Showing posts with label marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marriage. Show all posts


4 years

Today we celebrate four years of marriage. Most days I still can't believe we have two little girls to celebrate alongside us and a new baby on the way -- our children have by far been the best gifts of our marriage, continually bringing us so much laughter and joy.

We have so much to look forward to this month and I always love that it kicks off with such a special day. In September we celebrate our anniversary, both my parents' birthdays, Penelope turning one (hello, fastest year ever) and finding out the gender of Baby #3!

Olivia starts preschool, dance and swimming this month and the marriage group we lead with our best friends through our church kicks off. We also have our Fall family photos at the end of the month and of course, everything pumpkin + apples all month long. I couldn't help myself and already began some minor decorating around the house, starting with my favorite space -- our new kitchen!

I'll share a Fall bucket list here on the blog soon for those of you who love this time of year as much as we do; I always love reading what other moms with young families love doing this time of year. I am already dreaming of eating caramel apples and taking the girls to pick out pumpkins, making homemade applesauce and drinking cider. And finally calling our little babe on the way by name.

4 years, 3 babies, 5 renovations and so many memories with my best friend. If someone had told me what my life would be like four years into marriage, I don't think I ever would have believed them...far better than I ever dreamed was possible. This life we've built together is such a gift.

Hope you're having a wonderful week so far. Happy September!! XO


taking care of myself

Ever since becoming a Mama, I have had to purpose to take care of myself and find ways to put myself first, which can definitely be a challenge. I think back to who I was before Olivia was born and it's almost a blur. My life became so much more vivid after she came along, because I finally felt like I stepped into living out my purpose - what God created me to do - being a Mom. But before becoming a Mom, I was a wife. And when the days are long and spent in yoga pants and hoodies, I find that stepping into my role as a wife is much harder. That's why I've found it is so important to take care of myself in the midst of all the roles I am blessed to have. And today I wanted to share a few simple ways that I do that. These are all things that I enjoy, that make me feel feminine, sexy, confident, and that make me smile. They are all incredibly simple but make such a world of difference.

Last Wednesday, Dustin surprised me with a date night out for my favorite pad thai. I am a lover of weeknight date nights because restaurants are never crowded, parking lots aren't full, and it is the perfect way to break up the long week. After dinner, he took me shopping. When Olivia turned a year old, I began to realize I rarely bought anything for myself, especially clothing. I found a few pieces that became my staples and lived in them because they were comfortable and functional for busy days caring for a baby and now, chasing around a toddler. Of course I had a few special outfits for weekends and date nights, but really...I rarely treated myself. It was such a welcome surprise when Dustin brought me to my all time favorite store and I got to try on so many fun clothes for spring and summer. I am branching out into brighter clothes {because my closet is basically all b l a c k + g r a y} and having a new outfit makes me feel so feminine. I still don't shop too often but get a few new pieces that I absolutely love every 2-3 months. And that is one way I take care of myself and put myself first.

Another way I do that is by painting my nails. Before having a baby, my nails were always painted. I did them every week - and loved it. After having a baby, I don't think I picked up a bottle of nail polish for over a year. When I realized how little I painted my nails, I started doing it again and had forgotten how much I enjoy it. It's a great nap time activity and when I look at my hands and see my nails are done, it just reminds me that I am a woman and that I took some time to pamper myself.

Aside from new clothes & painted nails, I love to take a weekly yoga class. Every Saturday morning I go to my favorite yoga studio and enjoy an hour long class. This is my "me time" where no one is talking to me, climbing on me, or touching me. Ha. It is the time that I am able to turn off my brain completely and get a great workout on top of it. 

Something else I do to take care of myself is find creative outlets for my energy and free time. I realize free time as a mom is rare, but when I do have it, I don't want to spend it just sitting and wasting it. I'm either napping {because naps are so underrated} or I'm doing something creative, like weaving or card making. Finding a hobby that is all mine {something that my husband and daughter don't participate in} fulfills me. I am able to put my talents and creative mind to work and watch something beautiful come from it. It is so rewarding and reminds me that God created me with unique gifts that I can use to bless others.

Finally, I take care of myself by staying in touch with my close friends on a regular basis. My best friend and I text every single day, no matter what is going on. We are a support system for each other and we encourage each other. As a wife and mom, she understands so much of what I go through and I understand what she faces on a day to day basis. We check in with each other and pray for each other. I know no matter what I need, she is just a text or phone call away. I think it is so important to have those girlfriends that you can talk with regularly, about everything and anything; someone that you can laugh with about the challenges of marriage and parenting. By keeping up my own friendships, I am reminded that I am still "me" even through marriage and motherhood.

What are some ways you put yourself first as a wife & mom?


a lit list for wives & moms

As a wife & mom, I often feel like I am always busy. In the free time I do have, I love to slow down and do something relaxing but purposeful. My favorite way to do that is by curling up on the couch with a hot cup of peppermint tea and an intriguing book that is relevant to the stage of life I am in. And while I haven't completely finished any of these books yet, they are all becoming my favorite reads for lazy afternoons while my little girl sleeps, so I wanted to share them with you in this month's Lit List for Wives & Moms.

P.S. If you're still in search of what you want for Valentine's Day from a loved one, or you are looking for the perfect gift for a sister or friend, I would highly recommend any of these.

The Fruitful Wife: 
Cultivating A Love Only God Can Produce

This book takes a look at how to be the woman God is calling you to be - a woman who bears the fruit of the Spirit in your marriage and daily life. 

The author explores the biblical significance of all nine fruits of the Spirit, explaining how each fruit first begins to grow and then how each impacts your day to day life. I've found it relevant not only in my marriage but also in motherhood and enjoy reading it on a daily basis.

Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness, and a Full Night's Sleep

Written by a mother and daughter duo, Nourished looks at ten of the most common stressors that mess with a woman's mind - daily challenges that routinely steal her peace and joy. Together, they offer up a way to live a less depleted and more nourished life. "Opposites in many ways mom and daughter share their successes and failures as they make peace with their imperfect bodies, create living spaces they love, get wiser in their relationships, tame jam-packed schedules, settle into God’s love, and more. In short, they stumble and journey together toward a life that better nourishes them - body, mind, soul and spirit."

Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp what Really Matters!

I found this book after reading a moving article in the Huffington Post by Rachel Macy Stafford titled "The Day I Stopped Saying 'Hurry Up'" / Written by the same author, this book discusses how to find balance in a media-saturated, perfection-obsessed world with the goal of giving our loved ones the gift of undivided attention instead of constantly trying to conquer the to-do list. I am a very organized, Type A person and often find myself multitasking to the extreme. This book was one I bought with the hope of challenging myself to back off the lists and tasks, slow down and savor every day as a wife and mom. 

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Apparently everyone I know had read this book before I did, but I was so intrigued to learn more that I picked it up and got sucked in immediately. Going along with the previous book which encourages being present, this book explores how to find joy in the "midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties" / It begs the questions 'What does Christ-life really look like when your days are long and sometimes dark and difficult?' / Ann Voskamp invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God's gifts. Being a person who tries to find joy in the little things and tiny moments every day, I knew this would be right up my alley.

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full: 
Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms

The title alone struck me and I knew this book would be so relevant to the season of life I am in. Even when I commit to reading the Word regularly, I often wish I was able to meditate more upon His word on a day to day basis in a way that connected with exactly what I was doing. This is an encouraging book for moms which helps us reorient our vision of motherhood around what the Bible teaches, showing us how to pursue a vibrant relationship with God -- even when discouragement sets in -- and it will help you to treasure Christ more deeply no matter how busy you are!

What books are you reading that have positively impacted your marriage & journey of motherhood?


the 5 love languages | week 4

I am excited to be sharing the final week in my March series on the 5 Love Languages. In Week 1, I gave a basic introduction & overview of the 5 different love languages (available here), in Week 2 (available here) + Week 3 (available here) I looked at each of the five languages much closer & discussed how to determine your primary love language. This week I will be discussing how to determine your spouse's primary love language(s) and how to apply it to your marriage.

Last week I talked about discovering your own primary love language. 
To recap, below are three questions you can ask yourself to more easily discover your primary love language:

1. What does your spouse do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply? The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your love language. 

2. What have you most often requested of your spouse? That thing you have asked for most is likely the thing that would make you feel most loved.

3. In what way do you regularly express love to your spouse? Your method of expressing love may be an indication of what would also make you feel loved.

In the same way you would determine your own primary love language, you would determine your spouse's. 

First off, consider requests:
What does your spouse request most often of you?
Does your husband mention how much it means to him when you fold the laundry or run errands? 
Does your wife ask for more uninterrupted date nights? 
Does your husband request a back rub after work? 
Does your wife share on a regular basis that she has been wanting a love letter? 
Look at your marriage on a daily basis and see what your spouse is requesting of you or talking about most often. That will give you a big clue as to what makes them feel most loved. 

Secondly, consider how love is being shown:
How does your spouse SHOW you love? Does your husband give you gifts often even though it isn't your primary love language? That could mean one of his top love languages is "Receiving Gifts." Does your wife always stay on top of getting the car washed and the house cleaned? Maybe that is because she is trying to show you -- through those acts of service -- how much she loves you and that could indicate her primary love language is "Acts of Service." Regardless of which it is, examine how your spouse is SHOWING love to YOU. We most often express love in the way that we feel most loved. 

Third, try the process of elimination: 
Maybe you know for certain that "Acts of Service" is not your primary love language. That leaves four. Ask yourself, "If I had to give up one of the four, which one would I give up first?" Maybe your answer is "Receiving Gifts." Then ask yourself, "Of the three remaining, if I had to give up another, which one would I give up?" 

In the book Chapman gives the example of a husband using the process of elimination. He eliminates Receiving Gifts right away and then Quality Time. Next, he concludes that apart from sexual intimacy, he could give up Physical Touch (he could get along without hugs and holding hands). This left Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. While he appreciated the things his wife did for him, he knew that her affirming words were really what gave him life. He could go a whole day on a positive comment from her. Thus, Words of Affirmation was his primary love language and Acts of Service was his secondary love language.

Fourth, ask your spouse:
Whether you are certain as to what your spouse's primary love language is or not, ask them! Go directly to them and have a conversation about it. Better yet, go out for a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning and bring up the topic of love languages. About a year into our dating relationship, Dustin and I spent a lot of time reading the book and then sharing our thoughts and feelings. We both had a good idea as to each other's primary love languages but after a long conversation about it, we could both be sure. You know yourself, maybe better than anyone else knows you. Share with your spouse what yours is and ask them what they think theirs is. And remember -- you can have more than one!

My Primary Love Languages: Words of Affirmation, Receiving Gifts & Quality Time 
Dustin's Primary Love Languages: Physical Touch & Acts of Service

God is creative, isn't He? Of course it would be too easy if we both had the same love languages! God has challenged us in our marriage to love each other in ways that maybe don't come natural to us or that we don't receive the same way. I absolutely love that Dustin and I are totally split in our primaries. It sure makes for a lot of fun!

SO WHAT? Why does this even matter? 

Remember the LOVE TANK from Week 1? The "emotional love tank" that Chapman refers to throughout his book is an indicator of how loved a person is feeling. The need to feel loved unconditionally by one's spouse is at the heart of marital desires. By speaking your spouse's love language, you fill their tank. When they speak yours, they fill your tank. If you are showing love to your spouse in a way that is not their primary love language (such as writing love letters to someone who does not feel fulfilled through Words of Affirmation), their love tank will continue to be low or even empty. But if you begin to show your spouse love in the way that they feel it most, such as when Dustin brings home flowers for me -- receiving gifts -- or writes me a card -- words of affirmation -- or plans a date night -- quality time -- he fills my love tank. 

