Be a Team Player

You may be wondering how Lenny feels about me writing about our marriage. Do you really think that I’m venting about my husband without his permission?

On this blog, I really don’t talk about deep issues in our marriage. I don’t believe an online platform is the place to do that. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe I should be complaining to my husband or my marriage about anyone. For those who like to vent about their significant others to your parents or your siblings or your best friend or even his parents (seriously?), read this clearly: STOP! Fighting in marriage should be like sex in marriage. Everyone knows you do it, but no one is involved in the details. When I share something about Lenny, I always ask his permission first, or I use an insignificant detail, like him leaving his socks on the floor (which he never does!).

You know why? Because we’re a team.

When we first got engaged, we spent a LOT of time preparing for marriage. We joined a Bible study for newlywed and engaged couples. We went through eight sessions of premarital counseling. We read whatever we could. And we prayed. A lot.

By doing this, we not only learned the value of teamwork, but we learned how to be a team. Now, in everything I do, from how I spend my money to how I conduct myself on Facebook, I have my husband in mind. I know he does the same for me.

While reflecting on what makes a good team, here are some attributes I’ve considered. I pray that you also think about making your marriage into a team effort, and that you and your spouse can both be team players.

Collaboration. In a team, each player has different strengths to contribute to the overall well-being of the group. We’ve discovered recently that we have different strengths and weaknesses, as well as different priorities. Not that we don’t care about each other, but that we are so focused on other things that we don’t think about everything. In our fight for control, we’ve learned how to let it go and let our spouse take control in the areas that matter to them. We’ve also learned not to compete in the midst of our different strengths and weaknesses. Instead of working against each other, we work with each other in order to achieve our goals together.

Respect. In a team, each player shares equal value. While my priorities may be different from Lenny’s, I respect his opinion and his feelings, as he does for me. I show respect to Lenny by listening to him, making eye contact with him when he wants my attention, and using an encouraging tone while speaking to him. He doesn’t want me to be his parent, so I shouldn’t talk to him like I’m above him.

Communication (and Prayer). I’ve always believed that communication is key in any relationship. Prayer is communication with God, and constant communication with our Heavenly Father is vital for us to have healthy relationships. Lenny and I pray on a daily basis and seek God’s will for our lives. We also talk consistently about our goals for the future and about our progress toward those goals. We discuss when incidences happen and how to avoid conflicts in the future. But even questions such as, “The dishwasher’s dirty. Can you put that dish in the dishwasher?” or “Next time you go to the store, can you pick up some more chicken?” are vital toward our marriage team. How is Lenny supposed to know I want that dish in the dishwasher if I don’t tell him? How am I supposed to know Lenny’s hungry for chicken if he doesn’t tell me? We’re not in the business of reading each other’s minds. We have to remain in constant communication, so that we can know what we’re thinking and make a game plan for the future.

Celebration. My favorite part of being on this marriage team is celebrating when we’ve done something right. We celebrate everything, from keeping our cool in front of difficult people to paying off debt. Life is so much more fun when we look back and see how far we’ve come, and how much God has done in our lives.

If you want to turn your marriage into a team effort, go for it. There is nothing stopping you from beginning this journey now. All it takes is a humble attitude, respect, communication, and celebration. Practice at least one of these attributes today, and let me know how it goes!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


How to Speak Clearly and Effectively

Well, I said I’d do it. So here it is, a blog post on how to speak clearly and effectively with others.

Speaking clearly is difficult for me. I’m afraid of how the other person will react, so I usually cover it up with side comments, filler words, and half-truths. I’m not very clear because I want to protect the person in front of me. Little do I know that I’m setting myself up for failure when I have to hurt both of us by eventually telling her the truth.

Being clear is important for those of us who suffer with anxiety because when we have anxiety, we tend to have a problem figuring out what’s going on inside of us. We usually don’t know how to communicate what we’re feeling, what happened, or what symptoms we’re experiencing. Then, when we finally figure out our triggers, it is difficult for us to communicate with those who’ve hurt us, if necessary.

