Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Married...With Children

Last week our little brood spent a glorious Saturday afternoon at the park with friends; a lovely couple who has three children three-years-old and under. We get each other. At one point during a lull in the ball-kicking, tantrum-averting, tuna-dirt fiascos and everything else that goes along with maintaining the chaos of five wee gremlins, my friend (the wife) turns to me and says, "So how do you and Jake keep your marriage alive while parenting small children?"

I laughed at her.

No really, I did.

"You tell me," I snorted back. "We just spent all morning fighting about this." And we had. Passive aggressive harsh whispers back and forth escalating to curt tones which then turned into a yell or two. Parents of the year over here!

Two days later I sat next to this same friend and a group of other moms with small ones for a ladies night out. "Okay," I announced. "I want to hear everyone's advice about this subject. How do you stay married? How do you have time for each other when at the end of the night all you have energy for is watching an episode of New Girl and falling asleep at 8:45?"

They laughed at me.

"You and Jake want to know?" another friend at the table asked. "Gosh, if you guys don't know...I mean, don't you write about this stuff?"

"Have you read our blog?" I asked, deadpan. "Number one, there have been no posts for ages because we're totally exhausted. And number two, it's called the Holymess for a reason. We own not knowing what the hell we're doing!"

I'd like to tell you that the conversation then went on to be full of wonderful pearls of wisdom I could share about keeping connection and romance alive when more than one tiny being depends on you for EVERYTHING. But that's just not what happened. We chatted a bit and honestly, it was much more life-giving to vent about marriage stuff in a positive, loving environment than it was to try and fix each other's unique relationship struggles.

Having two small children is really, really hard. God bless you lovers who have more than that. Friends of ours have five. Five. I break out in hives just thinking about it.

It helps to know that Jake and I are not alone in trying to work this married-with-children thing out. Makes those exhausted nights where we can't figure out how to connect just a little bit lighter.

Knowing that we're not alone does help us fight harder. If I know my friends are busting their buns to carve out marriage space amidst the craziness of parenting, it makes me want to keep trying. I'd like to think I've become a little (a little, mind you) more laid back about sex. I've been able to say yes to going out on dates more and speak up when those dates aren't happening. Granted, this only happens when having a brief conversation about something completely unrelated that taps into my feelings—those things that have buried deep down in my psyche in order to survive. Hey, it's hard to be all Oprah and zen while one kid is running into oncoming traffic and the other is tumbling headfirst down a flight of stairs. I'm just lucky we're all alive at the end of the day, forget about feelings.

And I'm so tired these spurts of demands are spoken in stilted cavewoman. "Give me love language," I grunt.

Recently, Jake and I have started having dinner after the kids go to bed so that we can actually talk to each other during a meal. It makes bed-time hellish for me. My introvert tank is on low after all day with the two kids and I'm hungry and they're cranky. It's grit-your-teeth-this-will-happen kind of epic-ness to pull off, but Jake and I have so enjoyed this new time together. Yes, we inevitably crash and zone out in front of the TV after, but we enjoyed thirty-minutes of conversation and connection. Sometimes we even have sex.

Miracle of miracles.

So here are my seriously deep tips for staying married with children:

1. Chill out - Relax your standards. Emotionally own that your marriage is different now. It's important and should be a priority, but it's different and will require a good deal of trial and error from now on.

2. Try - Wow, the complexity of this one! There's no time for complexity, people, it's do or die out here. If you want to stay married you just need to try. This will work itself in a myriad of ways. But if you don't try, then I guarantee you'll start drifting apart. It's really, really easy to drift apart when you have kids. So keep trying, keep putting effort into your marriage even if all that means is saying "I love you" every day.

That's it. I know those two points seems opposing, but they are actually quite compatible, trust me.

