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Those Pesky Idiosyncracies

27 May

It’s been said that married men should forget their mistakes. There’s no sense in two people remembering the same thing.

It’s also been said that marriage is a relationship where one person is always right … and the other is the husband.

Those jokes are funny, but not too kind to the menfolk!

Unfortunately, marriage is a sea of challenges that requires graceful navigation!

I was recently encouraged by a book about this complicated relationship. Elaine W. Miller wrote We All Married Idiots, a book that examines three things we will never change about our marriages, and then she offers ten things we can all work on to improve the husband-wife relationship. (1)

In one chapter, Elaine talks about learning to live with each other’s idiosyncrasies.

“Since living with idiosyncrasies is a part of marriage,” she wrote, “You might as well treasure those peculiar habits. One day you might miss them. I know I did.”

Elaine’s husband Dan was a tapper. He tapped on things. “I think in his mind the whole world is his trumpet as his fingers play a perpetual tune,” she said. “He taps the table when he eats, the steering wheel when he drives, the newspaper when he reads, the pulpit when he preaches, and my shoulders when he puts his arms around me.”

The tapping got hard to take. “If I let it,” Elaine said, “his tapping gets on my nerves. Many times I have said in an irritated voice, ‘Would you please stop tapping!’

“However,” she added, “when he was hospitalized and I was uncertain if he would live through the night, those words weren’t on my lips. I stared at his silent fingers, held his motionless hands, and pleaded, ‘Please, God, let me feel his fingers tapping.’

“Funny how our perspective on idiosyncrasies changes under different circumstances,” she said. “Many will admit the very thing that bugs them is what first enticed them to their beloved, and what they will miss the most when their loved one is gone.”

I remember reading about a woman who hated her husband’s snoring. She complained and poked him through the night. But after the man died, she told a friend she’d “give anything to hear that man snore again!”

Those pesky idiosyncrasies are simply more proof that we are all unique, and the truth is, every marriage has them. It is our attitude that makes the difference. Elaine explains that love is kind (according to 1 Corinthians 13:4). And what does that look like? “Being kind to your mate means overlooking those oddities that sometimes drive you crazy. The next time your love does the idiotic, remember this ~ you married an idiot and so did your spouse.” (2)

Elaine points out that the words “idiosyncrasy” and “idiot” both come from the same Greek root word (idio) meaning “common man.” In other words, we all do things that are a bit eccentric or peculiar from time to time.

As I thought about this, I realized how many times simple kindness and grace ~ and especially loving words ~ have acted like soothing oil in my own marriage. (Sometimes I can’t believe that my husband has put up with me this long!)

Rather than focusing on each other’s quirks, we’ve chosen to concentrate on what is good, pure, lovely, etc. (see Philippians 4:8). Some of those pesky idiosyncrasies remain, but they aren’t “issues” anymore. We’ve learned to love and accept each other and try to see each other through the eyes of the Redeemer we both love.

When I stop to think that God created me with unique idiosyncrasies ~ and He loves me ~ it encourages me to share the same kind of love with others, especially my spouse.

How about you? When you think about your spouse (or if you’re not married, a boss or a parent or someone else you have a relationship with on a regular basis), is there something that the person does that really bugs you? Could love, acceptance, patience and mega doses of grace ease your frustration?

(1) Elaine W. Miller, We All Married Idiots (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 2012), p. 7.

(2) ibid, p. 7.

Elaine Miller is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and has authored two other books, Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Moms and Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Wives. http://www.splashesofserenity.com.

Start with the Dust Bunnies

4 Mar

One of the funniest books I’ve read on marital relations is Laura Jenson Walker’s Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde.

In her chapter on neatness, Laura wrote, “Everyone has different standards of clean.

“Like my mom and aunts for instance, who wouldn’t know a dust bunny if it hopped right up to them.

“My mom raised my sister Lisa and me the same house-cleaning way,” she said, “Except that all of our dust bunnies have names.” (1)

Later, she wrote about a friend named Pat who had a husband who left various items of clothes strewn around the house. One day he came home from work to find his wife  had decorated their apartment.

“Pat had quite artistically hung his socks over a chair, draped his shirt over a picture frame,and dangled his underwear from the dining room light fixture,” Laura said. “We women call that decorating with a point.” (2)

Several television shows have highlighted the differences between people ~ not always husband and wife ~ who are messies and neatniks. The most famous couple was Felix and Oscar on The Odd Couple.

