Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

“Good Enough” is Good Enough

For many of us, school is about to start. If you are a teacher, you might start weeping and gnashing your teeth when you read that statement! No matter how much you enjoy it, teaching school has a way of sucking the life out of you — and I’m sure other jobs are the same way.

Sometimes my job gets out of control– I stay too late; bring work home; and even when I’m away it’s on my mind. But I’m better than I used to be! I’m always optimistic that I can manage my work time and tasks better so I won’t be a blob on the couch when I get home. How bout you? I’ve put together some ideas specifically aimed at perfectionists and overachievers– the Marthas of the world. In a job like mine (high school choir teacher), I get a salary and I have some expected outside activities, but I could find or make things to do at school every day till 6:00. But only if SCHOOL (or my program, or looking good in my region, or others’ admiration) were my first priority! I have to find the right balance.

1. Start with some quiet time to think. You’re going to brainstorm, so tell Martha to be quiet while Mary uses her imagination. Don’t let “It won’t work” or “How can I do that?” come in the picture.

2. List your priorities. Then put them in order. Don’t worry about what they SHOULD be– or what your schedule says they are– just what YOU think they are. Here are mine: God, husband, my children, church/service, job. (Don’t overanalyze. Just write down what your first thought is. You can change it later if you want!) If you have been frazzled, what areas do you feel like were neglected?

The next few steps are to be done in layers. First build the skeleton, then come back and add some muscle.

3. Now to the nitty gritty: What activities does your employer REQUIRE of you outside regular hours?

This might be vague, especially if you’ve been a Martha . Ask yourself if your boss would reprimand you if you didn’t do it. (Tell Martha to shut it; she is not welcome in this exercise!) These are the tasks that you MUST do if you want to keep your job. An example in my case is that  I prepare my students for All-Region Choir competitions , UIL Concert and Sight-Reading, a Christmas concert and Pop Show in May.

4. What is required for you to do your job during regular hours?

I have to teach our repertoire to performance or competition level. By doing this the students learn music theory, music history, and vocal and ensemble skills required by the state.

5. Now draw your “yellow lines” around your priorities. (I just read Body by God by Dr. Ben Lerner and he used that concept– You don’t cross yellow lines in traffic, and you don’t cross yellow lines in your schedule. If it’s family time, GO HOME from work!) If work infringes on your family time, I would recommend starting with family time. In a perfect world, I would leave work at ….? Don’t start listing reasons why it won’t work. Just say what time you need to leave in order to make your family time your priority. For me it’s 4:30, an hour after school gets out.

Now remember, Martha, you’re still not making any decisions, just brainstorming!

Now to flesh out your “skeleton.”

1. How can you make your outside expectations fit in your priorities? Remember my All-Region Choir requirement. That could take up all my waking hours if I let it. Here’s how I cut it down to size:

We work on the music in class; we bring in paid voice teachers one afternoon a week, and I offer morning sectional rehearsals. I cheer, encourage, and make online resources available, I’m also available for individual help upon request. What I DON’T do is require everybody to come in for sectionals, or set up times for private lessons for me to work with all of them after school. I would be at school all hours if I did, and my philosophy is it’s THEIR responsibility to practice and get help. If they can do it only with my pushing and holding their hand, they don’t need to do it. They are in high school. And besides, my kids are some of the busiest ones on campus- advanced classes, band, drama, church, sports, etc… They have lots of demands on their time too. I try to make my class time very productive so they will need little outside time.

Brainstorm options to lessen the demands of your requirements.

2. What about your work-hours expectations? I have to teach repertoire, including the theory, history, and technique needed to perform it.

I love making videos and powerpoints or slide shows. However, they are very time consuming. But they engage the kids more than plain old paper or projector do! Yes, but how much more is learned? My very wise mentor asked me one time early in my career (when I was practically living at school), “For the extra 2 hours you put in that project, how many kids honestly benefited more than if you had taught it another way?” And the answer was, “Maybe none.” It was just prettier, flashier, and more fun for me.

If you are a teacher who is trying to scale back work time, and have lesson plans that have worked well, use them again! For heaven’s sake why reinvent the wheel? My wise daughter Sis reminded one of our overachiever perfectionist students who was way too stressed for a high school student that “Good enough is good enough!”

