Pursuing Transformation: Building a stronger marriage

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This is my handsome husband. His name is Chris and I think he’s a stud. I spotted him across the classroom in French 101, right away taken aback by his charming good looks, blonde hair, and his beautiful blue eyes. Sitting nearby when given the chance, asking him what page the professor was telling me to turn to, and receiving a wink in return, I couldn’t help but blush- I was crushing hard. Several weeks into hanging out, and a few cocktails into the night, the words, “I have high hopes for us…” and, “I think I love you” flew out of my mouth before I could think twice about them. Although my timing was most definitely a bit crazy (blame it on the alcohol... cue Jamie Foxx), I don’t doubt those words because that boy had my heart way before I even knew it. 10 years and a whole lot of fun later, I have the privilege of calling him my husband and those winks still get me.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve been doing a series about Pursuing Transformation. It started with this proclamation that I made back in January, pinpointing five areas of my life where I want to see growth in 2015 - and I’ve been checking in with each area, sharing where I'm at and encouraging you to do the same.

This week I’m onto my last goal (!!!) and that is, to invest in building a stronger marriage.

Years before getting married, I heard a sermon from pastor Steve Sonderman about marriage. It wasn’t your standard, run of the mill, love each other, be faithful, sort of marriage talk – it was all about the importance of dating your spouse. His focus for the message was that even more so than before marriage, your relationship with your spouse needs to be cared for, nurtured, protected, and most importantly invested in – and that continuing to date each other played a big role in that. He talked about how, too often, all the hard work, the charming, the getting dressed up super cute, the sweet talking, the flirting, the fancy date planning, the focus on fun, happens before marriage but then falls under the radar after.

With just about four years under our marriage belt, I can totally attest to that statement. Now that we’re married, and the honeymoon phase has worn off a bit, dealing with Chris’ crazy work schedule, my evenings of volleyball or bible study, and then with the craziness of summer activities and packed weekends, we’re lucky if we even eat a meal together, let alone have a date night! It’s not that we don’t want to have fun together, or to enjoy getting dressed up, staring into each other’s eyes in a romantically lit restaurant filling our bellies with a mouthwatering steak and washing it down with a full bodied glass of merlot and a creamy, decadent spoonful of crème brûlée. It’s just that as of late, neither of us takes the time to plan it.

Thinking lots about this pending blog post, and asking myself how or if I have yet to make steps towards investing in our marriage, I can’t help but come back to this idea of dating. Going back to Steve Sonderman’s message, I really appreciated his approach to the marriage discussion; but what really stuck with me was the example that he gave of him and his wife. He said that they have a commitment to date each other weekly, have an outing monthly, and travel yearly. I remember hearing this and thinking, “that is awesome!” It seemed so inspiring, so fun, and so… simple.

Investing in my marriage doesn’t have to be this difficult, sit down and read a marriage book or do a strengths finder test and discuss how we could do better as a couple. It can be as simple as going on a date. But here’s the thing, even that doesn’t have to be super fancy. That’s fun every once in awhile, yes, but the most important thing about having a date with your husband is, intentionally spending time together.

This past weekend, I found this to be so true as Chris and I had a really great, much needed chunk of alone time. Instead of going out to dinner Friday night and seeing a movie on Saturday like we had originally brainstormed, we never left the house - and it was great. Friday night consisted of sitting in the backyard, eating steaks on the grill, enjoying a few Moscow mules, playing a bunch of games of cribbage, kissing a bit (duh), and sharing a lot of laughs. It was perfect – we reminisced about the early days of Chris and Mindy, poked fun at each other when the other lost the game of cribbage, and just soaked each other in (as cheesy as that may sound). And then Saturday was even better – sleeping in, eating a late brunch, and plastering ourselves to the couch making sure to cuddle and take bathroom breaks we watched ridiculous movies (umm.. Sharknado?! We might have watched the marathon on the SyFy channel... what?! Insert wide eyes blushing emoticon) and then finished the night with another game of cribbage and fell asleep on the couch. It was seriously, exactly what we needed.

We’ve had weekends where it’s looked pretty similar to this, but I think the difference was – this one was intentional. There was plenty we could’ve done, probably should’ve done – but both of us knew that we hadn’t spent much time together and that the week ahead didn’t foster much time to see each other’s faces so we chose to do nothing but spend time together.

I am so thankful for Chris.  He’s my rock, my safe place, my comfort when I’m a hot mess, he gives a perfectly timed wink when I’m feeling insecure, and he’s the perfect balance to my crazy 12-at-heart self.  I am sooo thankful that God brought us together, that I get to call him my husband, and that this weekend gave me a really good chance to focus on that.