Once you discover your primary love language and the primary love language of your spouse, you will both become more effective communicators of love in your marriage. When your spouse's emotional love tank is full and he or she feels secure in your love, the whole world looks brighter and you spouse will move out to reach his or her highest potential in life. But when the love tank is empty and he or she does not feel loved, the whole world can seem dark. Often, a person's sense of self-worth is fed by the fact that their spouse loves them. That is why affairs, divorce, etc. are so devastating to a person -- it makes them question if they are worth anything, worthy of being loved. Loving your spouse builds their self-esteem, and enhances a person's sense of significance. We reason, "If someone loves me, I must have significance." 
Above anything, it is most important to know who you are in Christ and your identity should be found in Him alone, but while we are on this earth and in a marriage, our husband plays a pivotal role in building us up, helping us reach our fullest potential and carry out God's plan for our life. 

Finally, remember that love is a choice. No matter what you have gone through -- how hurt or angry you are, how resentful you have become, how bitter you may be, or how deeply broken your marriage is -- you have to make the choice to love your spouse before anything can change. They also have to make the choice to love you. Obviously, this is way easier said than done, but until you realize that love is a choice (and an action) and not just a feeling, you will likely struggle through your marriage. If your actions are based on your hurt or disappointed feelings, it is likely your marriage will remain broken. If you are interested in learning more related to love being a choice, Chapman discusses this in his book significantly and a few weeks ago I did a Marriage Minute titled "Love is a Choice" (available here). 

Love is something you do for someone else, not for yourself. Chapman states, "Love is not the answer to everything, but it creates a climate of security in which we can seek answers to those things that bother us. In the security of love, a couple can discuss differences without condemnation. Conflicts can be resolved. Two people who are different can learn to live together in harmony. We discover how to bring out the best in each other. Those are the rewards of love."

When I choose to love Dustin, I am doing it for him, not for myself. I do not work to fill his love tank so that I will be reciprocated or so that I will benefit. I love him selflessly. I choose to love him in the ways that he feels most loved (in his primary love languages) because that is what God calls me to do as a wife. God calls Dustin to love me in the same way -- selflessly, to lay down his life for me and to put my needs ahead of his own. He does this, not because of what he will gain, but because of what I will gain. See how it works? When I choose to love Dustin and he chooses to love me, we are both being fulfilled in the ways that it means the most. We are able to live together in an environment filled with peace and without strife; we are able to parent alongside one another in agreement; we are able to fellowship with other believers & build relationships in accordance with God's will; we are able to work through disagreements, become better people and ultimately, advance God's kingdom together. 

Isn't that why we got married in the first place? I believed that I could do more for God being married to Dustin than I could do alone. And when I continually choose to love Dustin -- in the ways he feels most loved -- and to fill his "emotional love tank" on a daily basis, that unlocks the door to endless blessings in our marriage! 
If you have a personal story about how learning the 5 love languages has impacted you, I would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me. And I love your sincere comments, they fill my heart! 


the 5 love languages | week 3

This month I have been sharing about the 5 love languages -- something that has been so beneficial in my own marriage and hopefully something that will bless yours as well. 
In Week 1, I gave a basic overview of the 5 love languages (available here) and last week I discussed 3 of the 5 love languages in greater depth (available here). 
This week I will be sharing more about the love languages of acts of service and physical touch, as well as how to discover your primary love language (if you haven't already!). 

Doing things you know your spouse would like you to do

Examples of Acts of Service from the book include cooking a meal, setting a table, washing dishes, vacuuming, cleaning, changing a baby's diaper, filling up the gas tank, paying the bills, mowing the lawn, walking the dog, giving a foot rub, setting up appointments, etc. 

Each of the above activities require thought, planning, time, effort and energy; if done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.

If you think that acts of service is your primary love language, remember the importance of making requests of your spouse and not demands. Instead of demanding your spouse mow the lawn or clean the garage, give guidance by making a request and say, "It would mean a lot to me if you would clean the garage this weekend," or "It would really make me feel loved if you kept the lawn mowed in the summer." You cannot create the will to love in your spouse; each of us must decide daily to love and by showing your spouse love in the way he/she feels it most, it is likely that he/she will do the same for you.

Also keep in mind that learning the love language of Acts of Service may require you to reexamine your stereotypes of the roles of husbands and wives. Most men did not grow up seeing their fathers vacuum the house or cook dinner, but if that is what means a lot to you (as a wife), it is okay to request that your husband does that for you. It may take time for you both to shift your perspective of gender roles, but if Acts of Service is your primary love language, it will be well worth it! 
In my life, I tend to do most of the so-called "domestic" activities, but once a week Dustin cleans the floors and vacuums for me. If I am busy at home with Olivia, Dustin stops at the grocery store after work to pick up some things I'll need for meals that week. If I have somewhere to go early the next morning, he fills up my gas tank at night so that I don't have to make a stop when I am on my way somewhere with V. I love to cook dinner for him, pack his lunch at night before bed and rub his feet after he has had a long day. These are all acts of service and they are meaningful to both of us. 

If you think Acts of Service may be your primary love language or your spouse's, here are a few ideas to discover & encourage it:
1) Make a list of all the requests your spouse has made of you over the past two weeks; select one this week and do it as an expression of love before your spouse has to ask
2) Ask your spouse to make a list of 10 things he or she would like you to do during the next month and then ask your spouse to prioritize them 1-10, 1 being the most important; use the list to plan your strategy of love.
3) Perform a major act of service (like organizing the home office) and leave a note that reads, "To _____ (your spouse's name) with love."
4) Ask your spouse to tell you the daily acts of service that would really speak to him or her, the "little things" that mean a lot (for Dustin, it is having his lunch packed each night)

Expressing love to your spouse through touch

We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research studies in the area of child development have reached the conclusion that Babies who are held, hugged and kissed from birth develop a healthier emotional life that those who are left long periods of time without physical contact. Physical touch is a powerful vehicle for communicating marital love; whether by holding hands, kissing, embracing, or physical intimacy, for the spouse whose love language is physical touch, this is what creates a deep feeling of being loved.

