Monday, December 8, 2014

Gift-giving 101

This month I am reposting a blog I wrote a few years ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reminiscing about this sometimes-funny subject.

 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 competitiveness  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

And please share your funny gift stories with us!

Monday, September 22, 2014

What Does It Mean To Be One?

Now that you know some things to stop and start doing in your relationship, maybe we should talk about how to have the marriage you’ve always wanted. Gary Chapman wrote a book by the same name and I highly recommend you read it.

Let’s start by addressing what it means to be one in marriage. He describes the difference between “being united” and “unity” this way: “When you tie the tails of two cats together and hang them across the fence, you have united them, but then unity is a different matter.” Funny saying, but I know a lot of couples that this describes! The Bible, in Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Dr. Chapman adds that the word one here “is the same Hebrew word used of God Himself in Deuteronomy 6:4 where we read, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one.” He talks about the unity of the triune godhead- three Gods, but one God” He goes on to say that, “The members of the Trinity do have varying roles, yet unity. It is unthinkable that members of the Trinity would ever operate as separate entities. From Genesis 1:26 where God said, ’Let us make man in our image’ to Revelation 22:16-21, we find the Trinity working together as a composite unity.”

What does this have to do with my marriage, you ask? The Trinity is our example for unity in marriage. The goal of marriage should be to have a degree of intellectual oneness, social oneness, spiritual oneness, and physical oneness. One thing is for sure- this cannot be accomplished without the third cord in the strand. “Marriage unity is not the kind of unity that eradicates personality,” according to Dr. Chapman; “Rather, it is the kind of unity that frees you to express your own diversity, yet experience complete oneness with your mate. You are free to be all that God intends you to be, while experiencing all that God intended when He united us in marriage. No truth could be more liberating and satisfying.”

If you and your spouse are struggling with unity in any of these four areas, try this exercise that Dr. Chapman recommends:

1. Take a good look at your marriage. We must recognize weaknesses before we can initiate improvements. On a sheet of paper, make four parallel columns with the following headings:

Intellectual     Social         Physical        Spiritual

Under each of these headings, list the characteristics you feel you hold in common with your mate. In which area is your oneness weakest? What could you do to stimulate growth in this area? What will you do?

2. Suggest that your mate read this, make a similar list, and answer the above questions. When you are both feeling good and open to growth, share your results and agree upon actions that will increase your oneness. Concentrate on one area at a time.

Please leave a comment and let me know how this exercise goes for you and your husband or wife. And don’t forget to check out my website for more information about how you can Refresh, Revive, or Reawaken your marriage:

Next time: Yielding to Someone Greater than Ourselves

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Cord of Three Strands

There is a passage in Ecclesiastes that I love and though it is probably talking about comrades in war, it is equally applicable to married couples. After all, we are in a war of sorts. The prince of the power of the air certainly wants to defeat us and is a formidable foe.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NAS).

What exactly does this last statement have to do with marriage? The Teacher is illustrating a point with a word picture. Let's say that you and your spouse each represent a cord in a rope. In Stephen Arterburn’s book, The 7 Minute Marriage Solution, he explains the spiritual implications he sees in this passage regarding Adam and Eve:

By placing himself in the lives of the man and woman, God completed the rope by becoming the third cord of the marriage. From the beginning marriage was to be a bond of three- man, woman, and God- which made marriage a reflection of the Trinitarian nature of God. God, as the third cord gave marriage the strength of three- the strength it needed to withstand the storms that would assail it and to accomplish what God intended man and woman to accomplish…Having God as the third cord of the marriage rope completed the joy of the man and woman. They were intimate with God, close to him, in love with him. Thy loved him as they loved each other, and they found great joy in him. They took daily walks with God (p. 186).

They drew near to God. They spent time with him. Daily. How do we go about achieving this kind of intimacy in our busy lives? Arterburn suggests that the 

third cord will never be strong enough to keep your marriage on track unless you bind yourselves to God daily. This means spending time together with him every day. Reading to discover the wisdom and insight in God’s Word and praying to connect with him must become a habit in your life- something you do as regularly as eating your daily meals. Just as regular meals are essential to the nourishment of your body, regular time with God is essential to the nourishment of your spirit (p. 195).

