In the Rut

Being “in the rut” is typically considered a good term for hunters especially right now. Does are ready to mate and bucks are strutting around the forests oblivious to orange clad humans with rifles slung over their shoulders. This is the point in the season where the odds are in the hunters favor and things start to get real exciting. Everyone is just waiting for the rut to begin….

In marriage finding yourself in a rut is usually by accident and it most often spells trouble. Not serious relationship ending trouble, but without proper monitoring and a plan to climb out, this small rut can turn into a good sized ditch, which can widen into a deep valley, and then ultimately a chasm that’s separated you from your spouse.

Ruts in a road are formed over long periods of time when tires drive through the same spots over and over again.

Creating a rut in our relationships looks something like this: Wake up, go to work, take care of the housework, cook dinner, tend to our children’s needs, brush our teeth, go to bed. REPEAT. Day after day, after day. It’s monotonous, and it can have a very negative effect on our monogamy. Faithfulness should be unconditional in marriage regardless of the quality of the relationship. But that’s not to say that a mundane and lifeless marriage can’t lead to temptations, that could develop into adultery.

Now I’m not saying that getting stuck in a rut will steer you towards divorce. I hate divorce and so does God. What I am saying is that we as couples need to have our eyes and ears open. Only you and your spouse can know how your marriage is doing and what needs to be improved. Test your awareness, see how in-tuned you are with your husband or wife. Can you tell by the sound in their voice when something is wrong? Or by a look in their eyes?

Can you both sense when there is a distance growing between you, it starts out subtle, a cold shoulder or response left unsaid. Our hectic and unbalanced schedules multiply the disconnection we feel and by the end of a long week you can look across the table at your spouse and they feel like a stranger.

How do we fight this pull to drive in the same part of the road, how do we make our days count with our spouse when we feel we have no time or energy left?

It starts with a recognition, being alert to the ebb and flow of your relationship. Become a master in reading your husband or wife so you can know what they need. Then get a doctorate in who they are, this part takes a lifetime though, thank goodness.

Then we get intentional, love is an action and not just a sentence we mutter going out the door. Serve your spouse in tangible ways everyday, stop with the excuses and just act! Hold hands, hug one another, kiss, check in with each other throughout the day, make time to catch up each night. Write love notes, or emails, text just to say you miss them, be thoughtful and help them in many different ways. Give compliments and thank each other for the little things. Talk about more than work, and bills, and diaper changes. Discuss your dreams and goals, share your struggles and what excites you.

Prioritize. This one messes up a lot of us. What do we put first in our life? For me the order is God, my husband, my family and friends. Putting God at the center of our marriage gives us solid ground to build from, we serve Him and that helps us serve one another. I put Christopher before everything else in my life, my work, my family, my personal goals. He comes first, and I have to show him that in my everyday actions and decisions. And he does the same fore me.

Some days you reflect back on what you’ve accomplished and it doesn’t account for much. After work you ate dinner and then vegged out on the couch watching TV for five hours. You chose television over reading the Bible, over talking with your spouse, or playing with your kids. Sometimes our misplaced priorities are what land us in our ruts and it takes intentional reorganizing to fix it.

When the rut you’re in seems too deep to handle on your own, turn to God, seek godly advice and counseling from a trusted couple who’s been there. And first of all, pay attention to your spouse, to your daily choices and most importantly your marriage.



Upping our Intensity

As some of you may have noticed I have been struggling to provide posts for date nights as of recently. It’s not for a lack of ideas, trust me, but for a lack of funding. You see this month has been a trial period for a financial decision my husband and I have made and it’s been insightful.

Last month during our trip to Oregon Christopher and I were discussing our journey of getting out of debt. We both agreed that although we have been living a very frugal lifestyle (with the exception of dates of course) we haven’t been pursuing debt freedom with a gazelle intensity. That is a Dave Ramsey phrase in regards to paying off debt in the quickest manner possible.

After reading his book 3 years ago and implementing the 7 Baby Steps, and getting our Snowball Method rolling God has been blessing our journey. We have a good Emergency fund in place for things like unexpected vet visits. By God’s provision we own both of our vehicles, no car loans. Hallelujah! And ever so slowly we’ve been chipping away at my student loans, but we dismayed that the chipping has been snail paced at times.

In two weeks after my next automated payment to Fedloan Servicing (grumble) I will finally have the satisfaction in seeing my owed amount drop down to four figures instead of five. This has encouraged me and motivated us to reassess our pace and pay this sucker off.