In his book, Chapman discusses that love touches may be explicit and demand your full attention, like a back rub, or they may be implicit and require only a moment, such as putting your hand on his shoulder as you pour a cup of coffee. Explicit love touches obviously take more time, not only in actual touching but in developing your understanding of how to communicate love to your spouse in that way. Implicit love touches require little time but much thought, especially if physical touch is not your primary love language or if you grew up in a family that was not touch-oriented. Sitting close to each other as you watch your favorite movie requires no additional time but may communicate your love loudly. 

My husband Dustin's primary love language is physical touch. If he has had a long day at work, something as simple as a hug resets his entire day. If we are in an argument and he is upset, all it takes is me holding his hand or sitting by him to calm him down and change the course of things. If Dustin is feeling down or stressed, a back rub from me communicates that I love him and think highly of him, and that I want to give him my time and energy in the form of physical touch. Keep in mind that just because your husband enjoys sex does not mean that physical touch is his primary love language, but if it is his primary love language, sex will obviously be of even more importance in keeping a healthy emotional climate in your marriage. Chapman explains that for the male, sexual desire is physically based. Many men make the mistake of assuming that physical touch is their primary love language because they desire sex so intensely. This may be true but the whole picture needs to be considered. If a man does not enjoy touch in other ways (such as holding hands or receiving a massage), it is unlikely that Physical Touch is his primary love language. 


Discovering the primary love language of your spouse is essential if you are to keep their emotional love tank full, but first you need to know your own love language. Having heard the five love languages (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service & physical touch), some individuals will know instantaneously what their own primary love language is as well as the primary love language of their spouse. For others, it will not be that easy. 

Begin by asking yourself this question: What makes you feel most loved by your spouse? What do you desire above all else? If the answer to those questions does not leap to your mind immediately, try looking at the other "negative" side: What does your spouse do or say or fail to do or fail to say that hurts you deeply? If, for example, your deepest pain is the critical judgmental words of your spouse, perhaps your primary love language is "words of affirmation." If your primary love language is used negatively by your spouse -- that is, he or she does the opposite -- it will hurt more deeply than it would hurt someone else because not only is he/she neglecting to speak your primary love language, he/she is actually using that language to hurt you (even if unintentionally).

Another approach to discovering your primary love language is to look back over your marriage and ask, "What have I most often requested of my spouse?" Whatever you have most requested is probably in keeping with your primary love language. For a long time, I requested that Dustin write cards or letters to me. I came to discover that was because "words of affirmation" is one of my primary love languages. 

Finally, another way to discover your primary love language is to examine what you do or say to express love to your spouse. Chances are what you are doing for her is what you wish she would do for you. Remember how in Week 1 I shared that for a long time I was writing cards to Dustin and hoping for a big reaction from him that I never really received? Words of Affirmation wasn't his primary love language so cards didn't fill his emotional love tank the way it did for me. But because it was mine, I naturally showed him love in that way without even realizing it.  

In summary, here are the questions you can ask yourself to more easily discover your primary love language:
1. What does your spouse do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply? The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your love language. 

2. What have you most often requested of your spouse? That thing you have asked for most is likely the thing that would make you feel most loved.

3. In what way do you regularly express love to your spouse? Your method of expressing love may be an indication of what would also make you feel loved.

Next week is the final week in this month's series and I will be sharing more about discovering your spouse's primary love language and then how to apply everything I've shared to make it work to benefit and bless your marriage. 


marriage minute | on finding balance

Today's marriage minute is all about balance. Since Olivia was born (almost) 10 months ago, Dustin and I have both worked continuously at finding a healthy balance in our lives. Often,  balance as an individual can be difficult to achieve. But balance as a family, especially with a young one, can be even harder. Fortunately, through trial and error over time, we have reached a point where we are both really satisfied with the balance we have as individuals, as husband & wife, and as parents. 
So today I wanted to share a little of my insight on finding balance in a marriage and what is required to do so.

Balance Requires Respect for Your Spouse
Dustin works Monday through Friday, so naturally I am home with V each day during the week until Dustin gets home from work. We are renovating our downstairs bathroom right now and because Dustin is a Master Licensed Plumber, he is doing the majority of it himself (3 cheers!). Dustin could easily come home from work and spend 5+ hours working on the bathroom every day. When you're in the middle of a project that you enjoy working on or that you are anxious to finish, it can be difficult to call it quits. But after an hour and a half, Dustin does just that -- he stops for the day. And he stops out of respect for me. He cleans up, takes a shower and then devotes his time to Olivia and me for the evening. This gives me a little time to myself and it gives him time to be with V -- just the two of them. I appreciate his willingness to work hard at a project that we will both benefit from (a new bathroom) but I appreciate his willingness to stop and devote time to me and our daughter even more. That is finding balance. And that requires respect.

Yesterday was another perfect example of how balance requires respect. Dustin had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference yesterday afternoon. I had the opportunity to spend some time in the evening with my mom -- just the two of us. It was important to Dustin that he was able to attend his conference, so naturally it was also important to me. The same was true in reverse -- Dustin knew the importance of me having time with my mom because it is a priority of mine when I am given the opportunity. Instead of one of us doing something we want all day or all night, we each take turns doing things we enjoy -- Dustin went to his conference all afternoon and then I went out for a mother+daughter night with my Mama. I respected his decision to take the afternoon off work and attend the conference and he respected mine to spend the night out. When time is precious and you are always considering your little one, it requires us to be mindful of how we are using our time -- whether as an individual or as a couple. It also requires us respecting the other in how they choose to use their free time.

