Friday, December 11, 2009

Practice Makers Perfect

Last night, Melissa and I went to Wintuk, a show from Cirque du Soleil in New York City. The show was amazing to say the least and insanely impressive. Thing things that the performers could do was just astonishing and jaw dropping. Check out the trailer on YouTube for a small glimpse of what we saw: Wintuk

As I sat and watched the acrobatics, balancing acts and more Melissa and I began to whisper to each other wondering how many hours of practice it took for these men and women to be able to do what they do and, at least as far as we could tell, without mistakes!

Seriously think about that for a second. They must have spent hours in gymnastic classes as children starting with the basics and growing bit by bit in their abilities and talents. The classes they took as children would have progressed to more advanced classes as teenagers where the acts and tricks became even more difficult. I'm sure practice, both individually and as a class, would have dramatically increased to multiple times a week.

Eventually, the best of the best would have advanced to the highest level of training where practice became daily and, as they progressed, took up more and more time each day.

All this practice though has paid off as these men and women now get to do what they love for a living, day in and day out. After the show, we think we identified a number of the cast in the same diner we went to for some dessert. Melissa commented on how happy they looked after performing and how cool it was that they found a way in our culture to use being able to do crazy human tricks (for lack of a better word) to make a living.

So, what does this have to do with marriage?

Well, I think the same adage of "practice makes perfect" applies to the whole idea of marriage. For most good marriages, is doesn't just happen naturally that you have great communication and get along and fight well and sex is amazing. Those things take a lot of practice and the basic tenants of what makes practice worth while in sports or arts applies to marriage too.

1. For a practice to be effective and worth while you have to have a goal in mind.

Could you imagine practices with no goal in mind? It would be stupid and pointless. I have experienced it when it comes to music. When I jam with a group of guys if there is no goal in mind practices become tedious, kind of boring and eventually just stop all together. I think the same applies to marriage. What are your goals about...
  • how you and your spouse fight?
  • about communication?
  • about a family?
  • about your sexual relationship?
Many times goals are not something that enters in the minds of many couples. We tend to just handle issues as they arise and then constantly switch from issue to issue. I challenge you to sit down with your spouse and think about where you want to be in a year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. and then brain storm how to get there.

2. For a practice to be effective and worth while you have to have a coach or a mentor who knows how to achieve your goal.

If you just throw a bunch of kids on a baseball field, give them some equipment and then just tell them to go out and win a championship, chances are they are not going to be able to obtain that on their own. They need someone who understands the game, how it's played, the basic rules and has experience playing themselves.

Unfortunately, when it comes to marriage I think many couples just get thrown on to the playing field of life, given some tools and then are expected to make it. We in our marriages need to be willing to seek out mentors or coaches (family members, older couples, counselors, etc.) to help us understand marriage and how to make it succeed. But then we also must be willing to be coaches and mentors for others as well.

3. For a practice to be effective and worth while the whole team has got to show up.

I know this concept about practice doesn't apply across the board, say for individual sports like golf or tennis, but it does apply to marriage. Think about a football practice without a quarterback? Or a lineman? Think about a baseball practice without a pitcher? Or a catcher?

Within a marriage, it takes both people showing up on a daily basis and putting in the effort (just another way of saying practice) to accomplish the goals that you both set out to do on your wedding day. As soon as one person is left doing all the work, the team that is supposed to be your marriage will not work very well.

And lastly,

4. For a practice to be effective and worth while you have to have patience and perseverance.

This is a hard one for me personally. Typically, if I can't pick something up right away I tend to give up pretty easily. The first couple of times I tried to learn how to play guitar resulted in frustration of not being able to get my fingers to do what I wanted them to do and then I just stopped trying. Thankfully, I managed to come back to it and worked through the frustration and now I really love and enjoy playing my guitar.

Any marriage is going to have frustrations and fights but when we so readily throw in the towel and give up, explaining that it's just too hard, we miss out on the joy and excitement that a good healthy marriage can bring. We must fight the urge to just throw in the towel and keep practicing at our marriages...things will get better.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shout Out

Today...today has been a discouraging day. But, after I cried it all out and bucked up a bit, I had some time to think.

Jake and I might have a seriously high maintenance marriage. We are total opposites and both have extremely sensitive and emotional personalities. (can I get an "amen" from the Gordon people!) We fight more than most. Our career paths seem totally incompatible. Everyone...I mean everyone (and this includes a marriage counselor) has told us it's going to be near impossible to make life work with Jake being a youth pastor and me being a painter.

But you know what? Despite how much work our marriage is...and it does get tiring sometimes. Despite how many people tell us we're never going to financially make it as a youth pastor and artist. And despite how opposite we are...we totally love each other and are committed to supporting each other in who God has created us to be and what God has told us to do. It may seem impossible...but I support Jake in what God tells him to do (granted imperfectly, but I do my best) and Jake always supports me. We're hoping in a God that makes the hard things work out and the easy things seem foolish. I am a lucky woman to have a husband that sacrifices for me and supports me.

He supports me when everyone else thinks I am going to fail. He supports my dreams. He supports my art. He believes in me. Who could ask for a better husband than that? Jake has faith in me and he encourages me to go for it. He believes me when I say God has told me something to do. He believes that even when I do fail, that I will become better and have a stronger character because of it.

So thank you Jake. Thank you for being a wonderful husband and thank you for showing me that one of the best ways to show a person love is to believe in them. I'm thankful I have you in my life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hotlanta Musings

Hello, from Hotlanta! I know it's so corny, but I just can't seem to call it anything else. Jake and I have been in Atlanta, Georgia for the National Youth Worker's Convention this week. We've been learning a lot about youth ministry, God, marriage and ourselves.

The speakers have really been impacting my heart and making me think. I've felt that many of them have been brutally honest and it's been so refreshing. I'd like to share a couple of the key points they've made and how I think these things not only are important for ministry, but also for marriage and life.

1) Clarity trumps uncertainty every time.
2) Be steadfast.
3) Everything rests on a relationship with Jesus.
4) Change.
5) Conflict is not only inevitable until death, it is necessary for meaning.

Be clear about what you know. Retreat back to what you know in times of struggle or uncertainty. Sometimes all I know about marriage is that I want to stay married. It's as simple and unromantic as that. But knowing that I want to stay married gives me clarity when my emotions and problems seem insurmountable. Find what you know and go from there. It is a business model that saved Apple computers. When their company was failing...Steve Jobs came back and said, "We are going to make computers that are easy to use." It was what he knew how to do and he stuck to it. It took years for Apple to recover...but from that retreat to their basic company goal...well we all know where Apple is now! It's simple and it's biblical. Sometimes all we know is what God tells us. Everything else does not make sense. We retreat back to what God says...and we work from there.

Be steadfast when things get difficult. Yep...I think that says it all. I often feel too tired to continue with hard things. I want to quit painting, quit ministry, quit being married, quit some friendships. But if I quit...I will miss the opportunity to grow in character, to learn new things, to know wonderful people, to experience joy at succeeding, to be humbled and learn to lean more and more on Jesus rather than my own strength. Be steadfast. Sometimes I think all it takes is just staying put and holding on.

Everything rests on a relationship with Jesus. Francis Chan spoke about this. The speaker after him said it well when he said, "Man, Andy [Stanley] speaks and you just feel dumb because he is so smart and then Francis speaks and you think, Man I don't even love Jesus!" Francis spoke about losing his way in his relationship with Jesus for a while. He was honest about how life, success, and trials all pull us away from our relationship with Jesus. But when we pull away, we feel dead...like something is missing. I liked that Francis brought up that God does not want us to come to Him to find out secrets for making our life better. God wants us to know Him, Jesus, the Holy Spirit...and that's it. He just wants us to know Him. He wants us to read the Bible so He can tell us stories about Himself, about what He is like. We're supposed to learn about God, we're supposed to simply be in relationship with Jesus. This really challenged me to rethink how I spend my time with Jesus. It also challenged me about my marriage relationship. If God is that jealous for me to know Him and spend time with Him....my husband must also want me to know him better. How have I spent time trying to understand my husband? Have I listened to his stories? Have I learned anything new about him this week?

