Deep Within

I am your greatest earthly treasure, but you’ve placed me upon a shelf. You pour yourself into things, that will be tossed away tomorrow. Look at me! Strangers, acquaintances and friends affirm me for a season, but you don’t see my gifts. Look at me! You see my adornments and your hands and lips examine the jewels, but you don’t see my heart and mind. Look at me! You praise my efforts, but always with a suggestion. Look at me! I am only a whisper away from you, but you don’t see the tears in my eyes. Look at me! What do I want? I do want you to be thrilled by my adornments, I do want you to praise my best, but I also want you to be amazed by my heart and my mind. Who am I? Don’t look at me, but look deep within me.

 

This statement could have been written by any married woman living today or throughout history. It is incredibly common for a wife to feel this way.  She isn’t necessarily depressed or not functioning, but she feels emptiness.  She needs encouragement.  She needs her best efforts to be praised, without an added criticism, in the form of a suggestion.  She needs to feel valued.  She needs all of her gifts and abilities to be appreciated, instead of being seen as problems or complications.  She needs you to be amazed by every part of her – her mind, body and soul.  She needs you to believe, and show her, that she is the butter to your bread.

 

Husbands, I’m trying to help you to help yourselves.  If any of the above sounds familiar, your wife is needing you to go to school.  She needs you to love her, by studying her.  She is worth the effort.  Your marriage is worth the effort.  Make her your lifelong learning project.  A man learning about a woman, is an attractive man.  I know it’s hard and probably foreign to you, since she is a strange and wonderful creature, but anything that is important, requires time and effort.  She doesn’t find it easy and natural, but she tries to make your physical needs her priority and put you before the children.

 

Women are relational, soft-hearted and responsive. Women have a deep need to be understood. If you remove the outward beauty and all of the tasks that she completes, you will find her essence. Her essence is her qualities and character. It is her own unique set of gifts, given to her by her Creator. Does she seem to attract those that you deem as unlovely? Is she kind, thoughtful and generous – putting others above herself? Is she sensitive to the moods or hurts of others? Does she love others, even though she gets hurt? Does her heart of compassion move her to take action?  Does she impressively deal kindly with you, the children and others outside of your household?  This is her essence, which is to be appreciated, not viewed as a problem that needs to be fixed.

 

See and appreciate her essence.  Praise her for all of her qualities, and brag about her to others.  As a woman ages, her physical beauty will change, the volume of tasks that she can complete will reduce, but her essence will remain, and it will become even more beautiful in time.  Give her the hope and encouragement that she needs, by looking deep within.

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Beautiful Music – Never Out of Style

Men and women are equally valuable, and come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of personalities, gifts and interests, but God made a man to be very different from a woman.  God composed a beautiful symphony when He created masculine man and then feminine woman.  No matter what our cultural influencers are saying, whether platonic or romantic, men are attracted to a soft feminine woman and women are attracted to a strong masculine man.  What are some of the characteristics of this strong masculine male?

 

Physically –  his body is hard and angular and he is naturally muscular and strong.  He can be a little crude and rough around the edges.  He craves physical touch and reads it as love – this doesn’t define him as a maniac.  He is a visual creature, noticing and appreciating feminine beauty.

Emotionally –  he craves peace, and will hide his feelings when he feels judged or when he believes she’ll react badly.  He will always have a little boy within himself.  He needs the women in his life, to be light-hearted and fun to be with.  He’s not your best girlfriend – keep the girl talk and shopping between girls and don’t ask him for an opinion on your outfit – he is afraid to say the wrong thing and if he likes it, you will know.  He desires to please the women in his life.

Mentally –  he feels the need to provide, protect and conquer.  He naturally problem solves.  He’s competitive, never allowing another driver to win the race to the traffic light.  He thinks in terms of compartments or boxes – only open one at a time please.  He needs you to need him – stop being so darn competent at everything.

Spiritually – sometimes, he has difficulty understanding spiritual things.  Don’t use your knowledge or spirituality to intimidate him.  Instead, be an uplifting inspiration to him by living your faith in front of him.

