Friday, June 12, 2009

Bring the Spark Back - How to Save Your Marriage

When my husband and I were engaged we had a habit of looking deep into each other’s eyes when we were talking. My then 8-year old brother found it very amusing to try to break that gaze. He would wave his hands in front of our faces, or stick his head between ours and make crazy, unbelievable faces at us!

When was the last time you held your spouses hand just because? When was the last time you shared quality intimate time together? Tell me, when was the last time you just simply gave your husband or wife your undivided attention while they talked to you - your hands were not busy with some little task, you weren’t half listening to them and half listening to the game on the radio, you actually made eye contact with them instead of watching tv while “talking”? Now you are looking at the couple across the restaurant thinking how cute they were, wishing you and your husband were still that in love with each other… Wait! What has happened? We aren’t that in love anymore. My marriage is at a standstill. It’s not exciting anymore! We just fight all the time. When did this happen? Have I fallen out of love? Are we heading toward a divorce?
Life… It isn’t like my brother. It doesn’t jump in suddenly, startling you, causing you to pull back. No, instead, it creeps in undetected and keeps gently pushing spouses farther and farther apart until one day they suddenly realize that they aren’t as in love as they once were. For most couples it just goes downhill from there, spiraling out of control until finally they give up on the vows they made and end their marriage. It doesn’t have to be this way! Instead of letting desperation envelop you and threaten your marriage even farther, let’s find some ways to bring that spark back into your love life.

The first thing I want you to do is grab a piece of paper and make a list of 20 things that you love about your spouse. I want you to think way back when you were falling in love. What made you fall in love with your spouse? What were the cute things about her that made you smile? What were the dumb things that he did to get your attention that made you laugh? Was it her smile? His laugh? His thoughtfulness? Her loyalty?

When was the last time you really thought about these things like you used to when you were first starting your relationship? Why is that? It could just be because of the business of life, but there could be another reason for it too. When you do think of your spouse is it thinking about something they have done wrong? Do you resent them for something? Unforgiveness could be what is hindering your closeness with your spouse. If there are things that are upsetting you about them, either you need to talk to them about it and get it worked out or you need to consciously decide to let it go and not hold it against them anymore. This is going to take a lot of loving and giving you’re your part, but love can cover a lot of faults. Get things taken care of so you can start thinking about your spouse again!

Next, write out the top 10 things that you and your spouse would do together when you were falling in love. Was there a special restaurant? A favorite movie or song that reminds you of when you were first experiencing that new love? What were the little things that you did to get their attention and show them that you loved them? Did you bring over flowers and chocolate for your girlfriend? Did you make your special cookies for your boyfriend? Did you spend hours together walking around a lake, holding hands and talking?

Go back and take a walk down memory lane! Revisit some of those places you used to go if you can. If you have moved from that area, find somewhere similar to go and remind your spouse of all those memories you had together! Start doing those sweet little things you used to do again! Make yourself loveable!!! :)

Now, that you have thought back to those days that were so exciting, think about how you are now? Do you do any of those sweet little things anymore? Probably not, because life and reality has set in, responsibilities, jobs, kids, etc. When you let things get in the way of doing things to grow your relationship, you can expect to have your relationship affected by this. On the other hand, if you do things to make your marriage a priority, your relationship will be changed by this in a very amazing way!

Your relationship did not get to the point where it is right now overnight, so don’t expect to fix it overnight. It will take time and it won’t be easy! My husband works a full time job and also has a construction business on the side. Sometimes, he ends up having to work 80+ hours a week. I will go with him and help him, but that doesn’t take the place of a date. It didn’t take long for us to start seeing the affects of it on our marriage. We hadn’t even been married 6 months and we were fighting ALL the time. It finally got to the point where we decided to go for counseling and have a date once a week. The counseling went great, but our dates were a disaster! I think we fought for every single one for at least a month if not longer. I would end up in tears every single time and wanted to just give up on them, but we kept pushing through it and now, a few months later, dates are usually my favorite night of the week! Thankfully, for us, we are still newly-weds. For someone who has been married longer and formed more bad habits in their relationship, it may take longer to break those, but don’t give up! Saving your marriage takes work but it is so worth it!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Conquer Your Procrastination - Today!

