Monday, November 26, 2012

MARRIAGE MINUTE #2: Love Languages

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

  Luke 10:27

MARRIAGE MINUTE #2:  Love Languages

Knowing each other’s Love Languages is the easy part..."speaking" each other's Love Language…well, I just wish that I was as good at it as Brad is.  When asked what the greatest commandments were, Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If we all applied those two commandments to our lives, it would be world-changing!  Putting God first, loving Him together and loving each other as we would love ourselves, that would be marriage-changing!   So, let’s all do it, right?  Well, it’s not always so easy.  Why?

Please don’t hear me saying that I don’t love my husband…I do…very much…with all my heart.  But sometimes it’s easier for me to show others that I love them than it is for me to show Brad that I love him.  I feel that with others---friends, neighbors or even strangers, I put all my heart into loving them, but sometimes my husband gets what’s left over.  After showing love and serving others,  taking care of the kids, cleaning the house, making meals, doing laundry, playing spiderman, reading books in silly voices, spending time with and encouraging friends, returning emails, planning a mom’s ministry, I wonder why I don’t have as much to give to Brad?  Hmmmm…Oh, I don’t know…could I be……… tired?  Yes, of course I am.  But why should Brad get the tired me…the exhausted me…the I-just-want-to-go-to-sleep me?   

God is really challenging me this week to love Brad as much as I would love anyone else.  To put loving him as more of a priority, especially because I know what his love languages are.  Not to say that it’s easy for me to always communicate using his love languages especially because we don’t “speak” in the same love languages, but at least I know where to start.  At least I know what I need to work on this week to show my husband how much I truly love him by "speaking" his love languages.

Learning your spouse’s love language will change your marriage.  It really will.  But then you also have to apply that knowledge.  And that’s when your marriage will truly thrive!  Knowing your love language will help you understand how you feel loved.  Knowing your spouse's love language will help you understand how your spouse feels loved.  Speaking each other's love language will help you become more giving, loving, attentive.  Speaking each other's love language requires thoughtfulness, effort and yes, energy.  But it's worth it!
So what are the Love Languages?  Well, to fully comprehend what the love languages are all about, I highly recommend that you read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman WITH your spouse.  I promise that it is not only an easy read, but it is also both interesting and enlightening.  Here is the world’s shortest summary of it:

There are 5 love languages—5 ways in which we feel loved and show our love to others.

1.      Words of Affirmation—encouragement, way to gos, great jobs

2.      Quality Time---spending time together talking, laughing, interacting (not just watching tv)

3.      Receiving Gifts---special, thoughtful gifts

4.      Acts of Service---housework, getting up with the kids, putting gas in the car, doing something kind and thoughtful

5.      Physical Touch---massages, hugs, flirty touching, and of course, sex

I am definitely a Words of Affirmation and Quality Time woman.  My husband is Acts of Service and of course, Physical Touch.  Is there any guy out there who's not?  Because we speak totally different love languages, it can make it more of a challenge to show each other love.  A lot of times, we tend to show our spouse love in a way that we feel loved and not in the way they feel loved which is why it’s so important to know the other person’s love language.  I love the story that they author tells of a couple who were completely dissatisfied with their long-term marriage.  He did EVERYTHING for her—yard work, house work, anything she needed, he did it, but she was never satisfied.  Dr. Chapman, knowing that the wife's love language was Quality Time not Acts of Service (which was the husband's love language), gave the husband an assignment to just sit and talk to her for 15 minutes a day.  That changed everything!  The husband was shocked to learn that all those years to show her love, all he needed to do was talk to her for 15 minutes instead of working his butt off doing all these things for her that didn’t even make her happy at all.  I LOVE this! 

Brad and I experienced something similar when, years ago, I would call him on my drive home from a rough day of teaching and needed to vent.  The conversation would always end in an argument because he wanted to fix it (Acts of Service) and help me figure out how I should go about making the problem better, but that just made me even more mad and upset not only at the situation but also at him for not understanding me.  After reading the book, I learned that because one of my love languages was Words of Affirmation, all I really needed from him was some encouragement.  So, I told him…”Honey, from now on, please just let me talk and then say things like ‘It will all be ok’ or ‘You’ll have a better day tomorrow’ and just listen to me.”  Sure enough, the next time I needed to vent, he said, “It will all be ok.  You’ll have a better day tomorrow.”  I just laughed.  I didn’t mean for him to use the EXACT words that I gave him, but it made us both crack up. 

