The BEST ADVICE I have ever received!

Well that may be a bit of an exaggeration, this may not technically be “The Best” piece of advice I have EVER received in my entire life…but it sure did wonders for my marriage and therefore I just have to share it with you.

In our first years of marriage, Rodney and I fought A LOT. Since we were both strong willed and neither of us ever want to be wrong, we often found ourself in a heated discussion which ended in both of us mad and/or with hurt feelings. This tidbit of information really helped defuse countless misunderstandings and miscommunications which in turn helped eliminate tons of arguments between us.

If you are like me, I once saw every difference as an opportunity to “state my case” and “prove” my side of the story. Like a carefully crafted lawyer, I had all of my points outlined & I was ready to attack. Unfortunately the more I pleaded and debated the more obstinate we both became. It wasn’t until I learned to keep my mouth shut that our situation began to change.

The Best Advice that I have received is taken from Exodus 14:14 which states, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The practical explanation of the verse goes like this…In an arguement, if you are talking and pleading your case, the other person is listening to you and trying to come up with a rebuttal. However, when you are silent, they can can hear The Lord.

An amazing thing happens when The Lord fights your battles for you. He manages to take a potentially explosive situation and defuses it before it has a chance to escalate.

I wish I could tell you that now days Rodney and I never argue. But that would be far from the truth. Like any couple, we have our share of disagreements and misunderstandings. The difference is that now we manage to show a little more restraint than we did in earlier years and therefore allow The Lord to fight FOR us instead of us fighting AGAINST each other.

Although it takes a bit of self-control, learning to keep our mouths shut and allow God to fight for us has been one of the best things we could ever do for our marriage.

Give it a try and see what an amazing difference it makes in your relationships.

The Secret to a Better Marriage

If I could tell you 1 SECRET to building a successful marriage, would you do it?

In the book of 2 Kings there is a story about a commander of an army named Naaman who had leprosy. His wife’s servant girl, who was a captive from Israel, suggested that Naaman could be healed if only he would visit the prophet Elisha.

Naaman went to see Elisha expecting an elaborate healing ritual, but when the healing instructions came, Naaman was disappointed with the simplicity of the remedy and he left angry. Fortunately Naaman’s servants came to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” Fortunately Naaman decide to follow the simple instructions and was healed.

I tell you this story, because “The Secret” that I am going to share with you is simple. It’s not difficult nor elaborate, so I don’t want you to walk away, like Naaman, “disappointed with the simplicity”.

Here it is….the BIG SECRET.…unveiled.

One secret to building a successful marriage is to have a WEEKLY DATE, with your spouse.

I know, I know… you don’t have time, you don’t have the money. We had the same excuses the first 50 times someone recommended a weekly date to us. BUT finally we got to a desperate place and decided that we had nothing to loose. We took the plunge and began “dating again” and that was the catalyst which literally SAVED OUR MARRIAGE.

THE RULES

1) SET ASIDE TIME each week to “go” on a date. (It doesn’t have to be the same time Each week, but that makes planning easier.) It can be Morning. Noon. Night. Over the years ours has changed several times to accommodate our ever changing schedules and responsibilities.

2) NO TALKING about ministry, work or your kids. This is NOT a meeting! It’s a DATE! This is a time to RECONNECT with each other….enjoy each other and remember that you like each other.

3) Be CREATIVE! – Your date does NOT have to Break The Bank, In fact, It doesn’t have to cost anything. IDEAS- a walk in the park, go feed the ducks, go on a hike or picnic, go swimming, get a coffee, have breakfast. (Both breakfast and lunch are CHEAPER than dinner.) Go to a movie, play or dinner theater. The sky is the limit!

4) HAVE FUN!!! The idea behind a weekly date is to connect, communicate, have fun and remember why you got married in the first place. It is NOT a time to D-I-S-C-U-S-S ISSUES, PROBLEMS or ATTACK one another. Just remember…NO FIGHTS!!!!

5) Think of this as an INVESTMENT in your MARRIAGE! Both the time and the money will be well spent. It’s cheaper and MORE FUN than therapy or counseling & a whole lot better than eventually getting a DIVORCE b/c you have grown apart.

6) GUARD this time WITH YOUR LIFE! This is your time to build your marriage. Do NOT cancel this time in order to accommodate others’ schedules, work or church events or all the 1,000,000 things that could come up that could take its place. This is time to BUILD YOUR MARRIAGE & should NOT BE cast aside at the drop of a hat.

