Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day Three: Love Fest!

Day 3:
The Dare: Along with restraining from negative comments, but your spouse something that says, "I was thinking of you today."
Based on the verse: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." Romans 12:10
Points that impacted me the most: Why do we have such low standards for ourselves but high expectations for our mate? The answer is a painful pill to swallow. We are all selfish. When a wife constantly complains about the time and energy she spends meeting the needs of her husband, that's a sign of selfishness. But love "does not seek its own." (1 Cor 13:5) True love looks for ways to say "yes". Remember, your marriage partner also has the challenge of loving a selfish person. So determine to be the first to demonstrate real love to them, with your eyes wide open.

This was so good for me. The text was the best part. It was helpful to remember what I was working towards when I made a special trip to the dollar store to buy him a bag of sour patch kids flavored cotton candy (trust me...right up his alley). The not saying anything negative has been really good too! I've had to get really creative on how I communicate and I realize that the majority of the time if I asked a few questions like "what do you mean?" or "I don't understand what you're saying" the situation is diffused. I'm aware now of how quickly I would jump to an emotional reaction without clarifying, and then he just goes on the defensive. Also, I've had to get very creative aobut how to problem solve. Like today when he started complaining again about how he doesn't like the diaper rash cream I buy and he doesn't think it does anything (the only brand he thinks that works id Desitin) instead of saying what I wanted to say---which I won't elaborate on) I just said, "How about I call the doctor and ask if they suggest a brand." YEAH! I know!
Two things have been interesting in this journey:
1. John commented to me last night about how little we've been arguing. I was overflowing with thankfulness to God for that fact. It's TRUE! It's amazing how much changing myself changed the equation. (Tributes to the MJ "Man in the mirror" song)
2. He's started looking more and more like the man I married.
And the funniest part is...his looks haven't changed....but my glasses have.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day Two: Love Fest!

I obviously skipped yesterday in my posting. Mainly because I realized that I need to be able to check the box of accomplishing the dare before I can write about my experience. We will now continue on our regularly scheduled program:

Day Two
The Dare: In addition to saying nothing negative to your spouse again today, do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness.
Based on the verse: "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32
Point that impacted me the most: I don't even know where to start. This book is revolutionary in that you not only read something really powerful, but then you're told to DO something with it. I underlined the majority of the points on this day. Here is a sampling: "Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive." "Kindness thinks ahead, then takes the first step. It doesn't sit around waiting to be prompted or coerced before getting off the couch. The kind husband or wife will be the one who greets first, smiles first, serves first, and forgives first. They don't require the other to get his or her act together before showing love."
So good!
Here's what I did. Friday night John and I had a drag out fight (the night before I started the book). I was ironing and told him I was too tired to finish, he was upset that I hadn't ironed his shirt in weeks. I threw a royal hissy fit that included (but was not limited to) throwing his shirt on the chair, vowing to never iron anything of his for the rest of my life, and proceeding to look for things to iron of anyone else's in the house to make the point that I wasn't ironing his shirt abundantly clear (I mean, I was ready to go and wrinkle some clothes just to iron them to make him mad).
Okay, I warned you not only that I was immature, but also that I would be brutally honest.
So yesterday, I ironed his shirt. I didn't think he was going to say anything. He walked by me, and I was reminding myself of why I was doing it, when he got about halfway up the stairs he thanked me. This wasn't the "fall at my feet profuse thanking" that I expected, but I'd take it.
Then he added "Thanks....for doing your job." (he started laughing....I did not) He thought he was being funny but it really gets under my skin when he makes jabs like this. In fact, I paused for a moment and seriously contemplated sticking the hot iron on his shirt and walking away....that would have felt SO good. Resolved not to let it blow into a huge thing, I just reminded myself he was kidding, and didn't say a word.
So here's the second part (that I've already begun to touch on) it's getting harder not to say anything negative.
I'll be the first to admit that we need to confront certain issues in others. (ask anyone who knows me) The problem is I've gotten a little too good at the confrontation part. So I've realized I just can't say anything for a while. Till I get better at thinking before I talk. Eventually, I'll learn how to calm down, forgive, and then speak. Not there yet.
So I just shut it.
A lot.
And it's getting really hard.
But here's the sneaky thing that the author of this book doesn't tell you. When you're so concerned about making sure you don't say anything negative to your spouse. Your words are always on your mind. See, I'm being so careful to not want to break my dare and say something nasty, that I'm really thinking carefully about all the things I say. I'm even realizing when I just complain (and I think...wait....did that count?) So I'm realizing just how quick I talk, without thinking about the weight of my words. This has been awesome for me. And really has shown me how often my anger and quick tongue brings on arguments that I could have let go otherwise.
Anyways, all this to say, I'm loving it. I'm learning over and over that God is using this imperfect man, to butt right up against the rough parts of myself to change ME.
I recently read a really great analogy about how relationships are like a math equation. If x + y = z, (let's say John is the "x", I am the "y" and what we get in our marriage is the "z". Now, I'll never be able to change the "x". EVER!
Do you believe that?
But I can change the y...which will in turn change the outcome. See if I take x + 2y= something totally different.
Interesting how that works. God's changing the outcome...by changing me.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Yes...we can.

