A Realistic Guide To Love (Part 8.. In It To Win It)

Good afternoon everyone! I hope your time of worship with the Lord this morning was awesome!

Today we finish the blog series that we have been going through. It has been taken from an article in the January/February issue of Relevant Magazine. Click here to start with Part 1.

So enjoy the finale of A Realistic Guide to Love.

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In It To Win It

As the years tick by, some couples settle into an amazing bliss. Those six people are fortunate. The rest of us will run into epic personal struggles, both within our marriages and beyond. We don’t learn in school how to deal with miscarriages, debt, depression or unfaithfulness.

These serious needs underscore the importance for deep community, solid mentors, excellent communication skills and habits, grace, patience, forgiveness, conflict resolution and big faith. One piece of advice that has proven invaluable was to remind ourselves that we’re on the same team. If we’re talking about something, even if it’s where one person really hurt the other, we’re trying to work it out and move forward together.

We’re also learning to be gentle on each other. We all react differently to stress–some become militant commanders, some look cool while choking on internal tension, some lose sleep, some sleep more, some cry, some can’t handle seeing tears. Learn how you each react to stress, and be prepared for your spouses’s reaction, as well as to tame your more damaging reactions.

From the first days of our marriage, we had a saying: “The honeymoon never ends.” It leads to adventures and laughter, memories and romance, optimism and joy. It is the long-term effect of the “date your mate” principle. You might not have two weeks in the Cayman Islands, but a picnic of bread, cheese and chocolate next to spring blossoms is pretty fine too.

Build traditions to encourage and facilitate what really matters–assign an evening for a tea/coffee/hot cocoa date at home. Make space, time and a routine for prayer together. Read a book that can motivate your love, for God and each other.

Keep finding mentors a stage or two ahead of you. Don’t just talk about your life–talk about theirs. Hear their struggles and how they work through them, from talking to their kids about puberty, to parenting angry teenagers to caring for a spouse with a terminal illness.

Love feeds on the times you stop and thank God for the precious person you have the privilege of sharing life with. So thank God. At the same time, don’t let your focus only and always be on each other. There’s a world of need out there, and some of the finest marriages around are in the tick of it, serving side by side.

And perhaps some day you’ll be that married couple with the smile-wrinkled faces whose lives after umpteen dozen years together still shine with such love that the word “awww” just slips out of your mouth when he reaches for her hand.

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I hope you enjoyed this series and learned a bunch. I know I did.

Until next time readers, God Bless!

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A Realistic Guide To Love (Part 7.. The Big D)

Good evening readers! Today was another beautiful day here in Oklahoma City. I got some much-needed rest and I am ready to write!

This evening I am going to touch on a subject that I have lived through, and really don’t like to talk about. Divorce. My mom has been married once, and my dad now has been married once as well. I come from what they call a blended family. My dad I call dad adopted me when I was 8. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We are almost done with this blog series, which is from an article in the January/February 2011 issue of Relevant Magazine. To start with Part 1, click here.

Enjoy Part 7!

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The Big D

“I hate divorce,” says God in Malachi 2:16. Who wouldn’t Divorce is a messy, miserable experience. And yet it happens. A lot.

When you see persistent problems creeping into your relationship, get help early. Lose any stigma you have about asking a pastor, a mentor couple or a professional counselor for help. There are many happy couples today because they found a good counselor (or several). Divorce is not a possibility any couple should try to face on their own. Divorce can arise from the most painful experiences you can imagine: affairs, addictions, pornography, infertility, mental illness, changes in faith. You may lose the job you always wanted, you may hit a quarter-life crisis, you may feel every ounce of attraction you felt for your spouse has rusted away. Imagine these now, talk about them, pray about them and plan against them. It won’t stop everything, but it will help. Be ready to forgive each other; make it easy to confess to each other.

When life takes terribly hard turns, our tendency is to blame someone. You’ll likely blame someone nearby : either your spouse or God. If you blame your spouse, you load him or her with unreasonable expectations, shame, nagging, hate and a load of unproductive guilt that serves only to drive you apart. So here’s some radical advice: blame God. He can take it. Cry on God’s shoulder, tell Him what hurts and let Him have it–literally. He’s big enough. That phrase “God hates divorce” does not mean “God hates you.” God loves you, no matter what.

If you live past your 20s and step outside your house, you will meet people going through divorce. Divorce can feel like having a limb torn off, like wanting to commit murder, like losing a best friend or like failing. It can also feel like you put on a goblin mask and none of your friends-especially the church ones–will talk to you. A friend facing divorce needs your listening ears more than your advice-blabbing mouth. Be available to listen and learn to listen well. Try stating the obvious rather than ignoring it: “You must be going through a really tough time. Let me know if there’s any way I can help you out.”

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Only two more sections left.. Stay tuned!

