Too Good to be Any Good

Mental, physical and emotional exhaustion.  Do you feel as though you’re drowning, overwhelmed and powerless?  Are you striving to live up to other people’s expectations?  Does your spouse or children seem to be growing distant or resentful?  Do you regularly mumble and complain?  If any of this sounds familiar, it is time to reevaluate.

 

First you must take responsibility.  Realize that no one can put demands on you, that you don’t willingly accept.   As you work through this, examine everything through one perspective.  God’s perspective.  Learn to ask yourself “is this an appointment made for me, by God?”.

 

If a task or ministry has good attributes, we are tempted to believe that we must be the one to get involved.  Either we don’t want to miss out or we sincerely believe that God is calling us.  Not necessarily true.   Not every request is a call to action that requires a yes.  If a task or ministry regularly keeps you from spending time with God or having energy for your spouse or being there to disciple your children, your activities are out of balance. Remember, there are seasons in this life and we are not designed to be involved in everything, during every season.  Learn to discern, learn to say no, and learn to turn off the unbiblical guilt and condemnation that plays in your head.  I am not recommending that you say no to every opportunity or request – this would be wrong as well.   I am recommending that you take some time, examine whether or not their crisis is to become your crisis or whether or not taking on more commitments will rob you of time and energy for your primary ministries.  Your first ministry is to your relationship with God, then to your spouse and family.  Remember, other people will make requests but only you can determine whether or not it is wise to say yes.  The goal here is achieving balance.  Don’t go to one extreme or the other – always yes or always no.

 

Alright, we’ve covered over commitment.  Now, let’s talk about one of the ugliest human tendencies, that can keep us exhausted.   It is self-glorification.   We all know this person.  They like to be “important”.  They are fantastic at letting everyone know all about the good deeds that they have been performing.  Self-glorification is a life suffocating and enslaving cycle.  If this is you, step away and go on a strict diet of secret good deeds.  If you fail, get back up again.  It won’t be easy – you are in a battle, but there is great peace in knowing that your motives are no longer to get the glory for yourself.

 

Don’t be too good, to be any good.  Examine your schedule and trim it down if necessary.  Break the chains that bind you to unbiblical guilt and condemnation.  Use the reclaimed time and energy to invest into your spouse, children and the people and tasks that God puts on your unique path and yes, enjoy the freedom that comes along with this.

 

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Dream a Dream … Together

First comes romance, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.  Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  Why then do so many marriages end in divorce?  The elation of anticipation of life together turns to the lackluster daily grind of monotony, we get distracted and we lose each other.  Often when something is lost, if we put a little effort in, we can find it again.

 

When we are in the romance stage, we are the very best version of ourselves.  We are full of goals, hopes and dreams.  Then we marry.  We are still full of goals, hopes and dreams, but real life edges in on us.  Real life takes energy to live – we are paying bills, establishing ourselves in careers, maybe paying off school debt, maintaining our possessions and sometimes taking on a mortgage, all while learning to live with this wonderfully different human being.  Then one day, children come along.  Children are a blessing from the Lord, but their life needs are exhausting.  Because attending to their needs from infant through the teenage years requires so much of our energy, the needs of each spouse and the marriage often get ignored.  These challenges can leave a marriage dry but they don’t have to.  Your mind holds the key to success in the form of your memory and imagination.

 

Remember when you were first getting to know your spouse?  You could spend endless hours talking and dreaming together.  You dreamed of where you would live, what it would look like, how many children, how you would raise them.  You dreamed of cars and careers and of the renewing of your vows.  You dreamed of romantic trips and dinners and spending lazy afternoons in bed.  If you are in the child rearing stage of life, remember that there will be a time called empty nest and it is coming soon.  Blink your eyes and they are grown up and getting ready to leave your nest.  Where will you and your spouse be?  Will you know this person?  Will you like them?  While you are on this very long final stretch of raising children, stay connected to your spouse.  How can we do this?

 

One way is to sit down together, and envision what your empty nest will look like.  I’m not speaking literally – well, not necessarily.  It is definitely fun to dream about what kind of home you will have together, but I’m really saying go beyond that and talk about the dreams that each of you have.  Maybe you would like to travel or even live abroad for a period of time.  Maybe you would like to remain in the same area but downsize.  Is there a ministry that you’ve always wanted to pursue?  What kind of hobbies have you been putting on hold while you raise children?  Would you like to go back to school and learn in a new area?  Expressing these dreams doesn’t lock you into them but it creates an environment for you and your spouse to partner again on something other than raising children.  You are on the couple team once again.

