I just returned from a lovely, subzero weekend spent in Missoula, Montana. My wife Dixie and I rented ourselves a cozy Airbnb tucked into the backyard of the quintessential mountain family home. Beyond the snow drifted front porch of our tiny house rental, we spied the rear facade of a forest green cabin-style home with a pair of raised garden beds in the yard that faced each other to form a fire pit and built-in seating, a raised rack built to hold our host’s canoe and skis, and a small 100 sq ft ice rink. Built into the side of our weekend abode hung a sturdy, overhanging bouldering wall. Beneath the rental’s awning, still outside, mind you, were a variety of shelves full of supplies and linens to restock the rental alongside a fully stocked outdoor library and a simple patio table and chair set. This was undoubtedly envisioned for a warmer vacation than ours. Inside, we discovered a cozy one room apartment with a full kitchenette, bathroom, hightop dining table, queen bed, and a small hide-a-bed sofa facing the double doors toward the covered porch. Tucked into the wall near the kitchen area was what we learned to affectionately call “the little heater that could”. This small electric wall heater successfully kept our little room toasty, even as strong winds outside howled a chilling negative 25 degree windchill. This, we made home for a charming and inspiring 48 hours.

We retreated from home because we wished to convene deliberately, to distill only the essential facts of our life together, and see if we could learn what our marriage has to teach us through our history, to discover the vital signs of our current relationship, and to dream of what the future holds. We borrowed this idea from our marriage mentors. Our purpose was threefold.

First, we reflected on what was successful and good and on what was unsuccessful and discouraging in 2018. This provided a few rich hours of reminiscing on various vacations that we took to Washington D.C., Arizona, Seattle, and Victoria, Canada. We celebrated the launch of new positive habits like journaling, reading, and enjoying a weekly Sabbath free from screens. Losing weight, shrinking student loan debt, and starting to practice yoga together were landmarks to commemorate in their small beginnings and offered as refocused priorities. We did the hard work to remember the bad as well. Tense relationships that acted as sorts of slow acting poison to our home life were brought forward to once and for all pray forgiveness over and let rest. We learned in 2018 that with some, love is best practiced at a distance. Exhausting activities that were misaligned with our priorities were recognized as such and allowed to rest in our history, no longer haunting the present.

Second, we set out to determine our household priorities for 2019. We desire to build a united front as we move in to this year. It is our hope that common purpose will work to amplify the voices and actions of two beyond our natural maximum volumes and capabilities. With what I began calling our “big words”, we set a vision for our near future: Health, Freedom, Creativity, Together. These are the themes that we will continually revisit throughout the year, a heading of sorts, helping us navigate what lies in the future. We crafted a weekly schedule down to the details, because we believe that freedom lies in discipline. We have made time set aside to exercise, to read, to talk, to create, and to explore. Things that don’t serve our “big words” are much easier to say “NO” to now that we’ve sorted out what we want to say “YES” to. We also began drafting what we’re calling our family constitution. Lifting the idea from Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we are beginning the process of composing a written constitution for our family today and in the future. We aim to establish “what people like us do”, to craft a home and family culture by beginning with the end in mind. By intentionally defining the kind of character, integrity, and values we will have in 20 years, we already set our faces in the right direction.

Third and finally, we allowed our imaginations to carry us into the ideal future. With no holds barred, we each brought lists full of “things to pitch” and crazy big dreams. In our minds, we talked and acted out what it will be like to launch businesses, to own a home without ever needing to take a mortgage, to graduate college, to run a self-sufficient life on the edges of town, to vacation overseas, to own property in other countries, to make music together, to give heaps of money away to causes we believe in. We envisioned podcasts to start, books to write, movies to shoot, albums to record. All these and more went swirling into the air with abandon. Then, we chose a couple to focus on in 2019.

What happens next will test our resolve and our follow through. I’m inspired to live into a future that we’ve dreamed up together. Together, Dixie and I envision a life full of rich health, deep relationships, rewarding work, and exciting creativity. We’re moving forward. On his podcast Side Hustle SchoolChris Guillabou closes each episode with a tagline that has been rattling around in my head for weeks:

“Inspiration is good, but inspiration with action is better.”