Created for Connection

createdforconnection

This past weekend, the family drove down to one of the biggest malls in our state.  We spent the day shopping, met up with some new friends, and had an amazing lunch.  Each family member came home with decent haul of goodies, my absolute favorite take home was from the candy store.  I was able to fill up a ziplock style bag with my own custom blend of Jelly Belly jelly beans.  Why is this such a big deal?

  1.  I hate all jelly beans other than Jelly Belly.
  2.  Within the Jelly Belly menu, I have just a few that actually like.
  3.  When I buy a bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans, I end up eating like 10 beans and giving the rest to the kids.

Being able to fill up a bag full of my favorite, hard to find, flavors brought me joy.  I didn’t even care how much it was going to cost.  FILL HER UP!  I should also confess that thanks to this insane election day, I pretty much finished off the bag already.  Sigh.

Many years ago, I think my husband would have had a fit about me spending so much on “jelly beans”.  I’m sure there would have been a few Dave Ramsey quotes thrown at me.  No, I don’t NEED a custom filled bag of jelly beans in the flavor of buttered popcorn.  However, we have also learned over the years that my husband doesn’t NEED to understand why I desire something.  He just needs to respect the fact that I do want it.  Just like I don’t NEED to understand why he likes certain television shows that I don’t enjoy.

We are different people, God didn’t make us a duplicates of each other in different gender form.  We are very, VERY, different.  Yet, we always find ways to connect with one another.  We recognized that it was important for us as a couple to find things we enjoyed mutually.  This gave us something to talk about, to connect over.  It is very easy when you have kids to connect over parenting, but one day those children move out.  When that happens, then what?  What will you talk about?  What will you do together, when your lives no longer center on your children and their activities and events?

It is imperative that as a couple we stay connected, and we were created for connection.  This is why God states from the beginning that it was not good for man to be alone, and so from his rib a woman was fashioned to be his helpmeet.  God gave man a companion in woman, and they did life together.  They connected over their responsibilities, they connected in emotional relationship, and they connected physically.  Connection is important, and when we can recognize that connection is important between US… we also see how important it is that we ware connected to God.

Once, I was scrolling through my husband’s notes app on his phone.  He was in need of information from one of his task lists.  I happened upon a list that my husband was keeping in his phone on ways he could be a better husband.  Unbeknownst to my husband, around this same time I working through a women’s study on how I could better meet his needs.  Our connection is so important to the both of us, we are seeking it out independently as well as together. 

This all brings me to the book, “Created for Connection” by Dr. Sue Johnson.  What I really enjoy about this book is that it isn’t passive.  Sometimes, you pick up a book on marriage… read (or speed read) you way through it.  You feel a bit better or more hopeful, or a sting of conviction that you could do a better job… but life moves on at it’s normal pace.  Dr. Johnson makes you stop and actually participate in the process.  Taking inventory and putting principles in to practice as you move along, brings an active element toward making real change in your relationship (or taking a great relationship and making it even greater!). 

You can read the book and do the work on your own, or go through it as a couple (I recommend the latter).   Dr. Johnson uses her experience as a couples therapist as well as the Scriptures to walk us through what she calls the “seven conversations” that will lead to a lifetime of love.  This is a take your time book, that will pay off in dividends if you are genuine about connect on a deeper level with your spouse … and then ultimately God.

 

Couples Valentines Day Party

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I love a good party, a time to fellowship with friends or family.  If you are looking for something special to do with your small group, bible study group, or even just your close group of friends (or relatives), consider hosting a small Valentines Party!

If you are on a budget this can seem like a daunting task, but I assure you that there are ways to make it happen even on small budget.    This year won’t be our first party, and what I have learned is to start small and build each year.  To begin this year’s planning process, I start with an inventory of what I already have.  Figure out what I need to buy, and finally I consider what things I would like to add to our inventory.

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Our first party consisted of chairs scattered about, a fun game, and desserts.  We started the party a bit later in the evening, allowing the couples to head out for a nice dinner and join us for dessert a little later.  This year, we’ve planned a full meal.  This meant I was going to need more table setting decor and less room decor.

