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?

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.

She’s a Rock

There’s this woman that we know.  She’s rock candy.  Solid and strong as a rock but sweet as candy.  She appears to be self-assured.  She is a ray of sunshine.  From the outside, it looks like her entire life is peachy.   She notices when others aren’t coming around and she checks up on them.  She senses when others seem down or burdened and she offers help or encouragement.  Others rely on her and she seems to have the time to come to their aid.  Since she’s a rock, people assume that she has no emotional, physical or spiritual needs but I assure you, she is human too.  She’s a flesh and blood woman with challenges, struggles, pain and heartaches.  She doesn’t always have her life, emotions or health in order?  Sometimes she feels like everything in her life is falling apart.  Sometimes she feels like she is falling apart.

 

What makes her different?  Why does she appear to have life under control?  How does she have spare time and energy to reach out to others?  It’s simple – she just makes a moment by moment choice to focus on working hard and conducting herself with excellence and integrity and she reaches outward to others in lieu of becoming overly self-focused.  She is strong, caring and compassionate but her life is far from perfect.  She has the same challenges in her faith and trust, marriage and children, job and home, health and beauty, as every other woman.

 

She is trusting, patient and forgiving but when she reaches her own personal limit of hurtful, disrespectful, rude or careless behavior from another human being, she will draw the line.  Because of her authentic character, she won’t always merely distance herself.  Her strength causes her to confront the situation but her kind nature causes her to choose her words very carefully.  She will keep the majority of the details to herself, only telling the bare minimum of what she has experienced and she will trust that God will handle the rest.  If this woman decides to confront, she has considered the circumstances carefully.  A wise person will listen and consider what she has said for she has already proven her integrity.  It is most likely the truth and even though there is much more to the story, out of politeness or consideration of the feelings or reputation of those who are involved, she won’t discuss it.  Don’t talk behind her back or blame her for the wrongdoings of someone else and don’t try to influence others to think badly of her.  All of this adds insult to her injury.  Instead, remember how this woman gave generously and realize that she simply reached a point of self-preservation.

 

Lastly, realize that this woman needs care too.  Ask her about her life.  She’s not strong all of the time.  Sometimes she is exhausted.  Sometimes she is crippled by fear.  Sometimes she is in physical or emotional pain.  She gives her love freely but she still needs to receive love.  She needs to know that others genuinely care about her too.  She needs to know that she has positively impacted other lives.

 

Would you be the one who cares for her?  Make today the day or let her wake up tomorrow with a message or phone call from you.  Ask her how she slept, or how she’s feeling, or ask her about her life, or just let her know that you’ve been thinking about her.  Let her know how she has impacted you.  These might seem like small gestures, but her heart will soar all day long.

The Road to Reconciliation and Peace

What does reconciliation look like?  Has it occurred between two parties, simply because they are able to be courteous to each other?  Is it possible to forgive without reconciliation occurring?

 

Forgiveness is the responsibility of the offended and it is required by God.  It is not contingent on the offender apologizing or asking for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is possible, even if the offender never realizes what they’ve done, or even if they refuse to take responsibility for their actions or words.  Forgiveness does not release the offender from their guilt but it releases the offended from the burden.   When we’ve been hurt by another person, it is a challenge to forgive but it is a choice that must be made and refusing to forgive, puts a wedge between us and God.  You see, for the most part, forgiving is vertical – it is between you and God.  He requires you to forgive, enables you to forgive and He restores peace between you and Him, when you forgive.  Forgiveness is usually not a one-time occurrence but instead, many singular moments of obedience.

