5 reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017

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This blog was started in 2016. In addition to the blog; twitter, instagram, and a fb page were created. I gave them all a trial and will be keeping active on instagram & fb and hopefully write more in 2017 on this blog! It was mostly me (R) writing and posting in 2016…maybe D will join me more in 2017. One can dream 🙂

As I begin to briefly reflect on 2016, I will share the following. I recently read my FB Memories from years past re: my new years reflections. Year after year, I wrote something to the effect of the previous year having its share of really difficult moments & good ones. I guess the saying from Ecclesiastes is true: there’s nothing new under the sun. With that said, I’ll pause to reflect on 2016 and offer some hopes for 2017.

2016

2016 certainly had a theme of loss. While we felt peace about our decision to resign from our church, I mourned the loss of those relationships in 2016. We also said good-bye to our dog, Mowgli, and our cat, Storm in 2016. I miss them.

2016 had a theme of personal growth, too. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that I realized something: I grew a lot this year in the areas of grace and forgiveness. In 2016, I purposed to “feel all the feels” as well as to let go. Being hurt but not growing bitter is hard work! This could be a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say, I’m entering 2017 feeling light and free.

2016 was a year of growth as a couple. We grew in emotional intimacy and spiritually. We prayed more together in 2016 than ever before.

2016 was the year that I grew closer to my co-workers than ever before. I don’t know why this is. I wonder if my heavy church commitments (being married to a pastor & serving in my own way(s) in the church), caused me to be “less available” when at work. I know that I used to use my breaks at work to do church related things (like update the church fb page, read a book for book club, etc). It could also be the fact that several co-workers have gone through super stressful times this year and it’s more natural for me to “show up” for that than to do small talk. For whatever reason, I’m thankful for new and deepening friendships outside of church walls in 2016.

2016 had us feeling tired & so happy as we watched out daughter grow from a baby to a toddler. We feel tremendously blessed that dad was able to stay home with our girl from summer 2016 onward.

2017

2017 will be the year that we plug into our new church. We visited over a dozen churches in our area in 2016. We are praying about where to put down roots. I am so looking forward to having a church family in 2017!

2017 may bring us closer to discerning what’s next for us in pastoral ministry. Or not. We’ll see! The key is to remain open to whatever comes next. And to also enjoy the season that we are in (we are enjoying it!).

2017 is a great time to do all the new years resolution type things: lose weight. eat healthier. purge items from home. work on projects. read more. travel. I would like all of these! But most of all, I desire to grow in relationship with others this year. Family, friends, co-workers, church goers, strangers, etc. To make time even when you think you don’t have any time.  If I spend more time with people, if I’m more present with people, if I’m more vulnerable with people, and if my “people time” decreases online and increases in other ways, 2017 will be a success.

Do you have reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017 that you’d be willing to share? I’d love to hear them! Truly.

5 steps on how to fight fair: marriage arguments

Hubby and I had a fight last week. A not so pretty one. After 6 years of marriage, with the last year being the best so far, you’d think any fighting would be way behind us. You’d be wrong. Why? Because we are human. No marriage is completely free from disagreements and fighting. Now you may be thinking: well, my parents never fought! And you could be correct. Or maybe they hid it from you. For a couple to truly never fight, both persons may be on the far end of passive. Or, at least one may be quite passive and willing to go with the flow no matter their thoughts/opinion/true wishes. (Here’s the spectrum: passive – assertive – aggressive. Assertive being the ideal).

What I’ve learned in 6+ years of marriage and in my career as a social worker is this: fighting vs. never fighting is not necessarily a good indicator of a healthy relationship. It’s the quality of the fights that matter the most. It’s the way that we fight, not whether or not we fight at all. The following are some tips on learning how to fight fair; to conduct your arguments in such a way that your time and energy will be productive no matter the ultimate outcome.

1. When something upsets you, try to take a deep breath and evaluate if you must say something now or if it would be better to wait and bring it up later. The current setting (needing to run out the door, company is over, etc) may set the conversation up for failure. Often, saving the conversation for a different time will prove most fruitful. Just make sure that you DO come back to it and don’t end up stuffing it away as future ammunition for a fight.