The guiding line for me has always been the anonymous saying that a home should be “clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.” It’s easy to go to extremes. I’ve grieved over the stresses of a hoarding household with nowhere to turn or breathe. But I’ve also cringed in the presence of a fussy homemaker who eyed everything I did, afraid I’d mess up her picture-perfect home. Neither is healthy or happy!

At the end of her chapter on neatness, Laura shared the verse: Isaiah 32:18: “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” We do need to relax in our homes. They are a unique place for us to let down our hair, kick off our shoes, and be at ease. But there does need to be a point at which we clean and organize, or our homes won’t stay peaceful havens of rest.

The Proverbs 31 Woman took time to work on her home. We don’t know whether she had dust bunnies, but she probably had a dirt or stone floor in her home. Regardless, it is obvious from verses 10-31 that she was an industrious woman, caring well for her household.

There are many “systems” for housework that list the essentials of cleaning and organization. [I’m sure you have positive resources that help you keep things in line, and I’d love hear from you.]

But at the risk of simplifying this subject too much, I believe there are some basic questions every person needs to ask when considering their home:

  • Does my home honor God?
  • Does my home look welcoming? Warm and inviting?
  • Is my home uncluttered and calm?
  • Can I or my family grow and learn here?
  • Is my home healthy ~ clean, but not fussy?
  • Does my home contribute to joy and laughter? Can I open it to serve others?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then what needs to change? [I know that Marcia Ramsland, The Organizing Pro, has lots of ideas for positive changes that organize one’s life as well as the home.]

Make changes one small step at a time, but methodically. Start with those pesky dust bunnies, perhaps.

[I think my boys’ first pets were dust bunnies (LOL), but that changed when I discovered what those dirty fluffballs contained! Seriously. Dust bunnies aren’t so harmless! They can harbor all sorts of nasty things that affect your health!]

So get a plan, and write down steps of things you want to change. Check them off as you complete them or make them part of your lifestyle ~ and you will soon have a more relaxed, efficient, God-honoring home.

[Now…  as for getting messies to go along with neatnicks’ plans? That’s another story! I hear there’s a Messies Anonymous group online!]

(1) Laura Jenson Walker, Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde: Delighting in the Differences Between Men and Women (Bethany House Publ., 1997), p. 129

(2) Ibid, p. 130

Spend Holiday Time Together!

5 Dec

This is one of my (Dawn’s) favorite LOL’s in our book, LOL with God … and I remembered it while my husband and I were out to dinner … both using our cell phone calendars to plan our Christmas holiday events.

At a restaurant, a waitress told my brother- and sister-in-law, Tom and Janice, that two days earlier, she was waiting on a table of 10 people. After a short time, the manager asked her why she hadn’t taken their order yet.

“They all have their hands close to their chests, and their heads are bowed,” she said. “They’re praying, and I don’t want to disturb them.”

“No,” the manager said. “Look closer.”

To her surprise, the waitress realized the people weren’t praying; they were all on their cell phones, texting people! (1)

I had to laugh when I saw this Christmas card on a friend’s Facebook page!

That’s almost too true to be funny, isn’t it?

We can be right next to each other during the holidays, and completely miss spending time with each other. We can get so caught up in the activities of the season or in preparations  for big events that we don’t take time for significant, daily communication with those we love  ~ and by that, I mean chatting about more than, “What should we buy Uncle Jake?”

Good communication skills are often overlooked at Christmas when family members feel pressured and busy.

Remember these communication tips:

  1. Listen carefully to what a person is actually saying, not what you think he or she is saying.
  2. Make eye contact. Interaction is more personal and successful when you look into a person’s eyes.
  3. Think a moment before you answer. You’ll never regret something foolish that you didn’t say (Proverbs 18:13). It helps to think so you can give a wise answer (Ecclesiastes 5:2a; Proverbs 15:2, 28).
  4. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Listen to understand, not to judge (Proverbs 17:27). Especially during the holidays with its added stresses, be forgiving, not quarrelsome (Proverbs 13:10; 17:142 Timothy 2:23a)
  5. Respect the person, even if you don’t agree with his or her opinion or perspective.
  6. Build trust by being open and honest (Proverbs 24:26; Ephesians 4:25-27). Admit when you don’t know an answer, but offer to help the person find an answer or solution.
  7. Speak with kindness, gentleness, and love (Proverbs 15:1; 16:24; Philippians 4:5; Ephesians 4:15a).
  8. Voice your appreciation … often (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Along with practicing good communication, plan some quality time together. Sharing experiences is a gift that keeps giving. It creates warm memories and closer bonds.

Here are some fun Christmas ideas ~ Continue reading

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