5 Years of Marriage and the 5 Things that Helped the Most

It's funny how differently 5 years can look--June 1, 2013 Jordan and I were celebrating our nuptials in the barn on my family's farm, and 5 years later, Jordan was taking care of Luke and I when we were basically bed-ridden for days with a terrible stomach virus. Too many more details could be added that we'd all laugh about, but I'll save you those! Basically, he's the best nurse ever and sure took care of us! ;-) Eh, but I'd say we celebrated 5 years pretty hard when we made our trip to Canada last month!

Anyway, I've been dragging my feel posting this, you guys. CLEARLY, I've been dragging them for over a month now (our anny was June 1). I kept wanting to either 1) feel like Jordan and I were in this perfect place in our marriage to be able to share (lies, lies) or 2) be so careful with my words to make it sound like we weren't perfect (the irony??).

So, I think we all know that nobody's marriage is perfect, even if social media can give it the looks of that at times. Understood? Nod your heads: yes, Masta. Ain't nobody perfect 'round here. But, like us, I'm sure there are plenty of people who have hit some hard bumps and can offer some advice. 

Hi, [insert Jordan and Lindsay]

Proceeding...

Honestly, I was really excited about our 5 year anniversary. That's a solid number. It feels good. And I think it feels good to feel in a good place. You know what I mean? And I say that, because our marriage, or connectedness, just took a pretty good hit when we moved to Dallas, started new jobs, bought a fixer upper, got pregnant, etc. etc. We clearly couldn't handle all of the transition and tried so many things to figure out how to find our "groove" back. 

Again with 5 years of marriage in the books, we've been married long enough to ride out the honeymoon phase and feel some pretty hard knocks like every marriage is going to feel. Yes, some are bumpier than others, but we're all going to come upon these. We're all human which makes us susceptible to falling short...often

Everyone. Yes, you. 

Which brings me to these 5 things that Jordan and I both agreed, looking back, helped us. They really blessed us, made us stronger and helped us feel the most connected and loved. I don't even want to call them pieces of advice, because I know there's still so much to learn, but guys, we are tangoing quite well with all of these in this season, and I'd love nothing more than for other marriages to feel the positivity and benefits from them, as well. 

--or honestly, I'd love nothing more for couples to pour into their marriages and tend to them. And to know it's not silly. Even when things are feeling smooth. 

But first, I've got to say that I am super crazy proud of and grateful for my man. He somehow gets cuter and wiser as the years go by, and I get to benefit from both of those! But truly, God knew what he was doing by giving me Jordan's calm, collected and reasonable personality. I need the way he weighs out situations with me, helps guide me and calls me out. I need the way he makes the hard things lighthearted and the good things even better. I need the way he is simply just Jordan. 

I'm so grateful for these nuggets below, because we ain't stoppin' here y'all! I know that a strong marriage is worth fighting for, because it's the foundation and environment we're creating for the littles that will be carrying on our legacy of love and loving others. This is what fuels the fire in much of what I do in my business and own home. So with that, I hope to let you know that all of the below are, like, way cool. 

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5 Things that Helped the Most 

1. Counseling

I honestly can't scream this to the mountains enough, and I hope to share more posts on it in the future to debunk it's taboo.  From the time we went through premarital counseling, Jordan and I both agreed that we'd never turn down counseling if the other (or someone else) felt it helpful. So when we both agreed that we just couldn't quite get ahold of everything we were juggling in life, lacked connectedness because of it and new that marriage hadn't always felt this way, we agreed that professional guidance would help. 

And let me just say that after the first session, Jordan looked at me and said, "I can understand now how anybody could benefit from counseling". And every time we left counseling, we left feeling hopeful, having more guidance, clarity and understanding of each other. We seriously learned so much, and it was exactly what we needed in that season. We literally communicate differently and better now and took away huge gains. Will we ever go back? Absolutely.

 So guys, anybody can go. The house doesn't always have to be burning down. Go

Where do you stand? Are you open to counseling? Cringe because you have a stigma behind it? Have benefitted from it?

2. Prioritizing self-care/individual time

One thing we actually took away from counseling was the importance of "self care". This is a tricky thing to master when you're 1) used to being busy or 2) parents. Our counselor really educated us on the importance of doing this, helped us figure out what we both individually needed (Jordan's time is different than mine, because he's an introvert, and I'm an extrovert). She helped us figure out how to communicate our needs before communication breakdowns occurred or...ish hit the fan, rather. 

This helped the way we parented, saw our time with one another and were simply just intentional with our time. 

What does "self care" look like to you? 

3. Traveling

Yes, lawd YES. When we first got married, traveling looked like driving 1.5 hours to my aunt and uncle's cabin in Ruidoso (simple, free, close). There's something to be said about making intentional (sometimes financially creative) time to getting away and trying something new together. There's a sweet intimacy and adventure linked to it that makes it precious. 

I'm all about traveling, and some of our best memories together have been doing just this. Ironically enough, it has also served as one of our sources of frustration in marriage: deciding upon timing, finances, expectations, etc. Funny (not funny) how that happens, right?

What kind of travels could you both enjoy together?

4. Praying for your loved one

While I wish I could say that I was more consistent about doing this, Jordan and I both agree that in the times we have been intentional about praying for one another and WITH one another, our marriage has felt stronger. I recently started a prayer journal specifically for Jordan, and it's shifted my mindset in the sweetest of ways--alleviating frustrations, bringing me peace and releasing the control from my hands.

Where is your prayer life, for and with your loved one?

5. Dating your loved one

I'm such a big advocate for dating. I, like, WISH somebody had been blunt before Jordan and I got married and told us to "set weekly date nights". JUST DO IT. Can I be that person for you? 

Unfortunately, we weren't intentional about doing this earlier in our marriage, dating every so often (which worked at the time), that when Luke was born, we were all sorts of jumbled around [insert counseling around this time haha]. Since then, I've heard people say to guard your weekly date, be intentional about planning it at the beginning of the week and look forward to it. Need help organizing and coming up with date ideas? Lemme help: 19 dates HERE!).

I even had someone suggest that when they first started weekly dates several years into their marriage, it felt awkward. She went on to say that they stayed persistent keeping them on their schedule until it became something that they both looked forward to and guarded each week. Oh, I just LOVED this wisdom and vulnerability from them. I hope we can all get there too. 

Things to thing about:

1. Define your goal for dating. What's the purpose? Connectedness? Growth? Fun?

2. Define what a "date" is for you. Is it only outside of your house or does Netflix at home (without your phone) count, as well? Does it count if it's with another couple?

3. Dating will look vary in different seasons. What you're able to do before kids will look differently than with kids, will look differently than with 2-3 kids in multiple sports. 

4. Determine your ideal for babysitting? Do you want to swap dates with another family? Pay for a sitter? Ask grammy and grandpa?

5. Determine if there topics you DO or DON'T want to come up when on dates. NOT going to talk about work? DO want to talk about what's on your heart?

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So while it may be difficult for you to see how passionate I am about thriving love stories [insert sarcasm], I hope that something in this has inspired you, equips you or moves you to share with somebody you love.

Jordan and I are not perfect, and that equips us to share our take-aways with you, hoping that you too can put the nitty, gritty, adventure-seeking, romantic, silly, thrilling time in to your love story. 

Marriage Mondays | #19beforenineteen

A few months ago, I started dating my husband again. Go ahead, reread that. ;-) We somehow managed to forget the importance of being intentional about dating when we had our biggest life changes: graduated college, moved states, lived with Jordan's parents (huge blessing), bought our first home (and fixer upper) and had our sweet Lucas Brent--all within 1.5 years. Um. WHAT. Yeah, honestly, just reading that to myself, I'm like, dang girl--extend some grace. And I have! Life threw a lot at us. So many blessings, yes. Absolutely. But difficulty adjusting? Absolutely. For the first time in the past 2.5 years, life is starting to feel a little more rhythmic. 

And I like it. 

I honestly wish that somebody had just boldly told us when we were engaged, "hey, make it a priority to date your spouse--weekly." 

Weekly. That's bold. 

Because at that point, I don't know that I would've doubted 1) the importance of it and 2) how realistic that was. And I mean that, at the time, I wouldn't have blown off that advice and thought it wasn't possible. Like, many of you are probably reading this and thinking, "oh, but that's quite impossible; you don't know my situation". 

And I don't want to discount that.  I totally want to acknowledge that I don't know your story, BUT I do know the importance dating your spouse is and how it can drastically change your friendship with your spouse, your intimacy and your overall view on life.  Even SAVE your marriage. I do know dates don't have to break the bank and don't always require babysitters--maybe some creativity, organization and intentionality. Maybe asking a friend to swap sitting, asking a family member for help, being creative with in-home dates or bending somewhere in the budget. It actually is possible.

So this is me being that friend and saying: make an effort. 

When we realized how intentional you actually have to be about planning regular date nights, not surprisingly enough, our marriage began to flourish. Life didn't feel as heavy. But what’s been fascinating to me is that, after many conversations with others, I realize we’re not alone. If I’m going out on a limb here, I’d guess that most couples fall into a similar category as us rather than scheduling dates with their spouse. And to be honest, it’s sparked this interest and excitement in me to scream to the mountains, "HEY, date your spouse!!  I have the answer!" That, and we added marriage counseling to the mix, and together combined have been worth every penny and time spent. But that's for another blog post! And it's not that we've been perfect and haven't missed a week yet (our schedules are so varying), but we're figuring out a rhythm for us. And you can too. 

So all of this has led me down a rabbit hole of ideas and creating—one of which I'm wanting to share with you and invite you in on. It's simple. Preplanned. And easy.

19 before nineteen

So if I'm being honest, at some point in our years of dating, actually planning dates became a source of frustration for us. And this probably sounds weird, and it's probably not everybody's frustration, but even before we had our son, we'd start arguing about WHERE to go. We could never pinpoint WHAT we wanted to do, and it would add an unnecessary weight to what should've been fun. Add Luke and fluctuating job schedules, and then it was like, WHEN can we fit this in and WHO can we get to babysit? 

So because actually planning the date was difficult, we decided to create some ideas for us to plan in one sitting, create some preplanned structure and choose from one of those dates whenever we see some overlapping time on our calendars. Hence #19beforenineteen was created.

Jordan and I have filled out this chart in hopes that when a date night is coming up, we DON'T HAVE TO THINK AT ALL about where to go and what to do. It's on there! We've already written down our choices, and we can check them off when we're finished and look back and remember the fun and new things we tried. 

Huge point: THIS IS IN NO WAY A CHECKLIST. 

It should only alleviate the stress of planning dates and encourage intentionality to promote your friendship, intimacy and overall relationship.

So if any of you are game and want to join in, take a second to download, print and fill out this chart. Hang it up somewhere when you're done and start dating your spouse again. Share with a friend of yours and get dates ideas from one another when you fill out your calendars. 

Remember that dating your spouse doesn't always have to mean paying for babysitters or going over your budget to fund them. They can simply mean a Netflix binge after the kids go to bed and phones are silenced in another room. 

So if weekly dates just aren't a thing for you right now, then consider joining Jordan and me in our 19 preplanned dates before 2019, and share some of your creativity with us all by using the hashtag: #19beforenineteen on Instagram. I think it'll be fun. ;-) 

Cheers to the year that you tend to your relationship and marriage--make 2018 a good one!

