First Comes Love
"Will you marry me?" asked my boyfriend of five years. Then he flew overseas to serve with the U.S. Army for the entire next year.
Two weeks after he returned, during a snowstorm on New Year's Eve, we became husband and wife. As we drove from the ceremony in our new VW Beetle, we thought we knew a lot about married life. After all, we were in love!
Then Comes Marriage
Yet through the years we discovered a few tips about how NOT to do love and marriage. I'm sharing these tips with you this Valentine's Day. Perhaps one of these ideas will help shift your thinking and bring you a sigh of relief. Wouldn't that be nice? I invite you--whether you're a newly-wed, an exhausted middle-ager, an empty-nester, or still waiting--to skim through these tips and notice what catches your eye. Even small revisions in the way we do life and love can make a difference.
11 Tips About How NOT to Do Love and Marriage
The GOOD NEWS?
You, your spouse, and your marriage don't have be perfect (just like you picture it all should be) to be loving, fun and seriously cool.
Really! Only God is perfect!
So we can relax and stop over-trying, over-helping, or over-controlling in order to make our mates and marriage-relationships be "just right." I find this such a relief!
Which one of these 11 tips do you identify with this Valentine's Day?
Thanksgiving Prayer tool for families
Speaking of soup, remember the alphabet soup you ate as a child? Now follow me. It’s the way my mind is working this Thanksgiving! Here’s a creative way to keep enjoying your family’s Thanksgiving gratitude-spirit this season–with some ALPHABET PRAYER SOUP.
Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Aunts, involve the kids in making and enjoying this special soup. Maybe when you’re cooking in the kitchen, riding in the car, walking to the park, or tucking them into bed. Explain that you’re going to make some leftover Thanksgiving Alphabet Prayer Soup.
Take turns naming something that you’re grateful for starting with A and proceeding through Z. Example of how to begin the prayer: God, thank You for the:
A. Air we breathe. Apples we had for lunch. Animals. Artwork I did at school. Aunt ________.
B. Bird. Bananas. Books. Bike. My bed.
C. Clouds. Courage. Christ.
D. Duck in the pond. Dishes. Dad.
E. Evergreen trees. Electricity.
F. Flowers. My friend ____________.
G. Gas for the car. Grace. Grandpa.
And so on, through the entire alphabet, as you have time. Be gentle with yourself and your family. Skip a letter if you can’t think of anything.
Watch your heart flood with gratitude as you enjoy this creative prayer tool with your family. Maybe you’ll want to make this Alphabet Prayer Soup often throughout the year to keep the Thanksgiving spirit alive and well in your home.
Okay, now it is YOUR TURN. Enjoy a little Alphabet Prayer Soup with me right here on the blog. What are you grateful for that starts with H, I, J, K, L… Well, you know the rest of the alphabet. I’m looking forward to your THANKSGIVING ingredients.
If you’re a little muddled about how over-helping, perfectionism and playing God are linked, you’re not alone. I’m often puzzled, too. Even experts get confused trying to sort all this out. On occasion, God splashes light into my fogginess through humorous life predicaments. Because all the universe is under God’s domain, I’ve found He can use anything to teach, nurture and grow me. (I love how He does that!) Sometimes new insight comes from surprising venues.
Like that aha! moment I had while watching the movie Driving Miss Daisy a few years ago. The wealthy Miss Daisy and her longtime chauffeur have both aged considerably. As they discuss their situations, Miss Daisy accuses the chauffeur of continuing to drive even though his eyesight is failing. “How do you know how I can see, ‘lessen you look out my eyes?” is his response.
My immediate internal reaction: Whoa! Lord, forgive me for thinking I’m powerful enough to know another’s needs. I realize I will never see their life from their view. I want to learn to treat others with respect. Please help me.
The apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, cautions us about assuming we know another human being’s thoughts and feelings: “No one can really know what anyone else is thinking, or what he is really like, except that person himself” (1 Cor. 2:11, TLB).
I’m continuing to discover the relief-filled truth that I can progressively release my need/urge to do and make it all just right for the people in my life. First step: intentionally trust God for what is not mine to control or direct. Then I can begin to enjoy living in the freedom and grace He patiently waits to give me–and others.
Just wondering: Have you ever experienced what it feels like when someone insists they know what you’re thinking, what you need and how you should resolve your dilemma?
What is perfectionism?
One dictionary defines it as “a propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect.” Yet a practicing perfectionist may not always demand straight A’s, refuse to leave the house if the bed’s not made, or endlessly edit a report. Perfectionism is more subtle than that. It’s about unreasonable expectations – how we berate ourselves and others (silently or aloud) for having human (decoded as “weak”) thoughts and emotions, inconsistent commitment levels, or average accomplishments, bodies and relationships.
