24 July 2013

Lessons Learned From the Newlywed Years and Beyond

While I am in Brazil partying it up with Pope Francis and a couple million of my Catholic brothers and sisters, my dear blogging friend Stefanie is graciously writing a guest post for me.  Be sure to head over to her neck o' the woods and show her some love!!! :)
So without further ado, let me hand it over to Stefanie...

I wouldn’t recommend getting married at 21 years old to everybody, but that’s sure what I did! As mature as my husband, Adam, and I were for our ages, little did we know that we still had a lot of growing to do in order to become who God wanted us to be! (I now know, of course, that transformation in Christ is a never-ending process!)

Adam and I survived a three year long-distance relationship, while I attended a small Catholic college in my home state of Indiana. The summer before my freshman year, Adam moved to Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 19 to pursue a music career. We had many late night conversations, and, needless to say, I didn’t have a typical college social life! I crammed four years of college into three years, so that I could join him in Nashville!

Last month, Adam and I celebrated eight years of marriage! I wrote a pretty honest reflection about our wedded journey thus far here. ( http://adreamerswife.com/2013/06/25/a-reflection-on-8-years-of-marriage/) There were some rocky times, but mostly good times, and our love has deepened so much through all of these experiences.

Tragically, in today’s society, so many couples think that if things aren’t always happy and easy, the marriage must not be meant to be and they quickly discard their vows. Newlywed Jacqueline Burkepile wrote a great post for Women of Grace earlier this month, titled Five Things No One Tells You About Marriage. ( http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=22595) In the article she discusses these points:

  • Love is not a feeling.
  • You don’t always have to agree.
  • Time with friends lessens after you’re married.
  • Quality time is important.
  • Selflessness is key.

All of these are very true and Jacqueline does a great job of expanding on them, so be sure to read her post! I have a few more truths that I’d like to add based on my own marriage experience.

1. Your spouse isn’t perfect. Neither are you!
This may seem like a pretty obvious statement, but this honestly took me some time to digest. I had to learn to cut Adam some slack on certain things and I had to learn to FORGIVE! And when I focused more on improving my own faults, like my quick temper, I wasn’t holding such a big magnifying glass to my husband’s!

The number one purpose of the vocation of marriage is to get our spouse to heaven. It takes a lot of prayer, mercy, perseverance, trust, and hope, but with God’s grace we can work through struggles and come out stronger and more united!

2. Dreams change; we change.
If you’ve never visited my blog before, this basically sums up what’s it’s all about. The past couple of years have consisted of a lot of reading, studying, and looking to God for guidance. Adam and I have both grown in confidence in who we are meant to be, our relationship with God, and our relationship with each other.

The life that we envisioned when we started may not have turned out to be what we thought, but we’d both say that where we are right now is exactly where we want to be. God has blessed us with two beautiful girls and they’ve changed our world for the best.

Keep dreaming, seeking His will, and praying! Each of us is going to change no matter what, so with God at the center of our plans, we know we’ll be growing united, in the right direction!

3. Little things matter.
What makes me feel loved, among other things, is when my husband takes the time to make the bed, do the dishes, or vacuum the house just so I’m less stressed when I get home from work. It may take less than five minutes, but these actions speak volumes!

It wasn’t always like this, though. For the first few years of our marriage, Adam hardly ever made the bed or seemed to notice something that needed to be done around the house. Maybe this change came with maturity and/or having kids, but we are working great as a team these days! We are rooting for each other and continuously striving to let each other know of the other’s value. I even ran through the sprinkler the other day with him and our girls, even though I really didn’t feel like getting all wet. I knew that he wanted to do this together as a family, so I put aside my selfishness and joined them!

What have you learned since being married? How has marriage shaped you into a better person?

Thanks for the opportunity, Patty! Praying right now for your safe trip!
I know, she's great, right??? Thanks again Stefanie:)
Stefanie Shick writes about her passion for dreams and following God’s will at adreamerswife.com. Stefanie lives just outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and their two young daughters. When she’s not working or being a mommy, she cuts coupons, cheers for Notre Dame, and tries to tackle an ever-growing stack of books!