And seriously, we're all about soaking up the wisdom of others. Be a doll and post your own marriage advice below. I'm sure there are plenty of us who want to hear how you and your spouse make it work!!   -Melissa

Friday, August 8, 2014

Getting Ready for the School Year

Here we go again! The new school year is just around the corner, and with it comes the cyclical shift from summer to fall programming.

No doubt you’re already laying the groundwork for fall meetings and finalizing those calendars to get in parent’s hands. You’re busily preparing for an influx of students and new challenges ahead. But have you thought about how the start of the school year will impact your family? It’s a crucial thing to consider; yet many of us forget how this change affects our personal schedules and relationships.

You might want to consider taking some time with your spouse and/or family during these last few weeks of summer to discuss the following questions:

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Surviving Vacation

It’s summer—the time of year when most of us ministry workaholics finally take a vacation. And while vacations are supposed to be times of relaxation, rest, and rejuvenation, they can often become just the opposite. Especially if you have kids! During our nine years of marriage we’ve experienced some awesome vacations, and plenty of hellish ones, too. (Once, we spent an entire week in Florida with another couple, all puking our guts out together. There was a trip to the hospital…it was kind of epic.)

So what can you do to make sure your time away is as enjoyable and restful as possible?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Emotions Make No Sense

After being in a relationship with Jake for almost thirteen years now (yes, we began dating at the ever-mature age of eighteen), I've just now come to the realization that emotions make no sense. This seems like something I would have figured out over thirteen years...but no, not me!

Let me illustrate the point of my illumination: the bottle dryer vs. the dish drying rack. 

We've had bottles in our house for the last two years because of having children that are only seventeen months apart. Bottles aren't simple any more, folks. They have eight million parts and special drying racks that look like plastic grass. We were given the grass bottle rack and stuck it next to our regular dish drying rack. Now, when Jake washes things, the bottle rack is organized with military-like precision. Each bottle and all its parts line up together. The rack looks gorgeous. The dish drying rack, however, looks like a tornado blew through it. Or as though Jake stood across the room and literally chucked dinnerware into it at random. 

Me? I could care less about the bottles. I shove them into that plastic grass abomination however the hell they will fit. But my that's a different story. I line all the plates up and the glasses, I want to see order and beauty staring back at me from that drying rack. Right next to the mess of bottles, mind you.

All of this to illustrate that both Jake and I make no freaking sense. Why would either of us be neat with one drying rack and not the other? They are right next to each other. We do this because we're people, with tendencies, quirks...and we just don't make an ounce of sense sometimes.

Emotions are the same way. When things get really hard in a relationship (which they will with all relationships at some time or another), you want to pick apart the why. Both parties desperately want to understand each other and also be understood. But sometimes emotions don't make sense. Sometimes you feel the way you do, for no reason other than that's just how you feel. I'm not saying to cease all lines of communication. People should keep talking to one another. But now I try reminding myself to listen to Jake's words and take them at face value; not to read his background or family history or life experiences into how he feels. If there are some of those things going on, it's his job to tell me about them. I try to coerce his feelings into making sense, when eighty percent of the time my own feelings don't have any rhyme or reason—they just are. If I want my emotions to be respected and heard, then I need to do the same with Jake. Sometimes, the best response to another's emotion is a head nod and, "Wow, I hear you. Tell me more about how you feel." 


Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer = Serving Everyone But…

For most youth workers, the start of summer ushers in a different pace of life for our families and ministries. Some of us experience a huge increase in activities and events, even as our own children get out of school and expect to have time to relax. Suddenly, our families have an increasing need for our time, while day trips, music festivals, missions trips, summer camps, vacation bible schools, and students demand our attention at work.

In the midst of all this summer season chaos, it’s difficult to strike a healthy balance between work and home life. And what we’ve noticed over the years, is that it seems to be much easier for us youth workers to increase the ways we serve our churches during the summer, than it is for us to serve our families.

What we mean is this: As the schedule is being planned, how do you divvy up your time between ministry and family? In any given week, what takes more of a priority?

