Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Making Connecting a Priority, Pt 2

Every marriage has good and bad days. My husband and I have had some months that were better then others!

When my husband and I were first married we really struggled to connect. We had spent so much time together prior to marriage that we thought we had each other figured out. We were young and immature and there were some fairly weighty issues we needed to work out.

It was probably the driest, brownest our grass has ever been in our marriage. But we were so passive (and clueless) back then, I don't even think we knew our marriage needed to be watered. Thirteen years later and we have grown a good deal wiser (I hope).

Having children definitely complicates matters. A Mom friend asked me recently how my husband and I prioritize our time to talk, connect, and to have intimacy. I want to assure her and you that it's not an easy task. My husband and I continue to struggle, but we know when we start feeling distant, we need to take action.

I teased in part one of this post that reconnecting when you're feeling distant isn't as hard as you might think. But it takes intention and…


Intentionality starts with establishing priorities.

My husband and I agree that our marriage is our first priority. Not our kids. Not our jobs. Not success or status. Once you have your priorities straight, it's easier to make connecting a priority, too.

When I feel that withdrawn, distant feeling I know my heart is telling me something is off. It's usually a sign that we have been putting other's needs before our marriage. Quality family time is terrific and necessary, but you need you + him time, too.

Reconnection can happen just by communicating with each other.

Many times just talking to each other is enough to bring us together. When we haven't been in the same room for more then 5 minutes, it's time to occupy the same space for a while and have a conversation (as long as it doesn't involve the kids or the schedules or homework).

There are other intentional ways you can reconnect with your spouse. Here are a few examples that have worked for us:

  • Keep your kids on a steady bedtime. When our kids get into bed for the night, "date" night begins for us. Watch a movie, spend time together, or have that conversation you couldn't finish because the kids kept interrupting.
  • Schedule a "leave the house" date. Call the babysitter because you need to get out! We don't do this as often as we should. Ideally once a month would be great, but at least every couple of months (or more frequent if you can do it), you should go out without the kids.
  • Buy a question book! Seriously. There was a time in our marriage when we felt so disconnected we didn't even know where to begin a conversation. 201 Great Questions for Married Couples is a fun one. I remember being surprised by some of his answers. Try it! It might be fun!
  • Intimacy — it's more then physical. Wink, wink! Talking honestly and sharing your feelings can be connecting, too. We all struggle with fears, insecurities, and sin issues. Intimacy happens when there is trust, vulnerability, and safety. I have experienced, in my own marriage, how intimately knowing each other's hearts (the good and the bad) can create a lasting connection and deepen your relationship with each other.

Whether your grass is green or turning brown, connecting with your spouse is a priority worth setting.

"The grass isn't greener on your friend's property; it's greener where you water it."
— a quote from Mary DeMuth's book, "Everything"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

When You're Feeling Disconnected, Pt 1

"The grass isn't greener on your friend's property; it's greener where you water it."
Mary DeMuth, "Everything"

Have you been watering your marriage lately?

The past few months have been a challenge for my husband and I. Emotional and financial stress, appointments, meetings, soccer games, and holiday preparations taking our family in different directions.

As our time together dwindles, so does our patience with each other. Irritable people trying to have a conversation. Sometimes it feels like we're speaking a different language. Maybe we are?

Eventually, it catches up to us. Staring at each other from opposing sides of the couch, wondering aloud…

Him: Why do I feel so disconnected? 

Me: Why do you seem so withdrawn?

Do we really need to ask? If the grass is greener where you water it, it's no wonder ours has started to turn brown.

The answer to greener grass isn't fertilizer (well, maybe some times it is). For us, there is always a correlation between our connectedness and our intentionality.

When we are intentional with our time — saving a piece of our busy schedule to spend together — we both feel closer.

Why is feeling close so important in marriage?

Marriage is like a team sport. Winning teams are usually the ones that work well together. The quarterback of a football team cannot win the game alone. Distance makes me feel like I'm on a team of one. When I feel disconnected, we are two "teammates" scrambling for the same ball, trying to score in the same end zone.