 

Biblical reconciliation, which brings lasting peace in a relationship, goes deep.  In order for it to begin, both parties need to be ready.  The offender will need to be ready to hear the entire truth of how they have hurt, without resorting to excuses or anger and ready to take responsibility.  The offended must be free of bitterness and if they haven’t already done so, they must be ready to forgive.  Reconciling is a process of deconstructing the relationship and then building it back up.  It goes something like this:  realization of wrongdoing, grief and remorse, confession or admittance, forgiveness desired and restitution, if necessary.  Restoration of the relationship can now begin and trust can be rebuilt.  In true reconciliation, there is no room for defensiveness or excuse making and if the offender is in this mode, it is not yet possible.  If the hurt party is bitter, unforgiving and punishing, then it is not yet possible.  Notice that in both cases, I have said “not yet”.  Give it time and let God deal with the hearts of those that are involved.  Pray for yourself and the other party.  In time, there may be softened hearts and then the process can begin.

 

God’s word is our source of truth – so I would like to share my favorite story of offense, remorse, forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s the story of Joseph, which starts in Genesis 37.  Joseph was a golden boy.  He was gifted and favored by God and preferred by his earthly father.  He attracted blessing but he was also the subject of jealousy and evil plotting.  His own brothers concocted a plan to get rid of Joseph and he was sold into slavery.  Once in a new land, Joseph was again favored but through a twisting of events, he was lied about and went to prison because of it.  In prison, Joseph aided others and the person that he helped to get out of prison, forgot about him for years.  Finally, through amazing circumstances Joseph was released from prison and became very powerful.  If anyone had reason to be embittered, it was Joseph and he could have used his power to punish those who had hurt him but Joseph had a soft and forgiving heart, and most of all, he knew that his sovereign God would bring good out of all his hardships.  Looking for help from the wealthy land of Egypt, his brothers came to this land where Joseph was now a powerful man.   They never imagined that they would run into Joseph again.  Joseph recognized them but they didn’t realize that the man in charge was their brother.  In Genesis 42, we over-hear the brothers expressing remorse over what they had done to their brother and we see that Joseph was secretly listening to their discussion.  In Genesis 44, the brothers lament that their current hardships must be a punishment for their previous sins.  These are key moments in the story and I believe crucial to the reconciliation that is about to happen.  Joseph reveals himself to them and there is a tender reunion and healing words.  Without the brothers becoming remorseful and taking responsibility for their motives and actions, do you think that this family reunion would have played out this way?  In order for reconciliation to occur, the offending party must be able to see how they have hurt the other party and then take the next courageous steps.

 

If you’ve hurt someone, the greatest gift that you can give to them, is to confess and apologize, naming the specific wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness.  The magnificence of healing then begins to occur for both parties.  If you have been accused of offending and are having trouble getting to the acceptance and confession stage, try remembering a time when someone hurt you.  How did you feel?  What would have helped you?  Did they take responsibility or did they merely give you the “I’m sorry if” – the un-apology?  The un-apology adds insult to injury.  Remembering a time when we were the casualty, softens our heart and prepares us to take responsibility for our own actions and words.

 

Unfortunately, reconciliation doesn’t always occur.  Sometimes the offender cannot be trusted.  Sometimes the parties would rather avoid the unpleasantness of confrontation by playing nicey-nice or simply just avoiding the other party.  Sometimes the involved hearts are hardened.

 

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to be continually forgiving each other and also praying for and being open to the possibility of reconciliation but it must be genuine biblical reconciliation.  If you have hurt someone, check your heart for readiness and then it’s up to you to make the next move.  If you’ve been hurt, prepare your heart for future reconciliation, by doing the work of forgiving, ridding yourself of bitterness and punishing attitudes.  I hope that you’ll begin to travel the road of reconciliation and that you’ll be blessed with the final result of peace within your own heart and mind as well as peace between you and others.

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.

Playing All Your Hearts

Rare and generous, they are created with a unique capacity to love.  They give of themselves liberally and expect very little in return.  This is the bright side, but what about the dark side?  Too often, these large-hearted souls attract a person that is unable to return love due to their own circumstances, personality, emotional problems, mental illness or addictions.  Worse yet, sometimes their love is met with critical, rude or malicious behavior.

