Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Love Your Life: Embrace the Moment

What I really want to title this post is, "Love What You Got, While You've Got It, Because Things Will Eventually Change And You'll Find Something Else To Stress About."

The event that triggered such a long-winded title was nothing extraordinary. I was simply sitting in the car with Jake, alone, for the first time in what felt like months. The kids were with a babysitter and we were on our way to a youth group event. But we were alone, for the moment, and as I sat there, thoughts started to flitter through my head. Tears welled up in my eyes, which I hid from Jake because I felt silly crying in the car on a Sunday night for virtually no reason.

Why was I crying, you ask? Well, it was because I was desperately missing being a couple, just the two of us. I missed having the freedom to get in a car and drive somewhere without having to schedule a babysitter, write out bedtime routines and emergency numbers, lay out PJ's and night time diapers and wrestle away from two screaming toddlers just to get out the door.

I could not believe I'd spent years being immensely unhappy because we couldn't have children. Maybe you laugh to read this, but anyone who has dealt with infertility knows...you put having kids on such a pedestal, the reality of those children can't possibly live up to such lofty ideals!

There were so many trips we could have taken! So many last-minute, non-scheduled dates we could have gone on and truly enjoyed—if only I hadn't allowed myself to be so freaking miserable about stuff I had no control over. I was not in control of our fertility or the foster-to-adopt process—and it drove me crazy. I agonized and stressed and spent far too much time wallowing. And yes, I had plenty of valid emotions. We shouldn't pretend to be okay when things aren't okay.

But now, looking back, I can see how I could have found moments to be happy. Moments to enjoy being alone with my husband and relish the freedom we had. And that's the thing, we can all find something to be stressed about right now and something we think will alleviate that stress. "If only this particular circumstance would change," we tell ourselves. "Then I can be happy. Then life will be okay again."

But circumstances will always be changing and new challenges will always come. We ended up with two beautiful kids after six years of infertility struggles and adoption—but these two munchkins are a lot of hard work! Parenting two toddlers without family around to help is a draining experience, to say the very least.

What I'm coming to grips with is this: There's a difference between feeling things and letting those feelings overtake your every waking moment. Even in the midst of trying circumstances, there is joy to be found.

I'm very proud of the way I handled my miscarriage, for instance. That pregnancy, that baby, had taken almost two and a half years of effort and medical intervention. We were elated to be pregnant...and then I got that awful phone call and everything came crashing down. Our baby was gone.

And for some reason (namely, the Holy Spirit) I had the presence of mind to tell myself, "Feel what you need to feel, when you need to feel it." This meant that I didn't pretend. On Christmas Eve at church a friend asked me, "How are you?" And I didn't lie to her. I couldn't, at that point. I told her, "I'm not doing very well, actually. I had a miscarriage and I'm really sad." Which lead to my friend telling me about her three miscarriages and three healthy, grown kids and giving me a needed hug. For about a month I was sad and weepy when I needed to be and I didn't bullsh*&t people. I told them the truth. And when I had grieved, I was able to feel joy again. I was able to smile and laugh and be delighted when my friends told me they were expecting babies.

I felt my pain. I embraced it. And then I felt joy again.

Satan loves to rob us of this...he steals the joy. But God gives it back. He shows us the amazing moments even when life isn't so amazing. So really, no matter where you are in life, love it! It's gonna change, I promise you. And with those changes will come new highs and lows, new challenges and joys. Embrace the moment, feel what you need to feel, and try to find the spots where joy can infiltrate.

It's a lesson I'm learning moment by moment these days... - Melissa

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Importance of Perspective

A couple weeks ago, I (Jake) was at a Youth Ministry conference and on Friday night, I was chatting with a couple of people when the topic of our book, 99 Thoughts on Marriage and Ministry, came up. One of the youth workers got a little excited and expressed that her and her husband had been married for a little over a year, and she asked me to give her some nuggets of wisdom from the book.

I smiled and asked her how her first year of marriage had been. “Oh, it’s been great,” she replied. So I began to share that our first year of marriage had been anything but great. I was open and honest about some of the struggles and pain we went through in our first year of marriage, along with some of the subsequent lessons that we learned because of those things.

Keep reading at http://youthministry.com/the-importance-of-perspective-in-marriage-communication-and-youth-ministry/#sthash.fKs87un3.dpuf

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Brains, Brains, Brains

Nothing highlights the specific strengths and weaknesses of your brain's unique makeup like having two toddlers.

We always knew that our brains worked differently; Jake's brain is fast-moving, multi-tasking and spaghetti-like, while mine is task-oriented, super-focused and needs to transition sequentially. Honestly, Jake has the type of brain many women have, while I tend to think more like a guy. We realized this early on in our marriage and it often takes a lot of really concentrated effort to communicate effectively when both our brains are whizzing at different speeds and capabilities.

But that was nothing compared to now! The combined force of two tornados—ahem, I mean toddlers—full of energy, emotions and developing rationality has undeniably presented both our brains with unique challenges. Toddlers just don't cut you any slack!

As anyone who has ever driven with me (Melissa) knows, I literally can't drive and talk at the same time, unless driving a route I know by heart. My brain just can't multitask. So when Jake walks in the door right before dinner and both kids are talking (a.k.a. screaming), I'm trying to get the food cooked and on the table and he wants to know how my day has been...it's not that I'm trying to be short and curt in my answers, my brain is literally on overload and can't pay attention to one more thing.

Instead of having constant mini-spats about this, like we were doing, I decided to communicate to Jake exactly why I act the way I do. And he totally understood! But it's hard for his fast-paced brain to remember in the moment. Our temporary solution? I ignore his questions if I'm on overload. It sounds odd, but I'm actually trying my darndest not to be rude to my husband. It's much more healthy to stay silent and continue in my task of getting-dinner-on-the-table-slash-toddler-watching, than to snap at Jake every night. This silence has also been helping Jake to clue into the fact that my brain can't handle any more tasks and he needs to wait until things settle a bit to talk to me.

Weird solution, but it's working—for now.

Jake, on the other hand, can multitask very well and keeps up with the constant movement and flux of our little ones much more easily. However, because his brain jumps around so fast, it can be hard for him to process his own emotions or tune into the emotions of our toddlers. Whereas I can read a situation with a tantrum-ing little one better because I'm focused more intently on them.

This was causing tension in our marriage because Jake thought I was interjecting too much, that I thought he couldn't handle our emotional kids. But the fact of the matter is that his brain is super great at handling whirlwind situations and longer amounts of time with the kids and mine is better at reading their emotions and knowing intuitively how to calm them down. So he's been trying harder to allow me to interject once in a while, to help him learn some toddler-wrangling techniques.

It takes a heck of a lot of effort to think through all of this!

Brains? Who knew that they would play so much of a role in our marriage and parenting lives?
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.