New Series: How to Combat 4 Fears of Change

TreeContinuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. ~Pauline R. Kezer

These are great words to help us embrace change, yet it seems so much easier said than done sometimes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not always ready to grow those new branches!

Change can be a hard thing to accept, yet it’s inevitable. Every day we grow and change. Every day something about your world is not the same as it was the day before.

The only thing that remains constant in our world is change. It’s the one thing we can count on happening. We all know this, but we still innately resist it. Why do you suppose that is?

I think there is one big reason for our resistance.

Change often brings with it many different emotions. Sometimes those feelings can be positive and exciting, but often one big and powerful emotion takes over….Fear.

Fear is like a parasite that seems to feed off of change. It can rear it’s ugly head in many different ways when it comes to change. In our next series titled:

How to Combat 4 Fears of Change

We’re going to focus on four common fears that live with change:

  • Fear of the Unknown

  • Fear of Failure

  • Fear of Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone

  • Fear of Losing What You Have

We have a great couple of weeks ahead of us as we focus on each one of these common fears individually. By learning to move past each one, we can arm ourselves with the tools necessary to move through change with an open heart and mind, and ultimately embrace it.

This is a series I promise you won’t want to miss! So, I have a homework assignment for you before we dive into it. Over the next several days I want you to ponder a question:

What is it about change that scares me the most?

We’ll kick off the series next time with the first fear: Fear of the Unknown.

Do you know someone who can benefit from this series? If you do please feel free to share!



How to Make the Most of Good Intentions Gone Bad

Griff haircut 2015So…yeah….this is my 15 year old stepson Griffen after he attempted to “trim” his sideburns. He’s in the Marine Corp Junior ROTC (MCJROTC) at his high school and apparently, he felt his sideburns were getting a little too long according to the grooming standards outlined for the students.

So he made the decision to take it upon himself to remedy the discrepancy instead of asking to go get a haircut. I’m not quite sure what thoughts were running through his head as he looked in the mirror and saw the end result of his attempt to be proactive; but I can say that something stopped him from completing the other side. The left side only had a little gouge; and if you weren’t looking carefully, you’d miss it.

In fact…I did. He completed this masterpiece right before school one morning. I was in such a rush to get out of the house I didn’t even notice! When I took him to school, this side of his head was not in my line of sight since he was in the passenger seat.

So there I was, in an important meeting that evening, and I got a text message with this picture and a request from my husband to pick up some hair clippers on the way home. When I saw it, I literally shrieked out loud, leaving my colleagues to assume something horrible happened. As soon as I showed them the picture, they understood my dismay.

Griff high and tight 2015Thankfully, my husband was able to remedy the problem to the best of his abilities, and now Griffen is walking around with a very extreme “high and tight” haircut. When he got to school the next day, his drill instructor took one look at him and said, “Well, you certainly went very traditional with your military style haircut Cadet Clark.”

Haven’t we all been like Griffen at one time or another in our lives? We start out doing something with the very best of intentions, and it turned out horribly wrong.  Sometimes the end result is much worse than a bad haircut. The disappointment you have in yourself in those moments is palpable. How do you move on from that? How do you pick yourself and your bad outcome up off the floor of failure?

How Do You Make the Most Out of Good Intentions Gone Bad?

See the Learning Opportunity Through Your Disappointment

There’s always an opportunity to grow from our mistakes. Sure, no one likes to be wrong or to fail, but when you look at your misgivings as an opportunity to learn, it lightens the load of disappointment. When you come up short, let yourself feel the disappointment because you need to. You need to process the negative emotion in order to move past it. The key is: don’t wallow in it.

Feel the pain, and be done with it. Look at the situation objectively and find the lessons you learned.  Our failures are some of the most valuable learning points we have. The next time you fail, think of it as making a deposit into the bank of life lessons.

Apply what you learned to the decisions you make in the future. If you do, I promise you when the pain isn’t so fresh, you can look back on that time in your life and be thankful for it.

Stop Being Your Own Worst Critic

Honestly, this is where I personally struggle the most. I beat myself up worse than any disappointment ever could. A lot of us are like that, we make situations so much worse than they actually are because we’re so hard on ourselves. What possible good does that bring you? There’s a big difference in owning a mistake and torturing yourself because of one.

Personal accountability, taking responsibility for your actions, is vital to possess, but remember; you’re not only responsible for your own mistakes, but also what you do with them. If you do nothing but beat yourself up over your disappointments, you are feeding the fire of negativity.  You make the situation even worse by doing that. Here’s some advice: Stop it! Take ownership for what went wrong, and let it go.

