Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Success

I feel like any sort of success, even at the smallest level, is like a hungry beast that can never be fed enough. Once you achieve what you're striving for, you often find it's not quite as great as you thought it would be. Suddenly, a new goal appears before you...a better one...one with more promise of success and fulfillment. Now there is something new to strive for. Or else the next effort falls flat and earlier success now feels empty in light of the present failure. The beast always craves more from you.

It leaves me feeling at a loss...and very much less than. How do I truly break free? Where is the line between worldly wisdom and following God's voice? What if God's voice does not lead towards success?

How does this all relate to marriage? I've been feeling like so much of our world and every day life is based on being successful. You have to be successful spiritually, in your job, monetarily, and in relationships. I don't know if any one else out there is like me though....I often am not successful. And I don't know how to feel about that...mostly I feel like crap about that to be honest.

So much emphasis is put on having a successful marriage. But what does successful marriage mean? So much of my marriage is trial and error...mainly error..and trying to learn from error. It can feel so deflating to be in the midst of problems or issues and look around and see every other happy married couple. It feels like they have attained the success I crave....and my husband and I are just alone in our un-successfulness.

I've been sitting with my heavy heart though and letting God speak to me about it. And I feel like He has been whispering that none of us are truly a success...we're all works in progress and so are all of our marriages. It made me feel better to think about God loving me just exactly where I am....no matter how successful I am at some things...or un-successful I am at others.
I feel like a successful marriage is one where love, forgiveness, and commitment are present...and maybe I can learn to be happy with just that. Thanks God :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Vacations and Feature for www.relevantmagazine.com

As some of you know Jake and I are now relationship columnists for Relevant Magazine Online. There's a new feature up called, "Talking About Sex While Dating." Check it out at:


It's summer finally...and it's when most of us go on vacation. Vacations are meant as times of relaxation, rest, and rejuvenation. Sometimes though, marriage seems to get in the way of all this rest and wonderfulness. In all honesty I never expected to have relationship issues about vacationing. I mean, come on, how can you fight when you're at the beach? But after five years I've learned; marriage can turn anything into an issue!

How then, do we make sure that vacations are reasonably drama free and relaxing?
Some helpful things to agree upon would be: place, living arrangements, time spent on vacation, a budget, and what kinds of things you will do. Duh! Right? Yes, most of us would think of these things...but what Jake and I have found is that agreeing on all of them and trying to not be selfish about what we each individually expect out of vacation is hard! Like, really much harder than I thought. I know I'm selfish...but don't realize how selfish until someone(namely Jake) intrudes on how I would like to spend my time off.

Jake loves to keep moving...to plan, plan, plan and then do, do, do. I, on the other hand could spend all day lying about, reading, and eating. Jake is pretty relaxed about money and I stick to a budget. I give up after ten minutes of researching vacation destinations while Jake is a master at this and can search for hours. We rather clash on most vacationing things.

We each want our own way though....and who doesn't when it comes to relaxing? So it actually does take sacrifice, compromise, and understanding to make vacations times that both of you can enjoy. Annoying though it is.

There are also family traditions and expectations to consider. Will you vacation with either of your in-laws? Is that going to be an every year thing or just once in a while? Do you or your spouse expect to spend all of your time together on vacation? Or do some things separately?

These things can be really easy to work through if you just do it ahead of time. We've found that feelings often get hurt or mis-understandings happen when we leave discussions until we're actually on vacation. Soooo many fights could have been avoided! Try to be pro-active about talking through what vacation will look like that year and what you both expect out of it. (Before you go away)

Time off is so important in marriage. We all need time away with our significant other to re-connect, relax, and remind ourselves how much fun we have together. We hope that you all have great times this summer to play and enjoy your relationship!





Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to Untangle a Knot

Perhaps some conflicts that marriages encounter are like knots in a rope. It never helps to get impatient and pull on the rope. This only knots things tighter and makes one's job of untangling much harder. The best way to get out a knot is to stop pulling and gently work at the knot, slowly unwinding one cord at a time. Then the knot is free!

When challenges in marriage appear like a spouse losing a job, or dealing with ADD, or confronting an issue that seems unsolvable; it can seem like a huge knot. You want it to be untangled as fast as possible (because knots are annoying) so you start pulling and getting impatient and getting even more tangled up. I'm finding that when I can step back, take a breath and gather up some patience, I can start seeing the places where I can untangle the knot a little here.....then a little there....then a little more over there.

Time and patience are so very key in marriage. As much as we'd all love to simply pull at the knot have have it *snap* disappear, it usually takes both spouses calming down and slowly working through issues together to reach a resolution and accepting however long that takes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rest, Sabbath, Breaks and Other Synonyms

As Melissa mentioned in her last blog, we have both just finished reading this book called Married to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and Sue George Hallowell, LICSW. The book argues that we as a culture are so over loaded with technology, schedules and things to do that most people are living with a self -created form of environmental ADD...and this is greatly affecting our relationships.

One of the points that the book continually came back to was the idea of creating boundaries in our lives when it comes to technology. I have talked about some simple ideas in other blogs to help bring about this in my relationship with Melissa:
  • I take one whole day and one evening a week where my phone is off
  • I avoid my work e-mail in the evenings at all costs
  • I have a phone without internet on it and don't get my e-mail sent to my phone
  • We don't have cable TV (we watch on hulu.com instead)
For the sake of this blog I want to talk about the importance of taking time off together.

Engaging in a relationship together takes time and there is no way around that. We need time to talk, to process and, as the Hallowell's write, time to connect. Within our culture, we have the opportunity to connect very quickly with a mass quantity of people but all that has done is make our connections shallow and weak. A serious relationship and marriage must take more time than what we traditionally give many of our relationships.

