Friday, October 31, 2008

Interview Each Other...

At a seminar we once went to for stronger marriages, we learned a technique we often use: the interview process...

You ask your spouse ONE thing they LIKE that you do, and ONE thing they DON'T like that you do (or DON'T like that you DON'T do!) -- stick with one thing or this interview process can become overwhelming!

Then your spouse asks YOU ONE thing you LIKE that they do, and ONE thing you DON'T like that they do (or DON'T like that they DON'T do!) -- again, stick with one thing!!!

Then for that week you try to do/don't do the one thing for each other!

Challenge: Try it! If it makes life happier in your home, keep it going!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Defining Moments

In marriage, it's not the common every normal day things-are-going-your-way things that define your relationship, but when the troubles come.  Pastor Sundell used to say that you never knew what was in the teabag until you put it into boiling water.  I believe the same thing in marriage relationships:  you can really tell what's in you when the stress comes.

How are you under pressure?  Do you crumble and spew out ugliness when things aren't going your way?  When you are overwhelmed, what comes out?  Take a good hard look at how you handle disappointments, frustrations, and pressures, and see if that's the person God made you to be.  If it's not, look at how those moments define you and take concrete steps to adjust your response-ability level.

If your problem is that you get hurtful in your words, examine your heart.  The Bible tells us that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.  Matthew 12.34; Luke 6.45.  If that's your problem, pray:  “Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psa 139:22-24 AMP)  Have the Lord change what you think in your very heart, and then when your heart is pure your words will be pure.  

If your problem is your anger, examine whether you have given your expectations and yielded your rights to the Lord.  If you have yielded all your rights to the Lord, then you cannot get angry when someone "violates" your "rights" because they are not your "rights" any more once you have given them to the Lord!

Challenge:  The next few days, see how you react when things don't go your way.  Remember, these are the moments that define who you are.  Make sure that when the hot water comes your way, what flows out of you is a reflection of the Lord inside of you!  

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Celebrate What Is and not what Isn't

I had a sign hanging in my room when I was a teenager that said "Celebrate what IS and not what ISN'T."  Seeing it day in and day out, it kind of stuck with me.  

What is there to celebrate in your marriage?  Celebrate it!  Don't keep looking for what you don't have; look for what you have, and make the most of it!  

Sometimes it's difficult because you're stuck in a situation, but look at the "up" side of the situation rather than the "down" side.  

Challenge:  Make a list of things to celebrate about your spouse, and celebrate what is and not what isn't.  Go overboard in appreciation.  And put a blindfold on what isn't.  

Selfish or Self-less? MARRIAGE will let you know!

Are you selfish or self-less?  Don't worry, if you're wondering which one you are, your marriage will let you know!  God made us in HIS image and likeness.  We are made to give.  Unfortunately, our society has bent and mold and shaped us to "get all you can," "look out for #1," and "go for the gusto."  We need to be re-trained to think as the Lord thought:  to humble ourselves, to deny ourselves, to consider others better than ourselves, and to love without expecting anything in return.

Challenge:  Look for ways today to deny yourself, to consider your mate's needs above your needs, and to sacrificially love - with supporting and convincing actions - without expecting anything in return!

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].”  (Matt 16:24 AMP)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Flick the Switch

One of the most powerful tools I know in relationships is one I was reminded of today when one of my adult children utilized it again.  

It is the power of "flicking the switch."  

Flick a light switch in a dark room and INSTANTLY light floods the room!  Flick it again: darkness instantly.  Powerful.

You have that power inside of you to turn an attitude around.  It is SO MUCH POWER that we often refuse to acknowledge we have it, or maybe sometimes we don't even believe we have it! But we DO.  When you start to see something in your attitude or actions that you don't want to be part of your character:  STOP and flick the switch and turn it around INSTANTLY.

When you don't think you can do it, ask for the Lord's help.  Turn your wrong attitudes around instantly.  You will be incredulous at the power the Lord has put within you.  You will waste fewer hours with wrong attitudes, and spend more joyous times with people you love when you exercise this power.  

Challenge:  The next time you see a wrong attitude surfacing, flick the switch and turn it around.  The more you do it, the easier it is!  Enjoy salvaging all those moments you would've wasted and turning them around into joyful memories!  

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Marriage is Hard Work!

Having a good marriage is hard work.  It doesn't happen by accident!  Just like if you planted seeds in your garden and just LEFT IT ALONE -- nothing GOOD would happen -- in fact, it would be overrun with weeds and whatever else "drifted" in to the garden!

Same way with marriage...  You need to tend to your marriage, take time, get RID of weeds and anything that will hinder the best for your marriage, put time and energy into it...

Just like WORK -- the more effort you put into making your marriage exceptional, the more your marriage will reflect the rewards of your efforts.

Have you WORKED at your marriage lately, or have you been lazy and just "coasting"?!  What work needs to be done IMMEDIATELY to make your marriage better?  What WEEDS need to be pulled?  