When we try too hard to make ourselves, our jobs and our families “just right,” we get overly stressed and bone-tired. Who needs that? Relief is possible. It’s a process, but we can reduce our self-sabotaging behaviors by:
Realizing that when we fall into the “trying too hard to make it just right” trap, we believe a misconception: That people, projects and circumstances have the capacity to be perfect (or “just right”).
Just wondering here: Do you ever get tired of trying too hard to make it all just right?
I adapted this article which I originally wrote to be published by Genius Avenue Inc., copyright 2011.
A grace-filled reality that has helped me in my ongoing journey out of over-doing, over-committing and over-whelm is reminding myself often that there IS a difference between “trying too hard to make it all just right” and “partnering with God for excellence.”
If you’re like me, you can sometimes be your own slave-driver. So this verse gives you (and me, too!) permission to be gentler with ourselves. I love that!
Which of these perfectionistic symptoms sounds a little too familiar to you? What one gentle self-care moment are you going to allow yourself this week?
As a procrastinating perfectionist, you may not finish a job application, take that vacation, or organize your closet. You may avoid creating new friendships, singing in the choir, or calling a counselor, because you’re afraid of making a mistake, being laughed at, failing others—or yourself. Delaying decisions becomes a habit. Although it may seem like a laid-back approach to life, it’s often painful and limiting.
You can change your procrastinating tendencies. Just starting is a step out of the procrastination trap.
1. Instead of expecting to be the best (employee, parent, musician, you fill in the blank ________) in comparison to everyone else, commit to become the best version of yourself.
2. Limit all-or-nothing thinking. Choose your favorite color (deep red, ocean blue, sunshine yellow?) and the next time you feel stuck and start to procrastinate, brainstorm your options in that color instead of mere black and white. You do have choices.
3. When you’re tempted to procrastinate and postpone another task because it seems too hard or time-consuming, set the timer for 20 minutes. When the alarm sounds you can walk away or re-set for another 20.
4. Find a caring accountability partner who’ll listen to your frustrations without judging or trying to fix you and your procrastinating ways and then who will celebrate with you when you succeed.
5. Stand up to the shoulda-woulda-coulda tyrant in your head. Tell him to sit down and hush because you can make progress without him!
Just as you develop physical muscle by consistently exercising your body, you can develop mental/emotional muscle by consistently practicing these and other anti-procrastination exercises. Freedom, here you come.
Did you ever wonder what Easter is like in the Middle East where Jesus lived? I did. And then one Easter season, I traveled there. Here's what happened:
Worshiping at Easter-time in Egypt:
We walked from our hotel along the Nile to a large church building near downtown Cairo. The place was packed. People crowded the lobby yet parted quickly to allow the fifty blue-robed choir members to march in, waving palm branches. We couldn’t understand the Arabic words, but we read the English version in the guest-bulletin. They sang, “I love you, Lord. Come and be with us.” Tears leaked from my eyelids—this from a woman who rarely cries.
Giving at Easter-time in Egypt:
The inspiring experiences didn’t stop at the end of the worship service. We met with the articulate pastor afterward. He said, “We all have something to give, whether Western or Eastern Christians. If we learn how to share and attempt to understand one another, then people will know that the giver cares and sees the receiver as a fellow human being and brother.” He explained that was why he appreciated the Christian relief and development program I worked with at the time. We partnered to offer food, training, jobs and transportation to deeply disadvantaged parents and children.
Resting at Easter-time in Egypt:
During our conversation, the pastor’s adult daughter said, “As a child I continually wondered when someone would come take my dad away.”
“Yes,” admitted the pastor. “I’ve been in danger of being jailed almost every day of my life.”
I chatted with the daughter (who currently practices medicine in a large city in the U.S.) about topics like over-working, exhaustion, transition and burnout. “You know what it’s like to race inside, don’t you?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” she admitted. “It’s like a treadmill—if I try to get off without first turning off the machine, I will fall.” Then she recounted stories about how two of her patients did fall off the treadmill during testing, because they didn’t heed the instructions to be careful. We chuckled at the analogy. And yet we both knew the sober reality: over-doing and running around without heeding wise directives and taking time to rest and replenish can lead to a burnout crash.
Worshipping, Giving, and Resting at Easter-time during the Coronavirus Pandemic:
Although this Easter-in-Egypt happened several years ago, I think of it today as I celebrate the current Easter season during this sad and challenging coronavirus pandemic with all the restrictions and uncertainties. We all face an unknown, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable future whether that future means tomorrow or one year from now.
We wish it could be predictable and controllable with results just like we think they should be. But the truth is: things aren’t perfect. Some things aren’t fair. And many things are hurtful and wrong…whether we live in Egypt or in a big city or rural town in the United States…or somewhere else in the world.