Serve Others with Your Experience

When we experience adversity, we often don’t realize what a gift we’ve been given. That gift is not necessarily solely for you. Think of all the people that have mentored you in your life. The stories of their mistakes and  growing pains they’ve shared with you have been such a valuable resource at your disposal.

You have an opportunity to do the same for others. By doing so, you can channel your frustration into something positive. Use your experiences to help guide and mentor others and you’ll be amazed at how much purpose those moments in your life will possess.

We all have times of good intentions gone bad. The great ideas in our heads,  just don’t play out that way in real life. That’s okay. Remember when you are in the midst of your disappointment to look for the lesson, avoid being your own worst enemy, and learn to serve others with your experiences. When you do, those misgivings will have such tremendous value and purpose for your life.

What is the most memorable good intention gone bad in your life?

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Do You Know When to Follow and When to Swallow Your Pride?

crossroadsEver find yourself in a place where you’re struggling to continue on with something you started?

My husband Greg and I recently had a conversation about a moment just like this in his life. He’s been training for a 1/2 Ironman in May this year, but he’s begun to lose his desire to go through with the race. He signed up for the same race last year, but the swim was cancelled due to inclement weather. He felt he had to do it again this year to get the swim in.

The amount of time he’s had to dedicate to training has been weighing heavily on him. While he enjoys it, he’s feeling how much it has taken him away from the things in his life that are more important to him; the time he is able to spend with the family in particular.

As we talked, he admitted he’d lost the excitement he once had about the race. Instead he felt more guilt and obligation to complete it.

I think we’ve all been there one time or another, where you’re standing at a crossroad of decision of to complete what you started or let it go. I personally tend to walk down the road of completion, namely due to my pride.  My husband is quite similar in this regard.

I shared with Greg how prideful I can be too when it comes to sticking to my own guns, and a great analogy I came across that helped me realize it’s ok to let go sometimes.  It actually came from one of my idols; Michael Hyatt.

I was listening to one of his podcasts not too long ago, and he was discussing how to get the most out of reading books. In it, he addressed being ok with not always finishing a book. He explained how we tend to feel “obligated” to finish a book,  even when we really aren’t enjoying it anymore. His advice was simple; if you’re not getting anything else from it, then move on! Don’t torture yourself by completing a book you no longer have an interest in.

With all the things we have to do in life,  like work and responsibilities, the things you get to choose to spend your time doing should bring you value.

Perseverance is an excellent and important characteristic to possess, yet sometimes I think we can let our pride and the accomplishment of “completion” overshadow what’s really important. When you find yourself doing something for all the wrong reasons, then it’s time to re-evaluate the situation. There are some things that should be present in what you invest your time and energy in.

The Three Essentials to Help You Decide to Follow or Swallow Your Pride

  • Fulfillment

  • Enjoyment

  • Purpose

The sense of fulfillment, joy, and purpose through your goals, projects, and tasks is valuable fuel to keep you going. When it’s missing, it’s hard to keep moving. All three of these things help you stay connected to the “Why” in what you do.

In looking back at his situation with training, here’s what Greg realized: he loves the activities, but there was no reason to let them consume his world at this stage in his life when other things are more important to him. The solution? Shorter events that allow him the fulfillment, joy, and purpose, and keep him connected with his “Why.”

So, if you find yourself in a place where you’re questioning whether or not to stay the course,  don’t let pride get the best of you. Instead, take a step back, reassess what’s important, and find how to reconnect with fulfillment, joy, and purpose.


Are you spending your time wisely?

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4 Hidden Gifts In Unanswered Prayers

“Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” ~Garth Brooks

Hope in the cloudsWords we’ve all likely heard in one of his most famous songs, but words that are a lot easier said than believed for most of us. I know I’ve personally struggled with accepting them myself in many moment of my life. Here’s the kicker though; they’re so true. I’m  grateful to be able to look back on my life and see how true they really are.

One of the first times I realized this was when I was 20 years old. When I graduated high school, I had a scholarship to a broadcasting program at a university. I remember feeling so comfortable in knowing exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I’d never been so sure of anything, I had it all planned out. I often joked saying I’d be the next Barbara Walters one day.

Sadly, soon into my Freshman year of college, the perfect picture of my future I’d created came crashing down around me. The more I learned of the industry, the less I connected with it. It wasn’t at all what I thought it was. Eventually, I dropped my major. I’d never felt so lost; I’d always had a plan, now I had nothing.

What came of that moment I couldn’t have predicted at all. I ended up leaving college after my sophomore year, joined the United States Air Force, and became a medic. Soon after I arrived at my first duty station, I met the man who would later become my husband.

