Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not Consumed

Lamentations 3:21-23 "Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."

Where do you find your hope? Do you find it in the outfit that makes you look ten pounds lighter? The team who wins the most games? The president? Our nation? It seems that oftentimes I find myself putting my hope in something temporary rather than putting my hope, my trust, in the very One who created us. I find myself thinking that I can handle it all on my own, so I put my hope in the things of this world instead of the Maker of the world.

Lately, though, we as a nation have struggled, and many people are wondering, “Where do we go from here?” The economy continues to worsen; many have lost their jobs; the values around us seem to be changing right before our eyes. Sometimes it seems that there is no end in sight,—or at least not a good one--and it can become overwhelming. It can even begin to consume us. We begin to see that the temporary hope that we have found truly isn’t lasting, and it can cause us to fear. However, as we see in the above verses, we have a reason for eternal hope, and we have Someone to put our hope in. Those of us in Christ can rest in the fact that God’s love is great and because of this great love, we are not consumed. The economy cannot consume us; sickness cannot consume us; even death cannot consume us. Instead, we can be consumed by the Lord’s love for us. Everything else may fade away, but the Lord’s compassions never fail. Whereas we as humans fail on an almost daily basis, God never does. He is forever on our side, by our side, and He wants us to remember that He is faithful and that we in turn should be faith-full.

I pray that today each of us might call this to mind and therefore have hope; that we might remember that our hope is found in the Lord; and that we might be consumed not by the things of this world but by the One who spoke it into being.

*First printed November 19, 2008 for FBC Women

Monday, February 22, 2010

Love...and Respect

"If you marry, you have not sinned...but those who marry will face many troubles in this life..." 1 Corinthians 7:28

As our pastor pointed out today, not exactly the Scripture he quotes most often at weddings! But it was a key point brought up at the marriage conference that my husband and I attended this past weekend.

At the "Love and Respect" Conference, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs brought out the point that in today's world, our beliefs about marriage are often more conditioned by Hollywood than God's Holy Word. And that is a key reason why the divorce rate within the Church is no better than the world's divorce rate. Hollywood tells us that there should be a "happily ever after" (well, in their scripts.. they can't even find this in their own private lives, hence the tabloids). You will find few folks walking around quoting 1 Corinthians 7:28!

And then when we start having problems within our marriage, we think there is something wrong with US... that everyone else must be "okay". We must've married the wrong person.

I know that divorce is always so painful. I have grieved with many friends who have walked through that fire, and some that are currently in it. And don't think there haven't been times it has crossed either my mind or my husband's! I tell you that to share that we walked into that marriage conference with far from a perfect marriage. But several things I learned really made some lightbulbs turn on for me and I just wanted to share a few with you.

Picture a crowded bus. Everyone is squashed together, trying to zone out in their own world.. reading papers, listening to ipods, reading books, checking Blackberries. However, the normal bus sounds keep getting drowned out by the yelling of small children, as there are small kids running up and down the aisle. It also becomes harder & harder to ignore the two kids that are fighting with each other in the seat next to you. Finally, you identify the man that must be their dad. He's sitting with his head leaned back, eyes closed and appears to be dozing. You notice all the other passengers, like yourself, growing increasingly irritated and angry. Why won't that father do anything about those awful kids?? He must be one of those New Age dads who doesn't believe in discipline. He must be a terrible father, at any rate.

Finally, you realize that it is up to you to do something about this. You lean way up out of your seat, tap the father impatiently on the shoulder, and insist that he needs to control his kids who are running wild over the bus.

Slowly, he opens his eyes, gets up and slowly turns around. He leans around the seat and the whole bus is straining to hear as he softly says, "I am so sorry about my kids. You are right, they are out of control. I have been sitting here trying to figure out what to say to them."

"We've just come from the hospital, you see. My wife.. their precious mom.. just lost her battle with cancer. Their mom just died a little while ago, and I don't think any of us know quite what to do."

Can you feel it? The instant shift in your attitude toward this family? They need help.. they need mercy. They don't need condemnation. One key missing piece of the puzzle changed everything.

