The Power of Being Present

When I’m walking through my morning routine each day, one discipline I practice is to write down “Daily Virtues”. Daily Virtues are the attributes or qualities I want to see become more manifest in my life. (more on that in another post). I divide these virtues into three categories, Be. Live. And Do.

The first virtue, in the first category is Present. Be Present. We live in a time of extreme accessibility. The majority of people who can get online and check Facebook whenever they desire can be reached at every second of everyday. While this does come with many advantages, one major setback is the temptation to not be fully engaged with any one task or person for any meaningful length of time. Even as I write this, I’ve answered three text messages, had two in person conversations, and engaged in one twitter exchange with Micah Fries where we fought it out over Jay Cutler’s ability as a starting quarterback. (For what it’s worth, the Dolphins are in trouble).

While all of these have merit on their own; each time I shift focus from one task to another I become less effective in my current conversation or task. The result is far from being more productive I become less, as the quality of what I am producing decreases exponentially the more divided I allow my mind to become. How much more creative, helpful, and productive would I be if I gave dedicated focused effort to each of these encounters?

How much more of myself could I give to each person or task if I focused on being present?

Several text messages turn into one phone call. Scattered, unfocused and forced writing becomes clear and free. I can also give myself freely to the conversations that present themselves instead of viewing them as distraction. One of the best pieces I read on this recently came from Google. In makers time, they suggest scheduling focused creative time into your weekly calendar to give yourself the best opportunity for success. It is a good place to start. In addition to makers time, there are a few other things I’m trying.

Working in 45 minute blocks. I try to divide every task or project into 45 minute blocks. Administrative tasks, reading, and writing are all divided into blocks of 45 minutes. I literally set a timer on my phone or computer and give focused effort to the given task for the time I have allotted. Some tasks can take more than one 45 minute block. That’s ok, the 45 minutes are there to give you a breathe at the end to get up, get another drink, check email and do some pushups.

Dedicate separate places for separate tasks. Find a spot that you read in, one you do the majority of your creative work in, and one in which you crush phone calls or administrative work. When we dedicate specific places to specific tasks we immediately eliminate the clutter we normally have to untangle from and can get right to work. Relatedly, if you create things for a living, find somewhere new to work for a day or a week. Pro tip: The library is great and it’s free yo!

If you are finished, stop. If you are having difficulty focusing and processing what you are reading stop. If the creative muse has left, let it go. Especially in creative work if you have come to the end of your resources, don’t waste any more time producing something you are simply going to delete later. Get up, take a breath and change locations if necessary.

Don’t cut your time short. While this sounds like the exact opposite of what I just said, sometimes it is necessary to keep your head down and grind out work for the day, especially administrative tasks. If you have set 45 minutes to work, then work for the time you have allowed and don’t quit

Try new things. Different things work for different people. Some people may find more success camping out in one place all day. For others, working in two hour blocks is a better fit. Whatever needs to happen, don’t stop until you find what it takes for you to be most successful.

 

The Problem of Selfishness

I wonder how much of a good and redemptive life is simply noticing our surroundings and making the conscious decision to respond with something more than selfish voyeurism? How much good would we do, how much better could our neighborhoods, workplaces and cities become if we made the simple decision to engage each other with empathy and kindness instead of apathy and disregard? I think the culprit is selfishness.

In reality, the primary problems most of us face can all be categorized as problems of selfishness. While this isn’t a new or unique problem it seems especially exacerbated today. It has become commonplace to treat the people we interact with each day as a problem to solve, an obstacle to overcome, or worst of all, a commodity to consume. How easily do we objectify each other for personal gain or pleasure when we all want the same thing? All of us desire to be heard. All of us desire to be known and seen as valuable. All of us desire to be viewed as people of worth.

We were all made in the image of a personal, creative, active and knowable God. It should come as no surprise when we treat each other in this way, as creative people with something to offer who want to be known, deep needs are met.

When we stop thinking the world revolves around us, is all about is, it non-magically becomes a larger and much more enjoyable place to live. As G.K. Chesterton put it in his great work Orthodoxy.

