Archive for the Encouragement Category

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE – “It all Goes Back in the Box”

Posted in Balancing life, Beauty from the Inside Out, Commitment, Communication, Encouragement, Expectations, Freedom, Freedom from Busyness, Friendship, fUN, God' Love, Good Marriage, Harmony, Intimacy, Laughter, love, Making Wise Choices, pornography, Understanding each other with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2013 by hmclaughlin

Board games“Beyond our greatest fear and struggles lies our greatest power.” That is a Heidi-ism I have expounded on in my presentation to audiences for many years. Through each of my struggles God has unleashed greater power in me to help me embrace more freedom and greater clarity to focus on what is good and has meaningful value. Hence the reason for my blog being silent for several weeks. Two weeks ago I buried my sweet mother who loved God with all her heart soul and mind. During the time of your final days on earth I gave myself permission to withdraw from all social media and focus on that which I believed to be the most important event in my life; being at the beside of my mother.

During her final days on earth as I sat and held my mother’s hand, I experienced many long silent hours that gave me time to reflect all that is good and important in my life. Also during her last 6 weeks in Hospice House, our family had to box up all her belongings and empty her beautiful living accommodations because she would never return to all that was familiar and meaningful to her. Why am I telling you all this on a marriage blog? “We have to realize that all our material wealth, accomplishments, successes and stuff all end up in a box. In our families and marriages, we must have discernment as to what is really important in our lives.”

With Christmas just around the corner we are consumed with trying to find the right present so that we can see the expressions of joy and exultation on our loved ones faces. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. God created us for pleasure and the bible tells us that God wants us to enjoy the abundant life. But not when it costs us our soul and our marriages.
• Not when we work too many hours and are away from our families so that we can afford those things that are beyond our income and budget.
• In Canada the average person has expenses that exceed 64% of their income.
• Not when the credit cards are all maxed out and we lay awake at night wondering how we will make the next payment.
• Not when we impose expectations on our spouses to provide us with those expensive things that we think will bring us happiness.
• Not when we buy stuff because of a sense of entitlement or simply that we think we want it.
• Not when we demand things that we cannot afford and we end up in ugly arguments that leave us feeling diminished and angry.
• Not when it causes power struggles and destroys the harmony in our marriages.
The fact remains that one day everything we have will go back into a box.

When my children were growing up we loved to play the board game of LIFE. It was fun to throw the dice and eventually buy a house, car and fill it all up with a wife, children and lots of great stuff. Of course there is always a winner, but whether you won or lost, the game was folded up and it all went back into the box. That’s the reality of LIFE.

We boxed up all of my mother’s precious well cared for clothes, furniture and some simple jewelry. Today they are sitting in boxes in my basement. But what really mattered in my mother’s life was not the stuff left in the boxes; it was the time and experiences we enjoyed as a family, the laughter, the stories, meals and wisdom and love shared graciously and abundantly.

This Christmas season, and throughout the year, what will it take for you to be able to find your greatest power to help you embrace freedom and joy in the events and experiences that will have lasting value? My husband Jack and I do not give each other Christmas presents. Instead we focus on providing experiences throughout the year that will give us lasting memories that will give us joy and continue to reside in our hearts. Let’s help each other to be diligent and intentionally focus on those things in our marriages and families that will bring us joy beyond the Christmas season and not end up in a meaningless box.

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UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE- A Simple but Radical Prayer

Posted in Acceptance, Beauty from the Inside Out, Commitment, companionship, Conflict, Encouragement, Faith, God' Love, Good Marriage, Intimacy, Listening, Ocean of Love, Overcoming Struggles, Pleasure, Prayer, Understanding each other, Valued with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2013 by hmclaughlin

heart in hand
Gary Chapman’s book on the 5 Love Languages hit the bull’s eye, but I think we need to go deeper. I specifically remember the time and place when I discovered how we truly learn to love each other.