Now, before I discuss how to speak more clearly, it is worth mentioning that communication is a two-way street. There have been times when I’ve said all that I’ve needed to say in as eloquent a matter as possible, only to be met with two blank eyes staring back at me. When listening, here are some things to consider:

  • Be present : Just because you are hearing does not mean you are listening. Instead of getting distracted, be intentional about giving the speaker your full, undivided attention.
  • Don’t listen to respond; listen to understand : You may have a lot to say about what the speaker is telling you, whether to defend yourself or to contribute to the conversation. However, the speaker may have some valuable information that can be helpful or interesting to you.
  • Repeat for comprehension : To make sure you are on the same page, you might want to repeat what you’ve heard. Ask, “Are you saying that…?”
  • Be patient : Let the person speak. It is difficult to communicate from the heart, and if he has to do that, give him some time. Don’t be quick to judge or defend, but truly seek out a healthy relationship.

For the speakers, here is how to speak more clearly and be understood:

  • Write down/rehearse : Especially if you are anxious, write down your thoughts. It’ll help clear your head and find the main idea. For your own benefit, you can write down what you need to communicate and the feelings behind that message. If someone hurt you, why did it hurt you? If you have something important to say to your boss, why is it important to you?
  • Stick to the main idea : It is possible to talk a lot and yet communicate nothing. Remember the point and stick to it.
  • Line your words up with your actions : If you communicate your desires, your boundaries, or your feelings, make sure you follow through with your actions. Parents know this better than anyone. When you take the time to effectively communicate to your children why you are not letting them have dessert because of how they misbehaved, but they give you the teary eyes and you cave and let them have dessert anyway, you are not communicating clearly.
  • Be patient : The listener may not understand right away, but keep trying. Be patient with yourself as well as the listener. Your message is worth saying, and worth hearing.

The Bible speaks against giving a false testimony to your neighbor, so it is highly valuable to communicate as truthfully as possible without sugar coating anything. Overall, be patient with one another. Even if you both speak the same language, you have two different mindsets. Effective communication takes time to learn; that’s why it’s called a skill.

Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash


Check Out My Guest Blog on Inspire Your Marriage

Happy Labor Day to all my fellow workers! I have been blessed these past couple of weeks to have my articles featured on other blogs. This one is on a marriage blog. John Thomas interviewed me about some communication issues I was having with Lenny in the beginning of our marriage. Communication is an ongoing skill that we always have to improve. I thank God that we’ve gotten much better at it. I feel like we are on the same page, and we love each other more deeply through our understanding of each other. Check out Inspire Your Marriage for our story and for more marriage advice:

It’s always nice hearing another perspective on marriage. Tune in next week for more content of how God is working in my marriage with Lenny. Have a great day!


Choose Your Battles

Since I’ve had to go through some tough love recently, I have some tough love for you, friend:

If you can’t control your anxiety, your anxiety will control you.

In 2014, a dear friend of mine prayed for me and encouraged me with this word: You’re stronger than you think. I have never forgotten that, because it was something I didn’t believe. I think that I’m weak because I have anxiety. But that’s a lie. Anxiety does not have power over me. I am stronger than my fear by the grace of God.

When facing my fears, I choose my battles. There are some fights I’m not willing to engage in, where I let anxiety be my excuse, but there are some fights where I take out my biggest weapon and attack it head-on.

One of those fears is being on stage, being the center of attention. My best friend just got married this weekend. I was so incredibly happy for her, and I was blessed to be one of her bridesmaids. However, I couldn’t shake the fear of standing on the steps at the front of the church, where anyone could be looking at me. Leading up to the wedding, I realized that this fear was totally selfish. This was my friend’s day, not mine. Not a single eye was looking at me during the ceremony, and that’s the way it should be. Instead of letting the fear stop me from enjoying the ceremony, I filled my mind with the reminder that I was doing this for her, and for her and her husband’s commitment to God. By standing up there, I wasn’t just facing my fear; I was displaying to her and to everyone else that I supported her union to her husband and that I believed that God is at the center of their marriage. That is something worth fighting for.

