There are a few things sadder than watching a marriage disintegrate to the point where a conversation consists of “Pass the peas, please”. The relationship that has brought you together does not simply decay overnight. When couples allow themselves to lose interest in each other, dry rot sets in and eventually the structure disintegrates. From a male perspective, I believe that a man’s wife retains her husband’s interest as she observes some of the following:
1. Allowing for the changes that occur as we become older; dress and attend to yourself in a manner that attracted him to you in the first place. I am not talking about dressing like a “femme fatale” but rather paying attention to neatness for which a husband can be justifiably proud.
2. Retain your intellectual curiosity and ability to carry on meaningful conversations.Contrary to opinion, a husband appreciates a good conversation with an informed spouse.Thus it is essential to keep your spirit and mind fed. It is good to challenge one another in matters of proper eating habits, rest and exercise. A shared activity is often helpful in this regard whether it is walking, biking or use of the local gym.
3. Utilize your intuition and powers of reason to persuade rather than using your emotions to manipulate. While tears may indicate one’s true feelings, a husband begins to shut down when tears are being used as a tactic to simply get one’s own way. I believe that a husband retains high regard for his wife if she is able to discuss the pros and cons in making a decision that affects both of you.
4. A husband has a high need to be considered number one in your life after God. This is above parents, your children and friends. If a husband has any doubt about your loyalty to him, he will soon check out. We just can’t stand the thought of being number two in our wife’s life.
5. Choose friends that will positively enhance your life and challenge you to maintain your highest values. A husband is aware that his wife will empathetically take on the actions, opinions and attitudes common to her closest friends. This has important implications for husbands as they are often drawn into the net of negative male generalizations through friends of a spouse who has been hurt in male-female transactions.
6. With regards to friendships there is one thing that stands alone. Husbands feel very betrayed when intimate matters which, ought to stay between husband and wife, are relayed to friends as grist for speculation and gossip. You would be shocked if you knew how husbands felt about disclosure as it undermines the “respect” which he wants to retain in the community. When a matter is serious, it ought to be taken rather to a professional counselor where a couple’s privacy can be assured.
In conclusion, the retention of love and mutual regard is dependent upon both parties to avoid the pitfalls that draw them apart and press on to bless and build one another up into all that God has designed them to be.
Archive for the Encouragement Category
CNN stated that Katherine Tsarnaeva (Russell), the wife of the deceased Boston Bomber, claims “she was completely in the dark about her husband’s alleged plan to bomb the Boston Marathon.” Katherine’s lawyer also stated: “Reports of involvement by her husband and brother-in-law came as an absolute shock to them all.” As you and I read these excerpts, we must wonder how it is possible to be married to someone who carries such dark and insidious secrets. Yet we must recognize that there is a dark side to all of us.
Secrets are destructive and toxic. They will not evaporate over time and free us from their claws, in fact; they will grow their sinister barnacles into the fabric of our soul. Anything that is kept in the dark holds power over us. Especially in our marriages.
This is a tough topic because no one wants to talk about their secrets. The reason I got brave enough to tackle this issue today is because I was engaged in yet another story of where a family secret set out to destroy all family relationships. Let’s not kid ourselves…secrets will come out and they will destroy. They will have a similar effect as the Boston bombs, shrapnel piercing the hearts with betray and rejection. Sometimes the destruction is final. Non-repairable. Destroyed. Finished.
To keep marriages healthy and intimate, a person cannot be living a double life or keeping secrets. It might work for a short while, but do not be deceived, the story will emerge at one point or another. The question on the table is: “Do you need to divulge everything that transpired in your life BEFORE your marriage?” I believe the answer is: “Only if it has a present power to sabotage your marriage from being healthy and loving.”
So what now?
1. Acknowledge secrets and that they have destructive powers.
2. Admit that they will one day be revealed. The bible says this about our secrets: “For He will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives: (1 Corinthians 4:5).
3. Secrets need to be brought out of their dark places and into the light of God’s healing power
4. BUT, use Godly wisdom to know if you need to discuss this with your spouse. Not all things need to be blurted out especially if you know it will destroy all aspects of your marriage. Sometimes there are things that need to be confessed to a very trusted friend, our counselor.
