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Monday, July 30, 2012

Little Moments (Brad Paisley)

Here's a fun music video my wife suggested.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2012

T.E.E.

I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, that it was and is ordained of God to be that way, and that therein, lays the greatest happiness available to men and women. In other words, I assert that the greatest happiness in this life is achieved through marriage and the relationship with your spouse. Therefore, we should invest the most into this relationship; the most time, the most effort, the most energy (T.E.E).

The most time. Take a day this week and keep track of everything you did and how long you spent doing it every thirty minutes. Then the next day tally up each activity and the total amount of time spent on it. If spending time with your spouse, or doing nice things for him/her, isn’t in the top three rearrange your priorities. Take a half an hour to sit and talk with them, go on a walk, watch a movie together, or do the dishes/take out the trash. Doing this daily is the best investment you will ever make and will pay the greatest dividends.

The most effort. What was the last thing you did for your spouse? How hard was it for you to do? All of the things we do for our spouse do not have to be herculean but regularly we should do something that is to show them our love. Perhaps you’ve had a really long day and are exhausted. One of your children begins to cry late at night after you are in bed. Make the sacrifice and go and put them back to sleep (especially if this isn’t something you normally would do). Is there a project that your spouse has been trying to get to but hasn’t yet found the time? Do it for them or help make sure that they have the time to tackle it.

The most energy. Planning ahead to demonstrate your love to your spouse requires energy. It requires forethought and planning. It requires diligence and patience. My wife is notorious for somehow guessing what I am going to get her or do for her on her birthday and our anniversary. What I have learned to do is create a plan A, B, and C to make sure I can still surprise her. Only once has she guessed all three. But this takes considerable energy on my part. I have to be three-times as creative and plan for three different possibilities. On the flip side, the smile on her face, the giddy giggles, and the light in her eyes when I succeed is worth every ounce of energy invested (and I then have extra ideas for the next time).

I love my wife. She is the most amazing person in the world. I would do anything for her. My job, and all of our jobs, is to make sure that first, we feel that way about our spouse, and second, that our spouse knows it. Now, go show them.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bonfires of Love, Part Two



(Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Keeping the fire raging. That was another name I considered for these posts. I think it’s clever.

Continuing the fire analogy to keep a fire going strong there are two things that need to happen: you need to stoke the fire and add more fuel. In other words we can categorize what we do to keep our marriages strong and healthy into two categories. We’ll address the first, stoking the fire, in this post and then the second in the last post in the “series.”

How do we “stoke the fire” of our love? This is also referred to as “shaking things up” or “spicing up the relationship.” When you stoke a fire you poke it and prod it and mix it up a little bit to expose parts of the wood to the flame and heat that weren’t previously exposed. Doing this also gives the fire better access to oxygen which also causes it to burn bigger, brighter, and hotter. The big question again, how do we “stoke the fire” of our love?

Here are two tested and proven suggestions.

First, do something you normally do differently. For example, my wife and I go on a walk together in the evenings several times a week. Every few days we change the route that we take. We don’t plan it out just while we’re walking we’ll take a left instead of a right. This causes our conversations to change. We talk about the houses and yards that we pass, memories that are evoked by the images we take in, and what we like and don’t like and what we want to incorporate into our dream home someday. I learn something new about my wife’s childhood almost every time we change our route or I gain some new insight into how she thinks or what she likes and dislikes, sometimes both. Doing something differently together shakes things up and allows you the opportunity to learn more about the person you love most. The more you know your spouse the greater joy is possible in marriage.

Second, discuss with your spouse something that makes one or both of you uncomfortable but that you have to do anyway. Maybe it’s making phone calls or going to the dentist. Then do it together. You are exposing part of the “logs” (your marriage) that were not previously exposed to the “flames” (your love for each other). This allows the flame to grow brighter, stronger, and hotter. And, by doing it together you strengthen trust in each other and your joy increases.

Don’t just take my word for it. Try it.

In our next and last post in the “Bonfire of Love” series we’ll tackle “adding more fuel to the fire.” 

Learn more about creating a bonfire in your marriage by subscribing to our FREE newsletter; that is if you haven’t signed up for it yet (do it now! It is FREE after all).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

Last week I was asked to lead a discussion regarding customer service, what it is and how to do it better, for a local organization’s director level employees. While preparing to lead this discussion I reviewed much of what I have read and taught about customer service over the last few years. One of the books I read a few years back has a chapter entitled “Random Acts of Kindness.” The author, Dr. Neal Raisman, describes the benefits that flow to a staff and then to customers from a leader that is regularly doing nice things for his or her employees. As I reread the chapter early last week the thought occurred to me that all of us like it when others do kind things for us and wondered “would this work in marriage too?”