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Friday, May 9, 2014

The Power of Staying

Serving in ministry is a mixture of ups and downs—just like life. There are hilltop moments when students are responding to Christ, parents are happy, and the staff seems to be getting along…and there are valleys where criticisms spring up on what feels like a never-ending loop, students struggle, and you feel undervalued and on the verge of burnout.

In the past 12 years of ministry life, we’ve experienced both extremes—and everything in the middle—and have wrestled with a “grass is greener” mentality many times. The urge to run is a normal human response to adversity, especially when you feel like you’re giving your best and it’s never enough.

There are times when the wisest, healthiest thing to do is to step away from a particular ministry or job, but there is also great health and peace to be found when you stay put and stick it out...

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Adoption is “Brutiful”

*Originally posted on

It’s amazing to me that we’re almost at my son’s one year adoption anniversary and I still find myself looking at him with shock. “He can’t really be mine.” The thought runs through my head almost every day. I’m still flabbergasted that there will be no more last-minute phone calls from social workers who show up an hour later and whisk him away to god knows where. My heart continues to stop every time a number from Hartford pops up, even though I know all the papers have been signed.

People look at my family now and they’re like, “Oh my GOODNESS, aren’t you all just so BLESSED and so MULTICULTURAL!” He’s black, we’re white. It’s quite obvious that something went on in the making and gathering of our little tribe.

And it’s true—we are blessed. After six years of infertility, the loss of a pregnancy, seventeen months of foster care, adoption and a surprise baby girl thrown in the mix, we have our two precious kiddos and we are done. Our family is complete and we are so very grateful.

But what many lovely, caring, well-intentioned people don’t realize is that adoption isn’t the end. It’s the middle. We adoptive parents have endured the long, horrible months and years that lead up to the adoption day and now we must deal with the life after. With no rest and no time off to process what’s happened—what we’vesurvived.

Here’s what no one talks about when it comes to adoption. It’s beautiful, but it’s also brutal.

And it continues to be that forever.

I follow a wonderful, life-giving, universe altering, amazingly real blog called Momastery, that is written by a lovely woman named Glennon. Glennon has coined the term “brutiful” to encompass the idea that “the brutal ALWAYS transforms into the beautiful.” And I’d like to borrow her terminology today, because nothing else describes the reality of adoption so clearly.

Beautiful and brutal often coexist in life. This is why something like adoption looks so appealing on the surface level. It’s quite beautiful. But it’s also freaking hard.

How do I explain that for seventeen months I had to look down at my son and hold pieces of my heart back just so that I wouldn’t fall apart if the state took him away? How can I describe what it was like to rock him at night and whisper, “I’ve got you, you’re safe,” and not know if I was telling the truth? The phone could have rung in the morning and a car would have pulled up to my house and taken him away. I could not protect him then from the money hungry non-biological grandmother who was a convicted child-abuser with three adopted teenagers in her home—all with serious emotional and psychological problems. My son could have been taken from me at a moment’s notice and given to her. He might have been abused, molested, and neglected and I would have never known about it. I would have never seen him again.

Jake's way of coping with foster care was to be wholeheartedly optimistic. “Everything will be okay,” he’d tell me as we drifted further and further apart. Because the only way I could deal with the deep black hole of fear was to imagine the very worst. How can I put into words what meant to pack up my precious boy and hand him to a driver three times a week? I can’t adequately express how terrified, nauseous, and relieved I felt during those sometimes six hour visits (relieved to have a break). How can I describe the sound of his baby wails in the background of the phone call from a social worker who told me she’d just been in a car accident with him?

I was not his parent then, not in the eyes of the state. I was the person who drove to the hospital an hour away to pick him up. And yet at the very same time I was his mother. The person who sang to him in the car on the way home from the ER. The one who cuddled him and tucked him into bed. Brutal. Beautiful. Brutiful.