19 July 2013

7 Quick Takes {vol. 14}

Linking up with Jen one more Friday before jetting off this evening to Brazil...be sure to check out the link up party at her place :)

Monday is my day off from the office each week.  This past Monday was extra special because I got to meet in real life and have lunch w a friend I have met through blogging, Stephanie.  I wrote about it HERE

This week has just been full of final packing and meetings for WYD.  Friday our group is meeting at church at 2:30pm where we'll attend Mass together and then after some goodbye's and final announcements we're off to the airport!!  We should be arriving in Sao Paulo, Brazil around 7:30am on Saturday...better make sure to bring some Melatonin to ensure getting some sleep!

For any of you local folks in the area, on Friday July 26th at 9:15am on 990AM our group of pilgrims will be doing a live interview from Rio with a local Catholic radio station...be sure to give a listen!!  The interview is the day after the official arrival of Pope Francis, so I'm sure we'll have some exciting stories to share of our pilgrimage so far :)

I'm almost finished with this really great book! It is the autobiography of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  Basically he was like the Catholic version of Billy Graham in the 1950/60's.  He actually had a live prime time TV show where he taught about the Catholic in a relevant, lasting way.  My favorite two chapters are where Sheen talks about the 'hour that made his day', and as a young priest he began the practice of starting each day with an hour of Eucharistic Adoration...I'm pretty sure he was able to do some much with his life because he gave the first part of his day to the Lord.  Another chapter is where he talks about making converts.  The cool thing is that he makes it not about hitting people over the head with a Bible, but speaking the truth in love.  Not to mention he has some awesome stories of being used by God to reach others. way. cool.
Give a read!

We had another tiff about chores this week. Argh.  I started up with my usual "We need more structure to have a well run home and a chore chart is a great idea for that" rant and Jim responded with his "No offense, I'm looking for a job and trying to build up a counseling practice and chores is the last thing on my mind...if it looks dirty then I'll clean it" rant.  It wasn't something huge, but for us it seems to be a recurring theme with us.  I know I've mentioned it before, and clearly we're still a work in progress with how chores go around our home.

I have a guest post coming out on July 23rd on Wifessionals  Kaitlyn has lots of great posts and all kinds of neat idea's to help new bloggers.  My guest post is some tips (but I am NOT claiming to be an expert by.any.means.) to have a Christ centered marriage.

Check back here over the next 11 days I am gone in Brazil, I have some great gal guest posting for me:)  I'll put in a good word for ya with Pope Francis! ;-)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

18 July 2013

Blogging brings friends together

One of the fun things about blogging is getting to meet and connect with different gals.  For me sometimes it has been hard with getting to connect with other bloggers: some ignore you or don't really take time to help encourage newish bloggers like me.  Recently I was talking with another friend who also is relatively new to the blogging scene and we both were sharing how we felt at times like there is this secret trick to blogging and really being able to develop real, genuine relationships with other gals.  We've both heard and read about it, but sometimes finding and experiencing it for ourselves is another thing.

Well on Monday afternoon, I was able to meet and have lunch with a great gal Stephanie at I Found Him Whom My Soul Loves.  We have both been following each others blogs for about 6 months or so, and knowing we both lived fairly close to each other, we had it in the works to hopefully meet each other in real life soon.  When we both stumbled onto to each others blogs, we realized that both of us have a lot in common.  We're both newlyweds, live fairly close to each other, and are really into our Catholic faith.  

We had an absolute blast!!  We met for lunch in the downtown Plymouth area and honestly it felt like I was just catching up with a girlfriend I have known for years.  At first I'll admit I was a wee bit nervous; I guess because when you follow someones blog you really do feel like you know them and their life, but if you get the chance to meet in real life you wonder if you'll get along as well as you imagine it in your head.  Lucky for me, that is how it was when I met Stephanie.  I honestly felt like I was catching with one of my close girl friends giggling and talking over any and everything.  We talked about everything and anything: from marriage and pregnancy to how to deal with your in-laws and just learning/sharing about each others lives.  It was so cute because after we met we e-mailed each other and said how we both came and just raved and talked our husband's ears off on how great a time us two gals had together; I think we could have stayed all afternoon and kept chatting away if we could of :)

Please keep Stephanie and her husband in your prayers as they get ready to meet their first baby (a little boy) at the beginning of August!!!  And be sure to head over to her neck of the blog-o-sphere and show her some love!  She's a really great gal and writes from her heart...hopefully you'll enjoy her as much as I do :)

Have any of you ever gotten a chance to meet one of your bloggy friends in real life??  What was your experience like?

