Happy Valentines Day! Keeping it Real!

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So Blissful! So in love! 

It was 1984  Greg and I had just graduated from S.C.C.  (now Vanguard University) we got married in August,  and we were headed for our first ministry post.  Greg and I loved people, loved God, and hoped to make a difference in the world.

But … we were naive and tried so hard to have a GREAT marriage without having the tools we would need to have a successful marriage!  Caring for our young sons, pouring into our church body, living on pennies, and trying to stay positive in the process became challenging emotionally and relationally.  We meant well, but we were still lacking tools to help us to find joy in our marriage!

After 16 years of marriage, 16 years of sweeping our challenges under the carpet, 16 years of living with hurt feelings, offenses, and anger in our home–I threw my hands up and realized that without a real change Greg and I would not end well. We needed tools to help us build the kind of marriage we encouraged others to have!  There had to be a change!

As I pulled out of the driveway with a packed suitcase in the second seat; the garage door rose and I saw my youngest son standing there with tears and I KNEW that my willful behaviour was not the answer.  We needed tools.

It was at this time that Greg and I put ourselves in counseling, solicited higher accountability, took a true assessment of where our marriage was, and began the needed hard work to move from where we were to where we needed to be.   Anyone who talks to me now will hear me say that I have two marriages: the one before we had tools and the one after we had tools!

Here are the tools we gained:

  1. Active Listening:  With pad and paper we learned to listen and hear one another.  After repeating what we felt we had heard one another say we would then respond by saying “In light of what I have heard you say I imagine you must feel…….”  SO POWERFUL!!  Empathy, hearing each others heart!!
  2. Timing and Tone: Greg and I have learned that conversations, challenging ones, are completely unfruitful after 9 pm.!  AND our tone of voice can sabotage a positive end result.  Therefore, our timing and tone in our marriage makes a huge difference!
  3.  We are responsible for our own self-care:  Greg and I have learned that if our life rhythms are off-balance then our marriage will be adversely affected!  Each of us needs to build our Spiritual Connection, build into our physical and emotional health, and modify our schedules in order to have quality time with one another.
  4. We must choose kindness!  Greg and I are similar and yet very different.  We compliment each other; we fill the gap for each other.  However, unless this is something we embrace we can become offended by one others differences!  Learning to appreciate our differences, learning to show kindness; even appreciation, for our distinctiveness helps to build great equity in our marriage.

It was in 2003 when Greg and I renewed our wedding vows.  We had learned to listen, appreciate one another, to value our differences, and to approach one another with a fresh understanding of the impact of “timing and tone”.  If we had not stayed the course, if we had abandoned ship; we would have missed the richest years of our lives!!

How do you feel this Valentines Day?  is it time to really dig in and grow?  to get wise counsel? to acquire tools to help you move from a strife-filled marriage to a friendship-filled marriage??  Then DO IT!! gather the tools you need and watch how the dynamics of your marriage begin to change!  It’s never too late!!

So grateful we didn’t give up; just keeping it real!

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Spring Cleaning ~ Getting the dirt beneath the surface.

 

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I live in Bend, Oregon where the seasons are pretty tricky! We will get a week or 2 early in Spring where the sun is shining and the temperature ranges between 65-75.  Everyone goes and gets fresh flowers to plant or put onto flower baskets to decorate their porches; feeling certain it is finally Spring! But, without fail, such as today, we wake up to more snow and temperatures in the low 30’s and 40’s.  Only those who live to ski appreciate this ongoing Winter weather! Nevertheless, the calendar says it is officially Spring!

Spring is a great time to clean out the garage, cupboards, closets, and pantry. Something about Spring causes us to feel the need to organize, clean out, and refresh many areas in our homes to make us feel as if there is some renewed order in our lives.  This weekend I switched my kitchen cupboards and drawers all around to create a better flow; I cleared out my pantry of the many vases and baskets I had been storing for that “event” someday.  I decided to be ruthless~ If I hadn’t used it over the past year then it had to go! It felt really good!! 🙂

As I ponder the whole idea of Spring Cleaning, I wonder if it might be fruitful to take the same amount of time to do some deep, personal Spring Cleaning?