Having financial freedom and being debt free is a dream that many of our other dreams ride precariously on, like traveling, pursuing our passions, and starting a family. We both understand that there is no magic number, or a place in time where we will ever feel “ready” to be parents. We will just have to put our trust in God and have faith that he will meet our needs and walk with us.

So starting January 1st, our date nights will be looking a little different. We will have to be even more creative to find free activities, close to home, and accept new ways to have quality time together. This will incredibly hard for me and a great opportunity for personal growth, I have made adventure an idol and going on this “fast” will force me to rely on God for fulfillment.

That’s not to say that we can’t enjoy this beautiful world that God has created and experience all it has to offer, but I can say that it became a need in my life and not just a desire. I yearned for newness and novelty every time we went out, it had to be something daring and adrenaline filled. By being so caught up in the addiction to those emotions you can feel burnt out in finding the magic in the mundane. There can be romance and splendor in the simple things in marriage and life, so during this financial crunch I will have a chance to re-program my adventure meter.

Date nights will not lose their significance or their priority they will only look different for a season. They might look like us taking a winter hike with our dogs and breathing in the majesty of the mountains around us, and drinking some hot cocoa back at home. Or puzzles and pizza on the living room floor, riding our bikes together on a beautiful spring day. In the end the sacrifice will be worth it, to be steps closer to being debt free (besides our home) and preparing for the next season of life where little ones make date nights look different too.

And no that season won’t be here for a while….. 🙂

Rules of the (Ring)

“There’s a right way to fight?”

Every couple does it differently. Some do it well and some don’t fight at all. But whether you’ve been married for five months or fifty years, there is an art to disagreeing with your spouse.

You might be surprised by this statement or even confused or intimidated. After all on the big screen depictions of falling in love and living happily ever after it rarely includes realistic fight scenes. And I’m not talking physical fighting. Put down the lamp you were about to chuck at your husband.

But honestly some of you might relate to what I witnessed my parent’s display growing up, it sadly resembled more of boxing match than a lovers quarrel. I was taught by watching my parent’s fight that the man had the last and only say in the matter, and if the woman disagreed it was met with physical convincing. Their fights were brutal and heated frequently fueled by liquor and rage. So when it came to learning how to fight fairly with my husband, I was a bit behind the curve to say the least.

My husband’s experience growing up wasn’t much better, every fight meant violence and belittling, fearfully submitting, and not being allowed to have a voice. He brought his battle wounds into our relationship and I brought mine. So when we fought, I swore at him, I would yell and get angry, and he would shut down and not say a word. This was the type of fight where no one would win.

Over the course of our relationship through counseling, relationship self help articles, inviting Jesus into our hearts and lives, reading the Bible, and trial and error we found a way to fight for our marriage and not against one another.

We are still newbies at this whole lifetime of love and commitment thing, but here’s what we’ve found out along the way….. 

+ If you have a traumatic view of fighting from your family, don’t even use the word fight. Call it a talk, a conversation,  or a discussion. Try to change you’re perception of what fighting means, so that in your marriage it can mean battling for a good purpose.

+ Don’t fight so that you can be the winner or for you to be right, fight so the relationship can win. Regardless of what the argument is about, find a point of common ground and compromise where you both feel you’ve been heard and understood. That’s where most fights begin right? When one of us is hurt, or embarrassed, frustrated and misunderstood.

Agree to respect one another. Have a set of fight rules. (What’s the first rule of Fight Club?) No cursing, or name calling. No raising our voices, or slamming our fists. Watch the tone of your voice! Take turns talking, don’t interrupt. No storming off and leaving. Don’t stonewall and stay silent. Once your spouse voices their concerns, repeat back to them what you think they just said, this will help you process. Listen and don’t put up your defenses. It can be extremely difficult hearing what you’ve done wrong to someone. If you get to a point where you feel one edge and need a break, be okay with taking a time out. Set an amount of time to cool off and come back and finish the discussion.

Be patient with each other, don’t rush an important conversation. Set a time and a quiet place to get everything out on in the open. Keep and open mind and listen with the intent to make things right not to prove them wrong.

Don’t re# the past 🙂 Stay on topic. Resist the urge to bring up every past hurt or disappointment done by your spouse. No scoreboards. Give them grace, and leave the past in the past. Keep other problems at bay too, if you’re discussing his coming home late every night, now is not the time to add in that his mother is overbearing – not necessary and off the point.