Over the course of our marriage, Melissa and I have found it invaluable to have one day off a week where our priority is rest and spending time together. Some times we do day long activities like hiking or going to the beach. Other days, like today, we slept in and have just stayed in bed all morning reading, writing, sleeping off and on and relaxing. Regardless of exactly what we do, we try to make the emphasis rest and connecting.

In his book and similar sermon series entitled, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, Rob Bell talks about the command of sabbath rest in a really interesting way. He reminds us that the context of the Ten Commandments was given as the Israelites were being rescued from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Part of why the Ten Commandments were given was to remind the people not to live like they were in Egypt anymore.

Specifically, when it came to the idea of Sabbath, Bell talked about the fact that the Israelites were forced to work around the clock, 7 days a week. Why? Because the Egyptians were pursing power and wealth and everything was in the hands of them as men. When God called the Israelites out of Egypt he was trying to tell them to live differently. "You don't need to work around the clock to provide because I will provide for you. You don't need to pursue power and wealth because I am more valuable than anything else you could find."

When we really think about it, this is the exact same spirit that we fight again when thinking of taking time to rest in our own lives. This is exactly what the Hallowell's describe in their book.

So...in our fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world; how do me make time for rest, Sabbath and connecting with our significant others? Here is some of what we have learned:
  1. Start small. If you aren't taking much time right now it will be really hard in most cases to jump all the way to a full day right off the bat. Start with just a few hours a week or an evening as your first step.

  2. Find a great resource to help. At the end of the Hollowell's book they have a great "30 Day Reconnection Plan" to help facilitate just 30 minute conversations that have been really good. Both Melis and I really love Jim and Kathy Burn's book, Closer. It is by far the best couples devotional we have read.

  3. Set a weekly date night. Try to pick one night a week and make it off limits to technology, work and chores. We have found it best to make it a set evening (Thursday's) because trying to adjust it week to week puts the priority on our busy schedules and not on spending time together. We also though aren't legalistic about it so if a friend's birthday party comes up or some other rare event, we adjust for that given week. We try not to as much as possible though.

  4. From there, the next step is to set aside one day a week. To to figure out one day that can be focused on resting, connecting with friends and each other, playing together and changing the pace of life. We try to avoid chores, errands and work at all costs on our day off. Most people have two days off from work (Saturday and Sunday) so in most cases I would recommend using Saturday as a day for work around the house and errands and then leaving Sunday to a day of rest and relaxation.
Taking this time isn't easy in our culture and face paced world but it is so important. God is in control...not us. It's ok to take some time for ourselves and the people around us and leave some things for later. In fact, it's more than ok. It's necessary.

Jake

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Becoming More Aware

So, Jake and I have been reading this book called "Married to Distraction" by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and Sue George Hallowell, LICSW. It's kinda blowing my mind. The hubs (or Jake) has mild ADD and it's been affecting our marriage a lot. This book is fascinating in describing the ways in which technology and our fast-paced culture have created new kinds of ADD and ADD-like processing. There is scientific research that says our ipod, internet, cell phone, twitter, information at the speed of light, choices until our brain explodes, nano-second attention span world that we live in.....can cause our brains to form processing patterns that mimic ADD.

So people that don't really have ADD, are acting like they have ADD because everything around them is pulling at their attention and their brains learn to shift attention at faster and faster rates. It becomes harder and harder to actually pay attention to anything......it's crazy stuff.

We'll go into this deeper in further blogs, as Jake and I learn more how to navigate all this and how it applies directly to marriage.

But this week as I was thinking about the busy, multi-tasking world we live in, I found myself listening to a sermon where I was asked to stop....and spend a minute breathing.

Sometimes I freelance at a fine arts publishing company. I work in a little studio in an office building and I'm blessed to have this space all to myself. While I'm painting, I listen to my ipod. Usually it's music, but lately I've been listening to Rob Bell or Shane Hipps (from Mars Hill Bible Church) sermons. This week I was listening to a sermon by Rob Bell and he was talking about breathing. He hooked himself up to a breathing monitor and asked his congregation to be silent, watch the screen, and breathe along with him.

So I painted, but I matched my breathing to Rob Bell's breathing for about a minute or two. In......Out......In.....Out.....In.....Out.

Do you know what happened? I started crying. Breathing slowly for a couple of minutes made me relax so much that I felt more alive and so much more aware of myself, my feelings and thoughts. Just breathing slowly for one minute let me release more stress and become more focused than I've been in a long time.

According to Rob Bell (I'm assuming he researched this) the human body is designed to breathe at 6 breaths per minute. The average American breathes 16-20 breathes per minute. This 16-20 breaths per minute actually uses up energy and signals panic and distress to the rest of the body.

So let's think about this....we live in ADD world. We're living our lives so busy, so full, so fast...we're breathing InOutInOutInOut.

Our average American breaths per minute is saying something, our record high ADD levels are saying something. We are going too fast....and we can't even pay attention anymore. We're going so fast and we're processing so much everyday that we don't have the time to sit....and breathe...and relax.

When you can relax, you can focus, when you can focus you can start paying attention to the things that matter...like your family, like your friends, like your marriage.

Be challenged this week to spend at least 5 minutes a day breathing...6 breaths per minute. It's actually really hard to do when you are so used to breathing fast. See how it makes you feel, notice how it makes you slow down and relax. Ask yourself what you feel more aware of during those five minutes. What emotions do you feel? What thoughts do you have?

I'm doin' it with ya'll....it's an experiment!

-Melissa
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.