The Soothing Balm of Listening

There is an art to listening.  Most of us believe that we are reasonably good listeners but the truth is, we could all improve our skills to effectively listen and show empathy to other human beings.

 

I believe that listening well makes you a far better communicator than speaking well.  Simply put, listening well demonstrates that you put others first.  It is a selfless action to listen rather than being heard.  When a person needs someone to listen to them, essentially they need someone to relieve them of their burdens.  When we listen well, we unlock their mind and allow the burdens to release.  Have you ever been overwhelmed and confused by the challenges in your life?  If you were given the opportunity to unload, you felt better, right?  Since this is so important, let’s look at a few of the most important ways that we can develop good listening technique.

 

>Concentrate.  Focus on what is being said instead of how you will respond.  Most of us tend to hear while we are actively thinking about how we will respond or how we can relate to what is being said.  You must completely focus on what they need to say.

 

>Let the other person speak without interruption.  When you interrupt with your questions or your thoughts, the person doesn’t feel a sense of getting to complete their story.  You have interrupted their train of thought and even though you may understand the situation, they may perceive that they were not listened to.  If you are concerned that you will forget your questions or the points that you would like to make, try taking notes.

 

>When they are done speaking, then you may ask questions.  If the person is looking for advice, here is where you may offer it.  If they are not looking for advice but are instead trying to problem solve, try drawing them out with open-ended questions.  Asking questions is also a great non-confrontational way to help someone see truth or error in their thinking.  They are more likely to come to conclusions without feeling judged.

 

>Exhibit pleasant facial expressions while listening.   Natural eye contact with a relaxed smile will make the other person feel cherished.  If appropriate, nod your head but be careful here – you can give the impression that you are agreeing and that may not be the impression that you want to communicate.

 

>Summarize what you have heard in conversational style.  This is your opportunity to make clarifications and prove that you have been actively listening and that they have been heard.

 

>Finally, make sure to follow up with the person at a later time.  Following up demonstrates your sincerity and it shows that you care about and value this person.

 

Let’s look at another type of listening.  Listening to someone who is upset with us.  Too often, we feel the need to defend ourselves.  God’s word gives us much help in this area.  James 1:19 says “so then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”.  Proverbs 15:1 says “a gentle answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger”.  As difficult as it is, a confrontational situation can be defused by following these very simple words.

 

Listening is so much more than using our hearing sense.  When we really listen, we are fully engaging many of our senses.  We not only hear but we see the other person’s emotional state and we feel compassion and empathy.  One of the most powerful ways to minister to another human being, is listening to them.  Most people don’t need someone to solve their problems – they need someone to listen.  When we give our time, and make the effort to really listen, we lighten the burdens of another human being.  Most of us won’t get this completely right every time but try putting a few of these tips into practice every time that you have the opportunity.

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Sweet ‘n Spicy

The opposite sex can be confusing and frustrating to us.  Sometimes we communicate as if we are speaking in two different languages.  These differences cause needless conflict.  We all know that we can only control our own words and behaviors, so let’s take a look at how a wife can effectively communicate love to her husband by demonstrating that she respects and values him.

 

Let’s start with the most difficult aspect of this post.  Many times a wife is struggling – functioning somehow on an empty love-tank.  She doesn’t feel loved or cherished for a multitude of reasons.  Then add to the mix, a grumpy or even angry husband who is unpleasant and emotionally unavailable.  How in the world is she to muster up the strength and the will to extend love to this man?  Here’s the magic – most husbands when they are feeling respected and valued, will reach to the stars to serve their wife.  So if you are willing as the woman, to do the right thing first, soon you may have a man willing to fill your tank.  He may need some help understanding your needs and desires but if he is feeling love in the language that he understands, pleasing you will be his priority.

 

Here are some practical ways to demonstrate love by respecting and valuing a man:

 

Men need some time to unwind when they get home.  He’s been fighting battles for you and the children and he needs time to decompress.  Don’t dump your burdens on him the moment that he walks through the door.  Be sweet and greet him with a pleasant smile, kiss and hug.  If he has a hobby or interest, give him the gift of time to have fun or accomplish with it.  Later, he will be more willing and able to give you the attention or down-time that you need.  Also, if you are usually following these principals, he will be happy to be your hero when you’ve had a bad day and occasionally need to unload on him when he walks through the door.