During really difficult conversations hold hands, it will help remind you of what you’re really fighting for. Look each other in the eye. Face your mate and give them undivided attention.

+ Acknowledge your wrongdoing, confess it, and ask for forgiveness. (Own it – like last week). Discuss ways to avoid this happening again, talk about how to improve the issue and move forward.

For those who really struggle to talk about difficult subjects I would recommend sitting down with your spouse and writing back and forth in a notebook. We did it in high school, when our fights were unhealthy. Or you can even write a page give it to your husband or wife and let them respond on their own.

Don’t ignore it! Pretending that there’s nothing wrong and sweeping your issues under the rug is almost worse then fighting poorly. Face the struggles that you’re having in your relationship before they become too big to overcome.

This one should be a given but o’ well, be honest! Tell the truth that there is something wrong to to begin with and don’t lie to your spouse during a fight or at all.

Pray! This one is still very new to us. But it is one of the greatest tools you can use when facing conflict in marriage, stop and pray during a heated conversation, pray about the problem together. Pray for your spouse and for yourself that God can soften your hearts and help bring you to a  conclusion that glorifies Him.

Fighting in marriage doesn’t have to be scary, and it shouldn’t be toxic and harmful. Finding ways to navigate conflict in a healthy, positive, and constructive manner can be life altering to your relationship. You can let go of old habits. You can learn new skills and behaviors. Your marriage is worth fighting for everyday – just do it in the right ways!

Our MEA Days

Every October the Montana Educators Association schedules a long weekend for teachers statewide to go and learn and acquire re-certification credits. Doesn’t that sound fun……

My husband was blessed with not needing to attend the conference so we created a different version of MEA Days. Our Marriage Enhancing Adventure Days were spent making a quick and memorable trip to the Oregon coast. It’s important for couples to find time to reconnect and do a status check on their marriage. We caught up while driving, discussed big decisions that we’re coming up, prayed about the future, and talked and talked and talked some more.

Toes in the ocean in October
Toes in the ocean in October

Christopher and I have these “State of the Union” type meetings almost quarterly as a means of maintaining and assuring the health of our marriage. Sometimes we’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to conduct a performance review while on a mini vacation, other times we’ve done it snuggled up on our couch. It’s simply a time and a place to genuinely discover how one another is doing, discuss any problems you might be having, any changes that need to occur.

Although my husband didn’t garner knowledge from the real MEA Days, here’s a few things we happened to learn from our trip.

Sleeping in a Hostel…makes Amy hostile.

Making our bed on the top bunk of our shared room....happily naive here.....
Making our bed on the top bunk of our shared room….happily naive here…..

And did I mention this was all my idea? Sensitive sleepers beware, having no control over lighting, noise and smells in shared sleeping quarters is a big no no. Hey, European travelers do it all the time right? And no wonder my husband kept asking in a very skeptical tone, “We are staying at a hostel?”

Lesson #1 Just pay a little extra for your own room and a good nights rest. Oops!


Always try new places to eat, do not eat at chain restaurants on a road trip for heavens sake!

in White Salmon Washington. Er’ body is how we kept saying it, and although it was a brewery, we were not there to get tipsy. We don’t drink, we eat. Mmmmm that peanut
butter brownie sundae was incredible.everybody'sLesson #2 Eat where the locals eat. And it’s okay to budge a little on your normal diet as long as you eat healthy for most of the trip. The last thing you wanna do while traveling is get food sick, or feel crummy from too much fast food.


Stay calm, it’s just lots of people and fast driving….

I'll take a dirt road over this any day!
I’ll take a dirt road over this any day!

Lesson #3 Be patient with each other. Whether you’re the navigator in the passenger seat or the one behind the wheel, give each other a break. It’s a challenge driving through big cities together when you’re so used to flying down mountain roads. It’s even more difficult when neither of you have an iphone, Garmin or TomTom. More like, AmyAmy.


Do something new and be in the moment.

us train

Lesson #4 Don’t let your expectations ruin the adventure. Our train ride from Hood River to Parksdale was a great time spent seeing sights and chatting about what we saw. Although it wasn’t the best train ride in my opinion, having quality time with my husband was all that mattered. If my review doesn’t scare you away here’s a place to get tickets.


Stop and smell the sea lions…..


Lesson #5 Stop rushing around so much – on vacation and in our day to day lives! I’ll admit as chief booking agent, adventure planner and date coordinator in our marriage I struggle with just letting plans unfold. I’m all about getting places on time, having a set schedule of things to do, this is an area in our marriage and in life that I need the Lord to work in me some patience. When you’re so focused on the A, B, and C, you miss out on the beauty of spontaneity with your spouse and moments of magic that a perfectly orchestrated agenda can’t give.