OF COURSE! Just today my wife made dinner. So I thanked her, kissed her, and told her how much I appreciate her efforts to prepare our food. Then, as we prayed over our food, I thanked Heavenly Father for my wife and her willingness to prepare food for me and our children. At the conclusion of the prayer I glanced over at her and I’m pretty sure I saw a twinkle in her eye. My back was feeling sore recently and my wife, without any overt request on my part, walked up behind me and gave me a quick massage. It was a random act of kindness. I love her all the more because of it.

Think back to the last time you did something random to show kindness for your spouse. When was it? Has it been more than twenty-four hours? If so, stop reading and go do something NOW. I suggest saying “I love you.” Then just walk away. Maybe combine it with a quick peck on the cheek.
Now, set a goal to perpetrate at least one random act of kindness for your spouse every day for the next week. Sit down in one week and briefly reflect on your feelings toward your spouse. Has anything changed? Then share your experience with me. I look forward to hearing from you. Good luck being random!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bonfires of Love

Have you ever known two people that fall madly in love with each other?

You know, where the world seems to stop for them because of their special someone? That’s all they think about, talk about, and dream about. You probably thought something like “they were made for each other.”

Then when they announced that they were engaged and going to be married you weren’t really surprised because they were so perfect for each other. They had a wonderful wedding and married life started off full of bliss and happiness. Maybe they had a kid or two.


Then, after a few years, you notice that they don’t seem head-over-heels for each other anymore. Their happiness seems to have withered, perhaps even evaporated completely. They were so in love and as far as you could tell they really didn’t have any big marital problems. What happened?

While I do not presume to understand all of the complexities of why marriages dissolve and all of the causes behind love that withers and sometimes dies may I suggest that one of the reasons is a lack of conscious effort. What I mean by this is that if we are not deliberate in keeping our love and marriage alive it can wither and, if neglected too long, even die.

Let’s use a quick analogy of a campfire. A raging campfire starts with a single spark (or a small match for most of us). But within minutes, and with a well prepared base, the flame can quickly spread and the fire can grow very large and burn bright and hot.

However, if more wood isn’t added to the fire the flame dies down and, after extended neglect, the embers are extinguished. The same thing can happen with the love we feel in our marriages.

If neglected the flame dies down slowly so that if we aren’t paying attention we might not even notice. We must exert conscious and concerted effort to ensure that the flame keeps burning. But that’s the topic for a future post.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rotten to the Core, Part Two

 
Remember the tree that fell down on my wife’s and my property (we discussed it in our last post)? It was susceptible to the storm that came through town because its core was rotten and therefore weak. My wife compared the tree to marriage and said that if we aren’t careful what appears to be a healthy and strong marriage could actually be weak and ready to collapse because its core isn’t strong. In this post I’ll mention three of the ideas that my wife and I came up with that can be used to make sure the core of our marriages stays healthy and strong. 
  1. Play together. Playing is important to keeping our relationships strong. What did you do with your spouse when you first met? What are a few of the first dates that you went on? Chances are they were fun and designed to be that way. You probably laughed and talked and learned more about each other. You may not have been totally comfortable but definitely more at ease the more fun that you two had. If our relationships begin with playing, shouldn’t that then remain a key component or our marriages? Continue having fun together, it relieves the tension and accompanying stress that develops in marriage and relaxes both of you. By having fun and playing together you will get to know each other better and better, no matter how long you have been married.
  2. Pray together. Get on your knees and pray. Pray for your spouse verbally so that they can hear your concern for them and express gratitude that God blessed you with them. Pray for the things that are important to your husband or wife and ask for increased ability to help them overcome the challenges that they face and achieve their goals. There are few things that can bring two people as closely together as quickly as prayer.
  3. Work together. There is a lot of work in marriage. Establishing and maintaining a home requires a great deal of effort. There are dishes to do, children to care for, yards to maintain, and the list goes on. Share the load. Switch up responsibilities sometimes. My wife is really good at this. We have a large yard to mow and she has established a section of it that is “hers.” I’m not allowed to mow it because she wants to help and whenever I am outside working she joins me and works right alongside me. I help her vacuum and do the dishes and we work together to put the children in bed. Work unifies us. There is no one I would rather work with than my wife.  
What ideas do you have for ensuring that our marriages stay strong? What has been your experience? Share them with us and we’ll try to include them in an upcoming edition of our FREE newsletter (if you haven’t signed up for it yet, do it now! It is FREE after all). 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rotten to the Core, Part One

A few weeks ago a big windstorm swept through our area. It inflicted quite a bit of damage blowing off shingles, knocking down hundreds of trees, and leaving debris scattered everywhere. Emergency crews worked through the night to ensure that as many roads as possible would be usable the next day. 