Change. Ugh....barf. I hate change and I love change. We have a tumultuous relationship. I get bored when things stay the same, I get anxious when things change that make me uncomfortable. Yet...life changes. The things that worked in ministry last year, may not work this year. The things that worked in my marriage last month, may not work this month. Successful businesses thrive on a key goal and then being constantly willing to change their plans in order to achieve that goal. The goal stays the same, the plans change. It holds true in marriage. My goal is to stay married. My plans on how to do that will constantly change as I change, my husband changes, life changes, money changes, family changes, job changes, health changes. Our marriage vows are truly a vow to be in a state of constant change. It feels so exhausting. But it can also feel empowering and exciting. To view challenges as opportunities to be creative...to have a good attitude and learn to adapt. I wish I knew how to do that well right now!

And finally conflict. Donald Miller talked about conflict in the context of story. We don't care about stories that have no conflict. The Bible would have little meaning without conflict. We live in a world after the fall of man...conflict will be a way of life until we die and are made perfect with Jesus in heaven. Conflict means growth, means struggle, means overcoming, means...well meaning. Everything in life that is meaningful involves conflict. I can't tell you how much Donald's talk meant to me. I am hardwired to want things to be easy, but I find much of my life is not easy and I often wonder if I am getting it all wrong. Everyone else seems to have things much easier than me. To hear that conflict should be expected in life...until I die...was almost a sigh of relief. It made it less scary. It made it feel more normal...and almost more exciting. Maybe conflict means I'm on the right path instead of I'm on the wrong path. Maybe doing something hard...is worth doing because it is hard. It gives my life meaning. Obviously, marriage involves a lot of conflict! It can be disheartening. But you know, when I die...it will mean something that Jake and I struggled through and stayed married. I think it will mean a lot more to us and to others than if we said, "Oh our 60 something year marriage was perfect, we never fought, it just rolled along without a bump or a hitch all these years...it was just so happy and wonderful all the time." Who cares!!?? It will mean so much more to have grown together and worked together and made it through. Man, that gives me hope!!

So I hope these thoughts shared by the YS speakers are as encouraging to you as they were to me. As always, we love to hear feedback and discussion!

-Melissa

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Molysmophobia, Rhypophobia and Manure

Lately, I have just not been able to shake a question from my head that frustrates me to no end.

Why are so many people afraid to admit they have issues/problems/junk??

I find this especially true in churches and it drives me crazy! For some reason, many Christians, especially those in leadership, think that we have to portray this aura of happiness and joy and being "good"...ALL THE TIME!

Check out this YouTube video to get what I mean:
video

I just met with a friend recently who was struggling with this same thing. They are currently struggling with a lot of issues but yet felt they weren't allowed to tell anyone. They felt like they had to keep putting a good face forward and do everything on their own. Why? Because they felt it would disqualify them from helping and serving others. Because they felt they would be judged by others and met with disgust and disapproval.

From Jesus' perspective, we should have the exact opposite response towards one another and our junk...and this includes issues faced within a marriage or dating relationship!

Jesus, speaking of himself as a doctor said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." (Matthew 9:12) Paul reminds us that all of us are sinners...not just some people. (Romans 3:23) James challenges us as Christians to confess our sins to one another and pray for each other...so that you may be healed! (James 5:16)

In John 15, Jesus talks about being the vine and his followers are the branches. Specifically, in John 15:5, He says that if we remain in him then we will produce fruit. A lot of us get caught up in that part about producing fruit and feel we need to prove ourselves to everyone else by displaying that "fruit" whether or not it is in fact real.

Yet what we forget about the farming process is that often time to make fruit grow, what you need is a good heaping pile of manure. That is nothing to be ashamed of but yet a natural, normal thing. At the beginning of Jame's letter he tells us to consider it pure joy whenever we face troubles...because it will teach us endurance...which in turn, and over time, will "make us perfect." (James 1:2-4)

So here's the challenge: don't be afraid of the "manure" in your life! God will use it for great and mighty things! But in order for God to use it...you need to be honest with it and face it head on. And you shouldn't do it alone!!

Whether it is a good friend, your spouse or significant other, or whether it is a pastor or counselor, don't keep your "manure" to yourself but find someone to talk to so that together you can tend to the garden that is your life and stay connected to the vine of Christ and produce the best possible fruit of which you are capable.

Jake

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Best Present Ever!!!

Just before our second Valentine's Day since beginning to date, I had purchased Melissa a present that I was was ecstatic to give her. We had been dating for almost a year and a half and I wanted to show her how much I cared about her. I had put a lot of thought into what to get and did a little research so she was getting only the best.

The day before V-Day I could barely contain my excitement and begged her to allow me to give her the gift that evening. After some begging and my best impression of a puppy finally said yes. I ran up to my dorm room, grabbed the carefully rapped box and ran back down to the common room of my dorm where she awaited this amazing gift. She took the present and unwrapped it and I was excited to receive praise...

"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 I had hoped for. A fight ensued about how insulted and offended I was versus how unromantic and stupid my gift was for Valentine's Day. I now can admit she was right...I bought her a necklace two days later but that night began an important lesson for both of us beyond thinking through gift choices.

There was actually a second reason why the gift of a Bible Commentary wasn't thought through enough beyond the obvious.

When it came to encouraging Melissa to grow deeper in her relationship with God I failed to consider the fact that possibly she didn't connect with God in the same way that I did. Up until that point in my life I had kind of put God in a box and had understood that connecting to God meant going to church once a week, spending devotional time reading your Bible every day along with a devotional or commentary to provide deeper insight, spending time in pray and then participating in a mid-week Bible study. This "formula" had worked for me in the past and again, I just assumed that was the way for everyone to connect with God.

When Melissa rejected my gift my first thought had been fear that, "I'm dating a girl who doesn't want to connect with God!?" Yet, that couldn't have been further from the truth. She insisted God was important to her but that instead of studying the Bible all the time she enjoyed connecting to God by taking a walk or painting. We spent the rest of the evening debating whether or not that "counted."

Shortly after that, I had to read a book called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas that proved me wrong on both counts of that argument that evening. In the book, Thomas talked about that in a similar way that people have different personalities or learning styles we also relate to God differently. Take some time and look through all the different ways God connected to people throughout the Bible - a whisper, a booming voice from a mountain, a pillar of fire, a cloud, a hand writing on a wall, in dreams, in visions, in the flesh and blood of Jesus and more. All different but yet the same result...God drew people to Him.

We have to have a lot of open communication and flexibility about that time spent. It looks different every time and we have to always ask the other person what they are feeling and thinking. Sometimes we talk deeply about a Bible passage or sermon, which I prefer, and other times Melissa has been honest about her mood and feelings and we just read a passage and silently reflect.

Sometimes when we pray together Melissa would rather pray in her head instead of out loud. At first, I was offended by that but I needed to learn to just let that go and allow her to be her quiet, shy self. It isn't any less a prayer offered silently instead of out loud. The point is praying together. Who cares what that time looks or sounds like.

Don't put God in a box...connecting with Him can look so different to so many people. Whether you are single, dating or married, it is so important to take some time to understand how you connect best with God. (And that way may change over time...) But then, don't project that one way onto everyone else around you. Be open to how creative God is and how others may connect differently with Him.

Not only will doing this save you from some conflict or coming across as legalistic but it will also allow you to see God from different perspectives and take your understanding of Him and how He works to an even deeper level.

Jake

P.S. To check out Sacred Pathways, click on the image below to head to Amazon.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Kayak Analogy

I can't tell you how many devotionals, chapters, and blurgs I have read on the topic of co-habitation. You know what they always talk about? Damp towels. Yes, it's true. The struggle is always over those damp towels that one spouse leaves on the floor or bed. The damp towel struggle is old news. I have a new one!

Sea Kayaks. If our book gets picked up by a publisher one of the chapter titles will be, " I Want My Own Damn Sea Kayak."

The story: Jake and I are on vacation last year in the Dominican Republic. We are relaxed, having fun, and on our best behavior. We are kind to one another, laughing, respectful, just plain in love and being nice. Wonderful. Enter: the tandem sea kayak. Nemesis of marital bliss.

I (Melissa) grew up pretty much on the water. I swam like a fish and my grandfather taught me everything there was to know about canoeing and kayaking and generally handling a boat of the self-propulsion sort. I know how to kayak. And I know how to steer.

Jake....not so much. But he thinks he does! Delusional...but determined. So we got into the dual sea kayak blissful and excited to try out a new water sport together. We lasted about ten minutes. I let Jake be in the back and try to steer. Didn't work out so well. Then we tried me yelling orders to paddle to the left or right depending on the currents...didn't work out so well. Then we tried "enjoying the ocean" by neither one of us paddling and just lying back and getting a sunburn. Two minutes or so that lasted. So we tried paddling again. Both of us going opposite ways...both of us convinced we knew the right way to steer. I ended up yelling in the middle of all the other cute happy couples..."I Want My Own Damn Sea Kayak!!!"

