In one month and three days, Micah and I will be celebrating our first year as married folks. Many of you followed along in my most recent series about our not-so-ordinary love story and know all the facts about us leading up to coming to bible college across the world in Australia. It was a daring yet seriously so exciting transition not just as young people, but as newly weds. Being that our first year of marriage has been mostly spent across the world in another country, I figured I'd share a little bit about our experiences and give some testimony to any newly weds, established married couples and heck, even full on families who plan on coming to Australia for Hillsong College.
First, I want to start with the most important thing... we've been blessed. The fact we've gone almost a year with very little to no hardship in our brand new marriage, I consider us absolutely blessed. Now, just because we have made it almost to 1 year doesn't mean this year has been smooth sailing... I don't care who you are or how long you've been married, when you go from living in your own house, with your own standard of living and with your own schedule to living in a house full of other people with the same independence you had back home trying to work out their own issues, it's going to get messy.
Luckily for us we dodged a few bullets before coming to Hillsong. (This is where the married couples considering coming to college should start taking notes...)
For example: Instead of signing up for college housing, we decided to go with non-college housing. Basically that looks like gathering enough people to go in and rent a house for a year, splitting cost and maintaining your home as you would with a realtor. The benefit of doing this is simply... you save SO much money. Not putting down college housing... but it seriously BLOWS for married couples. See, normal rent per person in a college or non-college house is somewhere between $135-$150 a week. In college housing they require each tenant in the house to pay the same amount. So, married couples, you're paying double since there are two of you. That can look like spending almost $300 a week for your bedroom... JUST ON RENT. In non-college housing, you usually split rent per room. That way, if rent per week is $550 total: each room is paying about $140. Consider that, guys. It will save you money and honestly, hearing from couples who went through it... it sucks.
No matter what type of housing you're in though, there's always going to be "stuff" that bothers you. Whether it's the people you live with, the dirty dishes piled up in the sink, the fact you have to hang dry your clothes, the fact your bank account is slowly decreasing, or how far the distance your house is from the grocery store (can you tell I'm ranting now?)... I mean, seriously. You're living in a foreign country pursuing ministry & you have little to no money. But you do have each other and you have passion for Jesus.
Micah and I had our fair share of frustrations with housemates, spent a lot of nights eating dinner in our room, and the occasional conversation of wanting to go home to our house in America. But luckily we never really considered going home. Susan Smith, which is basically a mixture of Doctor Phil and Jesus, is the college and pastoral staff "therapist/counselor/live saver/marriage guru" of Hillsong Church. Her ability to work with people and help them sort through their junk (I've heard) is amazing! Even though we've never gone to meet with her, we have a few married friends who have and say she really helped them start communicating and seek God with the issues they were having. I remember my friend telling me that Susan pulls out every single married couples file in college, studies it, and then prays for them... everyday. She knows it's hard on us but she knows it's for good outcome.
Now, hopefully I haven't scared any potential college students away from coming. It's literally been such a great experience for Micah and I and I would never change it or take it back. This year has helped us grow in one year what back home would've probably taken 3-4 years. We've had each other and when things get tough, we have to communicate and seek God. It becomes raw relationship and there isn't any hiding your feelings (even from your housemates). You're strengthened spiritually and have to fight spiritual warfare on the daily. But God will bless you, just like He's blessed us. You just have to stay seeking, stay intentional and stay passionate.
Here is some practical advice (in list form) for all you married couples considering coming to Hillsong...
Just say yes. If you don't know whether or not to come to college but you know God is calling you here, just say yes and go. He wouldn't have called you BOTH here if He didn't think He could help you through it. Don't let finances, a house or a job keep you from chasing after God.
Never stop dating. Just because you're saving every cent to pay for next semesters tuition doesn't mean that's an excuse to stop dating! My lovely housemate and fellow married friend, Christy, recently blogged about dating on a budget. Her and her husband, Dane, can tell you about how important this is. Keep the fire alive and read that blog post.
Do non-college housing. That's all I have to say about that.
Stop looking backwards. It's easy to get in ruts and start looking back at how life was prior to life at college. Not the life before "attending one of the best colleges in the world".. the life before sharing a house with people and pinching pennies. You'll drive yourself crazy and before you know it you'll be on Skype with your mom breaking down crying and talking about how much you miss home. If it gets too hard to look back at home, cut it out and start looking forward. Better yet, stay in the now. Soak in every second. Find the fun and enjoyment in where you're at.
Serve together. My housemates Dane and Christy are some of the most amazing couples I've ever had the privilege of knowing. Dane is in college and Christy is an awesome working wifey. Dane was allocated to serve at Greater West extension service for his practicum in college. Christy always says how serving with each other on Sundays makes her feel like she's apart of the college and making an impact even though she's not attending. So take her advice and do it.
Lastly, pursue God passionately. He's the one that will carry you through the hard times and He's also the one who led you here. So to seeking Him together will ensure your year to go exactly how He intended it to go.
Micah and I are praying for every single one of you as you chase your dreams and consider Hillsong College. It's the best place to have your marriage stretched, challenged and strengthened for years and years and years to come.