In order to keep the decorations & supplies affordable I shop at:

  • The Dollar Tree
  • Target (in the $1-$3 bins)
  • Oriental Trading

Also, because I know we will have future parties, I like to shop after Valentines Day for upcoming year’s decor additions.

To keep my sanity in order, when it comes to the food:

  • Some items are homemade
  • Some items are store bought & altered
  • Some items are purchased from local bakeries and restaurants.

Another option is to find a local caterer who will handle all the food preparation for you, and it isn’t as expensive as you would think.  If you have a mom friend who loves to cook (and is great at it), you could hire her to do the catering too.  This can turn into a blessing for the both of you.

I don’t like to plan a party that makes me crazy, I like to plan a party I can enjoy from beginning to end.

This year, I also partnered with Family Christian in order to showcase some of their great Valentines Day related items.

I even scored a GREAT deal when I found a slightly banged up lighted sign from Christmas, which actually fit our party decor!

A Good Party Starts with a Great Invitation

Since our party is for couples, I was only sending 1 invitation for every 2 physical guests.  I decided that it made more sense to hand make an invitation versus order something printed online.

I printed the party invitation on white paper, in red ink.  At Target, I purchased a book of stickers, 1 package of square doilies, and a package of cards with matching envelopes.  I used a glue stick and stamps I already had on hand.  For just $3.00 in supplies, I was able to hand craft eight invitations.

A Good Party Captures Memories

At our first party, I built a “Kissing Booth” and put together a few photo props.  At one point in the evening we took several photos of each couple.  After the party, I took those photos and made photo strips out of them (like you would receive in a photo booth in a mall or theme park).  This year I, I decided to go with a theme more akin to a Valentines Dance.    I purchased props from The Dollar Tree, Target, and even made a large polaroid frame by hand.  Oriental Trading had inexpensive silver foil drapes and an awesome valentines border.  I paired this with strung felt hearts I had on hand from a previous party. 

A Good Party Is a Lot of Fun

Besides capturing memories with the photo booth, we also have a lot of fun by playing games.  A group favorite is the not so newly wed game, where we all answer questions about our spouses.  Dry erase boards and markers can be purchased at most Dollar Tree stores.   I found a great set of cards with questions at Home Goods.  This year I added in Couples Mad Libs (I loved playing these as a kid), which will be scattered about our dining table to use throughout the evening.  I’m also working on a Jenga Truth or Dare Game I found on Pinterest!  If you are going to have games, you must have prizes.  I drove to a nearby Family Christian store and picked up a few home decor items and a set of Mr. & Mrs. Coffee Mugs.  We also have a couples gift exchange!  I found the cute gift bags at the Dollar Tree. 

A Good Party Has Good Food

With the internet we have access to websites that can help us plan out a great menu.  This year I am planning a Pear and Asiago Salad, Chicken and Artichoke Pasta with Grilled Asparagus, Fresh Bread, and for dessert Red Velvet Cake.  In previous years, I have leaned toward desserts only which included cupcakes, cheesecake, chocolate covered pretzels, and even cake pops.  Websites like Pinterest make it a lot easier to not only find recipes, but also themed food ideas too.  You can even find a full planning page on how to throw your own party from start to finish.  I like to mix it up, coming up with an idea that is totally my own.

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Since this year we decided to have a sit down meal, instead of desserts or finger foods, table decor was added to our supplies this year.   Many components of the decor were diy projects that used inexpensive items like doilies, ribbons, and candles with holders from the dollar tree.  I did invest in a few nicer silk peony flowers, I wanted to ensure they would last through the years.  We added in faux flower petals, table scatter, and a cute runner from Target.  But, my absolute favorite are the milk bottles!  Not only are they cute and perfect for holding our Love Potion Punch, but when we dual purposed them as place cards!

I paired up decorative Valentines paper plates, which are more than enough for the salad with a heartier piece of china for the main dish.  Cute napkins, matching plastic ware for utensils, and disposable cups make for easy clean up.