  • Make 1 or 2 projects/units each summer.
  • Collaborate with colleagues. Dropbox or other online resources make this so easy!
  • Google something before you make it! Chances are, somebody else has done it already.
  • Delegate! For me, the obvious thing would be to have students make the videos. More learning for them, less time for me.

If you have an activity you love that is not required, balance the time it takes and the benefits gained. We always sing at our Veterans’ Day programs, For me, the benefits gained are easily worth the time involved: giving my kids the opportunity to learn about the sacrifices made for our country, honoring the Vets, and serving in our community. Easy win, well worth the time involved. But we have sung the National Anthem at events in Houston that end up taking 8-10 hours out of a Saturday. It’s fun for the kids, and a cool experience, but that’s about all. Way too “expensive.” Maybe we could do that every other year, and alternate with singing at a sporting event at our local university.

Be creative and play devil’s advocate. If you have only a certain number of hours– and you do– how can you adapt this activity to make it fit? If you can’t, ditch it.

Let me address the elephant in the room now.

If you have been running and doing and giving much more than is required, and you decide to make your actions match what you say your priorities are, some people will not be happy with you. Anticipate this. You might want to give them a heads-up if you are not going to do some things you’ve been doing. You might want to phase out some activities gradually. But they probably will still be unhappy. You ultimately have to ask yourself who is higher on your priority list, those people or your family? (or whatever other priority you are moving up on your list) The apostle Paul said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Once you’ve brainstormed, leave your list a while. Pray. Think. Get counsel from one of your Board of Directors. Then go back to it and see how you can change your world.

"Good enough" is good enough

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What’s Your Anchor?

 

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She did it again… Sarah Young wrote one just for me. (Jesus Calling) The visual of the anchor on a short rope tugging you back to where you are supposed to be spoke to me like carrying around the bag of rocks never did. (You know the one– you pray for something but rather than leave it with God, you carry the heavy bag around till next time you pray.)

Let me back up. There have been times when things I should have left with God after I “gave” them to Him– forgiven sins of my own or others; failures, hurt feelings, disappointments; requests for one thing or another– have tied themselves to me like an anchor. I would pray for something. or grant forgiveness; I’d be free of it for a bit, then suddenly– YANK! It jerked me back to it.

“I can’t believe I did that.”
“I can’t believe he did that.”

“Why did she have to say THAT?”

“Why can’t I ever [fill in the blank]?”

“When will it ever happen?”

Every time something OTHER than God pulls us up short, taking control of our minds until we obsess over it, we are allowing it to be our anchor. Maybe it’s a dream you’ve been working toward, and you’ve done your part but now are having to wait. Maybe it’s a relationship you are waiting for healing in. Maybe it’s your health– your finances– your children.

Yes, we are to pray persistently. (the persistent widow in Luke 18) Yes, God sometimes answers prayers in the way we would like. But God does what He chooses (Psalm 115:3), and sometimes it’s not what we, in all our wisdom, want. In the case of relationships, and other people, He allows THEM free will just as He does you. Some relationships will never be healed in your life. But who knows what will happen after you die?

Do we trust God enough to ask for a thing in prayer, and then leave it to Him? To tell Him, “However you choose to answer it is okay with me”? To say, “I receive Your forgiveness and believe what You said, that I am a new creature”? Do we trust His love for us enough to accept “NO?” Or “wait indefinitely?”

Is GOD alone, enough?

Dear Father, I ask that You help our paltry faith when we try to pin You down to proving Your love for us by answering a prayer in a certain way, or at a certain time. Help us believe, Lord.

While you are pondering that, please listen to the wonderful Concordia Choir from Minnesota sing the late Moses Hogan’s “My Soul’s Been Anchored.”