How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they are not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.

This isn’t to say life will be without frustration or annoyance, our world is full of people after all, but instead of being mastered and overcome by such things we are able to see them in their proper light, as people, circumstances, situations all given to us for our strengthening and God’s joy. We will truly be able to say, “This is the day that the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

So how do we make progress along these lines? A couple of suggestions…

Begin well: The most transformative discipline I have added to my life this year is beginning the day with some journaling. (I hope to I will write about this in detail soon). By beginning with reflection, mediation, prayer and goal setting, I am able to anticipate and respond to the challenges and people in front of me instead of having to surprisingly react.

Practice detachment: When I feel myself beginning to get frustrated or out of sorts with something, I recognize it for what it is and make the decision to step back out of the emotion and respond. FULL DISCLOSURE: Still working on this.

Count everything as joy: When we realize the things in front of us as given by God for our good and His joy, it helps us keep proper perspective. God’s desire for us in this life is that we look like His son Jesus and His primary way of growing us is through hardship, trial and in relationship with others. (Note, one usually goes with the other).

Regain wonder: You would be surprised at how much the simple act of allowing yourself to be amazed and impressed can change the way you feel. If you forgot what that is like, come spend the day with my kids and watch them encounter our world. So so amazing.

Lean in: When you ask someone how they are doing, really mean it. Take a second to lean in to their response. Be helpful and kind to others. Smile.

Recover childlike faith: Being a cynic is the easiest thing in the world. Trust that God isn’t out to get anything from you other than your heart.

 

 

10,000 Pushups

Over the course of July it wasn’t uncommon for someone to ask me why I’m doing 10,000 pushups. Here’s the skinny…

Doing 10,000 pushups in a single month is ridiculous. There is no meaningful reason that exists for why someone would do that many pushups in a single month. So, why?

The genesis of the idea came last year from Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Sasse mentioned while on the campaign trail, he routinely challenged his staff to complete this insane number over the course of a month and I thought it a great challenge to attempt while we were moving last summer. I needed something to keep me engaged physically as I knew my gym attendance would be a bit sporadic during that season. Since I am not one to suffer alone or in silence I began challenging others to join me, because as the saying goes, “misery loves company”. Yet, this type of motivation only lasts so long, and since the overwhelming majority of your pushups happen when nobody else is watching, there has to be more to keep you motivated than the simple challenge. It was at this point, both this year and last I began to learn a few things. Here are the 5 top things I have learned.

It’s good to do hard things

We live in an unparalleled time in history when it is quite possible to live your entire life without challenge, difficulty or being placed in situations that require you to bear down, grind and get things done. While this may sound good on the surface, one consequence is a lack of opportunity for character formation. Where it wasn’t uncommon even a generation ago to spend formative years working on the farm, throwing hay, or performing manual labor of some kind, it’s increasingly anomalous now. When we don’t subject ourselves to hard things, it shouldn’t surprise us when we are soft people.

Not everything we do in life is fun.

When it is 11pm at night, you only have 50 pushups in so far for the day and you need to do about 275 more to stay on track, it’s no picnic. But the truth of the matter is, I can choose to be happy, ticked off or indifferent, but either way the pushups have to get done. The only difference is what my attitude is while grinding them out. In reality, the things that are fun are things I say that are fun. I tell myself, I tell my body and brain what is fun. Nobody outside of me gets to dictate what is enjoyable. 300 more pushups to do? Awesome! Kid pukes in your bed? Smile, laugh and grab the bleach. This isn’t the “power of positive thinking” it’s a mindset essential to persevering when life gets ludicrous.

Plan your work and work your plan.

Doing 10,000 pushups is difficult, not impossible. Like setting any kind of goal it requires you to plan your work and work your plan. It’s good to set goals that seem ridiculous to show yourself and others you CAN CRUSH THEM!

There is not a single problem, goal or challenge in your life that cannot be overcome by the Leadership of the Holy Spirit through Prayer and Personal Discipline.