5. They need to be discussed so that your soul can be free from the hooks of the power of that secret.
6. Our God is a loving God and always ready to embrace us when we run to Him with our messes, mistakes and secrets. He is not waiting to punish us, but willing to forgive us and give us new freedom for living the abundant life.
7. Learn to live an authentic life that brings freedom into our marriages and all aspects of relationships.
When we are honest with each other, we don’t have to lie, make us stories, edit our conversations and be ready to dodge bullets. There is something incredibly beautiful about authentic, honest and trustworthy relationships. We may not be able to find it in the rest of the world, but we should be able to find it in our marriages. May yours be the one.
This blog post is written by my friend Larry Dieno. I met Larry when I was facilitating a study called a “Life of No Regrets.” Little did our group know that one day Larry would be faced with decisions that would change the course of his family’s life. Larry’s words in this article ring true, because he has walked every step of this journey of faith and commitment.
April 19, 2003. Janet and I stood before God, family and friends to declare our love and commitment to each other for the rest of our lives. Little did we know how one day that commitment would be tested.
Our first nine years together were a whirlwind. We started out with five of our combined seven kids living with us, all of them active in a variety of sports and community activities. Rarely did we have time to just be with each other and grow our relationship, as our focus was mostly on the “crisis and kid of the day”. Without commitment to each other, our marriage may not have survived that hectic period in our marriage.
Gradually, not suddenly as we feared, each child found their way to some sort of independence. This new independence gave us the gift of time, but before we fully knew what to do with it…everything changed.
May 15, 2012, Janet suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. This left her in a coma for a month and now began the long slow road to recovery, the end result of still remains unknown. Some would call this a tragedy and they would be correct, but that’s not how I choose to look at it. To me it is simply a life changing moment that required me to remember that day nine years ago and I spoke the words: “For better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” We are all familiar with those words; we’ve all half listened to them as they were spoken at other people’s weddings. But when I got a call from my panic stricken son after he found his mom lying on the floor, those words resonated loud and clear and soon became a harsh reality. God spoke loud and clear to me that day, “Now it is now time to start living those words of commitment. “
So what does commitment look like? I had to remember that those wedding vows which were spoken in front of God, family and friends; were not just between the two of us. From the very beginning friends stepped up to help me by providing rides, comforting me and helping me to remember things that I had forgotten because of the distractions in the hospital. Commitment.
Our family is spread out all over this great land of Canada, and thankfully we have the means to move about it. All of Janet’s children were in Vancouver during the most critical days. Previously it had been hard to get them all together at one time but there they were… taking bedside shifts, comforting each other and supporting me during a roller coaster period of time. They remember it as one of the “best” times they have spent together. Thanks to technology, our family was able to keep in touch during this difficult time, and offer prayers and encouragement to each other. We still do this today, except now Janet can participate as well. We had family in Kelowna looking after our house and dog while we were away, and other people who don’t routinely engage in our family life made contact and offered support. Commitment.
I have been blessed with being part of a strong faith community and the relationships that we have built were definitely God’s way of preparing me for the changes to come in our lives. Without my faith and the network of people God placed in my life I would not have been able to live out my commitment to Janet. I would have felt fear, anger, despair and lacking in confidence to make key decisions. God’s commitment to me has enabled me to love Janet more than ever. God has taught me to trust that He is at work through this and He will do good things through it. Janet has progressed to the point where she recognizes the commitment so many people have made to help with recovery. This knowledge and awareness motivates her to keep working hard.
Commitment is a two way street. If you were reading carefully at the beginning of this article you would have picked up on the fact this is marriage number two for both Janet and I. We each spoke words of commitment to another person before. Did we fail previously? Yes. Were we uncommitted previously? No. You cannot truly commit to another person without them committing to you as well. God is committed to all of us and will never leave us. I am committed to Janet and will never leave her. Commitment seems to be lacking in the world today and I pray that our story is a testament to how true commitment has the power to overcome any adversity.