 

One caution.  Most marriages have one spouse with a dominant personality – it is usually the squeaky wheel.  If you are the spouse that has often put your own desires aside and your spouse tends to be dominant, your dreaming sessions might become another opportunity for your spouse to run over you.  You will have to find a constructive way to bring this dilemma to light.  If you are the controller, listen to your spouse and learn to give them some of their dreams.  This is their empty nest years too.  Maybe you’ve always wanted a big house, but they are tired of taking care of it and would like to downsize.  Maybe they’ve always wanted to decorate your home in a different style – the style that they prefer.  Maybe you like to hold onto possessions but your spouse would like to lighten the load and go abroad.  Marriage is a series of compromises – gives and takes.  One spouse should never get their way every time.  If this has been happening, I guarantee that your spouse has noticed and probably feels resentment.  They may be reluctant at first to dream with you.  It is time for you to get on the team again.

 

When couples stop being couples and live only as a parental unit, their jobs are eliminated when the kids leave home.  This explains many of the empty nest divorces that occur.  If you are still married, it is not too late – be intentional and find each other again.  Talk about your hopes for the future and dream a dream together.

 

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Will I Ever Be Happy Again?

Crushing suffocating weight.  The loneliness of feeling that no other human understands your pain.  The confusion that paralyzes you into staring at a wall.  The heaviness that stops you from accomplishing.  The wrenching tears that come from a place so deep within you, that you didn’t even know that it existed.  Will you ever feel good again?  Will you ever enjoy life?  Will you ever love like that again or be loved like that again?  Will you be able to trust again?

 

Grief – it comes as we live life and it comes in many forms and from many causes.  Death of a loved one, loss of a relationship or friend, loss of a faithful pet, loss of a career or job, betrayal.  What one person grieves over, another person may not be able to understand or relate to.  Working through grief can take longer for some.  One aspect of grief that is common to most, is the question “will this pain ever go away”?

 

Now, look at the photo that I have used for this post.  Would you have guessed that the young woman in this picture, had experienced a great loss just weeks earlier?  That young woman was me.  Many of you have read my bio or my Father’s Day post and you know that when I was 17, my father committed suicide.  I’m sure that you can imagine the pain that a child experiences, when their parent chooses to not be with them, and instead takes their own life.  It has left a scar and even at my age, that scar reminds me of what I have been through.  Why do I bring this up again?  Simple.  Recently I was looking through an old photo album, when I came across this shot, I realized that it was taken soon after my dad died.   It is an image of a carefree youth – not a young woman who was crushed by grief.  When I looked at her, I was encouraged and I wanted to encourage you too.  She was able to feel joy again, even if it was just during that weekend trip to the beach with two girlfriends, and eventually the pain no longer owned me.  I know that many of you are going through a painful time in your life, and as they say “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so I hope that this old grainy photo gives you hope.

 

The sun may not shine for you tomorrow but it will shine again.  First, you will notice little rays of light coming through and then one day, it will shine brightly.  Let yourself grieve and work through the process of feeling pain, and look forward to the day that God will bring beauty out of the ashes of your grief.

 

My hope is that you will experience the true and lasting source of hope and joy that comes only through God, who loves you and desires to be in a relationship with you.  He has amazing love for you and He is trustworthy.  Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrated His amazing love for you because while you were still a sinner, He sent His precious Son to die for you.  Will you accept His amazing love gift, and trust that Jesus’ payment for sins, was for you too?

 

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Duty or Sport?

Women can easily view sexual intimacy with their husband, as another task to be completed on a very long to-do list.  Too many men believe that women rarely enjoy sex and therefore the act of sex becomes a means to completing a biological need.  Unfortunately, many believe that incredible sex only happens outside of marriage?  God created sex as a blessing to be enjoyed within the commitment of marriage, so why did sex within marriage get such a bad rap?

