It's not all been easy. There were years raising teens, especially girls, when I thought I would lose my mind and my marriage was rattled. Raising our son was far easier. Just look at him and say: "Never even think about doing that again" and he wouldn't argue and typically wouldn't do it. The girls would often respond: "Why not? That's dumb." Those were years that tested our resolve.
|2004 St. Augustine, FL|
We've been living in an empty nest for almost a year. Yes, some have returned for a season and there's something to say about that too, but we highly recommend the empty nest years and look forward to what's next.
I share some thoughts at what is really the beginning of this season not because we're perfect, but because we're committed to learning and we have some history on which to look back.
1. DATING. We found fairly quickly that we left our consistent dating routine behind. It was just us and we loved it being just us again. But we realized we had stopped scheduling those weekly lunches - 11:30 on Wednesdays. We missed them. Throw in a movie night (at home or out), a dinner or a walk around the neighborhood and you've got the makings of a great routine that will keep you connected. Even in the empty nest we've found that life will help separate you if you're not diligient to staying connected.
2. ELECTRONICS. Put them away. Create boundaries. We're not very good at this. We've talked about it and are making progress but far too often we've found ourselves with screens open rather than holding hands while watching TV or better yet taking a walk and spending time just the two of us.
|2011 Alaska Cruise|
3. VACATIONS. My hobby is in the world of swim officiating for USA Swimming. I'm privileged to be at a place where it is taking me to places both nationally and globally. And now with the kids gone, there's more time for local meets as well as doing some traveling. We realized, however, that while I was traveling, we weren't vacationing together. With the freedom to pursue a hobby comes the need for boundaries on what's really important.
4. INVEST. It's not just about money. The best return for our dollar has been investing in our marriage with both time and money. Investing for the best return takes planning and planning takes communication. We decided early on that while we wanted to make retirement planning a priority, we weren't going to wait to spend time together. We've spent some dollars now - every 5th anniversary is a cruise (and can I just say the 25th to Alaska was incredible!). I took a sabbatical in 2012 and it was one of the best choices we've ever made. We've attended multiple marriage conferences. We've also made it a priority to save for retirement (a 1st world privilege) with an eye toward serving during that time. Our commitment to tithing and saving are our two biggest expenditures in our budget.
5. PLAN. Without planning we wouldn't be where we are today as a couple, spiritually or financially. Our planning hasn't just been about retirement. It's been about investing in people, using our gifts and talents to serve God's Kingdom in the coming years. So we've made sure to stay out of debt which gives us enormous flexibility with the present and the future. When we had the privilege of buying a house last year, we didn't spend all the bank said they would lend us.
For instance, God has given me a gift to teach. It would be a waste of His talent for me to not teach throughout my life, as long as I'm able to speak, think and write. So we're talking about how to do that - combining it with some traveling as well as what it looks like from our home base, wherever that is at the time.
6. #SIXSECONDS. A few months ago my friend Dr. Baker told a group of us about a study that proved kissing for 6 seconds changes the brain chemistry in an incredibly positive way. Taking time out for a 6 second kiss each day - for a 30 second hug each day - for a few moments to say "I love you" are some of the daily investments that have made for a great marriage for us. I've recently begun using #sixseconds in my marriage ceremony teaching. It's been quite a hit, especially when I say "You may kiss the bride." Wedding parties and congregations have begun counting out loud!
Do the little things each and every day. The things that say "I love you" without a word being spoken.
We've got so much more to learn. Hopefully we've got so far to go.
Where would you suggest we take our 30th Cruise? We've been to the Bahamas, Mexico, Greece & Turkey and Alaska (our 5th was a trip to Gatlinburg).