Another one of those fears is flying. My fear if flying is debilitating. Most people get scared going through security, but I’m scared once the cabin door is shut and we have no way out until we land on the other side (even just writing that made it difficult to breathe!). On the flight, I shake uncontrollably, my muscles tense up, and I usually end up crying. Like, ugly crying. However, I love to travel. I want to see the world with my husband and my family. My husband’s family also lives in another state, and we have to fly to see them. When my grandfather was alive, he made a vow that he would never fly because it scared him too much. I cannot and will not do that. So I do whatever it takes to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare myself for the flight. I remind myself that whatever is waiting on the other side of the plane is worth the panic attacks.

Some anxiety is not worth fighting. I don’t go on roller coasters because the five seconds of thrill I’d feel conquering my fear is not worth day-long stress I would feel leading up to the experience. I don’t go on high ropes courses or go bungee jumping or sky diving because I’m afraid of heights; I have given up on the desire to add those things to my bucket list.

When you’re panicking, ask yourself: If I fight my fear, will it be worth it? My criterion for choosing my battle is: Will conquering my fear help me and my loved ones? Choosing to fight against my fear of being on stage helped me to celebrate with my friend and to show my support for her. Choosing to fight against my fear of flying helps me to enjoy God’s creation and to spend time with my loved ones. Although it may take time to fully overcome my fear, chopping away at the wall of fear a little bit at a time will eventually make the wall crumble.

You are indeed stronger than you think. God has great plans for you, and He will give you strength to fight each battle that comes your way. Today, try to conquer fear a little bit at a time. If you need help, reach out to a friend. I’m always here if you need prayer or encouragement!

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash


Where Healing Begins

In 2010, Tenth Avenue released their album “The Light Meets the Dark,” featuring a list of songs that had gotten me through a rough season with anxiety in the summer of 2012. These are the lyrics of the chorus of the song “Healing Begins”:

This is where the healing begins
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark

I believe that you come to where you’re broken when you are surrounded by a great community who can support you while you are dealing with your feelings.

Naturally, I am an introvert. I prefer to be by myself most of the time. While it is healthy for me to journal and process my feelings on my own, I learned early on in my faith that I needed to be around people who can help affirm my identity and remind me that I am bigger than my darkest moment.

I praise God for the many communities that He had provided for me throughout the years. At age 12, I accepted Christ at the church I now attend because of the non-judgy attitude of the youth group. In college, I had friends on campus that would understand me at my core, because they loved me and pursued me enough to reach into those depths and ask me deep questions. In the summer of my sophomore year, I relied heavily on my college-aged friends from back home when I was dealing with loneliness and depression. When I went to Spain, my culture shock immediately dissipated when I met the godly group of young adults and teens who volunteered to take me under their wing. Because I’d had such an easily accessible community at Nyack College, it was difficult for me at first to branch out and make new friends when I graduated. However, God shortly provided a co-worker that would eat lunch with me and challenge me to grow.

I’ve found that at this time in my life, I truly need intentional community. The other communities that I had been a part of were handed to me on a silver platter. However, now, while I spend most of my days alone, I need to intentionally make time to be around my friends and family. Thank God for the three groups that I have joined this summer, where I can let my hair down and let people love me for me. As I write this, I’m sitting in the house of one of my best friends while she does schoolwork. Yesterday, I visited my sister, and we spent the day together while I did laundry and edited my novel. My husband and I also plan regular date nights each week.

Marriage does not make loneliness disappear. I want to be vulnerable with you and say that sometimes I feel lonely. Having a husband and (eventually) a house full of kids does not replace the need for Christ-centered, consistent community.

Community is not just sitting around the table and breathing the same air. Community is laughing together, crying together, listening to each other, and breathing life into each other. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you realize the importance of being together for the purpose of encouragement, support, and sharing experiences. While seasons change, pursue the people that fill you up, and know that they will walk with you in the best and worst days of your life.