Over the course of five years in my enlistment I completed three degrees, and in 2007 I was commissioned as 1st Lt. Jennifer Clark, Physician Assistant. After graduating school I went on to deploy and experience one of the most life changing events in my life. Several years after I returned from that deployment, I published my first book, 166 Days My Journey Through the Darkness, a memoir of the deployment and the aftermath.

I served proudly for our country for almost eleven years. So much happened in my life from one unanswered prayer. The 19 year old me never saw it coming; but now, looking back I’m so thankful for things not working out as I’d planned. We’ve all had unanswered prayers in our lives. As painful as they may be, they hold four blessings that leave us better because of them:


We can all use a dose of humility from time to time. If everything happened the way we plan it in our minds, can you imagine the egos we’d create? When all you do is win, you lose the value of your victory.

Being humble allows us to be gracious and grounded.

New Direction and Opportunity

Sometimes a bump in the road is exactly what we need to see a new direction that we may not have thought possible before. I remember in high school, I took the ASVAB but never thought I’d join the military. “I’m not military material” I’d say. What I thought was never an option for me turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

When things don’t work out as well as you thought they would, look for the opportunity. Look for the scenario you didn’t see coming. Perhaps there is something that’s been there the whole time but you never noticed.

Personal Growth

Through our struggles we grow. We learn far more from our missteps and failures than our successes. Look at your disappointments as an opportunity for you to become even stronger. Look at those moments as stepping stones you travel to the best version of yourself.


Character is defined as moral or ethical quality. Character is what we develop through the trials and tribulations in our lives. It’s the fruit of the life lessons we learn through our experiences. How we handle disappointment, failure, heartbreak, all builds character.

Character is one of the most precious things we have as individuals. It paves the path for how we live the rest of our lives. Without challenges, we don’t build it.

Life is filled with some of the greatest celebrations and the deepest heartbreaks. When you find yourself with an unanswered prayer, remember to look for the blessings in it. Appreciate the humility you gained, the new direction and opportunity in front of you, the ways you will grow from it, and the character you’ll build because of it.

How has an unanswered prayer been a blessing in your life?

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3 Critical Areas for Healthy Habits

Delilah and Cone of Shame 2015Meet my pug Delilah. Yes, I do realize she has a very large, ridiculous, blue inflatable device around her neck. Believe me, that thing is pretty unavoidable. We’ve lovingly dubbed it her “cone of shame,” courtesy of the Disney movie “Up.”

The most logical next question bouncing around in your head has got to be; “Why?”

Well, allow me to explain. My sweet little pug Delilah has apparently developed allergies over the last several years, which cause her skin to get irritated and itchy. When she has a flare up she will lick, scratch, and bite her paws until they bleed.

After a course of oral steroids, antibiotics, topical anti-allergy shampoo and lotion, and a hefty vet bill, we can get her skin under control. Here’s the problem; over time, flare up or not, her licking and biting has become a habit. The minute her “cone of shame” comes off, she starts going at it; the right paw being her most frequent target.

As silly as she looks, we know without the cone she would continue to hurt herself. So, there you have it; a pug with a beautiful, and permanent new accessory. Believe me, settling on the blue thing was no easy decision. She literally chew threw and broke about five previous cones. Thankfully, we seem to have found one that works….at least for now.

Delilah, her cone, and her harmful habit got me thinking; perhaps we humans could benefit from such a protective device? Think about all the self-destructive habits we seem to acquire over the years. Could you imagine us all walking around with big blue inflatable “cones” to protect us from ourselves?

Ok….maybe not such a good idea, but it certainly argues a good point. Since a cone is out of the question, perhaps awareness of three areas in our lives we need to be protective of our habits will have to suffice.

3 Critical Areas for Healthy Habits

Your Influences

Influence manifests through many different resources; the material you read, the television you watch, the people you surround yourself with to name a few. Our influences can shape our opinions and thoughts which in turn shape our actions.

Be protective of what you expose yourself to. Remember the importance of being selective with who and what you decide to let influence you. Ensure the people you invest the most of yourself with are those that bring value to your life, and you to theirs. Surround yourself with things that motivate you to be awesome.

How You Spend Your Time

How many times have we all been reminded by our elders just how precious our time is? As we age, we all recognize how true that really is, yet we still tend to forget to heed the advice of those much wiser than us. We can waste the precious hours of the day so easily by spending it doing things that have no value or purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need our “down time,” but the point is to be intentional about it. Don’t waste a day in front of the television or video games when you could be enjoying the beautiful outdoors, or having a great conversation with someone you love. Don’t spend your time feeling sorry for yourself for all the unfortunate things in your life, instead, spend it trying to make positive change.

The one thing we all have an equal amount of is time. Make yours something you’ve spent wisely.

