As I mentioned last week, we recently hosted an exchange student from Costa Rica for two weeks. In addition to inspiring me to say “yes” more often, this experience shined a light on the love and connection that is possible when you open your schedule and heart to singly focusing on another human and nurturing that relationship. 

For two weeks Jamie, Quinton, Deaken, and I put Charlie first. We maneuvered our schedules around his daily needs. We cleared our social calendars and each day became an opportunity for fun bonding. We spent less time dwelling on our phones, playing video games, or watching mindless TV in separate rooms in the evenings. 

We managed a schedule that our wallets, bellies, and overall energy levels could not uphold for much longer, but it was worth giving another person so much of our time and attention. 

Although this was a chaotic time, I was able to accomplish more in the day than I thought I could. I communicated more thoughtfully and patiently with Jamie, my kids, my parents, my brothers, and my friends. My focus in my work was sharper, and some other areas where I have neglected nurturing communities that I lead became clearer. And over the last month of travel and hosting I allowed myself a true off-season in training, where I maintained some consistency, but allowed it to fall lower on the priority scale. This gave me more energy to see some ways that I want to move forward.

There is a lot more to this than a simple blog can convey, and there are other factors at work in addition to this exchange experience. I am in a transitional season of life as a mom, which requires this reflection. I am taking the overdue time to work on some ways to connect deeper with Jamie. I realize how much I am yearning to lead our local team with a culture of inclusivity and connection. I didn’t come to these realizations easily… there were and will continue to be some hurt, tears, defensiveness, confusion, and miscommunication (in addition to many other things), amongst the hope and love. But, I have be reminded of the importance of one thing: 

We need to nurture the bonds with our people. 

As most of you have likely read or felt, connecting with others is so different in our post-pandemic, tech/social media/texting filled life. I am just as guilty as anyone of devaluing relationships and community in favor of my own agenda and schedule. But, when I took this pause to almost exclusively focus on other humans for two weeks, I felt so much more alive than when I end the days with a perfectly clean house and a completed to-do list. Daily in-person conversations and laughter was one million times more invigorating than exchanging text messages or attending video calls. Living in the present moment was far, far, far more fulfilling than 500 Instagram likes. 

Now, I have mentioned that Jamie and I are attending couples’ counseling bi-weekly to gather the tools needed to be better at this. I am still seeking out overall strategies myself, so I am not going to give out advice at this time. Instead, I want to encourage you to take stock in your relationships, and then seek out ways to nurture those that you feel are worth continuing to invest in. See below for a list of questions that may help you consider how you can focus more time and energy on those who you claim matter most. 

Some things to consider: 

  • How are your relationships adding value to your emotional well-being? How are your core values reflected?
  • How are these relationships presenting obstacles? Can these be addressed and worked on? Is it worth it to you, or time to walk away?
  • What does “nurturing” a relationship mean to you? Do you know how you want to be loved? How you feel capable of loving? 
  • Do your relationships at home provide an anchor, or a safe place, for you to be able to be you? To feel how you need to feel? 
  • Do the people you surround yourself with show up to listen and support you in ways that truly help you? Do they listen or try to “fix” things? Do they show you love and compassion as you navigate your own personal growth?
  • Are you involved in communities that fuel your soul? Are these safe places to give feedback? How can you take it upon yourself to get more involved?
  • How are you building relationships that thrive on trust and loving compassion?
  • Who do you need to forgive? How does that relationship look moving forward? Can it be salvaged and can trust be rebuilt, or should you respectfully end it?

Try to answer these without judgement, and without blaming the other person/people. Instead, reflect on how you may not showing up in a spirit of openness, vulnerability, authenticity, or honesty. Sometimes, people do not align anymore, and there is no fault or blame needed. It is hard, but rather than nurturing the relationship, it may be time to respectfully and lovingly nurture yourself and walk away. 

Whether you are an introvert or raging extrovert like myself, we all need people. And whether it is with two people, or one hundred+, when you nurture these bonds the connection you create will help you have a safe space to be yourself. The energy that you spend projecting other personas out into the world can not only be used to invest further into relationships, but also for things that other kinds of value to your life (like serving other parts of humanity, training, focusing on your physical health, etc…)

If you have other questions to add to the list, or resources that you have enjoyed, please comment on Instagram or Facebook, or send me a direct message (you have probably noticed that my blog comments have been shut off, yet flooded with spam… that’s another work in progress) 😉 I am willing to get the conversation going, but I am also deep in the trenches, working on this alongside you all. 

But, today, I can reassure you that I feel encouraged by the awareness and the work I have started. And although it looks differently for each relationship, nurturing them with those who matter most provides an anchor for my soul. And that serves them better, and helps me live with ease. 

Thank you for reading and navigating this life with me.