Monday, March 27, 2017

Vacations Are Good for Your Marriage

Not too long ago, we blogged about the importance of vacations for your family (click here to read that post). We try to take a big vacation every year—and usually several weekend ones throughout the year—because we believe that vacations are good for your marriage.

Growing up, I always went on family vacations, and last week my sister shared this post from Jen Hatmaker about family vacations in a group text.  As usual, Jenn had me rolling on the floor laughing. My sister and brother and I went back and forth via text remembering those fun times.

Howell and I were on vacation when my sister shared this story, and as I texted with my family about our vacations growing up, I was reminded that my parents were also very intentional about taking their own vacations sans kids.

Howell’s parents did the same, and when we were first married, we said we’d make that a priority. Even though we didn’t have any money, we’d set aside a little bit each month and plan to go somewhere.

We still do that.

And we’ve been to some great places (ten states plus London and the Caribbean)! Over Spring Break, I presented at a conference in Portland, Oregon, and we both took some vacation days to make a trip of it.

We flew into the Bay Area and spent the weekend there. I’d never been to San Francisco, so we got to do all the touristy stuff (Golden Gate, Lombard Street, Pier 39, Full House, etc.).

Then we rented a car and drove up the coast to Brookings, Oregon. The sights were breathtaking—from the redwoods, which really are amazing, to the beach just mere yards from the highway.

We stayed at a little rent house in Brookings that was right on the beach. So peaceful and relaxing. (We decided we want to go back and stay there for a week!)

Then we detoured to Crater Lake before heading to Portland for the conference.

Although we were “on the go” a lot for our vacation, we both commented several times about how peaceful it was to drive together and to be alone and to be disconnected from work and other life responsibilities.

That’s what vacations do. They allow you to re-fuel, refresh, revive.

If you feel challenged to find quality time with your spouse because of life or kids or work, I highly encourage you to save some money and plan a trip with just the two of you.

It’s a worthwhile investment for your marriage! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

When You Need to Be Reminded: Our God is BIG!

First of all, I’d like to give a shout out to my hubs. Today is his birthday. Woot Woot! J (Last year, I wrote a post with my 30 favorite things about him.)

I’d add to that list how grateful I am that he’s always willing to go with me to my conferences. I’ve presented at a few academic conferences over the years, and he hasn’t missed a single one. St. Louis. Pittsburgh. San Antonio. Santa Fe. We’ve been to some fun places.

This last week, he went with me to Portland, where I presented at the ATTW conference.

We made a trip of it (more on that Monday—so stay tuned) and took a few vacation days before the conference to enjoy ourselves on the West Coast.

As the day of my conference approached, I started feeling very anxious. Actually, I’d felt pretty anxious for the weeks leading up to it, but by the time the actual week arrived, I felt like throwing up just thinking about it.

I was uncharacteristically nervous.

I don’t know if it was the enemy or my flesh—maybe both, but my head was full of lies. This conference is small and an elite group of presenters. They only accepted 26% of the proposals this year (and I’ve been on the 74% side three times).

I don’t say that to toot my own horn; I say that because the days leading up the conference I started thinking, “Man, I’m a fraud. I don’t belong on that panel. My research isn’t good enough, isn’t serious enough. I’m not prepared. I’m not enough.”

And on and on and on, to the point where I was physically sick the day before the conference.

That night I finally told Howell all the lies I felt inside. Do you know how much power comes from speaking your fears out loud?

He encouraged me and prayed for me that night, and immediately, the Lord showed me something really cool.

We’d been on our trip for four days at that point, and God started showing me how He’d taken care of us at every little moment along the way.

Our flights were on time.

Our rental car was perfect, which was essential for the 1500 miles we were going to put on it.

He’d kept our car safe and secure while we’d been out the first day (before we checked into the hotel). For some reason, I kept imagining that someone was going to break into our car and steal my laptop and notes while we sat at a restaurant, and I’d have nothing for the conference.

He’d led us to stay in Brookings, Oregon, instead of Crescent City. Brookings turned out to be MUCH nicer, but we didn’t know that til we were driving through Crescent City.

He’d led us to choose the perfect road to Crater Lake, and He’d led us on the perfect week. We later learned that two other roads into the park were closed because of snow, and if we’d have come the week before, we probably wouldn’t have made it because of all the snow they had. But they’d cleared our road, and although we considered taking the other route, we chose the road, by God’s grace, that was open.

He just kept giving me example after example—really recent examples—of how big and how powerful He is.

My conference presentation turned out to be just fine—and when I stopped stressing, I was able to enjoy the experience. By the end of the trip, we had even more cool stories like that!

But I loved that He reminded me, just when I need it:

He takes care of us.
He goes before us.
He’s always with us.

