Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

The Power of Agape Love in Marriage

He was late, again. No phone call. No “I’m sorry.” Nothing but me pacing the kitchen, glancing from the phone to the overcooked dinner crackling on the stove. At this point, I’d do better to throw it out, grab our daughter and head to a restaurant for a nice relaxing meal, just the two of us. Just the two of us. And now we get to the root of the issue, because it’s never just about burned dinners and unmade phone calls. Rather, it’s the dots we connect between each event, the interpretations we make of every statement and one line email. To my young, tired, and insecure mind, all of the inconsiderateness spoke a convincing and heartbreaking story—he doesn’t love you. My response? To fret and fume and work myself into the teary-eyed mess that met him at the door with harsh words and accusations. I effectively pushed my tired and defeated husband further away, adding crack after crack to his breaking heart. And yes, his heart was breaking, as much as mine was: I was just too caught up in my own emotional tsunami to notice. I was convinced he was the problem, and so, rather than turning to God for wisdom, rather than searching my heart for my part, I ranted. And complained. And begged God to change him, to make him into everything I needed. This went on for some time, each of us erecting stronger walls to hide behind, filtering every conversation through a mountain of hurt and distrust, while our marriage continued to disintegrate. Until one day, one sentence, spoken by a courageous...

Choosing Strength When Life Gets Hard

We were going through a crazy-tough time, one of the most difficult our marriage had faced, and I began to crumble. To pull away. To isolate. Until one afternoon, my husband pulled me to him, cupped my face in his hands, and locked an intense gaze on mine. “I need you to be strong.” In that moment, it was like a jolt hit my selfish, whining heart. He needs me. My family needs me. And suddenly, I was no longer the victim in our mess. I was a warrior. A woman who could make the choice to hold tight to her family. To protect those I loved, to set the tone in my home, and to point us all to God’s never-failing strength. For when we are weak but rely solely on Him, we find He is more than strong enough to carry us through. The result of that prayer and my determination to follow through? Our marriage grew stronger. Our family grew stronger. And Jesus Christ became the defining factor in it all. More than that, my husband and I started a trend that day, one birthed in decision and continued through a daily choice. When times get tough, we grow closer. Now I know, according to the oft spoken clichés, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen, right? But I suspect it doesn’t always. During times of trial, families either grow closer or farther apart. We don’t remain stagnant. We never simply tread our way through a crisis. We either to cling to Christ and one another, or we isolate, self-protect, and bit by bit destroy those...

Your Spouse is NOT Your Enemy

As an engaged couple, we committed to attending a FamilyLife Marriage conference. We wanted to avoid any pitfalls that might come our way, and for my husband, this was his second marriage. I brought my own baggage into the marriage. We learned principles that gave us a great foundation. One of the things we learned is so simple that it’s almost cliché. That your spouse is not your enemy. If you’re a newlywed, it’s laughable. When would your beloved ever become your enemy? Fast forward past our newlywed years, past my own chronic illness and infertility, job changes, a move, nearly losing our baby, and the death of my dad and we were not in a state of oneness. We’d been separated during the week for a few months while my husband worked a new job out of state and I tried to sell our home in our current state during all these changes. Once we sold the house and moved as a family to Ohio, we were certain life was going to be bliss. That marriage would click along like it did those early years.  We were ensnared by conflict. He was used to being on his own because of the job change taking him away during the week. I was the single mom for a while and I found my own method of getting things done and I resented any correction he had for me. I was grief stricken and tired. A fight ensued and I unleashed a lot of ugly. And out of my husband’s mouth came the words, “I’m not your enemy.” At first the...

Are You Training Your Child For Divorce?

John left the weekend visit with his adult daughter concerned and overwhelmed with guilt. One question haunted him: how long would her marriage last? Her interactions with her husband were harsh, bitter, and accusatory. They’d never been taught how to win at love. No one is born with an innate knowledge of how to maintain healthy relationships, but we can learn. Our children can learn, and it’s our job to teach them. Modeling is great, but it’s not enough. If we want to help insulate our children from divorce, we’ll need to teach them how to resolve conflicts, set boundaries, and openly express their needs and emotions. Resolve Conflict in an Emotionally Healthy Way Jenna came home from school one day in tears. One of the other girls in class had turned hurtful, exclusive, and manipulative. Jenna’s mom instantly became angry and, wanting to protect her daughter from this “evil” child, her first response was to lash out. Her second gut-response was to shelter her daughter from the painful interaction. However, once she calmed down and processed the situation, she realized God was providing her daughter with an opportunity to learn how to resolve conflicts. Focusing on her daughter’s long-term growth rather than her temporary pain, Jenna’s mom decided to walk her daughter through the steps outlined in Matthew 18:15-17. She then helped her daughter practice how to do this. Encourage Boundary Setting According to Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, authors of Boundaries, “More marriages fail because of poor boundaries than for any other reason” (1992, pg. 157) This includes taking ownership of someone else’s feelings, imposing our wants on...

