I’ll Hold The Umbrella

I’ll Hold The Umbrella

Tennis is a fascinating sport.  I seldom watch it at home but ironically it is the one thing I leave on the hotel TV when traveling.  I love watching all the court staff, ball boys/girls, and referees that surround the 2 marquee players in any given match.  There is so much going on before and after ever set in order to maintain order, etiquette, and minimize downtime between serves.

In 2014, there was a rain delay in the first-round match at the 2014 French Open that lasted for just over 10 minutes.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  But what happened in those 10 minutes is something that any leader, aspiring leader, husband, wife, or friend can learn from.  One of the world’s best, Novak Djokovic, sat down to tend to his gear while the ball boy silently held an umbrella over Novak’s head to keep him dry.  Without hesitation, Novak broke from typical tradition by inviting the boy to sit with him and reversed roles by holding the umbrella for him.  The boy’s countenance immediately changed, and his elation could no doubt be seen in the farthest seats of the arena.  Small, private discussions continued as Novak handed over his racket and a water bottle from his bag.  The investment made in that boy will be felt for his lifetime.  It’s a story he’ll never stop telling.  In that moment, the leader, the global icon, and arguably one of the most powerful people in that arena took on the role of a servant.  He held the umbrella.

I’ve listened to business executives say that they’ll take hire candidates out to dinner in order to solely watch their interactions with the restaurant staff and servers.  How we treat the people around us says a lot about our character.  Have you paused recently to look around at all the people who are holding the umbrella for you?  For me, it’s my wife… first and foremost.  There are so many things (both visible and invisible) that she does on a daily basis in order to remove barriers and distractions so i can accomplish my goals.  My boss.  He holds an umbrella for me and my teammates while simultaneously shielding us from situations and communications that could be stressful and burdensome.  My family, mentors, church leadership, and friends do this as well.  Not to mention the restaurant servers, dry cleaning people, car washers, mechanics, financial advisors, baristas, plumbers, gutter cleaners, law enforcement, teachers, lawn maintenance, trash people, and babysitters that take care of the rain so I can focus on the match ahead of me.

When’s the last time you have held the umbrella?  When’s the last time you’ve done it for your wife?  What a crazy, cool ting to actually serve the person that thought they were serving you.  I make it a priority to look for ways to serve Kate that she is not expecting.  She gives 110% every day to our family, friends, community, and ministry.  It is so rewarding to hold the umbrella for her so she can take a break, sit down, relax, and get a reprieve from her duties.  Jesus said that He didn’t come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28).  This is a value we should embrace daily.

I challenge you to become more aware and to notice the hundreds if not thousands of things done for each of us every single month by people whom we may never know their names or stories.  Make an effort to go out of your way to be appreciative.  And for those individuals who are intimately involved in our daily lives, the onus is even greater to find ways to humble ourselves, and place those people’s interests and needs above our own.  True leadership is modeled by servanthood.  Follower-ship is gained by selflessness and service.  Who are you going to hold the umbrella for this week?

SD

Boredom in Marriage

Boredom in Marriage

As a lifestyle coach and former athlete I am all about efficiency and schedules. But that can get boring real fast. The pain of regiments and disciplines becomes the pain of regrets. It can become so monotonous to do everyday life that one day we wake up and cry from the dullness. Unaware of how we got from burning passion to “Did you feed the dog?”,  we except it as is.

We crawl into the ho-hum of routine and settle in for consistency and average mediocrity.  This does not have to be you.  This is not what you were made for.  This is not the standard you should hold yourself up to. It is not what God considered good when He made man a partner in the Garden. This is not acceptable. 

We were made to be in God’s bigger picture and our marriages are the foundation of that.  Making sure we are focusing on developing our romantic dreams can keep us excited for creating something extraordinarily above average. Stepping up and raising our standards to live boldly and fearlessly can create immense drive. Despite all this encouragement on dreams and romance, you can still become bored. How? Two things, you’re either living life too fast or too slow. The pace of your marriage is crucial in creating excellence. 