 

Sometime after Adam & Eve, a mother of the bride told her daughter that she must be prepared do her wifely duty.  Women began to believe that sexual pleasure was only for men, and that a lady always behaves ladylike in the bedroom.  Look, if a wife’s participation consists of just lying there until it’s over, a husband is going to view the act of marital sex as nothing more than a physical release, which exists solely for his benefit.  He needs the physical release but technically, he can take care of that himself.  What he really wants, is a wife that is fully engaged in sex, confident and enjoying the process.  That is sexy and beautiful to him.    Simply put, he wants a lover.  This is why some men stray – frigid wife at home and lover elsewhere.  There is never justification for a husband to cheat, but a wife needs to understand that she is putting her marriage at risk by refusing to be her husband’s lover.  He needs and craves the experience of being skin to skin with his wife while knowing that he is pleasing her.  He is a man and he wants to be good at stuff and hearing and viewing “positive feedback” thrills him.

 

If you are a woman who isn’t enjoying sex, find out why.  Do you view sex as being dirty?  Do you experience pain during sex?  Have you never or rarely felt pleasure during sex with your husband?  Were you sexually abused sometime in your life?  Let’s take a look at each of these.  If you were raised in a home where sex was viewed as shameful, you may be carrying these attitudes into your marriage.  I would encourage you to read what God says about sex between a husband and wife.  He created this to be a beautiful and pleasurable expression of love for both man and woman.  If you experience pain during intercourse, share this information with your husband, and together find ways to slow down and enjoy each other.  Commonly referred to as foreplay, slowing down will help your body get ready for the main event.  If you still have pain, there are many products available and if necessary discuss this with your gynecologist.  If you have difficulty experiencing pleasure, realize that only 25% of women can reach climax during intercourse alone.  Ask your husband to help you with exploring your body – every woman is unique – find out what feels good to you.  Once you have begun to experience regular pleasure, you will actually crave more sex.  A win-win, don’t you think?  Finally, if you were sexually abused, remember that this is not your husband’s fault, and you may need to seek professional help to work through this and heal.  There is no shame.  Plenty of woman struggle with these issues and the professionals are trained to help.

 

Sex with your husband, doesn’t have to be just one more task to check off on your to-do list.  Although, I will share a little secret – my husband has been known to write it on mine.  It’s just a little fun between the two of us.  With a shift in her mindset, every wife can make sex a very special sport that the two of you enjoy playing together.

 

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Sensual Heart or Heart of Gold?

There is a meme circulating on Facebook that declares flirting to be synonymous with cheating.  Is it?  Flirting is commonly confused with charming, but they are very different.  Are you leading with sex or are you communicating to another human being that you like, enjoy and value them?

 

Flirting with a member of the opposite sex, sends a very clear message that you are interested in them as a potential mate.   A charming person, has a knack for letting another human being know that they are important and valued, and it doesn’t matter whether they are male or female.  A charming person is a lovely human being, and they light up a room with their presence.  When you interact with a charming person, you usually feel encouraged and uplifted.

 

Now, in opposite sex relationships, this can be tricky.  Biologically, there is always a certain amount of chemistry between a man and a woman.  If you are a charming individual, you have probably already noticed that you are unable to control how the other person interprets your words and actions.  Have you ever been accused of flirting when you were really just being charming?  Further, be careful about assuming that the charming person is flirting.  This lovely blessing might become so self-conscience, that they will turn off the flow and stop pouring their special tonic into your life.

 

You might be wondering whether or not you are capable of being charming.  Not all of us are charismatic, but I believe that most of us can learn how to be charming.   Actually, the techniques are quite simple but they do require effort.  Listen with care – not the kind of listening where you hear with your ears, while your mind is occupied thinking and formulating your response.  Instead, completely focus on what the other person is saying, both through listening to their words and observing their actions.  Smile and look others in the eye.  Remember what they have told you, and ask them about it at a later time.  Notice what makes another person special and unique, and point it out to them and to others.  Treat others with the same respect that you believe that you deserve.  When you encounter a hurting person, don’t over simply their problems, or try to “fix” them or preach at them – show them that you care by listening, holding them or just sitting beside them.  If you aren’t full of charisma or wit, you can be charming just by being authentic, thoughtful, kind and empathetic.