It's a funny story really. We laugh about it all the time. It serves as an example to Jake and I about the changes of living together. We thought it would be easy...I mean we spent college conjoined at the hip. Seriously...it was kinda annoying to everyone else. Sickening really. But we thought, "Living together...no problem...we are SO alike!" The first year it really was not so bad at all. Maybe we argued about toothpaste caps?! But that was really about it.

It was after a year that we realized...the sea kayak says it all. When two people get married they will "live" differently. They are two unique people with different pasts and different ways of doing things. One will think, " You steer the sea kayak this way." The other will think, "No, I have been taught to steer the kayak this way and I know it is right."

This principle rings true for so many things. Money. Friends. Communication. Budgets. Kids. Chores. Down Time (Fun Things), Family, Traditions, Jobs...the list is endless.

It's not just damp towels ya'll....it's what the damp towels and sea kayaks represent. They represent two people sharing a space and a life. The way two people live will clash at some points and work wonderfully well at others (Jake and I don't do sea kayaks so well, but budgets...man we work great together!!).

The thing we have learned so far is to acknowledge that sometimes you need individual sea kayaks. It's just better for your marriage. And sometimes you both have to pick up each other's damp towels. And sometimes you have to let him play video games. And sometimes you have to be flexible on the budget. And sometimes you have to compromise on how to raise the kids or spend holidays with family. It's all about working together....to realize when to acknowledge differences and when to compromise. The sea kayaks have taught me much.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Follow

"Please tell me.....why are we.... trying so hard?
Why worry, it's over,
We always fall right back to where we start.

There goes another on of our sure fire plans,
It backfired again." - Mute Math

"Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of self control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God." - Frances Chan

I like to be safe. I like to be in control. I like things to go well. I don't like living in the tension that is following God. It's a tension between the wisdom of the world : money, cars, houses, success, career, 401K, dental insurance, life insurance, happiness, wishy-washy morals, secure job, social standing, and the wisdom of God: trust, reliance, faith, sacrifice, calling, commitment, grief, morality, endurance, truth, peace, giving.

In life, in marriage, it is easy to fall into the easiness. Right? It's easy to hoard, it's easy to control, it's easy to manipulate, it's easy to be selfish, it's easy to focus on all the things in our lives that don't really matter in terms of eternity.

Why do we try so hard? Because the alternative is so frightening...live a life devoted to God. Have a marriage where both partners are radically committed to Christ and each other.

It means change. Big change. It means being uncomfortable. God will call you to be uncomfortable. He will call you to be unselfish towards your spouse. He will call you to make some sort of uncomfortable financial decision. He will call you to trust Him with your heart, your dreams, your goals, your aspirations. Many times He will gently but firmly say, "No. These are the plans I have for you." Usually the plans He has for us are not the ones we had for ourselves.

How do you figure it out? I don't know. God is a mystery. We all wish He was a bit less mysterious sometimes. But He's not...He's God and well....we won't ever be able to figure Him out completely.

All these carefully laid plans I have devised...they are nothing. All these selfish desires I have...God will turn them into His will and goodness. All the things I want out of marriage...He will smash those ideals and have me search my heart....and it will be so much better than I ever imagined.

Hope. Trust. Follow.....follow Him. No matter what He asks you to do today. If it's to smile at someone you don't like...do it. If it's asking your spouse what they want to do tonight...do it. If it's realizing God is calling you on a different career path...do it.

I am realizing how short the time we have is. It's worth it to lay aside being safe...and following the one who will keep me more safe than I could ever dream of.


(Not totally marriage ya'll...but it's been on my heart...thanks for reading - Melissa)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Catch 'em And Put 'em Back

Over the last week I have done a lot of self reflection of how tired I let myself get and what it has done to me as a husband and my emotions. Have you ever experienced a situation when you are frustrated with your significant other and fighting and some words come out of your mouth that you feel like you are listening to at the same time of speaking them. You hear what's coming and you are left trying to grab the words and stuff them back in your mouth.

Yea...I have had that happen too many times these past two weeks. I have said a lot of really stupid things this week...really dumb. I will refrain from printing them here just for the sake of keeping things PG and not offending anyone else. (Yes, Pastor's can say stupid, hurtful things too sometimes when they let their tempers get the best of them).

One stupid thing wasn't even with my wife. We have been dealing with a car dealership who has been making some mistakes and been really bad with communication. We just bought a used car from them and they were not following through very well at all with getting our plates and registration. It got to the point where my transfer plates expired so I drove down (45 min away) to figure out what was going on since no one would return my calls.

When I got there they told me I had to get an emissions test done (CT guidelines) before they could get my plates and then acted shocked that no one told me that. I asked, really more told, them to issue me new transfer plates, I would get the emissions test and then would fax it to them. They told me that was illegal and the best they could do was give me a rental car, after I drove back to CT (the dealership was in NY) to get the emissions and came back. I was a little pissed...

I then proceeded to tell the manager that I wasn't filling the tank up on the rental when I returned it and that they were going to pay for gas. The manager started to respond and said, "I don't th..." and then I blasted the man in front of everyone. "You don't think it'll be possible!!! Are you frickin' kidding me!! It's not my fault your sales guys are idiots and can't make phone calls." (That's not exactly what I said but it was pretty close.) Needless to say, I was pretty embarrased when the manager and the sales guy calmed me down trying to tell me they weren't saying no and was trying to tell me, "I don't think that will be a problem." It helps to let people finish thier sentances...

Because of where I've been lately, I decided I am going to see a counselor this week. I am realizing I have got some stuff that hasn't been properly dealt with. I am overwhelmed and tired but worse I am living in the past and allowing it to display itself through some anger. It all makes me think about Jesus' words to the Pharisees that it's not what goes into a man that makes him unclean but it's what comes out. (Matthew 15:11, 18)

I'm not embarrassed about seeing a counselor (one of us will write more on that sometime) but I am embarrassed that I let this stuff sneak up on me. I tend to be really bad at realizing what's going on in my head and heart before it is spilling out of my mouth...which is why I want to try and get some help and guidance to figure it out and change what's going on inside, which will fix what is happening outside.

We all need to pay attention to Jesus' words and take time to reflect on what we let come out of us. Maybe it's not always words but some sort of action...or inaction. But what comes out of us reflects something that is going on inside. To let that go will leave us facing more problems down the road and thus harder to fix whatever is going on.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My thoughts the past couple of weeks

My mind has been all over the place the last couple of weeks. I feel like Jake and I have just been getting slammed...with enough business, heath problems, and just life crap....to drive us nuts. I feel like all I hear is more bad news from friends getting sick, struggling, work problems and so forth. So to all the people struggling right now...I send out my prayers that your situations will get better and that God will comfort you.

In the midst of struggle I keep feeling like this one particular topic just keeps coming up. It's the topic of how we as women (yes Melissa is writing and Jake is not having an identity crisis)...we woman have all these needs, desires, expectations, and longings. You all know what I'm talking about. You read Twilight too, you secretly love Taylor Swift, and sneak in chick flicks while your husband or boyfriend is away. I'll tell you what....by the end of the Twilight movie I was thinking, "I wish a vampire would look at ME that way!"

We want to be adored. We want to be cherished. We want to be desired. We want to be taken care of (not just money..I'm not getting all 50's, but there are emotional things to be taken care of as well). We want a strong man. We want to feel loved. We want to feel like we are enough. There is a passage in a book, I can't remember the name, but it says, "I feel like I am always too much, and never enough, all at the same time." We DON'T want to feel that way. We want to feel like we are always enough, just right. That we are the perfect fit. That once we find the right man, our cares and worries and problems will disappear. Once we're married we hope to never feel lonely, never feel rejected, or the last on the list of priorities.

Here's the rub. It's not possible. The movies lie. The romance novels lie...and God bless her teenage beautiful innocent heart..Taylor Swift lies. There really isn't a happy ending...because no matter who we marry...they will hurt us, disappoint us, mistreat us, not take care of us, make the wrong decision, and decide they're too tired for sex tonight. I don't care who you are...some of that will happen to you at some point or another in your marriage or relationship.

So do we become bitter? Angry? Disillusioned? "To be accepted and loved just as we are - isn't that what we all long for? To be welcomed into anther's life without pretense or falsehoods- isn't that what we really want?"- Neue

The answer is Jesus Christ...God...The Holy Spirit...

