Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Loving List


I heard a podcast awhile ago about a husband and wife who wrote books about one hundred ways to love your spouse. I looked up the books. Based on what I heard and read, the books were good. Being a do-it-yourself-er, though, I thought, "I can do this. I can write my own list of 100 ways to love my husband. And maybe I will even share it." Well, now months later, I can say that I completed my "Loving List," but it is too personal to post. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from the project and would encourage others to do it.

How do you start?

1. Decide how you want to organize the list: categories, days of the week, etc. I decided to organize based on the five love languages. Twenty loving actions in each of the categories would get me to 100. You do you, but I suggest breaking up the list to make the goal of completing it more attainable.

2. Brainstorm ways to love your spouse. Big, small, write down them all, because you may need them.

3. Set a day one.

Starting is not really that hard. Continuing can be. There were honestly days when I did not feel loving and did not want to try, but I had committed, so I did. Many days, I wanted to show love in the way that was easiest for me, not in the ways that would best serve my husband. Forcing myself to get to twenty in each love language category challenged me to snap out of this pretty quickly. My love language is acts of service. I realized that is routine for me. To love in other ways took courage and care.

As I practiced loving my husband every day, I realized other things. My husband notices some things. Others seem to make no difference. Some actions increase my love for my husband. Others drain me, and I need to fill up first. Some acts of love require planning, especially gifts that require resources. Quality time can take some preparation, too.

What are the benefits of starting a loving list? Research says it takes 21-66 plus days to build a habit. If you start a loving list and set out to do at least one (not just one, but one intentionally recorded one) loving thing a day, you will probably reach that mark. You will train your brain to look for ways to love your spouse. You might become more loving. You might start to build more ways to love your spouse into your day. Who knows? Your spouse might start paying more attention to your needs as well. That is not the reason to make a loving list because making a loving list is inherently selfless.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Returning From Vacation


Prior to May, it had been a hot minute since we traveled. Since we took a vacation. Or at least since we took an extended time away from home. But we did it once, and we're thinking about it again, so I'm also thinking about after vacation, that post trip, back to real life slap-in-the-face, and for all the real life duties that await. I have made the mistake in the past of not planning, and it has put a real damper on my appreciation of time spent away. No more! I am now trying to plan a little more thoroughly to get full benefits from whatever periods of R&R we get. Here are a few of my practices:

1) Leave margin. I used to plan every minute of vacation, getting home at the last minute and jumping right back into the fray. That doesn't work well, especially now that I am married and have a house. If I can, I try to take a day off after vacation, or at least have an afternoon available before a morning return to work. That gives me time to unpack, do laundry, organize, etc. I can also slowly ease myself into the vacation let-down/life ramp-up instead of going full-throttle into the work week.

2) Meal plan. As much as possible, I try to stock the freezer with meals that will last us a few days, or up to a full week when we get back. I either freeze extra portions of a meal I make prior to leaving, or I prep a few freezer meals that can thaw in the fridge and/or go in the Instant Pot. Pinterest and the internet are rich with ideas for this type of thing.

3) Sleep. Vacation is restful and sometimes exhausting at the same time. Getting back into a regular sleep schedule is key. Although it is often hard for me to go to bed and wake up early, it behooves me to do this, rather than stretching my vacation sleep habits into the week, leaving me tired and sad about going back to work.

4) Connect with friends. Vacation can make real life seem boring, but real life has a richness of its own. Making time to connect with friends via phone, text, or in-person can remind me of the wealth of community I have at home. It can also help moderate my post vacation blues.

5) Plan something new. No, I don't often plan another vacation, but I try to give myself something to which to look forward: an activity, a special dinner, a project, etc. This helps me get back into the swing of life with some forward motion and motivation.

6) Reflect. Reflecting on vacation can increase sadness, but it can also increase joy. I like to reflect on vacation by looking at pictures, remembering the good times, and further etching memories into my mind. While I may miss vacation, I can choose to not miss the memories through this action.

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Vacations are special. So is life, if we really celebrate it. So celebrate vacation. Celebrate life. Plan to integrate both through planning not only vacation, but the return to life thereafter.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Managing Marital Conflict


Ah, conflict. The thing we all have, but none of us want. The thing that can drive us apart or bring us together. The thing that God can use to refine us, or that can define us. The key to dealing with marital conflict is not to eradicate it, but rather to deal with it well. Here a few principles God is teaching me towards that end:

1) Search your own heart. Consider your own role in the conflict. What have you contributed? Where have you been wrong? Deal with what God shows you before going to your spouse to resolve a conflict. If you have a log in your eye, you are unlikely to be effective to remove a splinter from your spouse's eye (Matthew 7:1-5).

2) Check your projections. Consider the issue at hand and ask if you are seeing something that is not there. Are you casting your own feelings on your spouse? Maybe you feel invalidated at work. Is that its seems like your spouse is ignoring you? Maybe he or she is not and it is just your bias. Maybe you feel shameful. Is your spouse really blaming you for things, or do you have a subjective bias. Checking yourself before raising an issue can be helpful to know what, if anything, you are contributing.

3) Pray! A friend advised me when I got married to pray for several days before addressing an issue with your spouse. While there is not always time to pray for days on a matter, there is definitely time for some prayer. Pray for wisdom. Pray for the right words. Pray for listening ears. Pray for a tender heart to receive, both on your part, and on the part of your spouse.

4) Seek counsel. I'm not recommending that you air your dirty laundry to the world at large. Rather, I am recommending that you reference a trusted friend or mentor to ask for advice, wisdom, and prayer. Sometimes you just need perspective.