17 July 2013

5 Favorites: the WYD edition!!! {vol. 9}

Five Favorites, hosted at MoxieWife.com

So on Friday I am leaving on a jet plane (insert the John Denver song here:) for Brazil.  I'm attending the largest gathering of young people across the globe to celebrate being Catholic with Pope Francis, learn about and grow in our faith, and party it up like rock stars with a couple million of my brothers and sisters in Christ.  My 3rd time going to WYD, I thought it would be fun to reflect on some of my favorite and helpful little tricks in my tool belt to survive and thrive while in Brazil.

Toilet seat covers and travel size toilet paper
So you might be thinking that this is an 'interesting' first option to list, but let me explain why these for me are some of the most essential items.  First of all public bathrooms in foreign countries are not always up to our normal American standards, not to mention at WYD there are. always. LONG. lines.  It is part of the charm and excitement of this pilgrimage, BUT any time you get a couple hundred folks using the same restrooms, things are bound to get 'messy' shall we say? 

The last WYD in Madrid in 2011 at the Vigil it was so. FREAKING. hot.  Like we're talking 110 degree's at 11am in the morning hot.  At the Vigil the bathrooms there, were the most inky stinky bathrooms, that lets just say without being too gross I was so glad to have my handy dandy potty covers and toilet paper.  Those things are like gold!! ;)

Extra large safety pins
No, I'm  not posting a picture of safety pins because you can imagine what they look like in your mind, lol ;-)
But for realz, these bad boy's are a great preventional tool for people who might want to pick pocket and/or rummage through your back pack.  I learned this trick from another seasoned Youth Minister/WYD group leader.  If someone was interested in going through your back pack, having all your zippers pinned together would be a big enough of frustration where they would just give up.  Its just another way to protect your belongings from strangers. 

Ear plugs are a MUST!!!
So one of the 'official' WYD things is you walk a certain amount to a vigil site for an overnight camp out under the stars, wake up the next morning for the closing Mass with the Pope, and then he announces where the next WYD will be and invites the whole world to attend. 
Well as a picky sleeper, I use ear plugs at home.  So you can imagine what it must be like to sleep outside with folks from all over the world...especially when some of them don't sleep and party all night long.  For example at a previous WYD, a group of Italians (no dis-respect to any Italian readers here!!) literally stayed up all.night.long singing and dancing and playing the guitar which normally I am all about merry making, but trying to sleep amidst that while thinking charitable towards these very happy people at 2 and 3am in the morning.  
So let's just say this group leader is packing more than 1 pair of ear plugs to last me the trip! ;-)

A leader flag & a crazy, identifiable way to know your group!!
Having a leader flag for the adult in front is a great, easy way for your group to have a visual in staying together.  Our group while in Brazil will have our male chaperone (my Daddy!!) as our leader in front with the group flag.  Our leader flag is an American flag our church group took WYD in Denver in 1993, with a neon green zebra print banana...our group's official color/logo!!
#TeamGreenZebra (as we have named ourselves) also have 4 bandanna's each: 1 to put on our checked, 1 for our back packs, and 2 to rotate to wear in our hair/on our person each day.
Just another way to ensure we can identify the members of our group and a simple way to stay together:)

Banana bags :)

These lovely BRIGHT yellow bags are simply wonderful to wrap up your back pack/stuff at the vigil site if it should rain..cause we're hard core and sleep outside in the rain if it should, and also if it rains you can slip your sleeping bag into the bag and then your/your bag stay dry.