My little 5 year old brother loves to cut paper into teeny tiny little pieces and scatter them all over the floor so it looks like it “snowed.” One time when he did this, he was asked if he knew that he would have to clean it all up. He looked up and said very seriously, “I might not have to.” He was told that yes, he would and he replied, “Well, I might not have to. Jesus might come back first.”

Procrastination. It is something we all struggle with, coming up will all kinds of excuses for not doing a certain task. Even a little 5 year old doesn’t have to be taught to come up with creative excuses to try to get out of things! I want to talk about a few tips on how to overcome those habits!

Keep your goals realistic. Realize your limits - you can’t do everything in one day. Set long-term goals, then decide on daily tasks that will help you to reach your long term goals in a reasonable amount of time.

Don’t be a perfectionist. This is probably one of my biggest problems! If I don’t have time to do a task all the way, I won’t even start it. I will mess around, keeping very busy with other little jobs. In the end, I get nothing important done and have huge projects that need done with no time to do them. If you don’t have time to finish something right then, still start it and just get as much done as you can! Then finish it later. (And no, don’t put that last little bit off!)

Make a list and set priorities. Don’t even give yourself the chance to procrastinate on an important project! Sit down and write your list and arrange it in order of priority.

Tackle some of the bigger things on your list first. If you can see some progress, you will feel better about what you have gotten done and you will be more motivated to get even more done! If you are like me and have a short attention span and get sidetracked easily, it may be a good idea for you to set an alarm reminder for laundry, downloads and backup’s, or whatever projects you are working on that you walk away from and forget.

Reward yourself! After you have reached your goals for the day, take a break and do something fun!

Remember that no matter how well you plan out your day and goals, things will come up that you can’t help. You just have to be honest with yourself on whether this is something you can’t help or if it’s something you are using it as an excuse.

Next time you find yourself thinking about putting something off, remember these little tips and jump right in!

10 Simple Ways to Show Your Husband You Love Him

How long has it been since you did something out of the ordinary to show your husband you love him? It doesn’t have to be much – just a little something to let him know that you still love him!

1. Go to a sporting event with him. You expect him to go to all kinds of social outings with you, but when was the last time you went to something he wanted to go to? Go the extra mile and plan ahead of time to get the tickets and surprise him. Tell him that you have plans for the night his team plays and that he needs to keep it open. Won’t he be surprised to find out just what your “plans” are!

2. Get him a little treat. It doesn’t have to be something big, just a little treat to let him know you were thinking about him. You know how much you love it when you get flowers or chocolate? Well men like getting little treats too, you just need to know what your husband likes.

3. Make his favorite dinner. It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!

4. Give him a card. Whether you know it or not, most guys do appreciate it if you get them a card and write a sweet little note in it. I was a bit “iffy” on this, but I went ahead and got my husband a card recently and he LOVED it!

5. Listen to him when he wants to talk. He has ideas and wants to be respected for those. Show interest in what’s important to him.

6. Let go of the little things. Men hate when their wives nit-pick at them. Remember that love can cover lots of faults! Instead, focus on what he does right and tell him what you like, love, and respect about him. Men have big egos and need to be respected especially by the women they love. Men are more vulnerable and easily hurt then we think. They may seem all tough and “untouchable” but deep down they are very vulnerable.

7. Let him know he was missed when he comes home from work. Set the tone. Chances are he had a stressful day at work and he doesn’t need you to bombard him the moment he gets home with your problems too. Greet him with a hug and a kiss, tell him you love him and missed him. Let hem unwind and relax, give him a back rub or scratch his back. There will be plenty of time later for you both to talk about the problems of the day if needed.

8. Make time for your husband. Life can get busy taking care of a house, children, work, and whatever else you are involved in, but always make sure there is good quality time for your husband. Let him know that you need him and you need time with him.