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Need a Buffer Zone?

buffer zone- Jesus Calling

For we fix our attention not on things that are seem, but things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what is not seen lasts forever.
1 Corinthians 4:18

They [the seraphim] were calling out to each other:
“Holy, holy, holy!
The Lord Almighty is holy!
His glory fills the world.”
Isaiah 6:3

I wait eagerly for the Lord’s help, and in his Word I trust.
Psalm 130:5

This is from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It’s been packed in my still-unloaded book bag from when I went with Sunshine and had my blogging retreat 2 weeks ago so I’m behind! This selection shouted out at me, though, with talk of a buffer zone. I call it brain space, or margin. For me it looks like a little down time between activities, time for me to think about any follow-up I need to do, tie up any loose ends (like unpacking the book bag and putting things away!), or what I need to do to prepare for the next thing. I’m not very good at it, possibly because I try to cram too much in. I’m still working to learn that lesson that time is a finite commodity!

How about you? Do you need a buffer zone? Together, let’s ask God to create one around us– to grant wisdom in figuring out what to do and what NOT to do, then to have the will to be obedient!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

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Time: The Elusive Necessity in Marriage

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

24 hour clock courtesy of digitalmama824 via Flickr

Have you accepted the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day? And that even though you can borrow money (bad idea), you can’t get any more time? If your too-busy schedule is causing stress in your marriage, it’s time to take an honest look at it, assess it, and make some changes. In “No Vacuum,” I talked about 2 extremely important things in a successful marriage: knowing what we need as well as what our spouses need; and once we figure that out, having realistic expectations of ourselves and our spouses. Today I’m looking at where these 2 ideas intersect: TIME.

“Free” Time

Do you feel like you’re running from can to can’t? (That’s one of my favorite old-time Southern sayings.) Or in the words of the country singer, “always running, but always running behind”? If you’re not sure where your time flies away to, keep a time diary for a few days– in 15-30 minute increments, see where your minutes go. OUCH… It might show what I call the “Starbucks effect” (spending a small amount of money very often– it adds up!) But instead of being shocked at how much money you spent, you might realize that you’ve wasted a lot of time in small chunks, on things that aren’t really that important in the grand scheme of your life, like Facebook, playing games on your phone, watching TV reruns, etc. Don’t get me wrong; you do need recreation and leisure activities. But you need to CHOOSE what you do, not just fritter away your time on meaningless activities, then wonder why your marriage is suffering. How we spend our time should reflect what we say our priorities are.

Work

And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Is your career killing your marriage? In his sermon series “Breathing Room,” Andy Stanley shares a story from a book written by a hospice nurse who spends much of her time with people in the last few weeks of their lives. She began asking them, “What do you regret most in your life?” She said, without exception, every. single. man. wished he hadn’t spent so much time and energy on work.

“This came from every male patient that I had nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.” Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

(Thanks to Joel at Friendly Thoughts for documenting what I only listened to!)

Mr X and I both have salaried jobs, and we probably could both work another 4 hours every day and still find things to do. In our cut-to-the-bone economy, many employers expect more than any one person to do, and sometimes we are our own slave-drivers. But you’ve got to be honest– if you consistently work many hours beyond what you signed up for, is it worth it? That salary that looked great when you divided it by 40 hours a week might not look so good spread out over 60-80 hours. And is it worth it to you? Only you can decide. But again– be honest. Count the whole cost (not just in terms of money) to your marriage, children, your health, etc.  How much money does your family need? It’s a sad thing when a parent realizes he’s lost his window of opportunity to build a close relationship with his children while he was working to provide THINGS that were not as  important as a relationship with him.

This is tough, I know. You’ve got to find the balance. To help you think, I have to throw in this classic song from the late Harry Chapin. There is a bit of commentary from his wife and son that I think are quite relevant.

Caring for Yourself

… vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases.  But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:15-16

Have you ever had “vast crowds” clamoring for you? Like at the bathroom door? We women are notorious for taking care of everything and everybody else before we take care of ourselves. But you know what? You’ve got to take care of yourself or you’ll either be sick or be a grouch who has nothing left for your poor spouse. I learned the hard way that my job could move on just fine without me, and it reminded me that I’m the only wife my husband has and the only mom my kids have. Consider these things when you’re looking at your weekly schedule:

  • How much margin do you need for mental peace? I need lots, and when I forget to figure it into my schedule, my nerves frazzle. Rushing from one activity to the next drives me crazy!
  • How much sleep and rest does your body need? If you cheat, it will catch up with you.
  • What rejuvenates you? This is different for everyone.