Sure others will NOT UNDERSTAND. LET ME REPEAT….OTHERS WILL NOT UNDERSTAND!!! They will try to get you to make an exception “just this once”, they will say. They will get hurt and offended because you won’t give in & when this happens REMEMBER what you learned about setting BOUNDARIES and about your 1st Ministry.

So that’s it…the MAGIC TIP….THE SECRET…to having a strong marriage. Don’t grow apart! Stay Connected! & Happy Dating!!!!

Do your actions reflect your priorities?

His voice rang true as it penetrated my heart, “Kina, You can NOT sprint a Marathon! You can save all of the orphans and win all Mexico for my Kingdom, but if you loose your marriage and your kids resent Me because of you, then you have lost.” God’s words shook me sometime in the middle of the burnout. We had been running long and hard for many years and I knew it was time to stop.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me has heard this story. It’s a soap box that I have been standing on for many years.

It was after those words sank into my heart and mind that I really began to make changes in my daily life which reflected my discovery, changes that reflect my priorities.

So my question to you is, Do your actions reflect your priorities?

What do you spend the most time doing? Where do you concentrate most of your effort?

Don’t be mistaken…Where you spend your time and concentrate your effort IS your priority. Whether you feel that way or not, the message that you convey to others is that they are not as important to you as the areas on which you are focused.

Where do we go from here?

If I asked you about ministry, how would you describe it? What has God “called” you to do? What is your first ministry? What is your second ministry?

Now I want to challenge the way you think. Are you married? Do you have kids? Well, if you are married then I believe that, that good looking guy who swept you off your feet, he is your first ministry. If you have children then they are your 2nd ministry. If your actions don’t reflect the importance of marriage and family, then it is time to make some changes.

So, How do you tell those closest to you that they are important?

Elizabeth George in her book A Woman After God’s Own Heart, gives some practical examples of how to include those closest to you and express to them that they really are your priority. One example that I remember was that if you are baking your husbands favorite dessert to take to the church dinner or other event, instead of telling him he can’t have any because it’s for someone else, go ahead and make a second one just for him, or at the very least, let him have a piece of the one you are taking before it leaves the house.This is such a simple and practical recommendation that helps us tell our husbands that he is our first priority. Another good resource which has become quite popular is a book by Gary Chapman entitled, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do. It gives detailed information about how we each give and receive love. Knowing this can help immensely as we seek to show those around us that we love them and that they are important to us.

What’s next?

Now that you are beginning to see that your actions and family priorities don’t always line up…next week, I will share with you a revitalizing secret that many husbands and wives hold dear.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

KD

Psalm 91

The Pickle Jar

In my last blog I told you that this week we are going to discover how to make room in our schedule for the people who are most important to us. Well you may be wondering what that has to do with a jar of pickles. The basic principle of The Pickle Jar Theory is that all the urgent things in life will consume your time and there will never be enough time leftover for the things (or people) who are really important to you.

The Pickle Jar Theory consists on 4 components: a jar, some rocks, some pebbles and some sand. “Everything in the Pickle Jar Theory has a purpose. The pickle jar itself represents our daily life, what keeps us busy and how we divide our time and tasks during the day.”

“The sand represents all the phone calls, emails, social media notifications and other disrupting elements. The pebbles metaphorically stand for the jobs we’re confronted with every day and that fill our diaries. The rocks represent the important tasks in our daily lives.” (toolshero.com)

Learning to restructure your life to make room for the important things is possible, but it will take dedication, determination and effort. You will have to learn to make better choices and prioritize. If you spend hours on the phone, check email 100 times a day, and feed your addiction to social media, your jar will be completely full of sand and there will be no space for the urgent nor important things of life. Likewise if you spend all day putting out fires, completing the urgent tasks which confronte you, you will fill your jar with pebbles and there won’t be time left for the more important things of life. However if you put the rocks (things that are most important) in the jar first, there will be enough space to fit the pebbles and even some sand in the jar. This means that in order to fit the most important things in life in your schedule, you must decidedly allocate time for them first. If you try to do everything else, thinking or hoping that you will get to the important things later, you will NEVER have time left at the end of the day to include them.

So where do we go from here?

(You will need a calendar for this task. It can be paper or digital. You will also need something for taking notes.)

Step one:

Identify your rocks, pebbles and sand.

Step two:

Now let’s work on filling your jar! The first thing is to put the activities/people that you have identified as most important into your schedule. This may include (but not limited to) personal devotions, date night with your spouse, quality time with children or family, exercise, continued education, reading and personal care time. These appointments are non negotiable! (Make room for these activities and do not cancel them, especially for pebbles or sand.)