Are you so busy you’re losing your wonder and curiosity for what it could be?  When was the last time you paused just to give a soft kiss? How many times have you promised you’d be somewhere or do something for your wife or kids only to allow situations to derail that commitment?  Sure, there are always exceptions that cannot be avoided (like a flat tire, emergency, or sickness).  I’m not talking about those.  I’m talking about the times you failed to prioritize, failed to watch the clock properly, failed to account for traffic, failed to close the laptop on time, or failed to tell someone else the word “no” rather than your spouse.

Exhausted from the normal speed of our existence we squash out any fire. If you’re so busy and you’re so overwhelmed in your day to day that there is no margin for dreaming, or engaging, you lose all zeal. You only have room for flipping the television on, maybe not even that. You find yourself out of energy to engage in anything. Game night, laughter, special plans for date night, gifts, and deeper conversations have no place because you physically have no band width for thinking of it.

On the flip side of this, perhaps your dreams are so slow at coming to fruition you’ve lost hope of reaching it entirely. Some dreams are life dreams and it’s a long time coming to make them happen.

To wait it out is really hard and very daunting. It’s much harder if your also not focused on smaller dreams during the wait.

When your timeline isn’t God’s, unfilled desires are painful.  

During a particular season where we were at this point we studied Paul, the apostle. Paul, who spent the better part of his last days in prison. He managed to stand fast despite beatings and massive persecution. How could he write such passionate and inspirational things while going through so much pain and so much boredom? Prison, (I am guessing) is very boring. I believe it was because he knew the bigger picture, his purpose, and the part he played. Do you know the part you play in you marriage? Do you know the bigger picture? God said it was not good for man to be alone in the garden. It was the only thing “not good” before the fall of man. We were created for connection with God and our spouse from the very beginning of time. 

For us to get out of bordom and the rutt we decided to create a vision statement that we both could stand on for our relationship. That no matter what, in the up’s, the downs, the storms and the calm, we would hold fast. We didn’t want excess, we wanted excellence. We wanted to continually be Creating Exceptional. We wanted to guard the good deposit that we had been given. (2 Timothy 1:14).

Do you have a vision for your marriage? Is it written down? Do you both take ownership of it?

Psalms 23:7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Creating Emotional Health in Your Relationship

Creating Emotional Health in Your Relationship

According to Manslow’s hierarchy there are nine top emotional needs that every human being needs in order to manage life well.

The top nine are, security, volition, attention, emotional connection, connection to the community, privacy, a sense of status, a sense of achievement, and meaning.

If we are low in any of these areas we can become depressed, have anxiety,  possible turn to abusive and destructive behaviours and even have strong addictions.

The beautiful thing that My husband and I have had the benefit of living out is that we have found that in relationship you can create peace, joy, and fulfilment in all of these. You just have to know how to do it.

If you are feeling run down and thin in your emotional health here are some ideas that can help create stability and the most effective route back to a beautiful romantic relationship and good mental health.

1. Security:

If you find your need for security isn’t being fully met, make a list to show your significant other what is making your feel insecure. As a team identify action steps you can take to change that. Perhaps you would feel more secure if you equipped your home with burglar alarms or found a solid consistent babysitter for you children. If you need to feel your relationship is more secure, ask why you are feeling fearful that it is not. See if you can create a foundation of security in your relationship for the other person. The reminder that you are for them and always have their back is a comforting reminder to give each other regularly.

2. Volition:

Have a frank conversation with your partner about where you need to have more control or clearer boundaries. Do you need to create boundaries with extended family or with screen time? Do you need to have greater control over bedtime routines and date nights? It’s time to be lovingly assertive about this. Lovingly being the key. If you are more of a peacemaker being assertive can be scary. It can seem confrontational to do this. however, it is more of a discussion if you remember to do it in love. If you are more aggressive the “loving part” can be a reminder to be gracious and gently in your deliver.

