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Miles Apart: a Special ‘Valentine’s Day’ Message

14 Feb

SnoopyAndHeart_AbsenceQuote“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? I’m with Schultz. Absence makes my heart say, “Hurry home, Babe!”

My husband and I are often miles apart.

He’s in another state or somewhere around the world. I can’t tell you how many birthdays, Valentine’s Days and anniversaries we’ve spent apart since we were married 40 years ago.

But one thing’s for sure,

I’d rather be miles apart than “miles apart.”

I know so many couples who are miles apart spiritually, emotionally, socially, financially, physically. They’re under the same roof, but . . .

They’ve embraced different worldviews. They can’t agree. They don’t see eye to eye. Their hearts aren’t in the same place. They might not even share the same bed.

It’s so sad.

God made us all different, and He doesn’t want cloned spouses. But His plan is for couples to be “one.” Not only one in physical union, but together in the way they face the world, united in how they will bring up children, agreeing in how to use resources, etc.

Each partner might bring something unique into their union, but the goal is to be a stronger “one.”

My husband and I could not be more different in how we approach social events, how we disciplined the boys, how we spend or invest, how we worship. But together, our friendships, parenting, finances, and communion with God have grown. Our oneness is more beautiful than we ever were alone.

Humans struggle over unity (with anyone). We like our independence. But if God calls a couple to marriage, He also calls them to unity (Genesis 2:24-25), a reflection of the unity in the Godhead (John 17:11, 20-23).

God doesn’t want us to be “miles apart.”

Here are eight ways to promote more unity in your relationship:

  1. Pray together. Ask God to bless your relationship and create the “oneness” you desire.
  2. Seek God and imitate Christ. Remember, if you are both Christ-followers: the close each of you draws to the Lord, the closer you will be drawn toward each other.
  3. Study your spouse to understand his/her basic personality, temperament and gifts.
  4. Create undistracted time together to discuss mutual goals.
  5. Show genuine love to each other each day.
  6. Play together. Don’t make marriage just about dealing with all the “hard stuff.”
  7. Be honest. Discuss your and your spouse’s needs.
  8. Remember you are “one flesh.” Sometimes, plan for your partner’s sexual needs; other times, be spontaneous!

Are you “miles apart” from your spouse today? What can you do to shrink that distance and create more unity today?

– Dawn

 

 

 

Marriage: No Regrets

31 Oct

There are some marriage choices that definitely lead to the lament: “I wish I hadn’t done that.” But everyone has some ideas how to avoid regret even the humorists!ChooseWhatYouWantMarriageToBecome

Want to please your wife?

Bring her chocolate. Hug her in the kitchen. Surprise her with a gift card to a jewelry store. Encourage her talents. Compliment her cooking (or, if she doesn’t cook, her choice of a good restaurant). Leave a love note on her pillow. Shop with her – yes, shop with her! Send her flowers for no reason at all. Hold her hand at the mall. Etc. … etc. … etc.

Want to please your husband?

Make happy-hubby choices about three things he loves: Sex, Food and Entertainment.

Isn’t it obvious how different men and women can be? We’re just wired differently. What’s not so apparent is how to enjoy those differences.

One thing I’m sure of:  our choices toward our spouses can affect the relationship. (Note: This post is specifically for married couples, but some principles apply to any relationship.)

Life is so short … and so are our marriages. Even if we celebrate 50, 60 or more years together, the minutes of marriage tick  away so quickly. We need to choose what we want our marriage to become.

I made some “priority choices” early on regarding my marriage, so I don’t have a lot of regret. You may have made similar choices.

Here are my priority choices:

1) The Priorities of Oneness and Mission.

My husband and I are one flesh (Mark 10:8; Ephesians 5:31); there is no room for others-intimacy in our relationship. (Not even from the TV or movie screen!) We want to keep our marriage pure in our “oneness.”

Whether a couple has a formal mission statement for their marriage or just some clear, specific guidelines, this is so important. For example, my husband and I decided before marriage to be sure Jesus is at the center of our home. And the wonderful thing is, the closer we’ve gotten to Jesus as individuals, the closer we’ve been drawn to each other.

2) The Priorities of Love and Forgiveness.

Love makes any relationship blossom. Love in marriage (Colossians 3:18-19; John 13:34) includes selflessness, sacrifice and a servant’s heart as well as consistent, joyful sexual love (Proverbs 5:18-19).

