Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Minute Stocking Stuffer or Gift Idea for your Spouse: 12 months of date nights

At our marriage ministry, we are always trying to get the couples to do two things:  get into the word of God and pray together regularly AND go on date nights--that is actually three things, but the first two go hand in hand. 
Well, in perusing crafting blogs, I found this darling date night printable template for a Christmas gift over at In Between Laundry.  So, now you have no excuse.  It is free (to make) and easy to create.  What spouse wouldn't love to see this in their stocking or under the tree.  You are showing your spouse you care enough to give him time and thought as you help plan some date nights throughout the year, and you are investing in your marriage.
Be sure to make these personal by changing the dates to include things you both like to do and activities that would bless your spouse.  (I googled a Double Doozie, and it is a cookie sandwich company--wish we had those here!)  Many of the ideas she has listed are great! Have fun, and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sacrificially Loving Your Spouse: Part 3: Your Time

My husband likes it when I give him my time.  I know this because when I don't, well, conflict comes along.  With Christmas crazy schedules, I haven't given him as much time as I should, and I know I need to pull him aside and ask for forgiveness and some grace.  How about your spouse?  What happens to your marriage when you don't make an effort to spend time with or for your spouse?  In this post, we'll chat about different ways to bless our spouse with our time.

Let’s look back at the example of our Excellent Wife in Proverbs 31. What does she do with her time? Well, she works for the good of others. She is up early (verse 15) and then stays up late still working (verse 18). We find that she seeks work to do and does it willingly (verse 13) and she is not idle or lazy. (verse 27) In an age where we have many distractions to pull us away from laboring for our family and, ultimately, for God, what is getting in your way?

You see, how we spend our time speaks volumes as to what we value. How many of you ask your husband daily, “How can I help you today? Is there anything I can do in my free time that would be helpful to you?” You are thinking, “What free time?” We have it ladies. If you are on Facebook, calling someone on the phone, watching any TV or reading anything for pleasure (such as blogs--ouch!), you have freetime.

Do you ask your husband if he wants you to attend a girls night out or even a ministry evening before you say yes? How you spend your time affects him, and you should prefer him when choosing your schedule.

Do you take time to thoughtfully plan how you can honor your husband? Like this excellent wife, do you get up earlier than you need to in the morning so you can make him breakfast or pack his lunch? Do you take the time to do laundry before he asks so his favorite shirt or uniform he might need is washed and ready? Do you ever take the time to plan date nights or nights away?  Organize a sitter, be creative and put time into making a nice evening for your spouse. My spouse and I take turns every other month planning the dates and scheduling a sitter.  It really makes the job of planning date nights easier and joyful when you can share in the workload part of it.  Once you are on the datenight, isn't it the best!? 

Do you simply take the time to tell your spouse you love him and are thankful for him?

Take a moment of your time to write down all the ways you have seen your spouse make efforts for your family and for you. Write it on a card and give it to him. Be specific and full of gratitude.

My husband and I get away once a year (again putting aside time) and make goals spiritually, maritally, financially, personally and as parents. Part of this process is telling our spouse what they have done well and what areas we see as opportunities for growth. One year at this goal session, Ryan asked me to not talk on the phone when I am in the car with him driving somewhere. You see, I was spending my “freetime” with Ryan catching up on my to do list and speaking to other people rather than conversing with and investing in my husband. I didn’t even realize this was a pattern of behavior for me, but I took notice and did what he asked.

When your spouse is talking to you, don’t divide your time between him and facebook, texting, TV, kids or the computer. Give your spouse your full attention. Show him you prefer him above all other worldly relationships and distractions with your time. I encourage you to ask your spouse how he feels about how you are spending your time. Have him pray and think about it and then come together to discuss what areas need improvement.  Let God work in your heart and your marriage.  It might not feel pleasant to be sanctified in this area, but it will be a pursuit of holiness well worth the pruning.

Our next post in this series will discuss how we can sacrificially love our spouse with our actions.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sacrificially Loving Your Spouse Part 2: Your Attitude

I was holding off on doing more posts on this topic until I did my second teaching on this lesson.  Yesterday, I finished teaching to a group of young moms at a group called Navigating Motherhood.  If you are a mom with young kids and are looking for a free group where you do crafts, fellowship, get free breakfasts, have free child care and get speakers coming once a week to your meetings, check out this particular group.  It meets in Aliso Viejo and is amazing!

So, a couple of posts back, I laid the foundation for sacrificially loving your spouse.  If you haven't read that post yet, read it first.

Now let's role up our sleeves and get practical.  A big area of conviction for most of us is how we are loving (or rather disrespecting) our spouse in our attitude.  A great template for us to study in the Bible is the woman in Proverbs 31, the excellent wife.  Proverbs 31 tells us that she has willing hands, not obligated or resentful hands, and acts for the good of her spouse.  In addition, it says she labors with this loving attitude ALL the days of her life--her attitude of selflessness does not ebb and flow with her circumstances or her changing emotions.

This is a very hard and high calling, but the key to her success is in Proverbs 31:30.  It tells us that she fears God.  She understands God's place--high and holy, her sovereign Creator.  As a result, she obeys with joy, contentment and a proper fear of God--properly considering her spouse with a loving attitude. 

How is your attitude toward your spouse?  You might be externally preferring him, but you harbor some control and resentment in your heart.  This is sin before God.  If you act obedient JUST in appearances, you are seeking people's approval, not God's.  He knows your heart, which will expose your attitude.