Jesus modeled taking time away for re-creation. (I rather doubt He needed it– but He knew we would!) And remember that in Exodus 20, God Himself suggested commanded that we should rest. How prideful are we when we think the world will fall apart without us?

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…

How are you using your time today? Do you need to make any changes?

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What Do We Need?

Question Marks by Dan Moyer via Flickr

In “No Vacuum!” I mentioned that our marriage (and probably many others) would have been healthier if we had compromised between realistic expectations and what we needed from one another. This is a big kettle of fish that whole books could be written about, and probably have! But I’ll just put in my 2 little cents, and pray that it will give you some new insight.

What do you need? What does your spouse need?

Those 2 little questions look deceptively simple. In the first place, it’s sometimes difficult to articulate what you need; you just know that something is missing. Then if you DO figure it out, it’s often difficult to communicate that need to your spouse. Sometimes you think it might hurt their feelings, and you don’t want to do that. You might be hurt or angry that they aren’t doing something you need, and resentful that you would have to say anything about it. (Have you ever said to yourself, “If he loved me, he would just know to do it!”) You might be afraid to say anything, for fear of what your spouse might think. (“She’s so NEEDY!” or “He’s a sex maniac!” come to mind.)

Here’s some of our story:

I felt like I lived many years mostly underwater, barely able to catch a breath. A “full-time” job, especially when you are just beginning it, is exhausting. And being a homemaker and mom is another full-time job. Consequently, I never felt like I did that well at either one. This guilt and perceived failure took up lots of brain space. Remember, to a perfectionist, what she DOESN’T do is much weightier than what she DOES do. What I didn’t/couldn’t do was always  heavy on my mind. Were my kids neglected? No. Did I do a good enough job as a teacher? Yes. Does reality matter to a perfectionist? NO! Guilt and condemnation make themselves right at home anyway.

Mr X was not one to talk about his feelings, even if he could have figured them out, and there was no internet or even books (that I was aware of) teaching about sex in marriage from a Christian perspective. I just knew that he wanted more than I felt I had to give; I thought that he should be satisfied with all the other stuff I did (work full time, mother 3 young children, and run a household). Then I’d feel guilty because, in yet another area, I wasn’t good enough, then resentful that he wanted more from me. I had absolutely no clue how important lovemaking is to a man; the emotional part of it and how it affects his feelings about himself and for his wife. (Once more, I refer you to Sheila Gregoire’s very insightful post here.)

When Mr X began school full-time, after several years of going to night classes 2 or 3 nights a week– a very difficult period for this stay-at-home mom of 3– he scheduled his classes on 2 or 3 days and his work on the other days. He drove the kids to school and was able to be “Room Dad” and chaperone often. He did the grocery shopping. Once he began to take up some of the slack with the kids and at home, it helped me feel lots better. I don’t think he realized how much of a load those few things took off my MIND, but it really did make a huge difference.

Then at some point a friend recommended The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlesinger. It opened my eyes! In a nutshell, she said when we say NO to our husbands’ sexual advances, they perceive us as saying NO to THEM, as men. It’s like their saying NO to our conversations with them.

These 2 things– neither of which we can really take credit for– helped us get a little further down the road to a good, healthy marriage.

What does your spouse need? Do you know? I challenge you to have that conversation!

Up next: setting realistic expections of ourselves and our spouses.

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Got Patience?

patience

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Galatians 5:22-23 NAS

Do you need an extra dose of patience in your marriage? Most of us do, because when we are at home, we often take off our masks– a good thing! But that means that our spouses sometimes bear the brunt of the jabs and snarls we have been holding back from everybody else.

Join me over at A Biblical Marriage and let’s talk about the Spiritual Fruit of patience!

 

 

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Learn to Swim!

Learn to Swim!“It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go…and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time…. It is much better fun to learn to swim than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get back the feeling you had when you first went paddling as a small boy.”
~ Mere Christianity

I read this quote today in a post from the Official C.S. Lewis Facebook page and it immediately jumped into a marriage context! (This was only the 2nd time that something has triggered a post in this manner since my husband’s accident back in November. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but I’m pretty sure I had another brush with seasonal depression these past few months.)