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A Realistic Guide To Love (Part 6.. Little People)

Good evening everyone! I hope your Wednesday has been good so far! I am really exhausted, but I wanted to write this out for you first.

We are almost done with this blog series, which is from an article in the January/February 2011 issue of Relevant Magazine. To start with Part 1, click here.

Enjoy Part 6!

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Little People

Many non-parents believe life ends with parenting. Not end like die, just end like the You who had purpose, direction, career, style, humor, friends and romance will dissolve into an unrecognizable smear in the parking lot of Babies “R” Us. Meanwhile, two characters from a movie you never chose to watch will enter your home. These intruders (“Mommy and Daddy”) will hold your life and self hostage.

As if through the slats of the closet where the real You is tied up, you watch Mommy sit around telling friends about stroller  brands, bowel movements, childbirth and Winnie the Pooh. Mommy goes to Mommy Groups. She worries about diaper rash and teething and school districts. She has nothing to say to single men. She shops for little plastic cups of chopped peaches and SpongeBob fruit gummy snacks and calls it enough of an outing for a day. When she climbs into bed she squirms to the far edge of the bed and shrieks: ” Don’t touch me! I’ve been touched all day. All I want is a little sleep!” Mommy definitely, assuredly, is not any fun.

Meanwhile, Daddy goes off, tired, to his nine-to-five job, stopping on the way home to buy diapers, frozen dinners and butt-rash cream. He comes in to find Mommy crying in baggy sweats, a bucket of board books overturned on his favorite chair, baby wipes strewn down the hallway, a Johnny Jump Up blocking his escape to the bathroom. He picks up Howling Baby, who wails louder, poops and is promptly snatched from his hands by teary Mommy. He just wants to leave, even if for an extended research project in the Sahara. Daddy and Mommy rarely look at each other’s faces. When they do, the talk about Baby. It becomes hard to do anything that might lead to another baby.

Parenting doesn’t have to be this way. Yo, your free and joyful life, and your romance can live on, and even thrive, if you know what to expect and how to tackle it.

You will talk about your offspring. A lot. It’s inevitable.  Embrace this, and let it bind you and your spouse together. Parenting has a steep learning curve, but it’s one of the best classrooms about God and life you will ever encounter. Your spouse is there to help you process the day’s lessons.

It is also inevitable that your child will be with you, often right in the middle of you. Get used to it. Don’t wait for the baby to be out of the room to show your love.  Demonstrate love to your spouse through any and all means available to you–repeating baby babble to elicit giggles, carrying out the trash, folding laundry. These can take on a surprisingly romantic glow amidst the mayhem.

Take your life in your own hands. Don’t allow parenting to consume you. Keep those dates coming. Swap babysitting with someone–your child really will survive without you for an hour, an evening and even a week as time passes. Or take baby with. Children travel. Newborns, especially, are remarkably like purses–they don’t care at all about culture shock, new languages or different homes as long as they’ve got you holding them. Starting young will get you trained to continue family adventures as they grow.

And don’t scrap your friendships–with other parents, with your small group, with single and childless friends. A child really is so much better off when raised by  a village. One reason parenting feels like a frightening black hole before we become parents ourselves is that our culture does a rotten job of facilitating relationships outside our own life stage. We all need people besides just our own spouses for processing doubts, fears, questions, hopes and all that. Don’t become an island–let other people watch your children; host small group at your house and let the kids be part of it; don’t feel like you have to leave for bedtime, but let your kids fall asleep at a friends’ house while you stay up talking and laughing together–just like you used to.

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Until next time readers, God Bless!

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A Realistic Guide To Love (Part 5.. You Got Something To Say To Me?)

Good evening everyone! I hope everyone’s Valentine’s Day was a success. Even though I know it is over, I want to continue the blog series I am sharing.

To start on Part 1, click here.

Just like the last posts, I am taking this information from the January/February issue of Relevant Magazine. It just had some really good stuff that I couldn’t help to share. So, enjoy Part 5!

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You Got Something To Say To Me? (How To Fight Well)

1. Remember You Are On The Same Team

In the middle of a fight, it’s easy to forget that not only do you love this person, you also ultimately want the same things. Remind yourself that you’re in this thing together, and try to figure out how you can help each other get what you both need and want.

2. You Can Stop– Really!

You don’t have to fight and fight until you come to a resolution(or one of you gives up). Take a timeout–especially if one or both of you are internal processors. Write down your thoughts, pray for one another separately and then come back together to talk it out.

3. Avoid Reliving the Same Fights Again and Again

If you’re not satisfied with where the fight ends, you’re going to have it again in a few days. If you hit an impasse, don’t just give up. Set a time to talk later, then come to a conclusion you can point back to. If you can’t agree, bring in a mentor or counselor to help.

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Now I know readers, that sometimes it isn’t that easy. Maybe it could be. The next time you get into a fight with a loved one, think of those three little ideas, and maybe the outcome will be different from what you think.