The Papa Lion

I had a free evening at home after the kids went to sleep. My husband wanted to go for a run, so I asked him to find me something fun to watch on TV before he left. I have “learned incompetence” when it comes to the remote control, so he scrolled through the channels until a lion documentary presented itself. “Oh, that looks interesting,” I said. It was only about 40 minutes long, so I figured it would be done before he got home. Plus, I could learn a little something while I relaxed. As the show continued, I was introduced to a pride of lions. There was a daddy lion, three mamas and a whole bunch of cubs. I enjoyed getting to know each lion and his/her prospective place in the pride. The little cubs of the pride were able play, watch and learn as much as they could. They didn’t make their first kill until about two years old, so the rest of the time they experienced crazy, little antics of trial and error. The mamas, however, did a lot of work. Not only did they all take turns nursing, protecting and teaching the young cubs, they also made all the kills for the entire family. All three of mamas worked together to bring down the zebra or warthog in an amazing display of teamwork and strength. As the show progressed, I became a little put out by the daddy lion. He seemed to lie around all day, play with the kids a little and, when the mamas made their kill, he went straight over and had...

Ask The Hard Questions

In an effort to get to know each other better we need to be ready to ask the hard questions. Especially when it comes to our marriages, but truth be told, these questions can also be tweaked and applied to your family or your ministry as well. It all started a few weeks ago when my husband and I had the opportunity to sit down with two youth pastors and their wives. Being in ministry for over fifteen years we have a heart for young families in ministry. Both of these couples that came over are newlyweds and both are serving their local church. To be honest, I couldn’t wait to spend some time with them. They are so passionate about serving Christ and their love for their spouses and the ministry is a beautiful thing to see. It was our hope to be able to encourage them as they walk the road of marriage and ministry but before the end of the night we quickly realized that we were the ones being encouraged. Listen, I’m a firm believer that we are never too old to learn and never too young to teach so this was a perfect example of God preparing all our hearts for an honest, real and transparent look at life in the ministry. It was also a sweet picture of Titus 2 in action. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,...

Love letters to God

 I have loved you with an everlasting love. ~Jeremiah 31:3 Throughout my years of searching for God, I’ve seen Him in so many different ways. Kindly grandfather hovering in the heavens… fierce protector… intimate lover… friend who knows me… savior who redeems me… teacher who reprimands me… strict, righteous judge… compassionate forgiver… Different seasons have brought an awareness of different aspects of God. And yet, they’re all God. They’re different facets of this glorious, incomprehensible being that, as Christians, we spend our lives trying to understand. To see. To know. This year I’m starting a new tradition. I’m going to write a love letter to God. Enclose it in an envelope. Label it with the year. Wrap it in a satin ribbon and tuck it away. Every year I’ll add to this and keep my packet of love letters in a safe place. This is why: We like to think we’ll remember the things that matter, but we often forget. I thought I’d remember what it was like to be a newlywed, but as I near my 24th wedding anniversary, the memories are hazy. I thought I’d be able to recall what it felt like when my four-year-old wrapped her arms around my neck. Now she’s 21 and I still adore her hugs but I can’t really call to mind the person she was then… Until I read the words I wrote at that time. Journals, letters, baby books (back when I had time to put them together). So I’m going to write a letter to the lover of my soul. The One who loves me more than anyone...

Storms as the Catalyst for Change

I was lonely. Well beyond lonely, actually. As a young mom raising a toddler, many of my days were spent in isolation–waiting for my daughter to wake up, getting ready to put her down for her morning nap, waiting for her to wake up from a nap, getting ready to put her down for her afternoon nap, waiting… Cleaning, folding laundry, then waiting some more. I had friends. A fair number, actually. We’d cart around our diaper bags and car seats, planning play dates and park days. But the relationship I longed for most seemed to be ebbing away. And nothing that I did, it seemed, made much of a difference. We were living in Southern California at the time, and my husband, working for Union Pacific, was a director of three large railroad repair shops–spread throughout the Inland Empire and the Los Angeles basin. He was up and out the door by 4am and often didn’t come home until 6pm, and even then, he was never truly off. His phone rang incessantly, often throughout the night. And on weekends? Those weren’t guaranteed. In fact, there were many he worked, while others he traveled on. You can only work so much before you surpass your limits and begin to crumble. This was certainly the case with my husband. As his stress grew and his energy waned, he soon retreated to the couch in a daze. Perhaps you’ve been there–so incredibly exhausted, your mind basically shuts down. Even normal conversations drain your energy. Your solution? Or at least, my husband’s solution? Lose himself in the television, because it required nothing of him and...

Romancing Your Spouse For Your Child’s Sake

It was one of those days you simultaneously want to grab hold of forever and pretend it never happened. I was turning 40. I’m not sure what it is about that number. Really, how much can change in a year? Regardless, it was that day, the day I’d turn the big 4-0, and I knew my husband had something planned. Anytime he and my daughter start whispering in stairways, launching into the most random, pointless conversations imaginable the moment I come around, I know something is up. I figured they’d bought me something special. They share the same love language (gift giving) after all, and they’ve formed quite a tradition. One that warms my heart immensely. It starts months before the special event. The two will slip away, out to coffee or down to the basement, to begin their planning. The driving question: how can we bless mom this year? And then the event begins. I call it an event, because that is what it is—a giggly, secretive, special event, a special time shared just between the two of them. And that is the part that most makes my heart smile. That is the best birthday gift my husband could give me, that of pouring into my daughter. Of showing her what it means, with every gift and surprise, to romance your spouse. Of showing her how real men, faithful men, giving and godly men, treat their wives. Of treating her with that same gentle, fun attentiveness as he invites her into his romantic plans. With every birthday, my husband is pouring into our daughter, building her up, and...