Balance Requires Time Apart
Balance in a marriage also comes in the form of being together and being apart. I know personally, it is so important that I have time to myself or time with another person other than my husband or daughter on a regular basis. Maybe it is dinner with a girlfriend of mine, a morning spent at my women's bible study with close friends from church, or maybe it's time with my mom or grandma. Sometimes its just at hot yoga by myself, in a room full of strangers. 
Regardless of how I spend that time, I feel so much closer to Dustin after I have taken time away from him and given time to myself. After Olivia was born, whenever we had a free night out or a few free hours during the day, we always spent that time together. We enjoyed ourselves, of course, but then we came to realize that we needed a more appropriate balance because as individuals we struggled to feel like ourselves. After a few months, I learned that it was okay if we had a few hours to ourselves and we didn't spend them together. Maybe Dustin went out to lunch with a friend and I went to the gym on my own. Or maybe I ran errands and he napped at home while Olivia was with Grandma. Time apart helps bring balance and so many benefits to your marriage, even if it seems counterintuitive. 

Balance Requires Discernment in Our Commitments as a Couple
Finally, balance in our marriage comes in what we commit to as a couple. It can be easy to always be entertaining, saying "yes" to every opportunity and accepting offers left and right. We are active in our church and have so many wonderful friends that we love to spend our time with, as well as an incredible family, but we also know the importance of saying no, and spending time resting and relaxing as a couple. 

Another thing that happened after Olivia was born was that I was entertaining friends and family all the time! I remember thinking to myself that I could never have people over right after having a baby and guess what? Within a week, I was hosting a dinner party! Who knows what prompted me to do that, but probably because I love people so much and I love to open my home and bless others with my cooking, baking and hospitality. But I also needed balance. At the end of the day, most days, we don't have energy to entertain friends or to go out to a special event or get-together. Some days we do, but most days we are content just cooking dinner together at home, playing with our sweetheart, tucking her in, and ending the night together catching some Zzz's. We discovered the importance of being discerning in what we commit to and what we pass on.

We achieved balance in these three areas by sitting down and spending some time talking about what was important to us. We shared our thoughts and feelings related to time management and how we wanted to spend our time, whether together or apart. We set up guidelines as to how we would approach opportunities, projects, etc. Through those conversations, we came to understand what was important to each other and what we expected of one another related to our time, because after having a baby, we had to learn a "new normal" in time management.

These questions may help you in doing the same:
In his free time, what is important to your husband?

In her free time, what is important to your wife?

What are your husband's favorite activities? What does he need to do on a regular basis for himself? 
(For Dustin, it is having time each week to go to the gym and uninterrupted time to read each night)

What are your wife's favorite activities? What does she need to do on a regular basis for herself? 
(For me, it is going to yoga and having time at my bible study)

What commitments are you going to make a priority as a couple? 

What activities as a couple (just the two of you) do enjoy doing and want to make a priority when time allows?

How are you going to decide to say yes or no to an opportunity? 

These are questions we discussed and through answering them, we came to understand a lot more about each other and a lot more about our goals in our marriage as we adjusted to caring for a new little life. And while we have some days where finding a balance is difficult, more often than not we are really content with where we're at. 


The 5 Love Languages | Week 2

Today is Week 2 of my 4-Week series this month on the 5 Love Languages. Last week I shared a little bit about what the 5 love languages are and why they matter. If you haven't read last week's post, it is available here. This week I will be discussing 3 of the 5 love languages in greater depth: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time and Receiving Gifts. This series is based on the book "The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts" by Gary Chapman (available here).
The first step to discovering your own primary love language and your spouse's love languages is to learn more about what the love languages are, so we will be looking at each of them in depth over the next two weeks. I am sharing them in the same order as the book, but ironically, the three I am sharing today are actually my top 3 as well!

Expressing love by using words to build your spouse up whether by verbal compliments, words of appreciation, written words in cards or letters, or a short love note 

Verbal compliments are powerful communicators of love; sometimes they are expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation, such as "You look beautiful in that dress," or "Thank you for always grocery shopping and cooking delicious meals." Words from your spouse that affirm their feelings toward you or about you significantly impacts the emotional climate of a marriage in a positive way when they are expressed and heard regularly. In fact, when we receive affirming words we are far more likely to be motivated to reciprocate and do something our spouse desires. 

Words of Affirmation is one of my top love languages and it always has been. Remember last week when I shared about how I used to write cards to Dustin in hopes that he would love them as much as I do? I never quite got the reaction I was hoping for. I quickly learned that was because cards and words didn't fill him up the way they filled me. Ever since I was young I have loved words -- written and spoken. After Dustin and I got engaged in 2011, he really began to work hard at filling me in this area. He now writes me a card every week, sometimes with a simple message and other times very deep and lengthy expressions. He leaves me love notes around the house for me to find after he has left for work, and he texts me regularly throughout the day thanking me for all my hard work at home with Olivia. The fulfillment my heart gets from his words of love, appreciation, encouragement and gratitude is incredible! I know as a wife & mom, it is easy to feel under appreciated (or unappreciated completely) because we do so much and don't always receive the thanks for it. When Dustin expresses how much he APPRECIATES me for WHO I AM and WHAT I DO for HIM and OLIVIA and OUR FAMILY, I am so fulfilled in my marriage. 

Words of Affirmation can also come in the form of ENCOURAGING WORDS. 
The word encourage means "to inspire courage." All of us have areas in which we feel insecure. We lack courage and that often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things we would like to do. Perhaps giving your spouse encouraging word will lead them to try something they've been wanting to try but haven't had the courage to do so, or to develop a new talent or potential; they may give your spouse the courage necessary to take that first step. Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from your spouse's perspective. We must first learn what is important to our spouse; only then can we give encouragement. With verbal encouragement, we are trying to communicate, "I know. I care. I am with you. How can I help?" We are trying to show that we believe in him or her and his or her abilities. Most of us have more potential than we may ever fully develop and what holds a lot of people back is often a lack of courage. 

In my own life, I sometimes have the desire to begin something new and then doubt sinks in because I'm human and I think about what could go wrong. Dustin always finds a way to encourage me, reminding me all that I am capable of and verbalizing his unending support of whatever venture I take on next. To me that shows so much love. 