This week, I pray that you will take steps forward in not just finding out each other’s love languages but speaking them to each other as well.   Once Brad realized that he didn’t have to worry about fixing the problems I had, he couldn’t believe how much easier it was just to listen and encourage me.  And that’s what he does now.   He shows me that he loves me and cares for me by speaking my love language, and I really appreciate that he’s learned to do that for me.  Now, I need to do a much better job “speaking” to him in his love language.  I encourage you to do the same, and I promise you that “It will all be ok.  You’ll have a better day tomorrow.” and so will your spouse (especially if his love language is physical touch…wink..wink).



Sorry this was longer than a minute.  J  Hope it was worth the extra couple of minutes.  May God bless all of the marriages out there!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

MARRIAGE MINUTE #1: God-Centered Marriage

"Nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37
July 8, 2000
Marriage Minute Introduction:
My marriage is not perfect.  Whose is, right?  But I am grateful for it, and I know that God’s blessing is upon our marriage as well as everyone elses.    No matter how hard it gets or how impossible it seems.  “Nothing is impossible with God.”  Luke 1:37.

We are all a work in progress and so are our marriages.  The bible tells us in Isaiah 64:8 “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” 

So we should expect to change…we should expect our marriages to change…and trust that God knows what He’s doing.  And trust me, God knew exactly what He was doing when He guided me and my husband through many challenges over the last 12 years.  Through those struggles, I was forever changed…Brad was forever changed…and so was our marriage.  And God is not done!  Even now, we are still growing and learning every day.  God continues to present us with new ways to become more like Him; new ways for us to improve ourselves as individuals and as a married couple.  After having a few opportunities to share with others how much that God has helped my husband and I overcome so many difficulties and bring us such great joy, it became very clear to me how much so many of us need encouragement in our marriages.  I have felt God nudging me (very strongly I might add) to direct my next several blogs towards marriage.   And so I am.    

Over the next few weeks, the “Marriage Minute” blogs I will post will include encouraging stories, helpful hints and words of wisdom that my husband and I have learned that have improved our marriage.  My prayer is that, even though the blog posts will only take you about one minute to read, God will highlight something that you can take away from it and bless your marriage.


Put God at the center of your marriage: Pray and Protect!

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" Luke 10:27

Brad and I come from two different religious backgrounds which definitely has been a challenge in our marriage.  When we met over 16 years ago, neither one of us was strong in our faiths, but since then, that has changed.  But we chose to marry each other regardless of our religious differences and so we are choosing to love each other and trust God with His plan for us and our family.  The bible tells us that God has called us to live in peace.  In the last fews years, even though our views of God are different, we each have promised to put God at the center of our marriage, which for many years, He was not and it showed.  We promised to pray over our marriage and ask God to protect it.  Jesus says in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Satan wants to destroy all of our marriages, and God wants us to live life in our marriages abundantly and joyfully.
The bible tells us in Genesis 2: 22-24: “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”  And in Matthew 19:6, “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
This week, I pray that no matter what your differences are in your marriage—religious or something else--that you will not let them come between you, but instead choose to put God at the center of your marriage and allow Him to show you ways to appreciate your differences.  I pray that you will start to feel a oneness…a togetherness that you have never felt before…just the way God intended it!
Dedicated to all marriages...Please post any helpful hints that you and your spouse have found beneficial to your marriage.  Let's encourage each other.  Let's pray for one another.  Let's pray over our marriages!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sweet Water