 

So, ask yourself – are you flirtatious, charming or neither?  I think that we all know what flirting looks and feels like, and most of us have been guilty of flirting.  Charming can encompass many characteristics, but always leaves the other person feeling good.  A charming person is like a magnet – they attract.  A charming person is lovely – they make others feel important and valuable.  A charming person is inviting – they leave you wanting more interaction with them.  A charming person makes another human being feel visible.  In a world where many of us believe that we are invisible, a charming person helps us to see our value, and hopefully we then impact other lives positively.  A charming person has opinions but they express them in a way that leaves the other person feeling respected and understood.  A charming person is predominantly focused on the needs and well-being of others and will often put their own wants aside.  In short, a charming person has a heart of gold.

 

We should save our flirting for our significant other.  Charm on the other hand, is a character trait that everyone can be developing and practicing.   Charm can be your gift to others.  It is a gift that never runs out and can never be stolen away from the recipient.

 

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A Pauper by Choice

God adopted me and this gave Him great pleasure.  Ephesians 1:5

 

Shouldn’t I know better by now?  I’ve been a Christian for over half of my life.  I know that God doesn’t lie.  Why do I still live my life as though I don’t believe God?  Why do I live as though I am destitute, when God tells me something very different?  According to God, the same riches that He has given to Jesus Christ, are available to me?

 

Hello, my name is Madeline and I am a life-long habitual people pleaser.  It occurs to me that in my people pleasing, I am like a pauper standing on the road-side begging for a scrap of something from other human beings.  Love, acceptance, respect, friendship – all good things but when I elevate them above God’s opinion of me, I am stuck in a cycle of elation to despair.

 

Does rejection cause you to question your value as a human being?  The following is the kind of rejection that a woman can experience and it can come in many other forms and it will be different for each individual.  It could be a loved one that fails to take the time to understand you and tries to fix you instead of valuing your unique gifts.  It could be someone who blames you for their relationship problems with another person.  It could be a woman who judges and dislikes another woman simply because of her appearance or first impression.  It could be someone who spreads lies about another person and damages a reputation.  It could be a friend who does not reciprocate concern or care.  It could be a woman who is pleasant face to face but through actions and behaviors, she proves that she wants nothing to do with you.  It could be someone who seeks to exclude you or your family from their circle.  It could be a wife that is so jealous and possessive that she won’t allow her husband to show kindness to another human being who happens to be a woman or it could be a woman who is cruel to another woman simply because her husband admired her.

 

Some fortunate people are capable of letting these rejections “roll off”.  For others who are tenderhearted, these rejections lead to despair.  Dear tenderhearted one, if you are in Christ Jesus, you need to continually remind yourself of your identity.  Your identity is not in how people treat you – your identity is in how God views you.  If you have trusted Jesus for the payment of your sins, this is what God says about you:  you are no longer condemned, God adopted you into His family, God has given you an inheritance of spiritual riches, God showers you in kindness, God sees Jesus’ righteousness when He looks at you, you are His beloved and all of this gives Him pleasure.

 

So, if you belong to Jesus, take the love that God lavishes upon you and love others – just don’t make them an idol by elevating them above God in your life.  If you have not made Jesus the Lord of your life, you must start there.  With Adam and Eve, sin entered the world and God’s required payment for sin is spiritual death which is eternal separation from Him.  Thankfully, God is good and didn’t leave us there.  He made a plan for us to be reconciled to Him.  His Son paid the penalty for your sin on the cross.  All you must do to receive this salvation from spiritual death, is simply accept His gift to you.  Place your trust in Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

 

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Celebration, Courage & Sacrifice

Recently, my family was privileged to visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  As we stood in the Assembly Room, I imagined a time, many years ago, where dignified men paced, sat and slept, while the details of The Declaration of Independence were hashed out.  Meanwhile, in other parts of the land, brave men fought and died.  Together they were in a partnership to birth a new nation.  A great nation.

 

July 4th is a festive day, and we are so blessed to live in a nation where we have the freedom and resources to celebrate with grand fireworks displays and delicious food and drink.  Some of us even get a day off from work to spend precious time with our loved ones and friends.  On this day, celebrate and be joyous, but also be sure to remember with a thankful heart.  Remember those who have left the safety, comforts and love of their home to fight.  Remember those that never returned.  Remember those that have cried tears for their loved one.  Remember those that cry today.  Remember those who are at work today because they are protecting our freedoms, guarding our borders and patrolling our streets.  And please remember their families – they too sacrifice every single day for you.

 

My family would like to wish you and yours a joy filled Independence Day as we remember those that have shown great courage through-out the history of this great nation.  God bless the United States of America.