Words of Affirmation can also come in the form of KIND & HUMBLE WORDS. 
1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that "love is kind." If we are to communicate love verbally, we must use kind words. This has to do with the WAY we SPEAK, HOW we speak. The manner in which we speak is exceedingly important; the same sentence said in two different tones drastically changes how it is interpreted and received. This is especially true in arguments; instead of using a harsh, loud tone to express how you are feeling, try using a quieter more gentle voice. When you are hearing painful words in a fight, do your best to respond with kind words instead of reciprocating with harsh words, remembering that "a soft answer turns away anger."

Finally, love makes requests -- not demands. If we are to develop an intimate relationship with our spouse, we need to know each other's desires and if we want to love each other, we need to know what the other person wants. The way we express our desires, however, is extremely important. If they come across as demands, we have erased the possibility of intimacy. If instead we make our needs and desires known in the form a humble request, we are giving guidance, not an ultimatum. You can make a humble and kind request and still express love. The husband who says, "Would you mind making that pasta dish I love this week?" is giving his wife guidance on how to love him and thus build intimacy. However, on the other hand if a husband says, "Can't we ever have a decent meal around here?" is making a demand, being immature and his wife is likely to be hurt and possibly fire back. Kind and humble words build your spouse up and still let your spouse know your true thoughts and desires. When you make a request of your spouse, you are affirming his or her worth and abilities. I love when my husband asks me to bake him his favorite dessert or cook his favorite meal or do something for him that I know he enjoys -- it's flattering! It reminds me of how much he loves me and appreciates my talents and strengths. 

Other ways to express words of affirmation include giving indirect words of affirmation -- saying positive things about your spouse when he or she isn't around; eventually someone may tell your spouse and you will get full credit for love. Also affirm your spouse in front of others when he or she IS present. Try writing down words of affirmation, like my husband does. Whether it is scribbled on a post-it or written on a beautiful card, it doesn't really matter. It is the words that are important if your spouse's love language is words of affirmation. Written words have the benefit of being read over and over again. In fact, we have a spot in our home where I display all the special cards Dustin and I have given to each other (though most of them are from him to me!) and as I'm putting the cards up and changing them each season, I sit and reread them all. I have a smile on my face all day long because of all the kind things I am reading that my husband wrote for me.

Expressing love by giving your spouse your undivided attention

When you sit with your spouse and give them 20 minutes of your undivided attention, you are giving them 20 minutes of your life, 20 minutes you will never get back. This is a powerful communicator of love. Quality Time can be spent in countless ways, but a few ideas are: a date night (without the kids!), a walk in the park or even around the block, grabbing a quick half hour lunch during the week together, having a game night together, cooking in the kitchen and having a conversation, taking a vacation as a family, plan a picnic in the spring or summer, sit down and share about your day (without any distractions or technology), having a weekend getaway, etc. 

For people whose primary love language is Quality Time, it isn't enough to just be in the same room with someone. A key ingredient in giving your spouse quality time is giving them focused attention, especially in this era of so many distractions. Some husbands and wives think they are spending time together when, in reality, they are only living in close proximity. They are in the same house at the same time, but they are not together. A wife who is texting while her husband tries to talk to her, or a husband who is watching football while his wife is asking him a question, is not giving their spouse their focused attention and quality time. 

Remember that quality time does not mean you have to sit and spend all your time together gazing into each other's eyes. It means that you are DOING something TOGETHER and GIVING each other your FULL ATTENTION. The activity is not what matters; what is important is that emotionally you are spending focused time with each other. 

In my own life, Dustin and I have both noticed that Olivia's primary love language (yes, kids have love languages too; click here to see the book) is hands down quality time. More than anything, she loves when we just sit with her and give her our focused attention. It doesn't matter what we are playing with or what we are doing, but having our focus on her makes her so happy! Because of this, we both make a conscious effort to give our undivided attention to her when she is awake and save our "to-dos" for when she is napping or asleep. 

Another way to spend quality time together is through having a quality conversation together. By quality conversation, Chapman means, "sympathetic dialogue where two individuals are sharing their experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context." If your spouse's primary love language is QT, such dialogue is crucial to his or her emotional sense of being loved. 

Quality conversation is quite different from the first love language -- words of affirmation -- because words of affirmation focus on what we are saying, whereas quality conversation focuses on what we are hearing -- focusing on listening sympathetically to what your spouse has to say and asking qualities with a genuine desire to understand their thoughts and feelings. Part of this also includes not giving advice when your spouse is sharing something in a conversation; don't try to fix it or create a solution. For me personally, I don't want Dustin to solve my problems or the dilemmas I face, I want him to listen to me and sympathize. I want to feel understood. I'm sure many of you can relate, because a husband's first instinct is often to "fix it" but as women, we want understanding, where our husbands put themselves in our shoes and empathize with what we are going through. 

Complete this sentence: "I feel most loved by my husband/wife when __________." 
One response Chapman received at a marriage seminar was, "I feel most loved by my wife when we do things together, things I like to do and things she likes to do. We talk more. It feels like we are dating again." This is a typical response of someone whose primary love language is quality time. The emphasis is on being together. 

Quality activities may include anything in which one or both of you have an interest. The emphasis is not on what you are doing but on why you are doing it. The purpose is to experience something together, to walk away from it feeling, "He cares about me. He was willing to do something with my that I enjoy and he did it with a positive attitude." 
That sentence entirely sums up why QT is one of my love languages. When Dustin does something with me that I enjoy -- like browsing in old book stores or tiny gift shops and finding hidden treasures (like that card holder pictured above!), or when he watches a show or movie with me that I have interest in and we sit together enjoying it, I feel so loved. He chooses to spend his time doing something I enjoy and I do the same for him. Sometimes it is an activity that one of us favors more than the other and sometimes it is something we both love. We find a balance and no matter what it is, we tend to enjoy it because we're together. 

The activities are limited only by your interest and willingness to try new experiences. The essential ingredients in a quality activity are (1) at least one of you wants to do it, (2) the other is willing to do it, and (3) both of you know why you are doing it -- to express love by being together. 