9. Notice what he does for you. Thank him for working and providing for you and your family. Tell him that you are proud of him for things he does and who he is.

10. And number one on his list… Plan a night of intimacy just for him. Clean up the bedroom so it is calm and stress-free, light a few candles and slip into whatever it is he likes and take it from there!

10 Simple Ways to Show Your Wife You Love Her

Women love to be loved and cherished. When was the last time you did something out of the ordinary just to let your wife know that she’s loved?

First I want to start with 2 rules:
1. Don’t expect anything (Ahem… and I do mean ANYTHING) back in return for what you do for her. This is just for her! No asking or even hinting is allowed guys… sorry! What if she still decides on her own she wants to show her love for you after you do something loving for her? Well… that’s just an added bonus! Enjoy!

2. SMILE! Let her know that you are happy to be doing this for her, that loving her brings you joy!

Now that we have that taken care of, on to the tips!
1. Get her a card or write her a love note. Women LOVE this – you can’t go wrong if you really put a little time and effort into it!

2. Send or bring her flowers or chocolate. You can bring them home or even send them to her at work when she is having a bad day and include a little “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day, but I just wanted to let you know that I love you” type note. Nothing could cheer her up more than knowing that her husband loves her and cares that she is having a bad day. (And she won’t mind bragging to her coworkers about how amazing her husband is to send flowers!)

3. Plan and prepare a picnic or candlelight dinner for her depending on what she likes or what the weather will permit. (Make sure you clean up afterward!)

4. Give her a quick call during the day just to let her know that you were thinking about her and missed her.

5. Buy dry erase markers and write a little note for her on her mirror. Tell her how beautiful she is!

6. Do the dishes. Instead of heading off to the couch to watch TV after dinner, tell her that you want to show her that you love her by doing the dishes while she goes and relaxes for a while.

7. Turn off the TV. Give her a little time and attention. Women love to talk and it would mean a lot if you would listen to her and talk to her about what is important to her.

8. Watch a “chick flick” or whatever she likes with her. Sure it may seem pretty dumb to you, but just think, she probably feels the same way about Sports Center or some of the other things you like to watch.

9. Get the kids ready for bed. This is especially a wonderful way to show your wife that you love her if you have young kids that require a lot of hands on work to get them ready for bed. She will be thrilled if you smile and tell her that you love her and want to give her the chance to relax tonight while you get the kids ready for bed. Just think, you get to come home from work, but a mother’s work is never done. A little break would be very welcome!

10. Give her a back rub. Make it nice and long. Use massage oils or whatever she likes, and just in case you forgot, remember, rule #1 still applies! :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

How to Help the Grieving

Several months ago, my great grandmother passed away. I was very close to her and the pain was very hard to deal with. Her death hurt. My heart felt like it was being torn out of my chest. I was newly married and my new husband was left to deal with me and my grief. I swung between crying and just simply being moody. Sometimes I needed a hug, other times I wanted to talk, but my husband didn’t know that I just needed him to listen. I didn’t need him to “fix” me. I didn’t need him to tell me that I just needed to get over it. I knew that. But it was hard. I needed love and support.

Jesus dealt with death and two sisters’ grief over their brother. In John 11:21-22, we see Martha’s response to the death of her brother. “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

We see in the first verse that Martha was grieving and questioning why this had happened. But she had moved farther than that. She also recognized that God is sovereign and would do what he saw best for them.

Next we see the grief of Mary. She was back at the house grieving with others who had come to comfort her. When she saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and questioned why this had happened. “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

The responses of these two ladies to the death of their brother illustrates two responses to dealing with grief. In the first, Martha sees comfort in the fact that God is sovereign. Mary illustrates the response that is more commonly found in most individuals after they have lost someone dear to them. She questions why this would happen. She uses the phrase “if only.” This is used frequently among the mourners. They frequently blame themselves and others.