Marriage Mondays | Date Night In & Grocery List for 2

Happy Monday! We're kicking off our Marriage Mondays series again with a delicious and simple date night in shared by Kate from The Everyday Hostess. 

I'm such a fan of everything Kate does, and this date night is definitely one you'll want to plan soon! I mean, who doesn't love pizza, and who doesn't love an affordable date night?! She and Landon have prepped everything from the grocery list to the directions to make it simple and sweet for you and your love. Enjoy! 

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Dallas is a great place for date nights, whether you’re a faithful foodie or simply a beginner in exploring the bevy of craft-food options.

But sometimes, even in the trendiest of culinary culture, a night in can be the most intimate and the most economical date night! We love to experiment in the kitchen -- after all, what’s better in a marriage than a fun challenge together that ends in a (hopefully) tasty result?! -- so cooking dinner at home is something we look forward to.

Plus, a date night in yoga pants is a win in Kate’s book!

Some readers might be thinking, “Well that’s great, but I’m not very savvy in the kitchen.” And that’s totally fine. We aren’t talking bacon-wrapped filet mignon here (although Landon wishes we were) and it’s not like Gordon Ramsay is going to judge the finished product.

In fact, one of our go-to recipes for a fun night in is homemade caprese pizza, and you won’t believe how inexpensive and easy it really is with just a few simple ingredients and short steps!

Homemade Caprese Pizza

Grocery List:

  • 16oz. Pizza Dough (We like Trader Joe’s Garlic and Herb Pizza Dough)

  • 1 Tbs Olive Oil

  • 6 oz. of Pesto

  • Fresh Basil

  • 1 Heirloom Tomato (thinly sliced)

  • 12 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

  • Balsamic Reduction (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

  2. Layer a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  3. Remove your pizza dough from the package, place it on the parchment paper, and stretch or roll out the dough using a rolling pin into a 10in. circle (roughly)

  4. Drizzle or brush the dough lightly with olive oil followed by the pesto.

  5. Tear a few basil leaves and sprinkle on top of the pesto.

  6. Distribute the tomato slices evenly over the pizza.

  7. Add the mozzarella cheese and sprinkle evenly over the pizza to your liking.

  8. Place the pizza in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden and cheese is bubbling.

  9. Remove pizza from the oven, drizzle your balsamic reduction over it and enjoy!

This is just one of our favorite recipes, but when it comes to homemade pizza, the world is your oyster! You can get as creative as you want, but the key is to find a combination of ingredients you both like. Then the experiment will be fun!

We’ve also ventured into barbecue chicken, buffalo chicken, chicken artichoke (wow, we must really like chicken), breakfast pizzas and several others! We enjoy crafting a recipe for the next homemade pizza, but if your mind is in weekend mode and you don’t want to do much thinking, head to Pinterest and search pizza recipes. Always a good place for inspiration!

Most of our pizza concoctions cost less than $10 to make. Throw in a bottle of wine and maybe a frozen yogurt run and you’ve got yourselves a quality date night! It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of things -- or even your Facebook feed or what’s on the TV -- but it’s important to always find time just to talk. Dinner at home is a built-in project and one-on-one time. Some of our best conversations come over a homemade meal and a glass of wine on our balcony, and some of our best laughs have come while whipping up a meal.

We highly recommend mixing a homemade meal into your dating schedule (yes, you should still be dating your spouse!). If you’re not a pizza fan, or you’ve tackled that challenge and want to try some more, find us at The Everyday Hostess and ask us some of our favorite recipes!

Happy cooking!

Landon & Kate Haaf

The Everyday Hostess

Marriage Mondays | Oneness in Adversity: An Unexpected Delivery

I have loved getting to know the sweet lady who's writing today's post, because she has been such an intentional and loving friend to me the past few months that I've gotten to know her! She and her husband Hai just celebrated their son Henry's first birthday last month, and today, they're sharing on the blog about how to stick together in adversity. I love hearing how they stood by each other through sickness and in health and am so encouraged by their faith and genuine friendship to us recently. I hope you enjoy hearing the story of their baby boy and its happy ending!

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On June 8th, 2016, I was 24 weeks pregnant. My husband and I went in for a “random” appointment to check on our baby, due to some spots they had seen in his heart a month before. The specialist informed us Henry looked great, but something was going on with my cervix. After checking me, she told us I had already started to dilate and I was at 3.5 centimeters, without actually going into labor. I had NO CLUE. Due to my cervix dilating on its own, I was rushed to the hospital on immediate bed rest. I remember we felt as if someone had dumped a bucket of cold water on us! Needless to say we were shocked, scared and full of questions. 

All of the things we hoped to do like prepare his nursery, have a baby shower and the quintessential maternity photo shoot all took a backseat to what was most important, Henry. It’s funny how those things are so minuscule in comparison to the bigger picture, but how dearly I held them in my heart, I learned that I had to grieve those things and that was ok. And these wouldn’t be the last in the days and weeks to come. After all, our experience was not the norm, but God was weaving together our story and Henry’s beginning. We’ve already seen God use his life and birth story to bring reconciliation to our extended family, something that to us at the time seemed impossible.

In the midst of all of that, I remember a deep peace carried us through every single moment. These two scriptures came to mind always and kept hope in our hearts as we moved forward into the unknown. 

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

The steadfast of mind you will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord we have an everlasting Rock. 

Isaiah 26:3

While I was on bedrest at the hospital, the doctors and nurses told us they hoped Henry would stay in my belly at least 8-10 weeks. My husband Hai, was going through everything with me. Even though he was able to get out when he went to work, he was juggling work, preparing our home for our baby, driving back and forth to the hospital and literally being my hands and feet. Two and half weeks later, Henry had other plans, he came into this world 3 months exactly from his actual due date. We were so grateful that he came without any complications during labor, but what we weren’t prepared for were the next three and half months in the NICU. 

I remember we had met someone from the NICU prior to Henry’s birth and they explained what “could” happen, but looking back I don’t think I allowed myself to go there emotionally, always hoping for the most optimistic outcome. I don’t think anyone can fully prepare you for days, weeks, months in the NICU, but we can’t say enough good things about our hospital and the care we received from the team of doctors, and our sweet nurses!

It’s amazing to me how much those three months consumed our lives and felt like the days were an eternity, yet it hasn’t even been a year since we brought Henry home from the NICU, and there are times I forget how hard and heavy that season was. I look at Henry and I can’t see a trace of the NICU days. All we can do is give thanks to God for such grace. 

When I think back, it was many different things that helped us come out stronger on the other side. One of them was my relationship with my husband. In sickness and in health, that line from our vows kept going through my mind as we walked that road together. It’s hard to imagine what that truly means when you’re standing in front of your beloved in a gorgeous dress, months and months of planning all culminating into one special moment, surrounded by beautiful things and the ones you love. So much expectation goes into our wedding day, with so little knowledge of what’s to come.

Oneness in our marriage through this trial came by being honest with one another on our good days and our bad days. When the stress of seeing Henry with so many tubes and cords stuck all over him was too much to handle we would take turns at being at his bedside. The word that comes to mind when I think of our marriage is team. We are a team. Through the difficult circumstance we were forced to learn how we each dealt with stress and stressful situations. They popped up all. the. time. from holding your baby and watching him stop breathing and going limp, to the nights when we would be home looking at Henry through a camera the hospital so graciously provided, but even then, dealing with a different nurse from time to time who took care of him differently then we would, and not being able to do anything about it. It was incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking. We had to learn to be patient with each other when our actions under stress made no logical sense to the other, we had to extend grace, over and over and over again. It truly was such a picture of God’s love for us. 

Adversity has a way of bringing out what things are made of. It was evident our hearts wanted to retrieve every time things got hard, or we were tempted to isolate instead of being vulnerable with each other because the days were so painful. But Christ at work in us allowed us to seek reconciliation always, freed us to ask for forgiveness when needed, and helped us not dwell on the things we could not change. We love because Christ first loved us, His perfect love casts out fear. It’s that love which allows us to say “I am for you, I’m not going anywhere” creating a oneness in marriage that this world can not offer. 

Another thing that was vital during that time was our community of family and friends who were faithful to pray for us, bring us meals, also threw us a spontaneous baby shower! And most importantly the peace that comes through believing that Jesus Christ holds all things together. 

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:

We knew God would sustain Henry’s life or take it. We knew this baby had been entrusted to us, but he was God’s and He alone knew what was best for Henry.

 It was that truth that made the waiting and the really hard days easier to walk through, and made the good days make your heart want to explode with gratitude! the pain was just as deep but it did not overwhelm us. 

Even though we would not have chosen that painful road, it is the one God had for us. And because of it, we now have such a greater appreciation for Henry’s life and our marriage. 

Marriage Mondays | Walking Through Infertility and Adoption

I'm completely grateful that our cousins Jacob Davenport and Camille Davenport are sharing their inspiring, difficult, joyful and hope-filled infertility and adoption process on today's #ldpmarriagemondays post. It is real, encouraging and full of so much hope. We love our Piper and couldn't imagine any sweeter of a little baby in their arms! She is perfect in every way, and so is their story. It was the most humbling, honorable event photographing the moment Jake and Camille met Piper. I hope you're encouraged today and consider tagging a friend or sharing this post with them privately, if you need. This is a community, and it's meant to encourage and make others feel heard, encouraged and filled with hope. We love this precious family and their honest, inspiring words so much!

The style of this blog is a little different with it's interview style--Camille and Jacob answer some of the questions jointly and others individually to give two perspectives. It's truly incredible to hear their journey, and I hope and know that it can help bless anyone who reads!

I know you and Jacob have a really encouraging, difficult and joyful story. I've looked up to you two so much these past couple years and am truly so giddy about your growing family. Can you share what your journey has looked like the past couple years from your initial desire to start a family, your unexpected news and your journey to meeting and loving Piper?

Jacob and I were friends for several years in college and started dating our senior year. Five years ago we got married and started off with a couple of fur babies! A few years later we decided to start trying to have kids. We were so excited and hopeful that we would start trying, quickly find out that we were pregnant, and then accordingly space out our future kids in our own desired timing. Turns out the Lord had a completely different plan for us. We had talked about always wanting to adopt before we were married but assumed that it would be after having a few biological kids first. After almost a year of trying, we got the devastating news that we would most likely not be able to have biological children. We were shocked, sad and completely at a loss.  It was after two long years of defeating doctors appointments that would lead us to an adoption agency orientation followed by SO much paperwork and a grueling wait that would ultimately lead us to adopting and bringing our precious Piper home on April 11th of this year. The moment we held her we knew exactly why we had the story we did- because the Lord always knew that she would be our beautiful daughter. He had our complete best in mind. So much greater and sweeter than we could have ever imagined.

How did you and Jacob process the news similarly and differently that you may not be able to have biological children? What were your initial reactions or feelings during this time? 

C: Both of our initial reactions were extreme sadness. I would compare infertility to mourning a loss. I had this natural and good desire to have a sweet family and to look at our baby and see Jacob’s cute features or personality traits. It was hard because most people didn’t really understand that so I also felt a lot of loneliness. Like a lot of couples I am the more emotional one and Jacob is the extreme opposite- logical . This definitely came out in how we grieved. I constantly felt the weight of what we were going through- I felt the loss on a daily basis, constantly reminded when someone would ask us when we were starting our family, or when I got another baby shower invite in the mail or saw another pregnancy announcement. It was hard. So hard. And I think it was hard for Jacob in such different ways- especially to see me feel the weight of it constantly. Ultimately we had to allow each other to be broken and a mess in our own way.