Expressing love by giving your spouse a gift

The final love language I will share about is another one of mine -- receiving gifts. 
Gift giving is a fundamental expression of love that transcends cultural barriers. A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, "Look, he was thinking of me" or, "She remembered me." The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn't matter whether it costs money or is handmade. What is important is the thought behind it. 

Mothers often remember the days their children bring a flower from the yard as a gift. They feel so loved, even if it is was a flower they didn't want picked. From early years, children are included to give gifts to their parents, which may be another indication that gift giving is fundamental to love.

Gifts are visual symbols and expressions of love. Most wedding ceremonies include the giving and receiving of rings. The rings are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual bond. The same is true with gifts -- they are symbols that have an emotional value. Every time I wear something that Dustin has given me (whether clothing or a piece of jewelry), I think of him. All day long as I wear it, I am reminded of how much he loves me. Even looking at my bridal set, every day I see it on my finger, I think of how much he loves me that he would plan and save money to choose, purchase and give me a ring more beautiful than I could ever have asked for. That shows love to me. Whether something fancy or simple, the gift itself isn't as important as the intention and love behind it. A gift can even be as simple as a handwritten note or card. I love the cards Dustin gives me because he fills two love languages in one -- a card is a gift in and of itself to me and it is filled with words of affirmation. 

Gifts comes in all sizes, colors and shapes. Some are expensive and others are free. To the individual whose primary love language is receiving gifts, the cost of the gift won't matter. Gifts may be purchased, made, or found. The husband who finds an interesting bird feather while out jogging and brings it home to his wife has found himself an expression of love. He may have been reminded of a special memory they have or a favorite book or verse of hers that has to do with feathers (can you guess my favorite verse?) and in sharing that gift and the meaning behind it with her, she feels loved. 

Finally, there is an intangible gift that sometimes speaks more loudly than a gift that can be held in one's hand. Gary Chapman calls it "the gift of self" or "the gift of presence." Being there when your spouse needs you speaks loudly to the one whose primary love language is receiving gifts. The power of presence is often more powerful than any gift that can be bought. Being there when it is extremely important to your spouse -- such as at the birth of a child, at a special event or performance, or at the funeral of a loved one -- that is a gift to them. For me, this means that Dustin takes time off work every once in awhile to just spend the day at home with us as a family. We don't usually take a big annual vacation, so Dustin has the freedom to take time off whenever he wants throughout the year. His job is important to him, but when he takes a day or two off to just be home with me and Olivia, he is giving the gift of presence to us. 

Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five of the love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speak the loudest. When Dustin comes home from work with a bouquet of flowers for no reason at all, my heart sings and melts at the same time; I feel so loved. When he picks me up my favorite snack from the grocery store or when he surprises me with a new book for us to read together, I feel so loved. When he takes something that may be thrown away and turns it into a way to express how he feels about me, I feel so loved. Last Saturday I came home from work and he had taken rose petals (from a bouquet that didn't have much life left) and spread out a message on our bed for me. I felt so loved. That was a gift to me -- so simple but so thoughtful. It takes a little time and some creativity, but if your spouse's primary love language is gifts -- it will be well worth the effort!

Next week I'll be sharing more about the final two love languages -- physical touch and acts of service. I will also explain how to discover your own primary love language -- if you haven't discovered it yet! Happy Wednesday!


the 5 love languages | week 1

This month I will be doing a 4-week series on The 5 Love Languages. I chose this topic because a lot of people have heard about the love languages but do not know very much about them or how much they can benefit your marriage. For Dustin and I personally, learning each other's love languages -- and discovering our own -- has been instrumental in our relationship and has been a crucial element to us showing and feeling love toward each other and feeling fulfilled in our marriage. This series is based on the book my Gary Chapman, titled "The 5 Love Languages" -- available here.

Week 1 -- Basic introduction of what the 5 love languages are and why they matter.
Week 2 -- Exploring Words of Affirmation, Quality Time & Gifts in greater depth
Week 3 -- Exploring Acts of Service & Physical Touch in greater depth & learning how to discover your primary love language
Week 4 -- Learning your spouse's primary love language and putting it to work in your marriage to benefit both of you

What are the 5 Love Languages?

There are 5 emotional love languages -- five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. One of the keys to a lifelong successful marriage, I believe, is learning to speak the love language of your spouse. Seldom do a husband and wife have the same primary love language and we tend to speak our primary love language toward our spouse. 

1. Words of Affirmation -- Expressing love by using words to build your spouse up

Mark Twain once said, "I can live for two months on a good compliment," and if we take Mark Twain literally, six compliments a year would have kept his emotional love tank at the operational level. 

Examples of Words of Affirmation would include: verbal compliments, words of appreciation, encouraging words, speaking with kindness, written words (in a card or letter), etc.

2. Quality Time -- Expressing love by giving your spouse your undivided attention 

When you sit with your husband or wife and give them 20 minutes of your undivided attention and they do the same for you, you are giving each other 20 minutes of your life. You will never have those 20 minutes back again; you are giving your lives to each other. It is a powerful emotional communicator of love.

Examples of Quality Time would include: having dinner and an uninterrupted conversation, taking a walk together, going out on a date, spending time focusing on each other, doing something with your spouse that he/she enjoys doing and doing it wholeheartedly, taking a weekend trip together, sharing a cup of coffee and having a good conversation, etc.

3. Receiving Gifts -- Expressing love by giving your spouse a gift

A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, "Look, he was thinking of me," or, "She remembered me." It is a visual symbol of love. You must be thinking of someone to give them a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn't matter whether it costs money; what is important is that they thought of you. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts, but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving is as the expression of love. 

Examples of Gifts would include: a bouquet of flowers, something you find in nature that you attach special meaning to, something you take the time to make, an item that your spouse has been wanting for awhile, a new book that you will read together, etc. 

4. Acts of Service -- Expressing love by doing things you know your spouse would like you to do or would greatly appreciate

You seek to please your spouse by serving them, to express your love for him or her by doing things for him or her. The acts of service require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. When done with a positive spirit, they are definitely expressions of love. 