When we were heading out of Astoria the morning we had to head home we stopped at a Safeway so we could get some Starbucks of course 🙂 I ordered while Christopher was outside taking pictures of the gigantic freight ships in the Columbia River. You could hear the sea lions just down the road on the docks yelping to one another. Getting into the car I was anxious to get on the road cause of the long drive ahead of us, and Chris said he had to use the restroom. Of course I grumbled, “hurry up please!” I think to myself we don’t have time for any more stops today. Then moments later he returns with a bouquet of sunflowers and my entire attitude changes. What a loving gesture on a rushed morning home. As we pull out of the parking lot to get on the road, we both decide to drive over to that little dock and take a few more minutes to watch the sea lions, cause who knows the next time we’ll be in this place…..

A Time for Grace

A loud clattering against our bedroom window, banging on the glass it sounded like someone was trying to break in. I squeeze Christopher so hard in my sleep I wake myself up in a panic. It was only a dream. My hearts racing and I’m breathing rapidly. He tries to calm me and ask me what’s wrong. I tell him I had a bad dream, and apologize for waking him. Only he’s been awake for awhile now too from having a nightmare as well, he heard the sound of someone being choked outside our bedroom window. It was just a dream. I slow my breathing and ask him why we both had bad dreams? It’s 4:00 am. We haven’t watched any scary movies. Then in my dreary alertness I mutter to my husband “it must be that time of year.” He agrees.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

I try to control my thoughts, pray for peace and the strength to let things go. But I suppose I’m still a work in progress. It’s amazing how the mind can just sweep you back and memories can overtake you like tidal waves. The harder you try to ward off the flashbacks the stronger the hold they’ll have on you. “God I’ll charge it to you.”

“It must be that time of year”. I was referring to a year ago this week. The day our car was stolen. The day we weren’t harmed physically, but emotionally and mentally we’d been damaged.

I see many differences in our lives from that day.

Every single time we walk into our house, Christopher locks the door behind him, he has such a habit of doing it he’ll even lock it if he knows he’s going back out in just a minute.

We used to take walks with our dogs at dark, during certain times of the year when getting off work around sunset we’d go out despite the darkness. We’ve done that only a few times since then.

Loud noises and strange sounds send us both jumping and scared.

Our sleep is less restful, creaking walls wake us easily.

We moved to a new neighborhood when we bought our first house, this has brought us some relief.

Hunting season was a struggle for us both, leaving early to trek through the woods before dawn left us anxious and nervous.

We try not to talk about “that morning” very often because when we replay it in our minds and hear the sounds in our head our hearts race and our chests ache. Panic attacks.

We avoid discussing the what could’ve-of-happened because it is far too painful to imagine.

We pray more together as a couple. (which is a positive outcome 🙂 )

We praise God for his protection and His grace, we pray for guidance in the moving forward. We ask for the strength to forgive and the power to not have to understand it all. We seek God for his wisdom in having to see the person who did this. We pray for soft hearts when the anger sets in. We look to God for truth when we feel like justice has not been served. We ask God to take our revengeful spirits and let us allow Him to handle the punishment. We too are sinners in need of grace.

We both know it was just a car. A large piece of metal with a hefty price tag attached. It’s value was nothing compared to a life. Human life is so precious, God created it, He created us all in His perfect image. When you’re faced with having to protect your life from someone else, that changes you. Your perspective is never the same. Our marriage is different from that day.

Everyone on the planet will go through things, events, disasters, tragedies that produce a before and after point in their life. A wedding. A birth. A death. A natural disaster. A fire. A job loss. A move. A failure. A success. A broken heart. A hope renewed.

I ask God sometimes what the lesson was supposed to be? Have I learned it? Why did He allow this situation to happen? God doesn’t cause evil, because He is perfect, holy and blameless. But He can allow certain circumstances in our lives to be used for good, to be used as a way of sanctifying us, to be a chance for us to grow and learn.

Was I to learn fairness? Cause of course I felt like it wasn’t fair. Am I supposed to have a clearer understanding of God’s justice versus ours? Our justice system seems pretty broken down here. Was I needing to learn forgiveness? The moment I think of that day, or when I drive our new car, or when I hear the persons name I have to pray to God, “help me forgive him.”  By now I’m think I’m past the math that Jesus gave to Peter, forgiving up to seventy times seven. More like 7 times 365 days 🙂 Ask for God to help you forgive someone who’s wronged you, because you wont want to do it, but He can help change your heart.