I have a hard time explaining even now what it means to be an adoptive mother; a second mother. I know my son will want to know his birth mother and I desperately hope that by the time he does, she is clean and healthy and that they can have a relationship. But until then, I am wholly his mother in all the glory and grit. And this is a difficult task when I’ve spent most of my time trying not to bond with him too much. I find myself floundering with this strong-willed, goofy two-year-old who pushes my buttons and makes me laugh. How do I connect with him when all he screams at me is “no”? How do I draw close when his developmental stage is right at “pushing away”?

Adoptive parents are just like every other parent out there. We’re tired. We’re overwhelmed. We sit on the bathroom floor and cry our eyeballs out because we just can’t figure out how to last one more minute with two beautiful gremlins who are driving us batshit crazy. But there’s this layer of guilt on top of that, this “I should be treasuring every moment” film that we see through because it took so long to call this crazy child ours.

There is no way to describe any of it other than brutiful. The word floated through my head yesterday afternoon during a rare moment of clarity, peace, and thankfulness. I had put the baby (almost toddler, yikes!) up for a nap and was making dinner when I realized it was VERY QUIET. If you are a parent of a wee one, you know that this kind of silence means your child is playing wonderfully hard or splashing his hands in the toilet and licking his fingers. I quickly zipped to the other side of the room and found my son standing there, staring at the speakers, listening intently to Switchfoot. (He looooovvveeesss Switchfoot, which proves that obsessive toddlers can ruin almost any kind of music.) I crouched down and softly pulled him into my lap. And then I began rocking him back and forth. We listened tofour songs. This is a child who never stops moving; who is all boy and all energy, all the time.

But in that moment, he was still and quiet with me. He let me hug him and rock him and I thought, “Okay. Life is never going to be simple. It’s going to be hard and messy. But it’s also going to be amazing.” And then I got to whisper to him, “I’m so lucky that God allowed me to be your mommy. I love you.”

To which he replied, “Yeah.”


To read the Momastery “Life is Freaking Brutiful” post click : HERE

Monday, April 14, 2014

Growing in Your Faith Together

Before our second Valentine’s Day after we started dating (see throwback photo on the left!), I (Jake) had purchased a present that I was ecstatic about. I couldn’t even contain my excitement enough to make it to February 14, so after some begging and my best impression of puppy dog eyes, Melissa gave in to getting her present a day early. I ran up to my dorm room, grabbed the carefully wrapped box and sprinted back down to Melissa so she could open it and I could await the praise I had coming…

“You got me a Bible Commentary for Valentine’s Day!? Did you not get any of the hints I had dropped about jewelry?”

This was not the reaction Jake had hoped for. His goal of the gift had been to encourage Melissa in her walk with God and give us a tool we could use to do devotional times together and have deeper conversations. A fight ensued about how insulted and offended Jake was versus how unromantic and stupid the gift was for Valentine’s Day. (Jake now can admit Melissa was right…) This then lead into a different debate about what spending time with God as a couple looked like.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It’s All About Semantics

A few months back, (before the Polar Vortex became a thing) Jake decided he would buzz his hair. It would be cool during the summer, easier to deal with on his upcoming missions trip, and it would avoid a trip to the barber, something Jake has always hated to pay for.

He shaved most of it himself and then asked Melissa to, “Come out and do the back.” Melissa quickly stuck the baby in a pack ‘n play, strapped our son into his high chair, and came out to help. She was hurried, but tried to do exactly as Jake asked. The resulting “do” ended up as the picture on your right. We very quickly realized we had two different definitions of the phrase “do the back”. Jake had meant the edge of the back, whereas Melissa thought he wanted her to buzz the entire back of his head on a lower setting.

Most marriage resources say that communication is a key component to all relationships, but not many deal with semantics.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Will Not Be Mastered

Compulsive behaviors that drive people to serious sexual addiction or substance abuse are often the death toll to a relationship. However, addiction plays more of a role in the everyday marriage than most of us realize...

See more at: mastered/#sthash.ZmQUsFnI.dpuf
Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.