"My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I,of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories, in all their particularity,as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally." -Frederick Buechner

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why Daily Stress?

So continuing on with the "lack of time" theme, I've been pondering thoughts from the book we are studying with our small group, "Love Focused" and another book I'm reading, "One Thousand Gifts." Stress often shows itself in our everyday lives through lack of patience, indigestion, short sometimes hurtful words or even the simple comments like "I don't have time to...." Ann Voskamp, author of "One Thousand Gifts" says this, "Stress isn't only a joy stealer. The way we respond to it can be a sin....Stress stands in direct opposition to what He directly, tenderly commands: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." John 14:1" She also comments, "And stressed, this pitched word that punctuates every conversation, is it really my attempt to prove how indispensable I am? Or is it more? Maybe disguising my deep fears as stress seems braver somehow."

This challenges me. Do I allow myself to live worrying and "stressed out" in an attempt to control my life? I love Ann's definition of control - "pseudopower from the pit". Fake power. We attempt to control our circumstances and the people around us. Why? That's where the "Love Focused" book comes in. Authors Bob and Judy Hughes remind us that we all have "personal agendas".  "Our personal agenda is the plan we develop apart from God to get the world to solve the problem of our neediness." "We think we can manage all the people in our lives to get them to love us and never hurt us. It is important to understand that there is nothing wrong with desiring others to love and accept us and to experience a minimum amount of hurt in life. It is normal and healthy to want to be loved and to be emotionally happy. The problem occurs when our agenda puts the focus on the world rather than God to solve our neediness." (emphasis mine) Maybe I want to feel needed, wanted or even indispensable.

We literally wear ourselves out daily trying to control the people and circumstances in our life. Why? I believe it is because we are afraid, afraid of being hurt or alone/abandoned. Ann Voskamp says, "Fear keeps life small." I agree. Why? Because when I am afraid, life is all about me. My vision is very limited. Everything is viewed with the perspective of me. How will this effect me? Will I like it? Will I be hurt? Will this help me? Again, stress is directly opposite of what Jesus softly commands, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." John 14:1  "Jesus replied, This is the work that God asks of you that you believe in the One whom He has sent." John 6:29  We trust God for our salvation from hell when we die. Do we trust Him with our daily life? Can I trust Him to love me and walk me through whatever this day holds so that I don't have to control each moment in it?

What do you think? Am I striking a nerve in your life? Do you understand what these authors are trying to say or do you think they are missing it?  If you want to read more about living a love focused life you can find more information and/or the book here:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wellness Wednesday on Thursday - Not Enough Time?

So "Wellness Wednesday" got abandoned until today, Thursday. Why? Because I just did not have enough time or energy.  Funny isn't it? Most of us don't feel we have enough time. Why is that? We all have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The April 2012 edition of "Real Simple" magazine did a survey regarding women and time.  The results? About 1/2 of America women say they don't have enough time. 46% said, what time they have is interrupted constantly.  Quoting page 58 of this magazine and article:
never-ending to-do lists aren't bad just for our psyches (and our relationships) but also for our physical health. The stress hormone cortisol has a strong diurnal patter - it peaks shortly after waking and drops throughout the day. The steeper the decline from afternoon to evening, the healthier and less stressed you are, since elevated end-of-day cortisol levels have been linked to burn out, depression, and earlier mortality.... "Our bodies need to recover physiologically after work," says Darby Saxbe, one of the study's coauthors and a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. " These couples were returning to homes where dinner needed to be cooked, laundry needed folding. Instead of unwinding, these couples took on more work."  

Later in the same magazine it compares the way we do life to a marathon. We think we just have to keep on moving until the end - way down the road. It suggests it might be healthier to live like we are doing weight training. Work out, then rest. A popular way of training these days is called interval training. You work hard and fast and then you slow the pace for a bit. Any way you look at it we were created to have time to work and time to rest. Anything short of that is cheating our self. The Bible admonishes us to have a sabbath, a day of rest. Most statistics show that we are actually more productive if we have a regular time of rest.

So what do you say? Do you realize your need of rest or do you ignore it and just keep going?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Marriage Monday - Growing?

Over the weekend through very stressful circumstances that were beyond our control we had a breakdown in communication. That's never good. Basically I was very tired and emotionally needy. I wanted my husband to be right beside me, even though there was really nothing he could do at the moment. I wanted him to "feel" how sad I was (and truthfully, I probably wanted him to "make it better"). Mostly I just wanted to tangibly, physically supported. Was he doing that? Overall, yes. Did he know that I wanted that, that exact moment? No, I hadn't told him.  I just wanted him to know.  