 

It would feel better to be like most others – able to let it roll off and move on but usually the person who loves deeply does not do this with ease.  They put great effort into relationships and when there is failure, their emotional wound can be deep.  If they are the type that is willing to examine themselves, they will probably blame themselves for the failure.  If this is you, you may long to be like others but God created you with this capacity to love and yes, there will be times that you will get hurt.  The question isn’t “how can I avoid getting hurt” or “how do I make the hurt go away quickly?”.  The real question is “what will I learn from the experience?”.  The greater the investment, the greater the gain and in every failure, there is always a gain.  Learn to look for this and be thankful for it.  What you gain isn’t always from good.  Sometimes, it is a lesson learned from a negative experience.

 

If you are that person who is putting all of your cards on the table, and they are all hearts, it is crucial that you are learning from the good and bad that comes out of your relationships.  People with a great capacity to love, will often take two or three steps forward, while the other person involved takes fewer steps, or even none at all.  Every healthy relationship is like a waltz.  Even though the gait and physicality of each person is different, there is a rhythm and mutual movement to make the dance beautiful and mutually satisfying.  A waltz wouldn’t work if only one person wants to dance or performs all of the movements?  What should we learn from this?

 

First, remember that trust in a relationship must be earned and trusting too soon, will eventually lead to difficulties.  Second, in order for a relationship to withstand the test of time, each person should, in their own way, be giving to it.  Reciprocation doesn’t have to be exactly in the same fashion or equal amounts but there should be energy poured into the relationship from each side.  Third, invest appropriately – don’t take three steps forward when the other person isn’t also taking steps forward.  Finally, in a situation where only one person gives, you have a ministry – consider whether or not this is acceptable to you.

 

Whatever the reasons, when a relationship is unfulfilling, it can cause heartbreak to the person who has loved and poured into it.  Your investment isn’t wasted.  Even if the other person didn’t appreciate you, they probably benefited from knowing you and with the insight that you have gained, go out and love again but this time, know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.

He’s Not a Fan of That Game

What does every male have that he loves very much?  Two things come to mind immediately, but we’re not going to discuss the one that just made you chuckle.  Today, we’re talking about the females in man’s life – a mother, sister, grandmother, friend, girlfriend, daughter or wife.

 

Just tell me what you want.  What did I do wrong?  I’m so eager to please you.  These are the pleas of a son, brother, grandson, male friend, boyfriend, father and husband.  The men in your life, would like you to know, a woman can relieve a load of pressure from her relationships with men, if she would communicate her hurts, complaints and desires.  When a woman becomes silent, responds with a curt answer or withholds kindness or intimacy, he interprets this as a manipulative game play and he’s not a fan of that game.

 

How can a woman avoid this behavior?

 

>If he has hurt, upset or disappointed you, tell him.  Calmly.  Don’t make him wonder, beg or plead.  The tension is a relationship killer.  If you are too hurt or angry to behave respectfully or warmly, let him know that you will talk about it when you’re calm and then make sure that you do.  Don’t let it build and don’t withhold kindness in the meantime.

 

>Don’t ignore a man and then suddenly use sweetness or flirtation to get what you want.  If it is appropriate for you to flirt with this man, flirt but not because you want something from him.

 

>If you ask a man for input on decisions, then listen to his point of view.  Don’t bother asking if you’re not going to consider his ideas, feelings, tastes or dislikes.

 

>If he asks you where you would like to go out to eat or what you would like to do, don’t respond with “I don’t care – you decide”.  Usually, men don’t want to make this decision on their own.  If you have nothing in mind, ask him to offer a few choices and then pick one.  He wants you to enjoy yourself.

 

>Do you want or need something from him?  Make your request be known.  Don’t make him guess and then get upset when he doesn’t “read your mind” correctly.  Does it need to be done immediately?  Let him know why.