2. One thing at a time. Really. This alone will make a world of difference. When you are fighting, stick to the topic at hand. Don’t bring up things from the past that don’t apply. Bringing up old items just to win an argument will actually do the opposite – you are much less likely to be taken seriously and also more likely to feel worse the next day.

3. Never say “always”. Just don’t. You will surely lose credibility as soon as you say “you always forget to take out the trash” and then they come back with, “always eh? well what about last week!”. Done. You lose. Stay away from using the word “always”, always.

4. While we are on the topic of things not to say (such as always), it’s very helpful to use “I” statements instead of “you”. An example of an I statement is: “when you _____, I feel _____. I need you to ______”. Taking it a step farther, a “you” statement could look like: “you never tell me that I look nice”. Changing this to an “I” statement could be: “when you don’t say anything when I’m dressed up, I feel hurt. If you think I look nice, I need you to say it to me”. This example not only helps the argument to go a heck of a lot smoother by using “I” statements, but it also clearly states what the person needs from the other. We must stop expecting others to “just know”.

5. Remembering that we don’t always “fight fair”, make sure to eat some humble pie time and again. Own up for your share of causing the fight to get out of hand. Apologize with the pure intention of learning from your mistake and changing how you operate to fight fair in the future.

Learning how to fight fair is a process. But it’s fundamental to a successful marriage. Just like a person in a boxing ring, fighting fair is the key to success and a good reputation. What matters is not “fighting vs. never fighting”. Conducting a clean fight is what makes all the difference!

 

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A review of 2013: The good stuff!

As I reflect over the past year, several highlights come to mind. Here’s a re-cap of the positives of 2013:

1) I can’t seem to choose between financial health and physical health. What I mean is that I’m grateful that in 2013 we were able to pay a little more than just the minimum for our mortgage. Also, in 2013, I advocated for my health (hypothyroidism) and have seen improvements as a result. Running a client group on assertiveness and presenting at a conference re: teaching assertiveness skills must have paid off! 🙂

2) I joined a small group @ church called, “The Daniel Plan”. This 6 week small group series taught me a lot about sugar, processed foods, and eating for health. “The Daniel Plan” was the push I needed in the right direction. Looking back now, I can barely believe the results! From June to November of 2013, I lost the weight I had been trying to loose for over 4 years!  I will be forever grateful for the health and nutrition that I gained in 2013.

3) We took a vacation in the summer and saw Colonial America (lots of former presidents homes, Williamsburg/Jamestown) as well as Washington DC. From Baltimore, we flew out to California and drove from LA to San Fransisco stopping along the way. Then we drove back to LA via the desert to see Yosemite and Sequoia National Park. This was a CHECK off of our travel bucket list and a great time together.

4) Summer of 2013, I rediscovered my love for reading. It had been a couple of years since I read a book cover to cover. I forgot how much I enjoy reading and how greatly it nourishes my soul. Since the summer, I have read 6 books cover to cover and started a book club!

5) Derek and I have grown in our relationship in 2013. Our communication has improved, patience with one another has grown, and our love has deepened. I can honestly say that our relationship has never been better than it was in 2013.

Another year has come and gone. 2013 will be no more. I am glad to document the positives of this “blink of an eye” year. It wasn’t a perfect year as loss and joy seem so intertwined to our human experience. But there was gratitude, self-improvement, and love. And there was always a roof over our head with plenty to eat. 2013: Thank you for your many blessings. Please give 2014 the memo to be kind. Au revoir!

 

5 Marriage Tips

We have been married for 5 years now. Over the years, we have been given various marriage/relationship tips. Some of the advice has been extremely helpful and others not so much. With that in-mind, here are some tips that I’d give to married couples:

1) Sometimes, it’s okay to go to bed angry. As newlyweds we were told to never go to bed angry, ever. This resulted in me trying to talk things out while hubby just needed some time and space to regroup. There were some evenings where we stayed up way too late trying to resolve conflict that couldn’t be resolved in one evening. Going to bed angry does not mean that your marriage is doomed. The important thing is to seek to resolve conflict and don’t let things fester. Pulling an all nighter isn’t always the best way to resolve conflict. Sometimes issues are best resolved after a full night of sleep.