A Good Party Doesn’t End

Predating our Valentines Day party, our good friends have a Christmas Party each year.  Truth is, we all enjoy spending time together but it gets hard with kids and life in general.  That was when the Valentines Party was born, we didn’t want the party to end.  At the end of the Christmas Party our hosts always sent us home with a great little favor bag.  We decided to do the same.  Our favor bags are little mini date night bags, something the couple can use at home to keep the romance going.

The gift bags and tags are from Target, as well as the candies and the tropical scented candles.  I ordered some mini bath salts from one of my favorite Bath and Body companies, Jordan Essentials.  As a fan of the show Shark Tank, I remembered the episode with the Kisstixx (two lip balms, one for him and one for her, that compliment each other).   From Home Goods, I added in the card game for couples, and finally added a CD of long songs from the local Family Christian store.

I must admit, most favor bags are not quite as generous.  When Family Christian was looking for a  way to promote their Valentines products, and I had already been working with them for book reviews, I jumped at the chance!  So, a big thanks to Family Christian for providing the prizes and CDs for the favor bags! 

I have a big heart for couples continue to build their relationships over time, we need to support strong and health marriages.   To give back to other couples, just as others have blessed us is a great thing. 

Official Family Christian Blogger

#Write31Days Challenge – Post 30 – These Three Things

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As a stay at home mom, I felt like my only job was to keep the house immaculate & tend to the kids.  It was the least I could do for the husband who worked all day to provide.  Yet, it was something I failed at all of the time.  I would spend hours organizing a closet, tidying up one space or another, all while trying to take care of my kids.  In the days when the babies would take several naps in the course of the day, it was easier.  When they became mobile it was trying to brush your teeth with oreo cookies.

And despite my best efforts, it seemed like my husband was never happy.  This created a spirit of resentment in my heart, because I felt like I couldn’t ever do enough to please him.  He would complain about simple things while totally disregarding all the work that I had accomplished.  It was absolutely infuriating to me.

One day, I was trying to figure out a more effective cleaning plan for the house.  I had written down a list of every task in the house, categorizing them into daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal chores.  For whatever reason, that day, I decided to ask my husband for his input.  I wanted to know what was most important to him in regards to the general state of the house.

I was shocked to find out that I had been wasting time working on “projects” that meant absolutely nothing to him, and I was skipping over the things that mattered most.   It wasn’t even an issue of “cleaning” either.  I was angry with my husband all this time for disregarding my work.  The truth was, we simply didn’t have clear communication about the subject. I assumed what a clean house would look like, and he had his own assumptions.

For example, something that many of us mothers will do, I would use the foyer area as a staging zone.  I would keep my purse, the diaper bag, stroller, etc  by the front door.  It was where I needed it, and it wasn’t strewn about.  As I began to volunteer at church for various things, I would often stage by the front door the things I would need to bring with me.  Neat and tidy, but yet all in the foyer area so that I would have everything ready to go.

To my husband, this was cluttered.  When coming home from a long day at work, the last thing he wanted to do was to maneuver around my staging area.

That makes total sense.  Yet, he had never expressed that to me.  The words he chose were ones that made me feel as if I wasn’t doing a good job cleaning.  Simple word choice made a huge difference.  At the same time, we had been married for many years… two children born… before I would even ask him about it.

He didn’t care if I vacuumed daily.  He liked the counter clear, so he could put his stuff away.  I was spending time organizing closets, and he would have preferred something entirely different.

Communication in marriage is HUGE and it shouldn’t be just over the big things.  I believe most of our biggest squabbles come from poor communication.

The second thing I assumed was that once I knew this about his preferences, that they wouldn’t change.  Many years passed by of my doing the same things, we moved into our current home.  It never really dawned on me that a new home might result in a change in his preferences.  It never dawned on me that as his job would change, that it would influence his perspective on what made his home comfortable.

Over time, I noticed he was complaining again, but that I had been keeping up on the things that mattered to him.  That would start breeding a familiar resentment.  This time I caught it, and we were able to communicate sooner.  It was through our conversations that I realized that his needs or priorities had changed.  What he really would have appreciated for that relaxed at home feeling had changed.