By the time he actually got to me, I had thought the thought, "Jody you didn't tell him what you wanted so how could he know." Now just thinking that did not stop me from pouting a bit BUT it did slow me down enough to be able to talk with him, pretty reasonably. (I had a very emotional weekend overall, so some tears came anyway.)  He responded with little defense, realizing that there were two sides to every story. He told me a bit more about what kept him from me then we moved on to how can we avoid this in the future. Guess what? It's all about honest communication. I had not clearly told him what I wanted or needed. He assumed because I knew where he was I was okay with it. We set a goal to be clear about what we expect, especially in emotional situations.  End result? We're fine and actually, we both feel pretty good about the way we handled this. In the past, I would have stuffed my hurt and discontent with his actions and eventually it would have "exploded" all over both of us causing much more difficulty.
I think we've "grown up a bit."  How about you? Do you see signs of growing in your relationship?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Grandma's Gold Bag

One week ago I went to my parent's home in attempt to sort out my mom's clothes to make it easier for her to get dressed. She has Alzheimer's Disease and making decisions is just plain hard for her these days. While working in her closet I came across this big, metallic gold bag. Instantly memories of mom coming to visit us when we lived in Waverly came to mind. She would walk in grinning as she hugged the kids and they would giggle and grin back. Soon after arrival (or sometimes after we left if they were babysitting) she would pull out the bag with "surprises" in it for the kids.  These "surprises" were simple things, a color book, a puzzle book, cookies or maybe some Avon roll-on colored soap for bath time. She loved spending time with her grandkids, all 4 of them. In fact, I learned alot about my parents by watching them with the kids. I don't remember them being so animated and willing to play games when I was a kid.  I'm told grandkids do that to a person.

Today I leave to go their house for the last time with Mom living there. We are going to move her to a local nursing home with a "memory unit". Then we are going to take Dad back home to begin a season of living alone. To my knowledge Dad has never lived alone. Oldest of 5 kids, he lived on the farm until he went to the Korean war, then back to the farm with parents until he married my Mom. Life changes.

As I looked at the gold bag last week the memories of faces and laughter instantly came to mind. It struck me that it's those kinds of memories that are important. While I've loved having my parents be around for the kid's "big events" like school plays, graduation, and weddings it's more important to me that we all have memories of every day things. The kids played with frogs and kittens on the farm. Grandma let them get good and dirty. Grandma let them help make cookies and crafts for holidays. They came for Grandparent's day at school even though it was 4 hours away! :)

My memories of Mom are of things like her many faithful customers that came to her beauty shop on the farm every week at the same time. She cared about them all and prayed for them. I remember her fixing not only my hair but my friend's hair for our junior prom. I remember going to a local nursing home to decorate a big bulletin board every month. She loved to read and shared that love with me. I can't remember a time when there were not books in our house. She loved to learn and be creative which I think came out more the older she got. She retired from doing hair to learn to arrange flowers and then opened her own shop to do that. Amber learned to run a cash register and count change there. She even took painting lessons in the last 20 years!

These memories challenge me to ask what I am doing to personally touch the lives of those I love. I don't think it has to be "big," "flashy" or cost lots of money. I believe the meaningful times come when you "do life" with those you love, taking the time to share yourself.  Think about it. What first comes to mind when you think of your parents, grandparents, or other important people in your life?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Healthy are Your Parents?

Dad "supervising"
So recently I opened the door to talk about the season of life where we, as adult children, become intimately involved in caring for our parents. I had no idea last week that the changes would come so fast. I spent last Saturday at my parents home. We "spring cleaned" my parents closet and dresser. I've said several times since then "who knew my Mom was such a clothes horse?" Okay, so I did know she loved shopping and clothes but I hadn't realized what she had accumulated!  Shoes too! I should have taken photos, it might have helped my case next time I want to go shopping.  Anyway, I brought a chair in and had Mom sit there just outside the closet so I could try her shoes on her and figure out what she really needed. I called her Cinderella and we laughed together.  She was soon distracted by the jewelry sitting on her dresser next to her. That's where she spent the rest of the afternoon, sorting jewelry. Meanwhile I sorted and cleaned the closet.  By the time we got through that project it was time for supper. As I cooked I took the junk mail out of the spice drawer and threw it away. I found yeast dated 2005 in the cupboard with some seasoning I was going to use. It was then that I realized that my mother's mind and been disintegrating for longer than I had imagined.  As I shared, in the beginning we didn't know if it was hearing loss or loss of mental capacity. Nobody really wanted to say anything. It might offend someone. We did the best we could once we made up our mind that it needed to be looked into. Dad was actually relieved to have someone help him care for Mom.