Jesus had the task of trying to comfort two women who had two different perspectives on their brother’s death. What was he to say to them?

We read his response to Martha in verses 25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Martha responded that she did believe. Jesus took this opportunity to teach her about salvation and the truth that we can have eternal life through Him. Martha was in a position where she was ready to be taught. She was ready to learn and grow even through the difficult circumstance of her brother’s death.

On the other hand, Mary was not in the place where she could hear and respond to biblical teaching and Jesus recognized that. Jesus’ response is recorded in vs. 33-35 and 38: Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping… and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept…

Now, stereotypically, in our society, men are’t supposed to cry. Some think that it makes them seem less masculine and strong. But here is Jesus, the perfect man, crying! He sympathizes with Mary by crying with her. He did not scold her for not believing in him, for not dealing with it. He cried with her.

Everybody deals with their grief in a different way. Some just need a caring, understanding person to listen to the intense pain and suffering they are experiencing. Others may need a shoulder to cry on. And still others need to be taught how to grow through these circumstances. But all need to be directed to the Perfect Counselor who knows how to comfort each individual according to their own unique needs.

Here are a few “do’s and don’ts” when talking to someone who is grieving:
I once read of a man who, following the terrorist attack on our country on 9/11 was talking to someone who told him that they were so glad they hadn’t been in the World Trade Center because they would have died. This man’s response was not to worry, his turn was coming. And later he said that what happened that day wasn’t anything unusual, “thousands of people died and evil people did evil things…” I think it’s pretty obvious what is wrong with this kind of response. When a tragedy, such as a death occurs, NEVER minimize it as if it did not even matter!!! It matters to your loved one, and, therefore, it should matter to you.

Some other things you should never say are:
- You need to get over it/ It’s been ___ number of months, you need to get over it
- You can always have another baby
- Don’t ask all kinds of questions about the death
- Don’t talk too much, just listen
- Don’t tell them to call you, instead let them know you call them and get in touch with them later
- Don’t try to make it better or rationalize it, don’t be a know it all

Some things that would be encouraging and helpful to do and say would be:
- Share good memories about the person
- Tell them you love them and you are praying for them
- Sometimes it’s better not to say anything or much, just give them a hug, be there to listen to them, love them, and support them
- You can bring them a meal, or offer to watch their children
- Send a card, an email, or even just a little text just to let them know you are thinking of them

Remember, never be callous in your response or minimize the persons tragedy in any way. This will certainly close the door for any further opportunity you would have had with this person to help them deal with the grief. Remember that some of our “pet phrases” can actually be more damaging than helpful. One of the best things you can do is just be there to listen, sympathize and maybe even cry with the one who is hurting. I can’t stress just how important it is to just LISTEN! Sometimes they won’t have much to say, other times they may need to say the same things over and over. This is a normal part of the healing process and having someone there to listen to them will help immensely! And lastly, direct them to the One who can offer the perfect comfort for that person.

My husband, after going through this with me, soon learned what I needed. That I just needed to talk. He just sat with me, held me, let me cry, and listened to me. Picture yourself in my husband's situation. If I came to you, would you know what to say? If I asked you “why did this happen”. How would you respond? It is my hope that you will now know how best to encourage and comfort a person who is going through something like I went through.

