Mountaintop Retreat Part III- what didn’t work?

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Maybe some of you have perfect days and vacations where everything goes smoothly, all of the time.  I don’t.  Actually, I am thankful for the hiccups, but more on that later.

I am finally getting back to the outcome of our couples retreat. Remember the one from two months ago, high on Telluride mountain (Mountain Village, that is)?

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With a gorgeous suite upgrade, fantastic dining, kids happy at home with Nana, and my beloved hubby at my side;  how could it not be perfect?

One word.

Expectations

always my Achilles (coincidentally, that is also my physical ailment).

I thought I had mastered the art of no expectations.  I finally learned how to enjoy a date night, hotel, restaurant, trip; by have zero expectations on how things will go.  Unfortunately, I forgot to do the same with regard to the outcome of our couples retreat.

I had expectations that I didn’t recognize beforehand.  Such as, no work,no tv, and (a bit outside my comfort zone to mention) praying together.  Of course I was disappointed when my unspoken expectations were not met.  That disappointment was a buzz kill and wasted precious time that we had together.

So, whether you are doing a date night to discuss your direction or a full on retreat like we did, I highly suggest setting ground rules well in advance of heading out together.

Thankfully, we worked through them and (silver lining) found out new things about one another. Refreshing that can still happen after fifteen years.

Now, let’s get back to the topic that makes me uncomfortable.

Prayer.

I have been a Christian for as long as I have memory of and for the first time enjoy going to church. We happen to have found a wonderful one in our new hometown. I also have been raised with prayer, as a family, in church, and internally all my life.  While my husband is also a Christian, he has not been raised with the same use of prayer.  Our comfort levels regarding praying together were very different.

This was new territory for us.  While I consider myself Christian, I believe that we, as humans, have very imperfect knowledge.  I do not claim to know that my version of Christianity and spirituality are the one way to God.  He gave us different languages and cultures, why would he not give us different ways (prayer styles, beliefs, even religions) to reach him?

So this hiccup, resulted in my opening my mind to my husbands way of communing with God and opened him towards my way.  It turned into a critical moment of practicing non-judgement.  Once we each saw passed the words we were using to describe connecting with God, we saw how similar our ways really were. It was yet another moment in my life where I learned to listen.  What I heard was not only my partner but also, my own core beliefs. I do not know everything.

What I do know, is what works for me.

And that is, Prayer.

It has always been the one thing that works for me when nothing else does.  Whenever life feels like too much,  pray these words:

“Lord, forgive me.  I accept your love, I accept your forgiveness.”

 I repeat them until I have the strength to start again.  It has never failed me.

Please share, what works for you?

The conclusion of our retreat and the big life changes resulting from our soul-searching will be posted in the next week.  Stay tuned!

“Be true to yourself.”

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A wise woman, who knows me well, told me, “Be true to yourself, share what you have learned”.

These words stopped my thought patterns and focused me on the big picture.  When am I true to myself?

When I am helping others, sharing what I have learned from great books and wise people.  

Given that a new season is upon us, the time of rebirth and change- this is my focus.  Be true to myself.  In all ways, at all times, in all things.

This woman lived life according to her own terms.  Abandoned by her husband at the start of the Great Depression, she was left to raise her daughter and  niece, alone.  She was strong, I don’t know if she began life that way or if she became that way through life’s lessons.

What I do know is she found solid work, supported her family, raised those girls and lived an elegant life centered around her loves.  Namely, the piano, family, an orderly self and home, red lipstick and beautiful hair (perfectly coiffed until the very end of her 90 years). She taught me discipline, appreciation for the arts, and how to play the piano.

She taught me another thing that stands out now, no excuses.  Life will throw at you what it will. All you control is your reaction to life.  You are the only one who can make the life you want happen.

I wish she had written, so I could learn from her thoughts on life instead of relying on the memories of how she conducted herself.  That is why today, I am writing.  There is no need for each of us to go through all of the lessons in life.  We can share what we have gathered and learn from one another.

What do you feel called to share today?

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Link up & New page

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Additionally, please check out my new page, the deeper side, this week exploring loss.

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Change

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Mountaintop Couples Retreat- Part II (why are we together & where are we going)?