Challenge:  WORK at your marriage today and every day.  Put forth efforts that are definable.  Write down at least three things each day that you specifically DO to make your marriage better!  And watch the harvest grow!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


While browsing through a men's health magazine running article, I ran across a list of a few things that men appreciate most in their wives.  One of the first things listed was spontaneity.

I think both husbands and wives appreciate spontaneous, unexpected, unplanned for interruptions from the normal day-to-day routine.  

Unplanned fun, an unplanned surprise, an unplanned special date...  this makes life exciting and keeps it from getting mundane!

My husband and I often surprise each other with spontaneous fun.  I'll grab his hand when he comes in the door and we'll dance to a special song in the living room, we'll go out for a spontaneous coffee, we'll surprise each other with a card or small gift.  I'll burn him a music CD, or text him "143" [which means I love you].  

Challenge:  If it's at the top of the list for men, and I KNOW women love spontaneity as well, make it a point to do something spontaneous within the next few days.  It doesn't have to be costly, just put a little forethought into it!  Have your honey singing the Fleetwood Mac oldie:  You make lovin' fun!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Great practice!

I learned a few words that I needed to practice regularly:

I'm sorry
Please forgive me
I was wrong

Practice saying these words while you're vacuuming, practice them while driving in your car, speak them out loud, and speak them often.  I would say them out loud and practice them over and over.  Most of all, make it a habit to speak them regularly to your spouse!

Challenge:  Make sure you regularly use these words sincerely for what you contribute to any problems...  

“Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant]."  (James 4:10 AMP)

“Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you,” (1Pet 5:6 AMP)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Your strength can also be your weakness!

As it pertains to marriage, it is imperative that you remember that your spouse's strength can also be their weakness, and your strength can also be your weakness.

For example, my husband is a strong, decisive, confident leader.  If seen from the negative angle, or if he misuses his strengths or acts in his flesh rather than being led by the Spirit, he can come off or be perceived as bossy, domineering, and oppressive.

I am an optimist who loves to learn from each experience in my life, and I love to teach valuable lessons from my experiences (as you may have noticed!).  If seen from the negative angle, or if I misuse my strength or act in the flesh rather than being led by the Spirit, I can come off as drilling a point to death, and too insistent that the deeper lessons be seen by experiences.

I have seen people whose strength can be organization, but can be a weakness when it becomes obsessive, controlling or demanding.  I have seen a strong opinion and ability to stand up for what is right in the face of opposition, which is a strength, become a weakness when it becomes bossy, hostile, and argumentative.

It is important to remember that your spouse's strength misused can become a weakness, and that your strength misused can become your weakness.

Challenge:  Make it a point to examine how you could be misusing your strengths so that they can be perceived as bothersome or troublesome to your spouse...  List what your strengths are, and determine how, when not used being led by the Spirit, it can become your weakness...  and

Give some space to your spouse and let an inward voice remind you that their misused strength is something you can usually appreciate when used correctly.  You will benefit from their strengths when used correctly, but unfortunately sometimes you'll have to make it through when they're not!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do it for LOVE!

One day after I was married, I had a large meeting at work.  I worked as a paralegal at a large law firm downtown.  We had the meeting all set up, and someone asked for a cup of coffee, and another person for a glass of water.  My boss asked repeatedly for MANY things!  I hustled and bustled and got everything together for everyone in top notch order...

Then I went home...  and my HUSBAND asked me for something...  and I thought why don't you get it yourself...  And I was expected to pick up something of his...  and I thought why do I have to pick up after him?...

And the thought STRUCK me and STUCK with me that if I do those things for MONEY at work, why couldn't I do them for LOVE at home??!!

I decided that if I didn't complain about doing things at work because I got PAID FOR IT; that I would do it at home for my husband because I LOVE HIM!

Challenge:  Decide to do things for your husband not grudgingly, but cheerfully, FOR LOVE.

Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].”  (2Cor 9:7 AMP)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All you really have is what you give away...

There was always a sign hanging in my mom and dad's house:

Love wasn't put in your heart there to stay,
Love isn't love til you give it away.

Tonight while vacationing with my sister Laurie and her husband Mike, we watched If Only, a movie about a guy that really needed to re-live a day in order to really show his girlfriend how much he loved her instead of just saying it.  He had one day to show her, by tangible actions, how much she meant to him.

What have you tangibly done today to demonstrate to your spouse how much you love him/her?  I was taught by my grandparents and parents that all you really have is what you give away.  What have you given of your time, your talents, your efforts, to the one who means the very most to you?  Every day we need to really show our spouse just how much we love and appreciate them... not just by what we say, but mostly in what we do.

Run an errand with your spouse, do an errand for them, surprise them with something that is their favorite thing, serve them, snuggle with them when you'd rather be getting something else done, write them a special note, do something that is important to them, have a great conversation with them about what they hope to accomplish this week...