After being married about 15 years to my first husband, I hit the brick wall thinking that nothing was ever going to change. My husband was never going to love me the way I needed to be loved. I needed the kind of “action love” where I knew my words were being heard and that I was accepted for who I was; junk and all. I wondered if there would ever be a life beyond Monday night football and the next basketball event. I thought: If he would just do all those things that I need, then I would be happy and our marriage would be perfect.

It was 1982 when God nudged me in my spirit and these words came to me: In order for you to feel loved, why not find out how Dick needs to be loved.

I remember that moment in time because that is when I started praying this prayer, “Lord, show me how Dick needs to be loved, and show me how to love him.” I thought it was kind of a strange prayer and I wondered what would happen. For the next 12 years I prayed this prayer faithfully. Over time, albeit slowly, this is what transpired:

1. The most important thing this prayer taught me was to STOP trying to change my husband so that he would meet all MY needs.
2. I started observing what my husband needed. For instance, he needed to watch football and play basketball. Those were things he loved and I finally relented and stopped nagging him.
3. Miraculous things began to happen. Over time as I stopped trying to “get him to do things” he took more notice of my needs.
4. I re-learned how to love him in a deeper level…not for what he could bring into our relationship but to ACCEPT him for who God made him to be.

When my husband died 12 years later, I can tell you from the depth of my heart that this simple but radical prayer taught me how to love in a way I never thought was possible.

I have discovered that loving people is not easy. I need God’s love to fill me and cover me so that I feel like I am in the middle of an ocean of God’s love. Over time the people around me will feel the splash of this love on them and they won’t be able to help themselves but love us back. Over time that is what this radical prayer will do. The bible puts it this way: “The fervent prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results” (James 5:16).

If you want to put joy, vibrancy and intimacy back into your marriage, I dare you to start praying this radical prayer. Persist, don’t give up. Wait for the results. They will come.

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE-“Play the Movie Forward”

Posted in Balancing life, Beauty from the Inside Out, Commitment, companionship, Encouragement, Faith, Finding Truth, God' Love, Legacy, love, Making Wise Choices, Peace, resilient, self gratification, Understanding each other with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2013 by hmclaughlin

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It’s a gift to be able to enjoy life by learning to live in the moment. But perhaps we’ve taken this too far. Even though we’ve overused the words “instant gratification”, I believe there is value in unpacking its dangers when it encroaches on our marriage and family life. Let me explain.

Even as I am writing this, I am sitting by the bedside of my 88 year old mother who will soon come face to face with Jesus. Over the past week many of our family members have flown in to express their good-bye to this extraordinary woman.She is not extraordinary because of her many accomplishments. She never wrote a book, won any prizes, or made the newspaper headlines for some notorious act of valor or media releases.But she soaked our family with love through her unfailing prayers and gratefulness. Just this morning she softly breathed the words, “Our family is one big love affair.” My mother is leaving behind a legacy of love,prayer and resiliency. Through the many outrageously difficult times she encountered, she never allowed her selfish “instant gratification” feelings to sabotage her marriage or family.

Throughout my many conversations with my children this past week, we agreed that to leave a legacy of a resilient and loving marriage, we need to “play the movie forward”. If we really believe we married for better or for worse,until death parts us, what does that look like?

1. Is this (whatever it is in the moment) “self gratification” hurting my family?
2. If I give in to my selfish feelings, how will I feel about the way I acted next week, next month or next year?
3. What do I want my marriage to look like in 10 years…at the end do my life?
4. Realize your spouse has not been placed on this earth to bring you all the happiness, pleasure and fun you think you deserve. We all need to find that within ourselves through our relationship ship with our loving Heavenly Father.
5. If I do this (self gratification thing)…will I have regret?

All of us will come to that place where my mother is right now. Even though life has not been easy for her, she is a woman who has loved well and has the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). She is ready to leave this earth having lived a life of no regrets.