And so it is within our marriages. For so long, we've been told by popular culture that "all we need is love" and everything will be great. As women, it's not hard to totally agree with this. After all, L-O-V-E most certainly is what we need, and unconditionally. The key missing piece, as we learned is that to most men, love is not spelled L-O-V-E. It is spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And what really blew me away is, men need this as unconditionally as we women need love!

"Unconditional respect"... isn't that an oxymoron??? Isn't respect something that should be earned, not just freely given?? You could almost see the eyebrows of the women in the audience go up in surprise, at this point.

He was making the point that men and women have such drastically different ways we see the world and communicate (he calls it "pink" vs. "blue"), that you somehow have to learn to speak in your spouses "native tongue", and when you do, you will have their full attention!

Dr. Emerson pointed out that when men don't get this unconditional respect from their wives, they often shut down, acting in ways that are definitely unloving... "stonewalling" he called it... retreating... they are just not there. And when we wives don't get that unconditional love, we most often push harder... reacting angrily, and negatively. "You must not really love me." "Why can't you just do this?" And such begins, what he calls "The Crazy Cycle". It really is a vicious circle.

He walked through many ways for both husbands and wives to "jump off the Crazy Cycle". Many practical ways for husbands to show their wives love, and many practical things women could do (and simple! we really don't have to be a doormat to show respect) to show respect to their husbands.

Just a brief few ways to show respect to your husband: 1) every so often, tell him “thanks” for going to work every day for the family. 2) let him share his dreams with you without shutting him down. 3) honor his authority in front of the kids and differ with him in private. 4) let him fix things and then praise him. 5) do recreational activities with him, side by side, without talking the whole time (watch how this energizes him to open up to you at a later time!) 6) try to be less negative in the home. 7) respond more positively (and more often) to his sexual overtures, and sometimes take the initiative yourself.

(I didn't feel I needed to list ways for husbands to show love for their wives, as I am speaking to primarily women here on the blog and this is our “mother tongue”!)

Dr. Eggerichs pointed out that he is not reinventing the wheel. This is all very Biblical and his key verse was:

"However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Ephesians 5:33

God was not giving us suggestions here. Notice the key word "must" used in both cases... this is a command. When he really got my attention was when he said this, "Just beyond your spouses's shoulder stands Jesus Christ. Everything you say and do to your spouse, you do to Christ." Wow. Now I already knew this in my heart to be true. But I had never actually pictured Jesus, standing right there beyond my husband's shoulder!

He was making the point that the bottom line is it's all about our love & respect towards Christ, not just our spouses.

If women view the world through pink sunglasses and hear through our pink hearing aids and yell through pink megaphones, men certainly view it through their blue sunglasses, hear through their blue hearing aids... you get the picture. But when the pinks and the blues come together.. they make the most beautiful shade of purple. The color of royalty. The color of Jesus Christ.

There is so much more that I wish I could share here, but I fear today's blog entry is already much too long! I would strongly encourage you to find a copy of the "Love and Respect" book and read it. I can honestly say it is already changing my marriage in significant ways, for the better.

Monday, February 15, 2010

For Women's Eyes ONLY!

When I sat down to write, my hubby offered some suggestions to help me overcome my blogger's block.

Unfortunately, I'm guessing none of you wanted to read about the steroid problem in baseball, the Mavericks' weekend trade or the Cowboys' biggest needs in the upcoming draft.

Basically, he was of no help at all.

So, let's talk about lust.

What do you first notice about this woman? Her voluminous hair? Her bright white smile? Her incredible voice? She happens to be one of my favorite singers.

What do you think men's eyes can't help but gravitate to in this picture?

How about the wardrobe malfunction she's about 1/8 inch from experiencing as she gyrates around a stage? And that girl can gyrate.

What about this woman? Admire her incredible balance? Her spiritual gift of being able to stay in those heels despite being greased up from hair to toe? The way she can still manage to look lusty despite having the appearance of a woman who, you know, just enjoys hanging from a steel bar every now and then?

She happens to be a singer and actor. But I'm guessing her theatrical talents aren't what men first notice about her. This is one of the more "acceptable" pictures I could find.

To be fair, there isn't a possible wardrobe malfunction here because I think you have to actually have on a wardrobe to experience one.