If you’re like me and community does not come naturally to you, I would encourage you to find people in church, a gym, or in your own home. There are a ton of people around you who desire community, who have thousands of friends on social media but who feel disconnected from others. True connection is having the courage to reach deep into the hearts of those you love and pull out the good, the bad, and the ugly. Often, the hard part is allowing them to do that to you as well. However, as you open up and risk, you will grow more and more comfortable over time.

Matthew 18:20 says that Jesus is in the midst of a group of two or three who gather in His name. The same God that sheds light on Scripture in your locked bedroom is present in your meetings with friends and family who want to lift you up.

Here are some questions to get you thinking about how to have godly community and experience the healing that God has for you:

Who can you ask to be your friend today?
How can you invest more in the friendships you already have?
What is keeping you from truly opening up to your friends and family?

Photo by Rosie Fraser on Unsplash


Marriage is Like a Mission Trip

Marriage is an Adventure

From the moment we said “I do,” my husband and I embarked on a journey of becoming one.  We have been out of the country and to multiple states together, but the ultimate journeys have taken place at home.

You see, the journey for us is not where we go, but what we learn.  I’ve learned so much about my husband from the habits he’s formed, the family he grew up with, and the way that he worships God.  I know he’s learned about me from observing me and asking me questions as well.

Since 2008, I’ve had the desire to travel around the world.  I was blessed with the opportunities to travel to West Virginia, Texas, Spain, and Haiti on trips to serve others and bring glory to God.  Little did I know that I would not have to travel to a foreign land to get a full-time cross-cultural and God-honoring experience.

Stages of Cross-Cultural Adjustment

In my college classes, I learned about the four stages of cross-cultural adjustment.  I have seen these stages played out in my marriage, as well as in others.

Although this stage did not make the cut, the preparation stage is important to bring up in this article.  When going on a cross-cultural trip, you always want to prepare in some manner.  Whether you spend time reading the Bible, or you learn the language, you want to be as ready as possible for this new adventure.

Before marriage, couples spend time getting ready for their wedding day and beyond.  They attend pre-marital counseling, gain wisdom from mature couples, and discuss expectations.  They also invest time and money in the wedding day.

The first stage of cross-cultural adjustment is the honeymoon stage.  When the plane glides to the ground after a perfect flight, the feeling of euphoria is incomparable.  You are a tourist: you want to take pictures, you’re fascinated by the food, and you’re in love with the people.  In this new culture, you’re in your happy place, and nothing can get in the way of your enjoyment.

A married couple shares a similar experience during their first few years of marriage. After that seal of the marriage with a kiss, all they can see before them is endless possibilities.  They love everything about each other, and nothing can pop the bubble of their love.

The second stage is culture shock, the time when the euphoria fades.  It seems almost instant that the culture which was once beautiful and perfect is now distorted and wrong.  The food makes you sick, the weather is irritating, and the people don’t make sense.  The most difficult part of culture shock is the language barrier.  It can be exhausting and frustrating learning the language, and even more tiring is the hidden context behind the words.  You may understand the literal definition of the words you hear, for example, but you might not be able to pick up the sarcasm or the background behind it.

It can be exhausting trying to decipher the inside jokes, sarcasm, or traditions of your spouse’s family and friend group.  Although you may speak the same language, your sense of humor, your circle of friends, and your slang may be totally different.  You may find yourself having to stop the conversation a few times and say “OK, what’s going on?  Who’s so-and-so?  Why is this so funny?  What does this mean?”  You may get impatient, but please remember to be patient with yourself.

When going through culture shock, experts suggest taking naps and eating healthy.  I would suggest the same for married couples trying to merge their lives together.  It is healthy to spend time with family, but you also need a break from other people (and that may or may not include a nap!).  After spending time with either of our families, I like to spend a few hours with my husband processing our experiences.  We ask each other questions about jokes, pieces of information, or activities that we did not fully understand.  It not only helps us grow closer to our in-laws, but it helps us understand each other better as well.

Over time, the traveler transitions into the adjustment stage.  You learn to adapt to the culture, and you even appreciate some aspects of this new culture more than your home culture.  Although you’re not completely satisfied, you make the most of it.  Deciding to adjust and adapt is a willing decision that any traveler must make in order to survive.