 

Don’t belittle him or his ideas. If your husband opens up to you and shares a dream, problem or challenge and the way that he would like to proceed, don’t rattle off all of the reasons that it won’t work.  It is acceptable to show concern but not doubt in him or his wisdom.  Instead, reassure him that you recognize the difficulty in making the decision and support him if you can. My husband knows that I need information, so at this point he will answer my questions and usually, we will commit to pray. If you believe that he is making a mistake, remember he probably already realizes that he is accountable for his decisions, so it is not necessary to remind him of this and doing so makes him feel like a child.

 

Don’t sulk. Women are especially in tune with the needs of those around us. Most men are not tuned into the intricacies of relationships. Don’t punish him with the silent treatment or cold shoulder when he does not live up to your expectations. Most men absolutely despise feeling like they must walk on eggshells around their wife. Stop playing games and just tell him exactly what you need or want.

 

Embrace his physical needs and realize that he was created as a sexual being.  Don’t rebuff him or view him as a sex maniac when he demonstrates his attraction for you. Men face a tremendous amount of sexual temptations each and every day. Some men expend their sexual energy on pornography, fantasy and other illicit sexual experiences. If you find yourself exasperated that he has his hands all over you, just relax and enjoy it.  If he pours his sexual energy into you, then he most likely is not pouring it out elsewhere.

 

When a woman is willing to be soft and responsive, amazing things can happen.  Do you remember the old saying “girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice”?  Try using the grown-up version – sweet ‘n spicy.

Love Hopes All Things

Marriage between a man and a woman is a beautiful merging of two completely different people with different temperaments, upbringings and life experiences.  A marriage between two people with the same beliefs and values is challenging enough but what happens when one spouse is a Christian and the other is not?

 

Some Christians choose to ignore God’s warnings and they marry an unbeliever.  Sometimes one spouse comes to faith in Jesus Christ after the marriage begins.  I would never counsel a Christian to enter the matrimonial commitment with an unbeliever and it would never be acceptable to leave a spouse because they don’t come to faith in Christ, but if you find yourself unequally yoked, please be encouraged – there is hope.  There can be peace and joy in this relationship but first you must give up.

 

Every spouse must give up on trying to change their spouse.  The greatest peace that we can experience in any relationship, occurs when we finally accept them, just the way that they are.  The unbelieving spouse needs to experience unconditional love and acceptance.  Here is where we leave our burden in God’s hands and He takes over and does a magnificent work – in both spouses.  I cannot promise that your spouse will come to faith in Jesus but I can promise that they will more accurately understand the great love that God has for them, because of your selfless, sacrificial and unconditional love.

 

I know many that find themselves in this situation.  At times, it is a difficult and lonely road.  For this post, I asked other women to help.  They are married to an unbelieving husband.  I asked them to share their wisdom.  Some of the wisdom came easily and some was learned through hard lessons.  Here is what they want you to know.

 

>We are not our spouse’s Holy Spirit and especially for a wife, she is not her husband’s teacher.

>Remember that it is God’s role to change our spouse’s life.

>We cannot force, pressure or manipulate our spouse into faith.

>Love them according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Read it and memorize it if possible.

>Have a quiet spirit and live a life that demonstrates how you are different in a positive way.

>Remember that God loves them even more than you do.

>Remember that God desires that they have salvation even more than you do.

>Realize and accept that you are in this for the long haul.  This road will be full of turns, bumps, darkness and times of joy and light.

>Take notice of the little changes that you see along this journey.  Write them down and reflect on them when discouraged.

>Find promises in God’s Word that are comforting and cling to them.

>Love your spouse for who they are right now.  Remember, they are still a created individual with wonderful attributes.

>Be supportive of their interests.  I’m not suggesting participating in anything that violates God’s Word but don’t be legalistic.  If they enjoy an activity, go with them.