There is a part of me that screams, "What are you doing to our men?!!!" And, subsequently, "What are you doing to our women?!!!"

I'm guessing they know.

Thankfully, I don't see many women who dress like this down here in our cozy little suburb. Most of the women I see dress beautifully, but modestly. As so many of my friends are from church and have learned the beauty of modesty, I rarely worry about them being visual stumbling blocks for my husband. And, for that, I am thankful.

But, there is another trap that I believe is just as dangerous to marriages as pictures of oiled up women on the internet.

Emotional attraction.

And that isn't always as obvious as wardrobe malfunctions or greased up, tanned legs that end in spiked heels.

It is most often much sneakier, starting innocently enough.

The door can be opened in the casual decision to grab coffee together. Or chatting privately on Facebook. Or dwelling on things you admire about a man that, darn it, you just wish your husband had. Or enjoying the way your co-worker makes you feel because he's such a great listener when you need to spill your guts. It has a way of making it's way in when you allow someone besides your spouse to be intimate with you emotionally.

For Pete's sake, I've been convicted about whether I've been a stumbling block for just having been "too nice." Or being just a little too witty.

And when all those little things add up to bigger things in our mind or theirs, I just picture God wanting to scream, "What are you doing to these men?!!!" And, "What are you doing to these marriages?!!!"
My dad once told me he never took any of his secretaries out to lunch one on one for meetings or Secretaries' Day.
Maybe some consider that extreme.
But, for my mom, it was a gesture to show he would go to the extreme to remove any potential for straying or even the appearance of straying.
They celebrated their 34th anniversary on Valentine's Day. They have that soulmate love. I suspect even the smallest ways my dad honors her have something to do with that.
Maybe some of us need to go to that extreme rather than chance the other. Because, boy, doesn't it feel good to get a little attention after those three babies you pushed out? Don't you want to know you still have "it" even after you've packed on a little "more to love" since you first got married? Man, doesn't it feel good to know you are desired?! And, once you open those doors, it is harder to back away.
We know that temptation in and of itself is not wrong. We can't help but be tempted. But, if we choose to dwell on that temptation, it leads to lust, which leads to sin, which leads to death (James 1:14-15).
And death ain't no good.
So, how does God say we are to handle emotional attraction?
"So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual impurity, lust, and shameful desires." Colossians 3:5

Let's break that down...

1. "Put to death." Don't even leave burning embers. Snuff them out completely. Break off that relationship if it is causing you or him to stumble. You're either going to put these desires to death or bring on some death. And, remember, death ain't no good.

2. "Sinful, earthly things lurking within." We were born with these desires. It's natural to want to be noticed by the opposite sex. To covet what is not ours. But, if something lurks, it isn't out to have a girls' night out and be BFFs with you. It is out to hunt you down. It waits in the secret, dark places for the opportunity to pounce and bring immeasurable harm.