Not to over-spiritualize this, but if this is true in the physical realm of pushups, how much more true is this in the spiritual realm? If I can be disciplined to do 10,000 pushups of no eternal consequence, what else am I capable of that has eternal consequence? If I can be disciplined to do 325 pushups a day for a month, can I be disciplined to be a better neighbor, father and husband? Yes. If I can be disciplined to take time and do pushups throughout my day, can I be disciplined to take time and pray throughout my day? Again, yes!

It’s not really about the pushups.

Pick your thing, challenge others to join you and GO GET SOME! Why wouldn’t you? With the desire you have to lose weight, go back to school or start a new business or area of ministry, the best time to begin was yesterday; the next best time is right now. Next month or next year are still going to happen, the only difference will be if you crushed your goal or not. Friends, there are seven days in a week and someday isn’t one of them.

Discipline Equals Freedom

One thing I’m continually learning (thanks jocko) as I move through the years is that, hard work, hard, unrelenting, persistent work beats dumb luck every single time. If I want the freedom for my life to work a certain way it will require discipline to reach that point. There is really only one way to do 10,000 pushups. One at a time.

Stop being offended

Make up your mind not to be offended anymore. Your life will be better.

Last week I wrote these words on Facebook and my good friend Darin goaded me into writing a few more. So, I’m going to spend a few minutes about the dangers of unnecessary offense and a few potential solutions. DISCLAIMER: I write as one who is still in process with this myself, not as an expert. Carry on.

Why is choosing offense so dangerous?

When we choose to be offended we intentionally or otherwise place ourselves in an elevated position of self-importance, saying by our offense that it is our idea, belief cause, pet peeve that deserves to rue the day. If there cannot be total agreement, about every conceivable thing, than total disagreement is the only other option. In many ways this belief and resulting practice is manifest in the current polarization of our society. When we break everything down into “us vs. them”, true conversation, compromise and meaningful progress is nearly impossible.

When we choose to be offended we give up the possibility of being wrong, and what a glorious gift being wrong is. When we admit we are wrong, we have the opportunity for true growth and development in areas where we are limited. If we give up the possibility of being wrong, we will never grow.

Next, when we choose to be offended, rather than our voice becoming larger, it becomes smaller. Like the boy who cried wolf, the more we talk about our offense, the less people listen. This de-legitimizes true offense, numbing others from hearing our voice when we meaningfully engage with matters or real or ultimate importance.

Most importantly, when we choose to be offended we automatically give the offender power over us should only belong to King Jesus. There is a word in the Bible given for what happens when we give away power to created things; the word is Idolatry. Most of the time, it is our love of being angry, our love of our own ego, or our love of personal pride that we are fueling in being offended.

How do our lives become better when we choose not to be offended?

Our lives become better when we are in control of our emotions. When we are offended, we allow our emotions to be in the drivers seat, we allow them to lead us rather than us leading them. Think about the number of emotional decisions you have made, or the number of times you have uttered words in a moment of emotion. Chances are these are decisions and words you wish you had back, or in the very least wish you could have crafted more thoughtfully. There is a reason why Scripture spends so much time talking about how we must guard our heart, how it is desperately wicked and conversely, the benefit of renewing our mind, taking every thought captive.

Truthfully, Choosing to be offended is our problem not somebody else’s. We don’t have the power to do anything about what another person says, does, or posts on social media; nor do we know their motivations for doing so. We do however have a choice in how we respond to such things. That’s why being offended is something we make up our mind about. We have the power and opportunity to lead our mind and emotion instead of being lead by our mind and emotion.

In this incredibly compelling interview with Jocko Willnk (super long, but super good!) POW Charlie Plumb talks about sharing an 8’ cell with another prisoner for years. He said in an environment like that it is easy to become annoyed with what the other man does. His habits, sleeping patterns, the way he smelled; all of these challenges being ripe fodder for annoyance. Yet, he realized that his cell-mates habits being bothersome was his problem, not that of his cell mate. If a POW in Vietnam can have the presence of mind to treat his fellow prisoners habits as his own personal issue to overcome, then surely we can exercise a bit more resolve and discipline when we view a stupid meme on Facebook

Our lives become better when we hold our ideas in tiered humility. In life we should have certain ideas, values and morals we are willing to fight and die for. If we haven’t such things we cease being cogent, conscious and competent humans. Yet, we must know the difference between close handed issues (things we are willing to fight over), and open handed issues, (those which we are willing to walk hand and hand with). Not everything is a close handed issue.