What You Put Into and Do to Your Body

Maintaining healthy habits when it comes to our bodies can be incredibly difficult. We are a society that likes instant gratification, which means we don’t always make good decisions on what we consume. We do things like smoke cigarettes, drink too much alcohol, and eat unhealthy foods. Sometimes, we ingest even worse things.

In addition to the bad things we like to consume, we can easily fall into a rut when it comes to our physical health. We stop taking care of our bodies by not exercising, poor posture, not watching our weight, or not taking the necessary preventative measures to avoid long term health problems.

Here’s the thing; your body is your vessel. The better you take care of it, the more farther it can take you. If you remember to get the oil in your car changed every 3,000 miles, then there are no excuses why you can’t invest in some healthy habits to maintain your physical health.

Habits shape who we’ve been, who we are now, and who we become tomorrow. Make sure you’re developing and nurturing the ones that will help you be the best version of you. Be protective of your influences, how you spend your time, and how you take care of your body.

How are your habits impacting your life?

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Relationships That Thrive Series: 3 Vital Areas That Depend On Teamwork

The most important secret to a successful relationship, is knowing the work that goes into it is never 50-50. One of you will always give a little more or a little less; the key is making sure the weight is constantly shifting between you. ~Gary Clark

Great advice that my father-in-law Gary gave to my husband Greg shortly before our wedding. In the twelve years we’ve spent together, we’ve seen these words ring true time and time again.

In the last two weeks in our series called The Secret Ingredients to Relationships That Thrive, we’ve looked at the importance of how we spend our time together and apart, and how we can grow together and avoid drifting apart. All of that has built up to this final key ingredient to a thriving relationship; approaching relationships as a Team.

tough mudder 2012 team


Relationships That Thrive Depend on Teamwork in 3 Key Areas:

The Maintenance

In my opinion, this is the hardest part to be intentional about being a team. It’s so stinkin easy to take advantage of each other in the “everyday”  because we don’t always recognize the little things the other half of our relationship does that make such a big difference.

We all know when you spend enough time with a person, you learn who they are on a much deeper level. When you become close enough, you invest more than just your time with them. You invest your acceptance and appreciation for what they bring to your life.

As time goes on, that appreciation we have for one another can easily become something we take for granted. If we’re not careful, we can begin to expect the other person to carry more of the weight in areas of the relationship where they naturally tend to add value. Here are just a few examples:

-Planning time together

-Taking care of the kids


-Handling finances

-Expecting a friend to always listen to your problems, but you never bother to stop talking long enough to listen to theirs.

-Expecting a hard working colleague to always volunteer to do the dirty work at your job

These expectations may stem from what we initially appreciated about each other; but sometimes that appreciation turns into “forgetting” you still need to participate in that part of the relationship as well.

The Highs

We all love to win, we all love to celebrate our own successes. I love nothing more than to see my hard work pay off with a sweet reward. That being said, here’s an important thing to remember; The world doesn’t revolve around you, so neither should your relationship.

There will be times when together, you decide the main objective is to launch you and your goals towards completion and victory. There will also be times when your goals, your agenda, and your priorities may need to take a backseat to your other half.

When it comes to our aspirations and victories, remember the pendulum of success and accolades should swing both ways when you approach them as a team.

This is something Greg and I have embraced very seriously. When I was going to school, he supported me 150%. My first year was absolutely insane. I was taking 100 credit hours, and had no time for anything else but school. He spent the majority of that time overseas in Iraq and Kuwait. He’d come home every 3-4 months for a few short days. He’d spend all day waiting for me to come home, and I’d get there and tell him “I only have two hours to spend with you, then I have to study.” How easily he could have resented me for that, instead….he set his watch.

Several years later, he went back to school full time, and our focus as a couple shifted to ensuring his success.

Relationships that thrive allow each person involved to take priority which helps us to appreciate each other and our accomplishments that much more. It also helps us to stay humble and recognize the effort to get to that finish line was not just yours; the love and support of the people who love you played a vital role as well.

The Lows

With our successes also come our failures and disappointments. Most of the time, failure tends to be a difficult pill to swallow. The pain that comes with it can be quite profound. It’s in our moments of defeat we need each other the most.

Many of you are aware, I struggled desperately for a time with PTSD after my deployment to Afghanistan in 2008. That time was easily one of the most difficult for our marriage. For quite a while, Greg didn’t know how to help me, and I didn’t know how to ask. Eventually, I came through that dark time, and have become so much better because of it. I know without a doubt, his love and support was the driving force in my recovery.

