A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Tag: encouragement (page 1 of 2)

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?

Sometimes in stress, we actually ask some of the wrong questions–which lead us to some of the wrong answers. We might be thinking stuff like, Did I even marry the right person? Would I be happier if I weren’t with you? Are we a good match? Are we going to get through this? Should I think about getting out? Questions like those, I realize, don’t lead us to be more married. They don’t lead us to “unity of mind” (1 Peter 3:8). They lead us further apart.

A tip: Set aside a time to talk about this when you’re not about to explode in frustration. Your goal isn’t an argument, but some constructive conversation: togetherness-talk. Consider sitting next to each other while you talk, cuddling or holding hands.

The goal of these questions? To push us further into a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Examining the Stressed Version of You (Plural)
  1. As individuals, what patterns do you and I fall into?
  • How do I know when you’re stressed? (Again, this list will help.)
  • How do you know when I’m stressed?
  • What are your go-to ways of relating? He goes into man-cave mode. I work until long after the kids are asleep. He gets critical. I get insecure. I don’t talk. He doesn’t listen. He doesn’t really “see” me and my needs. I can’t get out of bed in the morning.
  1. What are each of your favorite coping mechanisms? Some of those will be helpful. In what ways do you each overuse your coping strategies?
  2. Ask each other:
  • What’s one tangible way I can help you cope?
  • At what point are each of our coping mechanisms unhelpful?
  • How can I help you steer clear of that point?
  • How can I be a “safe place” for you when you’re in hard times? How can I advocate for you?
  • In what ways do I make you suffer the consequences of my stress?
  • If you were to write a “stress relief prescription” of activities for me, what would be on it?
  • What do I dislike about “us” when we’re stressed? How do our weaknesses tend to create friction?
  1. What lies do we each tend to believe when we’re stressed? I’m powerless. When I’m overwhelmed, passivity is all I can muster. I’m a failure. I don’t have what it takes. If people don’t think well of me, I’m nothing.
  • What truth can I gently remind you of when you’re in those dark places?
  1. Who’s been helpful to us in the past when we can’t see our way out? Is there anyone new who might help us? Who encourages us to be more “married”, prays for us, and/or helps us see the good we can’t see on our own?
  2. Pray specifically for your marriage.
  3. For future reference in tough times:
    • What do we love about us?
    • What made us fall in love?
    • What keeps us trying?
    • What are our overarching reasons we push for a better marriage?
    • What do I love about you?
    • What am I thankful for in our marriage and our journey together? (Lord, don’t ever let us forget. Keep truth at the front of our minds, and show us what lies we’re believing. When we want to turn away, help us remember. Help us choose us, over and over.)

As you wade through thoughts like these, perhaps this prayer will encourage you as it did me this morning:

Lord, we pray we never find ourselves without hope, without a glimpse of the empty tomb each time we happen upon a cross. Help us begin our daily journey expecting both crosses and empty tombs and rejoicing when we encounter either because we know you are with us.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (it’s a new favorite of mine!), p. 255

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Freebie Fridays: FREE Printable Love Languages “Cheat Sheet”

 

 

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If you’re new to the “love languages” concept, check out the 5 Love Languages website. love languages text

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I’m excited to offer this free, printable 5-page “Cheat Sheet” to the 5 Love Languages: Twenty practical, innovative ideas per love language: words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, physical touch, and quality time. (If you’re not sure which of the love languages your spouse, kids, and friends “speak”, try this quiz.) Print them all, or only the love languages you need.

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Love freebies to help with relationships, including marriage, parenting, and education? Don’t miss the Freebies page! 

Enjoy! And thanks for sharing.

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Guest post: How to see your spouse with new eyes

Remember the ’99 Julia Roberts flick, Runaway Bride?

Roberts’ character has a bad reputation for landing at the altar and, well, taking off. (Spoiler alert, here–) Turns out she’s been a chameleon of sorts, being “supportive” to the point of wholly adopting her not-so-future mate’s preferences, hobbies, and lifestyle: She likes her eggs the same way. She dons a large (fake) tattoo. She prepares to climb Everest for one of her (not-gonna-happen) honeymoons.

The fiancés are left clueless and bewildered as she turns from each of them, minutes from matrimony. I adored her! And yet, apparently none understood how little they’d actually sought out her soul, or cherished her uniqueness apart from what she contributed to their own interests.

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Waiting for rain

I have been waiting.