3. "Have nothing to do with..." Well, in other words, have nothing to do with these things. RUN. Flee like your pants are on fire.
I am no marriage counselor, but here are some questions I ask myself when examining whether I am opening the door for emotional attraction...
1. Is what I'm doing (writing, wearing, saying, joking about, etc.) something that could even POSSIBLY cause a man to stumble?
2. What am I watching, reading or listening to that might cause me to be desensitized to the dangers of sexual impurity? Society jokes that it's acceptable to "look, but not touch," but does God say that? Is He that dismissive of the dangers of lust?
3. What relationships do I need to end to "put to death" even the hint of attraction? Am I making my husband or that woman uncomfortable because I am a little too friendly that man? It doesn't matter whether I think he or she is being reasonable. If either is uncomfortable, I'm at fault and dishonoring my marriage or theirs isn't worth it. In Mark, we read, "If your arm or foot causes you to sin, cut it off." And, "if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." Yikes. Sounds like a lot less cosmetic surgery is necessary if we just cut off the relationship that could lead to sin. Easy to do? Maybe not. But right to do.
4. Would I want my husband witnessing the way I behave around this person? How do I feel knowing God is witnessing our interaction?
5. I believe God wants what's ultimately best for me. That may mean giving me boundaries. Do I believe being in this relationship is God's best for all involved? If not, what boundaries do I need to put in place to make avoiding emotional attraction a reality? Do I remove him from Facebook? Do I not allow myself to be alone with a man, even over coffee? Do I keep emails with a co-worker business related?
6. What women in my life can I ask to help me stay accountable regarding this issue? If God talks about lust in the Bible, it's because He knows it's a real issue. No, it's not fun to talk about, but there is freedom in telling the truth about our struggles and seeking help. What women will hold my feet to the fire so my entire family will not be burned?
I'm sure someone with much more advanced knowledge about marriage could add onto this. These are just some things that help me when I need some clarity.
Wow, for someone with blogger's block, I sure didn't run out of words! And, yikes, maybe you would've preferred talking about the Mavericks or Cowboys. Or how the Saints totally owned the Colts last weekend. #1 because it would've been a lot less uncomfortable to talk about and #2 because I would've said all I could say in about 22 words or less.
I'd love to hear any thoughts you can share about lust and emotional attraction. In the meantime, I'm going to go see if I can manage heels after I spread some canola oil all over my "more to love" body. That is going to take some talent! And maybe some knee pads and a helmet.
And, boy, nothing says "sexy" like stumbling around in knee pads and a helmet.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day Issues

"He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" . . . Wow, are we ready for this? The world throws so much at us in the form of idealized love and the gifts that are to accompany it: one dozen perfect long stemmed red roses, the expressive mushy card, romantic unmentionable gifts, or even expensive jewelry. He better get it right, or the day is ruined . . .

But man's ways are not GOD's ways (Isaiah 55:8). GOD is Love (1 John 4:16). When other people's love fails, GOD's love endures forever (2 Chronicles 5:13). GOD will never takes His love from us (Psalm 89:33). GOD's love is secure and does not disappoint (Psalm 86:15).

As a marriage counselor, I have the privilege of being a part of couple's lives in some difficult times and some happy times. I get to see all types of expressions of love. What I have learned is that we all fall short when it comes to loving. There is not one perfect person at loving. Just a perfect GOD. We must look to Him for examples, encouragement, and strength. Does this mean we do not ask for certain needs to be met in a marriage? No not at all! But we just know that our first need is Him.

I do not intend for this blog to be a quick fix for marriage issues, that is why couples enter counseling. Nor do I ever want to sugar coat the severe pain many couples are currently enduring. I also encourage anyone who is not in a safe situation for herself/himself or her/his children to find help today. But, for those who are wanting some light hearted suggestions, this blog might be for you! One can use these ideas not just for marriage, but for parenting, and even friendships or maybe work relationships.

My number one piece of advice for marriage . . . get ready . . . this comes to you after years of seeing clients, private practice, graduate school, etc, etc. . . . . BE KIND!!! Sometimes we forget to be kind to the one we love the most. I am often amazed at how this can transform couples. Are you saying "please and thank you"? Are you hugging, kissing, being affectionate? Opening doors? Asking "How was your day?" Cooking dinner for each other? Offering to run errands for each other? You know, being KIND?

Also, I encourage couples to try to be the first to apologize (Colossians 3:12). This is a great move of the heart and takes prayer and humility. But, when we remember that even horizontal relationships are first derived from our vertical relationship with our Father, then our heart should be moved in a way that desires to be made right. If you perhaps are in the right, then seek your spouse and offer forgiveness- Hey - Remember? 70x7 (Matthew 18:22)!!!

Be intrigued by your spouse. What captivated you about him/her 50 years ago, 10 years ago, or 3 years ago? [For parents this a great question to ask about your kids, especially teens who are driving you crazy! What do I find great, wonderful, dazzling about my kid?] Get out pictures, letters, call your friends and ask them to remind you of what you used to say about your spouse when you were dating. Then tell your spouse. Remind each other- not in a nagging or hurtful way, in a fun way. Continue by going on and discovering what captivates you now. This is basically your chance to brag on each other face to face. Is this hard? Well, that just means you need to practice it and do it more!

Relationships can be very rewarding. They can bring great joy and great pain. The ultimate relationship is with Christ. He is great love, great faithfulness, and great security. I pray this Valentine's Day you have a heart full of His love for you!