I heard about these from another Youth Minister friend after my first WYD pilgrimage in 2008 to Sydney.  Since then, I have been sold on these things!

So there you have it top 5 things to bring if you or someone you know should ever go to World Youth Day...word is on the street, the next one likely will be in Krakow, Poland which for all folks who are Pope John Paul II fans is a big deal :)
Be sure to check out the other favorites of Hallie and Co. too!! :)

09 July 2013

5 Favorites {vol. 8}

Five Favorites, hosted at MoxieWife.com

Been awhile since a link-up with Hallie!  So here are some recent favorites in my life...


This new Matt Maher song!!  I first heard it when I took a group of teens to a Steubenville youth conference two weeks ago, and it has been on repeat in my mind/heart since then...take a listen!!
Since hearing it, I sometimes sing this to Jesus in my heart when I go to visit him in Eucharistic Adoration:)

A fabulous tip I learned from Pinterest!! Are you looking for longer, luscious eyelashes??  
Put on one coat of mascara.  Before putting on a second coat, softly apply baby powder on your eye lashes.  Apparently it makes them look longer, which I'm all over since I don't have very long lashes.  Yes, it can get a wee bit messy on your face and such, but I did notice a difference.  After a coat of baby powder, add a second coat of mascara...and there ya go ladies, do-it yourself long lashes!!

This book.

The last time I saw my spiritual director we talked about how I have been really struggling with forgiveness in some relationships in my life.  I have been spending time in prayer with the Lord and simply begging for the grace and humility to open my heart and mind to really understanding forgiveness in my life.  This book has been a helpful tool through the process for me too...

In 10 days, I'm leaving on a jet plane for Brazil to celebrate with a couple million of my Catholic family members.  Needless to say, I'm quite stoked:)  
So anyway, this link is bird's eye view of different area's of Rio (the link lets you choose different areas) including Christ the Redeemer....AND if that ain't enough to thrill you to pieces the background music is the fun n' fancy jazz music which makes you want to get up and dance!
For those who cannot travel physically to Rio, take this virtual tour of this beautiful city:)

This movie was one of my favorites when I was in high school.

Recently I came across it again, and over the July 4th weekend Jim and I watched it together.  It is a sweet romantic comedy with funny memorable quotes throughout the movie.  If you and your sweetheart need a new movie to check out, I would highly recommend this one! :)

04 July 2013

7 Quick Takes {vol. 14}

The youth conference Jim and I took teens to last weekend was freaking awesome, we all had a cramazing time!  I think the best part of my job is getting to watch teens personally encounter Jesus...nothing really quite compares to hearing them witness how He ministers to them and speaks to their hearts!  We had really good small group sharing, good talks with individual teens throughout the weekend, and had pretty much the best car ride home EVER from a youth ministry event. Not. kidding.  I have never laughed so hard or for such a long amount of time.  I kept telling the teens as the driver they were killing from all the good fun silliness...if I ever hear a panda joke again I may just loose it.  Great weekend, but exhausting...Jim and I are spending this weekend quiet at home and relaxing:)

Typically shouldn't post pictures of teens...please don't sue me:)

Friday is exactly 14 days until we leave for WYD in Rio!!! I'm so flipping excited, but still have to pack and organize some final things!  I'm hoping to start and mostly finish packing this weekend so I can get that out of the way.  If you could say some prayers for me in the next two weeks in just getting the final preparations done and also for our upcoming trip I would much appreciate it!!! :)

On Thursday, my sister Annie and I had dinner together with a friend.  We went to this tasty place in downtown Dearborn and had the most adorable waiter with the most charming Australian accent ever.  He referred to us all as "madame" and when we left said "you ladies be careful out there tonight!"...we all felt like silly school girl's giggling every time he said something to us with his accent...what is it about an accent that women just love??  After a quick stop for some frozen yogurt, we parted ways and headed home.  Yay girl time!