The Journey - An Inspirational Story

“Beep, beep, beep…” The noise again startled me. It’s probably just another false alarm, I thought as I raised my dark, anxious eyes to survey the green, digital numbers on the white machine that monitored my mother and the small baby still inside her. What I saw made my heart sink. Something is definitely wrong. Those numbers shouldn’t be that low. The nurse who entered the small, brightly lit hospital room just then confirmed my suspicions. She took one look at the monitor, briskly asked my mom a few questions, and then stated that the doctor should be notified immediately.
It was a tense few moments while we waited for the doctor to arrive. I, being a twelve year old girl, did not grasp the full magnitude of the situation and kept hoping that it would just be a false alarm. The feeling of fear that turned my stomach in knots indicated otherwise.
The doctor soon arrived and gently informed us that my mom would need to be rushed for an emergency caesarean section, but not to worry. Everything would be just fine. However, the tense strain of his voice and concerned look in his eyes spoke louder than his optimistic words, and panic gripped my heart. No! I screamed inwardly, this can’t be happening. It was too early for the baby to come. At this point, he only had a ten percent chance of survival. And my mom, what would happen to her?
When she was only twenty-two weeks pregnant, my mother’s water had broken. Miraculously, her labor ceased and she was able to keep her unborn infant, but without the amniotic fluid, the baby’s development was severely hindered, especially that of his lungs. This was just the beginning of a long journey that would bring us together as a family and ultimately, closer to our Heavenly Father. Now, three weeks and five days later, both my mother and little brother were in critical distress and all we could do was wait for this terrible nightmare to end.
The next few hours were some of the longest of my entire life. Time slowed to a crawl before seeming to come to a complete standstill. I felt so helpless. There was nothing I could possibly do but wait. And I did so apprehensively, the fear gnawing on my heart. I can’t stand this. What can I do? My mom is probably dying in there and all I can do is sit here? It was then that I realized that even though I could not do anything, there was One who could. Throughout this lengthy ordeal, God had taught me a great deal about trusting in Him. I knew that I needed to let go and have faith in Him. So right then, I looked to my Heavenly Father and completely relinquished all of my apprehension and anxieties to Him. I earnestly implored Him to protect my mother and the brother whom I had never even met. Although it was still difficult not knowing what was going to happen, I was able to wait, secure in the knowledge that God was watching over them. They were safe in His hands no matter what the outcome.
Behind the closed doors of the surgical unit, nurses began to prepare for what they perceived as just another operation. Little did they know that they would be fighting what could be a fatal battle with death itself. The nurses strung various wires and tubes haphazardly until everything was hopelessly tangled in a complicated web. As they methodically worked to undo the terrible mess, the doctor rushed in and demanded to know what was going on. Why weren’t they ready? This was an emergency! Finally grasping the seriousness of the situation, the nurses hurriedly completed the rest of the preparations.
Everything was ready and not a moment to soon. The doctor lowered his gleaming instrument and as he pushed it through the flesh to create a neat incision, a blood clot burst, covering his hands with the dark red, oozing fluid. If he had been even one second later, it would have ruptured inside my mother, sending both her and her son to a premature death. The doctor later revealed that he had never come so close to losing both mother and child in all his years of practice.
At 8:58 p.m., the doors swung open, and nurses pushing a clear, plastic incubator rushed past, pausing only momentarily to allow us a brief glimpse into the case before rushing their precious load into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Looking down, I saw my new baby brother who was even smaller than the dolls that had been my “babies” as a young girl. His delicate, wiry arms were nearly the same size as the little finger on my dad’s hand, and his perfectly formed hands were the size of my dad’s fingernails. Thick, dark hair covered his miniature head. Instead of the healthy pink color of a newborn baby, his skin was dark and almost blotchy. That did not matter though. Right now, what mattered most was the fact that he was alive. It would be a long and daunting road for this one pound, twelve ounce miracle, but I had the confidence that no matter what happened, God would take care of him.
The next few months were never easy. There was the constant fear of losing him without warning. But after eleven blood transfusions, several more close encounters with death, pneumonia, an operation to correct a double hernia, time on ventilators and oxygen, feeding tubes, gentle loving care, and so much more, he was ready to leave the hospital that had been his home for eighty-five long days. By God’s grace, we had finally completed that phase of the journey.
Due to being on a ventilator, my little brother had sustained some damage to his lungs and for the next two years, we had to be so careful that he did not contract even the common cold as this could be deadly for him. It was never easy, but as I have been watching him grow from miniature baby, to being a stubborn, naughty little toddler, then on into being a healthy ornery, energetic five year old boy, I wonder at the awesomeness of our God, the one who can perform miracles, even today. It is because of him, that little Joshua’s journey has just begun.