Until next time readers, God Bless!

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A Realistic Guide To Love (Part 4..Slumps & Ruts)

Good afternoon readers! What a beautiful day it is here in Oklahoma City. The weather is awesome today! I hope that those of you celebrating Valentine’s tomorrow are prepared and ready to go.. I know I am!

Anyway, today we are going to continue the series about love. To start at the beginning click here.

Today we are going to touch on the subject of the slumps and ruts of marriage. Life isn’t perfect. Humans aren’t perfect. So why do we expect them to be?

As I have been doing, this blog series is coming from the January/February 2011 issue of Relevant Magazine. Enjoy!

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Slumps & Ruts

This is where the “marriage is work” stuff really ramps up–everybody has rough patches in their marriage. You get tired. You see their mistakes. There are low-grade, grinding annoyances for both of you.

“Date your mate.” These words have come to us from a bunch of you, wise, well-married folks. Another pithy saying explains why it’s so important: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It’s easy to start to forget one another, to lose sight of what brought you together. That’s a problem, as it’s often what keeps you together. You must be disciplined in having fun. Make sure it happens, and make sure it’s really fun.

Money causes tons of marital strife. Commit to viewing money as the Bible does. That means no greed, no coveting, no hoarding, no waste and no selfishness. But rather give, save, steward, enjoy, share and use money. When you take the Bible seriously on money, it sets some pretty significant parameters for how you can think about and relate to resources. Talk openly about your spending choices, consider your money yours together (not owned by the one whose name is on the paycheck), and when there is a discord about finances, err on the side of loving your spouse (after explaining your perspective) rather than squeezing the life out of your principles.

Talk about your life, even when it seems boring. Verbally processing lets your spouse know he or she is valuable enough to be in on the decisions and emotions you face during the day.

And listen to your spouse talking about his or her life, even when it seems boring. They’ve trusted you with the emotional energy of telling you about  what happened today, so listen. Learn to ask good questions . Learn to repeat back what they’ve said in ways that say you heard between the lines and you care.

Talk about temptations, and don’t put yourself in temptation’s way. Have  close same-sex friends who you can talk to about temptations and challenges. Watch your attitudes and subtle cues in any relationships with the opposite sex, and give particular attention to ones your spouse doesn’t share.

In the same way you aim to stay faithful to one another, stay connected to church and to a community that supports your faith and your commitment to one another. Find a couple who has walked the walk a few more years or stages than you. Soak in wisdom and perspective by osmosis, then ask questions of those who share your worldview and priorities and are happily married. There’s no shame in finding a small group not just to be a perfect Christian, but because you’re really needy.

Pay attention to what makes your spouse feel loved, and  do it, even if it seems trite or unromantic. Ask what he or she likes– don’t assume you’ve got this all figured out. Those roses you’ve been pouring your savings into might mean far less to her than a foot rub, an evening snuggle in front of a movie or taking her turn washing dishes. And he might really desire more or different sex, or he might be happier if you played tennis together, read to each other, cooked more nice meals or kept a cleaner car.

Two Paths Diverged In A Wood…

Laying our dreams down for another is contrary to most messages we hear today. But if you can’t make sacrifices for your loved one–if you can’t say, “My spouse is more important to me that my dream” — your love will get slammed as you face the tough questions of life.

Questions like who will pay the bills if you both want to go back to school? What if babies come when you have fulfilling jobs but also want someone to stay home?  How will you balance a job offer in Seattle with family in Kentucky? What if you dreamed of moving to Europe, but the years are ticking onward in any direction but there?

Make your dreams and plans together early. Be honest now, so you’re not surprised  later by warring wishes. Talk about how many kinds you want, how far you want to live from home and how important your career is. Then expect these to change. As they do, keep talking to see how things fit, and say how you feel about it. Be honest with your desires, but also willing to give.

When two paths diverge in a wood, you need to take just one. Together.

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Well I hope all of you gained something from that. Have a great day tomorrow!

Until next time readers, God Bless!

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A Realistic Guide To Love (Part 3.. Newlyweds)

Hello again readers! Well we are at part 3 of this series! Isn’t this good stuff? If you wanna start on Part 1, click here.

As I stated in the previous posts, I am taking this article from the January/February issue of Relevant Magazine. This was such a good article, I had to split it up into sections. So… Enjoy Newlyweds no matter what stage you are in.

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Marriage is a funny little ceremony with a lot of special archaic words and rituals and costumes, but at the end of it, your life is different. Dramatically. You have committed to live with someone, love them and serve them for the rest of your living days. This changes your responsibilities and roles not just with this person, but toward the world and God.