The foyer was no longer an issue for him.  Perhaps, because it is now a habit for the whole family… it’s never a mess or crowded.  It could also be that where he retreats as soon as he comes home from work has changed.   Before, he would put his stuff in the closet by the front door.  In our new home, he took it all the way to the bedroom.  Simple things like keeping the bedroom chair clear, so that he could have a place to sit and take his boots off … that was a blessing to him.   After working all day in environments he wasn’t always thrilled about, something as simple as having fresh clean towels and a clean pair of socks to change into were

One of the things I have always encouraged new wives to do, is to ask their husband what their expectations are of her (and vice versa).  In fact, it is better to do this BEFORE you get married.   Seventeen years later, I know that this is not a one time deal but an ongoing process.  I recommended revisiting it every time there is a major shift in the family (new child, quitting job to stay home, moving to a new house, etc).  If those things are staying pretty much status quo, make a point then to revisit the topic every 3-5 years.  Don’t assume things won’t change for him, or for you.

These Three Things

Begin by writing down everything that is a chore or task that must get done, starting with your daily duties.  Sit down with each other, and put a star next to the three things that are the MOST IMPORTANT (chores/tasks) to each of you.   These are the three big deal items that you like to have done daily/regularly that make you feel relaxed and comfortable in your home.  You now have a daily task list of just six things that are your MUST do items for the day, or at least on a regular basis.

Go through this list and talk about each item, do you LOVE this chore… or do you HATE it.  What about your spouse?   For example, my husband finds sweeping cathartic.   I actually like cleaning off and wiping down tables.  I hate sweeping and mopping, because as a mom… I know that it is going to be dirty with in seconds of the kids coming home.

This simple task will help you identify what is important to each other.  These six things need to become the priority in your daily to-do list, at the same time you are also identifying WHO will complete the task.  If you hate it, but your husband loves it… then let him do it!  And if you love doing it (or even don’t mind)…  then take that one for yourself.

Both hate it?  Take turns.  Both love it?  Do it together.

After you have established your daily must do list, go through the rest of your list of chores/tasks.   Skip choosing priorities, and instead identify your love or hate for the chore.  Put a heart next to what you love, and an X next to the chores you just hate doing.  If you don’t care, leave it blank.

Then begin to evenly distribute those chores between the two of you.  If you are both working, this is equitable. If one of you is staying home with kids, the load should accommodate for their schedule.  We can’t expect our spouse to accomplish a task that can only be done during their working hours.  The list may not be evenly split in the end, but it will still be a fair list.

The great news about this process?  As you have kids, you can renegotiate the distribution as they reach milestone ages where chores become age appropriate.

It is a great process to start the communication between spouses about expectations, eliminating assumptions.   When I know what is important to my spouse, that becomes my priority.  The rest can wait.

Some other things to consider, outside of household chores include:

  • Repair/ Maintenance Appointments for the Car (If you hate dealing with the mechanics, sales people, etc. this could be a great one to hand off to your spouse.)
  • Attendance to Family Events (You could find that Easter is more important to his family, and Christmas is more important to yours.  This info eliminates trying to fit everyone in on a single day.)
  • Planning Vacations (Perhaps you are limited to one vacation per year, list your three bucket list destinations, and your spouse does the same. Alternate year to year on the destination from that list.)
  • Major Purchases/Decisions (When buying a home, selecting a school, etc. you can each list the three things that are most important to you.  Use that list as your buying guide or litmus for making the decision against.)

These are just a few other ways the “Three Things” process can help you communicate better with your spouse. Clear communication of clear expectations puts everyone on the same page, dissolves assumptions, and sets any couple up for success.

#Write31Days – Post 3 – Tackling the Taboo

25questions5For too long we have avoided really talking about sex in the church.  And, I’m not talking about the youth group.  I am talking about a Sunday morning sermon (or series) that really dives into the topic.  It’s taboo. 