Challenge:  Look for not just a few, but many ways to tangibly demonstrate to our spouse how important they are to us, how much we appreciate them, and how much we truly love them!  Invest something of yourself and your time each and every day to "give away" lavishly and extravagantly your LOVE!  

Monday, October 20, 2008

Going the distance...

Jesse ran his sixth marathon yesterday.  One week after he ran his fifth.   With a partially torn ligament.  He set his pace and began the long run, and was really having a pretty difficult time keeping within his goals.  Mitch, a friend of his who was running a 5-mile leg of a relay in the same marathon, hooked up with Jesse, and saw that Jesse could use his encouragement.  Instead of jumping out after he ran his 5 miles, Mitch kept running with Jesse almost the entire way.  Mitch took the wind and encouraged and strengthened Jesse, and Jesse was able to keep the lift in his entire run, finishing his marathon in incredible time!  At the end, his beautiful new wife Amber, who had already finished running her half marathon in great time, jumped in and ran Jesse the rest of the way to the finish.

What an amazing lift someone running with us can provide!  We need to be just that for our partner.  We need to "go the distance," running further than we wanted to just to encourage them, doing things we wouldn't necessarily choose to do by ourselves, and equipping them to run and live and experience life way beyond what they could've done without us!

Challenge:  WHAT have you done to step alongside your mate and encourage them -- equip them -- strengthen them to "run their race"?  What have you sacrificed to simply join in with them and assist them in completing their goal?  What have you sacrificed to just "run them in" to finish a project, a goal, a desire?  Get in step with a direction your mate is heading, and encourage and strengthen them in it by your presence and encouragement and anything else you can offer to help them!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

If not YOU, then WHO?

If YOU are not interested in how your spouse's day went, then WHO do you want to be interested?

If YOU don't get excited about things that make your spouse happy, then WHO do you think should?

If YOU don't cheer your spouse up after a hard day, then WHO do you want to cheer them up?

If YOU don't know the little things that mean a lot to your spouse, then WHO do you want to keep track of those things?

If YOU are not interested in the little details of your spouse's day, then WHO do you want to be interested?

If YOU aren't the shoulder for your spouse to cry on, then WHO do you want to lend a sympathetic ear to him/her?

If YOU don't appreciate your spouse, then WHO do you think should?

If YOU don't clean up after yourself, then WHO should clean up behind you?

Unfortunately, there are many men and woman willing to do all these little "niceties" for your spouse -- but it SHOULD BE YOU!!!

Challenge:  Make sure that YOU are the stars in your spouse's eyes, the pep in their step, the lift to their spirit, and the wind beneath their wings!!! 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Living from the inside out...

Sometimes someone pays you a compliment or says something really nice about your character and attitude, and it means a lot to you.  However, it means the most to me when someone who knows me inside and out, and has seen me in good times and in bad times says something nice about my character.

I believe that you should live your life from the "inside out".  The people in your home, starting with your spouse, should get the best of you and not the worst.  Unfortunately, too many people impress people outside their family, and allow their manners to get sloppy inside their homes.  I live the opposite:  I give my best to the people who live with me.  If my family isn't impressed by the person I am or the attitude I have, than it doesn't matter what other people think who only have "partial" information.  I want my family to be amazed first of all!  They deserve the best of me anyways, because they are the ones supporting me and putting up with me all the time!

Challenge:  Live your life from the inside out.  Purpose to put your best foot forward in your home FIRST, and then extend yourself to others!   Don't let yourself get "sloppy" in your manners at home!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wait a minute... we're on the same team!

Gary and I went to a marriage seminar once, and they recommended that when things got a little stressed between us we should remind each other to STOP... and remember that we are on the same team!

I saw a card once that stuck with me.  On the front of it were a pair of boxing gloves, and inside it said:  Am I winning?  The card was a great reminder to me that when you are fighting as husband and wife, neither one of you are winning:  in fact, you are both LOSING, and often LOSING a LOT, including your prayers being hindered and you're not doing what is right and your duty in the Lord:

In the same way you married men should live considerately with [your wives], with an intelligent recognition [of the marriage relation], honoring the woman as [physically] the weaker, but [realizing that you] are joint heirs of the grace (God’s unmerited favor) of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered and cut off. [Otherwise you cannot pray effectively.]”  (1Pet 3:7 AMP)

Wives, be subject to your husbands [subordinate and adapt yourselves to them], as is right and fitting and your proper duty in the Lord.” (Col 3:18 AMP)

Challenge:  STOP and remind each other you are on the same team when you begin to have an impasse.  Don't allow walls to build or sweep things under the rug to fester and cause problems.  Be mature and live out what Scripture tells us:

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, tough!   Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night.   By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” (Eccl 4:9-12 MESSAGE)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Laughter is like medicine!

“A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.” (Prov 15:13 MESSAGE)

“A keen sense of humor helps us to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerated the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected, and outlast the unbearable." Billy Graham

You have to have a great sense of humor to keep your marriage fun.  Know how to make your spouse laugh.  Train yourself to see some humor in situations.  Develop a sense of humor if you're a "stiffneck"!  Sometimes I would pretend I was in a sitcom, and I would find situations much more comical!