Reconnecting when you're feeling distant isn't as hard as you might think. But it takes intention and…

To be continued…

Read part 2 here: "Make Connecting a Priority".

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Precious Gift: Her Legacy

She won't be here forever.

She slowly climbs out of my car and wraps her lovely, aging hands around my arm. We walk, gingerly, in the rain, up to the store. It's Christmastime and the store is trimmed with garland and white twinkly lights. Once inside, we wander its wares, searching for the perfect gift.

It takes time to see all the store has to offer. She didn't want to miss a thing. She buys some treasures for loved ones and we return to her "chariot".

I spend the day with her, escorting her from store to store. The weather is gross — gray and rainy. But I don't care.

We share conversation over lunch, reminiscing the past — her past. And after a few hours, we journey home.

She thanks me for my help and we carry our shopping efforts into the dry, warm house.

I receive her thanks, but the whole time I wanted to thank her. While she searched for the perfect gift she was already giving me mine — time with her.

She will turn ninety in January. Today, I just soaked her in.

Hands that served me for as long as I can remember. Her caring smile. And a beautiful, happy laugh that is so contagious. There's always been so much laughter.

Although she's short in stature, I have always looked up to her. The way she cares for people. Sit her next to a stranger and she'll know their whole life story in a matter of minutes. She has always been a loyal friend and caretaker of others — and to me.

Never once have I doubted her love or support.

This is the love of a Grandmother — my Mommom. So full of love and generous in spirit.

She won't be here forever. I try to remember this. I try to enjoy and appreciate the woman she has always been to me. A special and intricate part of my life — a piece of my heart. A legacy of faith and love.

A precious gift.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advice from a Survivor Momma

I wish children came with an instruction manual.

Navigating the complexities of parenting is a considerable task. From the moment my children took their first breath, mothering them was about caring for their needs and keeping them well protected.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, balancing protection and care without becoming paranoid is not always an easy feat. I find that my biggest parenting fears are usually tied to issues from my abuse. But my sexual abuse history also provides me with awareness and an intuition that I have come to value.

In this guest post I share some Momma advice and three approaches I take to protect my children without putting them in a bubble.

Click here to read more…

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Time For Giving (enter to win my blog give away)

I don't know much about quicksand or whether it's true that the more you wriggle around the quicker you sink. But some days, some months I feel like I've fallen into it.

I have been flailing around here for about two months — grabbing, grasping, pulling onto anything I can think of that will get me out of it.

The only thing I haven't tried is — to stop trying.

I am starting to think that is the answer. Being still. Opening my hand to let all I'm holding onto fall where it may.

In my darkest hours this month, He has come through. And in nearly all cases, it has been through the generosity of someone else.

Standing in this desperate, unknown, sinking into the quicksand place, overwhelmed by the kindness of others, I come to you with an offer. I want to give something away simply because I can. Can you help me?

If you know of a deserving person or family, I would like to give them the gift of a free photography session. (Please see "give away" rules below.)

Your nominations could include a military family, someone with cancer or a terminal illness, a family who has experienced a great loss this year, someone who gives to others but rarely to themselves, a family who cannot afford family portraits, a foster care or adoptive family, etc.

I'm casting a net. I know there are people in need, people who give and rarely receive, out there.

Will you help me find them?

In gratitude,


You must write your name and your nomination's name in the comment section of this post and if you would like, include why you are nominating them. (You cannot nominate yourself.)

You must email your nominations to me. Write in the subject line: blog give away! Also include, your name, phone number, and email address, along with who you are nominating and a brief description of why they are deserving.

Nominees must reside or be able to travel to the suburban Philadelphia, PA area for the photography session (in other words, they need to be somewhat local). The session will be shot outside at my discretion (alternatives may be discussed) and will include members of one immediate family.

Photography session will include, at minimum, a free hour-long photography session and a disc with 20-25 edited photos, as well as, a free 5x7 of their favorite photo.

Session is valid and can be redeemed in 2013.

The winner will be chosen on Friday, December 23rd.