Our lives become better when we live in real relationship with people. The solution to much of our unreasonable offense can be found in having conversations with real people in real relationships. I am very fortunate to have valuable friendships with people who see life differently and hold different values than I do. We don’t always agree, and frankly some of what they say and believe makes me uncomfortable. Yet even when I am prone to offense, my love for the person and the value of our relationship is far more important than my feeling of offense. How often is the source of what we are offended by someone we don’t even know? Why do we so easily give power and credibility to people we can never influence?

Finally, our lives become better when we spend our energy towards things/people/issues we can affect. This is the true way to make our lives and that of our neighborhoods, communities and society better.

So the next time you are tempted towards offense. Take a second and detach from the heat of the moment. Don’t write the Facebook rant, don’t repost the stupid meme, don’t start a fight with your spouse. Call a friend you disagree with on the phone and have a conversation, play kickball with your kids, go for a walk. Quit taking yourself and every thought you have ever had so seriously. If we all commit to doing this, we will all be much much happier.

 

 

Joy Stealers

When I was a senior in high school my uncle Steve was killed in a car accident. The following Sunday I was singing in the praise team at church and I remember my pastor’s wife coming to me and saying that she could just see the joy of the Lord in me, even on a day of tragedy.

All these years later and her words still stick with me. I often think, can others see the joy of the Lord in me?   Can my children? Can my husband? When I think of Joy I think of something deeper than happiness.  While happiness is often fleeting, joy remains when hard times come.  We are not going to be happy every minute of the day, but we can choose deep joy because we have Jesus. We have joy because of His love for us.  We know all of this true.

Yet, if we know this to be true, why on a daily basis do we choose to curl up in our own little sad shell and not be joyful?  One word, idolatry. My husband often says, “the root of all sin is idolatry and the root of idolatry is radical self-centeredness and selfishness. It’s wanting what we want more than what God wants.”

On any given day there are several boxes I like to check off on my “happy list”. My list can vary but the items consistently include- time in the morning to be quiet and read, time to exercise uninterrupted, good coffee beans in my possession, time to get ready and not feel like a slob, a good breakfast, time to pick up said good breakfast, happy children, happy children who are helpful and not arguing. While this is all well and good on the surface it can become dangerous when the very things that contribute to our happiness, begin to steal our joy when they are unmet.

We have a word for the things in life that we allow to give us meaning, value and purpose that we should only derive from Jesus. Idols. What we are saying when we allow our joy to be dictated by the things on our happy list is that they are more important than what we know to be true in King Jesus.

Do I get to be short tempered with my kids because my morning didn’t go just how I like?  No.  Choosing grumpiness is not just selfishness, but idolatry. If I am letting all of my “wants” cause my attitude to be sour than I am no better off then my 1,3,5 and 7 year olds.  Sometimes it feels impossible to reset the day when everything is not going correctly.

Yet, in those moments, rather than being crushed I can lift up my day, attitude and frustrations to my Heavenly Father OVER AND OVER AND OVER. I know that I can’t be the mother and the wife He has called me to be without complete reliance on him.

Friends, we shouldn’t allow our circumstances to be joy stealers! Every day I have to remind myself that the moments of crabbiness, sleepiness and immaturity on behalf of my kids and myself are part of mothering/parenting and this is what I am called to do right now. If I lose joy over little things such as this, how am I any different then one of my children who might throw themselves on the floor when they are upset?

I am begging the Lord for His joy to take over my day and my attitude.  I am asking for His unwavering love to be present when I have let too much of myself in the way.