PLEASE STOP AND CHECK OUT LARRY AND JANET’S INCREDIBLE, INSPIRING MESSAGE OF HOPE
Here’s the link. http://vimeo.com/62907312
If you wish to learn more about commitment, Pastor Craig Groeschel taught a series entitled From This Day Forward that really hit home for me. You can watch it here.
If you wish to follow our story more closely I invite you to our blog, http://www.houdieno.wordpress.com
A few weeks ago while visiting with my parents in Kelowna, British Columbia, my mom and I started talking about marriage. She looked me straight in the eyes and asked: “Sweetie, what do you think is one of the most important ingredients in a marriage to make it successful?” My instant and candid response was, “Communication”. My husband Tim and I have been married for over twenty years and, and in my experience, the happiest times in our marriage are the times when we are communicating well with each other.
This is not something that happens overnight. When Tim and I started dating, we would sit side by side on a bench in the park for long periods of time and not say anything to each other. I remember thinking; “Is this really the right person for me? We hardly know what to say to each other?” Over the years we’ve learned how to open up to each other. But we have worked through a lot of these struggles and continue the complicated and ongoing process of learning how to communicate. However, here are some of the things I’ve learned so far:
1. Don’t be vague with your feelings. Men don’t like to play the guessing game. If you’re angry, don’t slam the cupboards and drawers in an attempt to have him ask you what is wrong. The longer it takes him to ask you if you’re mad, the madder you will get. Does it sound like I’m talking from experience? Believe me, I’ve tried this, and it doesn’t work. Tell your husband you’re upset and why. Try not to say, “you always” or “you never”, because this will make him feel defensive. Use phrases like, “I feel upset because I asked you 3 times to take out the garbage, and you didn’t do it”. This leads up to the next point.
2. Don’t let your feelings build up to the point of exploding. This is something I struggle with a lot. I want to be the nice one, and not dump my feelings all over people. What we often don’t realize is that negative feelings do not go away. Instead, they continue to build up inside of us. One day you can’t even look at your spouse and you feel incredibly angry and you don’t even know why. It’s difficult to get back to a good relationship when you’ve let your anger and resentment build up.
3. When feelings are overwhelming, try to take some time to cool off. It sounds like the opposite of what I just said. But what I’m talking about is to take an hour or two, or maybe a day to try to figure out why you’re upset. Then you need to stop and pray about it. Sometimes we need a new perspective on our situation. I find that when I pray about a very emotional situation the Holy Spirit will open my eyes to see situations in a new light, or through the eyes of another person. Talking things out is important, but when we’re extremely emotional we spurt things we don’t mean and that can severely damage our relationships.
4. Communication is verbal and non-verbal. Am I scowling when my husband comes home from work or do I greet him with a smile? What we don’t say can be just as powerful as what we do. Touch is a huge form of communication and a hug and a kiss either given or rejected can speak volumes.
These days, it can be difficult to find that time that you need to really communicate, the distractions are overwhelming. Take some time to turn off the TV, ignore the phones, put down the IPad and really talk to your spouse. When we don’t take the time to communicate we won’t feel close to our spouse and that can become very lonely. Taking the time to communicate with our spouse is a very important investment that we can make in our marriage; it creates a connection that will build the foundation for a strong and lasting relationship.
Some predictable patterns evoke a sense of pleasurable anticipation. For example. My husband and I can’t wait for golfing season to start so that we can golf on every available Friday. This pattern is full of joy and freedom because it is something Jack and I love to do. But there are predictable patterns that turn into boredom, rob us of all freedom, suck away our joy and may leave us feeling depleted and even resentful. These are the patterns that evolve from repeated and endless duty and obligations. Once an obligation or duty becomes predictable…be prepared for the danger signs.