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." –Deuteronomy 31:8
Ricky the Raccoon--Spring 1981
~My pet raccoon, Ricky, was addicted to sugar.  My older brother and I had him as a pet in the spring of 1981 when I was only in 1st grade (read Ricky's full story in my previous blog).  Ricky, like all raccoons, was very good with his front paws—he used them like hands.   I still have vivid memories of Ricky washing all of his food in a little water bowl that we kept in his cage.  Whatever we gave to him, he would run over to his bowl and rub it in his little paws dunking it in the water over and over.  One time, my brother and I gave him a sugar cube.  His addiction to sugar had been created through his many exposures to sugary foods such as birthday cake, Sweet Tarts, etc., but this was his first actual sugar cube.  He quickly grabbed it from our hands and raced over to his water bowl with great excitement, as if he knew that the cube he now possessed was the sweet elixir he so craved in its purest form.  As he was scrubbing it clean, it dissolved in the water.  He was so confused as he searched and searched for it in his paws.   Then he looked in the water bowl and it was gone.  Still puzzled, he ran over to us and we gave him another one.  He ran back to his water bowl and washed it thoroughly again, and as before, it disappeared.  We just laughed and laughed.   We felt badly for teasing him like that, so we eventually gave him some Sweet Tarts to make up for it!
~Ricky searched and searched and frantically looked for the sugar cube and it was not there!  Or was it?  You may be faced with struggles and challenges, and sometimes you may feel completely alone.  You may feel abandoned by God.  You may ask Him why He would leave you.  Sometimes you need God’s sweetness, but you feel, like Ricky did, that it has disappeared somewhere in the water bowl of your life.  Do you know what God would tell you?  “I am here.  I have not and will never leave you.   Just drink the water, my child.  It will be the sweetest water you have ever tasted!”   Had Ricky drank the deliciously sweet water, he would have realized that the sugar cube was there all along.  Just like God is always there for you even when you think He’s not!  This week, don’t be afraid or discouraged but instead be bold and courageous, and trust that God will never leave you.  He will always be near you, so move forward in faith and please drink and enjoy the sweet water of life!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ricky the Raccoon

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."  Psalm 32:8

Ricky and Me:  Summer of 1981-
This is the only picture I have of me and Ricky together--I treasure it!
Yes, I had a pet raccoon.  Didn't everyone?  At least that's what I thought as a first grader who had a pet raccoon.  My husband tells me that having a pet raccoon definitely makes me “non-urban.”  I know, I am truly a country girl at heart---at least Mattoon, IL country girl.  If you have never been to Mattoon, it is more southern than you think it is.  So much that when I first went to college, everyone thought my roommate and I were from Kentucky because of our strong southern accents.  Oh, yes, back to having a pet raccoon.  His name was Ricky.  And even though it's been 31 years, I still remember the coarseness of his fur and the unexpected softness of the pads of his hands and feet.  And I still remember the love that I felt for this smart, quirky, loving creature.  And I still remember the pain I felt when he died.
When I was in 4th grade, I was given my first opportunity to write a book for the Young Author's Contest at our school.  Ricky had been gone for 2 years, but as soon as we were given the assignment, I knew exactly what I would write my book about...his short, precious little life.  In order to preserve a little history, here is Ricky's story in the exact words that I wrote them when I was 10 years old.  (Let me tell you how hard it was for me not to change grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, etc.--ugh...darn perfectionism).