Quick side note.. as a mom I know that I do need to take care of myself.  I do need to take time to do things that feed my soul which in turn make me a better mother, wife, friend. My point is when you have those moments, soak them up and be refilled!  Other times though lets put aside our selfish ways and love like Jesus.  I pray that the Joy of the Lord flows out of me even if I am in yesterdays clothes, eating cereal and stuck inside playing kitchen for the billionth time.  This is what I signed up for.  Lord, let all of You pour out of me.  I want the Joy of the Lord to be seen in me, even inside my house when the door is closed.

 

Father’s Day Reflections 2017

Father’s Day has always been an incredibly bitter sweet day for me. For many years the bitter was all I tasted as I was filled with a lot of anger, pain and resentment. My dad has never lived up to my expectations; yet I imagine he hasn’t lived up to his own expectations either. This feeling is a lot like I feel about my fifteen year old Volkswagen; the idea of how great it could be is far better than what I get to drive around everyday.

I gave up being bitter a long time ago. For many years, the root of my bitterness came more from feeling like I lost something I was owed more than any real anger I had towards him as a man. I felt like he took something from me, innocence, money, security, freedom. Mostly, he just took time.

When I look in the mirror I see glimpses of him. I see him in my eyes and my hair. I can smell him in my aftershave, hear him in my own laugh and quick wit, and feel him in my own pride, arrogance and anger. In my most honest moments I will tell you my greatest fears all revolve around being like him, and the danger of throwing life’s most important things away in selfishness and addiction.

If I mourn the loss of anything, I mourn the loss of his life in my life. When I was a senior in High School I remember sitting on the pock marked linoleum in the kitchen of our rental house crying uncontrollably because I didn’t know how to put line on my fishing pole. I felt deficient. I felt lost. I felt alone. I mourn the loss of all his knowledge, skill and insight. There have been many times I’ve wondered how deficient my own fatherhood is because of this. What skills, knowledge, history will not make it to the next generation because it failed to be passed on to this one?

If I mourn the loss of anything, I mourn his loss of my life in his life. God has been and is so so good. My wife is a treasure, like the first cup of coffee in the morning. She is so unbelievably consistent, yet everyday with her is still like Christmas. My children, my four children, are like the most glorious kaleidoscope, with colors whirling, and dancing, and spinning, always moving and never ever boring. Yet, like a man without sight, he is unable to see. He is unable to see all this good, all this glory, all this joy.

As I sit and think about my story, my mind often returns to the goodness of God and the words of King David in both 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, “Who am I oh Lord, and what is my family that you have brought me this far? And you didn’t stop there, oh God! You have also spoken about the future of your servants family.” David, in awe of what God would do with someone like him and his family offers praise at what has happened and joyful expectation of what is coming. May I be and do the same.

 

Homeschool Recap 2017

I guess yesterday was our last school day of the year.  It was supposed to be Wednesday but due to family sickness we bumped it back!

The kids have been anxious to have a last day and with a big vacation coming up this seems logical. I see the value in marking an end to something you have been working on for months and months. We used My Fathers World to guide our study though Early American History as well as Kindergarten. This was my third year officially homeschooling and my first year teaching two at the same time. This is the first year where I don’t feel we fully completed everything. Even though part of me wants to keep pushing. I’m beginning to realize this is the beauty of learning, and a big reason I love to homeschool.

If I weave learning into our daily life then learning never ends.

While there is value in taking a break from school, for me just as much as the kids, learning never goes on vacation. So, my plan as we move into the next year is to pick right up where we left off.  It’s not a race and we aren’t on any set schedule.

I also know that as valuable as history, science, and language are, there are many other things that we need to give time to. Summer gives us that opportunity. I want to cook with my kids more without feeling like I’m making us fall behind. I want to explore and say yes to more board games. I also want to give them more space to grow in areas of personal interest. Plus we want to swim! I’m welcoming this change of season and looking forward to feeling refreshed moving into a new year.