My husband and I have decided to be committed to each other, no matter what problems we face.  We are attempting to create our own traditions and our own “culture.” Marriage definitely feels weird (since neither of us have been married before!), but we are making the most of it.

Finally, you feel the “at home” stage.  You can now comfortably say that you fit in to this new culture.  It feels as much as home to you as your home culture does.  You aren’t in love with the culture as you were in the honeymoon stage, but you are able to appreciate the culture and adjust to what you don’t like.

My husband and I can confidently say that we’ve made ourselves feel at home in our marriage.  Are we perfect?  Absolutely not, and we never will be. However, we are able to appreciate each other and to overlook what we do not like.

Marriage is a Missions Trip

So, if marriage is like a missions trip, what is our mission?

Above all, a marriage is meant to bring glory to God.  The relationship we have with our spouse is a mere symbol of the unconditional love and grace that Christ extends to us.  Even when we have communication troubles, even when there are qualities of our spouses that are not appealing, we are still called to share love, grace, and forgiveness with them.  By making Jesus the mission of our marriage, we can bless each other and be a blessing to those in our sphere of influenceno matter if we’re in our home culture or in a foreign land!


My featured image was brought to you by Unsplash.



Tell Me How That Makes You Feel

I used to go to counseling.  After talking her ear off about my childhood, my life as a college student, and my future plans, she woudl reply: “Interesting.  Now, is there anybody you can talk to about your feelings on a daily basis?”  That was an easy question.  “Nope.  No one at all.”  She squinted her eeys at me in curiosity.  “You don’t have anyone to talk to?  No one you could call at any time of the day to ask for help?”  The answer was still the same.

For a long time, I had believed that nobody cared about me or what I had to say.  Although I knew that it was not true, I acted and thought liked I believed it.  I had made excuses for people so that I did not have to face rejection.  She’s too busy.  He’s too preoccupied.  She has problems of her own to handle; why would she want to help me?  This is how I lived, knowing and believing that no one wanted to help me.

I started to ask for help last summer.  I took a trip to Southern Spain to help with children’s camps and ESL classes.  There was one time when I had a really bad fever.  The fever was probably caused by the heat, and it made me feel nauseous and helpless.  Normally, at home, I could easily grab some water, take a shower, or go to sleep.  But I was in another country, speaking Spanish in a school classroom filled with kids.  I didn’t know what to do.  One of my friends came over and put her arm around me.  I told her, “I don’t feel well.”  That was the first time in a long time that I had admitted to someone else that I needed help.  My friend asked me what was wrong.  I put my hand on my foreahd and told her in Spanish that I had a fever.  We walked to the bathroom. She put cold water on my head and neck, told me to breathe, and then took me to get a glass of water.  Within about a half hour, my fever had left me.  If I hadn’t asked for help, I would have sulked in my fever, and I would have believed that nobody cared about me.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to talk with others about my own feelings, especially if they do not seem interested.  It is also difficult when my feelings are fresh.  For example, if someone says something offensive to me, it is difficult for me to express that my feelings were hurt.  This is not something that I can learn overnight.  As I said in my series about being childlike, it takes risks to depend on other people.  But I am learning that it takes more of a risk to keep your emotions a secret from other people.

I always had anxiety because I knew that I could not get help from other people.  After learning how to trust people with my anxiety, I feel like I am not alone anymore.  When my eyes get wide and I have trouble breathing – a sign of a panic attack – I have friends now that understand the causes and know how to help. I also have friends that ask me how I am doing and then genuinely listen to me talk, which prevents panic attacks.  Having others help you carry your burdens and help you live your life allows you to feel more at peace.  However, if they need to give you advice, listen to them and accept what they have to say.  They can see things in a way that you cannot, so they can offer you a fresh perspective on the situation.

My counselor knew the value of sharing my emotions with other people.  If you trust other people with your emotions, your anxiety will not be as strong.  Learning that you are not alone will help you to feel more in control.