 

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Question #1. Why are we together?

What an opener.  How does one even answer that?

And yet for us, the answer came almost immediately.  Jarring in it’s truth, it is why we work as a couple.

We are together because we bring what the other needs to move farther into a deeper, more fulfilling life.  To evolve, if you will, from where we started in life.

I was raised with unconditional love.  For all our faults, my family gave me unconditional love from birth.  I’ve also had unconditional love spiritually, as I have had faith since early childhood.

My husband was raised with the mantra of “no excuses”.  It doesn’t matter what is thrown in your path or how hard things get, you are responsible for living the life you desire.

Combine the two and we can build a life that knows no limits.  We balance each other out and have the opportunity to raise children who are fully loved, loving, and self-responsible (responsible for own well-being).

Why are you together with your partner? I’d be interested in others’ answers.

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Question #2- What direction are you going as a couple?

As we worked through the questions, a thought kept reoccurring.  My husband and I have been able to stay together as a team through the past decade because we asked most of the important questions when we were first getting serious.  We had a long distance relationship.  You can only use small talk and recounts of your day for so long.  To fill hours on a phone or pages in a letter (email was just beginning when we met), you have to get real.  We discussed everything from our values, to how we wanted to raise kids, to what old age would look like.  We have been through so much in the last 15 years, but through it all we have been generally heading in the same direction.

The beauty of doing a retreat as a couple (as opposed to a group) is you can start from where you are.  For some, this is will be the first step in determining the direction and mission of your family.  For us, rather than finding our direction, our goals became clearer, refined.  We focused on refining how our team works and treats one another.  The planning for our future was less a battle of what direction to go and much more a discussion of when to enact certain changes we knew we both desired.

Our direction is clear, we want a life filled with love, exploration, helping others and the freedom on make our own life choices.  We began this fifteen years ago.  We are now well on our way, living in our desired location, raising our two beloved sons, and saving for the day when we no longer need to work full-time jobs.

To achieve this, we need to continue to simplify our lives.  Avoid added distractions, expenses, and negativity.

The beauty of acknowledging our direction is how simple it is once again to say no to things that do not aid us.  For the past year we have discussed getting a camping trailer, it aids our goal of exploring and spending quality, family time in nature.  However, it hurts our savings goals and our simplification goal.  We would have to find a storage place and maintain yet another big purchase.  After our retreat, we no longer need to discuss it, it doesn’t fit where we are right now.  There is beauty in knowing your decisions are rooted in your life direction and you as a couple do not need to keep rehashing the same ideas.

What is your direction as a couple?  Are you beginning your journey or well on your way?

 

Mountaintop Couples Retreat- Part I

imageThe couples retreat was heavenly.  Began the journey with an easy car ride through the mountains filled with deep conversations stemming from the workbook.  I felt lucky in that my hubby was completely on board with the idea and I didn’t feel I was forcing him to do anything.  It definitely helped that we were both extremely overworked (hubby had two days off in the past seven weeks) and  were in need of time together, away from our precious kids.

The previous post centered on why we were doing a couples retreat.  This post centers on how to prepare for a couples retreat (or simply time you plan together to discuss life, your relationship and direction).

Prep

While we based our retreat off a workbook specific to a Christian focus, there are any number of retreat workbooks out there.  The important thing is to ask and answer questions as a couple that help get to the root of your direction in life, values and the direction you want to go for the next month, year, five years…

I highly suggest that each person review the workbook during the week before the retreat.  Starting even earlier would have been helpful.  The more time you have to think, pray, dream and daydream over the topics and plans for your life as a couple- the better spent your time together will be.

Focus and Ground Rules

It helps to began the trip knowing what the focus of the retreat will be and the ground rules.  The focus should be on yourself and not on changing your partner.  This of course triggered recall of one of my favorite quotes.

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” ― Aldous Huxley

This is critical, as a sure way to block progress would be to bring up past grievances you have with one another.  Which called to mind another favorite quote.

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We proved this one to be a true but more on that in the upcoming Mountaintop Couples Retreat- Part III (sounds like a horrible movie sequel).  Thankfully our retreat was anything but horrible.