2) Use “I” statements. This one I cannot stress enough! When arguing, replacing “you” with “I” will help tremendously. An example of this is, “you don’t give me enough compliments.” Taking away the “you” and replacing it with “I” could look like: “I feel hurt when I make the effort to dress up and I don’t hear a compliment.” You causes the other person to feel under attack. Using I instead really helps the person to see your heart and as a result, they are more likely to want to listen and respond positively. Believe me, get rid of “you” and use “I” and see the results!

3) Don’t lose sight of your own shortcomings. It can be easy in a relationship to start focusing on the other person’s faults. If your mind keeps replaying a “record of wrongs” it may be helpful to sit down and try the following exercise. On half of a piece of paper write out all of the positive things about your spouse. On the other half of the paper write a list of your own shortcomings. This exercise can help a person out of a mental rut of fault finding. While your spouse may have negative traits, they also have positive ones. And we each need to remember that while they may have shortcomings, we do as well.

4) There is one saying from the Love & Respect conference that can radically transform your relationship for the better. Dr. Emerson repeats through out the conference, “not wrong – just different.” I wish that I grasped this sooner in our marriage. It is not wrong for our spouse to be different from us. Yet, our default is to want them to operate just like us. When our spouse puzzles us or frustrates us, repeating: “not wrong – just different” can go a long way!

5) This last one I’m not so great at but I believe in the rewards from doing so. Get in the habit of hugging or kissing your spouse every time you come home from work. This can set the tone for the rest of the evening. Instead of being rushed, spend a couple of seconds showing that you are happy to be together again.

If you have marriage advice that someone gave you or you’ve learned along the way, I’d love for you to leave a comment below.  Marriage is a journey, we never “arrive” so to speak. Learning new ways to improve our relationship is something each of us can do until death do us part.

Date Night Ideas for $10 or less

While engaged, we had several people strongly recommend that we guard and protect a weekly date night. For the most part, Friday nights have been our date nights. Date nights are a wonderful time to re-connect and have fun together.

Playing board games can be a fun date night!
Playing board games can be a fun date night!

While the positive benefits of date nights for a marriage are numerous, there are really two common themes why couples don’t go on date nights. The two biggest reasons for couples not going on date nights are: 1) children and 2) money. Children certainly make date nights more challenging. There’s both the scheduling and paying for a babysitter. Yet, I do know several married couples with children who go on weekly date nights. I have heard the argument that it’s even more imperative to have weekly date nights while raising young children.

Financially speaking, date nights do not need to break the bank. While on a budget, date nights require creativity. Here are frugal date night ideas that we have done:

– coffee at Starbucks and an evening of reading in Chapters ($10 for the drinks)

– hike through a local conservation park ($3 in fuel to get there and back)

– found local (free) events such as the Buskers and walked around ($7 for fuel)

– rented a movie and bought snacks for our @ home date night ($5-10)

– half price apps at a local restaurant ($8+ tip)

– gone biking (me) and rollerblading (hubby) on waterfront trails ($7 in fuel)

The list could go on and on. Sometimes our date nights include face-to-face time which means we spend a lot of time talking (something females tend to prefer). Other times it’s side-by-side activity (something males tend to prefer) where we are doing something fun together but it’s not really heart-to-heart time. Both are OK and necessary in a relationship. But now you are left wondering, how do parents achieve $10 or less date nights when they require a babysitter? Here are a few ideas:

– see if there are any family members or friends willing to babysit for free

– if you have friends raising children as well, see if they will babysit yours for your date night and then offer to babysit theirs for their date night

– sometimes date nights can be done by staying in. just be intentional that one (or both of you) doesn’t fall asleep on the couch or isn’t doing laundry during date night!

In regards to money and date nights the popular saying, “where there’s a will there’s a way” is true. Are you now or have you ever been intentional about date nights? I’d love to hear about it by you leaving a comment below. If you have other ideas for affordable date nights, I’d love to hear them!