God is the perfect man...He ADORES us....He cherishes every part of our tender little hearts...he loves every good thing about you and every bad thing about you. When man fails...then Christ steps in...you will never feel lonely with him..he never leaves. He will take care of you better than any husband, better than any father...He is the ultimate father and husband. He won't ever reject us, we are always desirable to him. He always wants us....think about that. He always wants to be with you, spend time with you, love you, hear your thoughts, hear your feelings, help you, protect you, he longs for you. He is what a woman's heart was designed for. He can fill it up.

I am learning this. Because my husband is not God. He makes lots of mistakes that hurt me and leave my woman's heart longing for more. Another person would have been no different. All husbands fail because they are human...and maybe we women put too many expectations on them....maybe we read too many romance novels and have too many lofty ideas about what love should be. Maybe I should train my eyes on Jesus' heart and his love for me and then learn to have realistic expectations from my husband.

Just my thoughts.....

Monday, September 7, 2009

There Should Be Some Form of AA for People Like Me

Melis and I just got back from vacation and boy, did we need it. As I have referenced in previous blogs, this summer has been exceptionally busy for us this year and we have really seen the affects of our (really my) busy schedule in our relationship.

We've seen it in our lives before we moved down to CT from MA and I had vowed never to go there again. But old habits are hard to break. See, I have a confession to make, I am a workaholic.

A few years ago I was working for a church North of Boston and it was a part-time paid job. I word it like that because in a church, working for part-time pay is actually insanely hard to actually work part-time hours. There is always more to do and always more kids to talk to. Unless the church and the pastor really work hard together to set boundaries, you can almost expect burnout after a few years. And that's exactly what happened to me.

I loved the kids in the area that I had the privilege of working with and was so enthusiastic about my work. The church, at the same time, loved having youth work happen so neither myself or the church set boundaries and I worked 40+ hours a week there. But, because it was part-time pay, I had to work a second job to pay the bills and on top of that I had started my own non-profit which was supposed to allow me to be paid for full-time work with teens. The problem was that I had to put the work in to build the organization so I could be paid. The result was that I ended up working about 80+ hours a week and was completely burnt out physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Thus my relationship with Melissa was almost non-existent. I had absolutely nothing to give when I got home...nothing!

I took me a year to realize we were heading down a wrong path (Melis realized it about a week after we were married...but I'm a little more stubborn) and so we sent out some resumes and after another year of interviewing and looking, I got a full-time paid pastor position which has been so great for us. It literally took us the whole first year in CT to recover from what I had put my body and our marriage through.

A friend of mine just asked me yesterday what the best year of our marriage has been and out of the four we've had, I said it was that third year. It took work to recover but the pace of life was slower, we had time together, I was mentally present in our marriage and overall it was a pretty good year. As mentioned above, I vowed to never go back to that pace of life...but sometimes it's hard to change.

Sometime around February last year, God began to do some really cool stuff in the Youth Ministry at our church and brought us a bunch of new, really awesome kids. Around that same time, my Student Leaders and I began working on a 24-7 week of prayer. Then I was prepping for our two Mission Trips this summer. (See the blog Serving Everyone But... for more details on my summer.) Before I knew it, it was August, I was exhausted, Melis felt neglected and I had done it again. Over the last month, we've been working to get reconnected again and during vacation it really played itself out.

For the first half of our trip to Hawaii we had a hard time connecting. We fought and miss-communicated over and over again and really had to talk through some underlying feelings and hurts because of the last 5-6 months. Once we were able to work through things, it got a lot better and hopefully will continue to get better now that we are home.

I think it's interesting though to compare this vacation to last years when we went to the Dominican Republic. The year had been more balanced and our relationship had been a high priority for both of us and we had a great vacation, the entire time. We were relaxed right from the get go and had one of the most relaxing vacations ever and some great conversations. (One of them was actually what birthed this blog/book idea).

So I think out of our vacation this year, as well as our previous experiences, I have learned two very important things in the context of our marriage:

1) I really need to continue to learn to watch my schedule and how full it gets. A professor of mine always used to say, "The world only needs one Savior; and it's already got Him. It's not you!" I really need to keep my marriage my top priority (after my relationship with God) and really pay attention to Melissa when she says, "We're doing too much." Typically, I whine and complain when she says this, but history has proven that she is much smarter in this area than I am.

2) We really need some breaks in the middle of the year between our summer vacations. This year we didn't really take a break in between the DR and Hawaii and we think it was one of the reasons I let myself go. I basically broke into a sprint and didn't stop. This year we want to make a priority to add a rest stop along the way through our busy school year. Whether it's a couple of long weekends away or a whole week, we really need something just for the two of us between December and February.

Maybe some of you can take our mistakes this year and learn from them. It really does help the rest of your life balance out if your first priority is God...then your marriage.


Jake

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Affairs Never Help a Marriage

It's funny when you do a little research into the history of technology and what people thought it would do for us, our jobs and our lives as it advanced. I remember hearing or reading somewhere that the general perception early on was that technology, and specifically computers, would provide us with more time to spend with our families and in leisure activities because our jobs would be completed quicker. How has that worked out for us?

The exact opposite has happened. Technology has only heightened and increased the competition among businesses and increased our work loads. No only has our work load increased but now it follows us around no matter where we are because of cell phones, Palm Pilots and Blackberries. Not only are people getting home later from work but work seems to follow us there and rings or vibrates throughout dinner with our families.

This is something that Melissa and I have really struggled with over the past year.

I love my cell phone and tend to be on it a lot. I actually forgot it at home today and all day I keep grabbing for it and looking for it. You don't realize how much you actually use something until you don't have it.

My phone, up until two weeks ago (I'll explain the change in a moment), has been a huge point of contention in our marriage because I would get home and instead of paying attention to Melis and talking to her I would be constantly checking my phone. Writing texts to friends or youth group kids, checking my personal or work e-mail, checking the Red Sox scores and latest news or simply playing solitaire. I even would take my phone to the bathroom with me if we didn't have any new magazines.

Basically, I was acting like I was married to my cell phone and my constant need, addiction really, to constant information and contact. I was having an affair with my Palm Pilot!

Melissa has been talking to me for a while about this and expressing how much I was hurting her with my constant attention to my phone vs. my lack of attention to her but I am stubborn. I would always just excuse her feelings and tell her she wasn't being realistic. "I need my phone with me at all times!!"

What happens if a kid is having a crisis and needs me? What if there is an e-mail about something important going on tomorrow? What if someone needs to get a hold of me? What if the Red Sox come back in the bottom of the ninth and I'm one of the last to hear about it?

Really...all those excuses are either selfishness, pride and buying into the worlds notion of working all the time!

I really came to the realization of my addiction in Mexico. Through the teaching of the staff and missionaries, some insightful comments by some brilliant high schoolers and by my own observations of the Mexican culture and their value of relationships my eyes were open to my misplaced energy and time.

So what did I do? Well...I didn't go to the extreme of getting rid of my phone, but there is a part of me that really wants to. But instead I deleted all the games on my phone and got rid of the internet. No more solitaire...no more e-mails...no more Red Sox news. (I did this all without Melissa even knowing I was doing it by the way).

On top of that, when I get home from work I try to put my cell phone in one place in the house and leave it there as opposed to it following me around in my pocket. Some nights I turn it off as well. And you know what, it has really helped Melis and I over the past two weeks. My attention is beginning to be placed on my wife and not constantly checking my phone.

It's not completed fixed because I still get phone calls (it's our home phone too) and texts but things are much better. Partly due to the canceled internet and deleted games but also because of a little disciple to avoid the phone and love on my wife.

Now, I know I am not the only one who has struggled with this issue of allowing technology cut into real relationships. Melis and I were at a bar last week to watch the Red Sox-Yankees game with some friends and everywhere I looked were people "hanging out" but yet texting people who weren't even there at the same time. The room was half full with people just staring at their cell phone screens...sad really!

I would really challenge you to assess your technology use? Is it cutting into real, physical relationships? If so...don't let it anymore. Do something about it. Get rid of it or part of your plan and commit to not letting it take away from conversations or time with your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or others.

Ask your spouse or significant other if they feel like it's a problem.
Talk about the issue and figure out a plan to make it a non-issue!

You're relationship is worth it...

Jake

Funny quote: "I just went and bought Madden 10 and was gunna pick up condoms too but I thought that would be a pretty oxymoronic purchase."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Arranged Marriage

Hey everyone. So a couple people have e-mailed us about the differences between the Western view of marriage (getting married for love) versus the way many other cultures view marriage (arranged, or spouse chosen by family members).