A beautiful thing about relationships is that they allow us to experience defining moments with each other. When times get tough, it’s so much better knowing you’re not alone and that there is a hand of someone who loves you ready to lift you up; you just have to reach for it.

Relationships that thrive embrace the value of teamwork through the everyday, the highs, and the lows brings to each other’s lives.

This concludes our three week series on The Secret Ingredients Relationships That Thrive! We hope you enjoyed it and took something of value from it and love your feedback! Have ideas or suggestion about another series? Please feel free to email your suggestions to:

What value do you think teamwork brings to a relationship?

Relationships That Thrive Series: What it Takes to Grow Together Part II

Nej & Gerg-Ashford-8This week in our series called The Secret Ingredients to Relationships That Thrive we’re focusing on what it takes to grow together, and avoid growing apart. In the last post, we looked at how conflict can actually be a catalyst to bring you together when your relationship is built on a foundation of trust, respect, and humility.

Here’s a hard truth when it comes to relationships: sometimes we allow our differences to stand in the way of the most meaningful parts of a relationship. The things that we don’t understand about each other can become a barrier to growing together.

The early years of my relationship with my husband Greg are case and point of this truth. When we first started dating, I had a lot of concerns he wasn’t “The One” for me because of how different we were. It seemed like we had so little in common there was no way we could possibly be right for each other. So, to protect myself from an inevitable broken heart,  I put up a huge wall.  In fact, I even tried to dump him because of it.

When we met, we were both enlisted in the Air Force. I was a young medic, and he was a cop. He was about as “gung-ho” as they come when it came to his job. He loved being a cop, but loved the idea of getting into the Special Forces world even more. That’s where we had  a problem….I’ll never forget the words I said to him the day I dumped him.

“If that’s the life you want, then I’m not the girl for you. I’m not strong enough to be at home wondering not when you’d come home, but if you’ll come home at all. Sorry buddy, that’s just not who I am.”

That difference in opinion actually turned out to be one of the most ironic situations of my life.

Here’s where the irony begins. Greg never ended up getting into the Special Forces world, in fact, in 2005 he separated from the military all together. I, on the other hand, went on to get my commission and became a Physician Assistant. In 2008, I was tasked with my first deployment. Not only was I going to Afghanistan, but I was going to be with a team of US Army Green Berets. I was forward deployed to one of, if not the most, violent firebases in Afghanistan at the time.

By that time, Greg and I were married, and he was the one at home waiting for me. As for me, I went from someone who wanted nothing to do with that part of the military, to being totally emerged in it for six months.

That experience was a big eye opener for us because it forced us to look at a situation from each other’s point of view. Over the years, many more moments helped us learn to grow past our differences. They became opportunities for us to appreciate the layers of each other that we really didn’t understand and even feared in the beginning of our relationship. It’s been those opportunities that allowed our relationship to thrive.

To this day, Greg and I still come from very different perspectives; but here’s the thing…despite our differences, we’ve grown into each other.  Wanna know our secret? We realized something very important:

You Don’t Have to Let Your Differences Divide You. Instead, Use Them To Bring You Together

We’ve learned to not only accept our differences, but actually to celebrate them.  We’ve come to appreciate what they bring to our relationship. The top three ways differences can bring us together:

1. They Open Your Heart and Mind

We all tend to get stuck in our own bubble of viewing the world. When you spend time with someone who looks at the world a little differently, you can learn a lot. Maybe you respectfully agree to disagree, but a least you’ve taken advantage of an opportunity to gain insight from a different point of view.

When we understand our differences, we grow. We grow both as individuals and together. Allowing your differences to be present opens your heart and mind to new ideas and possibilities you may never have thought of otherwise.

2. A Different Perspective Can Shed Much Needed Light On Your World

Anyone who has spent any time with me knows I tend to get overly excited and jump head first into things. If something looks awesome, then I’m all in! And sometimes…that can come back to bite me.  I can get my blinders of excitement on and miss some blatantly obvious caution flags flying right in front of me. Greg lovingly calls it living in “Jenville.” Because he sees things so differently, I can count on him to keep me grounded and rational.

The opposite is true for Greg. Sometimes he can get so caught up in the details of something that he will analyze it to the point of exhaustion. I get to step in and remind him how sometimes when you stay in the world of solid black and white, you can miss the beauty of exploring the grey area.

Our differences give us a new insight that can guide us in the right direction.

3. Differences Can Take You Out of Your Comfortable Status Quo

We tend to like to stay in what’s comfortable. Usually that means sticking with what we know. By doing so, we can miss some incredible new experiences. Greg is not one to try something new very often. I, on the other hand, love doing new things. Over the years, I’ve dragged him out to try something he wouldn’t have done otherwise, and 99.9% of the time he’s grateful he had the experience.