Let’s be realistic. In all marriages there are obligations that must be met every day. But there comes a time when we have to change our routines or pull away from them for a short time so that we don’t turn into time management robots. As I observe marriages these days, my heart aches for couples that are caught into the predictable pattern of work, driving children to activities, paying bills, going to meetings and the myriad of tasks that endlessly fill their days. We cannot experience the joy and fullness of marriage if we don’t break away from these predictable patterns and get reaquainted with the person we said “I do” to. Relationships cannot survive without eyeball to eyeball conversations and heart connection intimacy. Here are a few suggestions for breaking the patterns:
1.Unplug. Put away your phone, I-pad, computer, game boy and anything that resembles a piece of technology. Yes, those pieces of plastic and wire are important, but not more important than answering your child’s question, or your spouses plea for an important conversation. Pour your favorite drink, sit down, look each other in the eyes and talk.
2.Go away. Do something different. If you go to aunt Sophie’s house each summer, it may be nice visit, but over the years this may have turned into another assumed predictable pattern. Go to the mountains..the ocean…explore an area that you’ve never seen before. Try golfing, playing a new game, go to a different restaurant, try a new ice cream, buy coloured shoes, a different coffee shop or maybe it’s time to attend a marriage retreat.
3.Laugh. When was the last time you laughed? I mean belly laughed! Laughter has the power to heal wounds, it breaks down tension, and puts a new perspective on our relationships. Go to a funny movie..or download one on your tv or computer. A quick and easy fix is to watch some Brian Regan (the comedian) clips on utube…together. They are guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.
4.Prepare a Romantic night. Yes, get dressed up and go to a romantic restaurant where you have to sit across from each other and talk. Talk about your future. Dream about possibilities. Remember how funny you once were!
5.Give each other freedom. Tell your wife to go shopping for as long as she wants. Tell your husband to go golfing and not worry about rushing home. We all need to know that we are not TRAPPED into a certain time frame all the time. Because when we begin to feel trapped, we will find other means of pleasure.
We are living in a time in history where many marriages are struggling to survive the many demands that bombard us every day. Please do not be one of those that thinks it will be easier to walk from the marriage than to fight for it.
God made us to be fulfilled in our relationships. The only way we can thrive is to spend the most valuable commodity we have to succeed. TIME.
Please take the TIME to break some predictable patterns and change them into freedom finders. Freedom to be who God created you to be as your own person..and a successful spouse.
No wonder there is conflict in marriages. After conducting these surveys I am convinced that men and women come from two different planets. But we are all magnificently and wonderfully made and it is up to us to unleash the mystery of our polarities. I believe with all my heart that God puts two people together to “sandpaper them into the glorious creations He designed them to become.” Let’s not sabotage that process due to our ignorance. OK men, are you ready to hear what women dislike what you do or don’t do?
PLEASE READ TO THE END OF THE BLOG FOR A POWERFUL AND PRACTICAL CHALLENGE.
1. Clam-up Charlie-This one spoke so loud I almost had to cover my ears. Women dislike it that men dismiss the value of honest and forthright communication.
• When they clam up and not say anything because they feel that what they say “won’t matter anyway.”
• When they want you to dismiss the details and get to the bottom line summary.
• When they keep things to themselves and then blow up when it gets to be too much.
• When they hear only what they want to hear.
• Lack of admission when something is bothering them.
2. Eddie the Egomaniac-Many women understand that men find fulfillment in their occupations and providing for their families. But women dislike it when men make their occupation their identity; always talking about how important they are in their line of work. We dislike it when men draw attention to themselves by loudly proving their bravado through exaggerated stories of their conquests.
3. Put-Down Paul-It is extremely hurtful and disrespectful when men put down their spouses in the presence of other people. When men are sarcastic, or make a joke about something their spouses did, it is embarrassing for everyone.
4. Sexist Sam-We dislike the feeling that we have to earn credibility to speak intelligently with men. Sexist and disrespectful comments are not acceptable anymore. We no longer want you to behave superior toward us. We no longer want to feel as though are you are saying: “Oh brother, what could she have to say that could possibly be worthwhile.”
5. Crude Dude Dan-Women do not appreciate men with poor hygiene, who swear, use foul language, make dirty jokes, and display poor manners publicly and privately. Women don’t like it when men “ogle” other women and make suggestive sexist comments.
6. Big Boy Bobbie-This is a man all grown up and still living in a little boy body. He is the one who does not help out in the kitchen but is first in line when the food shows up. He assumes his wife will treat him like his mother did, and allow him to continue to play with big boy toys and focus his leisure time toward fulfilling his own selfish desires.