"Crash! Thump! Eeeeee!  Eeeeee!  I never thought those three sounds would change my life.  It was a spring afternoon in early May.  My dad and I were visiting a friend in the country.  We were near the woods where we heard the sounds.  "What's that?" asked Dad.  "Sounds like something fell from a tree" our friend said.  Let's see what it is!" I exclaimed.  So off we went into the woods still hearing eeeeee!  Then I saw two little furry raccoons.  I just had to pick them up.  We talked about letting me have one and that would happened to them if we left them.  Dad decided to let me have one because they die laying there in the leaves.  Our friend took the other.  We said thank you and good-bye to our friend and got in the car.  The fur ball was climbing all over me.  I felt strange because he was trying to find his mother.  Soon we were home.  Mom was in the house getting ready for company.  My brother Brian came to see the little raccoon.  At first he didn’t know what it was.  Then he saw his face.  “Oh boy a baby raccoon!” exclaimed Brian.  Now, we had to see if Mom liked the baby raccoon.  “Aw, he’s cute”, Mom said.  “We found him at David’s house in the country”, I said.  Mom got a little box and blanket for him to sleep in.  “Put him in the box to see if he likes it”, Mom said.  He just layed in the box until somebody picked him up.
I took him out of the box and took him downstairs.  Dad found a bottle to feed him.  Mom heated the milk and bottle.  We gave it to him but he kept spitting it out.  Then we gave him a taco chip he ate that right down.  What a surprise!
We didn’t know what to name him.  Brian thought of names like Chips, Taco and Fred but none of those names sounded right.  Dad thought it would be nice to name him Ricky Raccoon.  We all talked about it and thought Ricky was a good name.
I wanted to take him outside.  Shelby, my next door neighbor, liked Ricky.  She thought he was cute.  I walked around the block and Ricky fell asleep in my arms.  Shelby just learned how to hop on one foot.  She was loud and woke Ricky up.  I started crying.  Then, I went into the house.  It was getting kind of dark so I put Ricky to bed.  Our company came and Mom made me go to bed.
The next five months were filled with many fond memories of Ricky.  Here are some of things I remember most.  One time we got a snowcone, but we didn’t like it so we gave Ricky some of it.  At my Birthday I gave him some ice cream.  He sat like human set.  He thought our dog Bitsy was his mother.  Marcy, the girl who lived across the street, didn’t like Ricky.  One day she came over to play.  “Is Ricky out?” she asked.  “No, he’s in the house”, I answered.  “Ok, I’m coming over”, she yelled.  Mom didn’t know Marcy was at our house, so she let Ricky out.  “A-A-Ah!” Marcy screamed and jumped on the Gym Set.  “We’ll put Ricky in his cage”, Brian and his friend Randy said. “No, as soon as I get down you’ll let him out” Marcy cried.  “OK, we’ll go over to Randy’s house with him”, they said. “Ok, I guess”, she said as she got down.
When our cousins came over we swam in our pool and Ricky got in.  Mom told us to get out and get some good clothes on because we were going shopping, so we did.  Ricky was still in the pool.  He was fiddling with the hose and squirted us.  Boy did we get in trouble. 
In October, we moved to the country.  A big truck cam and we put all of our belongings and Ricky’s cage in the back end.  I was riding car with my mother.  Brian was riding in the truck with Dad and Ricky.
It was a nice country home with 20 acres, lots of places for Ricky to roam.  The only thing Ricky didn’t like was Clarence the rooster that was at the house.  We decided, since Clarence pecked us sometimes, that we would sell him at an auction
At night, my brother and I collected nuts to put them in Ricky’s cage.  When we let him out in the morning, he would go in a hole in a certain tree over the cliff by the creek.  We decided it was time for Big Guy to be free.  We put nuts in one of the holes and put a red collar on him so we could recognize him.
The next day when we got home from school we called Ricky.  “Come here Ricky!  Come here Big Guy” we said.  There he came running up over the cliff to greet us.  We went inside to change into play clothes.  We went outside to play football with Ricky.  We played for an hour Mom called us in to do our homework.  Ricky came too.  After we got our homework done we let Ricky out and ran out to his tree.
The next day was Saturday so we didn’t have to go to school.  Brian had has friend over because it was almost his birthday.  Brian and Randy were playing out in the woods by the creek.  They noticed something in the creek.  It looked like a raccoon. 
It was a raccoon, and it had a red collar.  They came running to the house to tell dad what they saw.  I started to cry, grabbed my shoes and ran with them.  There Ricky was laying in the creek, face down, and frozen!  He had been shot to death.  We couldn’t believe it!  Who would do such a thing and why?  Dad put on his gloves, picked him up and took him to the house.  We decided on the spot to bury him and dug a hole.  Dad put him in the hole.  We all got tears in our eyes as Brian played taps.  Dad started covering him up saying “Good bye Big Guy.”
This story gets me every time.  I will never forget it.  Even though his life had a sudden and tragic ending and it's really something that I still don't understand, I’m very grateful for the experience of raising a pet raccoon.  I’m very grateful for the time I did have with him.  I love how our Heavenly Father uses even difficult or challenging circumstances to teach us.  He uses even things we don't understand and pulls the beauty out of it.  I love how God used Ricky to teach me about my true love for animals and awaken an amazing connection I have with all of God’s creatures, and because I had never lost a pet before, He also used Ricky’s death to teach me about loss and how to bond with my mom, dad and brother to cope with it.  Do you have a memory from your childhood that made an impact in your life? 
This week, I pray that God will reveal to you a significant moment in your early years that you may not think taught you anything, but it did.  I pray that He will show you exactly how you grew from it and what you learned.  I pray that He will reveal to you things that you never even realized, and allow you to see how that event made you who you are today.  I pray that you will find a new way that, even through that experience, God taught you, loved you and always had his eye on you!