"O Perfect Love, thank You for loving me. Help me to love You more deeply. Help me to love those You have placed in my life as you would have me to love them. Thank You that my hope is in You."


Monday, February 8, 2010

How to Save with Coupons

Wow! As I sit here this morning, I am wondering... What do I have to offer that might actually help someone else?" Let me start by saying... "I started couponing around 9 years ago and it has truly been an "on & off experience." The first thing I always tell someone who is wanting to start couponing, is... "Do what works best for you!" God doesn't want us to stress ourselves out, but does want us to be wise with the finances that he has blessed us with.

You may be the person that jumps right in and instantly saves 50%-90% off of your groceries, or you may just be doing good to "get to the store." (That is usually those with new babies.)

We all have our "seasons of life."

Today, I thought I would tell you how to get started with setting up a coupon folder, and how to use the coupons once you get it set up.

Step 1: I bought a 3 ring zipper binder, 5sheet protectors, 30 sheet dividers, and around 90 baseball card sheet holders. (these are probably cheapest at Wal-Mart in the baseball card section.)

Step 2: I chose the 30 categories that I use often to file my coupons behind.
They are : baby, baking mixes, baking supplies, beverages, bread, candy, canned goods, cereal, cleaning, coffee/tea, condiments, cookies/crackers, cosmetics/skincare, dairy, dental, diet/nutrition, entree mixes, ethnic, frozen, hair, jelly/syrup/peanut butter, meat, medicine/ miscellaneous (batteries, toys, etc.), paper, personal care, pets, produce, restaurants, snacks, & spices. You may want to change these up to fit your own needs, or break down some, like the personal care and frozen into more specific categories.

Step 3: I buy a 2 pack of coupons on Saturday, collate, cut and file. (Lately, I have been getting the coupons for free though. The newspaper that comes for free in my driveway on Saturday, has a set of coupons inside. I use those and a neighbor gives me her set, that she doesn't use. :-) FREE! Some people that teach couponing will have you get one set for every person in your family. (If there are 5 of you, get 5 sets.... their thinking is a family of 5 will go through that free toothpaste faster so you should get 5 tubes free! I usually stick to 3 sets, because, as you will see later, that is the most that the stores will double a one time.)

Step 4:
If you noticed, I even keep those restaurant coupons in my binder. When I get the "Clipper", or any other mailer with a coupon, I can prevent the paper pile, by filing them in my folder. I then keep my folder in my car, and when we eat out.... I usually choose based on my coupons!

Step 5: I use the 5 sheet protectors in the back of my book and write on them with a sharpie. These are for those odd coupons that I never knew what to do with.. Examples of my categories: RX (several stores will offer gift cards with a new or transferred RX,) Hair & Nail coupon, Car Repairs, Bed Bath & Beyond (they take expired, competitors, and multiple coupons on the same order, and then I have a Misc. Dept. store (Justice, Old Navy, Belk, Kohl's, etc. )

Now we are ready to SHOP!
I know that the above information is a lot , but putting your folder together is the hardest part.


Double Coupons - means that a store will take a coupon up to .50 and double it on the item you are purchasing. This means a coupon for .40 = .80 off!

Triple Coupons - means that a coupon up to .39 can be tripled at the register, so a coupon worth .35 will be $1.05 off at the register.

Price Match - this means that you can take competitor ads to this store, and they will match their price.

Face Value - this means the coupon will only be worth the value on the front of the coupon.

Extra Care Bucks - Register Rewards - This is something that the drugstores have come up with the get you to shop at their store. (example of this: Walgreens this week has men's Dove body wash for $5.99 a bottle.... when you check out, you will get a register coupon/receipt, that says... "Save $5.99 off of your next purchase... compliments of Dove.") The next time you go back to the store, you get to use it like CASH! (just don't use it on your next bottle of Dove, or you won't get a new receipt for $5.99... use it on anything else.)

Stores and Their Policies

Kroger - They will double and triple coupons at all times. They will do this for up to 3 like items. Example: If I am buying 3 bottles of Hunts ketchup, and I have 3 coupons for Hunts, they will double or triple all 3 coupons. The 4th coupon would be face value only.