Over the years, during the most stressful times, a sense of humor has brought us through.  My husband is a very intense person, and over the years I have found little things that can make him laugh and lighten up his intensity.   Avoid sarcasm in your sense of humor, because something sarcasm has a "bite" to it.   Although it takes a little work and effort to bring it into practice, a well developed sense of humor is the "sunshine of the mind."  

A sense of humor is a very particular developed sense of perspective that allows you to access joy even in adversity.  Joe Love, in his article Developing Your Sense of Humor, states a few key elements:

The idea is that a sense of perspective when it comes to humor allows you to see yourself in the scope of things rather than always at the center of things. Most of us have a tendency as to believe that any problem we are confronting and facing at particular moment is the most important thing that is going on in the world.

This way of looking at problems is a very heavy responsibility. It makes you feel as if the problem is everywhere and it becomes the focus of your being. This is why a developed sense of humor is so important, because it allows you to see yourself in the scope of things rather than always at the center of things.

When you look at things with a sense of humor perspective, it enables you to have a remarkable capacity to control how you see the things that are going on in your life. You cannot control the external events in your life, but you can control how you look at them.

An important part of a developed sense of humor is the capacity to take yourself lightly, even though you may take your work or your problem very seriously. A sense of joy in being alive is an intimate component of the human will to live. It’s not abstract, but it’s not easy either, you have to work at it.

One of the best ways to develop your sense of humor is to make a list of all things that make you happy, that put a smile on your face, or give you joy. Make of a list of the things you do or once did that you don’t have time for anymore, that nourish and sustain your sense of joy. List the things that enliven you and strengthen your spirit, so that when a problem occurs you’ve got a reason to combat it and have the flexibility to see it though to a successful conclusion.

The root form of humor is umar in Latin. It means to be fluid and flexible like water and that is what humor is about. It’s staying flexible so you don’t get broken by the difficulties you confront. Being flexible enables your creative mind to stay open so that you can still come up with solutions even in painful situations.

Making a list of the things that make you happy sounds simple, but it’s not. I’ve done it with thousands of people over the past ten years and what I’ve found is that most adults over the age of 35 cannot write down more than three things that give that make them happy. They will invariably start off with something such as, “my work, I love my work.”

Misery is not subtle. Pain is not subtle. Joy, humor, and laughter are very often subtle. So you have to pay attention to them to start activating them into your life and that’s what this list will help you to do.

Making a list of all the things that you enjoy and put a smile on your face will not only help develop your sense of humor but it also gives you the opportunity to find out more about the people in your life and what makes them happy and this will enable you to help them develop their sense of humor. When you are able to give other people joy and put a smile on their face, especially when they need it most, you will be giving them the greatest gift you can give.

Challenge:  Develop your sense of humor this week!  Bring it into your life!  Give your spouse JOY and put a SMILE on their face, especially when they need it the most!  LAUGH and see the bright side of problems -- deal with the problems and then put the positive spin of a good sense of humor onto them!  

When the Battle is Raging...

When David and his men returned to the city of Ziklag, they found that their wives and families and all their goods had been taken captive.  On top of that, the men wanted to blame and stone David!  David did what WE need to do when we feel we're just plain losing the battle:

But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (1Sam 30:6 AMP)

After that David had the courage and strength to go to battle, and he took back everything the enemy tried to steal from him!

I have found that whenever I am discouraged, don't have the right answers to get through to the other side of the storm, or am distressed or sad about things, I encourage and strengthen myself in the Lord.  I have found that the Word of God is true, and that in HIS presence alone is fullness of joy found, and in His presence is strength.  

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”  (Psa 16:11 AMP)

Honor and majesty are [found] in His presence; strength and joy are [found] in His sanctuary.” (1Chr 16:27 AMP)

Also, He is there to impart wisdom - HIS wisdom - to my situation and give me ideas on how to get through to the victory side:

If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. God is generous to everyone and doesn’t find fault with them.”  (James 1:5 GWORD)

Too often we lean on our "own understanding" rather than seek the Lord's ways.  When we let Him come into our situation, we will not only find joy and strength in His presence, but the wisdom and grace to do His will!  Be of good cheer as we face trials and tribulations:  He HAS overcome the world!

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”  (John 16:33 AMP)

Challenge:  What are the trials and tribulations that face you?  Are you losing strength to deal in any areas of your life, or are you losing your joy?   Encourage and strengthen yourself in the Lord -- get into His presence as much as possible and seek His wisdom above all else!  Let HIS peace keep your heart and guard your mind!  And take BACK what the enemy tried to steal from you!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is life better WITH or WITHOUT you around?

What are you adding to the life of the person you love the most?  Is their life easier WITH or WITHOUT you around?  Is it better WITH or WITHOUT you?  Is it more fun WITH or WITHOUT you?  