What does everyone think about arranged marriages? In many other cultures...family members chose your spouse or you go to a matchmaker. In the Middle East many marriages are made to benefit the financial standing of the family or clan. This is really, really different than what we in America and Europe are used to. It often sounds/feels barbaric and backwards. But if you look at marriage statistics....cultures that have arranged marriages have a significantly smaller divorce rate. Something to think about.

Part of my family is from India...through marriage, not blood as anyone can tell by looking at my white skin and freckles! But when you marry into an Indian family you become part of the entire shebang :) And thus I grew up going to many Indian weddings, gatherings, and baptisms. I have been to two extended family member's weddings that have been arranged marriages. And in my experience...the man chose to have his parents arrange a marriage for him. He could have married "for love" if he wanted, but he wanted his parents to choose. And both marriages, to my knowledge, have worked out. They were committed to each other, learned to get to know each other and learned to love. So I have experienced arranged marriage in a positive sense.

A friend of our is also Indian and he shared that he has seen many arranged marriages stay together simply because it would be shameful to get divorced. So sometimes, it does not work out so well. Sometimes there is NOT love and respect, but there is commitment. Is that good? My opinion is no. What do you all think?

Another couple that are friends of ours, are overseas and shared this quote about arranged marriages:

"My main thought is that marriage has never until recently been this romantic love affair. When Christ calls us his bride he isn't thinking of the big white dress and fancy ceremony; marriage was a uniting of two people and families for life. It is celebrated because it is a life changing matter. Treating your spouse with respect, love, and value is what Christ preached not making someone feel good and happy. Somehow we have taken marriage to equal happiness and infatuation when it used to equal commitment and service. Happiness and infatuation are not requirements of a godly marriage. Maybe joy and love, but those are light years away from what America thinks is important today. [People in arranged marriages] learn to love someone rather than thinking they should be made happy by someone. They have such a beautiful mentality on marriage, I think it could really benefit Americans to take a different perspective on the entire arrangement"

So what do you all think? Post a comment below and lets have some discussion!

-Melissa

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Serving Everyone But...

It's been quite a while since I have written for our little blog here. The last month has been an absolute whirl wind for me...

During the last week of June, the youth group led a 24-7 week of prayer at our church after constructing an interactive prayer room. Super cool week. Check out www.24-7prayer.org to find out more about this kind of thing.

Then shortly after that, I left for nine days with my 7th and 8th graders to head to Washington DC to work with the homeless, elderly and underprivileged children. We also went to Youth Specialties' DCLA conference. Also, a super cool week.

THEN, right after DC I left with my high school students for Tijuana, Mexico to build houses for needy families and work at an orphanage. It was an even better, super cool week.

THEN...in two days we move to the next town over. So we've...I've been a little busy.

So after all of that you might think that my blog would be about balancing my calendar better and not being a work-a-holic...but it's not. (I'm sure both of those issues will make their way to our blog soon enough.)

What I want to write about now is something that I noticed in myself on both of these trips and also came up from the students on both of these trips. That is, why is it easier to serve other people but yet it's often the most difficult to serve the people closest to you??

For four weeks, I served people over and over and over again, most of which I had never met before. Some of the people were those who are hard to love - smelly, messed up drunks on the street; terminally ill patients; and Mexicans who I can't speak with because I suck at Spanish. Some were easy to love, the children at the day program in DC and in the neighborhoods of Tijuana, as well as the kids in my own youth programs. Regardless, I willingly and gladly served all sorts of people all month

But yet, the person I love the most in this world (sorry Mom, not you...), my wife, my soul mate I fail to serve, or do so with a bad attitude, on a regular basis! Why is that?!?!?!? I think we see this in our families as well - our siblings, parents and children. Again, why is it harder to serve them than complete strangers?

To be honest, I don't really have the answer to this question. I would really love your thoughts if this relates with you.

I mean, I know the Sunday School answers - we're all selfish people, we're all sinful, etc. But I am all of those things with other people, not just my wife, so what's the deal? Is it a trust or comfort thing where we believe the person will never leave us so we let our selfishness fully hang out? Is it simply laziness? But why with our family does it present itself more? Again, please send me your thoughts...

With all of this in mind, my prayer for myself, and for all of you reading, is that we would be servants first and foremost to our spouses and families, before everyone else. So often they get the leftovers and it's not right. Paul writes in Ephesians "wives, submit to your husbands" and "husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." That is the attitude we should all have and is honestly the key to a happy and successful marriage.

How have you served your spouse or significant other today?
Do you find it more difficult to serve your spouse than others? Why or why not?

Jake

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Like Stars""

I just finished reading Rob Bell's new book "Drops Like Stars." Rob Bell is Jake's "man crush" so we pretty much buy everything he has written, listen to all his sermons, and have even seen him speak in NYC. It's like Christian stalking.

So this book is a bit different. It'll take you about a half hour to get through it and it's a poignant half hour. I cried the whole way through, to be honest. It's about suffering and art and unity and the meaning of life. Yeah, really a light read if you ask me :)

There is this quote I loved that I want to share, because I think really touches why Jake and I have felt called to start putting stuff about marriage out there. Rob says:

"Pain has a way of making us more honest. I know a family whose son committed suicide. He was taken to a hospital, where he laid on life support for several days, brain dead but breathing - barely. His 11 year old cousin came to the hospital to see him before the machines were turned off. When she got to the room she told [them] to leave her alone with him. [They] could hear her through the wall yelling at him: "Why did you do this? I am so angry with you!" She said what everybody wanted to say. She did what everybody wanted to do. It's the art of honesty.....Like an 11 year old girl yelling at her hours from officially dead cousin, "Why would you do this?" Which is the question everybody wanted to yell at him. Do you know that feeling in class when somebody raises his hand and says, "I don't get it," and you feel so relieved that you aren't the only one who wasn't getting it? That's what great artists do. That's what great people do. They ask it. They say it. They express it. They put into words what so many others are thinking and feeling and wondering. They affirm that...YOU AREN'T THE ONLY ONE HAVING THIS EXPERIENCE ."

I'm not trying to insinuate that Jake and I are "great people" or anything. That's not my point. Rob Bell's words say what we really, really wish the world would be like when it comes to talking about marriage. Every marriage takes work, sacrifice, commitment, endurance, honesty, love, forgiveness, redemption...and well...grit. Why can't we all be open about it? Why don't people talk about it? Why do so many churches and Christians make us feel like we have to have it all together to be a follower of God? Pretend like everything is ok to others in the church...because who knows what they'll think about you if you tell the truth?!

Jake just got back from his second missions trip this month and his brother went with him on this last one. Jake was telling me how he and the high school guys on the trip were talking about honeymoon sex one night. I was like, "Wait! Did you talk to your BROTHER about our honeymoon sex??!!" And Jake was like (all nonchalant) , "Yeah, I told him how the first time things didn't "fit in" properly and how it wasn't all I expected it to be and how we had to work at sex to make it good." I admit...I was embarrassed to have my 18 year old bro-in-law know this about my sex life. I mean, gross right? But then I thought for a second and realized...hey you know, because Jake was honest with his brother, maybe when his brother gets married and goes on a honeymoon, we will have saved him and his future wife some hurt, confusion, and disappointment. Maybe they'll know before-hand what to expect and it will save them the 2 years it took Jake and I to work through a lot of crap about sex because of what happened on the honeymoon.

Why? Because they will know that they're not alone. That most people struggle with sex and making it work, making it good. That's the kind of thing Jake and I hope will come about because of the blog and hopefully a book. We don't have the answers...but that's ok. We'll never have all the answers until we're in heaven and we can go, "Ok God what the heck is UP with with this marriage thing?" But if we can all be honest with each other for right now, it can help to bring us together, help each other through, and learn from all the different experiences we each bring to the table.

Rob Bell at the end of the book explains the title "Drops Like Stars" comes from his 3 year old nephew gazing out at rain one day and saying, "Stars. Stars. Stars." The little boy thought that for a split second when a rain drop hits the ground, it looks like a star. Talk about redemption.....it takes a child to see that when something falls and explodes...it looks like a star. It's so true of who we are, what marriage is, who God is. It's the times we fall...the times things explode...it's those times that we grow, learn, survive, become more transparent and real....and become more like stars :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sappy Blog Post

It only takes one moment for us to lose our loved ones. One moment they are here breathing, living, only a touch away. Who knows when time is up? None of us do. Sometimes when Jake and I have had a fight and things are still tense, I feel like not forgiving him. I let him go off to work and I don't kiss him and I don't say "I love you."