Some churches may find it to be inappropriate to talk about.  Or, that the people in their church do not need to address the subject.  They may even feel like it isn’t that big of a problem in the first place to spend time on the question.

Then we wonder why we have more people (not just teens) having sex without marriage.  We stand firm and address the topic of abortion, without ever addressing the subject that brings a person to the abortion clinic in the first place.  Sex.

In a time when we have children growing up in single parent homes…

In a time when films and television have stopped implying and now show sex scenes…

When songs on the radio have explicit lyrics and music videos are graphic…

When you can’t even pass through the check out line at the grocery store without knowing about other people’s sex lives…

In a time when we have immediate access to any type of pornography, at the click of a button…

IS IT NO WONDER THAT OUR COMMUNITY IS CONFUSED!

As a child of divorce, my mother has been single the majority of my life.  My grand parents were separated.  I literally had no example of what a solid Christian Marriage looked like.  I had no concept of what a healthy sex life looked like in the confines of that marriage.  It’s something that has had a direct impact on my own marriage.  I am navigating unfamiliar waters.  What I learned about marriage, was what I saw on TV from the old generation shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Cosby Show.  Ask yourself, for kids today… what do the TV shows and movies they watch tell them about the reality of a healthy sex life in the confines of marriage?   Because, I can assure you if they are not seeing it modeled in their home… movies and TV become their reference material.

In addition we spend so much time telling teens not to, shaming sex before marriage… that when they enter into marriage they have no clue what is permissible within their marriage.  We have presented a polarization of sex to our kids and young adults that is hard to navigate.  There is so much sexual dysfunction in our world, and in the church, that we don’t know where to even begin.  If our Pastors are not answering the questions, we turn to ….  ?

Authentic Intimacy  is a ministry that has answered the call.  With their previous publication they have stepped right into the ring with the subject others are trying avoid.  This week their newest book, 25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, releases and I’ve had the opportunity to get a sneak peak.

To book covers questions like:

Can I Be Single and Sexual?

Is It Wrong to Like Sex?

Why do Guys Care So Much About Sex?

How Do I Get Past My Shame?

It also addresses porn, masturbation, homosexuality, trust after betrayal, and so much more.  These are the questions that Dr. Juli Slattery gets asked the most often by women all over the world.  They are questions we all have or have had.

For those of us who are parents, this gives an insight into the questions that are rolling around the minds of our teens and young adults.  Questions they may be afraid to ask us, or we may be afaid to bring up.

With so much sexual dysfunction in the world, we can’t ignore the topic anymore.  We need to break down the walls, stop avoiding the subject, and really dig into what healthy sexuality is from a biblical perspective.

Today, author Dr. Juli’s podcast Java with Juli  has a great introduction to the what and why behind the book, and some other incentives you will not want to miss out on, just click the link below:

25 Questions Book with Dr. Juli Slattery

Authentic Intimacy will also be in Port Saint Lucie Florida, January 30th for a special one day conference!   Just click on the photo for more information!!!

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25 Questions About Sex – A Long Overdue Book.

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I am really, really excited about this book.

The subject of sex is still pretty taboo in most churches.  Sure, it might be addressed by the youth Pastor… who reminds our kids NOT to do it yet.  It may even be addressed occasionally during a Women’s Conference or brunch,  where we are reminded we shouldn’t use it as a weapon.  Or, we may be instructed on how to get our grove back after kids.

But, is that really all we need to know?

NO!

There is so very much more, but we might be afraid to ask our Pastors.

They may be intimidated (or embarrassed) to bring it up on their own.

This leaves women (who make up 55-65% of our church bodies) in the dark about what a healthy sexual relationship is like, within the confines of a godly marriage.

Dr. Juli Slattery is going to dig right into 25 Questions that may be hard to ask, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking about them.

I am excited to be a part of a team of women who are going to be exploring this book, sharing our thoughts about it, and launching this book into the hands of women across the globe.

So, check back in soon… as we start this journey together.

“Our sexual questions shouldn’t be relegated to dark rooms and lonely nights. They need to be spoken and explored, holding up the Word of God as the standard of truth.”

#25QuestionsBook