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.