If you feel afraid, if you feel like you’re not enough, if you feel like you’re lacking, I pray that today you’ll be encouraged to see how big your God is.

He fights for you.
He stands with you.
He fills you with all the grace and power and confidence you need.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Five Things I Wish I Had Known as a Newlywed - Part Two

Last time, Laura shared five things that she wished she knew in our first year of marriage. Today, I’m going to do the same. I always love these types of things, and I’m thankful for the people that have shared wisdom like this with me.

1.       You are going to disagree. In all my time growing up, I never saw my parents argue. That is no slight against them; they made a decision to disagree in private. I had this idea, though, that healthy couples never fight. That is far from the truth. All couples argue, to varying degrees. The real mark of a healthy couple is how they disagree.

2.       The work of marriage is the fun part. What? Work is fun? Many people told me that great marriages take work. What I’ve found is, the work is the best part. I love doing things for Laura, listening to her, and spending time together. I wish I had known that that was the work, earlier.

3.       Listen, don’t talk. I had plenty of warning on this, but I didn’t listen. Men, you do not need to fix every problem, and she only wants your advice when she solicits it. Just hear her out, offer sympathy and hug her. If she wants advice, she’ll ask.

4.       I’m the compassionate leader. This was a tough one, and I’m always reinforcing it to myself. It is difficult to balance leading in every area of marriage while also making sure your wife is heard. Some men defer every decision, and some men are not interested in their wife’s thoughts on matters, but every man struggles with this. The best answer is Christ. Paul answers this very well in Ephesians 5.

5.       Listen to the Lord. When we got married, I was the lone ranger on every matter of marriage. When I learned to be free in Christ and trust the Lord, I became twice the husband that I used to be. This was a huge help with number 4.

Well folks, there you have it. I hope this was beneficial for you. Marriage is hard. If it were easy, half of marriages wouldn’t fail. For those of you who are new to it, hear me say this. IT’S WORTH IT! Laura is the best thing that has happened to me since Jesus, and I wouldn’t trade a single minute of this incredible journey. Stick with it and be open to learn and change. Arguments and feelings will come and go, but Christ will always be there for both of you.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"Present over Perfect" -- Three Words Stirring Up All the Feels

So, I’ve started Shauna Niequist’s new book, Present over Perfect, and y’all, it is doing strange things to my heart.

I read sections and think, Gosh—how did she know that about me?

Confession: When I started reading, it’s because I had two books from Christmas that I wanted to read. But they sat on my end table, staring daggers into my soul and feeling like a weighty to do list rather than a book I, at one point, was dying to crack open.

I don’t have time to read, I thought.

I’m too busy, I said.

And so, I started Shauna’s book not only approaching it as a chore but also attempting to rush through it so it could be checked off my list.

On to the next thing…

So, I skimmed. I read chapters in a hurry—five or ten minutes before leaving for work.

And I read them like, “Yeah, yeah—so good. Workaholics. Idol of productivity. Busy. Say No. Yes, yes—good stuff.”

About five chapters in, I am driving to work, maybe three weeks ago, and what I’d read—what I’d attempted to skim—stayed on my mind.

She says, “We decide where our time goes. There’s so much freedom in that, and so much responsibility” (p. 47).

It was like the Lord just quietly whispered, Slow down. You need to catch this.

The next day, I stopped—I sat down—for more time. A longer quiet.

And I started over.

So now I’m only 30% into the book, according to Goodreads, and I’ve been reading for over a month.
I can’t describe all the ways it’s tugging on my heart, pulling the break cord and asking me to stop and to feel and to process.

I read and don't skim. I don't rush. I re-read and reflect and move to the next page.

Possibly my whole life, my feelings of accomplishment and my source of pride has always come from my work—what I do, what I’ve done.

I’m so immersed in the culture of work, work, work—more, more, more, that I feel like I’m taking baby steps to find what’s healthy.

I’m an academic, and perhaps that’s the worst for performance people. Achievements. Grades. Type As, usually. We live for the pressure and accolades and the euphoria of work accomplished.

Everything is a goal.

Everything can be measured.

Pass or fail.


What a scary word!

So, I’m still belly-deep in this book, and I’m very much processing what it means for me.

But one baby step? I turned off email notifications on my phone.

Two baby step? I now take a full hour at lunch—without emails—even if I can eat in 30 minutes.

Three baby step? I sit. Quietly. Every morning. I might have to rush, rush, rush to get ready in time, but then I sit. And I read. Or I listen to music. Or I pray.

But mostly, I stop.

Friends, I don’t point any fingers on this, but I encourage you to think: What can I turn off today? What choice can I take responsibility for—to give myself the gift of time today? 


Pssssst: Transparent Thursdays are moving to Transparent Tuesdays. Same name. Same content. Just on a different day. :)