I am to forgive others as I have been forgiven. Even if they never say sorry. Surprisingly as I continue learning this lifelong lesson in forgiveness it has been beneficial in my relationship with Christopher. I find myself extending grace to him more easily. Forgiving him for little things and giving my frustrations back to God and not him.

As I look down the road ahead of me, I am faced with the reality of having to see this person more frequently. This person that God loves, and Jesus died for just as He did for you and me. As I navigate this new situation that He is allowing I pray for abundant grace and mercy for myself because I know I will all too often fail and come up short, I am a sinner too. Perhaps one day I’ll get the chance to extend my forgiveness to this man, maybe not in words but in deed. I just pray for the strength and the dignity to do so when the opportunity comes.

Sickness, Serving, Saying Thanks

The Bible speaks of the importance of serving others, putting another’s needs before our own. Jesus commanded His disciples to do this. What does serving one another in marriage look like? Well really it should look like a lifetime of trying to out-give and lovingly sacrifice to your spouse.

This past week both my husband and I were sick, my husband had to take his first ever sick days from school. I was grateful that I could be home with him on one of those days to cater to his needs, even as I was beginning to feel the traces of a cold coming on too. He was able to get some much needed and deserved sleep, and I did my best to make him comfortable. I looked for ways that I could serve him, get him medicine, chicken noodle soup, a heap of blankets, tissues and cough drops. Soon he started to feel better and then it was my turn.

Over the weekend I got very ill with the same crud, our date on Saturday didn’t turn out so grand because of my excessive sneezing, hacking, and overall not feeling well. I did get my yummy caramel apple but I could barely taste it, what a shame. My husband understood the need to cut our evening short and we retreated back home. He ran me a hot bath, setup my favorite DVD series on the TV, had me take all the helpful medications, supplied me with a mountain of blankets on the couch and simply took care of me.

I served him, he served me, and hence the give and take in marriage.

Galatians 5:13 – “…serve one another humbly in love” 


Serving your spouse whether they are sick or just on a daily basis can look like a million different things. And most of the time it is the little things that make a huge difference. Make them dinner after a hard day at work. Let them have a night off from chores. Take them for a walk because you know they are stressed. Give them a massage if they are anxious and worried. Prep their lunch for them for the next day, get their coffee ready too.

Look for ways to make their life easier, ways to brighten their day, or lift their spirit. Bring them their favorite drink at work. Come home with flowers in hand. Fill up the car. Feed the dogs (I’m guilty of this one, he feeds them almost every night 🙂 ). If you have kids at home let Mom leave for a bit and have some free time to herself. Do the children’s bath and bedtime routine if you usually don’t. Ask how can I give him a break today? How can I make her smile? What does my spouse need the most right now? Then go do it!


In the midst of this everyday service to each other called marriage, don’t forget the power and love in expressing your gratitude. Although it is expected in marriage to serve our spouses, and the Bible calls us to do this, it means so much to praise our husband or wife when they do. I have a very kind and wonderful boss who thanks me for the smallest tasks, ones that I am paid to complete on a daily basis. Like making copies, or watering her flowers outside, finding her an article she’d like to read, prepping patient charts. Her thank you’s are genuine and heartfelt.  When my efforts are acknowledged I am a more diligent and positive worker because she appreciates what I do for her.

Say thank you and kiss your husband the next time he takes out the trash. Thank your wife for preparing a delicious meal. Thank each other for the mundane and the ordinary. Thank them for providing for the family, for keeping a clean and comfortable home, or simply for coming home. Thank them for that glass of water. Thank them for getting up with the baby. Thank them for working so hard everyday. Thank them when they compliment you. Thank them for being who they are. Thank God for them. 

Perhaps our spouses would be more willing to humbly and lovingly serve us if we show more gratitude when they do? Express your gratefulness as often as you can to them, thank your spouse for the small things and the big.

But let’s consider the story of an ungrateful or unloving spouse. Do we stop serving them? No. Sometimes we have to learn to love, serve, and submit out of our reverence for Christ. If serving your spouse seems to go unnoticed or is not returned, remember that God see’s and will bless you for your faithfulness.

Practice thankfulness in your relationship, be intentional in the ways you serve one another as husband and wife because our marriages are meant to bring honor and glory to God.