 

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’re aware of the slippery slope that we’re on – the blurring of the lines of distinction between men and women.  Sometimes, I’m tempted to go crawl under that rock, but then I remember – God has given me a platform to speak truth.  Men are men and women are women – truth.  They are created to be very different from the other, but when united as two perfectly tuned and masterfully played instruments, together they make a harmonious sound.  One is not more important than the other, but one is to lead and the other to help.  The leader instrument provides the direction and cadence and the helper fills in with soothing and soft sounds, helping the strong to be incredibly beautiful.  Imagine for a moment, the helper instrument attempting to take over.  No, the symphony was planned and it is beautiful when played according to the plan.  No competition – just a perfect blend of each instrument completing the other, by playing their very special part and most importantly, the conductor guiding the process.

 

Being a strong leader is a high responsibility and many men don’t understand what it looks like.  They will either buckle under a domineering wife and allow her to lead, or they will take the tyrant approach and rule with a heavy hand.   A biblical leader doesn’t do either of these.  He models his leadership after the example of Christ.  He is a humble, self-sacrificing servant.  He leads with truth but always seasoned with grace.  He never runs over others.  He is courageous and stands up for what is right even when it costs him peace.  He never treats a woman harshly or as though she is lower than him.  He respects women and values their input, because he recognizes that they are uniquely gifted by their Creator.

 

We may not be able to control the cultural trends, but we can certainly take a look at ourselves and ask the hard questions.  Am I playing my instrument according to the Conductor’s direction?  Am I the masculine man or feminine woman that God intended me to be?  Am I helping the men in my life to be the masculine men that God created them to be?  What are the areas that I can improve?

Will We Have Enough?

There are reminders everywhere.  Television, radio, emails and pop-up ads.  Are we adequately preparing for our future?  I propose a different question.  Are we adequately living for today?  Are we pouring the fun into our marriages that will sustain the relationship during those empty nesting, job is a thing of the past days?  Guess what?  We can keep saving for retirement because this kind of fun is free.  Today, Madeline is talking about glue.  The glue that keeps the marital relationship alive and well.

If you’re raising littles, you’re tired.  If you’re raising teenagers, you fondly remember the simplicity of the “littles” days.  This isn’t about whether or not you are exhausted, because I know that you are.  I know this because, I’m exhausted too.  It’s life.  Life is draining, but every day that we choose to put our spouse’s needs toward the end of the to-do list, the life drains out of the marriage and when the children are gone and the careers are over, who and what will we be left with?  Will it be a malnourished spouse and marriage, or shall we choose to invest in this relationship and reap the rewards now and later?  Here are a few of my free investment tips.

 

>Wife, put your freshly showered body between clean sheets and wait for your husband to return home from work?  Yes, during daylight.

>Husband, tell her how beautiful she is to you and make love to every inch of her body?  Yes, not merely the “main parts”.

>Hold hands while you drive to your appointments together.

>Wife, climb onto his lap and let him undress you while you passionately kiss him.

>Husband, walk her to the couch after dinner, place a glass of wine in her hand and immediately return to the kitchen to clean up.

>Wife, greet him at the door, grab him by the belt and tell him about the things that you want to do with him later.

>Husband, envelop her into your arms and just hold her without the expectation of things going further.

>Wife, behave a little naughty for him.   He might enjoy watching you enjoy that ice-cream cone.

>Husband, choose to look at her soul and point out the beauty that exists deep inside.  She might need to hear about why you think she’s so special.

>Take care of yourself for your spouse.

>Look nice for your spouse.

>Enjoy the person that you are married to.  Make a choice to like them, warts and all.

 

Empty nest divorce, also called gray divorce, is too common and it hurts everyone involved – even the grown children.  Couples lose closeness while life marches on around them.  Waiting until the children are gone and life slows down to begin investing in each other, doesn’t work.  In order to reach these years with a successful marriage intact, you’ll need to invest along the way.  Marital romance is the glue that bonds and protects the relationship, so make glue and bond and have some fun along the way.  You’ll never have to wonder – will we have enough to get us through to the end?