A couple of years ago the fact that I didn’t complete every single kindergarten unit with Levi would have drove me crazy. This year I’m going to look at it a little differently. Did Levi learn this year? Yes! Was progress made? Yes! And I am thankful! While we will continue to work, I realize the bigger picture. The books I purchase to guide my teaching are merely that, a guide. While for many who choose homeschooling this is an early revelation, for me it has taken some time to shake off the need to check all the boxes.

I learned this year to be more free with my kids in their learning. When math was becoming a very frustrating time every single day, I set the reset button. I took a several month break from our typical curriculum and switched to a story form math. Is my child “behind”? Possibly. I don’t really know. Yet, last week that same child has picked up her previous Math book and has been thriving, it is being understood and there are even smiles!

I also learned this year about the concept of a morning time, which my kids like to call “cozy time”. It looked a little different every day, but it was a general time to come together either at the dining room table, the living room or outside to read the Bible, memorize verses together, read poems, sing hymns, draw, read a chapter in a book, learn about a piece of art. This concept is becoming popular and I thoroughly enjoyed implementing into our day.

Overall I would say I saw a big shift in my teaching style this year. I see the value in having good books all around us. I see that my relationship with my children is more valuable than butting heads day in and day out over a math assignment. I know now that taking a “break” from something is necessary. I can tell when we need a day without any books because there is too much to learn outside. This year was not perfect or easy but I am thankful for grace and how God fills in the gaps where we feel we fall short.

Being the people we are raising our kids to be-Trying New Things

I love my daughter. I love all 3 of my daughters. I love my son too, just in case he’s reading this, (he’s not…he’s five). Our oldest daughter is 7 and she is smart, determined, and loves to read. She takes leadership of many things, siblings included, and she is a perfectionist, which is a tough combination to contend with when you are doing something new.

Whether it is math, piano, or baseball, if she can’t preform the task perfectly the first time, she wants to give up. Tears run, voices are raised, bedroom doors are slammed shut in frustration. Over and over, the words of her mother and I come, “Babe, you can’t expect to do something perfectly the first time. If you want to get better at something you have to practice.” Often, our words go unheeded.

I was recently asked to write a couple things for a good friend and mentor who is developing a training curriculum for new church planters. I said yes because I love and respect my friend, and I believe in the project he is working on. Yet, as I began to write I was so frustrated! Nothing was coming out right, I hated what I had written and wanted to give up over and over again. My internal dialogue was filled with biting questions, “Why can’t this be easier, sound better, or come out right? Why is this so difficult?”

Why is it, when we can challenge our kids to try new things, to practice, and keep going, even when something is new and difficult, we as the adults become so discouraged and want to give up when we do the same? The reasons are legion. For me, the questions sound like this, “What if I suck at this? What if people hate what I write? What if I hate what I write? What if someone actually reads this and has an opinion for good or ill?” While I like to talk a big and inspired game to my kids about doing new things, working to get better at what I struggle with, and not giving up; often my fear of failure, the opinion of others, and my pride combine to short circuit my good intentions.

It’s helpful to remind ourselves that before we do something well, we have to do it poorly, and before we do it poorly, we have to suck at it. The quicker we get about the business of being terrible, the quicker we can perform adequately, then reasonably, then exceptionally. Anne Lamont says, “it takes a thousand paragraphs to find one good one.” Yet, you don’t get the good one without the thousand bad ones. It was that initial ask by my friend to write for him that made me realize my deficiency and then commit to writing more, albeit terribly to begin with. Hence, the great amount of activity on this site as of late.

With anything we put our energy towards we will run into those that throw stones, cast dispersions or generally don’t like us. Yet, that only matters if we are doing it for them and their approval. If not, just keep going, grinding and realize the reward is ultimately internal, in the process of getting better. If we are raising our kids to be the best possible versions of themselves, we owe it to them and us, to be the people we are raising them to be.

Thoughts on Marriage Conflict

It happened again. An argument. Even as I sit and write I cannot remember what the argument was about. In all likelihood the argument was a direct result of something one of us said that the other chose to take in the worst possible light; the assumed detection of a voice inflection that changed a normal question into an accusation. “What did you have for lunch?” morphs into, “What did YOU have for lunch?” and BOOM it’s on like Donkey Kong.