Isn’t this what you and I want? If we do, then we need to play the movie forward right now. Let’s ask ourselves this question. “If I continue to act this way, will I leave the kind of legacy that will bring value and honor to my marriage and family.”

It’s never too late to start.

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE – When your husband is stimulated by CHAOS and you thrive on PEACE

Posted in Beauty from the Inside Out, Boring marriage, chaos, Commitment, companionship, Conflict, Differences, Encouragement, Expectations, Faith, Friendship, fUN, Good Marriage, Harmony, Intimacy, Making Wise Choices, Overcoming Struggles, Peace, Respect, Uncategorized, Understanding each other with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2013 by hmclaughlin

Family Lying on Grass

Books can’t prepare you for this. Life is just not perfect.
Real marriage starts when you wake up with someone day after day, through the laughter and the stomach flu; that you really find out who this” other person” is. While we are in the dating and “chemical stage” (pleasure chemicals flowing through our bodies) we don’t really let people know the authentic, and even darker sides of our personality.

I had the great pleasure of observing a 21 year marriage recently, where the husband and wife have learned to cohabitate in chaos and in peace. The husband is stimulated by chaos. What I mean by that is that his office looks like the aftermath of a hurricane, yet he knows where everything is and everything gets all his work done successfully. While is he on his phone he is also able to fix machinery, empty a dishwasher, check invoices and break up children’s squabbles. He is always good natured, kind, generous, very energetic and one of the nicest people I know. Yes he flourishes in chaos.

The wife thrives on peace. She loves everything clean, quiet, planned and organized. Her “space” is a beautiful corner in their home with a comfortable chair, footstool, soft accessories and it exudes…Peace. She is tender, very generous, takes time to create loving and intimate friendships and exemplifies the fruit of a beautiful inner spirit.

How has this couple learned to thrive in this marriage?
1. They have learned, (sometimes painfully) how to live out: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7).
2. They realize this is who they are. They don’t try to change each other but RESPECT each other’s differences.
3. They support each other through their differences. She allows him to have his messy office and he graciously and lovingly built her a corner “She Space.”
4. They have learned to compliment and help each other. What that means is this: Sometimes those of us who are too laid back and quiet need a nudge of adventure and chaos to get up out of our comfort zones. Yet sometimes those of us who are too chaotic need someone to slow us down and let us find the joy and contentment in being quiet and still.
5. They have asked God for wisdom to know when it is time to step in and push the boundaries when things are too chaotic or too quiet.
6. They have learned that the most important aspect of their marriage is “not to fight with each other, but to fight FOR the good values in their marriage”.
7. I have observed that both of these personalities add good value into their children’s lives. Their children are learning about different ways of handling “life” and how to function in these different elements. They are also learning how to resolve conflict.
8. There is no plan “B”. When this couple said their vows to love each other until “death parted them” they made a covenant with God to honor those vows. When we know there is no back door where we can escape when life gets hard, we struggle through the tough stuff and reap the fruit of fulfillment and success.

A marriage would be very comfortable (and boring) if we all had the same personalities. But I know that God has placed a husband and wife in a marriage so that each person can grow to be the very best that God created them to be. If we realized this simple yet hard concept, I believe our divorce rate would plummet drastically. It’s hard work…but very worth it.

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE- “Put Fun Back In your Marriage”

Posted in Balancing life, Beauty from the Inside Out, Boring marriage, Communication, companionship, Conflict, dopamine, Encouragement, Expectations, Freedom from Busyness, Friendship, fUN, Good Marriage, Intimacy, Laughter, Norepinephrine, Pleasure, Uncategorized, Understanding each other with tags , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2013 by hmclaughlin

Is your marriage fun
Laughter cuts tension and breaks down barriers. I observed this concept in my own children when they were little. I watched them play, and then fight, and then laugh hilariously about something silly. In the aftermath of that refreshing laughter, they completely forgot they were mad at each other. This concept still applies to us grown-ups. Life can get very serious these days and we desperately need to learn to laugh again. Yes, the butterflies of early romance quickly flutter away, but they can be replaced by something more substantive.