The dust, fine and red, coats the plants lining our roads. Sweat beads on my upper lip. Last night as my children lay awake in bed, I stuck my head in and reminded them to keep guzzling plenty of water, after a friend of theirs landed in the clinic for dehydration. Cooking in the warm afternoons in my kitchen, with my hair twisted off my neck, I’ve been praying, coaxing the weather. C’mon, rainy season.

waiting for rain

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Reflections on a Christmas robbery

Christmas robberyMy husband and I, kids in tow, were maneuvering at a snail’s pace through a traffic jam in our trusty high-clearance minivan. Our speakers happily trumpeted the Christmas CD my mom had sent, and we chatted, our energy high for our Christmas shopping in the city and the Christmas party of our non-profit (which, with the barbecue and kids running around in shorts, tends to look a little more like the Fourth of July). It was sometime after “Let it Snow” that our heads all swiveled to the driver’s side, where a man was banging—hard—on the outside of our van. Never a good sign in Kampala.

And that’s when his partner whipped open my car door and swiftly grabbed my bag slouched at my feet. My casserole dish skidded across the pavement as I unbuckled without thinking, standing between the unmoving lanes and yelling something very helpful, like, “HEY!” as he and his cronies ran away with my reading device, my phone, the drivers’ licenses from both countries, and our house keys.

I make it sound lighthearted, typing to you over a week later. But really, I just started sobbing, my hands shaking–which probably frightened my children just as much as the stranger flinging open the car door.

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Don’t waste the waiting

Author’s note: It was two years ago that our family received unsettling news that began an extended holding pattern for us, news which wouldn’t be resolved for another eleven months. That period of gray, unsettled twilight will stand out in my life as one where I became well-acquainted–more than I would have wished, for sure–with the chisel of God that is waiting.

Yet in an odd way, it also brought me to love its sculpting edges, planing away curls of my own impatience and distrust.

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The Beautiful Blend

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When I was last in the U.S., tinkering around in my mother’s kitchen, a remark caught my attention. “You know,” she said thoughtfully, “you and [your husband] are more different from any of your sisters and their husbands.” She and my dad are similar, too, come to think of it. She offered a few examples, and I had to admit: She was right.

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Now you’re speaking my love language: 20 ways to display affection through acts of service

love languages textIf you’re new to the love languages concept, check out the 5 Love Languages website. Click here for 20 ways to express love through words of affirmation, here for the post on expressing love through physical touch. and here for the post on expressing love through gift-giving.

I’ll use “him” or “her” interchangeably in this post for ease of reading.

1.Knock out that item on her to-do list she just hasn’t gotten to.
2.What little touches could better make your home a “prepared place”–like God creates for us–that’s comforting, encouraging, and uplifting, so family and guests feel embraced? For guests, it may be the basket of extra toiletries next to the cozy towel in the bathroom; for kids, you could have a favorite snack ready when he arrives home; help him remove his backpack.

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Now you’re speaking my [love] language: Showing affection through gifts

love languages textIf you’re new to the love languages concept, check out the 5 Love Languages website. Click here for 20 ways to express love through words of affirmation, and here for the post on expressing love through physical touch.

I’ll use “him” or “her” interchangeably in this post for ease of reading.

Continue reading

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Now you’re speaking my [love] language: 20 ways to express affection through physical touch

love languages textIf you’re new to the love languages concept, check out the 5 Love Languages website. Click here for the post on showing affection through words of affirmation.

1.Put an arm around his or her shoulder.
2.Hug them in the morning, or when they arrive home, or to wish them good night.
3.Sit next to each other while watching a movie.
4.Throw your arms around their neck while they’re sitting in a chair.
5.Give them a foot rub.
6.Ask to massage their hands while you chat.
7.Give a home pedicure: Soak her feet, then rub, lotion, and varnish while you shoot the breeze. (I love doing this with friends on my back porch while we enjoy a cup of tea.)
8.Surprise your spouse with a massage before hitting the sack.
9.When coming up behind him or her, place a hand gently on the small of his or her back.
10.Grab his or her hand while you’re out and about.
11.Romantically grab your spouse (hello–not like a piece of meat, but demonstrating your desire).
12.Cuddle up whiile reading a book together.
13.Slip an arm around his or her waist while you’re running errands.
14.Give a scalp massage.
15.Surprise them with a gift certificate for a massage or pedicure.
16.Shower with your spouse, and soap him or her up and wash your partner’s hair.
17.Allow your child to sit on your lap and tell you about their day.
18.Rub a child with lotion-preferably a scented one, to help create great memories!–at bedtime while you debrief about life and pray for him or her.
19.Touch your spouse’s face affectionately.
20.Kiss him or her for no reason at all.

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