Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gift-giving 101

I know that you are all waiting with bated breath to find out who was the not-so-great gift giver in my life. Well, it was my husband, bless his heart. I know that his aim in life is to please me, and I’m not just saying that, it really is. But, there was a time in our marriage when he was in great need of some remediation in the gift-giving department. Like the time he gave me a pair of size 9, hot pink, zip-up sneakers. I wear a size seven shoe, and I NEVER wear sneakers. Or the time when he put a huge bottle of Scope in my stocking. Huh. Then there was the time when he wanted to add to my fine china teacup collection by giving me a gigantic shrimp bisque cup and saucer. Lovely. I collected these sweet little teacups for years and on another year, for Christmas, he made a basket of coffee items including mugs with the Far Side Bears doing armpit, shall we say…flatulations. Nice. There have been countless times when he re-gifted to me! His wife! Can you believe it? One time, I found a huge basket all wrapped in cellophane in my car with all kinds of really great items---for a garage sale. I found out that he won it in a raffle with a 50-cent ticket. Not a good night. I could go on and on, but the piece de resistance was the time when he surprised me at work with several pieces of lingerie. He hung bras and panties that he had bought for me all around the break room. Why on earth he did this, I don’t think we will ever know, but he was trying to do something nice for me. I was embarrassed, but when I saw that they were all the wrong sizes, embarrassment turned into indignation. I had to call for help.

I enlisted my children to help their father. Of course, my son thought his dad was hilarious, so he hasn’t been much help, but my daughters have come through for me and with much retail therapy and creative think tank sessions, he is almost in full recovery. He is extremely thoughtful and has become a student of me. This is something I recommend for every married couple- Get to know each other and pay attention to the little things. I find that it is not great shows of ostentatious magnanimousness that are meaningful to me, but the subtle nods to my unique personality that he knows so well. When he stops by my office to bring me a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup, it’s because he knows I really love those and to show me that he loves me and thinks about my needs and wants. Each morning, when he brings me that cup of coffee, he is saying I love you and this is how I’m showing you because I KNOW you. He knows I love cooking, and that’s why he spent a week’s salary to buy me the limited edition Martha Stewart professional Kitchenaid Mixer. (That was magnanimous).

To me, that is the essence of the giving and receiving of gifts. The thing we all want is to be known and loved because of, and in spite of, that knowing. The old adage, “it’s the thought that counts” is true. I want the gifts I give to the people I love to convey a message: that I know them and care about them enough to buy or make or give them something they desire. Isn’t that what God does for us? James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (KJV). And in Matthew 7:11, Jesus explains it himself: “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” (NLT).

So, that brings us to now- our most favorite time of year- Christmas, the season of gift–giving. Well, that’s what it is, isn’t it? I know we all want to think that this year will be different; this year we’ll spend less money and not go crazy buying things for people that they really don’t need or maybe even want; this year we’ll concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas- the birth of our Savior, the redemption of mankind. Yet, somehow, we get caught up in the mayhem at the mall. We make lists, check them twice, and shop till we drop. I, for one, say “go for it!” Not the mayhem, not the competiveness, but the giving. Give, give, give. It feels good to the giver and the receiver. We are made to give. I like the way Father Louis Studer stated it,

"Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, there is a generosity innate in us that drives our desire to give gifts to one another. Our gifts to others, like God’s gifts to us, are a way of expressing our love to the recipients. When we give a gift we are saying, ‘I love and care about you. I was thinking of you when I bought or made this gift and I am thinking of you now as you open it.'"

All of that is to say this: giving and receiving gifts is important to me. Whether the gift costs money or is handmade or is a gift of time, I love it. I love showering my kids and grandkids with gifts at Christmas time. My husband and I show each other love through the giving and receiving of gifts to each other even if they are not tangible. This year, be as generous as you possibly can. Give to your neighbors, your church, your hairdresser, your mailman; give extra to servers at restaurants. Show the love of Christ by your giving. He promised us that, “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over” (NLT).