Drama Junkie

I’ve spent my lifetime, silently watching and listening.  Wondering.  Why do some people seem to continually be surrounded by difficulties?  My heart would break and I would step in to help.  Then, I stumbled across unfamiliar terminology – excessive attention seeking disorder.  Did you know that for some people, receiving attention gives them a chemical high, similar to a drug hit?  Excessive attention seeking or addiction to drama is very real and this enslavement reaches outward and affects everyone that comes into contact with the drama junkie.  If someone that you care about seems to crave excessive attention, there are reasons for this behavior.  This post is not intended to offer in depth scientific evidence, or a cure but instead I hope to provide clarity and understanding to the one who suffers from second-hand drama.  Please allow me a few moments to take what I have learned and break it down into a very simple explanation, then we’ll look at your role in the drama.

 

Research shows that when a developing child feels neglect, their brain interprets this as danger and wires itself to survive within this environment.  This wiring for survival trains a developing mind to do whatever is necessary to attract the craved attention, even if it’s extreme.  Sometimes this means creating turmoil by making decisions that cause difficulties.  These behaviors attract attention which then trigger a chemical reaction in the brain, similar to a drug high and the behaviors have now been rewarded and reinforced.  You see, endorphins and dopamine are released which suppress pain and bring feelings of happiness.  This becomes a cycle, where the end goal is a reward of short lived feelings of elation – then the cycle begins again.  Just like any other addiction, a tolerance is built up and it will require a bigger and better crisis to achieve the good feelings.  Here’s the cherry on top.  Researchers believe that a consequence of neglect is a smaller hypothalamus gland in the brain.  The hypothalamus plays a key role in sleep, body temperature regulation, hunger, healthy parenting and processing of the “feel good” chemical, serotonin.  When the brain doesn’t efficiently process serotonin, problems occur.  Have you noticed that your attention getter struggles with other addictions, obsessions or depression?  It is common for the addiction to drama and excessive attention seeking, to accompany other addictions such as food or substances – legal or illegal, or obsessive tendencies and depression.  This is the serotonin link.  So, now that we have a better understanding, how can this intrusion into your life be managed?

 

First, realize that enabling the behavior isn’t helpful.  If you care about someone who exhibits these behaviors, maybe it has felt easier to let the turmoil and crisis roll in, or maybe you’ve been helping them feed their other addictions, but if you have influence in their life, it might be time for you to confront them with truth in a loving manner.  Second, never minimize the great transforming power that God can exercise in our lives when we are willing participants in His work in us – pray for them.  Encourage them in the following areas.  Contentment – loving what we already have more than what we don’t have.  Forgiveness – forgiving our parents or other caregivers from our developing years is crucial.  Acceptance – realizing and accepting that sometimes other humans only have so much to give and that sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough.   Self-control – encourage them to make sound decisions.  Belief – remind them of God’s everlasting love and encourage them to read God’s word and devour it.  We all benefit by being continually reminded of the great love that God has for us and His unmerited favor upon each of us.

 

One last thought – if you are exhausted by someone like this and you are tempted to remove yourself from their drama, it might be necessary to do so, but remember that 1st Thessalonians tells us to be tender and patient toward those that are weak.  This person probably has a root of hurt that goes deep.  If you have a influential relationship with this person, God could be calling you to help them.  Without enabling the behavior, you can present the truth in a loving and supportive manner.

Meaningful, Valuable & Impactful – Words Have Meaning

How do you feel when someone acknowledges a positive characteristic in you?  You’re elated, right?  It’s like they’ve become the wind beneath your wings.  I sincerely hope that each of you has someone in your life, that gives you the gift of encouragement.  Now, I challenge you – be that person to someone else.  Give the gift of words that are meaningful, valuable and impactful – words that lift up.