I'm looking at this blank screen before me and my thoughts are feeling somewhat like jambalaya. Trying to lay out each piece in some sort of way that makes sense is going to be challenging.
There are a few questions I ask sometimes when I'm writing this blog:
1. Is anyone reading?
2. How can I communicate what God has taught me with simple little words.
I'm just going to pray that someone is reading, and that whoever it is that God will open their eyes to the same truth that he opened mine to.
Let me just jump right in.
Read this verse:
(this is where I spilled coffee all over my Bible)
God "determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." Acts 17:26
That's the first part: you are where you are on purpose.
Very simply. Wherever you are...whenever you are...it is right where God has determined you to be.
Here is the second part:
you were put there to DO something.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9
So, we are not put here to get, make, diet, acquire, survive, buy, get by, and coast. We are put here to change the world. We are put here to declare God's praises. We are put here to live for our eternal kingdom.
Don't miss that. Don't believe lies. Do not miss your purpose. Dont' waste your life. You have influence somewhere. You are called to do something with your life. To magnify Christ.
As a believer, living for anything BUT your eternal destiny in heaven is a waste.
NOW! I will qualify it just a little bit, God does want us to enjoy things he has given us. He has given us this life, it's acceptable to enjoy it. But don't enjoy it while believing the lie that it's what you're living for. Don't enjoy it at the cost of missing the bigger picture.
"Only one life...will soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."
There are only two things that are eternal, God's word, and people.
Invest your life wisely.
Here's the third part:
you CAN...through Christ.
Daughter....Son of God....do you even realize the powers that are bound up within your fleshly body? I don't!
"the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:21
I know.
That's me. That's you. Let's start living like it matters.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Triple Dog Dare!

I submit to you a new blog series over the next 40 days! Let's call it "40 Day Love Fest"....cause it sounds cool.
John is forbidden from reading my blog for what I have told him is an indefinite amount of time, because I've recently decided to do the Love Dare book, and he doesn't know about it.
My commitment is to do the dare each day for 40 days, and write a short post each day for you about how it's going.
I will be completely honest. Our marriage will not look very good at times. And I will show you just how immature I am. (all of which makes you more excited to read it I'm sure...come on! Those gossip columns don't sell like hot cakes for no reason!)
Here we go....pack a lunch.
Day one:
The Dare: For the next day resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything.
Based on the verse: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2
Point that impacted me most: "Patience helps you give your spouse permission to be human. It understand that everyone fails. When a mistake is made, it chooses to give them more time than they deserve to correct it."

So...it actually hasn't been as hard as I thought. But I admit I haven't had serious annoying things come up that have pushed it as much as I thought. I did realize though how often I am the one that starts fights. I don't know if you knew this about me, but I tend to have a chronic case of diarrhea mouth. (which is a disgusting but completely fitting example of when you don't even control what you say at all and crap comes out way too freely). So today when Lincoln was bossing me around and I said "Lincoln, mommy doesn't obey you...who do I obey?" and Lincoln responded with "Daddy" to which john replied "you got that right" and I felt the urge to let out a big fat "Yeah Right--like that's ever gonna happen" but I instead responded with "No, mommy obeys God." (I think I actually made an audible "mmm"...when the words were getting ready to jump out of my mouth and I was trying to stop them.) Clearly this is a funny example of something John said (he wasn't being serious--so it wasn't too hard to keep my mouth shut).
But there has been more than one time where I've felt myself want to say something that I know would have snowballed into a huge eruption, and I chose instead to not say it...and things coasted along.
All that to say that so far...it's been a good thing for me. But, did I mention it's only 2:00pm?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

whooooaa here she comes....watch out boy, she'll chew you up!

Yeah...she's a maneater. Well....it applies to women too...she's just plain mean.
Guess who she is?
Yours truly.
I have a total mean streak. If you've never encountered it (although I doubt there is one of you reading who can't shout a big fat "AMEN" right now) hang around me a little longer, unfortunately I'm sure you will (although hopefully by God's grace you won't).
I'm doing a Beth Moore stud right now, and she recently touched on the topic of our mean streaks.
Let me tell you, my girl knows how to speak the truth (and I think she's also got a hidden camera in my house).
She touched on how "meanness perceives a threat." Which was revolutionary to me.
This means that when we react in a way that's showing that mean streak, that when we start feeling our hackles rise up and the claws come out (oh you've done it...don't lie), its because we're perceiving some sort of threat. I started thinking about this in my own life and it's so true.
Two things of note:
1. We have to identify the threat because we will have the capacity to react to it the rest of our lives.