My wife and I own a home and property that has several beautiful trees. The trees were a big part of the reason we decided to purchase our home. We have several large oak trees, two of which are more than one hundred years old, and a two wonderful black walnut trees. The trees have appeared to be large and strong and able to withstand just about anything and we love them.

The night of the storm, right in the midst of it, we heard our car alarm sound. We looked out the window and used the remote to turn it off. I figured a branch had just blown into the car. We went back to what we were doing. When the winds subsided I went out to see if I could determine why the alarm when off. To my utter amazement one of our largest and most beautiful white oak trees had fallen on top of our carport which had collapsed on our car setting off the car alarm. Thankfully, and miraculously, our car sustained just a few scrapes but the carport will need to be rebuilt. We were in shock that such a large and seemingly strong tree would just fall over; it looked so healthy from the outside. I mean it had been there for over a hundred years!
We had a logger come and look at it the next afternoon to give us an idea of what it was going to take to remove the tree. During his inspection I asked him why he thought that it had fallen and he said that the trunk was rotten and had been for twenty years or more. Again we were shocked; the tree had appeared to be so healthy.

A day or two later my wife made a fascinating and shrewd observation: many marriages are like our once great white oak. While they appear healthy from the outside, full of life and vigor, they may be rotting from the inside out. Often the couple may not even realize that their marriage is weakening. Then one day, out of the blue, one of life’s storms hit their marriage and it just collapses. Everyone around them is shocked to watch the marriage suddenly fail. Children and others that relied on the protection of the tree, like our carport, are damaged, sometimes beyond repair.

We discussed her observation for a time and identified some ways to make sure that the “trunk” of our marriage stays strong and healthy. In my next post we’ll talk about some of these…

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Love Like Crazy

A few years ago I was in the car running some errands and a song came on the radio. My wife loves country music and over the years that we have been married I've built up a tolerance for it. There wasn't anything worth listening to on any of the other stations so I had the radio tuned to country music. At first I didn't pay much attention to the song or its lyrics but after thirty seconds or so I realized that I was listening intently. By the end of the song I was impressed and wanted to share it with my wife. When I got home I immediately grabbed the computer and Googled part of the chorus. Thankfully I was able to find it on YouTube with relative ease and had my wife listen to it with me. I think the advice in the chorus is dead on. The music video is below. Give it a chance, even if you don’t like country, and let me know what you think.


(In case you missed it, the advice is:
“Be a best friend, tell the truth
And overuse I love you
Go to work, do your best
Don't outsmart your commonsense
Never let your prayin' knees get lazy
And love like crazy”)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"I love you"

When was the last time you looked at your spouse and said “I love you”?

If you can’t remember the last time stop reading immediately and tell your spouse. It doesn’t matter if it is via text message, posting it on their Facebook wall, calling them, sending an email, or walking into the other room and simply saying “I love you.”

If you do remember the last time go and tell them again, right now.

I’m not sure if there are three more powerful words in marriage. I do know that they should be said as often as possible. My wife and I feel that it is so important to constantly remind each other how we feel that we made a “rule” for ourselves early on in our marriage that we were going to end every conversation with “I love you.” And we do. 

(Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

It’s actually kind of fun trying to find as many ways and as many situations as possible to tell my sweet wife that I love her. Sometimes it is at random times during the day. I’ll be sitting on the couch reading a book to the children and pause for a second to yell “I LOVE YOU!” to my wife who is in the other room. Sometimes she’ll yell back that she loves me too. Other times she’ll jump into the front room with a gigantic smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye and gently and sweetly reply “I love you too.” Just the other day she went into Subway to buy some sandwiches and I stayed in the car with the children (it’s just too much hassle sometimes to unpack and repack them all). While she was in Subway I sent her a text message telling her I loved her. When she returned she had that same sweet smile and twinkle in her eye. In order to paint an accurate picture I must relate that she is actually far better at telling me that she loves me than I am about telling her. For every one time I tell her she probably tells me twice. I’ve got a good woman.

Why should we tell our spouse we love them so often? Shouldn’t they already know? Yeah, they should already know…because we tell them so often and show them so frequently. 

No matter how often you currently tell your spouse that you love them, whether it be once a month or once an hour, double it. Tell them twice as often. I guarantee that you will see a change in your marriage, increased unity and love, for the better very soon.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Finances & Friction -- Part Two

In the first installment of this series on finances and marriage we discussed finances and the contention that often results in marriage because of them. Basically, because we are different and have different outlooks on how to manage money friction often results. For the most part you can categorize almost everyone into one of two personalities: planners and fun-lovers.