>For wives, don’t behave like Mrs. Prudish Churchy.  Every husband wants his sexy wife.  Be fun, flirt, flash and dress attractively for him.  God approves.

>Be an attractive Christian.  Show that Jesus’ power makes a difference in the lives of His followers.  Pray for joy, genuine love, kindness and to be charitable toward others.

>Church stuff might seem strange to an unbeliever.  Don’t burden them with the issues at church and don’t get defensive if they are critical of church stuff or church people.  Remain quiet – God doesn’t need us to defend.

>Listen to the wisdom of your unbelieving spouse.  Don’t dismiss them – many times they are correct.

>Don’t try to be sly about slipping in the Gospel message.  Preaching during a prayer, or using a child to deliver our agenda, makes the unbelieving spouse feel manipulated.

>Respect your spouse on parenting issues.  For example, if they are concerned that the children are only hearing Bible stories, mix in some inspirational secular books and stories when reading to a child.

 

I am married to a believer.  He was raised in a Christian home and I was not.  I was a relatively new Christian when we married but through all of the struggles of marriage, we had our beliefs and values in common.  Most importantly, through 34 years of marriage, Jesus Christ has been the head and center of our relationship.  During every disagreement, we have had the opportunity to look away from our own agendas and instead look at Jesus and what He would want for our home.  I realize that for the spouse who is married to an unbeliever, they don’t have this common focal point.  This is my reason for writing about this.  These situations need our concern, prayer support and practical care.  If this post describes your situation, I want you to know that I care and so do others.  To close this out, here’s a quote from one dedicated wife of an unbelieving spouse – “you loved this person enough to marry them, so love them all the way to the arms of Jesus”.

Your Words Can’t Hurt Me?

You’ve heard the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” but have you been able to live it?  I’ve tried, honestly I have, but it just doesn’t work for me.  I’m absolutely certain that it doesn’t work for many of you either.

 

The woman that vents her anger and frustration about another woman.  That man that comments about another man’s character being less than respectable.  Those women that chatter together conjuring up stories of sinful activity just from a few pictures and posts on Facebook.  That woman, when asked about another woman, reacts with a peculiar look or an eyebrow raised or even just an itsy-bitsy derogatory comment.   The young person that excludes or uses unkind words.  Might seem harmless.  After all, it will never get back to the person and so what if it does.

 

It is not harmless and it always hurts the person that has been slandered – always.  We are not to listen to gossip.  We are to be haters of it but what happens when the gossip reaches us so quickly that we can’t stop it?  Now, it has penetrated our senses and we are in danger.  We might believe it or begin to question what we thought we knew or hopefully, we will begin the process turning our head to one side and pounding the information out.  I truly wish it was that simple.  I cannot help myself.  I seem to have a rare ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I hear and see things that cause great distress.  I assure you, “most” of the time I am not trying to hear and see these things and to heap more on, when I have been brave enough to confront the person, I have paid the price.  I was met with anger and betrayal.

 

Women are especially vulnerable to behaving in this way.  Jealousy of another woman or her children or even a pure admiration that she might receive from men can cause an insecure woman to behave very badly.  Husbands, if you notice any signs that your wife is behaving this way, you must step up and lead her by holding her accountable.  Even the behaviors that you deem harmless, may be hurting another human being.  If she is involved in gossip sessions with other women, she could be party to destroying lives.  If she is cruel or dismissive to another woman, she could be wounding a spirit.  This is serious and she needs her husband to be courageous and to step up.

 

Spirits are crushed, marriages and families destroyed, friendships lost.  These are precious human lives being injured and sometimes destroyed by a careless word or facial expression.  I’m hot steamin’ mad.  I don’t get to this place very often – thankfully.  I’m begging you – please, search yourself.  We could each examine ourselves and if we find guilt, go back and correct the situation.  We might think before we act on this impulse again.

 

I don’t normally write when I’m angry.  I generally enjoy being more positive but after experiencing this myself this year and with two separate situations, just this week, where lives are being destroyed because of careless words, I’ve had enough.  Would each of you join me in committing to not being part of the problem?