It is pleasant to hear that someone likes you or even loves you, but when they are specific as to why they feel this way, it takes you to a new level.  Put some thought into your admiration and let them know what it is.  Put a name to it.  Following are some examples but don’t stop here – add the how, when and why that you’ve noticed this about them.

>You’re kind.

>You’re observant.

>You’re sensitive.

>You’re cheerful.

>You’re charming.

>You’re joyful.

>You’re wise.

>You’re gifted in the area of ….

>You’re talented in the area of ….

>You’re an encourager.

>You’re generous.

How about when someone has a deep impact on you?  Have you observed that they smile and lift the spirits of others?  Are they a musician who impacts you with their music?  Did they teach you or exhort you and open your eyes?  Did they sweep in and help you to improve your living conditions?  Does their gift give you joy?  Do their writings inspire you?  Has their input into your life, made you a better human being?  Has their encouragement lifted you up out of a pit and put you upon a rock?  Tell them.  Write your thoughts down and give it to them.  Your words have more meaning than you might realize.

One last thought, don’t overlook that person that appears to be confident.   They are mostly self-assured but all humans need to receive encouragement and many long to know that they are positively impacting the lives of others.    Life has a way of demoralizing even the most self-assured people.  Your kind and thoughtful words, might be the boost that they need to continue on.

Be a characteristic specific encourager, and be sure to tell them the how, when and why.  You might be the person that brings sunshine into a gloomy heart and mind.

Deadly Comparisons

If only she looked like that.  If he would just treat me that way.  If she were my wife, I would make her feel like a queen.  She doesn’t deserve him – if he were mine, I’d…  You get the point – coveting, and it’s deadly.  It will rob you of living your life and it will murder your marriage.

 

When are you most vulnerable to comparing your spouse to another person?  Is it after a fight with your wife or when your husband speaks or acts in a way that is insensitive?  Has your spouse let their physical appearance go?  Are they run-of-the-mill?  What makes you compare your spouse to that old flame or an acquaintance, friend or coworker?  It’s important to uncover these patterns in our lives.  When we recognize and understand our weaknesses, we are better equipped to prevent ourselves from walking to the edge of a dangerous precipice.  We then know to not approach or if necessary, back-up before everything crumbles beneath our feet, causing us to fall and be destroyed.

 

It may very well be reality, that your spouse isn’t attractive, doesn’t excite you or that they don’t always treat you very well but comparing our spouses to others begins with a problem deep down within our own heart and mind.  It begins with a lack of thankfulness and contentment.   Discontentment most likely stems from a belief that we are somehow entitled to something better.  What is the solution to this very human problem?  In my own life, I must continually work at cultivating a thankful heart.  A thankful heart becomes a contented heart.  Learn to count your blessings.  Look for the many things in your spouse that are good and be honest with yourself about your own faults.  In short, I must accept that today, I have exactly what God in His ultimate wisdom, wants me to have.

 

That other person may look pretty good to you but they are not yours.  God will never bless something that He has defined as sin – in this case, coveting or adultery.  However, He will bless your efforts to find contentment in your own marriage, with the person that you chose.  You chose them – for better or for worse.  In my own marriage, I have experienced real change when I choose to do the right thing.  Look for the good in your spouse and thank God for it.  This is the anti-venom of discontentment.

Leftovers Again?

Leftovers – great for those occasions when you’re short on time but leftovers can’t compare to my best effort in putting a fresh hot meal on the table.  What kind of a marital diet is your spouse on?  Are you serving leftovers or your best effort?

 

Most of us have fairly good manners and we try very hard to put our best face forward with acquaintances, clients, co-workers and friends. Our spouse deserves the same courtesy but when we’re tired or grumpy, sometimes they are the recipient of our impolite, impatient, demanding, uncharitable, distracted and at the very least, low energy behavior.  It’s true that we should be comfortable and at ease with our spouse but we should never make them feel less valuable than the other people in our life.

 

Here are some ways that we can give our spouse what they deserve – the best that we have to offer.

