Britt and I are self-proclaimed nerds who love reading the footnotes of books and delight at the “J” in each of our Meyers-Briggs. We both have nightmares about drawers anywhere in our house only containing clutter. We would also put cleaning at the top our list of most refueling activities. It should be of no surprise then that we would consider this date night the most important of the year. Dreaming, vision-casting, and planning is a must for us if we want to thrive together. This may not have the feel of romance but it provides the rails for our romance train to run on for the year.
Good Eats (Camaraderie)
Over Christmas, we received a few gift cards. One of them was to our favorite local restaurant…Bonefish Grill. Britt loves fish, I can’t really get excited about it; but the Bang Bang Shrimp isn’t fish and is the greatest appetizer to ever exist in the history of appetizers. Britt is also nine months pregnant with our second, so we jumped at the opportunity to enjoy some spicy food to try to move things along. We both had Bang Bang and shared Crème Brûlée for dessert. Over our meal, we took time to reflect a bit on the year to help get our minds and hearts revved up for the rest of this date night.
Good Plan (Initiative)
We then returned home and spent the next few hours engaging in our yearly Vision-Casting time. Here are the various areas we worked through over the course of the evening. For a romantic environment, we lit candles, brewed rooibos tea with honey, and had the Fleetwood Mac Pandora station playing in the background.
We took time to think through all that we’re thankful for: friendships, opportunities entrusted to us, areas we’ve clearly seen God move and work, financial blessings, gifts we’ve received, personal and family victories, opportunities to serve, goals we’ve accomplished, etc. We call this our Praise God List and we have updated it every year of our marriage. We feel that reflecting on past provision cultivates hopefulness when dreaming for the upcoming year.
2. Personal Goals
We then thought through each others personal goals. A few goals like: books we intend to read, friendships with others we want to deepen with others, necessary adjustments to our weekly schedule, areas of physical health to adjust and improve upon, one area of personal character to cultivate, and a hobby, trade, or craft to develop in the upcoming year. We usually have a lot of fun with this. At some point during this discussion, one us seems to get our feelings hurt. Usually it’s because we’re not ready for feedback. We like to remind each other often that feedback is the breakfast of champions.
3. Marriage Goals
We evaluated our prayer and devotional life together. We talked about how our arguments have gone over the past year (clean or messy). We talked about how we’re doing as parents, areas that we’re missing each other, and any necessary adjustments.
4. Date Night Plans
We then took a bit of time to dream up 15 different date nights we would each enjoy together in the coming year. We’ll also be starting Alton Browns’ Good Eats: The Middle Years cookbook, so we looked through all the recipes picked 21 we get excited about. Obviously, this doesn’t take care of the entire year but it does give us a head start and stimulates intentionality.
5. Financial Goals
We also looked at where all our money went last year. We love to use mint.com and the envelope system; these usually help us have a good grasp on where our money is going each year so there aren’t that many surprises. It wasn’t always that way…Dave Ramsey’s FPU was a major help early on in our marriage.
6. 30 Things Bucket List
We have a bucket list we have worked on over the years, so we finished by crossing off what we had accomplished in the year earlier (i.e. attended an Indianapolis Colts game, cooked live lobster, and had an extravagant five-year anniversary). We also listed the bucket items we want to carry out in the coming year (travel to New York, read through The Chronicles of Narnia, and stay at a Bed and Breakfast). It’s nice to see events and milestones that we have accomplished together. This also cultivates hopefulness in our marriage, which is a wonderful catalyst.
Good Conversation (Depth)
To bring about depthy conversation at the close of our time together, we worked through a list of questions that Donald Whitney put together. Questions to Ask at the Start of the New Year. This is a list of questions he recommends you ask at the start of every year (or your birthday). We answer these questions ever year and they have provided an excellent grid to think through healthy growth and development.