3. Attention:

Prioritize quality time with your spouse. And your friends! So often we make it a priority of one or the other of these but you need both for healthy balance. Realizing that your spouse can not meet all of your needs is crucial to emotional health but it is also crucial that they do not take a back seat to friendships and social situations either. Set aside time for it in your calendar. Just because we have these special people in our lives doesn’t mean we are meeting their needs for attention or that they are meeting ours. It takes an alluring effort. I tend to personally see saw in this department a great deal.  I have to make a conscious effort to ensure I am reaching out correctly and evenly in this area. I know the busier my schedule gets the less focused I am of meeting this need for others.

4. Emotional connection:

Make it a priority to make couple friends. Creating a circle where you both have connections can be a bigger ordeal to under take than first looking at it. This one idea however, deepens your relationship in ways you can’t even imagine. You are creating bonds together as you also create bonds outwardly.

What kinds of people do you want to bond with? For us our favorite people are diverse, joy filled, go getter’s and readers. They are health activists, travelers, and Jesus followers. They also prioritize their marriages. Hunt these people down and be diligent in finding your group. Make time for it. Doing life in circles is so beneficial! This is essential nourishment for your emotional well-being.

5. Connection to the wider community:

Arrange a regular coffee/Bible group in your home. Can you mentor someone, volunteer for less fortunate, give into an organization that speaks to your soul? Can you check in on an elderly neighbor, mow a disabled persons yard, read a book to kids at your local school area? Being active in your community and world creates the bigger picture and is crucial to your emotional well-being. For my husband and I, we have even gone a step further by doing these things together.

6. Privacy:

Block out an hour a day, for you. Take a walk, read a book, get in a bubble bath. Mentally refreshing from everything in this world of hustle and business is even greater demand in our emotional wellbeing than  50 years ago. Pace as evolved and so this need as become a top one for most people because there is so much lack for it. If you are using your time to scroll social feeds you’re not giving yourself privacy because you are still engaging in the outside word. They say that the more sensitive you are the more time you need to fully digest the overstimulation of the modern world. mothers and fathers of toddlers and young children are probably the most deficient in this area, because there is very little if any privacy at these stages of parenting.

7. A sense of status:

Where do you see yourself when it comes to your marriage? Are you the first person your spouse goes to or does she call her sister first? Can you be the go-to guy for specific information and a listening ear? Perhaps you can be the captain of a group in your profession or lead the way when it comes to connecting to the wider world. Can the two of you be an inspiration for someone else? What kind of status is your marriage in? Where do you want it to be?

8. A sense of our own competence and achievements:

Make a list of all your achievements—awards, qualifications, languages, promotions, , losing weight, physical therapy after a sports injury, delivering new life into the world, or even all the rough periods you’ve survived as a couple. Remind each other of the skills and strengths that you have. What more can you achieve as team? What new goal can you set? What is the five-year plan?

9. Meaning:

You can choose to find meaning in anything or choose feelings of apathy. You can feel the pleasure of a cup of warm coffee in your hand or sand between your toes or a giggle from your spouse. These moments are as meaningful as you want them to be. But in order to see the you must choose to see them and give them the noted attention that is due to them.

As humans, we seek these nine emotional needs as much as we seek water and light.  Instead of pointing the finger at our upbringing or spending hours analyzing every quirk our spouse has, we can now ask a more valid questions: Which of the emotional needs am I not meeting? What emotional need am I lowest in? 

SEXY

SEXY

We make this so much harder than it needs to be.  We silently suffer through things that could be cleared up very quickly with a few questions or explanations.  Instead we choose to stay silent around our significant other and our group of trusted peers.  Choosing to suffer, to stew, and to be secretive.  Let us not complicate this.  All we need is to ask the real questions on intimacy, even the hard ones.  Going to work at understanding the deeper more unique nature of each other will create the most incredible dynamic. It will give you freedom that you could only imagine about in your wildest dreams.