One way we can check our attitudes is by considering the thoughts we think about our spouse.  Do we look forward to seeing him walk in the door from work because we love him and he is our best friend, or do we have thoughts that gripe and complain about where our husband fell short or what mistakes he made that day/week/or year.

We fall so easily into that second example.  We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and then immediately assume the worst in our husband.  We even get annoyed and resentful at circumstances that are out of his control--traffic that makes him get home late; a crabby, sick kid who you had to watch while your husband "escaped" to work; or the fact he can eat that dessert with no ill effects while you diet for weeks to lose 5 pounds. 

Instead of hashing out the things we can hold against our spouse, we should purposefully dwell on things our husbands do right, what they do well, and what they are doing to sacrifice for our families.

In our house, we keep a "thanks list" at the top of our stairs on the linen closet counter.  Throughout the week, we jot down specific things for which we give thanks, including things our spouse has done well.  Then, one night each week, we come together and read through the thanks list together.  We are able to pray thanks to God and voice appreciation to one another as well. 

Well, how about when your husband leaves your home in the morning? Are you frazzled and grumpy in the morning or do you smile and encourage your spouse before he goes to face his stressful day? If he asks you to do something that day at home or while running errands, smile with a happy heart and say SURE, thankful for the opportunity to serve. We ask our kids to obey us with happy hearts, but so often we struggle to comply with joyfully helping our husbands when they ask us to do a favor.
How about when your husband walks in the door AFTER work? You have dinner going, little kids are underfoot and older kids are doing homework. The stress of the day has peaked and you are fatigued. Instead of unloading your day on your spouse when he first gets home, wait to talk about stresses with him. He has been at a demanding job all day, has been driving home in traffic and has been looking forward to the retreat and sanctuary that home and family bring him. Have an attitude that reflects this support and rest for him when he is weary instead of heaping more trouble and stress onto his lap. Try smiling, making sure you look nice and keeping home clean and relaxing for when he walks in that door. Such actions sure would reflect a loving and thoughtful attitude.

How about this one? What is your attitude when your husband initiates intimacy with you? You are tired, the kids have been pulling at you all day, but your husband has been bombarded with sexy, physical messages and images all day. He wants and needs physical time with his wife. Are you going to respond with a thankful attitude that he is choosing faithfulness and desiring you, or are you going to give him the cold shoulder and get frustrated that he is even attempting sex this evening? How about honoring him and initiating sex with him even when you are tired? That is a selfless attitude where you are considering HIS interests first and more important than your own feelings!

Recently, I noticed a friend on Facebook was at home with her newborn eating a Trader Joe’s microwave dinner while her husband worked late. The focus of her post was asking prayer for her husband who was working late and sacrificing for his family. She didn’t even tiptoe into a pity party or grumbling session. Her focus was off herself. If you make an effort to practice activities such as these, liking your spouse best will be simple and straightforward.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you in this area of sanctification.  Pray that sin is exposed and repent.  Post verses around the house that will help you respond with joy and selflessness.  Have accountability and check in regularly.

We realize our attitudes are important--they expose the spiritual health of our hearts.  God sees them clearly and is not fooled by our hypocritical actions.  The key to improving our attitude toward our husbands is to properly fear God and understand our place before Him, to have our thoughts dwell on what our husbands are doing well and to take our eyes off of our own selfish needs and feelings.  Rely on God for strength and guidance as you pursue holiness in your attitude toward your spouse.

The next post in this series will focus on loving your spouse with your TIME.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Decrease and Increase

I have a lot of things I like to do around Christmas.  Ryan, growing up with many fun traditions, has a lot of things he likes to do around Christmas.  Needless to say, life can be busy in December.  I find myself juggling a list that involves crafting, family traditions, church fellowships, end of the year meetings for ministry, ministry Christmas parties, school parties for Carter, and then "normal" life obligations.

The list I have isn't a bad list, but I need to check that my motives are correct in all that I am choosing to do.  If I honestly evaluate my motives, some items can be confidently scratched off my list.

Christmas is a celebration of Christ, an opportunity to give God glory for His love, grace and mercy to those He calls to repentance and faith.  All that we do surrounding Christmas can either bring God glory or it can attempt to bring ourselves glory.  We need to choose carefully and correctly to deny ourselves and glorify Him.

Wives, some of what is on our list is for personal glory.  We WANT our house to look nice so we look like Holly Homemaker (not sure who she is, but it sounds good).  We WANT to attend every Christmas event on the calendar because we want everyone to LIKE US and ACCEPT US.  We WANT to put hours into homemade baked goods because we WANT everyone to Oooh and Aaah at our Martha Stewart skills in the kitchen.  We want our kids to be smartly dressed, our presents to be beautifully wrapped and our tree to be gorgeously trimmed.  If we search our motives, it is usually because we want to promote ourselves.

However, as Christian women, we should approach December differently than the world.

Let's take a time out for our stressed out selves, look at our list of to dos and purposely search whether each item is for God's glory or our own.  I think we will all find a few items to take off our lists.
As Christians, we need to exercise this strategy every day, not just in December.  Our lives are His, and we live to obey and honor Him, not to fatten our already obese self esteem.

John 3:30 is a great nugget verse to remind yourself of this truth.  "He must increase, but I must decrease."  This December, make sure your ego and reputation are of less importance than ever and purposefully choose to increase the amount of time you are seeking to glorify Him in word and deed.