It was a blessing to really feel like we were on the same page as far not feeling called to do infertility treatments. Even though our chances with that were very low, we both walked out of this one doctors appointment and had this complete peace that we would go in a different direction to start our family. And even though that was hard it was very unifying.

J:  I have always been a very level headed and even keeled person.  When we first started going to doctors appointments and finding out it may be difficult to have kids, I kept telling Camille that there would be a way.  I figured that the doctors would figure out the problem and we would just fix it.  I thought that I would be able to come up with a solution to our problem like I had done so many times in the past. I remember sitting in the car after the doctors appointment where we found out it would be nearly impossible for us to have kids and just breaking down.  Never in a million years did I think this would happen to us.  I don’t think I have ever felt more despair and heart break than I did that day.  The pain was excruciating and this time there was nothing I could do to fix the problem.  As we began to mourn we did so in very different ways.  For reasons I couldn't explain I would go days and sometimes weeks without it seeming to affect me and then something would happen that would remind me of it all.  Seeing a friends kid who looks just like him or having another friend get to take their wife to the hospital for their delivery.  It would hit me all at once.  It seemed like the pain of it all would build up over the days and weeks I hadn't been thinking about it and hit me in that moment.  Camille seemed to hold the wait of it constantly.  Every hour of every day she was reminded of the loss of infertility.  I did my best to be there for her but sometimes it was difficult for me to live in that reality every day.  Iwould forget about the pain and loss that she was feeling and therefore would forget what she was feeling every day.  

When the inevitably hard times come in marriage, I think it can be a struggle for couples to understand, relate and stay on the "same team", so to speak. How would you say you two worked to stay close in a season of struggle? 

You know someone so much more deeply when you experience pain and loss with them. We will always look back on this season and remember how much we fell flat on our faces at times and how much we grew- albeit grew in a “wow this is stinking hard and sucks and painful” kind of way. We prayed together more than we ever had in our 5 years of marriage-mostly in the times we were falling flat on our faces. There were times that I wanted Jacob to process and mourn similarly to me, and there were times he just wanted me to be ok and I couldn't be ok. Going through this together really pushed us to be intentional with one another. One thing that we started doing that we still continue to do today were weekly questions. We do them every Sunday- over coffee in the morning, on an evening walk, or just before bed. Just 5 simple questions that we borrowed from someone else that helped us touch base and intentionally share with one another, often times leading into more intentionally rich conversations. We love these simple questions. 

What does the week ahead look like for you?

How did you feel loved this past week?

How can I love and encourage you this week?

How would you feel best pursued in intimacy this week?

How can I pray for you this week?

It was such a simple way to touch base and remind one another of our different, opposite needs especially when we were in such a hard season.

Even though going through infertility and that long adoption process was hard, our marriage grew in sweet and tender ways that have us looking back now on this time with a lot of thankfulness. I love looking back at some of the answers and prayer requests from our weekly questions that we had during this time and seeing how far we have come and how far the Lord has brought us. We can now {almost} laugh about how our “week ahead” once looked like another dreaded semen analysis or an 8 hour adoption home study, and how some prayer requests were answered so differently than we asked (continued negative doctors appointments even though we prayed for positive news) or so much greater than what we asked for (all of our adoption expenses completely taken care of!). It’s just clear how the Lord was over it all. We still love doing these questions every week.

Learning what each other needed was also helpful. Jacob knew when to whisk me away from the table of girls talking about their birth story again and knew I may have a hard week when our adoption profile was shown but we weren't chosen. I knew that Jacob would be ok and positive and strong until he wasn’t and then I had to allow him that time to be sad.

What was most helpful to you during this season of dealing with infertility and waiting for Piper? 

C: It was so helpful to have community surround us and specifically a community that was going through or had gone through the same thing as us. I went through Shiloh at Watermark- a ministry for women experiencing infertility or miscarriage. It was so comforting and helpful to know that I wasn't alone. I wasn't the only one that cried when they got a baby shower invitation in the mail or was continually frustrated with all the doctors appointments or had a spouse that handled emotions differently than them. Those girls were and still are a sweet community. They were a tangible example of “mourn with those who mourn, rejoice with those that rejoice.”Jacob and I also met with several couples, strangers at the time -that had gone through infertility treatments, adopted or both. Those were such helpful life-giving meetings that we gained a lot of wisdom through. We didn't have any friends or family that had gone through the adoption process or infertility, so this was such a blessing for us. It’s ultimately how we heard about and chose our adoption agency. We have gotten to meet with some other couples since to share our story and experience and are so happy to do that with anyone! Seriously Lindsay can give you my number! You aren't alone!  

I felt like you two did an excellent job of trying new things and exploring new places throughout your adoption process.  How did you two find joy within your journey to adoption? 

Before we started the adoption process and shortly after we had found out our devastating news we took a little last minute weekend trip to Austin. We were tired and worn down. This was a much needed getaway to process and grieve and talk about our options and then also, just have fun together. A couple that we had met with had given us a book on adoption that we started reading on this trip, and it was on the trip that we decided to officially start the adoption process! Our spontaneous weekend in Austin will always be so special to us.

One other thing that was really helpful in staying close during a hard season and long wait was having fun and celebrating together. We really made an effort to celebrate EVERYTHING! It wasn’t that we were trying to cover the sadness or forget the pain- but that we had so many other things to be thankful for and find joy in- another wedding anniversary, another step completed in the adoption process and whatever else we could think of! Some of our most epic trips and date nights happened in this 2 year season!

What encouragement and advice would you each share with a couple who is walking through a similar journey as what you two have walked through? 

C: You’ve got this! It’s hard. Allow yourself to be broken and a mess. You don't have to handle everything perfectly and have it all together. And neither does your spouse- give your spouse grace upon grace during the hard times. Fight to be on the same page but know you won’t always be. Know that you aren’t alone. A lot of people won’t understand or will say insensitive things but find your people to walk through this with you! And then call me if you want to get coffee!

J:  It is okay and normal to feel extreme sadness, frustration and anger during this season of life.  The world is a broken place because of the fall and unfortunately our bodies suffer the consequences of living in this broken world.  Do not try to pretend everything is okay and know that there is a time to mourn.  But know that God is also a good God who is making all things new.  He delights in bringing light and joy out of dark and painful situations.  Infertility was the most difficult, painful thing we have ever been through and yet I would not change it.  God was more present and real to us in the 2 years of waiting for our baby girl than He had ever been.  If we had not gone through this season we surely would have avoided a lot of pain and sadness but we would have also missed out on the most joyful and amazing blessings He was so gracious to give us.  Sometimes the pain is worth the joy and even necessary to experience a deeper joy God is bringing us into. 

What have you learned over the course of the past 2 years in hindsight?

C: The Lord has our absolute best in mind. Their is beauty from the ashes. He can take the brokenness of the world and do really beautiful things. Their is loss in infertility and their is loss in adoption. And their only one person who can make things whole and point us to what’s to come.

J: Pain in our life can make the joyful times that much sweeter.  I don't think we would have been nearly as grateful if we had never struggled with the loss of infertility. We woke up 5 times last night to feed or soothe Piper and felt like we were the luckiest people in the world. Children are absolutely a gift from the Lord that He graciously gives us and we see that more clearly now that Piper is home.  God’s plan is often more difficult and certainly looks different than the plans we have for ourselves but His plan is so much sweeter.    

Clearly, a beautiful baby girl named Piper was in the plans for your family, and now that she is in your arms and as cute as can be, describe the feelings that have made up your past couple months: 

C: Wow. The moment that girl walked in the room and was placed in our arms was the craziest, sweetest thing that has ever happened in our lives. I think our faces in the pictures say it all. We knew adoption was going to be crazy wonderful and beautiful and that the Lord has always known each member of our family- but wow, he blew our minds. We still can’t believe we get to raise and parent Piper.

J: She is mine.  The entire time we waited in the adoption process we had this fear that when we brought home our baby she might not actually feel like she is our daughter.  But that thought has never entered our minds since the moment we met her.  The joy of knowing that God always intended for Piper to be ours is the most comforting thing.

Marriage Mondays | Dallas Date Night Musts

New to Dallas? Old to Dallas? I have a feeling this post is just for you! Hilary and Xavier are sharing some creative date night ideas for your next night out or day with your babe. I personally cannot WAIT to take these suggestions for future dates in Dallas! Hilary and Xavier Cinque are the owners of Shay and Olive Photography and the Lumen Room, a natural light studio. I've followed their Instagram and insta stories long enough to know that they are in the know. I've always loved seeing the new places they're exploring and creative foods they're trying. I'm honored that they are sharing some of their brilliant ideas with us all today, and I hope to see some of you all out on White Rock soon! 

I cannot wait to kayak over to the Arboretum to listen to a concert one Thursday night--so brilliant! 

Dating and marriage! 2 mutually exclusive things...or so it may seem. Going out as a married couple is quite possibly the second most important course of action to maintain a healthy relationship, right behind open and active communication. We believe this because dating is the reason you fell in love with your spouse and it's how you continually fall in love over and over again. We're approaching 3 years of marriage in October, but we've been dating since December of 2006. Yes, we are a cliche high school sweethearts story that's a bit trite, so we'll leave out the flowery details of our 11 year relationship and get right to the point: KEEP DATING! 

We are Dallasites wholeheartedly, born and raised here. We've traveled all over but nothing is ever quite like home. Our city is full of wonderful activities and restaurants, so narrowing our list of best date ideas in Dallas was exceptionally difficult. We hope that you give these a try or that they inspire you and your spouse to keep the flame hot by going out and taking full advantage of what our city has to offer.

1) Kayak/SUP at White Rock Lake:
White Rock Paddle Co rents out paddle boards and kayaks by the hour on White Rock Lake! This is one of our go-to dates in the summer, especially on Thursday nights when you can paddle over to the Arboretum and listen to their lawn concerts from your kayak/board! 

2) Take a cheese class at Scardello:

Scardello's cheese class makes for a perfect date! Every week Scardello hosts a variety of classes at their Oak Lawn location.  You can choose classes that focus on particular regions, types of cheese, etc. or you can start with their Cheese 101 class! Each class comes with a spread of cheeses to taste along with a wine pairing for the class. 

3) Snuggle up for a movie at Landmark Inwood Theater.

This theater has been around since the 40's and it has so much character! Be sure to see a movie that is playing in the "screening lounge" where they've removed all of the theater seats and replaced them with oversized couches and beanbags. Get there early to snag a good couch! After the movie go for a nightcap at the Inwood Lounge upstairs.

4) Bowl a game at Bowlounge:

A game at Bowlounge in the Design District isn't your basic bowling experience! Bowlounge is such a fun spot complete with surprisingly great food, vintage decor, retro video games, weird music videos, and more.

5) Map out a "food crawl" at Trinity Groves.

Trinity Groves has SO many great restaurants in one strip so why pick one?! We like to hop from restaurant to restaurant and share a bite to eat at each place. An order of croquettes at Casa Rubia is a must in our book!

6) Splurge on a staycation at The Joule.