I would encourage you if you are an adult child with questions regarding your parent's health to ask them. It can be done. One way to approach it is to tell them that you love them and you want them to have the best quality of life for as long as possible. In order to do that we need to be as pro-active or preventative as we can be. So annual check ups, hearing exams, exercise and good eating habits are top of the list. How can you encourage them in these things? One way is to be an example. Another is to ask them about it, talk about these things and the time to start is now! Start while your parents are young enough to do something about their habits.  In America we over-indulge ourselves daily. Our portions of food are too big. We finish something and we treat ourselves to a big dessert. We sit too long in front of the TV. And the biggest over-indulgence in my book is we try to cram too much into one day, every day. Who says we have to do "everything"? Start building that "healthy" relationship with your parents today!

Are you aware of your parents health challenges? How have you learned to talk about them? This is something the majority of us will face in our life time. Let's talk about it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wellness Wednesday - Do you take your health seriously?

This life is not for the faint-hearted, literally or figuratively! Yesterday I was a puddle of emotions and my brain was spinning fast. There were decisions to be made, laundry to be done, meals to be fixed, a letter to be written, music sets to work on...well you get the picture. Most people's days are like that, full very full. If you do not have the right "fuel" in your tank you will not last the day. What happens then?  Some of your work doesn't get done. You feel bad and it's just a downward spiral from there.

It doesn't have to be that way we can make choices. I was very glad that I got my workout in first thing in the morning. Then when my day changed due to a phone call I didn't have the (self-imposed) guilt of not getting any exercise. What did I learn? Make exercise a priority and get it done. There is no reason I cannot learn to be disciplined and exercise at least 4 times weekly. I need to in order to take off the 10 pounds I need to lose. I've been eating better for at least 3 weeks now with virtually no weight loss so it's time to step it up a bit. I'll watch my portions closer and exercise at least 4 times weekly versus 2-3.  On his death bed Dwight Moody said, "If God be your partner, let your plans be large."  He was speaking of life. I've always had a philosophy like that and in order to truly live like that you need to be as healthy as you can be.  Notice how I said that, as healthy as you can be. Don't compare yourselves to movie stars or pro-athletes. Just be the best you, you can be so that you can fully live and fully enjoy life. If you don't you are cheating yourself and all those around you.

In his book Every Body Matters Gary Thomas says this, "Christians who don't take their health seriously dont' take their mission seriously." What do you think about that?  Here's another question that caught my attention (from the same book and author) "How might viewing our bodies as instruments (instead of ornaments) change our motivations to get in shape?"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Marriage Monday - Personalities

This morning as I think about marriage relationships I'm thinking about personalities. Have you and your spouse ever done one of those inventories where you answer questions and they "diagnose" your personality?  We've done two in the 30+ years of our marriage and Mark did another one for work one time. I just looked at them.  They were pretty accurate from my point of view. They did change a bit over the years but only a little.  I observed my parents as I helped them over the weekend.  My "quiet, steady" father is still generally "quiet and steady" but the wear and tear of constant care for my mother shows. He is bolder and more assertive with her than I've ever seen. It's totally appropriate in their case as Mom's Alzheimers has left her in a more child-like state.  Then I was visiting with a couple yesterday. During the course of the conversation the gentleman said, "See I'm a Lion. I like lists. I wake up in the morning knowing what I intend to do. She is not. (referring to his wife) It takes her a long time to make decisions..."

Your personality really does effect your relationships. That's pretty obvious. However, I think we forget that simple point at times. We know how we like things but we might forget that they way we like things effects those around us. For example, if I'm working on a project and have to stop before it is done, I would rather leave it all out so I can easily start again. Not so for my husband. He likes things put away where you can't see them lying around. It's a distraction for him to see stuff laying out. To me it's a reminder of what is left to do and a quicker way to get started again. He's the kind of guy who likes those built in covers for storing your counter top appliances. I like them out where you can grab them and get started. The thing is "stuff" is really a distraction for him. Once I learned that I've have tried harder to keep the "stuff" at a minimum around our house. The compromise is I have an area that I call "mine". The purpose is so I can work on my projects without bothering him. Now and then when he pokes his head in, he still rolls his eyes. My counter still has too much stuff "out" for his taste, but I don't worry about it. It's my space!