In counseling many marriages, it literally boggled my mind that many people actually make it easier to live WITHOUT them than it is to live WITH them!  That is horrible.

Make it a BENEFIT when you walk into a room.  Make it so your loved ones can't STAND to NOT have you around!  ADD something at all times!  Don't make it a relief when you're NOT there; make it a relief when you ARE!

Challenge:  Make it so your spouse just can't wait for you to get home.  ADD something positive to the room when you're in it!  Make it so your spouse's life is easier with you and not easier without you.  

Monday, October 13, 2008

Last things to remember in house building!

*Plan revisions. Often a clever builder will look at the way something is going together and realize that it is not exactly what the homebuilder had in mind. At that point, it is up to a successful builder to TWEAK the plan! If two crown moldings are not exactly fitting together a skilled builder will TWEAK something along the line to make the necessary adjustments so that the whole thing fits together correctly. In the same way, we need to look at our marriages ALL THE TIME. What worked at one stage does not necessarily guarantee that it will work in another., You need to make the necessary adjustments to make the whole thing fit together. Assessments must constantly be made. Your individual needs, the needs and requirements of children and the needs and demands of your marriage will differ year to year, situation to situation. Economic demands and conditions change. Assess where your marriage is at right now and decide what needs to be worked on and get a plan to make your marriage the best it can be! A good way to assess it is by the way you TALK ABOUT IT! Do you need more time to do things together? Or more time to WORK together? TWEAK it and make it work!!!

*Finishing touches – things that need extra attention – polish & clean – start with your WORDS! What do you FEED into the relationship with your words?

“Swear to your own hurt and don’t change.” Love deeply. Purpose to love extravagantly. I CHOOSE YOU. When glitches come up in housebuilding, the builder doesn’t throw the plans out and leave the house unfinished. Whether it is costs that have gone up, something that has to be entirely redone, or inferior products that must be replaced with different products, he decides that the finished product IS WORTH THE SACRIFICE And GETS HIMSELF to the TASK. Purpose that you will travel life with someone and INVEST in making their life better – yours will be better just for your investing. Love is the greatest power there is… and true love is NOT dependent on the object of the one who is loved: Love always says a great deal about the person who is doing the LOVING! Love is unselfish, kind… the person doing the loving demonstrates qualities most like Christ Himself…

*The finished work - *Reflection on the builder and the skill of the builder. LOOK AT WHAT THEY DID WITH THOSE RAW MATERIALS! Remember the finishing touches at each point along the way… Building a marriage IS like building a house in that there are ALWAYS things that need extra attention and remodeling! With a house, like a MARRIAGE, the WORK is NEVER completely finished! When you turn your attention away, both of them see the effects too! There are NO shortcuts!

And now we have the toolbox filled. Your life will reflect the use of the tools, and shine the success of having used them. And you will send your children off with those same tools, “equipped for every good work.” Equipped for success in THEIR relationships, in how THEY respond and live through adversity and challenges in their lives. Equipped to live with JOY through every stage of their lives… How powerful is THAT?!...

Challenge: What revisions should be made to tweak your marriage to be the best it can be? Where are some areas you can polish or work on to be a better spouse TODAY?!  What can you do to invest more into your relationship?  Where have you turned attention away from being the best spouse you can be?  Have you gotten sloppy in areas that need to be addressed?  If your child treated their spouse the way they are learning from you from how you treat your spouse, would you be happy?  WORK on your marriage today and every day - it's worth it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More tools: Tape, Wrench, Safety Gear!

Tape. Many builders have notes everywhere. You see post-it notes of things they need to purchase, check, and do. POST A NOTE. One couple I was counseling at one time put notes of what they could do for each other on the wall as they rebuilt their broken marriage. I know many women who put up little notes of reminders on how to be better wives. One friend of mine actually illustrated these posts and printed off a few to work on... Write things you’re working on down; Scriptures; reminders. (Do everything in love hung on my wall until I "got" it!~) Areas you are working on, etc.

Wrench – “Natural” tendencies need to be tightened up when they first start “leaking”! Maybe it leaks out in “he got what he deserved…” But where is mercy & grace? Where are the “leaks” that could result in a torrential and ruinous flood if not attended to? Words, words, words…. They leak out without noticing the damage for awhile, and all of a sudden you have a major warp! BE mature!   EXPECT A LOT from yourself, and stop making excuses! You are a mature adult, CAPABLE of handling adversity and modeling victory and joy and control to your children… are YOU expecting THEM to handle problems without blowing up and YOU aren’t even able to handle little problems? I always tell my children that THEY ARE EQUIPPED for EVERY GOOD WORK…. And so ARE YOU!   You're tired, have a cold, didn't get your own way… SO WHAT – don’t punish everyone else for it!  LIFT THE BAR!!!