If you're looking for a romantic "getaway" The Joule has it all. The restaurants (CBD Provisions, Mirador, and Americano) are all fantastic! The spa is also wonderful-- If you book a couple's massage be sure to arrive early so you can enjoy the vitality pool and the eucalyptus steam rooms. Make time to visit the rooftop pool, flip through art books at The Taschen Library, and grab a late-night drink at Midnight Rambler, and stop for morning coffee and a rosemary loaf at Weekend.

7) Bike White Rock Lake and enjoy pizza at Cane Rosso

Riding around the lake is the perfect activity to enjoy the warm weather with scenic views. A leisurely ride around the lake is a little less than an hour if you don't count the time spent looking at gorgeous homes or the lake itself.  After a lap, ride down Garland Road for 1/4 mile and pull right into Cane Rosso to enjoy one of Dallas' best pizza spots. The restaurant boasts one of Lakewood's best patios as well.

Marriage Mondays | One Regret: A Tip to All Brides on Their Wedding Day & Beyond

Yes.

A million times yes to this post. Do I wish I had done this? Yes. I had the same plan as Elie: try so hard to be "present" on my wedding day, because everyone says how quickly it goes by. So why didn't I write my feeling and memories down!? Elie, a sweet friend of mine and lead proposal planner for The Yes Girls, shares a simple piece of advice to brides-to-be or anyone who wants to save memories and relive them in a way other than in pictures. 

Brilliant. 

One Regret: A Tip to All Brides on Their Wedding Day & Beyond

My wildest dreams could not have compared to my wedding day. Sure the flowers looked great, sure the lighting was spectacular, but the pure joy that was bursting out of my heart (and that was apparent in the eyes of all my favorite people in the world who celebrated with us) was just indescribable. People always told me to try and soak in every minute of our wedding day. I heard the same thing every bride does, “it goes by so fast so just enjoy it”. And I took that advice very seriously! I was super aware of each passing minute; I was calm and I was really being intentional about living the moment to it’s fullest.

And it worked! I sat sipping coffee with my mom two days later glowing and beaming about how proud I felt to remember so much of it so clearly! I was not the normal bride who would forget their wedding day – praise God! But as the days and weeks and months have past, it has slowly slipped away. Here I sit a little over a year into our marriage and I can confidently say that I hardly remember the wedding day at all.  So this is where my tip comes in: write it down!

On our honeymoon, we spent seven days laying on the beach or at the pool just relaxing and sunbathing. We listened to music and we people watched. But I wish we had taken some of that cabana time to journal. Aaron (my husband) could have written down some of his memories from the morning with his guys. I could have written an entire novel of memories, and who was there, all of it! But now it’s too late, and our wedding memories are few and far between (thank God for pictures & videos – am I right?!).

As we continue into the next phases of marriage, I do want to start journaling together. The days that seem mundane and to run together, will be just memories once we have kids and enter into new seasons. Our time right now, just the two of us in a cramped apartment with minimal responsibilities, will come to a close. Our marriage is so fresh and so exciting and I want to capture this sweet time in a journal to look back on! And heck, maybe our kids will want to read them one day too (lets be serious, probably only true if we have girls). There will always be memories (both good and bad) at every stage of our marriage and it’s my mission to do a better job of capturing those memories!

With all that said, here is your little tip to take home: make a regular date out of it! It can be a yearly thing where you sit down on your anniversary and reflect on the best memories from that year. Or it can be more regular than that! Either way, enjoy some quality alone-time with your love one and journal. It will totally be worth it :) 

Marriage Mondays | Better Together: Why Couples Need Community

Today we have Meagan and Sam Smith sharing on how community changed their marriage. I first met this couple a couple years ago when they were the models for my promo video, and I've thought they were the sweetest ever since. When I heard that Meagan worked for the marriage ministry team at Watermark Church, I knew I wanted her heart and wisdom sharing with us on my Marriage Mondays blog. I'm so grateful that she did, and I hope you enjoy! 

Better Together: Why Couples Need Community

Community can mean many different things to different people. The word alone can make introverts run for the hills, or make extroverts feel “all the feels” at the prospect of new friends. But no matter your outlook, and no matter your situation, community is an essential component of a healthy marriage.

But before I get into why into why community is so important in your marriage, let me tell you a story about how my husband Sam and I realized that doing this marriage thing without others around us just wasn’t going to work….

I remember it so clearly. We hadn’t been married one month and we were having the same argument for what felt like the hundredth time. I went for a walk to clear my head, but not before I escalated and said some not-so-kind things to my new groom. Let’s just say that we were not experiencing healthy conflict. On that walk, I remember wishing I had someone to talk to, someone that knew the both of us equally who could step in and help us work through this continuous argument…truthfully I was hoping someone could step in and convince Sam how he was wrong and affirm me that I was right (I know, I know…shake my head at my selfish self!).

After 7 months of really enjoying marriage, but just stuck in the same selfish sin patterns, we got into a newly-married community group at our church. We had no idea what was in store for us when we first stepped into that room with four other couples, or how much better our marriage was about to become….and better it became.  Why was there such drastic change? Because God’s Word tells us that isolation is a dangerous place to be, yet that’s exactly where Sam and I were -- living in isolation. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

When you start to go deep with other folks, it’s just a matter of time until true transparency and authenticity begin taking place. Once you get the messy stuff out, there is really only one way to go, and that’s up. Sam and I soon had people speaking into our conflict, but with an unbiased and Biblical perspective. People were meeting us each right where we were at, really living out what it means in Colossians 12 to “bear with one another.”

So why is community essential for a strong, Biblical marriage?

1)    Community gives you perspective. Because we are fleshy (sinners, selfish, etc), we often think our way is the best way and have trouble seeing our spouse’s point of view, therefore conflict arises. Our community group has become a place where we bring our conflict. They listen to each of us, help us make sure we are owning our own part (drawing the circle around ourselves), and point us to Biblical truth. Often in doing this we realize how selfish and wrong we were. The things we learn in this time of conflict help us manage conflict in the future, making our marriage one of more grace and more forgiveness.

2)    Community makes you a better you. That thing you are struggling with? You bring it to the group. Not loving your spouse well? Tell someone in your group that you need help. As you confess your struggles to one another, true accountability begins to take place. It’s an amazing feeling being able to confess things to friends, knowing they will love you and meet you right where you are at, but also walk with you through your challenges as you overcome them.

3)    Community celebrates with you and mourns with you. Romans 12 tell us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Community makes this verse come to life. That promotion you just got at work? Your circle will celebrate with you. One couple in our group is about to move into their first home after saving and searching for a while and we are celebrating big with them! Another girl in our group lost her grandpa last year. You better believe we were at that funeral to celebrate the life of someone who we never knew, but someone that we knew deeply, who loved that person very much.

4)    Community lives life with you. As you process big decisions, like buying a new car, moving to a new house, having kids, changing jobs, etc. community asks the hard questions. They help make sure your heart is in the right place and offer wisdom to make sure you are doing the right thing.

5)    Community is fun. Coming into marriage, he will have his guy friends, and she will have her girl friends, but your first community group will most likely be your first set of married friends as a married couple and there is nothing sweeter. Getting away together for some weekend trips, spontaneous movie nights, dinners and game nights at each other’s homes, are a few things that our community puts in to practice as often as we can.

There is a reason why my church uses the phrase, “Better Together” as their viewpoint for community groups. We need people in our lives to encourage and lift us up, also to challenge us to grow. Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

Now don’t get me wrong…community is messy. Naturally we will hurt others, and not always mesh with everyone. But that’s the beauty of it. Different people, saying, “Hey, we are different in a lot of ways, but we both love the same God and believe the same thing and I’m committed to walking through this season of life with ya with whatever comes.” That’s the beauty of community and that’s the beauty of the Gospel.

Not in a community group? I highly encourage you to get plugged in with one! Not married yet but wanting to start your marriage on a good, Biblical foundation? Take a premarital class like Merge at Watermark that can help prepare you for things you will most definitely encounter as you become one, while also giving you an introduction to what it looks like to live life in a community with other believers. You won’t be sorry! :)

Re|Engage at Watermark

Marriage Mondays | He Said, She Said, Who Said, What? The Art of Listening Well by Meg Donica

One of my best friends Meg is a counselor, and she's dang good at it. Not only that, but she's a good listener. A good advice-giver. And personally, I think she's good at everything. :) I feel like I've learned so much from her these past few years on communication and listening, not because she teaches it to me, but because she's so open about her own life and thought processes. It's truly refreshing, and her sharing today is truly encouraging.

Meg and Sam reside in Ardmore, OK where they enjoy their pup Tuck are expecting their first baby this fall. Sam is a pastor, and Meg is a counselor, and together, you can't find a more genuine, fun, talented duo! 

You might be aware that you recently read a post on Lindsay’s blog about communication and listening. Well, here’s another. Why? The Sesame Street answer would be because you have two ears, one mouth, and you need to learn to use them proportionally. Reality says, though, that the imperative component of listening in communication cannot be emphasized enough. And, to be frank, we all could stand to read two (or fifty) blog posts about listening well. 

We’ve all been there: talking over that same old issue with our partner for what must be the thousandth time...only to walk away feeling, yet again, misunderstood. “He doesn’t know how I feel.” “She doesn’t understand me.” “If only you could just see where I’m coming from.” As a therapist, I hear all of these things in my office. And, as a wife, I’ve thought them and said them.

So, here’s the thing, everybody. We are all really good at talking. In fact, we are SO good at talking that, during those moments when we are supposed to be “listening,” we are really thinking about what we are going to say next. Tense conversation or not, with our spouse or not – we do this in all of our conversations. This is not listening. This is getting a one-up on the conversation.

I’d argue that this is due largely to the fact that we have lost the art of listening. Listening well looks like putting yourself in the others shoes while he or she is talking, setting your own biases aside and truly trying to imagine what thoughts, feelings and concerns that person might be having given the circumstances. Or, even better, if we listen well, they might just tell us.

This is hard. This takes work. It is much more comfortable and easy to stay in our own shoes and word vomit accordingly. Sometimes our partner’s feelings DO NOT MAKE SENSE to us. Be okay with that. Sit in the tension of not being able to figure them out, and please don’t make the goal of your listening to “fix them.” No one is “fixed” by the dismissal of his or her experience.

So. We’re bad at listening. Does it really matter? The relationship moves on anyway.

I’m here to tell you: it matters.  It matters if you already practice good listening in your relationships, and it matters even more if you don’t. I imagine you wouldn’t have to reflect very long to see how it matters to you in your own relationships. When we walk away from someone who genuinely listened to us, who made us feel heard and understood, it’s different. It’s better.

In contrast, think of someone in your life who doesn’t listen well. It won’t take long for them to come to mind either. Honestly, I don’t really like talking to people who don’t listen well. They don’t make much space for anyone but themselves in their conversations and relationships. Therefore, if that person is you or your spouse, you may be on a road that dead-ends in loneliness and frustration, lacking an intimate connection.

The road doesn’t have to go there, and, if you’re already there, you don’t have to stay there. There are very simple, practical ways to begin listening well to others – specifically your spouse. It will take effort, but the rewards are priceless. Below are some simple, tangible steps you can take into your next conversation with your spouse.