So I'm asking today, have you and your spouse ever done personality quizzes? If so, what did you learn?  I've talked before about the 5 Love Languages. They are a similar deal. Do you know what your "love language" is? I'd like to hear if either of these tools has helped your relationships. Personality and language does not only effect your marriage but all your relationships. It's helpful to know these things for understanding work styles too.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Seasons of Life - When Your Parents Need Help

So today I broach a common topic "parenting parents" some call it. I just know it's a new season of life. I've actually been in this season for some time now but it has come gradually. Well to be completely honest, I don't know that it has come gradually - I've only allowed it to come gradually. It is a sensitive topic as everyone's relationship with their parents are different so there is no "cookie cutter" approach. However, as I continue through this season and talk with others I am realizing there is a lot of things that are very common. So I'm hoping to open up a safe place to talk, to ask questions  and hopefully share information.

Our journey began about 6 years ago when my family began to question whether Mom was really losing her hearing or if "something else was going on." One day at a graduation reception I ran into a good friend of my parents. She visited a bit and then very cautiously, kindly said, "Jody have you talked with your Dad? We've noticed a lot of changes in your Mom?"  That was just what I needed to hear. I talked with my brother and then with Dad. We decided to take her to a doctor that specializes in in health care for Seniors.  He did an evaluation and then recommended an appointment with a neuro-psychologist to help us determine where we were at with things.  My Mom has Restless Leg Syndrome and has doctored everywhere within a driving distance of her home. She took these appointments as more opportunity to talk about her legs. We explained it was a "full physical". She focused on her legs. She was started on medication for Alzheimer's Disease. Two drugs to "slow the progression." She was also given more advice on Restless Legs Syndrome. That made her happy, even though it didn't help much.

Fast forward to today. We're leaving in a couple hours to head to their house. Mom has continued to decline mentally, which is now causing "spells" physically. Dad is doing a great job of taking care of Mom but he is so anxious about everything that I believe it will ruin his health. They don't "qualify" for Medicare assistance in the home. Dad has chosen to pay for help once a week so he knows that he can get away for a couple of hours every week. Today we officially begin to "spring clean" the closets as a start of going through the whole house. I believe Mom will be moving to a local nursing home soon, as soon as Dad is ready. There are and have been so many questions along the way. When do you offer your opinion? Or when do you say, if ever, this is what we need to do?  How do you know what services are available in your area?  How do you talk with your parents about end of life decisions and finances etc.  My Dad has always been very private about all of these things. I give him great credit that he has chosen to ask for help in the last few years and we are learning together.  I know it doesn't always work that way.  I met with a step-daughter and mother duo at work last week. The mother was not cooperative at all. The step-daughter really believes her parents are in need of assistance. They are missing medications and meals by her observation.

Ephesians 6 reminds us that we are to honor our parents. Let's share information in order to encourage each other to do this as we walk through this season. I am taking this approach, "Dad, I've never done this before but we will figure it out together."  The Lord gave me those words when our son-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and we were wanting to support them. It is the truth and it helped us there so I'm using the same theory now. How have you approached your parents when difficult decisions need to be made?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wellness Wednesday - Instant Cures

I am bothered by the fact that we all want "quick fixes" - me included.  I've been eating much better (meaning far less sugar and carbs in general) for 3 weeks. I've lost 2-3 pounds depending on the day and that was weight that I considered "water weight". I was really hoping to have at least 1 more pound off by now - real weight loss.  I see this phenomenon of wanting instant help for health issues every day that I work in the medical office. People call constantly wanting a medication to make them feel better, NOW! (or at least by tomorrow)  There is an astounding number of people taking anti-anxiety, anti-depressants and sleep aides.  Just that fact alone speaks to me. People are upset. They are stressed. I believe they are rushing around with absolutely no time to relax.  Consumer Reports magazine, "On Health" Volume 24 Number 4 from April 2012 (yeah I just got it Monday) says this, "Prescriptions for newer sleeping pills jumped substantially between 1997 and 2007."  Their graph indicates from approximately 2 million in 1997 to 16 million in 2007. That's CRAZY!