Rules are subject to change.

I am not a professional photographer, nor do I own a business. I do, however, take portraits based on word of mouth recommendations.  Click here if you would like to see some of my work.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Our Advent Tradition (aka How To Make An Advent Centerpiece)

Sharing a very hands-on post I wrote last year. Advent is upon us and I'd like to show you how to make your very own homemade Advent centerpiece. It pretty easy and can be quite affordable, too.

Here's a little Advent wreath history:
The advent "wreath" consists of 4 candles (sometimes 5) surrounded by evergreens (and whatever else you'd like to throw in there). Where the wreath requires wiring the greens to a frame, the centerpiece doesn't take as much effort or supplies, but I'll still refer to it as a "wreath" just sounds better. The advent "wreath" is a symbolic way to prepare your hearts and can be a fun and tangible way to get your kids involved. There are 3 purple candles and one pink. Sometimes people add a white one to light on Christmas.

This is a "tradition" meaning there is no right or wrong way to include the advent "wreath". Each candle represents something, commonly the first candle lit on the 1st Sunday in Advent is purple and represents hope. On the 2nd Sunday in Advent you light another purple candle, for love. The 3rd candle is the pink one, for joy. And the 4th candle lit is purple, for peace. The white candle, if you choose to add one, can go in the center and is lit on Christmas Day.

We have enjoyed doing a family devotional along with lighting the candles. There are many out there to choose from. Or you can just read a little bit of the Christmas story each time and sing some Christmas songs. Like I said, there is no right or wrong way.

Several years ago we purchased a Christmas activity called "What God Wants For Christmas" by Family Life. It is similar to Easter's Resurrection Eggs, if you are familiar with those. It comes with a booklet to read over 7 days or all at once, if you want. There is also free PDF activity sheets you can download with coloring pages and other things.

How does your family celebrate the Advent season? I'm always interested in hearing suggestions for things that may work well for you. So email me or comment with your ideas!


Here are some of the items you may need to purchase for your centerpiece (these items can be found at your local craft store): A small rectangular plastic tray for it to sit on and to catch any water that may come out of the floral foam.; a rectangle of floral foam; 4 plastic candle holders; a box of Advent candles (they often come prepackaged or you can just buy your own 3 purple, 1 pink).

My favorite part about my centerpiece is that all of the decorations I use come from my own backyard (literally). I take clippings from my various evergreens on the property. I also use any greens we trimmed from our Christmas tree (which this year I had a lot). The bulk of the centerpiece is made out of the traditional greens, from our Christmas tree and our Ewe bush. I use the other greens here and there on the centerpiece to add contrast. I also have a holly tree and pinecones in my yard, which liven up the centerpiece, as well. If you do not have access to pinecones or holly, then you can purchase these items at a craft store and they look just fine.

Once you have gathered all your greens and decorations, place the candle holders onto the green floral foam. I rarely do anything symmetrically, but that's just me. Put them wherever you want them.

Now start adding your greens. I always have a pair of trimmers with me to cut the greens into the size pieces you need. You can start anywhere on the floral foam. "Larger" pieces should go on the sides and towards the bottom, "shorter" pieces are great for the top. I always put the greens in on an angle. You don't want the centerpiece to be too bushy, so try not to make the pieces too long. Play with the layers. Experiment. Be creative!

To some extent you have to fill the centerpiece by eye. Keep turning it to make sure you don't have any obvious gaps. When you have it "filled" you can start to add the accent pieces, like the various pines, holly & berries, and pinecones. I usually just lay the pinecones on the top instead of securing them.

When you have it the way you like, add the candles. The final step is to water the floral foam. I do this once I put it in its "final" resting place. I water the top, like I would water a plant. Make sure you go slowly since any excess water will leave the foam and fill the plastic tray its sitting on. The foam will absorb the water from the tray so I actually try to always leave some water in the tray. You will have to check on it every couple of days to make sure it stays "watered".

May you have a blessed Advent season as you await and celebrate the coming of Christ, Emmanuel, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

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