My prayer is that moving forward, as I continue to think about how I can invest in building a stronger marriage, that I would look back on this weekend and remember the benefit that simply spending time with one another had for both of us. And that I would be challenged to make it more of a habit.  Going into the week I feel reconnected, refreshed, and very much in love with my husband – and I am thankful.

If you’re in a place where you need to reconnect with your spouse – do it. Make the effort, cancel your other plans, carve out time for each other, and go on a date, play some games, be silly, or do absolutely nothing and just soak up time spent together. It is so so worth it.

And if you’re not in this place, my prayer is that you wouldn’t feel singled out (too punny?) or neglected in any way by me speaking about my marriage. You are valued, you are loved, and you have great worth right where you are.


-- image by Marissa Maharaj -- 

Pursuing Transformation: To be a better friend

Friday, July 17, 2015

If you’ve been following along, you know that I am in the middle of a little series about Pursuing Transformation. It started with this proclamation that I made back in January, pinpointing five areas of my life where I want to see growth in 2015 - and now I'm checking in with each area, sharing where I'm at and encouraging you to do the same.

This week I’m onto my fourth goal – to be a better friend. So far, I feel the least prepared to write an update on this one.

Friendships continue to remain a mystery to me. And honestly still a struggle. Here’s the thing: I really struggle with friendships when they unexpectedly take a turn for a different direction or fall right off the map. It’s happened to me time and time again where I’m super good friends with someone (not just acquaintances- but actual know each other’s deep feelings, thoughts, histories kind of friends) and for no reason that I’m aware of, something switches. Phone calls disappear, text messages remain unanswered, and the once strong bond that made our friendship so beautiful weakens – and with no explanation even when pursued.

I understand that relationships are not easy, that yes there is some truth to the cliché statement of friends are in your life for a reason, season, or a lifetime – but when it feels like someone just ups and leaves your life for no apparent reason and doesn’t have the guts to tell you why they’ve decided to cut you out, that hurts.

I’m a, for lack of a better term, “no shit” kind of gal. If I am struggling with something, I’m not just going to harbor it, talk behind your back and wait until four frustrations later when I finally blow up in your face. If there’s an issue, I want to talk about it and work through it right away, together– with love, and with grace. Being able to be up front with each other, to be honest, and love each other through confrontation brings huge value and trust to a relationship. And I think that’s what makes relationships strong.

But this post isn’t supposed to be about the bitterness that I am still working on in my heart, it’s about how I am going to challenge myself and my role in the friendships that I have. One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 4:15 – it says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ.” The reason I first fell in love with this verse was because I felt like it was a positive encouragement for healthy confrontation. Encouraging us to speak the truth to each other, bringing up hard conversations, but in a loving manner. And I very much still love it for that reason. But what I’ve been thinking about more lately is a slightly different perspective of the challenge to speak truth in love.

Dealing with all these friendship struggles, the silver lining through it all is that I’ve become so much more thankful for the relationships that I do have. It’s made me realize just how thankful I am for the friends who have stuck it out with me through it all, and it makes me want to tell them just how great I think they are. And that’s what I think the second aspect of speaking the truth in love is, to communicate how much we appreciate each other – to speak that truth in love.

Just as important as it is to be honest about frustrations, it’s even more important to share how valuable I think my friends are, how kind, how encouraging, how much of a huge blessing their friendship is in my life. How often do you go through weeks, months, years, without saying – “hey, you know what? I am so thankful that you are my friend. I really think you are amazing”? Do you tell your friends how much you appreciate them and the way that they wear temporary tattoos with you even though you’re 29 years old? Or tell them how great it is that they care about what you’re doing, encourage you to chase your dreams, giggle together over a glass of wine, play Heads Up in the middle of a restaurant or go to Sephora 1700 times and walk around for way too long. I don’t know about you, but my answer is not enough.

I want to be a friend who is willing to speak truth lovingly in confrontational situations, but even more so I want to be a friend who is known for telling you how loved you are. I want to be a friend who is caring, encouraging, honest, invested, intentional and present through thick and thin. I think that’s what God calls us to be isn’t it? To be a community of men and women who really truly care about each other and communicate that love!

That’s how I want to be a better friend. I want the people in my life to know how thankful I am for them, and I’m looking forward to showing them.

If you, too, have awesome friends in your life, maybe you want to join me in telling them. Shoot a text message, send a fun card, a lil email, or maybe even give them a call and actually say the words! Let’s be a community known for speaking the truth in love, both in the good and in the bad.


Pursuing Transformation: Becoming a better writer

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer. I loved writing stories for school, sharing memories of my day in my Precious Moments diary and locking it up with the tiniest key, and had big hopes of writing a book someday. Even though my dream got lost in the shuffle a bit growing up, through it all, from a Religion major and a French minor, to a job as a ministry assistant at a church, my heart kept coming back to writing.