What I would tell my young married self:

  • You are responsible for you.  Your body is His and He is yours but you are responsible for communicating correctly about it and what you need from the other person.  If he needs something from you He is responsible to tell you.  Trying to anticipate and guess and be in front of it will only wear you both out and leave you unsatisfied.
  • Make your bedroom a haven. So often the bedroom is the last room we decorate, finish and use. It should be the opposite. This is the haven for your marriage. It is the place to escape chores, work, devices, and the outside world. For years, and I mean years, I would haul the laundry baskets into our bedroom. My mistake was realized only after running ragged one day and coming upstairs to rest. There on the bed sat three loads of unfolded laundry. I could not even lie down. I urge you to make this space work for you and your significant other. Let it be soothing, and romantic. There is nothing sexy about piles of laundry and stacks of clutter. I suddenly saw the problem and the solution that day with the laundry. Our room needed to be a place that spoke to us and that encouraged connection. almost over night, I realized our room was the tone for our romantic life. I changed everything. I wanted my husband and I to walk in to our bedroom for the space to breathe life into our relationship. No harsh colors, no clutter or distractions. Everything we had, we had to love. The bed sheets were upgraded, candles were bought, visual space was marked out and no devices became a mandatory rule. I still struggle with the habit of throwing all the clean laundry in the bedroom but I am doing better and it is doing wonders for our marriage and romance.
  • Choose to have a no shame and no blame policy.

    When someone is opening up to you on the topic of anything sexual you do not want to shame and blame them.  By all means we are called to hold each other accountable.  We are all better human beings when we rise up in all of life and we do this unwaveringly.  It just means no condemnation.  In shaming someone, It will create a closed off and painfully negative experience.  They will never approach you again about it, and silently struggle to a dangerous zone.  To be a safe place to land about this struggle is sexy in and of itself.

     

     

    Proverbers 5:19

    May your fountain be blessed,

        and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

    A loving doe, a graceful deer—

        may her breasts satisfy you always,

Being Present

Being Present

Screen time is what we call anything from your phone to laptops, TV, movies, gaming systems, and social media platforms.  When I say you must break up with your phone I am referring to all of these.  It is estimated at the time of this writing, according to a Google search, that people spend more than two whole weeks of there life on Instagram alone, and that Netflix is actually a deterrent for sex (https://nypost.com/2018/05/06/netflix-is-killing-couples-sex-lives-study/).

The average shut off times for TV is now closer to 11:30pm, compared to 8pm in the sixties.  Children aged five to sixteen spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared to three hours in 1995, according to market research firm Childwise.  It is true that technology is not going anywhere and that there are more TV’s than people in houses now. These are all stats that I pulled in a matter of minutes and they don’t even brush the subjects of desensitization and pornographic issues (more on that later).

Screens do not have to cause major issues in your marriage.  You have to put it down and look at the person in front of you.  You have to choose a board game night, instead of a phone night.  You have to get the tv out of the bedroom.  To this day, we are giddy staying at a hotel on vacation so we can lay in bed and watch a show.  We never do this!  You also have to eat a meal without the phone in your hand, or by your plate.  We’re also training our kids in this and they will call us out if we forget!

I remember Stephen coming home from work one day when our daughter was a toddler.   She was on the floor playing with some toys and I quickly pulled out my phone to check on a phone conversation that my family had sent hours earlier.  Stephen had been offline the last hour due to traffic and wanted to make sure there was nothing pressing with work that needed his attention as well.  I glanced up and noticed both of us on our phones.

I’ll never forget the look on Amberly’s face.  She was just looking at both of us, frozen on the floor with an inquisitive and confused face.  My heart sunk in that moment realizing this was not the message I wanted to send to my family.  No piece of plastic and metal would come between and distract me from the ones I treasured most.  There’s a time and place for work, and there’s a time a place for your marriage and family.  Find the balance, don’t cross the line, ignore the distractions, and be engaged.  I promise you’ll see a difference in the temperature of the relationship.