7. Lack Luster Larry-Lack of initiating romance. His idea of romance is to take his wife to Tool Time Depot and then stop off for a beer on the way home. That romance is all for him, and does not even come close to meeting the needs of a woman.
8. Insecure Ivan-Women know when men are insecure-they can’t hide it behind their bravado. Confidence is one of the most attractive traits in men and women have. Women love a confident man who will treat her as an equal and show her the respect she deserves. Don’t assume women need money or wealth to satisfy them, women need a confident man to make a woman feel loved, safe and cared for.
• Dressed to “kill” and then become sloppy once they “have their girl.”
• Not finishing projects around the house. (Guys this was a huge pet peeve for many women).
• Answering the phone in the middle of a conversation.
• Leaving “stuff” laying around all over the house and not picking up after yourself.
• Generalizing. “You women always….”
• Leaving dirty dishes BESIDE the dishwasher.
• Not changing the toilet paper roll.
• Leaving cupboard doors open.
We’ve gleaned some valuable information over the last few weeks. Let’s use these comments to strengthen our understanding. What became glaringly obvious is that we need to learn to communicate better. To strengthen our communication, I invite you to enter into a powerful challenge with your husband or significant other. This will sum up all that we’ve learned and will revolutionize your relationship. Ask each other this question and then act on it.
“What are your top 3 needs?” Once you take the time to unleash this question, you will arrive at your greatest understanding of each other. Once we all make that this focal point of our relationships, we will all be amazed at what God can do to make our marriages “very good.”
Then act on this verse: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
May God enrich your marriages beyond what you can comprehend.
I have had some very interesting conversations with men in the last couple of weeks. My dear reader, if we truly pursue to understand what is going on in a man’s mind, we can build bridges to greater understanding and in turn we will receive the love we so desperately need. I believe most women are eager to please our husbands, children, family, boss and friends. If we have a clearer picture of what is expected of us, and in turn make the men in our lives aware of our needs, this knowledge builds a great foundation for loving and joyful relationships. So let’s take another glimpse into the mystery of a man’s mind. Today these points are in not in any order of priority.
9. The Beauty Queen-These women think their looks will get them whatever they want. They can’t walk in front of a mirror without constantly primping. Unfortunately this behavior is due to their insecurities and they often have no personality of depth of character due to their superficial nature. (Their exact words).
10. Sanctimonious Susie-She proudly wears her purity like a coat and looks down her nose at anyone who is not as righteous or proper as she is.
11. Come Lately-Women who are constantly late. It’s aggravating. Period.
12. The Bulldozer-Women who have mistaken aggressiveness for assertiveness. They run over others rarely recognizing they are also bullies…in their own way. Some women feel, that to be accepted into a man’s world, they need to act tough and loud.
13. Selfish Sally-When a woman won’t support her spouse during a rough financial period. She insists on maintaining a certain level of lifestyle even when it becomes a hardship on the whole family.
14. Martha the Martyr-This woman takes on all sorts of duties, responsibilities and chores beyond her normal load. This satisfies her need for attention and accolades but neglects to make her husband and her family the No. 1 priority in her life. It makes the spouse feel that he is playing “second fiddle”.
15. Disrespectful Dorothy-There is probably nothing more damaging and hurtful than when a spouse does not show her husband respect. Each woman needs to know that her spouse needs respect more than anything in his life.
16. The Guild Monger-This woman knows how to ask a question or make a statement so that it evokes guilt. She uses this deadly tool to motivate her husband to do something she needs or wants.
17. Lazy Lottie-When a wife’s main stimulus is TV, romance novels, gossip and social media. And the next words are directly from a man’s mouth….”When they let themselves go to pieces after the wedding.”
My dear friends, if any of these words “fit” I think we need to own them. Even though this is my second marriage, and I have been married for many, many years, I continue to be amazed at how much I can learn about the mysterious opposite sex.