Safety gear (goggles/gloves/helmet). Make sure you wear your “safety gear”. Working on a marriage is HARD WORK. You run MANY RISKS. You WILL GET HURT. Psalm 15.4 tells about the man who lives in God’s holy hill: he “swears to his own hurt and changes NOT”. When you are hurt, DON’T CHANGE who you are! don’t change your commitment! Keep going! Keep your safety gear on! Remember that “in the presence of the LORD is fullness of joy!” (Ps 16.11) Strength and gladness are found in His presence! (1 Chron 16.27) Remember that GOD is the One Who supplies your needs according to HIS riches! (Phil 4.19) Remember to encourage YOURSELF in the Lord as David did! (1 Sam 30.6)

Just as a good buiolder knows that there are many things that can hurt him as he builds and builds safely, how much more do we have to protect ourselves from harm as a build our marriages. DON”T SET YOURSELF UP TO FAIL. Many happy marriages fall because one person in the marriage thinks they are strong enough to hang around the opposite sex, get on the internet for “fun” or put themselves in various situations that could definitely bring failure. I can never understand why people are so blind when they set themselves up . . . first thing I hear they are a little dissatisfied, the next thing I know they start having a drink or two, and before you know it, they’re caught up in some circumstances they can’t get out of! Put up barriers! Get a few friends if you don’t feel there’s anyone to listen to you! Take a little time out when you feel sorry for yourself! Keep that safety gear on!

Challenge:  POST things you need to work on to make your marriage better.  POST reminders of what you can do to make a better relationship!  Assess where your "leaky" areas are (esp. with your words), and stop making excuses and live the life you know how to live the best you can live it -- be a mature adult!  Be hurt, and deal with it, move on, and even get stronger from it!  Encourage yourself in the Lord, and don't set yourself up to fail!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More tools: Screwdriver, Hammer & Drill!

A few more necessary "tools" to use in your marriage and pass on to your children!

Screwdriver and variety of screws. When two items are fastened together, sometimes there’s some heart-wrenching intrusions that bind you together! Look at some of the things you have felt intruded into your life, and see how it can work to bind you more securely to your husband. How do you react to intrusions? Do you allow things to draw you closer or do you isolate yourself? I’ve seen both… Marriage’s best intention is to divide the pain and multiply the joys! Are you making it happen?

Hammer and variety of nails. Two items don’t just STICK together – they need something POUNDED INTO EACH OF THEM TO CONNECT THEM! (ouch!) someone asked me “how do you deal with your husband…” Well, I have two choices: a good attitude or a bad attitude. One thing about nails: they can take a few bad hits and still be straightened out! Are you about to take a few hard hits and still function?! My kids have been there through it all and have seen me and my husband both “take the hits,” stay strong through it all and keep coming back again and again purposing to enjoy each other. It’s NOT all about YOU or just what is happening to YOU. Let up a little on each other!

Drill. The Bible tells us that “as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov 27.17). A drill gets rid of things standing in the way for fasteners to grip items together. There are a lot of things that need to “get out of the way” for you and your husband to be closer. What is standing in the way of your closeness? Is it some old habits that you need to get rid of? Some insecurities? Some areas you need to work on, for example, enjoying your husband and encouraging him and complementing him? What habits do you need to leave behind?

We need to change to accommodate different seasons in our lives and with our mates. Be willing to rid yourself of things that are standing in the way of your unity. Give it up, let it go, lay it down, forget about it! Bring on the drill! Let your kids see that “having my own way is not as important as being with or getting along with your Dad.” It is good for US and good for THEM and good for our mates. Win/win/win

Also, many times when a drill is used, there needs to be preparation for where the cuts are (e.g. tape the edges etc.) WHAT preparation are you making to prepare for he things that might CUT into your marriage: Are you making time for “date nights”? Do you read marriage help books, written by people with successful marriages? Are you devoting time to your marriage? Have you eliminated sarcasm from your marriage: do you have good manners? Are you kind? Do you know what each other’s goals and frustrations are? Are you understanding and supportive of what the other person is going through?  

Challenge:  Purposefully multiply your joys and divide your sorrows with your spouse this week:  avoid isolating yourself and insulating yourself by not involving your spouse...  Let these things "fasten" you together!   Be strong and "take a few hits" and don't let it faze you.  Get rid of things standing in the way of you and your spouse being closer!  Try to see how many times you don't need to get your own way this week!  Strengthen your marriage by doing a marriage devotional together, making a date night each week (even if it's short!), or mentoring or being mentored by another couple every few weeks!  

Friday, October 10, 2008

More tools for your marriage!!!

Sandpaper:  Where things are made to fit there are always rough areas that need to be sanded away. Ladies, it is NOT your business to change your husband, and GUYS it is NOT your business to change your wife!  – there was NOTHING in your vows about that! It IS your business to love and appreciate your each other. When you ON PURPOSE decide you are NOT the judge, jury and microscope to magnify everything s/he is NOT, you will be able to love your each other more effectively.   Pray!  And enjoy the differences that make up your team. 

