I don't generally post about 'times away' on here until after they happened just because, after all, this is an open Internet site. But on Friday evening Mike and I headed up to the church after dinner and spent the evening at a staff Marriage Seminar. We got home way past bedtime (almost 10pm! My parents watched the kids at home tho so they were all sound asleep around 7:30) and then were back at the church at 8:45 the next morning with all of our kids to get them settled in the nursery and then over to the retreat again for the day.
(As a side note, this was Emma's first time in the nursery and she did really well! We've left her with people at our house a few times but never away from home with people she doesn't really know...)
What the seminar entailed was teaching and a lot of "experiential encounters". I have to say it was a nice time to get away, refresh some things that might not have been on the top of the list and remember how we're supposed to relate to each other. But I will also say that I don't think much of it was 'new' content to us. We had 'experiences' of how to fight clean, how to actively listen to one another and how to tell a complete thought without assumptions or leaving out details. And in all honesty we just talked through those because in general Mike and I have really good communication and we are used to talking through things whether they're something coming up, stressful situations, or things that have happened already. Problems, good things, we pretty much talk through it all and understand each other really well.
I really think that our adoption and this past year has helped us to really better form those relational skills. What better way than to be forced to pretty much have ONLY your spouse to communicate with for 4 weeks in a foreign country? Or to have HUGE obstacles thrown in your way and have to not only think through a problem, but make an IMMEDIATE decision that is literally life-changing base on very little info. Then to take a jump of faith into the unknown, together, and ride out the emotional roller coaster that that contained. And that was all just while we were in Ukraine. Then coming home, being told your child will die, having another child hospitalized literally 2 days after that event, deciding to go through with not only the life threatening surgery (heart) but a second potentially fatal surgery before that (T&A) in order to hopefully give that second surgery a higher survival rate... To have 4 kids under 5, to have 3 kids with disabilities, to have days that start at sunrise and don't end until 8:30 or 9:00 at night... And that's just the kids. Then there's work, school, the house, bills, DOCTOR bills, post-adoption paperwork, school system and therapy stuff... the list goes on.
This past year has been one filled with STRESS. LOTS of stress around every bend. A new big thing each week almost, then slowing down to monthly. Kids doing all kind of miraculous things and growing and changing every day. Some of it was a good kind of stress- most of it a not so great kind.
But through every week this past year and a bit Mike and I have had an open line of communication. When one of us needs to talk we find time to do so. When there's stress, we both know it and we talk and work through it. We've shared many tears together and many delights as well. Through it all, though, this weekend we could honestly say to each other "this year has been one of the best ever." How is that possible?? Because we've been able to do something so far beyond our own means and abilities that we can testify to God's goodness and POWER here on Earth. It's by His grace and mercy that we are all where we are today.
So this marriage retreat was a sweet reminder of the gift we have in each other- the perfect match that God has planned out in putting us together. The joy that we share and the love that we have.
As I said, though, we did learn something new this weekend... We were asked to draw diagrams of our family tree. Ourselves with our spouse first. Then add on our own parents, siblings. Then our grandparents and aunts and uncles. Then finally our children. The speaker talked about how each of these 4 generations is affected by the ones before it. Pieces of our personalities- both good and bad- are from not only our parents, but our grandparents and before. Of course some of it is what we do with it... And no, that's not the 'new stuff' that we learned.
Then they gave us 'symbols' to use to connect different family members. One was a dotted line with a // through it in the middle. This shows a cut-off relationship between two family members. We were asked to draw this between anyone whose relationship reflects this. Then another was like a zig zag line vvvvvvv and it was for people whose relationships were strained, even if not cut off completely. And the third relationship was three lines one on top of another ____ and those lines were called 'enmeshment'. The explanation of this was any people whose relationships are so far intwined that they are dependent on the other- not in a healthy way. An example was given of an adult child who, when they return to their parents' house house, or even just talking on the phone sometimes, returned to their 'childhood' and were unable to be their own adult person around their parent. This person is likely 'enmeshed' with that parent. Sometimes it's between siblings or close friends.
These lines throughout our family trees were interesting to see, because tho we know these relationships exist in our everyday lives or interactions, seeing them on paper in this way was different- especially giving them a name.
The exercise didn't end there... We were asked to describe the people in our lives using 2 to 4 adjectives. Good, bad, whatever, what words describe our spouse? children? parents? siblings? aunts and uncles? What words describe the marriage of our parents? our grandparents? Some of those questions I couldn't answer because I didn't know some of our family due to age or distance. And last we were told to find common themes in our family tree. Maybe premature death, depression, cut off relationships, enmeshment, or maybe other things like joy, religion, outgoing personalities, or a love for something specific. Whatever it is that runs through the family tree. On the other side of the page we were asked to write "earthquake events". Things that affected US that are big events within our families. Sometimes a death, divorce, or loss of a job, or a medical diagnosis.
Writing that all out, it became evident to both Mike and I where some things have happened within our own family backgrounds to mold us and others in our family into the people we are today. I'll share mine, because they aren't really much of a secret for those that know my family :)
We have a string of adoption through 2 generations (us and my parents) and this came as a direct result of both of my grandmothers being in some sort of foster care/children's home situations during their lives. I know there is a thread of depression through one side of my family which thankfully I haven't had to deal with (yet) but the awareness of it being there is always a good thing to know. There is also the unavoidable fact that I have a lot of similar tendencies to my own mother :) Her outgoing personality that could hold a 30 minute (or more) conversation with an empty wall and the ability to make friends in every grocery store line and shopping mall trip that she ever takes. I never thought I would be like her in that way but it's not something I'd like to trade in now that I am able to easily talk with whomever!
So, there you go- a little bit about our marriage retreat and some of the neat things we learned and were able to think more on while we were there.
If you'd like to draw up your own genealogy chart with these relationship lines and need a little more help in it, e-mail me and I'd be happy to help to the extent that I'm able. It's a really interesting (and often revealing) project!