There is truly nothing more fulfilling and joyful than when we are in a harmonious relationship with our spouses and families. We can all have this! When you and I said “I do” on our wedding day, we dreamed of having a blissful life. Yes, life throws us curve balls and our days are full of surprises, but with some hard work, we can have the kind of marriage that God intended when He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
Let’s allow the rough spots in our marriages to “sandpaper” us into the beautiful people God designed us to be.
To unravel the mystery of a man’s mind, we women need practical and useful information. That’s what I set out to discover. I conducted a survey amongst some of my favorite men, and asked them to provide me with a list of things they “dislike what women do.” Here are their top responses.
I give credit to my friend Darrell who provided some names for women’s actions:
1. Diva-This was by far the strongest “dislike” amongst the men. This is when women use drama to get their way. This drama can include guilt, exaggeration, tears and acting cute and coy. Women we have to remember that we like to use our emotions; but men are fixers. When we use this drama to get our way, it will either push men away because they don’t know how to handle our emotions, OR they will try to “fix us” as quickly as possible.
2. The Zealot-This woman is a “keeper of the list and rules”, she knows every policy, procedure, collective agreement and statue by heart. She will use her lists and rules to throw the book at you if you have not done your job or broken a rule.
3. Grenade Thrower-This lady will collect the details of all her unmet expectations, each time you looked at her the wrong way or gave a wrong answer, and store them in a box. This box is called “The Resentment Box”. One day you may ask as simple question like: “Honey did you take your car into the dealership for that oil change?” She did not like the question so she opened her box, took out the grenade and watched the shrapnel destroy your manhood.
4. Jail Keeper-Using sex to hold men hostage. You know what I’m talking about.
5. Gossiping Gertie-Sharing private marriage matters with girlfriends. Difficulties in a marriage relationship should be dealt within the context of the marriage, with counselors or mutual close and trusted friends. Men feel disrespected when private matters are hung out like dirty laundry.
6. Assuming Angie-No, men cannot read the assumptions in your head, nor do they understand your facial expressions or body language. If you want a man to do something, ASK HIM…use your words succinctly and kindly.
7. Late Night Fixer-Wanting to “talk about the relationship” at 11:00 p.m. Women we have to find the right time and place to discuss things that will have emotional implications. It’s hard enough for men to deal with emotional, relational issues…let alone when they are being ambushed late at night.
8. 50/50-These ladies expect their spouses (or significant others) to shoulder half of the household chores, child rearing despite having a cleaning lady. However, they do not help with any of the chores around the outside of house. Most husbands to not have a gardener, pool company, handyman or mechanic on site.
Other little pet peeves included:
a. Being asked to pick up their socks.
b. Starting to talk the minute the door is opened at home. Give your husband a few minutes to get settled and anchored.
c. Women who lounge in front of the T.V. in Lulu lemon pants.
d. Comparing your husband to your father.
I am personally grateful for this valuable information because I am on a constant learning curve to have a great marriage. When God designed marriage, He said “marriage was planned for us and that it was meant to be VERY GOOD!” We can all have that great marriage if we take the time to communicate our differences and seek to understand each other. Love is not just a nice fuzzy feeling. It is about learning to accept each other’s quirks and differences. Once we grasp that concept, we can use our differences to make us stronger and better.
Next week I will uncover 8 more great concepts for you to chew on.
Every time I open my mouth I plant a seed. There are days I wish this was not true, but there is no escape from this spiritual law. Surely those subtle, sarcastic remarks when I am standing in a tedious, long line-up can’t have much power. After all, I will probably never again encounter the people who heard them. But I have come to realize that you and I hold an astonishing power that can be absolutely brilliant or beastly. It’s the words that come out of our mouths.
My son-in-law Tim runs a huge farming operation in Southern Alberta. I love to drive by his fields and see the yellow canola, the rich beans, barley or the thirty other seeds he may have planted that year. Whatever seeds he plants…that is what will grow and be produced. When he plants flax he does not get peas. When he plants canola he does not get barley. There is no getting around this.