 

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29

 

 

Lovely Woman

What does she look like?  I mean to say, what are the traits that characterize a lovely woman?  A lovely woman can have many different physical characteristics.  She might be physically beautiful and or dress well or she might be a bit of a wallflower, feeling more comfortable in simple attire and appearance.  She might have the personality that lights up a room or she might prefer to be “backstage” in life.   To discover the truly lovely woman, we must look deeper than her appearance and visible traits.

 

You will recognize a lovely woman by the lives that she has impacted.  The impact will start within her closest circle – the people that she lives with.  Acting like the energy of an earthquake, her lovely influence will begin in the epicenter of her home and radiate outward.  It will be spread not only by her, but also by the people that through her example, learn about grace.  She is not defined by how many reactions that she receives on Facebook or even how many women seek to be in her company.  Her definition is determined by the deep love and admiration of the people that really know her inside and out and those that she has touched.  These people are living a life that is forever imprinted by her time in their life.

 

This woman is not self-consumed.  This woman cares for her household and then goes beyond to reach out to others outside of her own household.  This woman cares about others and she is aware that they have struggles, difficulties and challenges.  This woman is thoughtful and blesses others in big and little ways.  This woman is sincerely joyful.  This woman really listens.  This woman speaks words of encouragement.  This woman is genuine and lovingly honest.  This woman treats everyone with respect. This woman does not easily dismiss others from her life.  This woman makes others feel better after they have been with her.  This woman knows how to forgive.  This woman has compassion for the difficult and challenging personalities that come across her path.  This woman brings light into a dark burdensome world.  This woman is relational, responsive and nurturing, all very feminine and womanly traits.

 

If you are a lovely woman or striving to be a lovely woman, thank you.  If you know or have known a lovely woman, comfort her heart and tell her thank you for being a lovely woman in your life.

Playing Games

It’s fast paced and exciting.  If you’ve ever played ice-hockey, you know that it is one of the most physically demanding sports that exists, with the gear weighing between 20 and 50 pounds, depending on the position played.  Many who have played and or spectate believe that it is the game above all other games.  If you have been reading Madeline Eatenton for long, you know that I declare the benefits of a wife playing a certain type of game with her husband.  The game of giving her husband an exciting s-e-x life.  I realize that I sort of lured you in by talking about hockey but Madeline is talking about sex today.   It won’t be too awkward, so I hope that you will hang in there with me.

 

So, how about proposing a hat trick?  If you’re not familiar with the term, in ice-hockey a hat trick is the scoring of three goals by the same player during one game.  Even if he isn’t a huge fan of ice hockey, he’ll be a huge supporter of the hat trick.  Challenge him to a sexual hat trick – sex three days in a row.  Here’s another idea – during a getaway together, issue a new challenge – hat trick within 24 hours.  This will be a lot of fun.  Having a goal together will be fun.  It forces a couple to focus on their goal and make the challenge their priority.  It’s your little secret and talking code to each other around the house, can feel a little naughty.  The initial attempt at a hat trick might fail due to occurrences outside of your control.  That’s alright.  Just hit the restart button.  More fun to be had.

 

Why is frequent sex with your spouse so important?   You’re both tired.  Life is full of tasks that must be completed and attending to children is vitally important.  At least you’re having some sex, right?  Let’s look at the benefits of frequent sex.

 

>It allows a couple to focus on each other without distractions.

>It gives a couple a common goal or “project” to team up on that is couple focused, not child or household focused.

>It is the glue that bonds a couple together.

>It feels good and if not, work together to find out how you can both achieve pleasure.

>It creates a chemical reaction in the brain that leaves you wanting more of the same.  Infrequent sex actually reduces a woman’s desire.  So use it or lose it.

>Frequency encourages variety.

>It protects your marriage from affairs.

 

Essentially, frequent sex unlocks the door of separation that can exist in a marriage.  That door is now wide open and every aspect of the marital relationship improves.  Most couples cannot sustain hat trick frequency for long.  My point is – make frequent sex a priority and throw in a few hat tricks every now and then.  Pursue him sexually.  Women are not the only ones that need to feel attractive and when you pursue him, he feels desired.  Start thinking of sex as a fun activity that you can do with your spouse.  Enjoy each other.