And couples should learn to say, “I was wrong, please forgive me” early in their relationship (Ephesians 4:32). Every husband and wife learns to adapt to each other’s quirks, but realistically, partners will fail each other many times. Kindness and forgiveness are essential, like oil keeping the relationship running smoothly.

3) The Priorities of Acceptance and Respect.

Our husbands have so many critics in the midst of competition and comparisons in the workplace. I want to be sure I’m always my husband’s best cheerleader (1 Thessalonians 5:11), building him up not tearing him down (nagging, complaining, manipulating, etc.)

Respect should be mutual, but it is especially important for the wife to respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33). Just as we may not appreciate a policeman’s attitude but we respect his authority; the wife is to respect the husband’s position as the head of the home.

4) The Priorities of Time and Focus.

In this busy world, women tend to spread themselves too thin, and sometimes, it’s the husband who gets left out. I always tried to remember that someday my children would be grown and leaving the nest but “Papa Bird” would still be around. All along the way, I cultivated our relationship. I didn’t want to end up a stranger to him.

Have you ever been in the same room with your spouse, and you forget he’s there? We can get so busy with “our stuff,” but doesn’t it make sense that the one we love deserves our focus at least occasionally? Focus also includes learning what makes your husband “tick” so you can initiate conversations where he’ll want to participate!

5) The Priorities of Joy and Contentment.

A wife has the joy of creating a “happy haven” for herself and her family. Some say the “Proverbs 31 Woman” (31:10-31) is an out of this world creature no one on earth can live like her. I say she’s a good starting point! God will show us exactly what is needed to make our particular home a refuge and place of joy for our family. (It might look different, woman to woman!)

When fires swept through Southern California a few years back, one of the families in our church lost everything. But when the ashes lay on the ground, this husband and wife still had each other and their strong faith in Christ. If you lose everything, what do you still have? All we really need is food and clothing – everything else is “fluff” (Matthew 6:31-33). The Bible instructs us, “be content with such things as you have” (Hebrews 13:5).

We can train ourselves to be content (even grateful) in any circumstance (Philippians 4:11-13). My husband and I have shared our love and life in a beautiful brick home we owned … and a borrowed trailer behind a church gym … and on the road living in others’ homes. Marriage isn’t about location and “stuff;” it’s about love and selflessness.

Don’t misunderstand. Our marriage isn’t perfect. No one’s is perfect. But we will all have far fewer regrets if we have some priority choices for marriage and home.

What priorities have helped you create your marriage? What priorities could you add that might cut back on future regrets?

– Dawn

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 People Who Need Your Quality Time

21 Oct

How do you create quality time?

Comedian Groucho Marx once said, “I find television very educating.” Why?

“Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book!”

I’m LOL-ing at the remark, but also the word “set.” (Can you tell what decades Marx lived in?)

But Marx brought up an important concept. How we use our time is important. We want to choose wisely. We want Quality Time.

Today as I thought about the people in my life, I accessed just how much quality time they’re getting from me. Have you ever done that?

I discovered five areas in my own life (you may find more), and I am sharing some books that I’ve found helpful. Perhaps you’d like to share resources that help you with quality time. (I do not get any compensation for mentioning them.)

1. Quality Time with God[Note: More accurately, God doesn’t need your time, but He loves you and desires your time.] You’re either smiling or cringing right now, depending on how much time you’re spending with God and whether that time is “quality.” Some women don’t spend much time with the Lord at all. Others spend time and make moments (hours?) together  times of powerful  intimacy and study. Most of us are somewhere in between.

God convicted me of this last year, and I made some radical changes to spend more time with God. The enemy conspires to steal our time away from the Father, so we need to be proactive and schedule time, if necessary. The more we spend time with God, the more it will be times of delight rather than duty. Some powerful books in this area are Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s books, The Quiet Place, A Place of Quiet Rest, and a study she wrote with Tim Grissom, Seeking Him, a book designed for personal revival.

2. Quality Time with Your Husband (if you’re married) – In the busyness of life, we sometimes forget how special our marriage relationship is (or can be). I have many, MANY marriage books on my shelves, including a number by Bill and Pam Farrel  (including A Couple’s Journey with God; Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti; Marriage in the Whirlwind;  Red Hot Monogamy; and 52 Ways to Wow Your Husband ~ all available at love-wise.com).