Why does marriage have to be such a dogfight, a fight to communicate, a fight to have, receive and give grace? Why does it have to be a fight to give worth and value, a fight to continually seek the best and want the best for your partner? Why does it feel like a daily grind to put off selfishness and self-centered behavior?

The reality that makes marriage work is an unashamed commitment to marriage as a covenantal relationship as opposed to a consumer relationship. In his great book, “The Meaning of Marriage”, Tim Keller reminds us of the danger we face today,

“In contemporary Western society the marketplace has become so dominant that the consumer model increasingly characterizes most relationships that historically were covenantal, including marriage. Today we stay connected to people as long as they are meeting our particular needs at an acceptable cost to us. When we cease to make a profit-that is, when the relationship appears to require more love and affirmation from us than we are getting back-then we ‘cut our loses’ and drop the relationship. This has also been called ‘commodification’, a process by which social relationships are reduced to economic exchange relationships, and so the very idea of covenant is disappearing in our culture.”

When we covenant in marriage we recognize that God is using this union to sharpen, refine and sanctify us. The commitment to the covenant supersedes how either of us “feels” at any given moment, because it is sustained by the God who initiated the covenant to begin with. Tragically, if we aren’t watchful, we will quickly move our marriage from a relationship of covenant to one of consumer and treat our spouse like our cell phone or cable tv provider.

So, how do we combat this danger? A couple thoughts.

First, treat your personal selfishness as the main problem of your marriage: Keller again; “If two spouses each say, ‘I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,’ you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.” Confession, I have to remind myself of this multiple times a week.

Secondly, take your marriage, but not yourself seriously: One prayer request I right down each morning is for Jessica and I in our marriage. If I take our marriage seriously, I need to battle for it in prayer. Also, most of the “spats” Jessica and I get in could either be avoided, or are ended, when I realize I’m being too uptight. The solution is for me to laugh at myself or the situation. Laughing at your own ridiculousness cures many ailments.

Finally, remember that your wife was your beloved bride, before she was the mother of your children. Remember her always for who she was to you at first and act and treat her accordingly. Ann Voskamp wrote about it beautifully here.

Friends since marriage is a dogfight, lets be sure we are fighting with our spouse against our enemy instead of with our enemy against our spouse.

Marriage 12 plus years in

It’s funny how after 12 plus years of marriage I can still feel “new” at this whole wife thing. I mean, how long do you have to live in a role to have it figured out? One would think twelve years is long enough to work out all the kinks.

Why is grace so hard to give to my husband? When I have a decent day with my kids, why do the struggles I have come out in resentment towards him when he comes home and I refuse to be loved? Why is welcoming the praises difficult, when choosing negativity isn’t?

I have an idea, and it’s not new or original. Our family is under attack by an enemy who wants to destroy us. I wake up in the morning and try to squeeze in as much Truth from the Word as I can before little ones awake. I read of grace and truth and the Love of the Father, and I can FEEL IT and I KNOW IT! I feel embraced by truth and grace. I count my gifts and I pray to be a blessing. Then little ones awake, the day really gets going. I strive and I strive and I fill needs. I push down frustration and I clean messes. I make meals and I sing of Jesus love with my kids while we unload the dishwasher. I teach and discipline and then my dear one comes home and it is like I just can’t do it any longer. Without even trying, a wall is built between he and I because I’m tired and I’m broken and it’s just hard.

Twelve plus years in and we are still learning how to communicate. We probably will always be adjusting. I am begging the Lord for His grace. I pray that I hear the words of my husband and that I stop to let him hug me. I am praying that I look for opportunities to put my hands on his tired shoulders. I want these walls torn down. Resentment is not what I want filling my heart. The kids and I talk almost daily about the fruits of the Spirit. We talk and pray that our hearts would overflow with peace, love, joy, kindness, goodness and self control. We have some amazing days and then we have some very real days. I couldn’t ask for a better man to go through hard things with. I pray that I wouldn’t only think that is true, but I would believe it and say it.

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