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.

Advertisements

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?

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.

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Last night, I was sitting up in bed and writing on my laptop, when my husband came in and walked over to his nightstand, picked up the framed photo of me and gave that picture a kiss.  It made me smile and he said “you do know that if you die, I will kiss this picture every single night?”.  This might seem morbid to you, but to us it’s normal conversation.  My reply might surprise you as well.  I told him “assuming that you would remarry, I don’t think that your new wife would appreciate that very much” to which he replied “I’m sure that she would be fine with it, as well as all of the times that I would tell her – that’s not how Madeline would have done it or that’s not what Madeline would say”.  As I listened to him fall asleep, I laid there thinking and asking questions.  Why is remarriage such a taboo subject?  God, if you release us from the bonds of marriage upon death, why do we have such a difficult time with the thought of becoming one with another special human being or accepting that our spouse will want companionship again?

 

A spouse, especially a man that has been separated by death from his wife, will likely want to remarry.  He may feel lonely and guilty at the same time.  He may feel ready to live life again with a new companion, but struggle with feelings that he is betraying his wife.  Family and friends might even judge him for moving on too soon with another woman.   Why do some men remarry so soon after becoming widowed?  What if he knew the woman while he was still married?  What if he is aware that his wife didn’t like this woman?  What if his children, family and friends don’t approve of her?  It gets complicated, doesn’t it?  All of this can send adult children into a tailspin and often those that don’t have a say-so in the matter, will force their opinions upon him.  I believe that it all comes back to creation.  Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”  A helper suitable for him.  God will provide a suitable helper because God says that it is not good for him to be alone.  God also has said that death releases us from the bonds of marriage.   Clearly, it is not up to others to judge a widower for who he chooses to remarry or when he chooses to pursue her, once he has been released by God from the bonds of his marriage.

 

My father-in-law was widowed in his late 80’s, and within two months he was involved with another woman.  He actually knew her while his wife was alive and he was probably aware that she was a good woman.  When he announced that he would remarry, some of his children found it difficult to accept.  He was always a faithful husband and father.  He was at his wife’s bedside when she died.  He did nothing wrong.  He just didn’t want to live out the rest of his years without a faithful companion.  Now, almost ten years later, his children couldn’t be happier about the woman that he chose and she being completely different from his first wife, has offered him an entirely different marriage experience.

 

When a man is widowed and has inclinations to remarry, usually it does happen quickly.  To understand this, we must look at one of the differences between men and women.  Women often have many friends and one or two that they can confide in.  Most men don’t have a friend that they confide in.  They might have many men that they know and regularly grunt and mumble with, but not a close confidant.  This is where their wife comes in.  Even though our husbands don’t talk as much as we do, they view us as their closest friend, confidant and supporter.  We are their best friend.

 

If a man remarries quickly after becoming widowed, it is a compliment to his previous wife.  She made marriage wonderful and he wants to experience it again.   This is between him and God.  Why not offer support and be happy that he is happy again?

Contentment in All Things

We didn’t allow a lot of television consumption in our home, but on my daughter’s first birthday, we went out and bought several episodes of VeggieTales.  My children grew up on those moral teaching, silly song singing vegetables.  Many times, I sat with them and enjoyed the clever ways that the creators brought their messages to life.  One episode has always been my favorite – Madame Blueberry, A Lesson in Thankfulness.

 

Although Madame Blueberry was struggling with discontentment in the area of “stuff”, the lesson taught me that discontentment is a toxin that can get into the bloodstream of our life and poison every aspect.  The writers of this episode boiled it down – the cure for discontentment is having a thankful heart.  Eighteen years later, I still remember this lesson and try to apply it regularly.  Today, we will address contentment in our marriages.   The apostle Paul teaches us some very important ideas that can be carried into our marriages.  He said that we can be content in all things and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  I would surmise that this includes being content in our marriage.  He taught us that God might not take away all difficult things but God’s grace is sufficient to get us through and that God’s power will be shown through this.  These principles can be utilized in our marriages to bring us greater happiness, peace and longevity.

 

There are marriages that survive and even thrive throughout all of the ups and downs.  Have you ever wondered why some marriages break apart and end in divorce while other marriages last until death do us part?  It isn’t because one marriage was easy and the other was hard.  One major reason is contentment – either a lack of contentment or a thankful heart.  A thankful heart chooses thankfulness – it chooses to focus on the good rather than the bad.  Whether you’ve been married for thirty years or one year, you are on a path together and you will have beautiful times and at other times, you may seriously question why you chose this person.  Remember, love is not a feeling but it is a choice.  When you are choosing to love in the way that God intended, you are living out the Gospel in your home and choosing to extend grace and mercy to each other.  This is a journey and any couple that makes it to the successful end, will tell you that it was not always easy but it was always worth it.  In every marriage, there is a daily opportunity to overlook each other’s weaknesses and flaws and deal lovingly with your spouse’s sin.  How in the world do we do this when our spouse is creating tension, angst or pain in our life?

 

We must realize and remind ourselves that we are imperfect too.  Each of us has the human condition – sin.  We have a tendency to look out for our own interests and we don’t like being wronged, inconvenienced, embarrassed or uncomfortable.  Also, we all have traits that even if they are not wrong, they still annoy the people that know us the best.  Once we realize this, overlooking our spouse’s faults becomes much easier.

 

I’m not suggesting that you never voice your concerns.  Some things do need to be voiced out of serious concern for the health of your marriage or even the mental, physical or spiritual health of your spouse or children.  How you go about voicing these concerns is crucial – check your motives.  You will never change your spouse and your love should never be conditional.  Only God and your spouse can do the actual work necessary for change.  So, once you have discussed your concerns, you must only very sparingly bring this up again.  For example, you may have concerns about the way that your spouse parents your children.  If it is not an issue of physical endangerment, emotional or spiritual abuse, you can voice concerns for your children’s sake but you cannot force change.  Your spouse may be abusing their body with food, alcohol or tobacco.  It is appropriate to express your concern for their long-term health and even your worry about losing them to an early death but once you have let them know how you are feeling, you have to let it go.  Policing them and harping on them will only drive them further into the abuse.  Another issue in marriage can be the lack of emotional support and encouragement.  Again, I think that it is important to help your spouse understand the deficiency and how it affects you but don’t bludgeon them.   An important part of being content in this area is being intentional about noticing the times that your spouse does support and encourage you.

 

There are areas where contentment is not appropriate.  First, if there is physical endangerment, being aware and vigilant is crucial, especially to protect children who cannot protect themselves.  If your spouse has abused or endangered you or the children, don’t justify this behavior.  Getting yourself and the children to safety is the first priority and then attempt to get your spouse the help that they need.  Second, you shouldn’t allow or enable controlling and manipulative behavior.  Instead, acknowledge it.  Once you’ve learned to recognize it, you cannot be controlled or manipulated unless you allow yourself to be.  Also, controlling and manipulative behavior has probably impaired your ability to trust your own judgement or decision making skills.  If this is you, seek wise counsel to help you make sense of the situation.  If enabled to continue, controlling and manipulative behavior will negatively impact the development your children.

 

If you remember only one thing from this post, remember that you are not responsible for changing your spouse – you are responsible for loving them.  Sometimes loving them means keeping your mouth shut.  Sometimes loving them means holding them accountable.  Sometimes loving them means not allowing them to control and manipulate you or the children.  Sometimes loving them means getting them to professional help.  Don’t exaggerate behavior that can be overlooked and don’t throw the safety net under someone who needs consequences.  May God richly bless you and your marriage with the peace of a thankful contented heart.

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.