My Word Lesson

It wasn’t always this way.  Words haven’t always meant so much to me.  I didn’t always grasp the impact of a word, or the chasm created by the absence of words.  Now I seem to have a love affair with words.  Sometimes I choose to keep them to myself, and sometimes I use them to express my heart, and sometimes I use them to make someone else feel good, but unfortunately, sometimes my words have made someone feel bad.

 

Recently, our son said “mom, you don’t talk to us the way that you used to – you’re not as kind and patient as you were before”.   Before what?  My heart broke, and I thought long and hard.  It seems that the pressures of my current life and challenges were really getting to me.  Due to the necessary busyness of my life, I now believe that my relationship with my Lord began to suffer.  The branch, had become disconnected from the Vine.  The fruit that had existed on the branch, was beginning to shrivel and rot.  This manifested itself in short-tempered and harsh attitudes and speech.   As I wrote this post, I realized something else.  My son had been witnessing his mother as she worshiped God on Sunday, and then she returned home as a hypocrite.

 

I make no excuses for myself.  Yes, the demands are great, but do I have the same power in me that raised Christ?  Yes, it is available to me as a Christian, but if the branch is disconnected from the Vine, I am also disconnected from His power.  This is the power that could enable me to have grace on my tongue, no matter what my circumstances.

 

Now we’ve come full circle.  Why do words mean so much to me?  One word – legacy.  I want to leave a sweet legacy.  As it has been said, “taste your words before you spit them out”.  I want my words to be silent when appropriate.  I want my words to be carefully measured, with exactly the right amount of grace combined with truth.  I want my words to be merciful, encouraging and uplifting.  I want to be speaking these words for the rest of my life.  I want these words, to be the words on my lips, as I speak my very last.

 

I am the Vine, you are the branches.  Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from Me, you can do nothing.   John 15:5

Youthfulness Doesn’t Have a Number

You know her.  She walks into the room, and others become aware of her presence. She is hated by some women, and loved by most men. The woman that despises her, will search high and low, to find a chink in her armor.  Men will notice her, and think that she rocks completely chink free. There is just something about her.

 

What this woman possesses and releases into the room, is the magic of youthful feminine loveliness. She is confident, but this doesn’t mean that she believes that she’s perfect.  Actually, it is quite the opposite. She is very aware of her imperfections, but she chooses to view them in a positive light. This kind of confidence, comes from a deep relationship with the One who designed her.  She is happy with her appearance and her personality – imperfections, quirks and all. The confidence that she feels, allows her to reach out to others, freely giving of herself, and she works to accept that she may never receive anything in return.  This doesn’t always come easy to her.  There are days that she could easily curl up inside of herself, to lick her wounds and insecurities, but she chooses to reach outwardly instead.

 

How does she do this?  It’s really not that complicated.  She is sweet, spicy and fun.  She is open and honest – showing her authenticity.  She smiles.  She looks others in the eye. She talks to the ones that others ignore. She listens with care. She doesn’t allow herself to be cliquish.  She may not be young, but she exudes youthfulness.  She’s like a magnet that draws others in.

 

Don’t be jealous of her – she isn’t your enemy.  You would be better served to examine your own attitudes and demeanor, and then learn from her.  Here’s a word about men.  They like this woman, and they can’t see anything wrong with her, so if you are tempted to speak negatively about her, or even raise an unapproving eyebrow when her name comes up, you might be pushing a man away.  A man won’t always be able to identify why this offends him – he just knows that it makes him very uncomfortable to hear a woman attempt to destroy his image of woman that he admires.  Men are attracted to youthfulness, and they are repelled by prudish catty behaviors.

 

Good news – youthfulness doesn’t have a number.  It exists in a woman that whether she is physically young or not, she captivates others with a glow that comes from within.  It’s her capacity to love others, and it comes from a confidence that quietly, softly radiates outward.   Youthfulness is so much better than merely a young physical appearance. This woman will actually make others feel better after they have had interaction with her. She breaths life-giving oxygen into a room and into the lives within it.

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?

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.