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thinking About Thanksgiving

Thinking about Thanksgiving

I was thinking about thankfulness and gratitude because at this time of year you have to, right? Every Thanksgiving my husband does this thing that I just don't enjoy. After spending hours getting everything ready for the most spectacular meal of the year, making sure everything looks beautiful, and that everyone's favorite dish is represented, the tables are set and everything is nice and hot, he wants to go around the table and have each person say what he or she is thankful for. I know- you're all saying, "Awww, what a wonderful tradition." But I'm thinking "all that work and now it's getting cold!" Not to mention the fact that when put on the spot, suddenly I can't think of anything I am thankful for. Of course, all the requisite things- health, family, provision, yada, yada, yada- please pass the sweet potato casserole.

Shouldn't these things be pondered and ruminated upon before just blurting them out while the food is getting cold? So I am considering what I am really thankful for. I really am thankful for our health. A few years ago, my husband had Melanoma and it was very scary. I can't even imagine living without him, so I am very thankful for his healing and his continued health. I really am thankful for provision. We have recently gone through the same upheaval many people have in this economy and are moving into a completely new direction financially, but God is so faithful and has miraculously provided for us. I really am thankful that all my family will be gathered together around my Thanksgiving table, including my new son-in-law (my new son). It was only a couple of years ago that one kid was in New York and one was in England, and the only way we could communicate was over the phone and emailing. Now they are all right under my nose and have keys to my house! It's crazy and chaotic at times but I couldn't be more grateful. There is nothing my hubby and I love more than having all our kids and our two grandsons around us. I am thankful that God has placed me right where I am and that I know His purpose for my life. These are all the biggies.

But the more I think about what I am truly grateful for on a daily basis; it's really the little things. My husband brings me coffee every single morning and gives it to me with a kiss, even if he's mad at me. I am so thankful for that. That one little gesture every single day shows that he loves me no matter what and that he cares for me. My daughter, Dani, is so beautiful, inside and out. She is caring and loving and thoughtful. She always orchestrates my birthday, Mother's Day, and Christmas gifts. (Someday, in another blog, I will explain why that is so important and how certain people are not the greatest gift choosers, if you catch my drift). In the meantime, I am so thankful that she makes sure I am shown respect and honor on special occasions. I am thankful that my son, Nathan, always mentions me and gives me credit for his success in every interview. It's not really true- he has worked very hard on his own to get where he is, but he is showing me respect and for that I am grateful. Noelle has seen more heartache than any of us and she is the baby of our family. I am so thankful that she has made it through the fire and back, and has been found faithful- she's my miracle baby and I am so grateful for her. My sweet little (big) grandsons know all my favorite things. They know I like Big Cheezits, not those little ones. They know I love my coffee and that "books are our friends." They know that Wednesday nights and Sundays after church are family time and they look forward to it. They know me well and I'm just their granny. I love that, and am so thankful for it.

These are the everyday things that I am thankful for. For what are you thankful? Make a mental or written list and ponder them, meditate on them and revel in them. But please do it after dinner- the food's getting cold.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be sure to check out the Rosberg's Date With a Purpose link:

Click HERE to view this month's Date with a Purpose - "Not for Cowards"

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Training vs Trying

“There is an immense difference between training to do something and trying to do something.” So says John Ortberg in the book The Life You’ve Always Wanted. In his book, he is talking about spiritual transformation. He states that, “spiritual transformation is not a matter of trying harder, but of training wisely…respecting the distinction between training and merely trying is the key to transformation in every aspect of life.”

I am convinced that this is true in marriage. There are lots of couples who want desperately to have good marriages, and are trying very hard to do all the right things, but still find themselves in turmoil. I think John Ortberg makes a great point. Every great accomplishment, every great endeavor, or adventure or marathon is not won without the proper training. That is why I am passionate about marriage education.