To practice good listening:

·      Put aside your own biases and experiences

·      Humbly attempt to see things from your partner’s perspective

·      Hold your opinions and advice until they are requested

·      Help your partner name any thoughts, feelings, concerns and desires that are coming through his or her dialogue

·      Pay attention to how your partner feels as much as to what he or she is saying

Things to avoid:

·      Thinking of what example from your life could best relate to the conversation topic

·      Invalidating or dismissing your partner’s thoughts, feelings or concerns

·      Offering unsolicited advice, opinions or judgment

·      Attempting to multi-task when your partner is sharing with you (research shows that multi-tasking is actually impossible to do effectively)

·      Assuming you already know what your partner thinks, feels or is concerned about

Listening well is hard. You can do it! For the sake of your marriage, you must do it. Listening well isn’t something that some people can do and some people can’t. It’s a learned skill. Good conversation is about sharing space and time for each participant to express his or her truest thoughts, concerns, feelings and desires. Good conversation – good listening – is healing. Healing in a way that only something as welcoming and unconditional as true listening can be.

Keep calm and listen on, friends.

 

Marriage Mondays | I, I, I Work Ooouuuutttt

We’re taking a little different approach with our Marriage Mondays today, and I’m counting on YOU guys to help us out! It’s going to be interactive where you contribute the ways you and your love workout together, and I will edit to ADD these with your name at the end of the week. Check back and learn from many others like you to find new ways to work out together and feel good together.

As I’ve said before, I’m such a fan of shared experiences—especially new ones. Because after you’ve been married or dating a year, the number of “firsts” drastically dwindles. You’ve celebrated your first Christmas, Valentines and anniversary together (if you celebrate dating anniversaries). I can remember being excited about all of these firsts when I was new to dating Jordan. They’re fun!

It can be a challenge to think of and pursue new travels, new restaurants, new movies--new shared experiences, like workouts.

Today we’re going to share different ways you and your love can get some exercise together. Because whenever Jordan and I are in a season of working out together, we really do feel closer to one another. You feel good about yourself, feel connected to your partner and feel accomplished. Did you catch me when I said “seasons”?

When Jordan and I were in graduate school, we went through a season where we’d head to the Activity Center whenever we were both done at night. We’d start off jogging however many laps around the indoor track together and then split up to do our respected activities—lifting in very different ways. :) We both agree that we felt more motivated in other areas of our lives, because we had this set in place most every night of the week.

Today that looks differently for us: we go on walk/jogs with Luke in his stroller when Jordan is home and haven’t ventured too much further from there, creative-wise, so I’m eager to hear from many of you!

To start, I’ve polled a few of my couple-friends who do an excellent job of coming up with ways to spend time together while working out (even some ideas with babies)—because there are so many creative ways! So find a few that work well for you, and enjoy this time together.

Thanks for contributing and happy sweating, friends! ;-)

1.     Pick up games of basketball or volleyball—Jordan and I did this with friends in college, and it was the BEST workout!

2.     Bicycling or walking/jogging around White Rock Lake in Dallas (it's on my bucket list!)

3.     Jordan and I have loved to golf together—he walks or rides, and I’ll usually walk the majority of it for exercise, sun and enjoying the scenery--I'm such a nature girl :)

4.     Playing a pick up game of tennis—Justin & Alyssa Black (soon to be on July 8! ;-) )

5.     Jogging Katy Trail in Dallas—Justin & Alyssa Black

6.     Yard work! One can mow the lawn while the other edges & weed eats—Sam & Meg Donica

7.     While on a walk/run together, listen to a podcast that interests both—good workout and creates conversation—Sam & Meg Donica

8.     If one person is a runner and the other is not, the other can bike during the other’s run. Sam would do this while Meg was training for her half marathon—Sam & Meg Donica

9.     During runs, take breaks to do an exercise of each person’s choice (push ups, lunges) & make intervals out of running and those exercises—Sam & Meg Donica

10. Crossfit which is fast-paced and allows for one to encourage the other while they hold their baby & take turns—Derek & Jamie Montoya

11. Jogging with a baby stroller & dogs—Derek & Jamie Montoya

12. & beyond will be added by the end of the week! Thanks for your contributions!

Now we can’t wait to hear more creative ways to workout together from you!

Marriage Mondays | Communication in Marriage: Creating Connecting Conversation

I feel lucky to have close friends who are counselors. They're so inspirational even when they don't know they're being so. They're full of all these nuggets of wisdom that are usually just so simple yet profound. I can think of a handful of my friends who are so gifted at this profession, and these next couple weeks, the blog is being graced by them!  Over the past couple years, I realized just through catch-up conversation with them, that there are actual formulas and ideas that are beneficial for all relationships and communication. I had never heard of these concepts before, and I wondered WHY!? They seemed so helpful, so I knew I definitely wanted my friends to share with us all. 

Because, y'all, it's really not rocket science! Today, Kimberly Galindo, a Licensed Professional Counselor & Certified Sex Therapist, and dear friend of mine who I met a little over a year ago in my home group from church is sharing a simple communication formula with us. She's got the warmest personality and the most sincere heart, and I truly wish you could hear her explaining this in person. You would adore her! I've loved getting to know her more this past year and knew she'd be perfect to share with us! I hope you all enjoy! 

Hello readers! Lindsay asked me to share some thoughts on communication with you. As you know, Lindsay is passionate about marriage and capturing its beauty not just behind the camera but relationally as well. As such, she asked me to share some thoughts with her readers about marriage and communication.  It’s a topic that is near to my heart as I often hear couples in my counseling room state that they feel so disconnected So many times, connection is the result of health in the communication process. So, let’s explore some thoughts on healthy communication.

Healthy communication is foundational to fostering connection in relationships. When we feel understood, heard, and validated by an empathic experience with another human being it is powerful. It breathes life into our souls and into the soul of the relationship. Alternatively, when we experience disconnect in communication we can feel so many unpleasant experiences like loneliness, anger, confusion, disappointment, and many more emotions that may lead us to further disconnection.

Building a healthy foundation of communication is vital to every relationship including the marriage relationship. So, how do we do this? First, we must start from the ‘’I” perspective. Speak to your own observations, thoughts, feelings, and needs. We cannot speak for another person and when we do, we create disconnection. I have yet to meet a human (myself included) that feels connected after hearing ‘’Well, YOU think, feel, need, should, etc.” We do not feel connected when the conversation starts with ‘’you.’’ So, start with “I” statements. For example, when an event occurs in the relationship, ask yourself a few questions. What did I observe? What do I think about that? What do I feel about it? Finally, what do I need or what request would I like to make?

When we start with the “I”, share it with our spouse, and then allow them to do the same we are pursuing connecting conversation. We must also align our goals for connection as well. Your goal does not have to be to agree, but rather to understand. Seek to understand what is happening for you, share that with your spouse, and then seek to understand what they are experiencing. We can do this through something called reflective listening. So, reflect back what you heard and ask if that is accurate. If it is not, then ask for clarity. Statements like ‘’so, when _____ happened, you thought ____, and felt ____. Is that correct?” are extremely helpful to pursuing understanding.

Pay close attention to feelings and emotions. What are you feeling? Share this with your spouse. What are they feeling? Do you understand the emotion fueling the conversation?  Without tuning into emotions and sharing them we are just participating in data exchange and that is not a connecting form of communication.

Below is a guide that may help in your next conversation where you need to understand and resolve a matter. It is called the Awareness Wheel and can be a very helpful tool to guiding conversations.

Remember, the goal of communication is understanding not agreement. Speak from the ‘’I’’ and the next time you find yourself feeling disconnected in conversation try using the Awareness Wheel or phrase “When ______, I think _____ , and I feel ______. I would like to ask ______ or I need ______.” This seemingly small change can lead to powerful connecting impact.

Give this a try in your next conversation. It may feel new or even a bit awkward at first, but it can be a powerful way to create connection in your relationship. 

Miller, Sherod, Phyllis Miller, Elam W. Nunnally, and Daniel B. Wackman. Talking and Listening Together: Couple Communication I. Littleton, Colo.: Interpersonal Communication Programs, 1991. Print.

Marriage Mondays | It Won't Ruin the Surprise If You Tell Him What You Want

I think we all can humble ourselves and raise our hands to this post.  And I personally think that communicating expectations is something that you continue to learn throughout marriage. Or I at least hope so, because I'm slowly getting better at it! Jess, like you and me, can relate and share some encouragement for us all! She's a dear friend, passionate writer, gifted English teacher and past bride of mine, and she's sharing her gift with us all on the blog today! I fall into her writing so easily, because she's truly so gifted with words. I'm grateful she's sharing on such a topic that I know we call can relate. I hope you leave with a delicious cup of coffee and boost of encouragement! You can follow Jess' journey on her blog!

You know the feeling.  It’s the one you get when your spouse knows exactly what you want in any given moment without having to ask.  He just surprises you, whisks you away, or (insert desired action here).  I was certain that would be marriage every weekend.  A magical time of fun and adventures all planned and executed by my husband.  

Before you can tell me how selfish I am--I know--let’s rewind a bit.

It was maybe four weeks after we moved to Dallas, amounting to a whopping total of six weeks of marriage.  Presley was working a door-to-door sales job that kept him out from 9 am to 9 pm, Monday-Saturday.  I worked morning shifts at Starbucks from 4:30 am until about 9:30 am.  Yep, you heard that right.  We never saw each other.  Mind you, I also did not know a soul within hundreds of miles, and had to drive on the big scary highways if I wanted to do anything at all.  

It was a Sunday morning--a sacred day for quality time.  I decided it would be so awesome to skip church and go on a little adventure or something to explore the metroplex.

Of course, I didn’t need to communicate this to Pres.

He’s my soulmate!  Of course he would be thinking the same thing.  He would wake up, get ready, and promptly sweep me off my feet by saying, “Get in the car, little lady!  We are skipping church!”

Suddenly, I heard him start to make breakfast, and it dawned on me.  His mind was nowhere near this adventure, which meant I would have to tell him.  

Rationally, I started to cry.  In our teensy-tiny apartment, the only place I could hide my crying was the closet.  I went in there, shut the door, and sobbed.  

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, my husband didn’t pick up on my plan?  What do you mean, he didn’t want to spend time adventuring with me instead of going to church with people we don’t even know?  

You see, I love surprises.  I love the idea of Presley thinking up a scheme and executing it without my knowledge.

However, after a little over two years of marriage, I’ve learned a bit about Presley’s brain and a lot about letting go.

He’s usually thinking: Jess is not very spontaneous, and likes to have a plan.  True.  She likes to be ready and dressed up when we go somewhere.  Mostly true.  It helps the stress of the week if we can get chores done on Sunday.  Very true.  

After many fights, even more discussions and attempts at understanding, we arrived at the fact that random spontaneity was a rare exception to my many internal rules.

Marriage Tip: Don’t assume your love knows all the exceptions to your rulebook.  In fact, don’t assume he knows all your rules yet, either!

Just because you commit to being husband and wife on your wedding day doesn’t mean you’ve become partners yet!  The becoming--the learning, the messing up, the laughing and loving together--it never stops.  In fact, that in between space when we’ve learned the most about each other has become one of my favorite parts of marriage.

Hey babe, remember when you discovered I was crazy enough to lock myself in the closet and cry about something I never told you I wanted?

You have to evaluate every situation and decide which part you are more willing to let go.  Is it more important to you to do the given thing you have in your mind, or is it more important for you to be surprised?  I’ve discovered that telling Presley I want to go to Downtown Fort Worth for a Date Night does not take away the fun of the Date Night.  It won’t ruin the surprise, just tell him what you want!