After a shorter than expected drive, we arrived in Telluride, which is every bit as breathtaking as its’ reputation.  We entered the resort prepared for our three days of couples visioning and planning for our family’s future.

We were then royally upgraded to a beautiful residence and patio all overlooking the view posted at the top.  Gratitude, my constant mantra, was easy to come by in this moment.

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Success

 

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Retreat filled with beauty, comfort, deep conversations, life changing plans, and facing fears as a team. Including, my first mountain bike ride (pretty extreme, long and amazing- you can see a bit of the trail just above the raging creek).  More to come…

Mountaintop Retreat- Who is on Center Stage?

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I keep hearing the same message.

Do you, it’s who you were born to be.

For you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” – from my child’s favorite bedtime story, On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (taken from Psalm 139).

My inner voice has been screaming this message to me lately. In large part this is due to the competing demands on my time. The artistic- designer self fights with the scientific career that employes me full time, and both fight with my role as a mother, wife, athlete, and homemaker. All of these roles are me. However, I firmly believe it is impossible to do it all, at least, at the same time.

There are seasons for different aspects of ourselves to take center stage.

How does one decide when the time has come to take bold action and switch the self on stage? Hubby and I are taking a retreat next week to address this very question (and some other important ones as well).

We will be following a vision retreat guide written by Jimmy and Karen Evans. The program is titled mountaintop marriage. It is Christian centric, however the fundamental ideas apply to anyone. The basic idea that caught my attention is this, it is a lot easier to make positive change if you (as a couple) know where you are headed. Essentially, if you don’t decide together on your direction for that month, year, life; how can you expect your partnership to end up where you dream it will?

So we are taking the recommended three nights, leaving the kids with family, heading literally up to a mountaintop and going to address the big question of our “vision” as a couple. The hope is, these few days together will result in less bickering, misunderstanding and frustration on a day to day basis. The hope is, determining our vision together (with God) will give us the direction we need on where to go next in our lives.

Excited to see where this retreat will lead us!

Ignoring the mommy wars

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I recently came across several articles labeling different “mom types” to avoid.  In general the “types” are relatively benign (perfect, sugar-free, bragging, insensitive, etc.).  Reading each article left me feeling disappointed.  Why? Moms, dads, guardians, any caregiver, really, are trying to do the best they can, in each moment.  Some of us may be miserable at our role.  Some of us are abusive.  Yet, labeling and judging doesn’t help anyone.  It merely cuts further divides between people responsible for the lifelong task of raising little beings into adults. Adults, who will shape the future.

When I meet other parents on the playground, I have zero interest in labeling or judging them.  We are probably each in need of a friendly word, a moment of respite while our kids play or even someone to commiserate with regarding some hard thing that happened that moment, day, month, or all year.  If the parent says something mean, silly, bragging, complaining… Doesn’t really matter.   I have stopped letting the words of others harm me, why? I have realized a simple thing.

How others treat us is a reflection of who they are, not who we are. 

I have experience with this.  There  is commonly a “type” detailed as the “insensitive mom”.  There are times I am the mom described by these words.  It is completely unintentional, and it happens whenever a woman shares the beautiful news of her pregnancy with me.  While I am always happy for the woman, I have no idea what comes out of my mouth, or what expression is on my face.  This is because I am trying to hide my experiences (the reflection of myself) from the beloved, expecting mother.  See, I have had the heartbreaking life experience of infertility, losing many babies to miscarriage and the stress of high risk pregnancies.  When another woman tells me of her pregnancy, I am overjoyed for her, however my experiences were never  simple or easy.  I don’t want to scare the expecting mother with my experience, yet it is hard for me to think of anything else when faced with the topic.  It would be easy for the woman to interpret my reaction as a judgment on her or as being insensitive.

I ask we all take a pause before feeling hurt or judging another.  Remember we don’t know what the other has been through.  Remember, once again, they act from who they are and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with you.

Let’s instead take a moment to acknowledge that we are in a journey of life (and for some of us, parenting) together. That we are all doing our best in each moment.  Lift each other up and we are all capable of more.

Please leave your thoughts, suggestions, impressions.  We each have something to give, something to learn and something to teach.