Asking myself what I was going to do with my life I've been seeking the Lord continually saying, “okay God – I want to do this, but what do you want me to do? I want to do what you want me to do.”  A couple years ago, I went to the Influence Conference put on by the Influence Network – a community of women who are all about using our influence wherever that may be, to make Jesus known.  At this conference, one of the speakers really spoke into the questions I was asking. She reminded us that God is the one who created us, who blessed us with our giftings – and then pushed us further to think about, if you have this dream in your heart, and you’ve been praying about it and seeking Him and it still remains intact- isn’t it possible that He put it there? That maybe instead of doubting it’s existence so much, maybe just maybe you should pursue it?

That is exactly what I’ve decided to do this year - to reach for my dream to be a writer. Finally, when people ask me what I’m doing – not only am I responding with the housewife title that I struggled with for so long, but now there is tag-on. I am a writer. Owning that title is a big step in and of itself, but now I’m working hard to put feet to that dream.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I am in the middle of a little series about Pursuing Transformation. It started with this proclamation that I made back in January, pinpointing five areas of my life where I want to see growth in 2015 - and now I'm checking in with each area, sharing where I'm at and encouraging you to do the same!

So this week is all about my goal to become a better writer. And I am super excited to share the ways that I have been intentional in this area.

Editing a cookbook:
Being a part of a community group through the Influence Network, I met an amazing woman named Natasha Red. She is the sweetest, loves the Lord, and has a gift for encouraging women in the kitchen. With her blog, and newly opened shop, her mission is all about encouraging women to get into the kitchen – to push past fears and risks that might be holding them back and create memories, traditions, and love on people through the vehicle of food. As a part of this mission to reach women with this message, she decided to write a cookbook. A few conversations sharing our hearts in our community group and the Lord made a connection - I love editing, and Natasha was in need of an editor.

For the past couple months I have had the pleasure of acting as Natasha’s editor. And I am so blessed. It has been a great learning experience for me, being able to exercise my gift with writing and learn how I can be a good support to Natasha and help her use her words for the mission God has placed on her heart. I am so excited to be a part of this project with her and I can’t wait for you to see the finished project. If you don’t know Natasha- please check her out – and stay tuned for when the cookbook comes out! My mouth waters and my stomach growls every time I edit her recipes, and her words have seriously encouraged me to be more courageous in the kitchen. I love it and know you will too.

Blogging more consistently:
This is an area that I am still working on. I am discovering that especially in the summertime, I am struggling with time management. There are so many things I want to do, but I can’t possibly fit them all in unless I make a better schedule. Having this mini-series has been a blessing because it has held me accountable to writing (minus my little hiatus for the holiday weekend), and pushed me to stay consistent. I think I might need to take that into consideration in the future, to plan my blogging out a bit more.

I had to put that one in caps, because I am so excited to share that my first magazine article is coming out in August!!!!!! Thinking about this goal I made in January, I decided it was time to stretch myself, to submit an article to a magazine. It was totally a God-thing how it all happened, as a ‘like’ on Instagram led me to the homepage for Thryve Magazine, a Christian women's magazine whose mission is encouraging women to live fully alive. Instantly finding the “writers” tab, I was greeted by a submission theme that seemed to be the perfect fit for what the Lord had been teaching me at that time. With a few days left before the deadline, I went to work and poured my heart out onto paper, edited, prayed, and sent my first submission off for review.

Expecting to hear back in 3-5 weeks as described in the guidelines, I was shocked to receive an email a day after the deadline from the editing team. And even more shocked, and elated when they said, “Without a doubt, we’d like to use this article in our summer issue of Thryve.” I could not believe it. Immediately, I called my husband, my mom, my sister, anyone who knew I had submitted an article and shared the exciting news! My first article, my first publication, my first magazine feature! As small as it may seem, this was a huge step for me, and a huge affirmation from the Lord that for right now- this is what He wants me to be doing.

Working with an editing team, making changes to my article, and working with a photographer for the spread to go along with my words – this process has been challenging, growing, and so exciting. I can’t wait to see the final product in Thryve Magazine with my words, and the beautiful images captured by the fabulous Roost Photography. It's coming out sometime in August, so if you want to snag a copy - stay tuned to Thryve's website!!


I'm really excited about the steps that I am making in this area of transformation.  Even if my future doesn't end up the way that I might be envisioning at the moment, this process of pressing forward, reaching for the stars and dreaming big is so rewarding.

If there is a dream in your heart that you keep pushing aside thinking it’s not practical or asking yourself how it could possibly come to be, I want to encourage you to ask God about it, and entertain the idea that He might possibly be the one who placed it there. God calls us to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8) So don't just sit idle.  Think about it, pray about it, and be brave - press forward - pursue it.

Praying for you and whatever His dream is for your life – chances are it’s way better than you could ever imagine.


-- Image by Roost Photography --
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