Jesus and You at this Easter-time:
It wasn’t perfect for Jesus when He lived here, either. He left His flawlessly supportive surroundings in heaven to live in this fickle, chaotic, disappointing world. One week He was adored, praised and openly honored with parades and palm branches. The next week He was mocked and killed.
Yet, Jesus came for a purpose–the ultimate purpose!–to sacrifice His life so that all of us can be re-united with our loving Creator God. All of us, the burned-out doctor, threatened pastor, penniless parent, caring giver, and each restricted “stay at home” observer.
No matter where you live or what’s happening in your life, Jesus says (to you about himself), “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish [spiritually] but have eternal life.”
It’s a personal invitation to you and me from God. Even amid our "social distancing" challenges, changes and losses, let’s remember that we are loved by the God who will always care about us and be involved with us, regardless of our circumstances. If like I have, you’ve accepted God’s generous offer to believe and follow Jesus and discover a forever-hope, what does this year’s unconventional and imperfect Easter season look like for you? If you’d like to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.
Note: To protect the people involved, I changed some details of my actual experience, left out names and exact places, and chose not to post actual photos.
She walked toward me at the close of my presentation. As I listened to bits of her story, my heart connected to hers in a unique way. We met for lunch. She talked of her love for writing. Taking an intentional step, she started a blog that went international. To say that Lynne Hartke has the God-given gift of written story is like saying Arizona is hot in the summer! Consequently, it gives me joy to introduce you to her first published book, Under a Desert Sky: Redefining Hope, Beauty, and Faith in the Hardest Places. You will be powerfully impacted by what you read. I promise!
To win a FREE copy of Under a Desert Sky, leave a comment below.
I love these following quotes from Lynne's book. Perhaps they will resonate with you as well.
I need and want to hold this truth close right now: He has not forgotten me! He's not forgotten you, either!
Yes, it is good to be strong in the midst of hardship, pain, and disappointment. But sadly, we can push that strength to extreme when we believe we must do it all alone. Lynne discovered that living this way is "stupid strong." I rather agree. It's not sensible to leave out God and those who love us; we were made for community.
Believing this truth can release you and me from the exhausting "trying too hard to make it all just right" mentality! Ahhhh.
Always striving for more can be exhausting. Yet, accepting our limited reality can be freeing. More will indeed come...
When we spend eternity with our Creator, Savior, and Lord. That is my ultimate hope. How about you?
Leave a comment by May 25, 2017, and you will be entered into a drawing to win a FREE copy of Under a Desert Sky!
Speaking the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all. I heard this advice at church, school, and home. So I made it my creed.
But it’s a half-truth. For example, Paul writes, “Be kind and loving to each other” (Ephesians 4:32, NCV). When we act on this truth, our relationships flourish. Yet sometimes we need to tell our children or our nieces and nephews what they don’t want to hear. “Don’t play in the street” or “Be home by midnight” or “No, you can’t wear that outfit to school” doesn’t seem nice to them. Speaking the painful truth to a parent or spouse is even harder. “No, I won’t lie to your boss” or “I don’t like it when you yell at me” or “Your driving is endangering lives” may be met with rejection.
In Telling Each Other the Truth, William Backus writes, “We cannot measure love solely by whether or not what we say hurts someone’s feelings. The fact that another person may not like what we have spoken does not automatically mean we have done wrong.”
It may be difficult for those of us who try hard to think, do and say the right thing to speak the truth in love. But God promises us courage. He will help us through the rough spots.
Lord, help me not to merely say what people want to hear or try to
pacify others by telling half-truths. Although it feels uncomfortable,
I do want to be lovingly honest in my relationships.
Make It Personal
What are you tolerating because you’re trying to be nice? Ask God to help you find a way to “speak the truth in love.”
Devotional taken from It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life
Mom, You are Not Alone!
Safe in God's Arms
Mother's Day was this past weekend. Perhaps it was just what you wanted it to be or maybe you were a little disappointed. Either way, Mom, I'm thinking about you and want to tell you something.
God loves you more than you’ll ever know. It might be hard for you to imagine, but He loves you even more than you love your baby. Just as you delight in your child and long to keep him safe, warm, and happy, God delights in you (read Psalm 18:19).
God designed you with your personality, gifts, and passions. He’s not pushing you to be or do it all perfectly 24/7. At times you may feel a heavy sense of exaggerated responsibility that threatens your joy, yet that doesn’t come from God. He just wants to help you be the best version of who He created you to be. God loves seeing you express your unique personhood in your mommy role.
So when you’re tired and needing nourishment and assurance, come to God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. When your baby’s crying. When you question who you are. When you’re confused about the decisions you face. When your hormones fluctuate wildly. When you feel disorganized and confused. When you’re stressed out. When you’re trying too hard to make it all just right, God’s invitation stands no matter what the time of day or night. You are not alone.
Jesus says to YOU:
“Are you tired? Worn out?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--
watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.