Step three:

Next is to identify a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to the pebbles, all the daily tasks that normally fill your day. Now add them to your calendar. (Suggestion: Make a game to see how quickly you can accomplish these tasks. For example, can you accomplish them in 1/2 the time you normally takes you. Can you shave 10-15 mins off of each task? Think of it like this…if you were going on vacation tomorrow and had to finish these tasks before you can leave, how focused would you be? I bet you could finish them more quickly than normal?)

Step four:

Allot a very meager amount of time for the activities which I call “time eaters”. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TV, and email. (Suggestion: A: Check email once or twice a day, no more. Check email only after you have accomplished the tasks you already have scheduled. Doing this will help you stay focused on the things you already have scheduled instead of becoming distracted with new projects. B: Schedule a very limited amount of time for social media. If you are a social media addict, you may try cutting back to 1 time a day and even then no more that 20 minutes. If your addiction is less serious, try cutting social media back to one time a week for 20-30 minutes. You will be amazed at how much time this frees in your day.)

If you are going to make time for family and marriage you MUST do so on the front end. Set your calendar and stick to it. If you don’t fill your time with the things that are important to you, someone else will fill your time for you.

What’s next?:

Now that you are beginning to make space in your routine for the things and people who are important to you, next week we will assess whether your actions reflect your priorities?

Go https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=v5ZvL4as2y0 to watch a demonstration of The Pickle Jar Theory.

Mulder, P. (2017). Pickle Jar Theory. Retrieved [October 19, 2018] from ToolsHero: https://www.toolshero.com/time-management/pickle-jar-theory/

Building Fences

I have a friend who serves in full-time ministry. Everyone loves her! She is ALWAYS available to friends and church members who need her and is a real advocate for those who are hurting and the underprivileged. She loves Jesus with a passion that makes others pale in comparison. However, while she is busy ministering to others, her husband and kids sit at home feeling neglected and second best. Not surprisingly, her marriage and family are suffering. The crazy thing is, even though her husband openly states that he feels unimportant and neglected, she is so emotionally focused on ministry, she doesn’t even realize the imbalance.

How many of us have had a similar experience? Either being the one to neglect family or being the one neglected! Rodney and I walked through this just after starting Hope House, we were so busy with “ministry” that we didn’t make time for us or our children. (I used the word “make” intentionally, because as we set our calendar if we don’t “make” space for self and family, we will never “have” time for them.)

In last weeks blog, we discussed the need to set boundaries when we are trying to prioritize family and ministry. I walked you through some steps to help you identify areas where you might need to establish them and I recommended a book entitled: Boundaries

When to Say Yes, How to Say No

By: Henry Cloud & John Townsend

In the book, the authors describe boundaries like fences on property lines. These fences place a physical boundary to help you and others to distinguish the difference between your property and their property. In life, these fences are invisable. We are the ones who have to tell others the location of our boundaries. Unfortunately, at times, we don’t even know where they are or even where they should be. In order to identify our boundaries for others, we must first identify them for ourselves.

The good news is, the first step to solving any problem is to realize that the problem exists. If you are asking how to prioritize family and ministry, then you are already thinking in the right direction and that’s a good thing!

Hopefully, by working through the questions in last weeks’ blog, you were able to identify areas in your life and ministry that subtlety (or maybe not so subtlety) make prioritizing family difficult.

So where do we go from here?

Once we have identified where your boundaries need to be established, the next step is to make them “visable” for others.

Step one:

While you are in the process of setting up your boundaries, I suggest that you developed a new habit. What I mean by this is for a period of time do not say yes to any new projects or commitments.

I realize that may be easier said than done. Saying “No!” can be scary, especially if you aren’t accustomed to saying it, so let me give you a simple phrase to practice. The next time someone asks something of you, respond with these words: “I will pray about it.”

If you aren’t ready for the big N. O., these 5 words can set you free! They can also buy you a little space until you can muster your courage to stand up for yourself and say no.

Now don’t lie, actually pray about it. But if you are trying to make space for your family and marriage, you already know that family and marriage are the priority and therefore your new default answer can NOT be yes.

Step Two:

Now let’s look at the areas you identified from last weeks questions and divide them into two categories: A) Ministries you are not in charge of and B) Ministries you are in charge of.

A) Ministries you are not in charge of:

As you can imagine, ministries you are involved in, but not in charge of will be much easier to eliminate from your schedule.