In Marriage in the Whirlwind, the Farrels describe the whirlwinds that come into marriage and how to survive these stressful tornadoes. They say, “Many times it seems couples long to cry out, ‘Stop the world ~ I want to get off!'” They talk about how unexpected circumstances, the busyness of technology and life just moving too fast, emotional storms, financial struggles and other whirlwinds can destroy a marriage if a couple isn’t wise about using their relationship in positive ways. Quality time together can help to combat stresses.

Quality time in marriage includes listening, simplifying the calendar to make time for each other, setting goals together and taking time to build physical intimacy. [Besides the Farrels’ books, which are meant for men and women, I also recommend Kathi Lipp’s The Husband Project and Arlene Pellicane’s 31 Days to a Happy Husband to women.]

3. Quality Time with Your Child (or children) if you have them (or Grandchildren) – One of the statements that always bothered me is that children need quality time, not quantity time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children need both! They need to be near their parents in order to feel loved and learn from them. But quality time is certainly important.

First there are the simple things: cooking and baking together, planting seeds, enjoying art and music, sharing the how-to’s of life, and helping them see how things work. More important ~ seeing how LIFE works with wisdom principles from scripture.

Then there are times of more focused teaching. One of my recent joys is sharing A Girl after God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George with my oldest granddaughter. A book I wish I’d had when raising my sons is Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, which is all about “Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. For busy moms who wonder how they can be more proactive in pointing quality time toward spiritual truth, I highly recommend Carrie Ward’s book, Together: Growing Appetites for God.

4. Quality Time with FriendsI tell women that no one friend (except Jesus) can be all for us. We need a variety of friends who encourage, challenge, teach, and help us. We need some friends to kick back and LOL with.

One of my biggest regrets is that I waited so long to build friendships. They don’t just happen. It’s rare that God just drops a friend into our laps. The Bible says that is we want friends, we need to show ourselves to be friendly). That takes planning. It takes time. We need to listen when we’re together and not just talk about ourselves.

This is my weak area and I’m working on it. I go on Friendship lunch dates (and need to plan some Friendship activity dates to help me get some of the lunch dates pounds off! LOL!) I’m writing a book on friendship based on some of the things God is teaching me. (Do you have some good Christian books on friendship to recommend to me and others?)

5. Quality Time with YourselfThis may seem like a strange one, but the Bible says we are to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31), so this presupposes we are properly loving ourselves. Kathi Lipp has a helpful book titled The Me Project: 21 Days to Living the Life You’ve Always Wanted

When it comes to quality time with ourselves, we can be more proactive when choosing our activities ~ either (1) doing things that build/improve our lives, (2) leave us pretty much the same, or (3) tear down/hurt us in some ways. (When I speak to women, I call these Climbing, Coasting, and Collapsing choices.)

Pursue Climbing choices; they’ll always be the best. As you plan time for yourself, think of things you can do that will challenge you mentally, physically, and spiritually. Do things that energize you, encourage growth, build your confidence and please the Lord. These are things you won’t regret, things that make you feel better about your life and, at the same time, bring glory to God.

These are choices like reading a good book, listening to music that blesses, enjoying a sport you love … anything that inspires you. For stories that are inspiring and missional, I recommend any of Kathi Macias’ books.

To find more time to pursue Quality Time relationships with yourself (and everyone), check out Marcia Ramsland’s books about simplifying your time and organizing your life at organizingpro.com. Choose Climbing choices that build all of your relationships!

Reserve the Coasting choices (those you might make when you really don’t feel like making any choices!) for those days when you want to relax and unwind. These are happy choices that may make you feel good and won’t tire you out, but they really aren’t designed to move you forward, either. A massage would fall into this category, or reading a good mystery novel, or spending some time on Pinterest. These are things that are easy to do. (But beware – too many Coasting choices and you’ll begin to waste time.)

Avoid Collapsing choices (negative, destructive, or hurtful options) like the flu! Collapsing choices may seem good at the time, but they don’t build us up. This would include watching bad television, pigging out at a buffet, or anything that prevents you from being your best. Basically, it’s doing anything you’ll regret or be ashamed of later.

So … what category needs some improvement?

Where are you not spending enough Quality Time? What can you do TODAY to change that? Can you think of others who might need your Quality Time?I’d love to hear about ways that you spend Quality Time in any of these areas, as well as any resources you would recommend.

– Dawn

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