I tend to be pretty disorganized. Greg would say that’s quite the understatement. He is the polar opposite. Everything he lays his hands on is organized and orderly. By living with him, he continues to remind me of the value of getting out of my comfortable chaos and adding structure to my day.

Our differences can challenge us to be better and to grow and experience new things.

Relationships that thrive find ways to look past our differences, and even learn to celebrate them. Our time spent together is so precious, don’t let yourself focus so much on where you differ become a barrier to where you can come together.

Next week is our last week of our series on The Secret Ingredients to Relationships That Thrive, and you won’t want to miss it! We’re going to look at why Being In a Relationship Equals Being in A Team.

What positive things have your differences brought to your relationships?

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Relationships That Thrive Series: What It Takes to Grow Together Part I

conflictAn interesting fact about me is that I don’t have a middle name. When Greg and I were dating he quickly remedied that situation by assigning the word “Pride” to that blank space in my name. To this day, Jennifer Pride Clark can make an appearance when we get into “discussions” that usually involve us seeing things from two totally different perspectives.

Truth be told, that word has not been just my vice in the relationship; but both of ours. We both have an overabundance of the “P” word which has been a challenge for us over the years. However, through our trials and tribulations as a couple, we’ve managed to keep it in check.

Last week, we looked at the importance of how you invest your time in relationships. As we continue into the second week of our series on the Secret Ingredients to Relationships That Thrive, we’re going look at how to grow together in love, and avoid growing apart.

Conflict is one of the driving forces to growth in either direction.

Despite what we may tend to believe, conflict can actually have a healthy impact on relationships, and we’re going to explore how. First, let me give you some insight into my perspective on this sensitive topic….back to where we started today’s post; Greg, me, and….our pride.

Interestingly, we both came into our relationship from two very different backgrounds to marriage.

I came from a divorced family, my parents separated when I was four years old. As I got older, through talking to both of my parents, I learned more about the dynamic of their marriage. As it came close to the end, the relationship was toxic. When they fought, my dad felt he was never in the wrong, therefore he never got to a point where he listened to my mom’s point of view. Over time, my mom stopped trying to stand up for herself.

Greg’s parents, on the other hand, have been married now for over 40 years. Naturally, he wanted the same thing when he settled down.  He got married very early in his 20s, and after two short years found himself divorced and a single dad. He was devastated as you might imagine; having failed at something he wanted so desperately.

We met about a year after his divorce, and I was still damaged from the relationship I mentioned in the last post. In the early months and years of our time together, conflict was a big issue that almost got the best of us. We came from such different places, and both of us so filled with pride, at times it got pretty ugly. Neither one of us wanted to back down from our point of view.

Every time we had a fight, he feared I was going to pack up my bags and leave, and I unfairly kept comparing him to my father. Needless to say, it was pretty rough.

Gradually, over the years the dynamic of our arguments changed. We went through some very trying times together; both as individuals and together as a couple. It was through those times we began to notice that our differences actually fostered our growth as a couple. Here’s what we realized:

Disagreement Is Ok When These Key Things Are Part of the Foundation of Your Relationship:

  • Respect

Mutual Respect is absolutely essential to any relationship. One of the most important times it comes into play is during conflict. If you don’t respect the person you are disagreeing with, you will not listen to what they have to say. If they don’t respect you, count on the same response.

No respect means no listening. Instead of actually hearing what the other person has to say, you wait for them to stop talking so you can say what you need to say. Here’s the problem with that, in case it’s not obvious…that doesn’t work with relationships! Does it sound appealing to spend more time with someone who doesn’t respect who you are and where you’re coming from? Of course not.

If you respect the people who matter the most in your life, then honor who they are and make a conscious effort to listen to where they’re coming from. They may not be right….but then again, they just may be. They may not have the solutions, but they may have something to offer you hadn’t thought of before.

  • Trust

I think it’s pretty fair to say that trust don’t come easy when it comes to relationships. To truly trust someone, means you allow yourself to be vulnerable with them. It means you actually allow yourself to believe what they say. In order to love someone, and allow them to love you, trust has to be in place.

Trust is easily one of the most fragile parts of a relationship. It takes so much to build it, and so little to break it into a million pieces.  Knowing how precious it is, hopefully helps us to realize the power it has when it comes to working through conflict.

Work to build your relationship based on it, and when it comes to times of disagreement, you can trust that the other person is coming from a genuine place. Believe me, Greg and I have had many times in our relationship when one of us has brought to light something not so “amazing” about what the other is doing. Being able to trust that what each other is saying is coming from a place of love allows us to work through it.