Here is the secret: Simply stop attending. Just don’t go. More than likely you will have someone ask you why, and responding with the simple truth should suffice. “I’m choosing to work on making my family a priority right now therefore I am cutting back on my outside activities.” Now, don’t be naive enough to think that everyone will understand. They won’t! But that is ok. Stand confident knowing that building your marriage and family are more important than what Sister Opinionated thinks.

B) Ministries where you are in charge:

This area can be a little more challenging to navigate and can ultimately take more time to restructure. If the commitment, responsibility or event is close to being fulfilled, by all means follow through with your commitment and then don’t re-enlist. If the responsibility is not close to completion, there are several things you can do. First, you can try to find someone else to take over your responsibilities. Deligation is key in growing any ministry and keeping your sanity. If you are unable to find someone to replace you, try restructuring the activity so that it requires less of your time. Ideas include: enlisting guest teachers & speakers, having participants take an active role in the responsibility of the ministry and finally seek helpers who can assist you complete part of your responsibilities. You CAN learn to delegate. But whatever you do, your goal is to eventually scale back your responsibilities and commitments to something manageable which makes room for prioritizing your family and marriage.

*Disclaimer*

Please understand, I am NOT suggesting that you quit all involvement with ministry. I am simply saying that you need to be certain that the areas of ministry in which you are involved are ones that God has called you to do and not ones that you got roped into by others.

What’s next?:

Now that you are beginning to establish some visible boundaries for your marriage and family, next week we will discover how to make room for the people who are most important to us.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

Psalm 91

Prioritizing Family in Ministry

Let’s face it, Ministry is often exhausting! And while it CAN be extremely fulfilling, It can also suck the life out of you, your marriage and your family.

The first thing that I’ve learned about prioritizing family and ministry is this: Prioritizing means learning to say, “No!” (Yes!, you heard me correctly.) If your family is going to be priority, there are some things that you will not be able to do. Therefore learning to say no is an essential skill to master.

Like many of you, my husband and I started out sprinting this marathon. We were always busy! For years we were the first to arrive at church and almost always the last to leave. We were there every time the doors were opened. (And I’ll tell you, those doors were opened ALOT!) Six days a week there was something that we were in charge of or required to attend. Saturday began with sunrise prayer, continued with neighborhood Kid’s Club and included worship practice and evening bible study. To top that off, for a while the church actually met in our home, so when there wasn’t “ministry” to do, we were cleaning up from a meeting or preparing for a meeting. After all that ministry, there was barely enough time to do the basic necessities like grocery shopping, cooking and laundry. And we certainly did not have time for enjoyable activities, fellowshipping with friends, neighbors or family or resting. During those years most all of our activities and conversations revolved around ministry and as you can guess, our marriage was suffering.

So here is the deal, the only way to prioritize family and full-time ministry is to learn to set boundaries! Repeat after me! “It’s ok to say No!” Now believe me, I understand that you love The Lord and want to serve Him. I also know that 20% of the people always do 80% of the work. And what I’ve come to believe even more is, there ARE people perfectly capable of doing many of these things. However, because we always volunteer or think that no one can do it as well as we can, they never get the opportunity to try. Beyond that, it’s ok to just let some things go undone.

There is a great book that someone recommended to me several years ago when I was struggling with this very thing. I have read it & listened to the audio several times over the years. I think it might be helpful for you too. in fact, I think I might revisit it again as I prepare for my next blog.

Boundaries

When to Say Yes, How to Say No

By: Henry Cloud & John Townsend

Believe me, I know that setting boundaries is not easy, but it does get easier with practice! (We’ll discuss how to do that more another day.)

So where do we go from here?

Step one:

Identify some areas of ministry where you might need to set boundaries. In order to do that, prayerfully ask yourself the following questions.

1) Am I currently involved with any aspect of ministry that I do not believe God has specifically asked me to do?

2) Am I currently involved in any part of ministry simply because someone coerced, obligated or guilted me into doing? Am I involved because others think I should be? Am I involved because others will think poorly of me if I’m not in charge or don’t participate?

3) Am I involved in anything that is sucking the life out of me, my family, or my marriage?

4) Do I enjoy something, but it is taking up way too much time and energy? Am I spread too thin?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you most likely do not have proper boundaries set to protect you, your family or marriage.

(If you answered “no” to all of the above questions…well then this blog is probably not written for you.)

Step Two:

Now make a list of the areas that came to mind when you answered yes to the above questions.

These are the areas where you need to set boundaries!

What’s next?:

Now that you have identified the areas where you need to set boundaries, next week we will look at how to actually make that happen.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

KD

Psalm 91