My wife and I read a book by Dave Ramsey, Total Money Makeover, in the second year of our marriage. We were very impressed with his teachings and advice and decided to implement them in our marriage. Perhaps the most significant teaching in the book for us was about budgeting. Dave discusses this issue of different personalities, instead of the words planner and fun-lover he uses nerd and free-spirit. The nerd loves to plan and organize and does detailed budgets. The free-spirit likes to play and have fun and resists organization and detailed planning. Budgets don’t go over well with free-spirits because they feel like their freedom is being curtailed.

Dave recommends that couples play to their strengths. If one spouse is a nerd or planner they should make the budget. However, they should not dictate what the budget should be. They merely plan the budget. Then the couple sits down together and reviews the budget. The free-spirit (or fun-lover) provides their input, the nerd listens, and the two of them come to an agreement on what a reasonable budget would be, something that both can live with. With this agreement they move forward in unity in the management of their money.

The advice that Dave Ramsey provides have brought great blessings to my marriage. By consciously and cooperatively working to prevent money from causing contention in our marriage we have enjoyed not only peace at home but also greater unity in our marriage. We know that we are working together toward common financial goals. We both make sacrifices in order to get there. This brings us closer together and helps us to be more united. We feel dignified that we are working toward a shared purpose, albeit slowly sometimes, and when we go without we know it will be worth it in the long run.

These are the fruits of uplifting love: unity, joy, and dignity. If working together on our finances in this way brings these fruits then it should be pursued. While we have found Dave Ramsey’s teachings to be of great value in our marriage the same may be true for you in your marriage. Give Total Money Makeover a look. If it works for you, great! If not, keep looking and praying. You’ll find a way to manage your money that works for the two of you.  

Working together to manage your money is worth the time and effort required. It will prevent a multitude of disagreements and friction and, more importantly, further unite you as a couple.

Now that you have a budget, do you ever find that there just isn’t enough flexibility in it? You want more freedom because having a budget it just too restrictive? In our next installment of this series on finances and marriage we’ll discuss one way of how to do just that.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Centrality of Marriage


I see these vinyl stickers on the back windows of cars all the time these days. Normally they are laid out like the one above (from my wife’s car) with the father or mother first and then the children followed by pets. But I never thought much about the placement of the family members before today.

I had the day off of work and so we thought we would take a drive to a part of the county that we hadn’t been before. It’s a beautiful lake with a campground and swimming pool. As we drove through the campground we saw a car with these same vinyl family stickers on their back window. However, they were arranged in a unique way.


Do you notice the difference?

The mother and father are in the middle with the children and pets around them! I’m not sure if this was intentional, that the family carefully considered the placement of each vinyl family member, but they hit on a truth.

The family should be organized around the marriage.

The husband and wife should be each other’s first priority. The children (and pets) are important but if they become more important than the marriage then there will be problems. They will not be evident immediately but over time they will manifest themselves.

Have you ever heard of or known one of those couples that after the children leave home realize that they have nothing in common and separate or get a divorce? What happened? The marriage seemed happy and healthy when the children were home.

The problem: something other than the marriage was at the center of the home and when that thing, whether the children or something else, was gone there wasn’t much, if anything, left of the relationship. 

This is one reason why it is so important to keep our marriages at the center of our families. Children, pets, jobs, and friends all come and go in our homes but our marriages don’t, or at least they shouldn’t.

Take a look at your home. Is your marriage at the center? Are your spouse and your relationship with your spouse more important to you than your children, pets, etc.? If not, make a change. If so, congratulations! Make sure it stays that way.

The vinyl family decal says it all.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer Fun & Family Activities

Since it is summer time and generally all of us are enjoying nicer weather I thought I would take a few moments and share some fun, simple, and creative ideas for having a bit of fun outside with our families (they are cheap as well). Here you are:
  • Set up a slip-n-slide in your yard. Find a place that has some incline and put down a tarp. Get some dish soap and squirt some on your skin. Turn on the hose at the top and jump!
  • Go ice-blocking. Again, this involves a small hill. Get a block of ice (either make your own or by one at a convenience store, they typically have them). Put a towel on top of it, sit down, and slide down the hill. This is a great both as a date and with the family.
  • Invite some friends or another family or two to play human foosball at a local park or in a large backyard. You could also do human checkers or chess.
  • Set up your own “drive-in” movie theater. Grab your digital projector, laptop, and a white sheet and you’ve got everything you need. Hang the sheet up outside so that it is flat, set up the projector and laptop, pop some popcorn, layout the sleeping bags on the lawn, and pop in a movie.  
Go geocaching. Here’s a cool video explaining what it is.
There is a lot to do this time of year so take advantage of it. Get outside and have some fun!
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