The leveler is one of my favorite tools, and one which I feel is increasingly important in my life every day. Balance, balance, balance. Your life is TODAY. If you want to enjoy your life, you must enjoy it today!  How do you respond – is your spouse harsh? Balance it out! Bring your perspective to the table…  Wait – be patient! Be REALISTIC and REASONABLE!!! It’s great to have a cup of coffee with a friend or even a few minutes on the phone – you may not have time for a complete lunch! 

BALANCE YOUR EXPECTATIONS! Help your husband/wife ENJOY his/her life as much as possible being married to you!  JOY in the midst of busyness and craziness -- your capacity for JOY passes on to your children –  JOY in winter! Talk about it with your children. If you can institute this tool into your life & put it into your childrens’ toolboxes not only will YOU be blessed but your children will as well!  Hannah told me as she studied vigorously for tests at U of M Dental School that she was SO HAPPY I taught her how to work in JOY every day -- even through stressful times!  

Challenge:  Can you add sandpaper and the leveler to the toolbox?  Can you smooth out the rough areas you see in each other?  Look for the best!  Is your life in balance -- are you making time for a little fun even in the midst of craziness.  Is your spouse able to enjoy their life MORE because YOU are in it?!  What is the big BENEFIT of being married to YOU?!  Have you balanced your expectations?  Where can you be more reasonable and realistic?  Where can you infuse more JOY in your home?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tools for Building Your Marriage

The first thing a builder needs is a blueprint - a model – with functional ideas to build the house of his dreams. A house makes an impression on passersby. What are some of the ideas YOU have as you build your marriage? What do you want said at your 50th wedding anniversary about your marriage? What do you want your marriage to look like to your kids and other passersby?   

We usually picture a builder with a pencil behind his ear for marking up things. Notice what could make your marriage better and MARK what you need to do. I’ve seen too many couples leave one marriage that had a good foundation and just needed attention and renovation only to get themselves into a second marriage that had major termites. C’mon, every few months you look around and SOMETHING in your house needs remodeling. What about your MARRIAGE???!!! What area do you need to remodel? Mark it and pay attention!

A SAW cuts and shapes to fill a specific spot. There are so many saws: circular, rotary, hand… they take a skilled hand or the materials SPLITS! The more quality the material the more skill to cut it and make it fit. You have unique circumstances in your marriage. Make your unique circumstances work for you!   One thing I’ve realized is that you will ALWAYS have to deal with the HARD PART of your unique circumstances. But don’t forget to ENJOY and CONCENTRATE on the benefits! 

Challenge:  Lay out the blueprint for what you want your marriage to be, and start working towards that vision!  Mark things that need to be worked on right now to start making your marriage ideal -- your dream marriage!  Make the unique circumstances of your marriage fit into the blueprint -- assess the hard part of your unique circumstances, but look for, enjoy and concentrate on the benefits!  

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Telescope or Microscope?!

Have you ever been around someone who is always looking for you to FAIL?! Who is always concentrating on the DOWN side of things? Who is "nit-picking" everything/everyone apart?

Ever been around someone who can't see the "big picture" -- who is limited to the world as it pertains to THEM only?!


Think of someone who LOVES being around you now. They are always complimenting you. They are always finding the best in you. You can't WAIT to "live up" to what they see in you! You can't WAIT to give them the next reason to love you even more!

Which person are YOU to your spouse?! Are you a big NEGATIVE walking into the room with a rainy cloud over your head bringing your gloom and doom with you?! Or are you a bit of sunshine brightening each place you go?! It's up to YOU...

No one wants to be put under a MICROSCOPE and viewed to find flaws... Everyone needs to be looked at with a telescope that can find good things even if they're barely visible to the naked eye!

Challenge: STOP nit-picking. Bring SUNSHINE with you on purpose!  Be a PLUS SIGN!  Get your loved one(s) OFF the microscope slide and start looking for the good with concentrated choice of vision.  And bask in the results that others (particularly your mate!) will look forward to being with you instead of dreading it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Love has Good Manners!

One thing that seems common in marriages that keep a high degree of respect and adoration for each other going is good manners.  In 1 Corinthians 13, the "love" chapter, we learn that love DOES in fact have good manners:

“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].”  (1Cor 13:4-8 AMP)

Challenge:  Read through the characteristics of God's love above, and see where YOU need to improve in your expression of love to your spouse!   REALLY work on it this week!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Is he winning in your eyes???

During football season, my daughter was relating an interesting fact to me about when she and Gabe went with some friends to the Michigan game.  She was laughingly telling me how they left after Michigan was waaaaaaay down (only to find out later they had an incredible "comeback" and won!)

It's true -- guys will tend to "walk out of the game" if they don't feel they're winning.  They'll lose interest and won't even want to wait for a "comeback."

Is your guy/girl a "winner" in your eyes?  Do you make them feel like they're on top of their game with you?  Are you looking for ways to cheer them on, or are you always blowing the whistle on them??!!  