I am coaching two engaged couples through a 6-week pre-marriage course. This course is in-depth and covers everything from Communication to finances to conflict resolution to parenting to sexual intimacy to in-laws. I am very proud of these couples who are in basic training, a sort of “marriage boot camp,” in preparation for the obstacles that will surely arise down the road. They are learning skills that will help them meet and overcome these obstacles before they come up so that they will be ready.

I strongly encourage every married couple to engage in some kind of marriage education if they haven’t already. So many of us with starry eyes thought those lovin’ feelings would be enough, and jumped in with both feet with no training whatsoever. In this day and age, “winging it” and then trying really hard to make things work won’t cut it. Training is what works- building a strong marriage by using every resource available.

Some resources I recommend:

Read books

Such as: Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs

Why Mars and Venus Collide, by John Gray

The Surrendered Wife, by Laura Doyle

Sheet Music, by Kevin Leman

The Marriage Builder, by Larry Crabb

The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage,

By Dr. Laura Schlessinger

The Four Seasons of Marriage, by Gary Chapman

6 Secrets to a Lasting Love,

by Gary and Barb Rosberg

Surf the Web

get involved with healthy couples

get involved in a small group focused on marriage

find a mentor couple whom you admire

attend a marriage retreat or seminar with other couples, such as Family Life’s Weekend to Remember:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Newlyweds Become Oldyweds

Someone once said, “Newlyweds become oldyweds, and oldyweds are the reasons that families work.” I love this saying. My husband and I just celebrated 32 years of marriage, so I guess you could call us “oldyweds.” It hardly seems possible that so many years have already gone by since we, as teenagers, made vows to each other to love and to cherish one another, to be faithful to each other, to hold each other up in bad times as well as good times; you know, in prosperity and adversity, in sickness and in health and all that. As we gazed into each other’s clear eyes, full lips, and unwrinkled faces, we looked forward to all those good times.

We had no idea on that day that any of those “bad times” would ever actually appear in our marriage. We have had a joyful, rich, and loving 32 years, filled with children, grandchildren, and so many wonderful experiences, but it has not always been smooth sailing. We found out, after about a week, that it was really hard work! There have been times when we didn’t know if we would make it or not. We both agree that it has only been by the grace of God that we have made it and, during those times when we didn’t cling to each other, if we hadn’t stayed faithful to the Lord we would be just another statistic. We love what Ecclesiastes 4:12 says,

“Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help…a person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (NLT).

That is our challenge to you. If one of you is falling, reach out and help; stand back-to-back and fight for your marriage. Allow God to be the third cord in your union, so that it will not be easily broken.

One way you can strengthen that cord is to go on regular dates- without kids or “to-do” lists. I was recently at a conference and learned a new concept. Why not write a “Not to Do” list? It could be fun. Here are some things I put on my “Not to Do” list:

1. Don’t talk about the kids or grandkids while on our date.

2. Don’t bring my “To Do” list on our date.

3. Don’t worry so much about getting everything on my “To Do” list done.

4. Don’t turn down dessert.

5. Don’t waste too much time on Facebook

Another way is to click on the link below and listen to Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg coach you in ways to go to a deeper and more intimate level with your mate. It only takes about a half hour and you will gain new ways to connect.

Click HERE to view September’s Date with a Purpose - "Allergic to Your Spouse”

More thoughts on Marriage

The bonds of matrimony are like any other bonds - they mature slowly. ~Peter De Vries

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years. ~Simone Signoret

Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate. ~Barnett R. Brickner

A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time. ~Anne Taylor Fleming

One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again. ~Judith Viorst

You can never be happily married to another until you get a divorce from yourself. Successful marriage demands a certain death to self. ~Jerry McCant

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. ~Mignon McLaughlin

In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage. ~Robert Anderson, Solitaire & Double Solitaire

There is no such cozy combination as man and wife. ~Menander

One of the good things that come of a true marriage is, that there is one face on which changes come without your seeing them; or rather there is one face which you can still see the same, through all the shadows which years have gathered upon it. ~George MacDonald