A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Tag: enduring love (page 1 of 4)

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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The Next Great Love Story

I was eighteen, it was February, and we were all headed on a road trip that weekend to a mutual friend’s house. I’ve wondered what God thought of that day, if perhaps He was rubbing His hands together with glee. The stage was set, everything immaculately timed.

In my memory, the young man was wearing a white T-shirt and khaki shorts. His hair was longer then, curly. Upon request, he prayed for our safe travel before we left. We all left for Oklahoma City and I climbed in behind the passenger’s seat of his car. I confess the thought may have flitted through my mind that his car was a little girly. That was before I knew he paid for it and maintained it himself, and before I’d ride around in it for the next five years, happy as a clam to be in his passenger’s seat.

That day, February 5, 1999, was the day I met the love of my life. If God would’ve tapped me on the shoulder—Hey, that guy over there? Yeah. That one. You two are going to have four kids, live in Africa. He’s the kind of best friend and man you couldn’t even imagine yourself having.

Like I said. I wonder if God just sat back and soaked in the love story He’d cooked up.

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Serving in Your Sweet Spot?

Read an interesting quote yesterday. So tell me: Do you agree or disagree?

The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. (Frederick Buechner)

So at first glance, I’m like, Yes. Yes! Yes with a smiley-face-with-heart-eyes emoji! Especially when it comes to my kids (which you saw in Tuesday’s post on ideas for teaching kids the spiritual discipline of service). I want them to not just drag themselves through service, like our stick-shift doing 45 MPH in second gear. I long for them to find that burbling well inside of them: their part of the Body of Christ.

But then—I think, say, of young motherhood. Where initially, I couldn’t wait to see the double lines on that stick, couldn’t wait to pick out maternity clothes, couldn’t wait to gaze into a rosy little face that somehow looked a lot like mine. “Deep gladness” could definitely describe so many parts of motherhood.

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Guest post: 9 Ways to Pray for Your Marriage in Tough Times

It’s been one of the most pressing seasons for our marriage.

We’ve been navigating a crux of major life decisions—only one of which included the continent we’d be living on. And our marriage that has been characterized by fairly fluid teamwork can at times be pulled taut by our diverging passions, longings, and reasoning.

“Stressed” doesn’t begin to cover it.

The most pleasantly surprising discovery of such a thin, exhausting stretch of marriage:  Despite all we were juggling–by God’s grace, we have remained (as Dan Allender calls it) intimate allies.

Ever wonder how to pray for your marriage in the thin, challenging times? This post is for you.

On many of the Wednesdays of 2017, I’ll be helping my friend Barbara Rainey, on everthinehome.com, explore what she calls “prayer lessons”: ideas to pray for ourselves, our most critical relationships, our communities. This week’s post, “9 Ways to Pray for Your Marriage,” gives some uber-practical ways to move in prayer toward what’s always a good decision: being more married, more one flesh. …Even, perhaps especially, in the tough times.

I hope it encourages you today, wherever this finds you.

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Guest post: Breathing Lessons

For those of you who’ve been married: Do you remember what “just married” felt like? After the sound of the tin cans clanking behind the car faded, after you set your bags down in your together home after the honeymoon—what was it like?

Reality: No matter how much training you’ve had, one flesh takes a lotta work. My sin settled in our little 500-square-foot apartment right alongside our stacks of wedding gifts. And when my sin collided head-on with his? Well, let’s just say sometimes I wished our duplex walls were a little thicker.

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Guest post: He loves me, He loves me not

Do you remember the moment that first made you wonder if He truly loved you?

I don’t know if I remember the first one. But I remember the first big one, and I can trace the crooked, faltering lines of the rest of them through my past. (Fear has its way of searing itself upon the conscience.)

For me, unbelief usually blossoms as fear; as worry. My unbelief stems directly, stealthily, from its taproot in my heart. He loves me? He loves me not?

Perhaps I should ask you what it is always good to ask myself: This year—or, just today—what makes you afraid?

On many of the Wednesdays of 2017, I’ll be helping my friend Barbara Rainey, on everthinehome.com, explore what she calls “prayer lessons”: ideas to pray for ourselves, our most critical relationships, our communities. Today’s post begs God to fill us with belief, to root us—always first and immovably–in His love.

I hope it encourages you today, wherever this finds you.

 

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Friday quotables #5: For a Devoted New Year of “Open Windows”

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“To be able to look backward and say, ‘This, this has been the finest year of my life’–that is glorious! But anticipation! To be able to look ahead and say, ‘The present year can and shall be better!’–that is more glorious! I have done nothing but open windows–God has done the rest. There has been a succession of marvelous experiences of the friendship of God. I resolved that I would succeed better this year with my experiment of filling every minute full of the thought of God than I succeeded last year. And I added another resolve–to be as wide open toward people and their need as I am toward God. Windows open outward as well as upward. Windows open especially downward where people need the most!

“…There is nothing that we can do excepting to throw ourselves open to God.”*

-Frank Laubach (1884-1970), missionary to the Philippines, estimated to have been responsible for teaching half of the 90,000 people in his area to read and write, and to have reached out to the Mohammedan Moros, who regarded the Christian Filipinos as enemies

*As quoted in Foster, Richard J. ad James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups: A Renovare Resource for Spiritual Renewal. New York: HarperCollins (1993), pp. 101, 105.

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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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Freebie Fridays: FREE Printable Love Languages “Cheat Sheet”

 

 

freebie-fridays

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.

love-languages-cheat-sheet-image

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

Enjoy! And thanks for sharing.

because-of-a-generous-grace-janel

 

 

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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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