So do the deed, have the party, dance a little dance and then what? The honeymoon. Make your honeymoon a significant time to reflect on who you are together. An eight-day honeymoon may not be sufficient time, and maybe a super-luxurious hotel isn’t the best location. You can mentally rope off the first three months of your life, wherever you live, as time to adjust. It can be weird and hard to try to adjust when surrounded by all the same people expecting you to be just the same, especially if you’re on the young side. But don’t escape altogether from community–you will want people you can be honest with and encouraged by. We had the chance to spend our first married months at an intentional Christian community, so we still had healthy community around us, and worked with refugees for three months– a perfect way to start a life of giving.

The sermon at our wedding was all about how love is work, how it takes a lot of sweat equity to build a good, strong marriage. It seemed a bit odd, counter to all the expectations of syrupy sweet gushing that often comes through before the vows. But nothing is more appropriate and more needed at such a time. There was a lot of crying during our first year of marriage. There’s so much to assimilate mentally, so much to adjust to socially, so much to experience physically, that it can be very trying as you get going.

Expect to lose some friends and gain others, but work to not drift from your single friends. They don’t know what you’re going through unless you explain it; they haven’t lived it yet. Don’t blame them for what they haven’t experienced. You haven’t experienced being single at their point in life either. Listen to each other. Keep doing much of the same stuff together, and figure out what looks different between you now that there’s an elephant in the room. (But don’t call your new spouse an elephant.)

Sex. This paragraph will be read at a significantly higher rate than all the others because we all want to know more about sex. It is all of us, naked, vulnerable, excited, scared, longing, worried and more. It is beautiful but hidden and private but shared. Perhaps the grandest theme in our culture today, it is both more complicated and more simple than we’re often led to believe. You might blow each other’s minds all the time, right from the  start. Or it may start off very badly (which is much more likely). But that’s part of the beauty of sex–the co-discovery, the knitting together, the already-and-not-yet of “one flesh.” So enjoy the  goofy ride that it is, whatever route you take together.

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Again, these are some amazing words aren’t they?

Tomorrow we will talk about struggle. Stay tuned!

Until next time readers, God Bless!

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A Realistic Guide to Love (Part 2..Dating)

Good morning readers! I hope everyone enjoyed  Part 1 of this series yesterday. If you missed it, click here.

Again, I am taking this time to give Relevant Magazine’s January/February 2011 issue the credit for the following material. Today we will take a look at the section entitled Dating.

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Call it “courting” for the Victorian allure. Call it “chronically hanging out.” Call it “mate-hunting.” Or just call it dating. Christmas is over, and romance is in the ir as the Big Day of Red, White and Roses approaches. Throughout the years, some have kissed dating goodbye, while others have kissed marriage goodbye. But dating does give you a chance to check people out, see whether you might be a match or if you find each other annoying. On the other hand, chronic short-term dating holds its own challenges and risks, including an unhealthy and unhelpful consumer attitude to relationships, less regard for the needs of the other person and more temptation to touch where you shouldn’t. If you do decide to date, keep a few things in mind.

First off, don’t be Seinfeld. Over the course of that old sitcom, Jerry, George and even Kramer dropped more than a hundred girlfriends, most for little things like shushing or napkin-doodling. Get over these. Realize you will annoy one another. Whatever–love isn’t about finding someone who meets your laundry list of a thousand perfect details.

Next, learn the Mars and Venus stuff– men and women are different. These aren’t straightjackets for how you will (or should) always behave. But you might as well get familiar with the basics and then apply them (with discernment and in addition to other fillers, such as personality profiles and love languages) to help you better understand each other.

That brings us to communication. Do it. Talk about everything. Talk about little things, like the first time you hold hands. Talk about past relationships, current needs and future hopes. Talk about what relationships you saw growing up. It feels weird, but starting with the end in mind helps you start off right. And as you read on, date on and love on, you’ll see that all this is key.

The longer you are in a relationship, the more likely it is you will hurt each other badly. You and the one you love most will probably cause more pain in each other’s lives than in the lives of the other 6 billion people on the planet. Ask forgiveness often, and forgive even more. Because you’re a jerk too.

Oh, and on purity– it’s very difficult to put hard and fast, works-for-everyone rules on this. But waiting until marriage to have sex isn’t about following some outmoded legalistic rule so the virgin bride gets to wear a white dress. It’s about following the caring advice of a God who knows what’s in our own best interest. Having sex feels like a secret and momentary thing at the time, but it’s like getting a 12-inch tattoo across your heart–it will affect you and anyone you’re intimate with for your lifetime. That said, if you have already joined the ranks of the non-virgins, it’s not too late to have an honest talk with God–and then your loved one–about the baggage you’re carrying. Wherever you’re at, give sex the due diligence of commitment it deserves.

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Wow! Powerful words here. They speak a lot don’t they? Hopefully they spoke to you, even if you aren’t in the dating scene anymore. Stay tuned tomorrow for more.

Until next time readers, God Bless!

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