  • Humility

“Have the humility to learn from those around you.” ~John C. Maxwell

To be humble in a relationship, especially when you’re in the middle of a disagreement allows you both to move forward. To lay down your sword and shield of pride and be willing to hear the other person allows for the possibility of compromise.  A way to come together to allow both points to be expressed, learned from, and heard.

When we are humble in conflict, not only can we come to a compromise, but we can come to a place of forgiveness. Sometimes we need to forgive each other, and sometimes, we need to forgive ourselves. Having the ability to see past the end of your nose and into the heart of the person you love is how we grow through some of the biggest disagreements.

Conflict is one of those inevitable things in any relationship. It can be the catalyst that helps you grow together when the foundation of what you are together is based on Respect, Trust, and Humility.

Stay tuned for Part II of What it Takes to Grow Together where we’ll discuss how even people with completely different interests can grow together.

What is the biggest challenge you face when it comes to conflict with those you love?

Know someone who needs to read this? Please share!



Relationships That Thrive Series: Investing in Your Time Part II

“Don’t smother each other. No one can grow in the shade.” ~Leo Buscaglia

Wise words when it comes to relationships, especially those that thrive. This week in our series The Secret Ingredients to Relationships that Thrive , we’re focusing on how to invest your time wisely when it comes to the people you care about. In Part I, we discussed the importance of being intentional with the precious time you spend together. In Part II, we’re going to flip the script and focus on the equally important time you spend on your own.

Have you ever been in a relationship where you felt smothered? Or maybe you were the “smotherer” and you found yourself  so wrapped up in the other person that your entire world revolved around them. When you care about someone, it’s so easy to let your affections for that person take over and begin to control your world.

While it may feel great in the moment to be immersed in your affections for that significant person, over time it can become damaging.

In 1999 B.G. (Before Greg), I was that girl. I was a sophomore in college, and I fell hard and fast for a guy. He became my everything; all that I did was for him or with him, and I lost myself. I loved him more than anything, including myself. My academics, motivation, friendships, and relationship with my family all suffered because of it. When I discovered Mr. Wonderful was indeed not so “wonderful” we broke up, and my heart was not the only thing broken…my whole world was. Needless to say, I didn’t date again for two years after that relationship because I had to repair all that was damaged.

I learned a lot from that experience, so when I met Greg I didn’t make the same mistakes.  Here’s the bottom line:

Relationships that Thrive Nurture Individuality

Jenn and Greg FSU

Nurture Your Own Individuality

Love is the most powerful and awesome emotion that exists, and it’s vitally important in our lives. What we can’t forget is the importance of loving ourselves as much as we love one another. I remember growing up, my mom reminded me of this by using the analogy of the infamous flight attendant instructions we’ve all heard before prior to take off. It goes something like this:

“In the event of an accident, your oxygen masks will collapse from above. If you are traveling with small children, please remember to apply your oxygen mask first before assisting them.”

Simple advice that applies to so  much more than a plane ride. In order to be the best person you can be for those that you love, you must not forget to nurture what makes you who you are. When you neglect the things most important to you, that make you special, you’re not only stealing from yourself, but also from your relationship. Not taking care of yourself, kills the unique and special parts of you that contribute to the relationship that make it beautiful.

Nurture Your Significant Other’s Individuality

 What is it about the special people in your life that makes them special? Are you ensuring that part of them has the fuel it needs to sustain them? As much as you want to spend all your time with the person that means the most to you, if you don’t allow them the time to invest in their personal goals and fulfilments, you are chipping away at their Awesome. Over time that builds resentment and emptiness.

A hidden blessing Greg and I discovered early on was how drastically different our personalities are. At first, I found it rather frustrating that he didn’t think all the things that are so clearly amazing to me were all that important….ok…..I still find it a little frustrating! But! Being so different has allowed us to recognize the importance of supporting each other’s individual needs.

While we both enjoy fitness, Greg’s physical goals are one of his top priorities. Mine are different…I will wake up at the crack of dawn to write this very blog, while he gets up at the same time to go for a run or a bike ride. We respect the time we each need to devote to our friendships, careers, and hobbies as well.When either one of us needs extra time to work on our goals, despite how crazy our life may be, we protect it. We know it’s an important part of who we both are.

When we allow each other to nurture our individual Awesome….we are investing in the other half of what makes our relationship together even more Awesome.

When you love someone, you love and appreciate what makes them unique. Don’t smother, and don’t be smothered by your love for each other. Nurture and grow your individuality and watch how your relationship thrives.

What’s your significant other’s favorite thing to do?

You don’t want to miss next week in our series! We’re going to look at ways to Grow Together, Not Apart.