And then, I admit, I panic. All it would take is a car crash...and he would be gone. Remorse floods my heart and usually I call or text some sort of sentiment that lets him know I care.

It's so easy to take each other for granted. Work gets busy, we get tired, the television seems so much easier to deal with. The little things start to get annoying, then really annoying, then coolness starts to wiggle it's way into our hearts. I wish I could get those hours, those days back. The ones where I've let the daily worries turn me short, when I've gone to bed mad, or I've said something awful.

Why does it take Jake going away for me to realize how much I miss him and need him? He completes me like no other person can. I am such an extreme introvert and Jake is the one person who fills me up. He takes care of me and holds me when I cry and he is one of the privileged few who see my truly dorky, weird, ungraceful side. Be he also sees the good in me and affirms my heart. I hate that it takes distance for me to realize that time is slipping away. And we're slipping with it. There are only so many moments in my life and I want to spend them wisely. I want to act out my love like every day is the day Jake is coming home. You know? All excited and nervous...I want to hear everything he has been doing and just listen and listen and snuggle and have lots of sex...why can't I be like that every day?

How much God must love us to give us marriage. I have truly never felt something so deep and true. It has so much potential to hurt and to open up wounds....it has so much potential to heal and be a balm like no other. I want to know, deep in my soul, every day, that this day could be my last day, or Jake's last day...and I want to live that day loving my husband and letting God's love shine through me....because really I suck and God's the one who gives the love anyways!!!
(Heh heh, can't resist adding just one "suck" to the sappy blog post :) )

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Round and Round We Go

So....does anyone else gets super annoyed when you find that you and your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance are having the same fight over and over and over? I do! It's so utterly infuriating!

You take all this time and energy into working through a problem...you talk, you cry, you try to communicate well (which works off and on for us) you get frustrated that the other person seems to be speaking martian...and they feel the same about you. Then after 10 hours of going round and round about "feelings" and "needs" and "compromises" and "solutions"...you both feel exhausted but the problem seems to have been solved. Hurray!

Then next week hits....and you find that you and your significant other are having the same exact fight about the same exact thing again! And it happens again the next week and the next week. What is going on?!

I don't know. It baffles me. I was hanging out with my girlfriends the other night and they were giving me some sound relationship advice and we were also a bit giggly (well I don't really giggle...but that's neither here nor there) ...we were laughy let's say.....and my friend busts out with, "Why do I always have to be the one to change? Why is it me that is "too emotional" and why can't he change?" Then my other friend goes, "Yeah, I tell my husband I was this way when you married me. I am an 'as is' honey!"

We had a good laugh. But I think it's how I feel a lot...and how Jake feels a lot. I don't want to change....it's too much work and it makes me feel bad about myself. I'd rather like me thank you very much. Maybe we both need to change....maybe that's why fights happen over and over, because neither of us wants to change and the way to get out of the cycle is for both of us to make effort.

I can see Jake nodding his head right now and going..."Um yeah...I say that all the time!" And he does. And he's right. But the only way to make it work, is for both of us to be responsible for ourselves. I don't think it will help to keep tabs on the other person...that just becomes nagging which isn't super fun to do or receive. I think we each as individuals need to take responsibility for change and work at making healthy choices for our marriage.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Change is in the Air

Hey everyone,

We have just signed with Living Word Literary Agency this past week and have begun working with one of their agents to publish a book on marriage that is along the same lines of our blog. We are really excited!!!

Our agent had some great advice on how to reach more people with what we feel God has placed on our hearts about marriage and part of that was changing our title to help draw in more people. Thus, our new title (and Facebook group title and blog title) is The Holymess of Marriage.

Nothing will be changing as far as the content we have been blogging about, we promise!

Two helps we'd love from you all if you don't mind:

1) If you have any topics or issues that you'd love to read about, please let us know!! PLEASE!

2) If you wouldn't mind helping to spread the word about our blog to friends and family, we'd greatly appreciate that. The blog world and Facebook are both things that publishers will sit up and take notice of today.

Thanks so much! We're excited for more great stuff to come.

Jake and Melissa

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Melissa's Flag

So Melis and I did this little book called All About Us about two years ago. The book is a Q and A book for couples to go through that help you get to know each other and create some fun conversations. We found it yesterday and we looking through it and were quite amused. In particular, there was one question that asked us to draw a flag that best represented our personalities. We got a huge laugh out of the flag that Melissa drew...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Down Time vs. Up Time

It seems like leisure time should be the least of anyone's worries when they get married. The assumption is that you will continue to hang out the same way you have always hung out while you were dating. For most married couples, that isn't the case...and in fact, finding down time that fits us both has been a struggle at times.

See, when we were living separately we had a lot of extra time away from one another to rest and relax in ways that best fit us. When we spent time together we were both coming in refreshed and with lots to give emotionally to our relationship. In some ways, the time that we spent apart from one another was just as important our time spent together. We didn't really give much thought to that when we got married and, again, just assumed all of the time spent together would be as fun as when we were dating.

Now though, because we live together and spend more time with one another it has been harder to find time to relax that is conducive to both of us.

For me, relaxing usually involves a screen - TV shows, movies, X-Box, computer, etc. It helps me turn my mind off and just be.

For Melissa, relaxing usually involves total quiet, a good book and maybe a nice bath.

Now I like reading and quiet at times but it doesn't normally relax me, instead it makes me think too much. My mind starts racing because I'm just "sitting" and I can't chill out. In the same way, Melissa enjoys a good movie and watching TV (still trying to get her to play X-Box with me...) but can only take so much before she has a headache.

Often times, we both get frustrated at each other when we are clashing with how to spend our time. Melissa gets mad that I always have to be "doing" something. I get frustrated because she doesn't want to do anything. The cycle goes on and on...but we both have specific needs for down time but just experience it differently.

In some ways, I think I would say Melissa needs down-time (not doing anything). I, on the other hand, need up-time (doing things that keep my mind quiet).

At first this was hard because we almost had an attitude that we needed to spend as much time together as possible but I think we are beginning to learn that alone time is so important at times. In fact, it actually helps our relationship because we are both able to put more into the time that we do have together because we are more refreshed and relaxed coming into it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What Did I Do?!?!?!

You know one of the things people really don't tell you when you're engaged or newly married? They don't tell you that at some time, usually within a year, you and your spouse will get to a point where the phrase, "What the heck did I do?" will be running through your minds.

Yes, it happens. It happens a lot. The funny thing about marriage is it brings up faults and failings in a way that not many other relationships can. I can't even count how many times after I have tried understanding Jake, tried "actively listening" to his views and repeated them back to him (like all good counselors and marriage books tell you to do) that I have then said, "Wow...ok....so your point doesn't make any sense, it's selfish and mean, you don't care about me at all...why am I even married to such a horrible person? How can you be SUCH a bad husband?"

Jake will agree with me about this. I've said it and I've thought it numerous times! The other day...even after all our counseling, talking, working, reading, and introspective discussions about healthy marriage habits....we were having a disagreement and I was losing my cool because I was SO right and Jake was SO awful and unreasonable (said with sarcasm) and I uttered the words, "If I had no morals...I would divorce your ass right now!" So mature of me.

But in a sense, it's true. It IS my morality that keeps me committed to Jake when I feel he's being a nut job. And it's Jake's morality that keeps him committed to me when I'm being less than wonderful as well. Not many people talk about it...but questioning things at times is totally normal. It's totally normal to think, "I have made such a big, bad mistake." We're all sinful and marriage creates a kind-of Petree Dish where these sins come out and mix around with each other. It's normal to be taken aback by your spouse's sins...I promise they are taken aback at yours! However, it's commitment that marriage promises before God and before others....it's this commitment we make that reminds us, reminds me, that while I don't always feel love towards Jake and feel like being married...I promised to.

My feelings go up and down. My feelings sometimes tell me that I would have been so much happier with this guy or that guy. My feelings at other times tell me I am so in love with Jake and he is the best husband in the world (I actually do think he is a great husband). Feelings ebb and flow. Many times when I want out of marriage, I can realize later that feeling is false because I don't really want out...I am just angry or frustrated about something and escaping seems easier than working it out.

God knew what He was doing when He made marriage a commitment and a promise for better or for worse. Better and worse happen. But I think if more people were open about the fact that all of us at some time or another question, "Did I marry the right person?" or "What did I get myself into?" It would help more marriages survive. Because then when those feelings and thoughts come up, it doesn't mean it's time to move on or to find another spouse that will make one happy and fulfilled. It would be just an accepted normal part of life and would only signal that there was an issue to work out....rather than signaling that the marriage was potentially over.

