I thought we had covered all the hard stuff long before we got into counseling, but to my surprise, as it turns out, we did not. Not by a long shot. Not even a little bit. Going through this process, there are questions that would never have come up for us in any conversation otherwise. We both highly recommend this to every glowing and engaged couple in sight.

Even aside from premarital counseling, guard your conversations! It becomes freakishly easy for all of your communication with your fiancé to become wedding-centric and equally as hard to talk about anything else in the weeks and months leading up to your big day. Be intentional and talk about the future together! Dream about what you want your average weeknight dinners to be like in the home you’ll create. Talk about things you want to do on your weekends as a married couple! On Saturday mornings are you more of a pancakes-and-pjs couple or a get-out-and-take-a-hike couple? It’s fun, but it takes intention.

Practical Step:

Consider going through premarital counseling as a couple. A lot of churches will offer it for free, and ladies, “free” is not a word you’ll be hearing at all through your betrothed pilgrimage of planning bliss. Also, keep your date nights a priority. At least once a week, aim to spend time on a date (even if you’re not spending money), and refuse to use that time as wedding planning central. Guarding this time will serve you well in gearing up for a great life together!

There you have it, gals! I genuinely couldn’t be more excited for you to step into marriage with someone you love so dearly. Cultivate that kindness, keep it patient between the two of you, take the pressure off, and set a great tone for your life together! Marriage is a wild adventure, it’s an endless opportunity to learn about yourself and your partner, and it’s such a gift. 

Happy planning, sis!


Written by: Anna Kowlessar, Founder of People Hope

After many years of dealing with her own chronic illness, Anna founded People Hope to fill a much-needed void that so many people are looking for today - a place of audacious hope, a genuine community, and somewhere to belong regardless of diagnosis. You can read more about that here. Or you can keep reading this to learn that a few of her obsessions include cuddling with her dog, Walter Norman, singing ridiculous made-up songs with her husband, Randy, and snacking on salty-sweet treats! She loves Christmas, hates the color lavender, and adores her amazing Tribe!


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