Fast forwarding back to the present, I have a new definition of adventures.  It looks a lot less like getting fancy and going somewhere crazy.  It looks a lot more like driving through a new neighborhood or scamming the sample-system at Costco.  Telling your husband what you want takes away the pressure of fairytale magic and leaves room for the kind of magic that takes the cake--the mundane, the everyday, the authentic rhythms of life together.

Marriage Mondays: Boil Meets Grill | Cooking & Communication

Have you ever cooked with your boo and discovered that it's a really sweet time together? Or maybe you opt not to, because you have different ways of getting tasks done? Either way, I completely think that looking into something like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh is an excellent way to make time together. Jordan and I got the free week trial of Blue Apron and cooked the meals together, and it was honestly enriching to try new ways of cooking and prepping meals. Plus, we got to reap the benefits afterward with a yummy meal. It saves you the task of shopping and decision-making and allows you some some together feeling productive. 

Jordan and I relearned (and laughed at) how differently we tackle tasks: I just get 'r done, and he's precise and perfect. So naturally, I tackle the bigger (less important) tasks while he minces, dices and chpps the others. But once we completed the meals, we realized the time we spent together was a sweet shared experience learning something new. I mean, who knew how to prepare freekeh!? When I posted about this on my Instagram Story, Janelle commented saying how much of a positive effect Blue Apron had on her and Rory's marriage and communication skills. When she reached out, I asked if she could share more about how it's benefitted them and their marriage, and I'm grateful that she did!

You'll enjoy one Las Vegas couple's journey to a fun, intentional marriage through cooking in the kitchen! It might be something sweet for you and your boo to try here and there when you have time during the week. OR make it a daily "date" together during your weekly grind. Whatever! 

Get a week's free for you and your boo--you may enjoy it! 

Boil Meets Grill (because who doesn’t love a good pun)

My husband Rory and I have been married for nearly a year. Living in the entertainment capital of the world, good food is not hard to come by.  As self-proclaimed foodies, we love exploring the world plate by plate and have been able to do so within this culturally diverse and highly competitive Las Vegas scene.  Discovering eats such as the most delicious pork belly bao in the middle of a smoky run down casino or the most delectable but near microscopic bacon wrapped dates at an upscale Spanish tapas restaurant remains one of our favorite activities.  But as you can imagine, it’s an expensive hobby. We wanted to buckle down on our spending, but at the same time did not want to give up our foodterest (See what I did there?)  Because cooking at home typically meant just that… I cooked what I knew, what my mom had taught me.  The same #whitegirl dishes (i.e., chicken, casserole, did I mention chicken?) with my fabulous sous chef, ‘the crockpot’, while Rory, in all his manliness, would throw meat on the grill.

We didn’t know anyone that had used Blue Apron before.  We were curious about it, but not quite curious enough to sign up on our own.  My mom surprised us with two weeks of Blue Apron meals for my birthday last June. We tried it and totally loved it.  It met all the desires of our little foodie hearts and we had no other expectations. 

We both work full time. When we first started sharing the cooking duties we did so for the purpose of speeding up the process, however, we soon realized how valuable that time was for our marriage.  I quickly realized how much I needed to relinquish control, EVEN if Rory was dicing the garlic when he needed to be mincing it.  We learned to effectively divvy up tasks and sequence our steps.  It was not always pretty, but we learned something constructive about ourselves each time. 

Essentially, don’t we do this at work?  We have to. We often have to work as a team in order to accomplish a task/goal/mission. We work better when we communicate effectively, utilize other’s strengths, and allot plenty of grace to others and ourselves. There are, of course, different consequences in the kitchen (i.e. a burnt meal) than in the office, but the general idea is the same, right?  

Ten months in, we are not entirely a well-oiled machine, but that’s quite alright with us as we have seen the value in working to smooth out each other’s rough edges.  Of all the things we do for our marriage, cooking together is the most enriching.  We have encouraged other couples to give meal subscription services a try and they have all had positive experiences as well.   The kitchen is now our marriage workshop and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

-Janelle Lozano

 Gaby J. Photography 

Gaby J. Photography 

Get to cookin' friends! Have any of you had the same experience in the kitchen with your significant others? 

Marriage Mondays | Speaking Your Spouse's Love Language

I'm going to first start out by saying that this newlywed couple has wisdom beyond their years (or months!)! When I began planning for this Marriage Mondays series, I reached out to one of my former #ldpcouples, Ryan and Alex, because I had a little background knowledge of how they were intentional about one another's love language. This honestly didn't surprise me, and I loved it!

If I'm being honest, Jordan and I have found ourselves in the same argument over and over, and what it comes down to is us not being fluent or intentional in each other's love language. I felt it was fitting for Alex and Ryan to share their wisdom, and I'm personally so encouraged by their post and delighted that they shared it with us! I think this whole "love language" thing is an interesting concept from which everyone can honestly benefit. Their last paragraph just totally kicked me in the tail in the best way possible, and I can't wait for you to learn a little more. 

Alex and Ryan are definitely one of my favorite couples to ever photograph (hence their cover photo on my magazine), and they tied the knot in Fort Worth this past October. Aren't they cute?! Well, they're as wise as they are cute! Enjoy! 

Happy Marriage Monday! Ryan and I are honored to be apart of this new blog series. We’re all about learning tips and tricks from other couples who are tackling this thing called marriage, and are so grateful to be able to share a few tips and tricks of our own. If nothing else, we pray this post will be an encouragement to each who read it, whether married, dating or single!

Today we’re talking about love languages! When I first heard about them, I was a little apprehensive, but then Ryan made me read the book and I was sold. The whole love tank idea is so cheesy, but so genius. Ryan and I read the book when we were dating and it brought a completely new perspective for both of us.

For those who are new to the whole “love languages” thing, basically you can take a quiz to find out how you feel most loved (what fills your love tank), which is in turn how you usually express your love to others. When your love tank is “full,” it’s a lot easier for you to express love to those around you. When your love tank is “empty,” it’s harder for you to be patient, kind, and loving. The goal is to keep those love tanks full!! The 5 love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. If you’re like a majority of the couples whom Ryan and I have met, you and your spouse most likely have completely opposite love languages. (I think God does this on purpose because it’s a daily reminder to be a little more selfless in the way we show love to our spouse.)

My love language is words of affirmation, and Ryan’s is physical touch. Now just to give you some giggles - when I was little my mom said anytime she put her hand on my leg, I would take her hand and move it off of my leg. I was born with a total lack to love via physical touch!! I have to remind myself to give people hugs when I see them. I want so badly to be the sweet Ryan Moore who gives a big ol’ bear hug to every person he meets, but it just isn’t my first thought. On the other hand, Ryan is the huggiest, loviest guy in the whole wide world, yet he can’t respond to texts for the life of him. Our good friends know that if you want ahold of Ryan, you text me, or there’s no guaranteeing a response. Social media, texting, words of affirmation just aren’t at the forefront of his mind.

Before I get into our tips and tricks, I will also note that you usually have a primary and secondary love language. For example, though words of affirmation “give me all the feels” as Lindsay Davenport would say :), I really, really value any time that I get with Ryan. It doesn’t even have to be quality time. Just BEING with him fills up my love tank. I love when Ryan offers to ride with me up to the store, or chooses to do his work next to me in the living room instead of in his office. These little things fill my tank! So silly, but it does. Ryan values the real quality time the book talks about. I have to remember that I can love him best by using that time in the car to talk about our work week, our passions, desires, our life goals, etc. It’s easy for me to turn on the radio and sing some songs on our way up to Walmart, but I constantly have to remember that I can love Ryan well by using the car ride to have meaningful conversation.

So how do we tackle it? Here’s a few tips and tricks that have worked for us:

1.     “Thankfuls"- Ryan came up with this back when we were dating. Each day we had to share 3 things that we were thankful for, or “thankfuls” as he would call it.  Ryan used this time to compliment me, which just made me explode inside. I know it sounds silly, but it really was a simple trick that made a huge difference in our day and our relationship. Ryan set aside this time to make sure he was providing me words of affirmation on a daily basis.

2.     Initiating Physical Touch - When I realized this was Ryan’s love language, I thought, “Seriously?!” Like I’ll make you coffee every morning, do your laundry, tell you how handsome you are, and buy you gifts all day long, but do you really want me holding your hand all the time? I had to force myself to be conscientious about the way I expressed my love to Ryan, and holding his hand when he grabbed mine was not enough. I realized very quickly how important it was to initiate that physical touch. So rather than waiting until he held my hand, I made it a goal to be the first to grab hands, the first to give a big ol’ hug and kiss, the first to rub his back, etc. etc. That initiation of physical touch meant the world to him.

3.     Work / Wife Balance- Back when Ryan was interviewing for jobs, one of the things he brought up in interviews was work / life balance. Knowing that spending time together was so important to me, he made sure that he wasn’t about to accept a job that would keep him working ’til midnight. Now, due to the nature of his industry, there are weeks when Ryan has to work longer hours than most, but he’s intentional about waking up early (I’m talking 4 or 5 a.m.) to get work done so he can come home earlier to be with me. If a work buddy asks to get dinner after work, he opts for waking up early to get coffee together instead. This man HATES waking up early, yet he does it constantly to make sure he can be home with me in the evenings. I know, he’s a superhero husband….

4.     Pursuing Intentional Time - Like I mentioned before, it’s easy for me to throw on some music in the car and not think twice about having intentional conversations, but knowing how important it is to Ryan, I have to seek out opportunities to make sure I’m not just engaging in those conversations, but every once ina while, starting them myself. During those extra busy weeks, we plan ahead for date nights. We found that if we didn’t schedule date night, our intentional time would get lost in the millions of other things on our plate. Sad, but true. So whether going for a walk or grabbing dinner, plan for time where you can be intentional with your conversations.

Now, if I’m being entirely honest, I think since learning about love languages I’m more cognizant than ever when Ryan isn’t “filling up my love tank” (so dumb!) I have to remind myself over and over and over again that marriage is about pursing holiness and not happiness, and Ryan (though the most incredible husband in the entire world) can not and will not bring me complete satisfaction in filling up my tank. Truthfully, I think if I was pursing, seeking and clinging to the Lord as I should be, my tank would be daily overflowing with or without Ryan contributing to it. I also think nothing truly fills up your tank like laying down your wants, desires, needs, or time for someone else does. This applies to any relationship, not just in marriage. So, our challenge to you, friends, is to focus more on filling your spouses tank (or anyone for that matter) than worrying about how much they are pouring into yours.

Marriage Mondays | Best Date Spots in Dallas

Happy Monday friends! Let me start out by saying: you're going to want to save this post, show it to your spouse or schedule a reservation after you finish reading this, because Kate and Landon have us covered! Whether you're visiting Dallas or a Dallas-native, you have your future brunch dates, casual dates or anniversary dates planned. 

Kate is the creative, party stylist and lifestyle blogger behind The Everyday Hostess, and I've had the pleasure of getting to know her over the past year. I fell in love with her work when I started following her on Instagram (@the_everyday_hostess), and she styled our couple's brunch this past fall! I wish I had an eye for decorating like the does, but truly, she can do it all! She's so talented, fun and sweet! She and Landon are getting married this June, and they were so wonderful to share a guest post during all of their busyness! Hope to see you out at some of these date spots! I think Jordan and I are going to hit up Pie Tap first! 