Arterburn recommends committing to only seven minutes a day so that you have no excuse to not spend a little time in the Scriptures and little time in prayer. Consistency is the key to forming a habit. It’s not the length of time but the commitment. My husband and I actually get cranky with each other when we have let work, busyness, and all kinds of distractions keep us from spending time with each other. We need to be together in all the ways married couples should be together. Why would we not give the Lord at least seven minutes of our day?

I also really admire Becky Tirabassi ( who decided nearly three decades ago to spend an hour a day with God. You can read all about her journey in her book, Let Prayer Change Your Life.

So what have we learned couples? We need to STOP doing things that will harm our marriage and keep us from connecting, START doing things that will help our marriage, and spend time in the Word and in prayer. Whether you spend seven minutes or an hour a day, find time to connect with the Lord and pray for each other. That is your assignment.

Leave a comment and let us know how it goes for you.

And don’t forget to visit my website:

and check out the "Reawaken" page to learn more about our Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work training. We are offering a reduced rate for the launch of this wonderful opportunity to strengthen your marriage. If you are interested, contact me through my website for more info and to receive the special rate.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Seven Things to START Doing

Last time we discovered the things we need to STOP doing that are sabotaging our marriage. In this blog, let's look at things we need to START doing to have a loving and thriving marriage.

I think sometimes we married couples spend so much time in what Gottman calls Negative Sentiment Override (NSO), that is, doing all the things mentioned in my previous blog, and it becomes nearly impossible to see through the negativity to something positive. There are many great techniques to counteract this behavior and we will explore those in upcoming blogs. But for now, we will take a look at what Stephen Arterburn in his book, The 7 Minute Marriage Solution, suggests. He came up with these solutions based on, in his words, “years of extensive study based on hundreds of couples’ experiences in our New Life Marriage Weekend workshops, a research project from the Center for Bible Engagement, and my own personal experience.” So, along with the seven things to STOP doing, he discusses the seven things to START doing:

·      Start embracing friendship and fun

“A little humor and fun may be your best path to restoring or renewing or revitalizing a relationship.”

“Friendship forms the foundation for the fun and humor that make marriage enjoyable at times and endurable at others.”

·      Start responding romantically to your mate

“Sexual satisfaction comes from investing in the other person’s joy and pleasure. It does not come from seeking to gratify yourself.”

“What really fuels romance in a marriage is for each mate to put the other first and be continually attentive to the other’s needs.”

·      Start expressing grace and forgiveness

“Forgiveness must be accomplished without accepting or condoning the hurtful behavior.”

“You should forgive your mate simply because you love him or her. That is why God forgave you, and that alone is reason enough to forgive each other.”

·      Start affirming your mate’s strengths

“The more you accept the other person, the more likely it is that your mate will transform into the best he or she can be.”

“The way of love, the way of commitment, and the way of Christ is to accept the flaws and weaknesses of your mate and love in spite of them.”

·      Start spending money responsibly

“Communicate to each other hopes and expectations that involve money and make a budget that accommodates both necessities and dreams.”

“To avoid financial disaster, you must close your ears to the siren voices of government and alluring TV commercials urging you to spend your way to prosperity.”

·      Start practicing your lifetime vows

“God looks upon a vow as an extremely serious thing”

“Wedding vows are crucial because in the presence of witnesses the couple makes a solemn promise to stick to the rules even when they feel the powerful pull of their wants and urges.”

·      Start showing respect no matter what

“Just about every problem can be boiled down to a lack of respect.”

“You can’t respect a person while criticizing, trying to change, nagging, hiding money from, or ignoring your spouse.”

This week, which of these things will you commit to START doing? Share with the rest of us how you plan to start. And see what’s new on my website:

Next time: The Seven Minutes that Matter Most