When people are sleep deprived, which means they do not get the proper quantity or quality of sleep, they have difficulty concentrating. That can effect every area of their life.  I know when I don't get enough sleep I am way more emotional.  What do we need to do? Treat the cause, not mask the symptoms. Do you get up in the night to go to the bathroom? Don't drink much in the 2-3 hours prior to going to bed. Do you have heartburn? Don't eat just prior to going to bed. (amongst many other helpful possible changes. See your doctor for more suggestions.) Will your mind not "shut off?"  Try shutting off the TV an hour before you want to go to sleep and reading a book just for pleasure or taking a warm bath. Develop a calming routine for going to bed and stick to it as much as possible.  Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool to encourage more restful sleeping.

Remember our bodies are very connected and fluid. We are not robots. We cannot program ourselves to go 100 mph all day and then in 5 minutes expect to fall asleep with no bridge between the two.  Give yourself the gift of good rest by taking some time to slow down before you try to go to sleep.  I am not saying that sleeping pills are never appropriate. What I am saying is that there is a trend to ask for a pill to fix our problems without investigating what might be the real source first. What helps you get to sleep?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Marriage Monday - Clarifying Communication

So I tried writing my blog early and "scheduling it" for posting. There should have been a post on Thursday last week. It didn't work so obviously I've got a bit more to learn. :) Oh well, it's good for our brains to be challenged!

Anyway, I want to talk a bit more about communication. The more I purposefully observed communication happening this past week two things kept "coming to the top for me."

#1. Our mindset or life experiences GREATLY color the way we hear things.  For example, I was involved in a staff meeting last week. We were told of a change that will be taking place this week that will effect the way we do one thing at work. We all do this thing. Everyone must change.  One of the team leaders is making our changes slower than the rest. We all know this. It is how it has been working since October. Our boss made reference to an adjustment his team would have to do until he is fully "on board" with the changes. The meeting went on.  Later, I found out that one of his team members heard that talk as a direct assignment for her and that she must "get the job done" no matter what. Yet overtime is not approved right now, so she was upset thinking she didn't know how she could take on more responsibility and not have overtime.  She cried she was so upset.  I did not hear that message in the meeting at all. This team member has a long history of tough stuff in her life where lots of things have been dumped in her lap. She has also repeatedly been told she is not "smart".  I believe her history colored what she heard and made her come to a different conclusion than what our boss intended. Can you think of a time that happened to you?

#2.  We just hurry too much. We don't ask enough questions. A friend of mine made a comment in a conversation this week. My mind took off like a race horse. I assumed that the comment meant something and that something was going to change my plans for the next day.  I didn't want my plans changed. I was tired. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. This change might offend someone else I might have to meet. Or if I kept that obligation then my friend would have to be alone for awhile...that's not polite when you have a guest.  Can you hear my mind? It instantly began chasing possible scenarios, worrying, feeling tired and stressed.  This happens all the time in everyday conversations. If I had just asked for clarification during that conversation I would not have spent the next 16 hours stewing only to find out my assumption was totally wrong. There was absolutely no need for any of my plans to change.

This happens all the time in marriage (really in all relationships/conversations). I think we need to SLOW DOWN. Listen, ask questions. "What does that mean?"  Stating back what you believe you heard is another great way to clarify and understand what was just really said.  "I heard you say that I need to come straight home after work. Is that right?" Then listen to the answer. You will be amazed at how many times what you heard and what the speaker meant is not the same.  I challenge you to try this at least twice this week. Tell us what happens. Did you hear accurately or did you need to be corrected? Were you surprised?  This is a great tool at work as well as in a marriage. It saves headaches all the way around!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wellness Wednesday!

"Fitness becomes even more important as we age. Dr. Cooper, speaking to women, puts it this way: "Physical protection against cardiovascular diseases is an act of God for women over fifty. What he means is that, prior to menopause, a woman's body seems to naturally fight much of the causes of early cardiovascular disease, but after menopause, when estrogen levels plummet, a woman must pay closer attention to diet, exercise, and other preventive strategies to ward off heart disease and other threats to health." Every Body Matters: Strengthening You Body to Strengthen Your Spirit by Gary Thomas

It is as simple as that. We cannot let up. We must develop good habits. Breaking habits is harder than learning proper ones. So by developing good habits and encouraging those around you, primarily your own family you can save them from some difficulties.  I've been told on numerous occasions that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. See if that's true for you. Choose a good habit and keep it in place for 21 days.  I've also been told you can have "holidays" from your habits but it is suggested never more than twice in a week. That third time often puts you back into old habits.  So if you decide not to eat after supper, I would suggest doing it for at least 21 days before you decide if it works for you. Then if you want to have "treats" now and then, fine but not more than twice weekly. 

