Victory Lap by Doug Linville

Doug and Mariah at the finish line.
Doug and Mariah at the finish line

By now most of us have given some thought about our holiday plans.  Some of you have it completely mapped out: who is visiting whom, on which day, at what location and the menu is assigned.  In our house, we must plan travel time because neither of our extended families lives in town and we have young adult children with commitments. Scheduling can be a nightmare.

Wait, did I just use the word “nightmare” when I am talking about the holiday season!? Yes I did and it fits better than your pants will fit Thanksgiving evening.  Often an unwanted guest arrives at our family holiday celebrations and I am not talking about your crazy uncle. The guest’s name is “High Expectations” and he usually brings an unannounced friend named “Stress”.

I love using true stories to help make a point.  I had an awesome experience this year to share as an illustration. In May my daughter, Mariah, was facing a very difficult time. She had watched some of her classmates withdraw from life when they experienced similar struggles.  Mariah decided to lean into life and build something into her life instead of withdrawing. Mariah decided to train for a half marathon in October. She asked me to be her running partner.  This would be her first half and she wanted to train and run it with someone who had completed the 13.1 mile challenge.  I said, “Yes”, not because I needed a scheduled race to keep me running but to simply have one-on-one time with my daughter.  So we entered into the training for different reasons.  Finishing the race became our secondary goal.

We came together on the weekends to run our long runs at Mounds State Park because the trails were hilly much like the race course. We completed individual shorter runs throughout the week.  We practiced taking our Power Goo at mile 7. We planned out our pace, our water/Gatorade intake strategy, our wardrobe and the attitude in which we would approach the race.  When the day of the race came we were ready.  We had a game plan and I told Mariah, “This is going to be our victory lap”. Because our primary goals were bigger than the race itself, we had won even before the race had started.  Both of us had achieved our primary goals.  The race was going to be a celebration of all the hard work we had accomplished.  We worked our plan and we enjoyed the race.  We often heard comments from the volunteers. They said, “You guys are making this look easy” and “Love your smiles”.  We worked our plan.  More than once I was feeling so good that I wanted to speed up. Mariah would calmly ask, “Dad, what are you doing?” and I would fall back into our pace.  Accountability is always a good piece of any solid plan.

I am asking that you step into the holidays with a clear understanding and plan of your primary goal.  Please don’t miss your primary goal by only focusing on your commitments and busy schedules. The holidays can be difficult and if we do not plan for them we will miss what God has in store for us this holiday season.  Identify which situations bring you stress.  Where are you putting your expectations?  How can you take care of your emotional needs while celebrating and completing the commitments of this season?

If our goal is to have the perfect Thanksgiving meal, or to buy presents for everyone we know then we could miss the primary goals of being thankful and celebrating the birth of Jesus.  Sometimes we take our primary goal for granted and assume it will happen without being intentional.  It will not.  While Mariah and I trained I looked for opportunities to spend time with her, to always be available when she had time in her schedule to run.  If we are not intentional then we are opening the door for High Expectations and Stress to walk in.  So take a moment to name your primary goal for the holidays and make a plan.

I would like to suggest one action step for your plan. Do things you know will build joy. Joy means that we are glad to be together.  Joy will chase Stress and High Expectations out the door.  You can build joy by smiling at the people you are with and praying for them. Acknowledge the characteristics you appreciate about them. You can build joy with God by talking to him and praising him. You could choose a Bible verse for this season to meditate on daily. Listening to music and singing songs in the car can build joy. Deep breathing (smell the flower-blow out the candle) can restore calm when Stress tries to get in.  If you are a person who gets recharged by being alone, then create moments to be alone and if you get recharged by being with people then create moments where you are with “your people”.

It’s time for your victory lap.

Better Together Meeting. April 2014

I attended the monthly lunch meeting for Better Together today in Fishers, IN. I enjoy these luncheons because I have a chance to gather with others who are interested in building and strengthening marriages. I always come away refreshed from hearing how others are working with couples and inspiration for feeding my own marriage. There’s a segment called “Tools, Tips and Tidbits” at the beginning of each meeting. This segment teaches practical information that can be applied to your marriage. This is followed by a featured speaker who shares about a topic in-depth. We meet from 11:45 to 1:00 on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. You can follow the link to see upcoming presenters and the address of the meeting place in Fishers here:

The meetings are free and open to the public. I’ve met other therapists; couples who are marriage mentors at their church; pastors; people who are gaining information to feed their marriages; and people who are volunteer support group leaders. There are single people, married couples–sometimes only 1 spouse can attend lunch and that is fine. Registering for the class is free and done through Eventbrite (link is on Better Together’s “Monthly Lunch” web page) Attendees can bring their own lunch or order and pay for a lunch that will be waiting for them at the door. I hope you will check it out!

Today’s featured speaker was Susie Howard, Director of Member Care & Development at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis. Her topic was “Your Money & Marriage; It’s Not About the Money”. Susie has worked with many couples at her church who are in financial crisis. She shared The Path: From Panic to Peace, which is a roadmap she walks couples through to help them get to a better place financially. One tip I especially liked and want to try, is using Post-It notes and a poster board to help couples have a conversation about how they will prioritize their financial needs and wants. After walking through an exercise where they identify all spending areas (rent, car insurance, food, out-to-eat, phone bill, cable bill, kids’ sport leagues, etc.) she gives each spouse a stack of post-it notes that have one spending category on each note. She uses a poster board or a white board and divides the page into 2 columns: Husband ———– Wife. Then she has each spouse prioritize the importance of spending categories so they can start to have a conversation about where they are and where they want to be. This tool helps the couple hear each others’ opinions and begin to have an idea of what they will identify as needs vs. wants. They can also use this tool to decide where necessary choices and cuts will be made to take them to their financial goal. I like the visual effect of this exercise because it clearly identifies each spouse’s position and is changeable as they compare notes and develop of Couples’ list of priorities. Money is one of the top 4 things couples argue about, so couples are wise when they tackle this subject or reach out to a third party to start having the hard conversations.

Doug Linville and I (April Linville) were privileged to be featured speakers in December 2013. In fact, if you want to hear what we said you can visit the “Previous Luncheon Speakers” page at You will find a link there to an iTunes recording of our presentation.
We enjoyed presenting on “Constructive Conflict” and would be glad to talk with you about presenting this talk at your event. You may contact us for more information at .
Joy and Peace to you,
April Linville, MSW, LCSW