In a New York Times article i. entitled Reinventing Date Night for Long-Married Couples, the writer concludes that “Simply spending quality time together is probably not enough to prevent a relationship from getting stale.” We’ve all heard the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt’ and I also believe that none of us want to become that “old boring couple”. I am passionate about the fact that we must intentionally put fun and laughter back into our marriages. We need to do this so that we can remember we really do still LIKE each other.

My husband and I have a lot of serious stuff going on in our lives. He is a pastor and I am an author, speaker and controller of a large car dealership; plus we have a large family. I also have an aging mother and we are that point in our lives where grandchildren are leaving home and travelling all over the world. But we both know that in order to keep our marriage fresh, vibrant and healthy, we must intentionally make time to have fun and laugh.

Our brains are created and wired for pleasure. The New York Times further states: “New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner.” Frankly, if spouses don’t find the fun in their marriages, they will pursue it somewhere else.

Here are some tips to re-kindle the spark and re-activate the brain:
1. Be INTENTIONAL about creating some fun. My husband and I love to golf at different golf courses and we make intentional plans to attend football games in other cities. I hear of other couples taking dance lessons, hiking trips or something as simple as a different restaurant or a funny movie.
2. Be CREATIVE. Doing the same thing and re-visiting the same familiar haunts takes you down the same boring path. Try something new and tailor your date nights or activities with some novelty and fun.
3. BRAINSTORM together. The simple process of brainstorming together can be part of the fun factor. Be open to each other’s ideas and don’t dismiss each other’s different perspectives.
4. Protect your fun times from CONFLICT. If the activity is not working out the way you anticipated, protect is from conflict and agree to discuss the issue the next day. Take this opportunity to go out and just enjoy each other’s company.
5. Share FUNNY STORIES. My husband and I love to share funny incidents that occurred during the day. Look for the simple, funny things all around us and take the time to laugh about them.
6. Do the BIG SWITCH. Decide to have a happy marriage. Decide that you will not become that old boring couple that sits across from each other in the restaurant without saying one word to each other.

Marriage was created to be the most enjoyable and intimate relationship we will have in this life. This does not happen organically or automatically. It takes some work and I know you can do it.

i. http://www.reuniting.info/science/reinventing_date_night_for_long_married_couples

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE- “Oh, You’re So Sensitive”

Posted in Balancing life, Beauty from the Inside Out, Communication, companionship, Encouragement, Friendship, Good Marriage, Harmony, Intimacy, Kindness, Making Wise Choices, Overcoming Struggles, Pleasure, Power of the Tongue, power of words, sensitive with tags , , , , , on July 13, 2013 by hmclaughlin

Woman whispering in man's ear
I cringe when I remember saying to my children: “Oh you’re so sensitive.”At that time I did not realize the negative impact it would have on their spirits. Even though we are all grown up now, we still have those tender…“sensitive” feelings that cause us to react defensively. Let me explain.

As we mature, we do not want to show our weaknesses. But each one of us has that tender spot in our spirit, or a red hot button, that when it is pushed or trammeled on, causes us to respond negatively. Most men have been taught to “suck it up… be a man… babies don’t cry…grow up”, and consequently have learned to build a wall around their weaknesses. But, those tender feelings are still deep inside their spirits and are easily evoked when the wrong thing is said. However, men… (and many women) have learned to hide weakness and respond defensively through anger, arrogance, and indifference or trying to be emotionally distant.

It can actually be quite irritating when we make a simple comment like: “Why are you wearing THAT shirt?” or when we compare or criticize their golfing skills, mechanical, “Mr. Fix It” skills or their computer expertise to someone else. If they react defensively, we know we’ve hit a “red hot button”. Of course we all need to learn to get over the small, seemingly insignificant issues in our life, but until that day comes, we have to realize we may have hurt someone with our flippant comment.