By The Everyday Hostess

Kate Jolliffe + Landon Haaf

 Jackie Cooper Photography

Jackie Cooper Photography

Happy Marriage Monday! The two of us are just getting started on the marriage adventure, but we've heard from couples of all ages that the most important thing in maintaining the "spark" is regular date nights and one-on-one time with the spouse. Luckily for us, Dallas has plenty of fun date night spots, making it a GREAT place to keep the romance alive!

As a couple who met in Dallas and as self-proclaimed foodies, we love exploring the trendy spots around town to grab a bite or a libation. Whether you are looking for a chic and swanky atmosphere or low key and casual vibe, we've got you and your next date covered with some of our favorite restaurants and bars as well as the best menu items!

Brunch Spots:

Mercat Bistro - Located in the new Harwood District and right next to St. Ann's, Mercat Bistro is the perfect place to enjoy a Saturday or SUnday morning brunch with your special someone. The French inspired decor gives the restaurant an intimate and romantic vibe, yet it still feels approachable. They boast a fantastic croque Madame that pairs perfectly with their mimosa carafes. The restaurant is rather small, so be sure to make reservations in advance, but if you find yourself without a table, you can always walk to St. Ann's next door which is also one of our favorite spots!

Landon's Favorite: Croque Madamme

Kate's Favorite: Vegetable Quiche

Henry's Majestic - Henry's Majestic has a low key and edgy vibe that makes it the perfect spot for a casual brunch. They are best known for their "Bubbly Bar", which is a well stocked DIY mimosa bar, and will give your day the perfect kickoff.

Landon's Favorite: Majestic Egg Sandwich

Kate's Favorite: Charred Tomatillo Chilaquiles

Formal Dinner Date:

Neighborhood Services - Neighborhood Services has topped the D Magazine's Top 100 restaurants for years now and it's not hard to see why. Owned by the same guys as Nick and Sam's, this American style steak-house is the perfect spot to impress your date. Neighborhood Services does a stellar job of creating a formal yet approachable and intimate atmosphere that makes it one of the best date night or celebratory restaurants. Plus the steak is to die for, and don't get me started on the salmon!

Landon's Favorite: Filet of Beef Tenderloin

Kate's Favorite: Caramelized Scallops

Ocean Prime - Ocean Prime is definitely one of our absolute favorite spots when celebrating a birthday or anniversary. This classy, white tablecloth restaurant boasts some of the best seafood in all of Dallas, plus they know how to make you feel extra special when celebrating a big occasion.

Landon's Favorite: Lobster Mashed Potatoes

Kate's Favorite: King Salmon

Mesero - This trendy Tex mex spot will always hold a special place in our hearts as the location of our first date. Started by the “godfather of Dallas Tex mex,” who was also the mastermind behind Mi Cocina and Mr. Mesero, Mesero is a local gem fit for the both the drinks-and-apps crowd and the full-dinner folks alike. Come for the tasty trio of salsas (salsa verde yes please), stay for the mouthwatering margs!

Landon's Favorite: #4 Las Combinaciones

Kate's Favorite: Cazera Ensalada

Low Key Date Night:

State and Allen - Tucked away on a corner just off the main drag of uptown Dallas (it’s at State Street and Allen Street), this is a casual spot with a great vibe and great food. Monday night is half-price pizza night, and a staple of our date night routine. Plus, it’s within a couple blocks of a bunch of drink spots if your date night plan includes multiple stops. Pro tip from Landon: Hitting up S&A for a laid-back date night doesn’t have to mean you don’t get to watch the big game -- they’ve got several TVs, so you can still check in on the score.

Landon's Favorite: BBQ Chicken Pizza

Kate's Favorite:  The White Pizza

Pie Tap - For all you craft pizza lovers, this is a great new spot to check out. With a location in the Knox Henderson area and another in the Design District, it is conveniently located for most Dallasites. They have a delicious menu of specialty pizzas, appetizers (get the goat cheese fondue -- swoon!), and salads, plus a great selection of craft beers. This is the perfect spot to unwind with your significant other, or if you want to enjoy from home, take them up on their killer delivery deal which includes beer and wine!

Landon's Favorite: Sausage Pizza

Kate's Favorite: Goat Cheese Fondue

Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. - You make have thought grilled cheese sandwiches were a relic of your childhood...but it’s made a comeback. And we’re not talking Kraft Singles and Mrs. Baird’s here. Their menu takes grilled cheese to the next level with specialty sandwiches paired with delectable sweet potato fries.

Landon's Favorite: BBQ Short Rib Mac 'N & Grilled Cheese

Kate's Favorite: Chicken Caprese Grilled Cheese

The Porch- This Knox Henderson establishment is always one of our favorites when we are looking for some delicious comfort food but still want a more upbeat atmosphere. Come as you are, or dress up a little, you are sure to fit right in.

Landon's Favorite: The Stodg Burger

Kate's Favorite: Crab Cake Salad + Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Black Pepper Bacon

Drinks:

Midnight Rambler - Located at the bottom of The Joule Hotel, this chic underground cocktail lounge is a Dallas hot spot. With a menu filled with craft cocktails and exotic ingredients it's the perfect spot for the couple looking for a trendy night out on the town!

Landon's Favorite: Cuffs & Buttons

Kate's Favorite: Bohemian Bloom

Parliament - If you haven't been to Parliament you are missing out! This is our absolute favorite spot to grab a quick drink after work or weekend night. Situated in the heart of uptown in the quiet State Thomas neighborhood, this 1920's style craft cocktail bar is a neighborhood favorite. They have an awesome $4 happy hour everyday from 5-8pm as well as whenever it's raining!

Landon's Favorite: Old Fashioned

Kate's Favorite:  Moscow Mule

Micro Changes Create Macro Results | Just Set the Coffee Maker

Sometimes I look forward to my morning coffee before I even go to bed at night. Are you tracking with me? Sometimes I can just taste my creamer with a splash of coffee before my head even hits the pillow. And mug? I sometimes think coffee tastes better in the cute mug I pour it in.

Morning coffee is just so glorious, and I actually went a good several months without this desire, but since I’ve had Luke, this fun, warm, fuzzy feeling is coming back.

But do you know what I hate?

I really do hate setting the coffee maker to go off. Ugh. What is it about those 3 minutes of pouring the water in, measuring the coffee and pressing “program”? I don’t know, but when I worked in the schools last year, it could literally throw my night off when I realized that I had to set that dang coffee maker. Because there was no way I was going to have time to make coffee in the morning, and all my kiddos sure knew I needed it!

Life looks differently these days, because I’m not needing my coffee to survive 5 mornings a week like I was last year. But you know who is?

Jordan is.

He may not work 5 days a week, but he works 3 nursing shifts, and those sure do count. He leaves the house by 6:00 in the morning and is home by 8:00 at night. Nursing shifts are no joke but so is no coffee in the morn!

Do you see where I’m going with this?

And if you’re thinking Jordan better not forget to set the coffee maker at night…you’re wrong! ;-)

So I know I’m not some seasoned married woman who’s been learning decades of wisdom to share with you, but I have learned a thing or two in the past few years that I feel like count. And because they’ve set the stage for a more enjoyable marriage, I wanted to share this simple piece of advice with you all.

Now what I’m about to share isn’t groundbreaking or mindboggling. It’s really quite simple. It’s honestly mindboggling in itself why more couples don’t acknowledge or do this more often, but I have to think it’s just human nature to look after yours truly. It’s human nature to think of your timeline, your schedule and your needs first. It’s human nature to keep or want all eyes on yourself. No?  

But that’s not what makes a marriage thrive. 

Selflessness is it.

After I had Luke, I went to Square One at Watermark Community Church, which is a ministry for new moms. Side note, it was AMAZING. On one of the weeks, the topic they focused on was the changing dynamics between husband and wife or mom and dad. Like I said before, I love learning more about all things marriage, so I left so giddy and encouraged. Because yes, I was feeling the boat rocking a bit at home, and what I came home encouraged with was so valuable. So simple, yet so valuable.

One of the nuggets that a wise woman in our small group said was to serve your spouse by doing what they love most. And yes, even asking them, “what can I do that would make you feel loved?” She said that oftentimes we may be spending our time doing things for our spouse that they don’t actually read as “love”, and we’re essentially wasting our time. She essentially said that with a little direction, you’d be amazed at how the puzzle of marriage fits together.

So that night I decided that I would spend a few minutes at night prior Jordan's work shifts making Jordan’s lunch for work and setting the coffee maker. 

You guys, this isn’t shocking news, right? But I’m not kidding, it’s been amazing for our marriage. Yes, we served each other in ways before, but staying committed even when we're rocky speaks volumes. We’ve felt more closer to one another; our communication has been better, and I feel like we’re quicker to listen and extend forgiveness to one another. 

And did remember how much I hate setting coffee makers? I know this speaks a louder volume to Jordan when he wakes up to the smell of coffee. But what's neat is that it's gone both ways. 

You know how comfortable it is when you slip into bed at night and your covers aren’t in a ball and messed up from the night before? This is assuming you haven’t made your bed that day and can’t just pull back the covers (oops). Well, just as much as Jordan loves waking up at 5:30 to a coffee aroma coming from the kitchen, I love slipping into a bed at night with sheets that are tightly pulled and not slipping off the sides of the bed.

A few days after I started setting the coffee maker, I noticed Jordan reading into this love of mine and he began pulling and straightening the covers just how I like them. I hadn’t expressed to him what I had learned from Square One, but I was felt so loved by him making the quick time for this little deed.

Personally, I will admit that there were nights where I still went to bed frustrated with Jordan for whatever (probably silly) reason, but I got up to fix his lunch and set his coffee anyway. I’m not saying this to toot my own horn, but to admit that even doing this little act of kindness with a reluctant heart, in turn, set my heart back on track. There’s just something about extending kindness to others that can heal or even the playing field. And in my case, it convicted me and essentially cleaned off the slate to start a new day. It humbles me. Because this is just one way that a marriage can mirror our relationship with Christ. And guys, the next days, our conversation the next day after an “off” night was actually easier to start, because selflessness trumps stubbornness. And keeping tabs is not part of the game.

Micro changes create macro results.

There’s a photographer named Katelyn James who I follow and look up to a lot, and she uses this phrase with a business point of view. I feel like it’s really been such a theme for our marriage these past few months, and it’s been so encouraging to see it play out in our marriage.

Because marriage cannot be enjoyed to the fullest without selflessness from both sides. When stubbornness and selfishness creep in, joy is sucked from the potential of adventurous, meaningful and delightful shared experiences together.

What we’ve found is these micro changes really break the ice and show each other that regardless of our own desires or needs, we’re willing to love the other in a few short minutes a day (at least) by doing what the other loves most. These little deeds spiral into other areas of our day, communication and marriage and truly do create macro results, so to speak. It's amazing to think that these micro changes have created something that feels like so much bigger of a change. They’ve been a game changer and allowed us to grow deeper in this new season of life since we’ve added a little babe to the mix. 

We’re growing. We’re learning. We’re setting coffee makers even though it's our least favorite thing and straightening bed sheets at night when we're tired, which in turn translates to the start of moving mountains.

Because sometimes when the boat is rocking, and you feel like it’s about to tip over, you start small. That mountain isn’t going to move overnight friend. 

