Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The All The Emotions Project

Sometimes, we fight about stuff that isn't very important. The fights seem trivial and odd. But usually, there's more going on underneath the surface.

For example, Mr. Sean (aka the two-almost-three-year-old) is very much outgrowing his toddler bed. And so I, Melissa, decided that a new bed for him would become Part I of a never-ending refinishing job we'll call: The All The Emotions Project.

I watched a couple of DIY chalk paint videos online and bought the paint and wax. I was pumped and Jake was pumped. We were blissfully unaware of what was to come.

The first bump in the road was when Jake realized that chalk paint does away with the need to power sand furniture—even though I explained this fact to him like a million times. He denies I said anything, but I did. It's the entire point of chalk paint, and why the stuff costs a small fortune.

So Jake got upset because he likes sanding. Therefore, removing the sanding part felt like I was removing him from The Project. Then I got upset because re-painting furniture without the hassle of sanding had become (in my heart) this soul nourishing, creative outlet. I needed to be rid of the sanding. I cried and stormed off, not quite realizing why this fight was triggering such depth of emotion in both of us.

A while later, when I had processed and fumed some more, I informed Jake that it didn't matter if there was no sanding, I had to paint with chalk paint. I needed to make something beautiful in a short timeframe and he could go to hell.

I'm so sweet when I want to be.

I wasn't upset about the thing—the actual refinishing project. I was upset about the thing behind the thing—having two kids that suck the life out of me and desperately wanting something easy and creative to do. There were all kinds of emotions boiling underneath the surface that I'd had no idea about.

Jake accepted this and dealt with his own frustration as well. We moved on.

I trolled Craigslist for a couple of weeks and managed to score us an entire kid bedroom set for $90.00. But the bed part was a stackable bunk bed, something we can't use right now. Sean is two and he thinks he can fly. The bed needed to be on the ground.

Yay, I thought. Now Jake can be part of The Project again and all will be well. I asked him to build legs or a base for the bed frame so we could make it more like a real bed and less like a mattress on the floor. A couple of heated conversations ensued and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why Jake was getting so angry.

He started throwing around phrases like, "It can't be done," and, "We should never have bought this."

All this drama to add four legs to a bed frame? I was flabbergasted. I informed him that there was no need for this level of emotion (completely forgetting my own meltdown a couple of weeks prior) and went to play with the kids. The next day Jake apologized and explained he'd needed time to process what I wanted and he also felt like all of my ideas about the bed legs challenged his ideas. He thought I was controlling him and taking away his part in The Project.

He wasn't actually upset about building legs, there were emotions being triggered by bed-leg-building.

So we realized we're a hot mess when it comes to refinishing furniture! For whatever reason, we both feel very deeply about sanding and painting right now. Which is fine as long as we become more aware of our feelings and try to treat each other more gently as we move forward.

We've made a little pact—I can't read Jake's mind and he can't read mine, so we're going to try communicate better when we feel strongly about a part of this refinishing project. We're going to try to explain why we feel upset and how the other person can support us through these emotions. It's not a fool-proof plan, but hopefully it will cut down on arguments and teach us to be more graceful towards each other.

Next up...the dresser!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Travel and Marriage

Usually, the Kircher clan is a homebody type of tribe, but lately we've had a good deal of stuff going on. Between visiting friends and family, church events and some extra ministry commitments, life has been a bit more busy.

Which has lead me to this great pearl of wisdom: don't judge the state of your marriage while you're away from home. Seriously, it's like a three-ring circus when we head out into the wide open world. There's poop and food and crying (perpetrated by both parents and children) and screaming (ditto) and laughter and hugs and scraped knees and plans gone awry and more screaming and more poop. I always have this image in my head of what we SHOULD be like on our little adventures. Something a bit like this:

But instead, we look kinda like this:

I'm smiling but my grip is iron tight. I let go and they run opposite directions.

We're just batshit crazy right now, people. It's the time of life. There's nothing to do but endure and treasure the rare wondrous moments.

And you know what? Jake and I are pretty good. Dear sweet heavens, don't jinx me for saying that. But it's true. Our relationship is humming lately. It feels different, like new life breathed into it after a long, hard winter's nap. There are many reasons for this, which I'm sure we'll be diving into over the next couple of months.

But I tell you what, going anywhere almost instantly has us at odds. Our differences in thinking and planning and doing and (especially) parenting are heightened the second we step out of the door, like a giant spotlight from the universe shining down to illuminate every darn thing we don't agree upon.