Does this make any sense? What do ya'll think about this?

-Melissa

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sabbath Rest

I'm busy. We're busy. Oftentimes too busy.

Our church this year is celebrating "Sabbath Rest" and taking a break from many of the programs we normally run. We are focusing on quality relationships with each other and with God. It's great in theory....but hard in practice.

Does my marriage have Sabbath Rest? I have been thinking about this lately. Being newly married brought alot of expectations to the table. We had to be disgustingly happy, having sex all the time, making a home, succeeding in our careers, having an awesome spiritual relationship together and individually, spend time with friends so they did not assume we'd "forgotten" them in our newly married bliss....and generally everything had to be rosy and wonderful. What a lot of work! And when any one of those things became less than the high expectations called for, we had to expend even more energy so things would be "ok".

Now that we're almost 4 years into it...we're still doing this I think. Now Jake and I just consume ourselves with the expectations for this next step in life and marriage...a house...a baby (no I'm not pregnant)...a retirement fund....another car...career success. When does it stop?

It stops when we decide we want it to. I think all those things are wonderful. But as I have been pondering, I have decided that they are not necessary for me to have a meaningful life or wonderful marriage. What Sabbath Rest would mean for my marriage would be for me to enjoy quiet times together of doing absolutley nothing. It would mean appreciating a fight as not something that signifies the end of the world...but rather something that brings Jake and I closer to intimacy and understanding. Can I trust God with all the expectations and enjoy the time He has given me with the people I care about in my life? That is rest I think.

The things I need to work on are spending time with people I love, spending more time with God, letting go of "where I should be in my life right now" and simply enjoying where I find myself, and trusting God to work out all the kinks...He always does :)

-Melissa

Hilarious Quote of The Week: "I'm not funny, ya wanna know why? We're going to have kids and they're going to be just like you and one day I'm going to kill myself and you'll come home and there will be a note that says 'The Kirchers Killed Me'."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Selfish Little Bugger

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” - C.S. Lewis

Our small group for church is listening to a CD series on marriage by Tim Keller. The very first session we listened to was about selfishness within relationships. Keller proposed an interesting concept that has totally thrown me for a loop. He states, "The root of all problems in relationships is selfishness." And damn it all if the man isn't right!

I didn't want to admit it at first. I came up with a bunch of different scenarios in my head that created "problems" that selfishness had nothing to do with. Hurrah! I didn't have to re-evaluate myself now. Yeah, except that as I thought it over more....in every one of my scenarios, I could dig deeper, find deeper issues at work....and at the very bottom of every one, the problem was selfishness. Snarky little bugger! It made me mad to be honest. I'm a Christian so my answer up until this point has always been, "Sin! Sin is the cause of problems in relationships."

Sin is an easy generalization. When you want to really get real...you (or I at this point) realized that the "sin" was either Jake being selfish or me being selfish. And our problems..our communication problems, sex problems, money problems, emotional problems...whatever...stem from the fact that I need, want, desire things one way and Jake needs, wants, desires them another way. And our sinful "selfish" nature's are constantly at war with one another.

Crap! Now I had to figure out how I was being selfish. You know the funny thing about figuring out the ways you are selfish....you never want to change any of them. Take, for instance, my example:

I realized one of my selfish tendencies was loving Jake by giving him what I wanted, lots of quality time together. But what he needs from me are verbal affirmations...alot of them. And I realized I was being selfish by giving him time, which is what I want, and not encouragement, which is what he wants.

Any of you that know me, know that I am sarcastic and blunt. I must be missing a woman gene or something because the idea of saying, "Great job honey for paying those bills!" is as stupid to me as saying, "Great job for breathing!" The bills need to be paid...so pay em'. Why do you need a pat on the back and two thumbs up for doing something that has to be done? I don't get it, I don't want to get it, I really think it's stupid.....but Jake doesn't. He feels loved when I encourage him or thank him for doing things. So Tim Keller (and God too) has won. I am really trying to find things to encourage Jake about.

Why does this help? Because I am not being selfish when I encourage Jake. I am giving of myself, I am doing something I don't want to do...for the good and benefit of another person. I'm not doing great at this yet...but I am trying. C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller and God (with God being obviously more important) are right...if we don't recognize that our nature is to be selfish we are in danger of hurting ourselves and our relationships. A selfish person has no love to give...they can't be hurt or vulnerable....but they won't be able to be in relationship with other people. Relationships of any kind. It's super hard to realize how selfish we are...but worth it to recognize and make efforts to give, when we'd all much rather receive.

-Melissa

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Split Personality Disorder

This past Sunday with my youth group, we talked about personality as a means to understanding the person God has made each of us to be. It ended up leaning to quite an interesting conversation with Melissa about our individual personalities and how they affect our marriage.

Genesis defines marriage as two people becoming one flesh...and the two people can really rub each other the wrong way. Suddenly everything is shared, decisions have to be made together, you actually have to talk about your feelings and you spend alot more time together. Given the amount of change that happens in a relationship once two people get married, I think it's safe to say that that this new "one-flesh unit" struggles with a good dose of personality disorder. Melissa and I found the following to be really helpful in understanding ourselves better (not completely of course) and understanding why we might have struggles or areas where we seem to get along great.

Each persons personality is made of four different aspects of life:

1) How do you get energized?
- Extroverted - meaning being around people fills you up
- Introverted - meaning being alone fills you up.

2) How do you process information?
- Sensing - meaning you look for facts, things that can be determined with your five senses
- iNtuitive - meaning you look for abstract things and process theories

3) How do you make decisions?
- Thinking - meaning a factual process of A+B=C
- Feeling - meaning emotion based and more sympathetic

4) How do you live your life?
- Judging - meaning you like structure, plans and order
- Perceiving - meaning you like to go with the flow and spontaneity

Each persons personality is based upon those four categories and how they work as a combination.

My type is an INFJ and one of the descriptions explained that I have a "mysterious, intricately woven personality which sometimes puzzles even them." Which explains a lot and why I have a hard time sharing with Melissa about what I'm thinking and feeling - I tend to not even know myself. It frustrates Melissa to no end. "What do you mean you don't know how you feel?" she asks. She thinks I'm nuts that I can't figure out sometimes what is going on inside of me. But this test really helped her understand that I'm not holding back anything from her..it's just part of my personality that I need to work with.

Melissa, is an ISNTFJP...yep, that's right...when she took the test her scores all tied on every catagory except for the Introvert/Extrovert. She is wholly and completely an Introvert!! However even though her tied scores were unusual...and she joked that maybe it just meant she is crazy....the results of the test really made sense. She is very much emotional, go with the flow, and spontaneous; but her parents were very serious, factual, planned, and organized. She said she feels an internal struggle all the time...sometimes she needs things planned...sometimes not...sometimes she makes logical decisions...and sometimes not. It's sooo fun for me trying to figure out which planet she's on!

We read through the more detailed personality descriptions though and eventually decided she was an ISFP - she picked which ones she felt were stronger. Our differences explained a lot of the struggles we have given how I like things structured, ordered and planned and she likes to go with the flow. I process information abstractly, she processes information with her senses which plays itself out nicely as we evaluate life and how we see our relationship. There are pluses as well! We work together in some areas great by balancing each other out.

I would highly suggest for you all to take a personality test and explore about the way you are wired. It may lead to some interesting discoveries about your relationships and provide some hope that you're not crazy or messed up but just simply different.

To take a test and learn more, check out www.keirsey.com. Or, you can send me an e-mail (pastorjake10@gmail.com) and I can give you a test to take...

Have fun with it!

Jake

Crazy quote of the week:
Jake- "What about zoo's?" (in reference to a date night idea)
Melissa - "Zeriously?"

Saturday, May 9, 2009

You Can't Have Holy Without Mess

Watch almost any movie or TV show. Listen to popular music that poetically talks about relationships. Read some self help books. What do the majority of these things tell us is the secret to life? You being happy and taking care of your needs. And when it comes to marriage it’s all about you having those warm fuzzy feelings of butterflies when you are around your spouse and you being able to be turned on sexually by your significant other. What happens when you don’t have that loving feeling anymore? It’s time to move on to the next relationship…that will fulfill YOU!