Earlier this week, I wrote a post on learning to listen in marriage.  This is an area where we (probably more so me) have much to learn still.  Two days ago, we got into another fight regarding the lack of listening.  Jim felt like I was putting greater priority on getting chores done, instead of being there for him emotionally when he needed me.  Looking back I know I was wrong and handled the situation pretty poorly.  I out doing chores and sticking to my schedule above his need for emotional intimacy, and it blew up in my face.  It is just hard for me to balance a desire to have structure/balance/a good routine with keeping an orderly home and being there for him.  That probably sounds awful, I get it.  I do want want to be a good wife and be there for my husband, I really do!  But it drives me nuts that there is no structure for keeping the house maintained, and being that I am married to a man who was not taught these things and had parents who did everything for him growing up.  It's just hard for me to let go of the control sometimes, and re-adjust my plans...

I'm looking to switch cell phone providers.  I have an iPhone 4 and am on the Verizon plan but my monthly bill is pricey and I'm looking to find something more affordable...any of you that have tips and/or cell phone provider suggestions, I'm all ears!!!

Being that I will be in Rio from July 19-30, I'm thinking of having a couple of gals write guest posts while I'm away.  If any of you are interested, feel free to send me a personal message!! :)
Would love to have ya!!

Saturday night we are doing a double date with Jim's sister and her boyfriend.  Looking forward to it especially since we don't know the bf that well and want to make an effort to get to know him better.  Sunday we maybe taking a day trip with my family to celebrate my sister's fiance birthday.  He never grew up with a birthday celebration and so my sister and parents want to do something extra special for him...plans are kinda up in there right now, so we'll see what is going on!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

01 July 2013

I always thought I was a good listener...

...and then I got married.

When people would ask you to recall what your strengths were I would almost always think to myself, "Yeah, I'm a pretty good listener...I mean I haven't been getting complaints that I'm not."  People have affirmed me that when they talk to me they feel that they have been heard and understood.  Whether it is a close friend who just needs a shoulder to cry on because of family drama or a teen going through a difficult situation at church, I really value helping people; and one of the best ways is by just being there to listen.

So, yeah. Jim and I get married.  And very recently, I have realized that somehow all those 'good' listening skills I do a fairly decent job with other people in my professional and personal life, somehow they don't always translate so well into one of the most important relationships in life: my marriage.

A few Sunday's ago we were getting ready to go to an evening Mass.  As we were getting ready, we started going at it with snippy comments and attitudes galore, which then led to the silent treatment.  Yup, we're 'that' mature newlywed couple.  I know; not really the best way to be disposed to the graces of all things awesome which is holy Mass.  It was not good.
We returned home in silence and then proceeded to begin up again with snippy, unkind comments.  Jim got fed up with me and made dinner and went to watch TV.  I was also not thinking nice things towards the husband so I decided to just head to bed; even though deep down I know nothing is quite worse than going to bed angry.  After 30ish minutes of tossing and turning, I grabbed my blankie (yes I still sleep with the blankie my Mom crocheted me) and walked out and asked if we could talk.

I asked Jim how he was feeling.  He honestly started telling me how felt so frustrated that it feels like sometimes I don't listen to him well; that more often than not, I'm interrupting him and offering my two sense about what I think/how the situation should be handled.  He said he felt bad he snapped at me, but that sometimes he just feels like he is not being heard by me. Ouch. BIG. ouch.
Me asking him that question led to a very late night of talking but also some really fruitful conversation on the importance of how we both need each other to be good listeners for the other.  I apologized and admitted that I was the one at fault in this particular situation (I hate when I have to do that...working on humility too ;-).

One thing we did as an exercise to really take something away from this unpleasant Sunday evening of tense-ness was to practice a little reflective listening.  When Jim suggested it, at first I thought it was some his social work mumbo jumbo and that he was trying to analyze me.  But when he started expressing his frustration, reflecting back what he was saying did two really cool things: 1) It really forced me to listen to his feelings and where he was at because I knew I had to say something back to show I openly heard him and 2) It really made Jim felt like he was being being heard, which then helped me see more where he was coming from.  And then after he felt like I really heard and listened he asked me how I was feeling on a particular situation, which then gave me the opportunity to be open and share where I was at; then allowing him to do the same thing go me.  Know of course I am not trying to suggest couples go through this long process to properly listen to each other or that we even are doing this without flaw since my recent "marriage aha!" moment BUT it really was good for us because still being new to this whole marriage thing communication is where one or both of us often have a tendency to miss an opportunity to be selfless and patient, and instead flip the flip out and just make a not enjoyable situation in our home.  It is very easy for me to criticize Jim and at the drop of the hat point out where he is not being the good listener I need him to be for me, but when it comes to admitting my faults...sometimes that takes me a bit longer to come around.