 

>Don’t use social media to display passive aggressive or other negative behaviors.  Your snarky remark isn’t gaining you points.  In fact, it hurts him and he loses respect for you.

 

>If this man is your husband, do not withhold sex as a punishment.  Clearly, intimacy is emotional for a woman, so work out your differences as quickly as possible and then return to a great relationship.

 

Respectful communication is crucial.  Learn how to communicate your hurt, requests and expectations calmly.  The golden rule can be applied here, so speak in the same manner that you would like to be spoken to.  You’ll likely get what you want and need and he won’t be walking on thin ice out in the freezing cold.  Everyone is a winner.

Deep Within

The following was originally published one year ago.  It struck a chord with both men and women and it is a topic worthy of revisiting.  As an introduction, I include the brief statement below, which was written by a real woman who wanted her voice to be heard.  She offered her heart, so that others would be helped.  She entitled this “Look at Me”.

 

“I am your greatest earthly treasure, sitting on the shelf. You pour yourself into things that will be tossed tomorrow. Look at me! Strangers and acquaintances affirm me today and maybe tomorrow but you don’t see my gifts. Look at me! You see my adornments and your hands examine the jewels but you don’t look deep enough to 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, invisible with tears in my eyes. Look at me! What do I want? I do want you to love my adornments, I do want you to praise what I do and I do want you to know who I am, deep inside of my mind and my heart. Who am I? Don’t look at me but look deep within me.”

 

She wrote this during her darkest moments and from a place of deep pain but it isn’t earth shattering. Too many women struggle with similar thoughts and feelings. She is not a depressed woman.  Actually, she describes herself as happy and striving for contentment. She is an ordinary woman and just like most women, her emotional tank occasional becomes empty. Husbands, this post is not intended to heap more burden or guilt onto you.  I’m hoping that this fills in the blanks for many men.  I know that so many men labor and struggle to understand how to fulfill their wife.  I will boil it down for you.  Love your wife by studying her. Make her your lifelong learning project. There is nothing sexier than a man learning about what makes his woman tick. I know it’s difficult and it requires effort – actually, it requires hard work but please realize that it is difficult for her to let you lead, put you before the children and make your sexual needs a priority? You see, these things are foreign to her, just like it is foreign to you to study your wife.

 

I love how music speaks to our hearts.  There is a beautiful song called Exploring the Blue by Luka Bloom.  He sings – “I go down into the water, and dive as deep as man can go, into those dark places, watch the underwater flow, exploring the blue, in search of you, here I stand by the mountain, look up to the sky, knowing it’s a matter of having to climb, above this place these clouds lie.”  This beautiful song is about a man going as deep or climbing as high as he needs to go, in order to understand and know his woman.  Studying your wife is all about your efforts.  Observe her and verbally affirm her.  There are no flowcharts and at times you may find this to be quite the challenge, but here are a few ideas to get you going.  “I was amazed at how you handled that situation” or “I was watching you from a distance as you spoke to that person.  I loved your smile and facial expressions” or “it really impresses me that you know where to go in God’s word to find the answers”.  Give her specifics – tell her why she amazed you or what it was about her smile and facial expressions that you loved.

 

Most women have a deep need to be understood by those closest to them.  She wants you to see and value her essence.  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.  Is she compassionate? Is she kind and thoughtful – putting others above herself? Is she sensitive to the moods and hurts of others? Does she love others even though she has been hurt in the past? Does her heart of compassion move her to take action? Is she intelligent?  Is she goofy, funny or witty?  Can she find the humor in almost every situation?  Is she as sweet as sugar and yet vivacious and sexy all at the same time?  This is her essence.

 

Look deep within her heart and her mind and appreciate her essence. Praise her and brag about these qualities as well as her physical beauty and the tasks that she completes. As a woman ages, her physical beauty will change, the volume of tasks that she can complete will reduce but it is her essence that will remain and even become more beautiful in time. I know that you love this woman. Give her hope by looking deep within.