Here’s where it gets dangerous. If we don’t recognize our “too sensitive side”… we will learn to protect ourselves from hurtful barbs by building walls. One brick at a time. After a while we may realize it’s just too much work to edit all our conversations and we shut down and protect ourselves. Once this happens, the marriage loses its intimacy and joy. We become defensive instead of protective. We enter into power struggles instead of joyful companionship.

I know! I have spent my whole life learning not to be so sensitive and to take comments personally. It has helped tremendously to learn to sort through criticism and people’s opinions by being a speaking and author, a Controller of a large automobile dealership and being in a second marriage. Needless to say I have become “sensitive” to other people’s sensitivity and I realize how much some comments may hurt.

I want to ask you.
“Do you know your spouse’s sensitive areas?”
“How do YOU respond when your spouse gets defensive?”
“How do YOU respond when someone hits YOUR red hot sensitive button?”
“Do you use your spouse’s sensitive spots to deliberately hurt him at times?
“Do you know YOUR sensitive spots and how do you protect yourself?”

Our marriage should be places where we feel safe and protected. Learning each other’s sensitive areas by protecting them instead of using them as hurtful weapons, builds the kind of joy and intimacy we are looking for in our marriages.

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE- “Loneliness”

Posted in Balancing life, Beauty from the Inside Out, Commitment, Communication, Encouragement, Expectations, Freedom from Busyness, Friendship, Good Marriage, Harmony, Intimacy, loneliness, Making Wise Choices, Overcoming Struggles, power of words, Understanding each other, Valued with tags , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by hmclaughlin

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Nature abhors a vacuum. An emotional or spiritual vacuum is “destruction just waiting to happen.”In a marriage relationship, a vacuum is an alarming red flag. It defines a gnawing loneliness of the worst kind. Being attached to someone through the process of vows and signatures on paper, and then feeling emotionally alone and vacant, is worse than having been alone on the first place. It says in the first book of the bible in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for man to be alone.” You and I were created for intimate relationship and when we feel disconnected we have a vacuum inside of us bigger than the Grand Canyon.

Here is why it is so dangerous to walk around with a vacuum in our souls. When there is a vacuum in nature, it will do whatever it can to fill it immediately. In a flood, the water will directly fall into those empty places and fill them. In a fire, when the flames find a vacuum they will explode with a vengeance. When you and I are hungry, we need food. In a marriage, a vacuum will fill itself with an affair, drinking excessively, over-eating, and drugs, shopping sprees, gambling or anything else that will bring pleasure in the moment to dull the pain. Even the strongest personality can cave into the most unusual temptations when loneliness creeps in. That empty space must be filled.

In this crazy, busy world that we live in today with all its demands and distractions we must be aware of the toxic enemy of loneliness. Just because we are running 18 hours a day and sitting together in one room with our i-pads and other technology doesn’t mean our souls are being fulfilled. Check the pulse of our marriage today. Ask your spouse, “Honey, am I being the companion you need?”
Men can function in an isolated stage much better than women. Women need relationship. Period! If a woman feels alone in a marriage, she is ripe for danger.

You and I were not meant to function in isolation and sometimes there are deliberate steps we need to take to re-connect with our spouse.
1. Ask yourself, are you spending enough time together?
2. Even in that time spent together, is it engaging and fulfilling…or are you just present without giving anything of yourself?
3. Is it time to cut out some outside activities so that your inside (house, marriage, children) activities have more value and intimacy?
4. Do you need to change jobs so that you can spend more time at home?
5. Don’t ignore the loneliness symptoms; they are a sign of danger.

Loneliness is a silent and subtle enemy that will creep into your marriage and you probably won’t know its existence until it is too late. Do whatever it takes to fill those empty places. If you don’t do this for each other…something or someone else will.