Tom Thumb - They double and triple coupons at all times, however, they will only do the 1st coupon for "like" products. Example" If you bought 3 Hunt's ketchup's here, and had 3 coupons, they would double the first, and only give you face value off the 2nd and third. (so you would have to do multiple trips or transactions.)

Albertson's - They are exactly like Kroger.

Market Street - They will take coupons, but only at "Face Value."

Wal-Mart - They take coupons at face value, and they price match.

CVS - They take coupons at face value, they offer Extra Care Bucks, and they let you stack coupons. (That means... if you have a CVS coupon and a manufacturer coupon for the same item, they will take both.) Sometimes, when they have a sale, this will mean FREE or really inexpensive!

Walgreens - They take coupons at face value, they offer Register Rewards, and they also stack coupons, like CVS.

Bed, Bath & Beyond - Will take expired, competitors, and multiple coupons on the same order.

*** Hopefully some of this information is helpful to you. I am excited to start blogging and sharing some of my money saving secrets. Hopefully, they will help someone. I have several other money saving ideas, websites, and fun tips to share in the next blog, but hopefully this will help get you started.

Don't think you have to get to ever store and get every deal every week. Do what is best for you and your family. That might mean just getting to your favorite store, and using coupons on the items that you are purchasing. Any savings is being a better steward for Christ!
God bless, and have a great week!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Glad Game

I have to admit, my whole life, I missed reading the book, missed the 2 movies, and missed "The Glad Game." This explains my surly attitude, I guess. However, after watching "Pollyanna" during the Bain family movie night, I can say with honest enthusiasm, "I LOVED IT!" Perhaps this makes me the biggest cupcake in history of cupcakes, but what a refreshing storyline.

For all of you that have seen Pollyanna, I must ask- "Why haven't I heard of this Glad Game before?!" For those that need to be filled in or need a refresher reminder, the Glad Game is all about perspective. (disclaimer-I must tell you that I am totally on board with being a Pollyanna- which I thought was a derogatory term. Though I am not a seasoned Pollyanna- I have only seen the Masterpiece Theatre version of the movie- I haven't read the book. We all know books are better than their movies so I am sure I am leaving out the meatier foundation of the Glad Game, but here it goes from the movie version.)

Here is the movie dialogue between Pollyanna and a servant in her aunt's ginormous castle estate:

Pollyanna: Well, that's the game, you know.
Nancy: What game?
Pollyanna: The "Glad Game." Father taught me it.
Nancy: What is it?
Pollyanna: It started when I wanted a doll. And Father had written asking for one from the charity people, but when it came, there were just some crutches.
Nancy: Crutches?
Pollyanna: Yes, you know. And the game is to find something to be glad about in everything.
Nancy: How can you be glad about having crutches if you wanted a doll?
Pollyanna: Ah Ha! You're glad because you don't need them!

The game is about perspective, and finding something good even in the hardest circumstances. This is why I like this game so much, because I NEED it.
Because, I would have thrown those crutches across the room!- I wanted a doll! Not crutches!!
My first reaction is a fleshly one. I told you I have a surly side. But I am on board with Pollyanna, and am in need of an attitude adjustment.
As I sat watching the movie, I couldn't help but see biblical verse parallels. Even though God was not mentioned in the movie I watched, I know Pollyanna's father was a missionary, so I am sure the game came from Godly origins. (Perhaps Romans 8:28, Titus 1:15.) I think the Lord would probably prefer for us to find reasons to be happy with the circumstances that He gives us, rather than find fault with what He provides.
Secular culture has adopted sayings such as, "When life gives you lemons, turn it in to lemonade." However, sweeter is the song saying, "God is good, all the time."

Thank you Lord for the rain today. Thank you for the washing machine and the clothes to wash. Thank you my morning breakfast and coffee. Thank you for our car and home. Thank you for our stove that is working. (all of these things, I could say something ungrateful..see I am catching on...)
My girls and I are playing this game daily. When a situation doesn't turn out like we wish, we find one way to be glad. When will your family start playing the Glad Game? Come join me.
"This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24