Friday, May 10, 2013

Love, Laughter, and Happily Ever After

H and I were incredibly blessed to have been chosen to attend a Strong Bonds marriage retreat this past week.  Let me preface this by saying no, I didn't have to convince H to go; he actually surprised me with it!  I've been telling him I wanted to go to one for a few months now, and with us starting the journey of trying to have a baby we thought it would be good to attend a retreat about strengthening the foundations of our marriage.  Plus, it's the closest thing we are going to get to a vacation!  Three days at Niagara Falls with all of our hotel stay and meals paid for, plus an amazing program run by the chaplains on how to improve our communication and understanding of each other?  Sign us up!

It was an amazing program.  If you ever have a chance to check out Mark Gungor's "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage," do it!  It was incredible!  Mark is a great speaker and pastor who approaches marriage with the concept of God made us this way, so instead of trying to change one another, let's change how we communicate with each other to better understand our spouse.  His tone is extremely entertaining and makes you laugh while still tackling serious concepts, and (at least for us) he's pretty spot-on about how the male brain and the female brains work.  We both really enjoyed the whole retreat and the program that was used, and I can honestly say that I feel like we both got a lot out of it to apply to our relationship.

I think sometimes it's so easy to take advantage our partner.  Even having only been married for 18 months, we've been together for over five years and I know that I'm guilty of taking advantage of H at times.  I assume he'll be the one to take out the trash, mow the lawn, or put his dirty boot socks and PT's into the laundry so when he does it I don't think about needing to say a simple "thank you" or tell him how much I appreciate when he does little things like that.  Mark's program put a lot of emphasis on making sure your spouse knows how much you appreciate them, even for the little things, and doing simple acts of kindness to show how much you care for and prioritize them.  That's one of the main things that H and I are trying to apply right away.  Today, while at a rest stop on the NY throughway on our trip home, H got up to throw away our lunch trash and came back with an "I <3 NY" pressed penny (he knows how much I love getting pressed pennies on our adventures) just because he thought it was something that would make me smile.  It wasn't a huge gesture that cost a lot of money or required any big plans, it was simply a pressed penny that he knew would put a smile on my face.  And you know what?  It did!  It meant more to me than flowers because it was something special that he knew I loved to collect and he put thought into why he got it for me.  It's little acts like this that Mark was talking about, and I can't even begin to tell you how appreciative I was for my penny! :)  I love that H took what we learned to heart and already started to apply it to our marriage.

I'm excited, too, because I feel like we've found a new way to show our love and appreciation for each other, which Baby K will grow up and see.  They'll see a father who goes out of his way to be kind to their mother and show her how much he cares for her; they'll see a mother who supports their father's dreams and who shows genuine appreciation for their father's actions and kindness.  Baby K will see what a solid relationship should look like, and will grow up in a home where love and healthy relationships are a constant.  They'll know what love should look, sound, and feel like, and I can't imagine a better environment for a child to grow up in.

 We were given "practical application" time on Thursday afternoon, which was a chance to practice and apply the concepts we learned as well as have a date night.  It was great, because it gave H and I a chance to explore Niagara Falls and have some "vacation" time!  We explored the state park and of course the Falls - so incredibly powerful and beautiful!  We got to check out the fun touristy shops, learned about the history of the Falls, took a trolley ride around the area, rode the Maid of the Mist out to the Falls (and got incredibly soaked doing it!), and then got all fancied up and went to the casino where H won $50 on penny slots - high roller status!  It was so much fun to have a chance to get dressed up, go out to dinner, and check out the casino.  We're not gamblers, but it was fun to go play the penny slots a little and check out what the casino was like.  Just the whole vacation part of the trip was great for us, because we've never had a chance to go on a vacation like that and if it wasn't for the fact that the major parts of the trip (hotel and meals) were paid for by the Army, we'd probably never be able to afford it.  So this trip wasn't just a blessing to attend the marriage retreat, but was a blessing for a vacation!

On the Maid of the Mist boat ride at Niagara Falls, May 2013

It was an incredible week, for sure, and I feel so blessed and thankful to have been able to experience it.  The chaplain gave each couple a few books written by Mark to keep working on things outside of the retreat, and we're both (yes, even H) looking forward to keeping the growth and strengthening of our marriage going with this awesome program.

I'm just continually amazed at God's blessings for us, and hope that the blessings continue coming as we officially start the process of trying to conceive!


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