Living this way is so hard not to fall into as Melissa and I consistently find one another looking out for ourselves first. We’ve never actually said these words in a fight but it’s like we are saying to the other, “I’ll unconditionally love you when you unconditionally love me.” This idea will never produce a healthy marriage. In fact, I believe it is destroying our families today as over 50% of marriages end in divorce, but it is also stunting our growth as individuals. What do I mean by that?

In my opinion, it is more so the tough times, the times of suffering and the challenges that we face that mold and shape us. We learn from those times so much more than if life were easy all the time. When we choose to avoid confrontation or to play it safe, we lose out on a natural process of growth and deepening of wisdom, understanding, and faith.

The circumstances that Melissa and I have had to deal with in the first three and a half years of our marriage were really hard. The time we spent dating was no picnic either. It was a pretty messy time in our relationship. People in college thought we were crazy (and they were right). We were asked to move out of our first apartment because we weren’t fighting well and our landlord’s kids could hear us yelling. We have had to deal with a bout of pornography that I struggled with back in college. Bottom line: that warm fuzzy feeling didn’t follow us for very long and we had plenty of very good reasons to throw in the towel. Truth is we probably should have at least taken a break during our Sophomore Year of Hell. Although that didn’t really work for Ross and Rachel, so maybe it wouldn’t have worked for us either.

But you know what? As I sit here now and reflect, I wouldn’t change one thing and I know Melissa wouldn’t either! Sure, there are plenty of stupid things we both said or did that we wish we could take back. But overall each of these very difficult situations that we have dealt with have made us stronger and taught us a lot about ourselves, each other and God.

Getting kicked out of our first apartment helped us to get over the fear of asking for help and going to see a counselor. It taught us humility, how to begin to listen to one another, and how to be self controlled. Dealing with the pornography issue taught us forgiveness, compassion, and honestly. The issues we dealt with in college taught us about friendship, how to balance time together with the rest of life, and more. And I could keep going on and on.

We have stuck things out and are both better because of it. Individually, we are a little more loving and more like Jesus. And these things don’t just affect our marriage today, but also impact how we deal with life and other people. This is what makes marriage so holy, awesome and unique.

Jake

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Like Rabbits Right?

Jake, I, and a bunch of our friends were hanging out last Saturday night at this local diner. It was pretty late and we were kinda punchy....so we started talking about sex! All of us were married at the table, so it wasn't too uncomfortable (except for me...I get a little squirmy using certain words!) We started talking about the difference that most of us felt in our sex drives once the ring was on the finger. Our friend Larissa summed it up pretty well when she said, "You think you can't keep your hands off each other? Well, guess what? YOU CAN! Just get married."

We've talked to a lot of couples who have found that the insane sex drive they had while dating...seems to get lost somewhere after the marriage ceremony. For some people (and I know some..wink) they have no problems with their sex drive at all. That's totally great! But many of us do. Jake and I had pretty high expectations about sex when we were dating and engaged. It had been a long.....long.....long....hard battle to keep our hands off each other until we got married. And we failed oh so miserably. Anything that wasn't "technically" sex....yeah we did it. It wasn't the best for our relationship and created a lot of guilty feelings, but thank goodness God forgives lots of mistakes.

But we had managed somehow to not have sex until after the wedding. And we expected it to be this awesome, fulfilling, romantic, and passionate thing that we were going to do ALL THE TIME; at least for the first year or so. It took exactly one night together for us to realize that reality doesn’t live up to the fantasies that can be built up in our minds. We found that in reality, sex after marriage takes work, just like every other part of a relationship.

Work is not sexy. And once you're married, sex isn't "forbidden" anymore. There's no dangerous, excitement of "oh we shouldn't be doing this...but it feels so good." That's not a bad thing....but for some reason it does impact sexual desire. Jake and I are almost 4 years into marriage...and we're still working on this sex thing! I think, in talking to a lot of other people about this, that it's totally normal to see fluctuations in sexual desire and frequency. Life throws a lot of different things at us....and that stuff affects sex. If you and your spouse are having it a lot and you're both happy with that (and not too tired)...fantastic. If you're having sex a moderate amount...and you're both happy with it....great. Even if sex is only here and there...if you're both satisfied....I think it's totally normal. We've found it helpful...as awkward as it feels...to check in with each other and see if we're both happy with how much sex is happening. If one person is not...we try...and fail....and try some more...to adjust so that we're both getting our needs met. Talking about sex with each other and other people is hard, but it helps us to communicate better and not feel so alone when we face problems or have questions.

Our crazy quote of the week: Jake is dancing around like a maniac. Melissa - "I think God is regretting you just a little bit right now." Jake - "No He's not, I'm using all my muscle groups!"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Banished to the Couch...Kind of

Melissa and I haven’t slept in the same room, let alone bed, for almost a year now.

Now, before you get all bent out of shape thinking that I did something horribly wrong and got grounded to the couch for an extended period of time, let me explain.

Melissa is an insanely light sleeper…anything and everything wakes her up. On top of that, she can’t wear ear plugs because she gets ear infections.

I, on the other hand, am a very deep sleeper and do everything known to man in my sleep: talk, snore, breathe loud, fart, toss and turn, steal the covers and violently convulse…and I’m sure I’m leaving something out.

One night, Melissa was startled awake and when she opened her groggy eyes, she saw a black figure at the foot of the bed. After a second she realized the black figure was poking her in the leg and was a little weirded out. Eventually she realized that it was me and she asked me what the heck I was doing. I expressed in a cheerful voice, “I’m looking for you.” She told me to knock it off and go back to bed and I did. I don’t remember ever doing that…

On the flip side, one evening wasn’t as funny. I was muttering in my sleep and keeping Melissa awake so she tried to wake me up. I snapped at her and told her that I wasn’t muttering and got pissed at her for waking me up. She, realizing I was actually still asleep, tried to tell me to wake up. I snapped at her again that I was awake. This proceeded a few more turns until I glared at her and yelled for her to leave me alone and stop telling me that I was asleep.

At this point, fearing for her life, Melissa grabbed a blanket, our dauschund and her cell phone and went out to the couch. She dialed the numbers 9-1-1 into her phone and set it on the table in front of her and sat, cuddling with our dog, watching the bedroom door until she fell asleep.

When I woke up in the morning, I went out into the living room, stretched and gave Melissa a big kiss and expressed, “I slept so well last night. How did you sleep?” Turns out Melissa was right…I had been asleep. I don’t remember that either.

Because of our complete opposite sleeping patterns, we bought five mattresses before our third anniversary. We went from a full to a queen to a king sized Bob-o-pedic to two twins. When we got the twins they were next to each other, then across the room from one another and then in totally separate rooms.

On top of that, we have tried running an air purifier, wearing nose strips and I even got surgery on my nose…which didn’t work and was a waste of $250.

So, it’s almost been a year since we slept in the same room.

Why do I share this with you all? I think there are two things that we have learned about marriage from this process.

First, before we got to the point where we decided to sleep in different rooms, we were really embarrassed about the possibility. We thought it was a sign that our marriage was going to fall apart and expressed that it couldn’t be healthy. We finally ended up just talking to someone in our church about it who told us that her brother and his wife had to do the same thing. And then we heard pretty much the same thing from someone else. And then someone else.

Why is it that when we face issues within marriage, the first reaction is often “we are so messed up.” We tend to look at a lot of issues as unique to our own marriage and assume no one else struggles with it. From what Melissa and I have found, this couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the best things that you can do for your marriage is to be open and honest about your struggles because you are not alone in them. When you can learn to talk to others you will quickly find hope and encouragement that make the issues not such a big deal anymore.

Second, as good as it is to prepare for marriage with pre-marital counseling, reading books and going to seminars, I think there will always be a handful of things that you just can’t prepare to deal with. There will always be surprises in life. If someone had asked Melissa and I to make a list of the top 10 things we would struggle with when we got married, I doubt that sleeping would have even made the list. It might not have made the top 20…

Marriage though is about perseverance and sticking things out. You can’t escape ever getting thrown curveballs in life, so it’s better to stop running away from them and instead figure out how to hit them out of the park.

Does sleeping in separate rooms suck? Yea! Is it frustrating and does it create tension at times? Sure! But does it hurt our marriage, no…in a lot of ways it has helped our marriage tremendously because Melissa sleeps now at night. We’ve had to learn that it is just one of those things in life that is what it is.

What things are you struggling with right now?

Is there anything that you feel like you and your spouse are the only ones struggling with it?

We encourage you to post your comments her or find some friends to talk to. We guarantee you, you aren’t alone.


Jake
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.