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!!!!

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