Here's to us hoping you experience deeper joys in marriage.

What small acts of kindness would your spouse love for you to do? 

Marriage Mondays | Dating Your Spouse & Fighting for Getaways

Happy Monday friends! I'm more than excited to share our first guest post!

Last week I shared about this new series we're launching called Marriage Mondays, which you can catch up on my heart behind it here. Insert happy dance, because our first guest blogger Hannah from The Cake by Hannah is opening up about her first few years of marriage and how continually dating her husband by guarding their weekly date nights and budgeting for weekend getaways or staycations is worth it. Hannah is the talented, passionate writer behind her blog and the founder of The Cake Shop. I have loved getting to know her through Circle Seven Five Events, her fun, authentic Insta Story and her heart through her blog. She's all things cute, genuine and fashionable as she shares about faith, fashion and spreading kindness like buttercream frosting. I'm honored that she was our first guest blogger, and I can say that Jordan and I are definitely encouraged by the intentionality that she and her husband Paul have. I'd say that in today's world, sometimes putting boundaries around quality time with your spouse can be misunderstood or devalued, but the fact that her friends and family know and ask about this is absolutely amazing! 

Thanks for opening up your heart Han! 

 cottonwood road photography

cottonwood road photography

My husband and I have been married for 3 years now. Every single year has been better than the last, and this season we are currently in is our favorite we've ever been in. (Insert cheers here!) We just have kind of ‘hit our groove’, if you will. We have had to learn a lot over the last three years under the same roof to get to where we are now; like, how and when to approach conflict, battles to choose and which ones to drop, that Paul is always going to put his shoes in the middle of the bathroom and I am always going to need to be overly organized and planned, and, most importantly, how to prioritize our time with one another over all the other blaring noises in our life. It hasn’t been an easy journey by any means. To be honest, our first year of marriage I have all but completely blocked out of my memory forever. Okay, okay- not really. But it was really hard! God has a sense of humor, because our first place together was a loft- no doors but the one to the bathroom. We fought so much our first year, and there was no escaping each other. I found myself crying in an empty bathtub quite a few times just because it was the only place I could be frustrated without Paul sitting next to me! Guys, those were funny days and times, and I really am grateful for them! See, our first year was a year of hustle, bustle, running from here to there, working 9-5 and then being somewhere else 5-9, oh and… have time for each other… more like lack there of. There were nights I literally lied awake thinking, “What the heck did I get myself into?” It can all too easily happen, we get so caught up in life that we forget to pour into the most important piece of the puzzle. Then, one day we wake up and have no idea how we got where we are, but none the less, here we are: tired, ragged, distant, frustrated, and clueless where to start trying to pick up the pieces.

This was where we found ourselves at year two of marriage, and it’s when we made some massive changes in our lives. How lucky to see so early on in our marriage that we couldn’t live like this forever. Something had to give! You guys, whether you have been married 5 days, 5 years, or 5 decades, prioritizing one on one time with your spouse is the most beneficial and sweet thing you can do for your marriage. It will look different for every single couple, but figure out what works for you. Fridays are Paul’s and my day, and we are very selfish with it. I think we have passed off our Friday no more than 8-10 times MAX over the last two years. We can literally be sitting on the sofa watching a movie together and eating homemade pizza for date night, or we are at some extravagant new restaurant we’ve been wanting to try, but bottom line is that Fridays are ours, and nobody can change that. When the budget is tight, we just go grab happy hour at a local restaurant and grab ice cream on the square. I love those date nights just as much! We let our family and friends know about Friday date nights, too. We talk about it a lot, and protect it. I love when people see me on Thursday and ask what Paul and I are doing for date night. It’s truly part of our week, and it changed the game. It’s amazing what a date night does for your marriage. Taking that even further, we have started doing vacation/staycations every 6 months to seriously unplug, and our goal is to do some kind of getaway every quarter. Our jobs require us to be “on” what feels like all hours of the day. We are constantly thinking, shepherding, and meeting people’s needs, and it’s absolutely our passion. So, that means also that we have to fight to turn off work and unplug periodically. When you’re in the business of people like we are (pastor and pastor’s wife/worship leader/blogger), you have to be intentional about turning. it. off. If your response to me saying ‘take a vacation’ was just, “Yeah right, we on that budget life.” SO ARE WE. We budget every dime we have, and if we overspend one of those dimes, something else is taking the hit. But, we value saving and prioritizing dates and getaways.

Our favorite place to do a staycation is Four Seasons Dallas. We have been twice now, and it’s the best. We sit on our balcony, play board games, reconnect, and talk about what things we want to accomplish in the coming months. We intentionally turn off our phones and try new things together. These are the same types of questions and things we do on any Friday date night, but there is something so much deeper about a getaway. If you haven’t tried Air Bnb y’all, you are seriously missing the boat on this one. Don’t let money be an excuse to not getaway with your spouse. Four Seasons is a pretty hefty bill, but an Air Bnb can be as little as $300 for a whole weekend getaway together. Bring your own food to cook, go explore a city you don’t know, read together, play games, walk the local state parks… the options are endless. Find somewhere just a couple hours away that you can easily drive to.

No matter what, we’ve all heard this but it’s so true, don’t stop dating your spouse. When things get hard, when things get busy, when babies come, or when you have had that same fight for the fifth time this week (eherm, we’ve totally been there)- intentionality with your best friend is the only way to maintain that tight friendship. Fight for productive and intentional time together. Literally just last night, half way through our dinner, I said, “I hate that we are sitting on the sofa again for dinner with the tv on.” So we turned off the tv and went to the kitchen island and ate like we should. We had great conversation just by intentionally choosing to stop the mundane and ragged routine of tired we can easily fall into.

Have those date nights and try a fun staycation or little getaway. We used to say to ourselves “we are waiting for the right time to travel and explore”, but like so many things in life, is there ever really a good time? Save money now, and prioritize the things want to do and value most now! The foundation you’re building in your marriage now are the habits you will have for a long time, and are what will dictate the direction of your future family’s habits. If date night is a priority now, that won’t change when kids come along. Your kids will know and celebrate Fridays (or whatever day is it is for you!) and honor it. Same with getaways. Start now, and it will be a habit deeply rooted in the core of who you are as a couple. Sure, money will be up and down and unpredictable, but fighting for it and intentionally saving for things like that is worth it. It’s sacrifice but it’s also a game changer for how you connect with your spouse.

Love you guys! Thanks for reading just a little bitty piece of my heart. Thankful for you.

xoxo- Han

 Cottonwood road photography

Cottonwood road photography

Marriage Mondays | Kicking It Off

Ah! Cue confetti! This is kind of a big deal for me--mostly because I’ve been putting it off for quite a while now.

But I’ve finally ventured forth into pursuing something I’ve felt like was an open door for me for a while now.

But I wasn’t really sure how, and I fell numerous times into the trap of it having to be perfect. When in reality, I’m a photographer today, because I wasn’t afraid to dive into something without being perfect. Thank goodness for my bit of impulsivity! So why has it been so hard to pursue this?

Maybe because deep down, I have felt like my own marriage is so far from perfect. Jordan and I have learned a lot since our honeymoon, but we also are so dang imperfect that it’s like, “why haven’t we figured XYZ out yet?!” Or maybe it’s because I don’t want to be judged or come across the wrong way to the wrong crowd. I’ve never been one to want to ruffle feathers.  Fear of failure? Maybe that could also be. But how could I really fail at this unless I just…..stop posting. I guess that’s how. Okay, so now that that’s out there, it makes me a leetle nervous! :) Anyway..

So here we are friends! I pushed myself into the pool very slowly and am experiencing more peace and excitement, as it’s all coming together.

For those of you who don’t know much about me

I’m a small town New Mexico-raised girl who met her husband at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He was from Dallas, so after we finished graduate school and nursing school, we decided to search for jobs in the big city. He is currently an ICU nurse while I just went full time with wedding photography this past June.  The year prior I worked in the schools as a speech-language pathologist! We currently have a baby boy who was born this past December, and we are taking a little breather from our home renovation

Just like I accidentally fell into photography while in graduate school, I feel that it’s no coincidence that I specifically fell in love with wedding photography. I was and always will be the sucker for a good romance movie, a sweet proposal story or a thoughtful gift idea. I was the friend in high school who watched her friends date, formed my own opinions on how relationships should be and when I began seriously dating myself, I realized how excitingly difficult they could be. I discovered that I really enjoyed reading about dating, relationships, communication and anything in between. I also discovered how even though I have a passion for this, it doesn’t actually mean Jordan and I are able to apply these nuggets and have a perfect marriage.

I’d say that Jordan and I have definitely had really easy, smooth and exciting seasons within our marriage, and I’m really thankful that he is the man he is. I'd say we have a loving, strong marriage. I’ve experienced some of the sweetest memories of my life with this man, and I am giddy thinking about all the more memories we have to make. But we’ve swallowed the good with the bad. We’ve definitely had some really dark and difficult seasons, as well. I mean, moving to a new city, starting new jobs, working opposite schedules, renovating a house and getting pregnant in a year doesn't exactly equate to simplicity. But surprisingly, looking back at the trials, I wouldn’t have changed any of it.

Because marriage is amazingly messy, beautiful, adventurous and difficult. We’re not meant to do it alone, and community rallied around us can only help us out to experience the sweeter joys of the sourest seasons of life.

So birthed this idea of mine…

I wanted a way to love on and support my past and future wedding couples. A way to support them after the excitement of the wedding dies down. Because, you know, after the excitement of the wedding, you’re left with a marriage. And your marriage will truly be what you make of it, what time you put into it and how you choose to be present within it.

So with that little background shared and my heart open for you, I’m pursing this outlet for couples of all stages—dating, engaged, on their honeymoon or married for half a decade. For couples that love dating one another, are in a dry season or who simply want to go from a 8 to an 9 in their relationship. I’m launching this new blog post series that you’ll find posted here on Mondays called Marriage Mondays.

Inspire & support couples. Encourage & create new shared experiences. Equip, Love, Learn.

I hope and pray that it be a safe, encouraging, silly and creatively-fun place for couples to find encouragement and ideas for various kinds of shared experiences together. I’m a firm believer in that setting out to have new “firsts” together is one ingredient to an adventurous, fun relationship. The longer you've known each other or been married, the less "first" you experience on the daily, and there is so much to learn about one another and new emotions to share when you visit a new restaurant, event or city together. It's exciting; it grows you and creates this said "shared experiences". HENCE why I LOVE TRAVELING.

While some posts will be a bit deeper with communication advice or understanding your love language, others will balance it out with creative date night ideas, meals to prep and cook together and stay-cation ideas. Because you guys, Jordan and I are first in line for learning new date night restaurants and ways to continually "date" each other. We sometimes just fail at the creativity and fall back on our Redbox + wine combo, but you know, we don't hate that either. ;-) 

I’m already so giddy about our line-up of guest posts, shared from food bloggers, lifestyle bloggers and a hand full of local counselors who happen to be friends of mine.

I can’t wait for Hannah from The Cake by Hannah to share with us next week, and I plan on using some of her ideas for a future stay-cation, myself! ;-)

I'm overjoyed that you’re here, and I hope you know you’re loved. Have a fabulous week friend! If you know a friend or two who's as giddy about rom-coms, date nights or marriage as I am, I'd love for you to share the news about my new series! 

Hugs!