I mean, if we're gonna battle this forever, or at least have the potential to, we might as well settle in on what it's going to look like amen?

2. Insecurity is at the heart of every rivalry.

We compare ourselves. Come on.....yes we do. I'll be the first to admit (and might even tell you out loud) that I compare myself to waaaay too many people. It's dangerous territory. The Bible says:
"But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense." 2 Corinthians 10:12
Let me tell you, I have had a figurative measuring stick in my back pocket from the moment I was wearing a training bra. And it is NOT fun to be constantly measuring.
I am done measuring. Will you be too?
I started realizing when I feel this mean streak coming on, and what makes the streak come out most often. I realized it's usually when something I put great stock in being good at is threatened. Think about this one with me:
Someone at the park comes up to you and wants to tell you something that your kid just did wrong (I'm not talking good natured friend--I'm talking the mean mommy who thinks their kid is better), are the hackles coming up? How about your husband trying to question the way you parent your kids during the day? Whatever it is, it seems that we get most riled up when we see whatever it is that we use to find our security and worth in being threatened (being a mommy, wife, house cleaner, party planner, wedding coordinator (those are all mine you know).
Now let me give you something to build your tent on (and you better camp there I'll tell you now):
You are worthy because you are a daughter of the Creator of the Universe.
Don't you DARE believe one thing less than this. Not for one second!
Your worth is not based on one lie that this world will tell you.
You are not worthy because you are a good mama.
You are not worthy because you are a sweet wife.
You are not worthy because you are a good friend.
You are not worthy because you have enough scriptures memorized.
Your worth is based only and entirely upon being a daughter (a princess) of the King of Kings.
And that sister....will never change.
You can camp there and the moment you start feeling threatened you just start remembering that your worth is based in something that will never change falter or fade. Your worth is not less on a day when you scream at your kids. Your worth is the same every day of the week and twice on Sunday because it is based in being a daughter of God.
"My salvation and honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge." Psalm 62:7
"As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." Isaiah 62:5
Now I want you to get in your head a picture of your sweet husband's face when those doors opened up for you to walk down the aisle. Remember it? I do. Like the day is long! Remember how excited he was? Did his face just light up? I'll tell you something sweet sister, our husbands faces may not do that every time we walk into a room...but our God's face? Does. We who have been clothed in Christ's righteousness by accepting him as our Savior should settle for believing nothing less. And our value in God's eyes does not change ever. Christ is our righteousness, we are his sisters, he is not ashamed of us. And he delights in us.
"For both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." Hebrew 2:11
Don't you prostitute your worth out to anything else. And don't you believe one more lie.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

God the balloon popper

Where do I start?
Lincoln just had a birthday. So we have a giant Batman balloon that we have tied several other smaller balloons to the end of. Here's the thing, the Batman balloon is big, it's filled with lots of helium, and the other smaller balloons tied to the end of it are... smaller. So in the morning, my father in law would come upstairs (they're visiting from out of town) and see the Batman balloon sinking closer and closer to the ground, and he would grab the end of it, pull it down and cut one of the balloons free. The Batman balloon would happily rise back up to the top of the ceiling, glad to be free of the weight of that other balloon, only to be plagued again the next morning by yet another heavy balloon that needed to be free.
Is the imagery smacking you in the forehead yet? Just wait.
So here I am this morning, at the table, reading my Bible and here's what I read:
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." James 4:4
"for while we are in this tent we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." 2 Corinthians 5:4
And after reading that I look up from my Bible, feeling so heavy hearted and frustrated that I can never get it and weary and like I just can't fit in this world. And my father-in-law just cuts one balloon free and up it goes (at this point it hasn't dawned on me yet) and then he says "those other balloons keep weighing it down, we just have to cut them off one by one, and we'll cut another one off tomorrow."
I remembered a conversation I had with my husband the day before, where I was telling him how hard it is for me to feel forgiven, and all I see is the things I need to change, and I just wish I could be better at walking in the spirit by now. And he tells me how I've learned to live this way all my life, and God is taking the time to remove the things one by one. The sin....the things that weigh me down. And he'll never be done doing it, he'll just keep pruning, and removing them one by one.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1
It's the process of sanctification, but it's nothing without grace to cover it. If I'm just left getting pruned over and over, it hurts. I feel condemned, but knowing that I have so great a salvation that my sins are already taken care of, I am encouraged. And strengthened.
"Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again." Psalm 71:20-21
That's what he's in the business of doing after all. Increasing honor and comforting. But how does he do that? By getting rid of the stuff that drags us down, again and again, so that more of him (more of what the balloon was made to do....fly) can happen.
I could go on forever. I love it when God shows me something in my life that illustrates exactly what he's teaching me. I'll never look at balloons again without also remembering the faithful God who helps me become more of what he created me to be. And who lovingly calls me daughter the whole time.