Give it a try. Pick a new habit you are developing. Tell us about it and then strive to keep it for at least 21 days before you make up your mind if it is working. We will want to hear from you in 3 weeks too!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Continuing to Communicate!

Communication really is the basis of relationships, all relationships, your friends, neighbors, co-workers and of course your family. It is essential. So I'm going to continue to share some wisdom regarding communication. It's not my wisdom. It's straight from my favorite book of the Bible, Ephesians.  Today I'm looking at the Amplified addition. Read these words and see if you aren't challenged!

I therefore the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the divine calling to which you have been called (with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God's service, living as becomes you) with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another. Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of (and produced by) the Spirit in the binding power of peace...Strip yourselves of your former nature (put off and discard you old unrenewed self) which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind (having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude), And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God's image, (Godlike) in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another...Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word not unwholesome or worthless talk (ever)come out of your mouth, but only such (speech) as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion that it may be a blessing and give grace (God's favor) to those who hear it.... Ephesians 4:1-3, 25, 29

Challenged! Paul begs us to walk "worthy" of our calling as children of God. That is walking in harmony. My husband has been studying this lately and we've learned so much.  Harmony, not unity which allows us to be ourselves. Singing the part that we sing, not what our neighbor's part, but singing the same song. Our song as children of God should glorify God all day, every day. God will renew our minds and spirit and then we can communicate with honesty and respect. Speech that is "good and beneficial" to the recipient.  Again for myself anyway, the first step in doing this is to slow down and think before I speak. Is what I'm about to say going to help this person and/or the situation? Is it necessary? Is this the right time? If so, do. If not, wait.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Marriage Monday - Communication

Marriage Monday isn't over yet. Sorry for the late posting. I was sitting down to write when my father called from the emergency room telling me he had called an ambulance for my mother. Needless to say the computer got left and my parents got my attention. They are home and all is well for now so I will return to my thoughts of this  morning.

Mark and I spent the past weekend with couples from Minnesota investing in their marriage relationships.  We got to talk to lots of couples most of whom participated in our weekend but others just were a part of the church body we were hosted by.  It was a great reminder to me again that the single most frustrating and rewarding thing in a relationship is communication. Communication is key. It is essential. It is the groundwork for everything! So why is it universally such a problem?  I think the problem is we just go too fast and expect too much out of our spouse. Actually this is true in all our relationships, with siblings, friends, co-workers etc. We just blast into a conversation using terminology that we understand, suggesting things but really hoping they understand that it's not a suggestion and sometimes we even purposefully leave things out. We wouldn't want to "hurt their feelings" you know.

On our way home Mark and I took a break from our driving and walked through an outlet store.  As we rounded the corner of one display we saw a set of metal stairs on wheels with a chain across the bottom complete with a sign that said not to stand on the stairs. They were for employees to stock shelves. I'm sure you've seen the type. Standing at the very top was a darling little girl with curly black hair.  After asking the only other customer in sight if this was her daughter we began talking to the little girl. "Could we help you down?" We (Mark first and then me) held up our arm for her to take our hand. "Can you hold my hand? I'll help you find your mom." She did not move nor say one word. She just stood there looking at us, frozen in her spot. Within minutes I heard the other customer calling around a near by display. "Are you looking for your child? She's over here."  Just then a pretty lady poked her head around the corner, gasped as she looked at the little girl standing at the very top of these stairs and began talking to her as she rushed over. The little girl smiled and leaned into her mother's arms when she was close enough. The thing is the mother talked to her little girl in another language.  We were communicating to her in a language we fully understood but she didn't.  It can be just like that with your spouse. You are talking but they just aren't getting it. It's frustrating.  If this sounds like things in your house I have a suggestion to start with - slow down. Think about what you really want to say before you say it. Be sure you have your spouse's attention BEFORE you begin. That alone will save a lot of time and frustration. Chances are you won't have to repeat yourself so many times.