You also have to choose to go to bed together.  Stephen and I always go to bed at the same time, as this can create a starting place for intimacy.  This prevents someone staying up on the couch wasting valuable time on things that don’t matter.  It prevents a lack of communication and connection.  And for me personally, it prevents hiding from problems that need to be discussed by keeping too much in my head. 

My husband and I pick multiple nights a week that we don’t do any technology.  We talk, play games, read together, or have a bonfire.  We know people that get in their hot tub to change up the routine to deter screen time.  Other couples go out to a restaurant with no TV’s.  We will often pick non traditional date nights like kayaking, indoor sky diving, or going for a run together.  It’s easy to revert to technology as the go-to for relaxation after a long, hard day.  We all do it.  Many of us don’t have anything left in our tanks.  Changing this one issue with technology can change the trajectory of your entire marriage! 

When we were first married we had no money and Netflix was still sending movies to us via snail mail.  Streaming was not yet available and we had highjacked the internet from the clubhouse across the street in our apartment.  In order to do this we had to be on the porch steps.  If it was raining you could forget it!  This was really a blessings in disguise.  We didn’t realize this until much later when screen time started to creep into more everyday things.

Technology was a slow adoption process for us.  Because of this, we were actually very prideful in this area.  Most of us have moved far past this stage with our devices and so the struggle is much greater.  Truly, we have had to reevaluate, change, and shift this over time.  We are now in the bracket of the masses of having to monitor our devices more strongly.  I have a habit of forgetting my phone for hours but then right before bed needing to check everything.  Not healthy!  The point is, we still go back to the very basics and we do it often.  To choose real face time over your screen.  To choose the living, breathing soul waiting right in front of you.  Push pause, put it down, come upstairs from the basement – it can wait.  Your spouse may not. 

Goals…Write Them Down

Goals…Write Them Down

The New Year.  Everyone is about resolutions and setting new goals.  It’s fun to reflect back on the previous year to see what you did great and what needs improvement.  I used to be someone who would make mental notes of what I wanted to achieve but never took the time to put them on paper.  My wife and a trusted mentor called me out almost immediately on it… and they are right.  Studies show that when goals are written down you are far more likely to achieve them.

I came across an article a while ago about the global phenom and highly successful golfer, Rory McIlroy.  Brian Wacker published an article on PGATOUR.com talking about the top goals he thinks Rory should have based on is talent and momentum from 2014.  Rory is apparently an avid goal setter and has a standard procedure every year:

“McIlroy, who will open his PGA TOUR season at The Honda Classic next month and is in the field this week in Abu Dhabi, has carried a boarding pass with a set of goals written on it each year of his career.

‘I put it in my wallet and I memorize them,’ McIlroy said. ‘I don’t really want to share them with anyone else. They are just my little goals, and I’ll try and achieve those, and I’ll take that boarding pass out at the end of the year and see how well I’ve done.’”

Wow – how simple can it get?  There is no magic formula here other than mental consistency.  By knowing where you want to go you will be less likely to detour and waste precious time and energy.  By keeping your goals top of mind you are in essence staying accountable to yourself in the areas that matter most to you personally.

Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”  I encourage you to find someone you think is successful – someone you admire and respect – and ask them to an early morning coffee (most movers and shakers are early risers) to see what habits they’ve developed to get them where they are today.  I would venture to guess that one of their habits is writing goals down.  So what are you going to do this year?  I’d challenge you to step out of the box and write down a few goals on an index card, business card, stick-it note, or even a boarding pass.  Carry it with you and look at it often.  Memorize it.  Stay focused on it.  Be careful, you just might achieve it.

Kate’s Thoughts on the Matter of Goals:

What a great privilege you have. You get to be a part of a great story. Knowing what God’s vision is for your life and relationship is a cornerstone for thriving. It is very hard to get bored when you have God’s vision in front of you.