Challenge:  Make sure you make your spouse feel like a "winner" -- like they're on the winning team!   Cheer them on and show them how special they are to you!  Make it EASY for them to be around you because you are there expecting the best!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Soaked or Parched Sponge?

Why do some people just soak up every little compliment given to them as they go about their day, enticed by any attention someone gives them?  I consider the word picture of a sponge.  When the sponge is soaked in water, excess water isn't needed or soaked up by the sponge.
However, when the sponge is parched, it will soak up every little drop of water given to it.

When your spouse leaves the house, is it as a parched sponge or a soaked one:  one that has been starved of basic attention, compliments, and appreciation, or one soaked with attention, compliments, and appreciation?!

Challenge:  Make sure you overly "soak" your partner with attention and compliments so they aren't a parched sponge walking around soaking up any compliment that comes their way!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Thermometer or Thermostat?

Early on I realized that I could be a thermostat instead of a thermometer:  I could SET the temperature in my home rather than just reading what someone else set it at!  Do a test:  when you see your husband/wife, be exciting, excited, "UP," fun, cute, and winsome, and watch his/her attitude lift just by being around you!  Then, if you dare, be nagging, ugly, mean, short, abrupt, faultfinding and just plain MIS, and watch his/her attitude drop (if they haven't already caught on to this secret and have decided by calculated energy that THEY are going to be the THERMOSTAT instead of the thermometer!).

Challenge:  Be the thermostat every day:  SET the temperature of your home by your attitude.  Make your days amazing:  the sum of the whole will be even GREATER than the sum of each individual part because of the synergy and energy you create!  Refuse to "read" others' attitudes and simply register the temperature someone else is setting in the room!  Work on it!!   YOU choose your attitude!  And watch how magnetic a buoyant attitude can be!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sharing Each Other!

Yes, I said "sharing each other" not "sharing WITH each other"!  My husband and I have kept a loose "rein" on each other, even from the start.  We "shared" the other person with others.  I LOVED when my husband got together with his friends to golf or watch boxing or whatever sport was on "pay tv" and came back all refreshed and energized.  And he never stopped me from getting together for women's groups or other good things I chose to be involved in.

Living happily ever after is a LIFETIME of togetherness!  Allow your husband/wife to keep good solid Christian friendships and it will pay big dividends!   When your husband's/wife's friends come over to your house, make it a point to join in and get to know them.   

I know one husband who used to call me when I headed Women's Ministries for our church, and he used to ask me when the next women's meeting was so he could sign his wife up!!!  That is a man who realized the VALUE of surround his wife with good Christian friends!

Challenge:   Make sure your husband/wife makes time to keep connected with their close Christian friends!   Encourage your husband/wife to keep up with their workout schedule, book club, or any other hobbies that make them "shine."  Take time to "join in" with your husband or wife's friends when they drop in the house so they feel they are friends to both of you!   Enjoy seeing your significant other enjoy his/her friends and social life, even if it means you have to sacrifice a few hours without them!  Give the relationship a little "breathing" space!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Numbering System

A lot of times when my husband and I came to an impasse, a decision that we didn't agree on, we learned to do a "numbering system."  He would say how important the issue was to him, using 1 for least importance and 10 for most important, and then I would do the same.  You couldn't have everything be a "10" either!  Then we would consider the person to whom the issue meant the most to, and give them preference.

For example, when Gary wanted to get Danny a bb gun, it was a 10 to me that he didn't have one, and only a 5 or 6 to Gary that he get one.  So we decided not to get him one.

I believe this system worked well for us when we had to use it to get by an impasse in our decision making.

Challenge:  Try the "numbering system" when you both feel differently about something!  Post results!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Surrounded by Love...

Early in our marriage, my husband and I made sure that we stay involved in Church activities. Our schedules were so busy -- at times Gary worked two jobs, one that involved heavy travel, and with our children coming at rapid speed, we were definitely "overloaded."  However, we made sure we stayed involved with couples from Church regularly.

Another thing we did that made us totally accountable to some good teachings and information is to stay connected with other couples through meeting at our home and other homes.  We went through Home Builders and various other studies together.  We had card parties and talked about the Lord together all the time.  We had prayer meetings often.

We also went to "tent meetings," evangelistic revival meetings, and special guest speaker meetings.  We went to Full Gospel dinners.  Some of these things were great; some just ok. The important thing is that we kept FUELING OURSELVES and ENGULFING OURSELVES in the Word and positioning ourselves with others who felt the same way.

By doing this, we surrounded ourselves with love and kept ourselves challenged and in the Word.   I love to see young couples who make sure that they make time to do things for God and connect with other believers inside their Church and outside their Church.  The prioritizing, and strength, and bond created with build and stabilize strong bridges for when the waters can rage below!

Challenge:  Get involved in some way, preferably together.  Get together with other couples and do a study together.  Get to special events or speakers a few times a year.   Have a few couples over your house at least once a quarter to stay connected with each other!  Keep yourselves insulated with love!