Examples of Acts of Service would include: cooking a meal, setting the table, washing dishes, vacuuming, putting the baby to bed, keeping the car running smoothly, mowing the lawn, paying the bills, walking the dog, running an errand, giving a foot rub, etc.

5. Physical Touch -- Expressing love through physical touch

Physical touch is a powerful vehicle for communicating emotional love in a marriage. For some individuals, physical touch is their primary love language and without it, they feel unloved and can even feel worthless. With it, their emotional tank is filled and they feel secure in the love of their spouse.

Examples of physical touch would include: holding hands, kissing, embracing, massage, intimacy, etc. 

The Emotional Love Tank
Throughout his book, Gary Chapman continuously refers to the "emotional love tank" -- an indicator of how loved you are feeling. The need to feel loved by one's spouse is at the heart of marital desires and if your spouse is not showing you love in the way that fills your love tank (by speaking your love language), over time you will likely be feeling pretty empty. Each individual has an emotional love tank and as you start to pay attention to how you are feeling emotionally, you will likely be able to determine how full or empty your tank is. 

Dustin often asks me, "How is your love tank?" -- A little silly sounding, but an important question, because it allows me to express an area that may be lacking or an emptiness I am feeling. When I do the same for him, I am reminded of how I can show him love to fill him up, even with the smallest gesture. He tells me what he would like more of and I do the same. It is important to check in and see how "full" each other is feeling -- because with the busyness of life, marriage, parenting, work, etc. -- it is easy to lose track of how your spouse is feeling emotionally and emotional emptiness can escalate quickly if it is not addressed. Checking in with one another on a regular basis allows us to fill each other up in the ways we most need it. Think of it as filling the gas tank in your car every week. It would be better to "top it off" and keep it full than to let it run on empty and then you find yourself with a car that won't go anywhere. What a mess. The same is true in a marriage. 

Why do the love languages matter?

Once you discover the 5 basic love languages and understand your own primary love language, as well as the primary love language of your spouse, you can become more effective communicators of love in your marriage. Chapman states, "Your emotional love language and the language of your spouse may be as different as Chinese is from English. No matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse understands only Chinese, you will never understand to love each other."

For example, I used to write cards to Dustin when we were dating. I would buy the sweetest cards and write long messages in them, telling him how I felt about him. I was always so excited to give them to him and while he enjoyed reading them, I never received the reaction I had hoped for deep down. Why? Because "words of affirmation" wasn't Dustin's love language. It makes sense that I was showing him love in the way I feel loved, though -- words of affirmation is one of my love languages! It took time for me to let go of showing Dustin love in that way, but eventually I stopped writing as many cards and instead focused my energy and efforts into the areas that did fill him up and make him feel the most loved. He has done the same for me (see the card he gave me yesterday?) and as this series continues, I'll be sharing more about our own love languages and how we have incorporated them into our marriage.  

Next week I will be sharing more about the love languages of Words of Affirmation, Quality Time and Receiving Gifts. 


marriage minute | a soul filled with God

Today's Marriage Minute was inspired by a devotion Dustin and I shared earlier this week, titled "A Soul Filled with God." It began with Psalm 27:4, which says "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple."

The devotion began with this sentence: "Personal worship is an absolute necessity for a strong marriage. It comes down to this: If I stop receiving from God, I start demanding from others. Instead of appreciating and loving and serving others, I become disappointed in them."
Have you ever experienced disappointment in your marriage? 
I know Dustin and I have gone through bouts of it from time to time, especially since Olivia was born. Because we had to care for, consider and think about another human being who was dependent on us for everything, it became harder to put ourselves as husband and wife first instead of just functioning in our role as parents. 

Throughout the course of our entire relationship, we've both experienced disappointment -- disappointment when our expectations of one another were not fulfilled, disappointment that plans we had together didn't go as we hoped, disappointment in something my husband did or said that hurt me or something that I did or said that hurt him. Because of the disappointment we were experiencing, Dustin and I would take our frustrations out on one another and blame each other for our lack of fulfillment. 

Why? Because we weren't devoting the time to God we needed to be. 
When our hearts get filled by God's love and acceptance, we are set free to love instead of worrying about being loved. 
Did you catch that? 
We become motivated to serve instead of becoming obsessed about whether we are being served. 

The triangle illustration above is one I encountered multiple times throughout college in various classes and again over the past two years of marriage. It is such a simple concept but makes a profound world of difference in a marriage. It shows that as we -- each individual as husband or wife -- strive to grow closer to God, to worship God and to seek God, we are naturally growing closer to one another. It's the best win-win situation there could be!

It is important to focus upon God, gaze upon Him and dwell with Him all the days of our life, placing our hopes and finding our fulfillment in Him. Whenever we place our happiness in the hands of another human being, we are virtually guaranteeing some degree of disappointment. 

That's why worship sets us free -- it meets our most basic need -- to rest in the fact that I am known and loved, that I have a purpose and that my eternal destiny and delight are secure. It's simply not fair to ask your spouse to fulfill you. No one can. If you expect your spouse to be God for you, your spouse will fail -- every day and on every account. 

But if you ask God to fulfill you -- and you draw near to him through worship, you will find that God is the only One that can love you with a perfect, constantly steady and giving love. 

When the "one thing" we seek is to dwell in God's house, to gaze upon His beauty and to seek Him in His temple, our soul's sense of desperate need is met in our heavenly Father's arms. Because that deep need is met, we find tremendous joy in giving, in loving, and in serving rather than in keeping close accounts as to whether we're being loved or being served. 

The best thing you can do for your marriage is to fill your soul with God. 
Start defining disappointment with your spouse as spiritual hunger, a cosmic call to worship. 
Marriage is wonderful, but still limited -- it can't replace God so we shouldn't ask it to.
I am learning that as I seek God and as I am fulfilled by Him, I desire to give to, serve and love my husband on an entirely different level. He experiences the same desire when he puts God first. And then what happens? Well, Dustin finds so many ways -- big and small - to bless me and to remind me how much he cherishes me, like bringing home a dozen roses for no reason at all.

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