After Steve told me this story and being a person of goals myself, we created a vision statement and then we created one year goals. We had a mentor tell us to make five-year goals as well. We loved this so much. This is one of the greatest habits for keeping routine from sabotaging your romance — vision and goals. We made 10 year goals and a life goals list. We have a “date night list” and a “places to visit list”. We are regularly talking about how we can spice things up, add, change, or even eliminate things if they no longer serve us. 

If you never want to get bored in your romantic relationship than may you always see growth, potential, and God’s plan in your love life! May you be empowered to step up and to identify where you can dream bigger and go further. Where you can create energy, commitment, and joy for all you walk through as a team. That, my dear friends, will keep boredom at bay.

Money and Marriage

Money and Marriage

Prominent research firms tell us that the top 2 leading causes for marital strain (and divorce) is money and sex.  I think most people would agree with this statement even if it wasn’t backed by statistics.  Interestingly enough, both of these have a common denominator that works like a virus, slowly infecting every aspect of our relationships.  Secrecy.   So let’s talk about “money” and its impact on marriage… but stay plugged into our blog for a future posting on sex and the topics that kill connection.

There are many things that Kate and I aspire to, but one of the top ones is managing our money wisely.  We want to get this right.  We want to look back decades from now and see the harvest that resulted from prudent and consistent seed sowing.  2 Timothy 1:14 tells us to guard the good deposit that was entrusted to us from the Lord.  We are stewards and money managers.  Money was here long before I took my first breath and it will be here long after me.  Many aspects of this life revolves around or is influenced by money.  But you cannot chase after money AND serve Christ (Matthew 6:24).  Jesus called out the problem 2000 years ago and the problem still persists today.

It has everything to do with your allegiance, your time, and your heart.  Our heart – the inner self that thinks, feels, and acts – is guilty of deceiving and misleading us (Jeremiah 17:9).  How many times have you followed your heart only to wind up in turmoil or pain?  I know I have.  And at the time, I thought I was doing the right thing.

Every now and then I listen to talk radio in the morning on the way to work.  On one particular morning, they were debating the question on whether married couples should share the same bank account or keep it separate.  The common answer to support the separation argument was around gifts and surprises.  The calls that continued to come in shocked me.  Many individuals had separate bank accounts that their spouse didn’t know about.  They kept their “fun money” in there and savings in case “things went sideways”.  When questioned, many of them saw no problem with it and really felt that it was the safe, respectable, and smart thing to do.  They had thought it through, it didn’t feel wrong, and so they acted on that rationale.

100% commitment is what is required for marriage – you can’t hold anything back, and this includes your finances.  Anything that is held back equals secrecy.  The old fashion saying is true, ‘what’s mine is yours, and your’s mine’.  Secrecy breeds distrust.  And a solid relationship can be built on nothing other than trust.  Secrecy slowly dissolves your foundation, working in the shadows until finally you’re facing collapse and ruin.  Don’t let this derail your marriage.

Money should be front and center in your marriage.  It should be something that you dialogue on often and challenge each other on… spending habits, investment habits, leisure habits, and giving habits.  Let the transparency in this area free you of the burden that so many couples deal with.  And hey, if you want to surprise your bride with something, just go pull out the cash anonymously… you can get really creative here.  Don’t let your heart take you down a path that will erode the core of the greatest establishment and relationship design that God has ever created.

Given that we have stepped into the giving season, let’s not forget a key application of our money.  On top of unity, let’s embrace goodness and generosity. Lets stop for a minute and move past our busy lives to see what we could do for just 10% of our efforts.  I’ll close with these inspirational scriptures:

“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped”.  -Proverbs 11:25 MSG

“A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree”. -Proverbs 11:28 MSG

“At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe (a “literal” translation means “tenth”) of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do”. –Deuteronomy 14: 28-29

 

Blessings-

SD