A couple of years ago I would have noticed this and become VERY upset. Now, I'm too friggin' tired to get all worked up about a couple of arguments. I think this sheer exhaustion has peeled back a layer of the relationship onion, though, and allowed me to see that a couple of spats during travel and the disruption of the usual, daily routine do not a relationship make.

This is nice for me to realize. It feels safe. I like it. I like letting the brief, heated words scatter like sand blowing in the wind. We apologize, we learn some stuff and we come back home and dive back into regular life and everything is okay.

Until someone poops or screams, or something.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Bringing Home Difficult People

Whether you have been in youth ministry for 5-minutes or 50-years, it doesn’t usually take long to figure out that there are some difficult people within our churches. You know, that parent who always seems to have an issue with something you’re doing. That elder who seems to never be satisfied with youth group attendance. Or that pastor who just can’t understand why you do what you do with students.

In our experience, it’s these difficult people within our churches that can be one of the biggest threats to our marriage. Jake has had countless times, especially early in his career, where he has come home frustrated and short due to a difficult encounter that day. We’ve had pending decisions from church leadership that impact our family’s wellbeing that seem to drag out forever. And we’ve had demanding parents interrupt family time because they want something now or else…

Difficult people are a guarantee in our line of work, but how do we avoid bringing them home all the time to our families?

Keep reading at: http://youthministry.com/bringing-home-difficult-people/#sthash.nwtmNCy5.1DXh7vGI.dpuf

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What Is The Point Of Marriage?

Last Tuesday was a rather normal day, but when dinnertime rolled around, I found myself exhausted and totally spent. The kids were being cranky and hungry and I simply could not take another moment; my introvert quota of “people energy” had been spent.

So I called Jake and asked him if he would allow me duck out and take a bath when he got home, while he cooked dinner and put the gremlins to bed.

“Sure,” he replied. “I’d be happy to do that for you.”

I took my bath, read my book and got what I needed in order to function as the healthy version of Melissa. After I got out of the bath, Jake and I had dinner and he asked me some questions about his work, we talked about scheduling stuff he had on his mind, and together we decided to read a marriage book he’d suggested—all things that would have exploded my shorted-out brain an hour earlier. But all things that Jake needed in order to process his day and be the healthy version of himself.

The evening could have been a disaster, but instead there was this gentle give and take, like the ocean tide ebbing and flowing against a sandy shore.

And it got me thinking.

This energy flowing between us, the way we each asked for what we needed, responded honestly, and worked dynamically to solve problems, THIS felt like the point of marriage. The space between us that was secure in the fact that we’d be staying together and the peace that descended on the messiness of everyday life as we traversed it.

It feels like the majority of the marriage books and resources out in the ether today are all aimed at STAYING TOGETHER. As if the whole point of marriage is not bailing out. I’ve been sensing this theme in our writing, as well, and it’s been bothering me.

The point of marriage is not just to stay together; it’s to experience something radically life-giving because breaking your commitment is simply not an option.

A recent example of this is our sex life. I’ll be frank, sex has been an issue since day one in our virginal union and it continues to this day. We do not have things in the bedroom all worked out, not in the least. But over the last couple of months I’ve felt a huge shift in our sex life, and it mostly has to do with my own mindset.

My big secret to better sex? I let it go.

It’s not that I stopped caring about sex or putting in effort, but I realized Jake and I were going to be okay in the midst of our sexual issues. We were committed to each other and loved each other and maybe it was okay to relax about sex a little. Maybe it was okay that I didn’t get exactly what I needed when I needed it. And perhaps, I had some issues of my own to work out (huge surprise).

This mental shift has opened up the space between us, literally like a breath of fresh air. I know we’ve both felt the energy between us relax when it comes to sex and this relaxation has sparked—no, not crazy lovemaking every night—but more enjoyable, loving, connected and easygoing sexual experiences.

And this is what marriage is all about: the freedom, learning, and joy that happens when you stop focusing on how on earth you’ll actually stay and relax into the energy flow of two people journeying through life together. It’s the interplay between two spouses that is so life-altering and affirming when done right.

So, what is your marriage like these days? Do you find yourself concentrating on how your relationship is going to stay together or are you able to see how you and your spouse move back and forth, learning and supporting each other as both unique individuals and part of a solid, unchanging union? 

Feel free to share your thoughts below! -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.