Since we did this I have been thinking more about the ways we communicate as husband and wife, and where specifically are my weaknesses in being a good listener in our relationship.

1.  I am seeing how quick I am to right away criticize my husband.  This past weekend we both took teens from the church to a rocking awesome youth conference.  We were gone from early Friday morning to late Sunday evening.  I was out doing errands today to come home and find Jim passed out on the couch still recovering from the weekend exhaustion.  Instantly I got frustrated and ticked off that the house was still a mess and he hadn't unpacked; thankfully I didn't become a raging menace or start yelling, but the reason I mention this is because the first thing I did when I came home was mentally criticize what he didn't do.  Sometimes Jim has expressed that he has felt like I only value what/how much he is able to get done around the house/chores/errands in a given day.  And I think in a way he is right.  I am the type that thrives on to-do lists, order, schedule, and when things don't go "my way" sometimes I respond in less than stellar ways.  I am growing more aware of this as a weakness in me, and I truly don't want Jim to feel I only value how much he cleans or does laundry.

2.  I am starting to realize how MUCH I interrupt the poor guy way too often.  Since really having more intentional conversations about how we communicate (or don't) as a couple, I am realizing how easily and often I have the tendency to interrupt Jim in little and big ways.  It's something little, but it can make a not so great difference in a big way...I know when I'm interrupted I don't like it, so why do it to him??? I think one reason is I am more quick to offer my 2 cents to a situation than letting him finish and really hearing him.  Once I have started paying attention more to this, I have seen how much I do it...work.in.progress.

3. I realize I need to make sure I am daily giving my husband affirmations and saying kind things that lift him up.  I think one reason I tend to be more critical of him is because I am so hard.critical.judgmental of myself that sometimes it spills over into the most intimate relationships in life like our marriage; no that is not an excuse, but I think it is a contributing factor at times.  I don't always love myself well on the inside and set very high and sometimes unrealistic expectations on myself, which is perhaps a reason that Jim feels like I expect so much from him sometimes. 
One of the lines in the job description of the wifely life, is to work to build up and encourage my husband...not tear him down by being critical or too harsh in words/attitude.  I really want to help make our home together a happy, joyful place and I am starting to see how sometimes my critical eye of things can leave him feeling torn down and not good enough.

4.  As much as I hated when Jim suggested we do that reflective listening exercise and I made fun of it in my head, it really was a good thing for us.  No, I am not saying every time we have a disagreement we wipe out our reflective listening tool box, but perhaps if we both strive to more intentionally and honestly listen to each other that could make a difference when we start to disagree on something.  Being able to show your spouse that you really understood and heard them is important, and I'm glad I am starting to realize that at the beginning of the game instead of 10 or 15 years down the road.

Recently in my small group, we talked about what what it means to be a Proverbs 31 woman in the modern world; what does that look like and how do we as women find that rhythm and balance amid the business of our lives.  As I have been thinking about how I do and don't always do listening well, I think of some of the words in the book of Proverbs: "She opens her mouth in wisdom, kindly instruction is on her tongue..." Marriage really purifies a person, and right now I'm being purified in ways as I think about and reflect on how the ways I need to work on being less critical and a more open listener.

I guess that is one of the hard/funny things about marriage...yes it's a never ending slumber party with the person you love and cherish, but then you also have to deal when with when your beloved brings to your attention your own faults and shot comings.  Slowly and surely, I am getting better at accepting that from my husband and being more humble to admit and be honest with myself about it too.

What are things any of you married ladies do to strive to be a better listener in your relationship with your husband?  What are some the lessons you have learned along the way?

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