But I thought about how love grows and changes over many years. New love IS exciting! You can’t wait to see the one you love– you spend hours on the phone, learning about one another, making plans, and finally, just listening to each other breathe because you’ve said all you can think of but you can’t bear to hang up the phone. But at some point, all that changes. (Funny real life coincidence: This week one of my teacher friends was trying to explain this concept of long-married relationships to her high school seniors who were reading Pride and Prejudice. She told of hours on the phone when she was dating her husband– but said after 15 years of marriage, she’s over listening to him breathe!) Real life steps in. It’s different, but not worse.

Possibly no matter how long you have dated and how well you know each other when you are newlyweds, life is exciting when you are newly married– the parties and showers, the wedding and honeymoon,  a new place to live, SEX (sorry Sis and Sunshine), making plans for the future, etc. It’s all very energizing. But at some point, things change. You get cramps. He goes in his man cave. You both get tired and cranky. You have arguments, and make up. You work together on your home. Maybe you do something terribly unglamorous like changing out a toilet or dig up a sewer line. You nurse one another through illnesses. You become FAMILY. The everyday-ness of ordinary life becomes the norm. (I wrote a post about joy displayed as a fruit of the Spirit in marriage through hard times, a similar idea.)

It happens very gradually, but it will happen. And hopefully, you will recognize it and not fight it (“endlessly [and hopelessly] trying to get back the feeling”), but appreciate it for what it is: “learning to swim,” not “paddling like you did.” You develop true intimacy. Not just sexual intimacy, but emotional and spiritual intimacy. You become one another’s most trusted confidante and biggest fan. You know each other’s greatest strengths and trust each other with your greatest weaknesses. You fail one another and even hurt one another, but then you forgive and work to grow closer. You experience life together, secure in the knowledge that you are FOR each other, no matter what. Forever.

This song goes perfectly. I played it for Mr X the morning of our 30th anniversary. Thanks to our son-in-law (Mr. Sis) who sang it in one of his college recitals and introduced it to me.)

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Lessons on Marriage from the Garden

We had a very mild winter here in Southeast Texas, and Spring is creeping in. Lots of early blooms are out– and the weeds are beginning to wake up too. Our neighborhood is called “Enchanted Forest” and before Hurricane Rita, our yard was full of beautiful, mature oak trees. (Now we have a few tall skinny ones left.) Part of having a “forested” yard is that very hardy vines grow alongside those trees, and when you plant shrubs, the vines continue to grow up among them. They are not vulnerable to Round-Up and most foliar weed killers- you have to dig them out, and many times the bulb is WAAAAAYY down deep.

Cross vine is one of our worst invasive vines. When you let it go too long, it will completely strangle a poor azalea bush.

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When I finally got around to rescuing this pitiful bush, look at all that came up: there was lots more growing underground that you couldn’t see. Bigger than the bush it had covered up.

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Can you guess where this is headed?

This is what a single little crossvine sprig looks like: Innocent enough, right?

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But look what’s lurking below: Look very closely to see the leaves and visible growth: Most of it is below ground.

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Kelly’s post at Exceptionalistic immediately came to mind when I pulled this rampant weed up by the roots.

Here’s the deal: Lots of time, I counsel you to overlook things. After all, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8) and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (John 8:7). However, you must also LET THEM GO. (Think of hanging the toilet paper the wrong way, or not at all, kicking the sheets out, procrastinating, etc…) If the issue so serious that you can’t let it go, and it interferes with your feelings for your spouse, it needs to be dealt with. Maybe it’s the symptom of a deeper problem- you resent his golf days with his friends not because you don’t want him to spend time with his friends, but you feel neglected. Or maybe there is a lack of transparency in the relationship that shows itself in tiny, unimportant little ways. In these days of separate Facebook accounts, telephones, the all-important “confidentiality” that the medical and insurance worlds insist on, and the blatant “porn mode” internet browsers, it would be very easy to begin to hide things from your spouse.

There are many issues in a marriage that will grow underground, like the roots of my crossvine. Left on their own, they can overtake your whole marriage and choke the life out. You must pull them up by the roots and dig out the bulb. Is it hard? Yep. Painful, tedious? You bet. Will it leave scars? Oh yes.

But our God is the God of comfort, healing, and rejuvenation. He not only gets rid of the problem; he replaces it with something better than it was before!