If you know someone who would benefit from reading this, please pass along!


Relationships That Thrive Series: Investing In Your Time Part I

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” ~Theophratus

In last week’s post, I mentioned over the next 3 weeks we are going to be diving into a series on The Secret Ingredients to Relationships that Thrive. That series will be divided into three key areas:

  • Investing In Your Time Together and Apart
  • Being in a Relationship = Being on a Team
  • How to Grow Towards Each Other and Avoid Growing Apart

With that quick refresher, it’s time to move on to this week’s area of focus: Investing in Your Time. You know, good ‘ole Theophratus has a great point; our time is the most valuable thing we can spend, yet, we often waste it. Where we tend to waste it in the most harmful ways is in our relationships with each other.

We tend to take our time together for granted, and before we know it, that time is gone. One thing my husband Greg and I have learned over the years we’ve spent together, is how precious that time is. We’ve spent significant time away from each other on multiple occasions; he spent a year in Iraq and Kuwait, and I spent six months in Afghanistan. Both of those periods in our relationship, along with the demands of our day to day in our careers and as parents, have given us an appreciation for our moments together we didn’t have before.

We work very hard to make the most of the time we have with each other every day. We both see the value in being intentional with our time now, to help us reach our goals as a couple later. Now…notice the word I used….work. I won’t sugar coat it at all….that’s exactly what it is….hard work!

Case and point…our weekly budget meeting.

Now, for those of you who don’t know Greg and me very well, allow me to shed some light on the subject. We tend to live on the opposite ends of the spectrum in our personality types. I’m very much the “Free Spirit” in our relationship, while Greg is “Mr. Organized.”  I love to fly by the seat of my pants while Greg has to have a structured plan for everything he does….he even created an excel spreadsheet for our shopping list….nope….totally not kidding folks!

Clark budget meetingSo, knowing this about us, one can appreciate how difficult it is for us to sit down every week and discuss the budget.

Looking at another spreadsheet with our “spending trends” is not exactly my idea of a good time, while trying to figure out what exactly I spent on what and why is not a great time for Greg either.

But! We do it every single week. Why? Because as a couple, we’ve set financial goals we want to achieve. It’s an important part of our relationship, therefore we’re both fully invested in the commitment and discipline it takes from both of us.

The budget meeting is just one example of what we spend our time together doing, but there are also a lot of other things we’re equally intentional about:

  • Date Night
  • Dinner time with the family
  • Quality time with the kids
  • Fitness
  • Spiritual growth

And many more…the point is this:

Be Intentional With the Time You Spend With the Ones You Care About

Sounds easy enough right? Yet, it’s actually pretty hard to do. So, how can you be “intentional” with your time when it comes to the relationships in your life?

Define What’s Important to You

Maybe that means you set a goal you want to achieve together. Or maybe you find such enjoyment in doing a certain activity together, that you realize how important it is to your relationship. Whatever it may be that brings you closer together, ensure you define what it is and why it’s important to the relationship. By doing so, you create a sense of motivation to devote the precious time you have together towards it.

Appreciate What’s At Stake, and Don’t Be Afraid to Remind Yourself of It

In other words, don’t be afraid to hold each other accountable for the time you’ve both said you want to spend together. Sometimes it’s easier to fall prey to what you want right now, instead of spending your time on what’s most important. You think….Hmmm, my favorite show is on TV, maybe that budget meeting can wait! I’ve certainly been in that situation, and so has Greg.

In fact, just the other day, I tried to back out of going to a morning church service because I was so comfy on the couch in my PJs and slippers with my cup of coffee. I rationalized that we could just watch it later online, or even catch the afternoon service. All Greg had to do was remind me of why it was important for us to go, and very quickly my priorities were back in check.

Celebrate Together What Being Intentional is Doing For Your Relationship

Reap the rewards in the investment you’ve made in each other! One of my favorite things to do each day is give thanks for the meaningful relationships in my life. In doing so, I look at where we’ve been, and how we’ve grown together through making the most of the time we’ve spent with each other.

Sometimes the rewards come through the struggles. Looking back on our marriage, I’m thankful for the hard times we’ve worked through together and how they’ve helped us grow as a couple.

Creating and sustaining relationships that thrive means you have to water them often enough they can grow. The most valuable thing you spend is your time…so when it comes to spending it with those you care about; invest wisely.

Next up in this week in the Relationships That Thrive Series, we’ll look at Investing In Your Time Part II. You won’t want to miss this one; we’ll focus on why respecting our individual time is just as important to the relationship as the time we spend together.

What is the most important thing you should invest the time you spend in your relationship doing?

Please pass along if you know someone who would benefit from reading this!