5) Find some positives. Remember what you love about your spouse. Recall why you want to resolve conflict. Consider including some compliments. After all, John Gottman's research found that the magic ratio for a good relationship is 5:1. That means that to resolve the current conflict and to keep your relationship in a good place, you need at least five positive things to say for the one negative issue you want to address. That's a tall order.

I'm not perfect at managing marital conflict, but by God's grace, and for His glory, may I continue to make progress.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Reigniting Desire to Read God’s Word


I resolved this year to read my Bible, and to actually read it, not just listen to it. (Listening to the Bible is good, but what I believe I had started to default to out of laziness.) I tried to keep reading my Bible in the mornings, but I felt rushed and unfocused. I read my Bible a few evenings, on the premise that I had morning activities that might prevent or delay reading and you know what? It helped me get more interested and invested in reading.

I have been keeping a mental tally lately of things that motivate me to read God's word. I am thankful for this season of renewed fervor, yet know that I will mostly likely fall into struggle again. With that in mind, and with the recognition that others might struggle to read their Bibles, too, I thought I would share my current list of things that have in the past, or in the present or the future help might  reignite my desire to read:

1) Pick a new time of day. Brain function varies due to different demands. Life circumstances can also help make readings more or less difficult. Switching up reading times can help!

2) Choose a new translation. The western world is beyond blessed to have so many Bible translations available. Read a new one and see if it helps with re-engagement. 

*Caveat: Make sure to read a translation that is accurate. Paraphrases are good, but can assume a lot. Therefore, I try to read something translated from the Bible's original languages.

3) Find a new way to read. Try reading from a different book, or from an electronic device such as a phone or tablet. 

*Note, as pointed out in a recent episode of the Let's Talk podcast, people may not know a person reading on a device is reading the Bible, so if the person wants to make their spiritual discipline clear (e.g. to children or other viewers), reading a paper Bible might be best .

4) Journal. Writing by hand forces the two hemispheres of the brain to work together, resulting in more insights and deeper learning. Kinesthetic learners might find that journaling helps them recall the material read better, too.

5) Get accountable. A dear friend (who I hope reads this post) and I started swapping insights from our readings via text and e-mail. This helps us see new things, and it keeps us accountable for doing our readings, because we need to do so in order to have something to share.

The speakers in the Let's Talk podcast (linked above) stated that the goal if spiritual disciplines is a a soul that works right. The purpose of setting up spiritual disciplines is to create a pattern of life, not pursue perfection. If I am making it without my spiritual disciplines, I should be looking out for idols in my life, because really, I am made to feed on the Word of God.

Those are all my tips, my ways to reignite desire for reading God's word. I hope they work. I hope the Spirit works. He is the one who really is in charge of igniting a passion to seek after God through reading His Word after all. Practicing the spiritual discipline of reading God's word is really just making room for Him to work, and inviting him into life to do so.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Real Life Marriage: Keeping My Marriage


I love my husband. Always have. Always will. But I passed through a season not too long ago where I did not love married life. Sure, marriage had benefits. In no way was I considering divorce. We have a covenant marriage, after all. Married life just felt so, so hard, and I felt so defeated.

I preach that love is a choice, a commitment, and that applied, especially in this season. I had to keep choosing marriage, choosing sacrifice, choosing to do the hard, even if I didn't want to. That was my commitment.

In a recent sermon at church, one of our pastors stated, "Your usefulness is your holiness." That also applied in this season. If I wanted to be useful to my husband. If I wanted to stand for marriage, I had to be holy. Holiness is hard. God demands perfection after all (Matt 5:48). And aspiring to that level of holiness often hurts.

David writes about holiness in Psalm 15. He describes aspects of a holy person, including the fact that this person "keeps an oath, even when it hurts" (New International Version). That phrase has played through my mind over and over again. Marriage is an oath. Sometimes it hurts. A lot of time it hurts. It exposes my rough edges. It requires me to be selfless when I don't want to. It requires me to say, "Yes," when I want to say, "No;" and to say, "No," when I want to say, "Yes." But it's an oath I willingly made, and by God's grace, I will keep it.

I talked with my mom about how hard married life was one time and she remarked, "But you wouldn't have it any other way." I had to agree with her wisdom. Yes, married life was hard. I didn't want it to be. I didn't want the hard. I didn't want the hurt. I didn't want the pain. I also didn't want to give up my husband. Marriage was the only way to keep him.

I love my husband, and married life can be hard. The two are not mutually exclusive. Since I want to keep my husband, I have to keep my marriage. Since I have to keep my marriage, I have to keep my commitment to love. Love and the hard. I guess I'll keep them both.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Afghan 64

 


I completed the fourth blanket on my "bucket list:" the baby boy blue blanket.  It was a corner-to-corner pattern, which intimidated me, as I have had bad luck with corner-to-corner in the past. I had to redo a few rows, but it turned out. The colors were not intentional to start with, but ended up making a perfect Fourth of July gift for soon-to-be parents, and avid fans of a school with the same colors. I used assorted yarns for this blanket, and my trusty ergonomic J hook. That's about all the details I have for this one.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Five.


Five years ago, I moved back to Arizona.

Four years ago, I started a job that would allow me to work towards professional licensure.

Three years ago, I bought an almost-new car. I also started hanging out with the guy who would become my husband.

Two years ago, I got married, bought a house, hiked the Grand Canyon, visited Washington, started another new job, and joined a church.

This year, by God's grace, I got my professional counseling license, started small group at church, finally took a vacation, and celebrated two years of marriage.

I took a leap of faith when I moved back. I had not idea what the future would hold. God did. "He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (Job 23:10, New International Version). I feel grateful and look forward to seeing God work as we continue to live in Arizona.