Imagine the influence and brilliance of the words I speak in my home to my children or my husband. I have the staggering power to bring hope, joy and peace into my home simply by opening my mouth. But unfortunately that same concept works with my ugly words. When I blame and accuse; blame and accusations will come back on me. When I criticize; criticism will come back on me. This may occur in the next hour, day, month or year. We may think we got away with our ugly words-but we do not.
None of us can get around this spiritual law no matter how hard we try. The bible says it this way: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction, the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 5:7, 8 NIV).
Life is too short to play around with this kind of dynamite. I am serious about planting great seeds in 2013. I choose to have my words give life whenever I open my mouth. The bible puts it this way: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose” (Proverbs 18:21 MSG).
How will I do that?
1. Be fully aware that every time I open my mouth I have the power to evoke life or death.
2. Stay immersed in God’s word (the Bible) so that the Spirit of God can have full access to every part of me…every day.
3. Our minds can only have one thought at a time. I must STOP and pray and ask God to help me control the ugly words before they escape my mouth. By the time my prayer is finished, God will have helped me to overcome that momentary feeling.
4. God has given me this space of time in the history to do something significant with my life. I don’t want to miss this glorious moment.
My dear friends, in our homes are the most important people in our lives. We literally have the brilliant power to make them feel respected, valuable and cherished. Or, we can destroy their spirits by crushing them with our words. The choice is always ours.
Five years ago my husband Jack and I “skipped Christmas”. Quite simply, we wanted to know what it felt like to let go of all the Christmas expectations and self imposed tension. What would a Christmas season be like without waiting in lines, looking for parking spots, finding the perfect gift and feeling exhausted from fulfilling all the traditions and obligations that are supposedly inflicted on us?
Just last week I was in a Christmas decoration aisle in a huge department store, buying ribbon for our office party. A young couple was pushing a shopping cart down the aisle and in the middle of an argument. I could see the tension and frustration on her face and the anger in her voice: “This is not just for me you know; this is for OUR Christmas. I am just trying to make it a nice Christmas for OUR family.” Sadly I saw the vacant look in the man’s eyes and I could see he just didn’t get this “Christmas thing.”
I wish I could l have grabbed them by the shoulders and told them what my I, as a woman, learned about simplifying and enjoying the Christmas season. Here is what I learned the year we “skipped Christmas”:
1. We have to realize we cram a year’s worth of shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating and entertaining into about 30 days. Realize how impossible this is to do is without tension.
2. Many women, including myself, feel guilt ridden and responsible for creating the perfect story book Christmas. The kind we see on magazine covers, TV commercials and then pulling it together like it happened in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Do whatever it takes to get rid of that guilt and those expectations.
3. We don’t HAVE to send out Christmas cards. Our family now sends out a “Happy New Year” letter toward the end of January when life has settled into a more relaxed and manageable routine.
4. We don’t HAVE to spend a lot of money on the perfect gift. As a matter of fact, most of us don’t need another new thing that might end up in a cupboard or drawer. We decided as a family to give to organizations that really need our support. The greatest gift we can give each other in this crazy busy life is the “gift of time.” The grandchildren still get presents but make it simple and not exorbitantly priced. Send the extra money to children who really need it.
5. Sit down and ask your husband what type of things he would like to do to make Christmas meaningful for him. If he’s not interested in doing all “that stuff”, don’t load yourself with all the self-imposed expectations of creating the story book Christmas. The tension is not worth it.
6. Simplify the baking. Instead of 10-12 different items, chose 1 or 2 items your family really likes and get the children involved in the baking. Make it fun not stressful.
7. Pack your Christmas decorations away each year so that the following year it is easy to set them up. For example, I label my containers “kitchen-foyer-dining room table” etc. When I bring the container up from the basement, I open it and plunk these items exactly where they belong. If you need to buy new decorations; buy them AFTER Christmas when they are 70% off the last sale price and there are no long line ups.
8. It is more important to have harmony and love in our marriage and homes, than to buy into this new marketing scheme called “The Holidays.”
It has been a harsh reality for me to see that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ; yet we don’t invite Jesus to His own birthday party. When I see the Christmas season through this perspective, it hurts my heart to see what I am doing to commercialize this Holy Christmas Season. I need to do whatever I can to stop this insanity.