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners
 … to comfort all who mourn,
  and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

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Find your First Love

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

Revelation 2:4-5a

First loveDuring my recent difficult season I asked God to give me something when He needed me to write, and He did yesterday at church through our preacher! I love it when we can apply general Biblical truths to marriage relationships.

The church at Ephesus had some good things going for it– hard work, perseverance, intolerance of evil, discernment of teachers– but they were going through the motions of church. They’d left their first love, and I take this to mean that they were following the rules but not serving Christ out of love for Him. Marriages– especially ones in the busy child-rearing season or long-term ones– can easily fall into this. You are fond of each other; you have the same interests, activities, and friends; life is pleasant; but there is very little one-on-one intimate interaction. No meeting of the minds or spiritual oneness, nothing that couldn’t occur between you and any other friend. I’ve been there. When children, pets, and jobs are clamoring for your attention, undemanding spouses are easy to neglect. But neglect them too long and you have a dead marriage.

Brother Chuck used the words “remember, repent, and resume” from this Scripture, to apply to any relationship that needs repair. If you are in the difficult position of having an unsatisfying marriage but believe that marriage is for life and divorce is not an option, this can help.

Remember the height from which you have fallen.

Why did you fall in love? What attracted you? Reminisce about fun or funny (or even sad) times that you experienced together. We have a digital picture frame with many of our vacation pictures, and we love watching and remembering. When our kids get together we laugh our heads off over the same funny stories. Share what you remember about happy times. Many times in dead marriages, both partners have withdrawn, and both are afraid to take the first step toward reconciliation. Reminiscing about positive shared experiences will soften hearts.

Remind yourself and your spouse of times when they were wonderful for you. When my mother was in the hospital, comatose for a week before she died, I dropped everything. I knew I could count on my husband to handle everything and everyone at home; I didn’t even consciously think about it. He’s buried dead pets, dug in the sewer, called principals when I couldn’t, opened jar lids, and bought me really nice jewelry! Don’t just think about those nice things, thank him out loud!

Repent

God ordained marriage to represent the union between Christ and his church. He said we were to be one flesh. When we neglect or abuse our marriages, we are being disobedient to Him, and we need to repent. Ask God to reveal what you have done to add to the problem, and ask His forgiveness. You might not be to the point where you feel safe enough to ask your spouse for forgiveness. That’s okay for now.

Do the things you did at first

“Any old dog likes a pat on the head.” Chances are that when you were newlyweds there were lots of sweet words and helpful actions, not to mention sexual intimacy, happening at your house. Both of you were filling up the other’s love tanks without even thinking about it. In tired marriages, many times the love tanks are running on fumes because you have both been too busy doing other things, and taking for granted that your spouse will always be there. It’s easy to do. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but STOP! (Take a minute and imagine that you don’t have them anymore. Nothing like a motorcycle accident to make you appreciate your spouse! As humans, we have a tendency to not “miss the water til the well runs dry.” That leads to so much regret. Don’t wait that long!)

What did you do for your spouse in those early days? Speak sweet words? Cook his favorite meal? Dress yourself nicely? Take better care of yourself? (ouch) Hide notes in his pockets? Do some of those things, even if you don’t feel like it. Brother Chuck reminded us of Philippians 4:8 (Whatever…) but reminded us that 4:9 says DO THOSE THINGS!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.

You might ask– am I expected to do things I don’t really feel like doing? (YES) Isn’t that hypocritical? (NO) It’s called discipline. Or good manners. But shouldn’t my spouse do the same thing? Yes, but don’t wait for them to act first. You’re the one who knows what to do now, so YOU start. Chances are, your spouse will reciprocate. But even if he doesn’t, you are doing these things because God said to, and if you are being obedient, He will take care of everything else.

Read up on restoring and nurturing marriages, even if yours is in a good season right now. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint, and it needs constant care! There is a ton of good information online. Click on my Christian Marriage Bloggers button to see many good blogs. I highly recommend Sheila Gregoire’s To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. I have a “Revive your marriage” series with some practical ideas. (Three Little Changes is the last one, with links to the 4 others.)