 

>Greet your spouse with as much enthusiasm as you would greet others.

>Say goodbye with as much feeling as you would with others.

>Ask them about their life and how things are going for them.

>Put their needs before the children.

>Look at them in their eyes when they are speaking to you.  Put your device down.

>Try to look your best for them.

>Compliment them on their appearance or their efforts.

>Smile at them.

>Date them and from time to time, put some effort into the planning and preparation.

>Have compassion for them when they make a mistake.  Don’t lecture them about it.

>Don’t demand that they serve you but say thank you when they do.

>Be charming with them.

>Don’t correct them when they make an unimportant mistake when speaking.

>Offer to be their helper.

>Ask them, don’t tell them and don’t forget to say please and thank you.

 

Our spouse is the most important human in our life and they should definitely feel as though they are.  Would you take a challenge for me?  If this is an area of weakness for you, try implementing one or two each month until they are habits and your spouse is feeling as though they alone, are your most significant other.

What a Husband Really Needs

Last week we looked at what a wife really needs.  Now, what does a husband really need?  It isn’t a deluxe meat smoker, dream boat, tricked-out truck or even the perfectly cooked steak or freshly homemade sweet rolls.

 

He needs you to pursue him sexually.

He needs you to make his sexual needs a priority.

He needs you to enjoy sex and let him know that you are.

He needs you to tell him or show him what feels good.

He needs you to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and most importantly, spiritually.

He needs you to need him and his help.

He needs you to appreciate him.

He needs you to respect him.

He needs you to make yourself available and spend time with him.

He needs you to not discuss your marriage with others.

He needs you to put him before the children.

He needs you to choose him over others regularly.

He needs you to communicate what your needs and desires are.

He needs you to not have a critical spirit toward him.

He needs you to not nag or gripe at him.

He needs you to serve him in little ways such as bringing him a cup of coffee.

He needs you to be his representative in the home.

He needs you to appreciate the sacrifices that he makes for you and your family.

He needs you to not punish or cold shoulder him.

He needs you to tell him what he did wrong instead of making him guess.

He needs you to trust him and his judgement.

 

I hope that you have enjoyed this two-part series and that it has been a helpful encouragement to you.  Thank you for reading and I absolutely love to see your feedback too.

What a Wife Really Needs

She doesn’t need a gigantic stuffed teddy bear or a new pajama set.  She has prepared a honey-do list for you.  I have organized it strategically by your priorities.  This list starts with sex but be sure to persist to the end of the post, because I will have an important explanation for you.

 

She needs you to communicate verbally and non-verbally, that you find her sexy, beautiful and desirable.

She needs you to make love to her entire body and explore how to satisfy her sexually.

She needs you to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and most importantly, spiritually.

She needs you to make her feel like a queen.

She needs you to serve her in thoughtful little ways.

She needs you to listen to her and look her in the eyes.

She needs you to protect her.

She needs you to defend her when she’s right.

She needs you to confront her when she’s wrong.

She needs you to sacrifice some of your own desires for her.

She needs you to choose her over your activities or other people regularly.

She needs you to communicate what your needs and desires are.

She needs you to not have a critical spirit with her or the children.

She needs you to shield her from taking on too much.

She needs you to partner with her in the struggles of life including parenting.

She needs you to ask her hard questions and hold her accountable as a woman, wife and mother.

 

There are a few points that require further explanation.  First, a husband doesn’t need to become financially burdened in order to make his wife happy.  Making her feel like a queen, isn’t as much about money as it is about your effort.  A good woman will feel like a queen when you make her your priority.  She needs to know that she is second only to your relationship with God.  Look her in the eye when she speaks, study what makes her tick and find small thoughtful ways to serve her.  On the other point, it is difficult for a husband to confront his wife when she has done something wrong or needs accountability but according to God, you are the leader of your home.  Unfortunately, you may lose some of your peace and quiet for a time but in the long run, your wife and children and others that are affected will benefit.

 

Be watching for next week’s post.  We’ll take a look at what a husband really needs.