Also, take some time to learn how your spouse communicates best. Some people call this their "love language" or learning style is another way to refer to it. Do they like audible communication, or is written and read a better way for them to learn? Do they need to "see" what you are talking about or have a "hands on" experience to really solidify what you are saying?  Mark and I just reviewed this and were reminded that I like to read to learn but I like to hear positive affirmation from him. He is a hands on learner but also likes verbal affirmation. That reminded us of some ways to communicate that could cut down on the frustration level for both of us.  We're working on some new projects together. As I'm learning via reading I've also made an appointment for us to meet with an Apple tech to teach us how to "do" what we want to do on our computer. Just reading instructions won't work the best for Mark. He will learn it quicker than me when he does it, so I need to read the instructions first and then watch. Together we will learn it.  What about you? Do you know how your spouse "listens" or "learns" best?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Marriage is a Good Thing

As I launched into another day I read a discouraging statistic. According to a recent Pew Study www.pewsocialtrends.org  anywhere from 32-44% of our population believe marriage is becoming obsolete. That just makes me sad. Why? While I am fully aware of other statistics like since 1960 the number of cohabitating couples has increased fifteen-fold in the United States. www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/(December 2010) I do not believe we need to just sit around and say that is just the way it is in our nation.  I’m not here to judge where, exactly when, or why we are where we are. I do not believe being single is a bad thing. I am here to say that if you choose to have a relationship I can testify that life-long marriage is a good thing. Yes, I am a Christian and my values are based on the Bible as I believe it is the Word of God. But don’t let that stop you from reading what I have observed and experienced.

I am a stronger, more well-rounded person because I am married. My husband and I do not think alike on all fronts. We have different styles of doing things. He appreciates things that I really have very little interest in. Because I married him and have stayed with him for over 30 years now I have traveled places, met people, and been exposed to businesses that I would not have if I had stayed single. I have learned to share space and possessions which has helped me share with those less fortunate than me over the years. I have learned to laugh at spontaneous songs and take care of myself by exercising because of his example. I have had someone to share my love of our children as well as other children with over the years. He has encouraged me to be open to new experiences. I can be quoted as saying because I married Mark I have experienced “higher highs and lower lows than I ever would have had I remained single.”  It is a true statement I’m sure as I was raised in a very reserved emotional environment but that has not been true of our home. We laugh hard, cry hard, get excited about lots of things and get angry over injustice. We are very verbal!

My co-workers are predominately female and 50% are single. All but one of these single women have children. None of them have been married. All of them are great people. I enjoy them. They are intelligent, kind, and hard working. I have nothing negative to say of them. I just feel bad for them. They are always trying to figure out how to have a “social life” and how to make sure they have money for the next bill. They don’t have a consistent person to talk things over with, help them make decisions, support them in their quest to better themselves, or suggest new things to try. In fact a couple of them are struggling with their self-esteem due to the lack of respect their ex-partner showed them.

I believe marriage is a relationship to help us mature, building character. It helps us not stay stuck in who we think we are but forces us into exploring new ways of thinking and situations. The end result is we are better educated and less selfish. We make the world around us better. I could give you all of the Biblical reasons I believe in marriage and there are many, but for today I just want to concentrate on my observations from life and facts others have gathered. As I said I do not believe everyone has to get married. However, if you do marry, I believe staying married is better than divorce with a few exceptions. I say that as a daughter of a divorced mother who remarried, the sister of a twice divorced sibling and one of my best friends has been married 3 times. I am well acquainted with divorce and genuinely love many divorced people.

I’ll finish with a few statistics, non-emotional facts.
Over 25% of divorced women end up in poverty following their divorce. The average cost for a divorce is $30,000.00
Increased taxpayer expenditures associated with divorce and unwed childbearing include anti-poverty, criminal justice programs, costs for welfare subsidies, additional child support collection costs, foster care and child protection services, health insurance costs and education programs.
Parental divorce increases the odds that adult children will also divorce.
Both men and women who are married enjoy better health on average than do single, cohabitating, or divorced individuals. (My personal opinion is that is tied directly to stress levels.)
Cohabitating before marriage does not increase your chance of staying together, in fact you are more likely to get a divorce.
80-90% of married couples who stay together do so because they have fun together. So if you are married, enjoy it!

Being and staying married isn’t always easy but it is simple. You have to make a choice to be married for life. In my experience it has enriched my life greatly. What do you think? Let’s talk.