Remember that your spouse is not your enemy. The devil hates marriage and especially hates a happy Christian marriage. You are fighting a spiritual battle when you are fighting for your marriage. Use all the resources and “armor” at your disposal. If you are new to Auntie Em’s, click on my “marriage” category and find many posts. I pray for success in your battle! Please let me know how to pray for you, and share with my readers things you have done to build up your marriage. We have a wonderful community of brothers and sisters who are here to help and support one another.

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Armor Up your Marriage

armor up your marriageIn my last post I wrote about my husband’s motorcycle accident at the end of November, and how his riding gear– a full face helmet, riding gloves and boots, and an armored jacket– saved his skin, and I believe, his life. (Read “Armor Up!” if you missed it.)  I got to thinking how God provides protective armor for us spiritually, and also in our marriages.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms… Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:11-12, 14-17

Stand against the devil’s schemes

It’s important to remember that God created and ordained marriage, and it is meant to be an earthly representation of the relationship between Christ and His church. Marriages that follow God’s rules are the foundation of healthy families, which in turn build a Godly society. And our enemy hates everything about marriage. Humans can do plenty of wrong, selfish things on our own, but remember when your spouse has stepped on your last nerve that the devil is scheming against your marriage. Your spouse is not your enemy– Satan is, and all the authorities and powers of this dark world. The armor that protects our spirits can also protect our marriages.

The belt of truth

The other day a salesman counseled Mr X to buy something that was more than he wanted to spend by saying, “Well just buy it and don’t tell your wife!” (He not only didn’t buy it, but told the man that he has too much respect for his wife to do that. WOW!) I remember before I started teaching school, a close friend my mother’s age advised me to write a check for groceries a little over the amount and hold that money aside as “my” money. Telling “little white lies” to your spouse is NOT okay. Neither is neglecting to tell them something you don’t want them to know, or doing something you know they don’t want you to do and hoping they don’t find out. You’re MARRIED. You are ONE FLESH. Don’t keep secrets. Nothing about you is not their business. Deception is like a little tree that grows up between the cracks in a sidewalk; it gets bigger and bigger and eventually breaks the sidewalk to pieces.

The breastplate of righteousness

In addition to general instructions on the Christian way of life, the Bible gives Christians very detailed instructions on how to behave in marriage. (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7 to name a few) In a nutshell: Husbands are to love their wives with Christlike love. Wives are to respect their husbands. They actually submit to one another, loving with servant love, but somebody has to have controlling interest. That’s how I see Biblical submission of wives. The husband has the ultimate authority because his is the ultimate responsibility. I rarely watch TV and one of the big reasons is that I can’t stand the way husbands and dads are belittled and made fun of. Ladies, if you badmouth your husband that is wrong. Men, if you put your own needs ahead of your wife’s, that is wrong. If we want our marriages to be protected by God’s armor, we have to operate by His rule book.

The Gospel of peace

A Christian home should be a place of safety and peace, an oasis in a dry and dusty land!

  • Husbands,  love your wives and never treat them harshly. (Ephesians 3:19)
  • Wives, remember It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife. (Proverbs 21:19) Beware of husband-bashing parties that sometimes develop when a group of girlfriends get together.

The shield of faith

I know this Scripture is talking about faith in God, but faith in your spouse is an important thing, too. Don’t assume the worst when they say something wrong; look for a different explanation. (Maybe he’s not a self-centered pig; maybe he had a really bad day at work. Maybe she isn’t totally selfish and insensitive to your needs; maybe SHE had a really bad day at work!) Often we put on a happy face out in the world, then really let our hair down at home, with the one we trust the most. Be careful not to take that trust for granted. Give a warning ahead of time if you are “out of sorts” as we say in Texas.

The helmet of salvation

I can’t stretch this one to apply to anything but God. But to put it in a marital context, if you are both believers, you are not only husband and wife, you are brother and sister in Christ. You share a common relationship with your heavenly Father. Everything that Christ exemplified and is written about relationships — selflessness, kindness, forgiveness, longsuffering, etc— also applies in marriages.

Marriages in our world today are subjected to all kinds of hazards, from sick children to leaking dishwashers to lost jobs to infidelity. The protective armor of God can deflect many of these “flaming arrows” and can give us strength to fight the battles that will come. Armor up!

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