A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Category: conflict (page 1 of 3)

Know Thy [Stressed] Self, Part II: The Stressed Version of Your Marriage

Missed Part I? Grab it here.

One of the unexpected delights of our final couple of months in Africa was the arrival of a college friend who’s known my husband and I since the beginning. She watched us meet, cautiously date, giddily become engaged. She played the piano when the two of us spring chickens said “I do” forever. Later, I stood with her as she spoke her own vows beneath a spreading tree. And when she visited us in Africa and we stayed up entirely too late, she gave us this gift: I told my husband, “I love that she reminds us how good we are together. That you and I together are a really good thing.”

I wrote before that this time of leaving Africa, of setting a foot on two highly divergent continents, has delivered unavoidable stress to our relationship. Both of us are strained, so it makes sense that our most intimate relationships would bear that weight. So it was kind of God to remind us that despite the ways we occasionally feel like the losers in a three-legged-race right now—“us” is still a really good thing.

Part I of this post outlined some essential reasons we need to identify when we’re stressed. If you’re convinced, let’s get down to it. What are the signs your marriage is under stress?

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The Three Words Our Kids Critically Need to Hear

It was a low moment in my parenting—so I’m still a little flabbergasted for the high point my then-four-year old made it.
I’d made a phone call to him as he stayed at his grandma’s for the day. I hated I even needed to make it. After shouting at him that morning, I’d done a fairly false, overall lame job of apologizing. I’d still been so stinkin’ angry—and my mind’s eye zoomed in on his own error. (That’s him at four years or so, on the right.) So I picked up my cell and attempted something more like Jesus.

What I will always remember was what he said in return.

“Mommy, I forgive you. And I want to let you know that even when you do bad things, I still love you. And I want you to know that even when you do bad things, God still loves you.”

Now I felt really bad for blowing my top.

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What’s Hidden inside Your Love Story?

Let us hope that we are all preceded in this world by a love story.

–Sweet Land (PG, 2005)

I tease my husband (the poor introvert!). Because whenever I write about him—he, who washes his hands of anything to do with internet attention—readers eat. It. Up.What's Hidden in Your Love Story

But honestly, we’re all suckers for a good love story. Even if the characters are, say, a couple of anthropomorphic animated trolls with psychedelic hair. Yes, even guys, from Marvel comics to Jason Bourne.

We don’t just dig the attraction, gee-whiz-you-happen-to-be-exactly-the-Prince-Charming-I-was-keening-for stuff.  We watch (or read, or listen to the top 40) for two hours straight, or a whole TV season (or six), our spirits pressing the two together through everything life or a team of writers can throw at them.

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I’d rather be whining: Complaining vs. Healthy, Honest Expression

I toppled into it this morning without a clue. Actually, it was before that: The electricity had snapped off sometime in the middle of the night, my husband and I groaning as the fan’s blades slowed and quieted, leaving a stuffy heat beneath our mosquito net that I knew would make it challenging for him to sleep well.

In the morning, I cooked pancakes and eggs by candlelight; by 9 AM the lack of electricity to the water pump at the bottom of our hill meant we were without water in the kitchen sink, too—after nearly a week of alternating lack of power and water. Grr. The kids had forgotten to plug in the “school” laptop last night, so mine was the option for homeschool, i.e. getting my own work done in the afternoon did not seem in the cards. I scrambled through phone calls before my phone battery died. The power company wasn’t picking up.

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Essential Social Skills for Kids (and Ideas to Teach Them), #5-7

Missed the first post, on phone skills, table manners with a guest, conflict resolution, and greeting? Grab it here.

5. Gratitude.

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Memos to Myself: On Keeping Your Heart Soft When Times are Tough

I felt it the other day as I bumped along in the backseat of the car, recounting as best I could my interpretation of some recent events. It was a brittle layer settling around me, hardening more rapidly than I could scrape it away. (Perhaps an alternate title to this post: “When Your Hide is Chapped and There Ain’t No Bag Balm in Sight”).

I imagine bitterness or resentment not unlike a callus of the heart. It’s the surface rubbed raw through hurt, then blistered in a cushion of (occasionally bursting) self-protection, then layered in a rough, thickened crust of skin designed to keep us from feeling as much.

But bitterness doesn’t tend to stay put.  I’ve seen my own emotion bubbling hotly beneath the surface—and often splashing onto my kids or husband through a quick temper. At other times—and in other suffering friends—suffering oozes into cynicism, as dreams and hopes fade into relics, or gather dust in our confusion and loss.

Sometimes, as in this wisely-spoken post by Melissa Edgington, it’s just hard to deal when God says no.

Here are some ideas to help me—and you—steer out of the categories of Hardened, Embittered, Stiff-necked, Unbelieving, and Jaded—and further into keeping our hands open, hearts soft, and eyes up.

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Essential Social Skills for Kids (and Ideas to Teach Them), #1-4

Think of these social skills as little golden keys to the future for your kids: They can get your kids into a lot of places! Bummer is, they can shut some doors, too, when our kids don’t master them. (Disclaimer: Writing this post does not declare my children in mastery of said skills.)

Social skills are key because manners are a form of loving others well. They lubricate the potential friction of social interactions.

(Some of them I’ve broken down because of my own experience with my son’s ADHD, such as giving him “scripts” for social situations; see #1.  I won’t speak directly to special needs in this post. But some of these ideas might work to put tangible steps onto often intangible skills.)

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Questions to Know Thy [Stressed] Self

Remember that moment when Bruce Banner suddenly morphs into the Incredible Hulk? His pupils start glowing; pretty soon his shoes are splitting off his expanding green feet.

Perhaps if my favorite blouse was ripping at the shoulder seams, my own stress identification would be a bit more astute. As it is, sometimes my husband sees my inner Hulk-ette beefing up a lot sooner than I do. (Irritating.) Can you hear me growl, “I’M…..NOT…..STRESSED!”

When I’m under stress, as much as I hate to admit it—people get a completely different me.

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The Nerve! Ideas to Hijack Your Relationship

hijack-relationshipEver find a relationship off-roading completely from what you longed for?

Yup.

Maybe, like me sometimes, you feel like the person isn’t listening or getting you, or isn’t open to alternate opinions. Of course my primal reaction is to just duck and cover. I’m completely willing to be kind and generous—but so much for an authentic relationship.

And that part’s my own fault.

But principles from my husband’s professional books are leaking into my perspective on relationships. They talk about hijacking your job, or “managing up”: It’s being proactive in the areas of your job you don’t like so much, so you can slowly take on more of the responsibilities you want, which the company also needs.

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How would Jesus tweet? Social media as love, Part III–FREE GIVEAWAY

Missed the first two posts? Get Part I here and Part II here.

6.  Love = Telling the truth.In love. Is a status update artfully alighting upon all my strengths the same as telling the truth? Like a camera, we all choose what we zoom in on. But is it possible we’re airbrushing our lives, and creating a climate of unnatural expectations? (Check out this post on perfectionism vs. pursuing excellence.) Though we may look for sympathy when our kid smears poop on the wall or throws a fit in Target’s housewares aisle, our lives on social media generally lean toward the photoshopped side of things.

how-would-jesus-tweet-meme-3

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