What might it be like to take some intentional time to consider the consider the condition of our hearts:

*have we allowed bitterness or unforgiveness; discouragement or offense to take residence in our hearts over the long Winter season?

What about our Words? Could they use some cleaning up?

*have we allowed the words we say to be full of doubt, criticism, sarcasm, and fear as the seasons have passed? Do our words bring life to ourselves and others?

What about our minds~ How we think?  Could we need a little extra Pine-sol for that?

*have we allowed fear, judgment, regret, and sadness to reign supreme in our thinking over the past year? When we talk to ourselves are we a good influence or are kinder to others than we are to ourselves?

Do we need to dust off our irritations? Have we gotten bogged down by things that bug us?

*have we allowed little things (or people) annoy us so much that we find that regularly extending grace to situations (or people) has become increasingly challenging over the past calendar year?

I know I could use a fresh “mopping”! 🙂

If any of those scenarios apply, then perhaps this Spring will be fantastic time to get “really shiny!!”  Perhaps as you honestly asses how much “dust” has built up in these key areas you will be able to regain a joy-filled heart, express words that bring life, become clear-minded and ready to focus on the positive and the possibilities, and perhaps also finding the energy to extend fresh grace as opposed to remaining easily irritated.

Here are some “cleaning tools” just to get you started!! 🙂

“God longs to purify you from your sins, to wash you and make your heart “whiter than snow”. Psalm 51:7

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me” Psalm 51:10

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Now remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:3

Happy Spring!

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LIFE HAPPENS HERE!

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Growing up in the coastal farming town of Watsonville, California I had my days filled with school, bike/horseback riding, chores on our 54 acre apple ranch, church activities, sandy days at the beach, and time spent with my parents and 5 sisters.

From the time I was 6 to the ripe old age of 20 (when I headed off to college) we lived on the same property.  My life had a sense of consistency, regularity, and security.  I’m not sure if I ever really took the time to fully consider how my life would unfold in the years ahead.

I have had the privilege to live a truly wonderful, experience-filled life for which I am very, very grateful.  However, there have been changes and challenges that showed up unexpectedly leaving me completely overwhelmed.  From Marriage to parenting, numerous home/city moves, family challenges, occupational changes, and unexpected tragedies I have often felt caught off-guard and ill-prepared.

I have had amazing conversations with so many great women who have found themselves over-whelmed by the situations that have come into their lives as well. Like me, many have faced numerous unanticipated challenges and have often wondered if they have the strength to navigate the challenge well.

At 54, I have enough hindsight to understand that this is what life truly is.  Life is a mixed bag of joy and sadness, celebration and challenge. Every season is different and requires a few key elements to strengthen us along the way:

1.  Knowing and trusting that God will not leave us in the midst of an over-whelming season but rather He will give us strength, wisdom, and comfort.

2.  Being surrounded by people we love and trust: our spouses, healthy family members, and hand-picked friends whom we trust.  Facing challenges in isolation can be devastating. Fight the urge to withdraw; stay connected.

3.  Doing all we can to care for our health:  rest, good food, exercise, reading, time in nature~~ intentionally choosing cup-filling activities to keep our emotions above water.

4.  Taking time to Journal. We don’t always feel strong, We don’t always feel full of hope. Over the years my journals have been filled with prayers and thankfulness but they have also been full of honest questions, doubts, fears, and tears.  Simple honesty has helped to diffuse my emotions.

5. Keeping balanced in our perspectives.  Often times when challenges come we lose sight of all that is still good and right. We can find ourselves getting caught in fear and negativity. In hard times it helps if we can try to focus on the good growth we are experiencing.  I have never walked through a tough season without gaining greater empathy for others, being stretched in my faith, and having a chance to mature in my own character.

Consider your pattern when challenges come.  How do you respond?  How well have you navigated tough situations in the past?   I hope that this simple “conversation” gives you some fresh tools to stand strong when unexpected changes come!

I love this verse!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you”   Deuteronomy 31:6