Listening to Really Hear

ThinkstockPhotos-149314722Mark says: Listening is one of the most important intimacy-building communication gifts God has given couples.  It’s often been said that listening is so important to God that he gave us one mouth and two ears.  He really wants us to listen to one another.

Jill says: Too often we listen to correct, to make a point, to interrupt, or to eventually talk about ourselves.  But we have to learn to listen to hear what our spouses are saying, as well as to hear what they are feeling!

Mark says: Jill and I have not always been good listeners.  We’re better than we used to be, but are still growing in this skill. We both had to realize how much our conversation with each other was something we engaged in not because we wanted to really hear the other person but because we had an agenda and we wanted him or her to really her us!

Jill says: Several years ago we read a book that introduced us to a practical strategy to help us draw one another out and resist the urge to turn the conversation to our agenda. It’s called the three question technique and basically it helps you ask three questions of your spouse before saying anything about yourself.

Mark says: Bobbie and Myron Yagel explain this very well in their book 15 Minutes to Build a Stronger Marriage, “With this technique we listen intently enough to be able to ask three questions before we say ‘I’ or before we switch the conversation to our perspective, interests, or problems.” Our goal is to keep the attention focused on the speaker.  Here are three attempts at a conversation to illustrate the three-question technique:

Attempt #1

Husband: “I had a great day today!”

Wife: “That’s nice.  I had a very challenging afternoon with the kids.”

Oops! The wife just flunked the “three-question technique,” because she said “I” without asking her husband even one question.  She used the subject introduced by her husband as a springboard to talk about her day.

Attempt #2

Husband: “I had a great day today!”

Wife: “That’s good.  What made it so good?”

Husband: “We accomplished so much on the renovation project today, and we were able to get everything cleaned up and ready for tomorrow.”

Wife: “Cleaned up?  I feel like I have no time to clean up around here.  In fact, that was part of my challenge this afternoon.”

Oops!  One question is making progress, but let’s try again.

Attempt #3

Husband: “I had a great day today!”

Wife: “That’s good.  What made it so good?”  (Question 1 asks for more details)

Husband: “We accomplished so much on the renovation project today, and we were able to get everything cleaned up and ready for tomorrow.”

Wife: “That’s wonderful.  So who was there to help with the project?” (Question 2, a question that says, “Keep talking.  I’m interested.”)

Husband: “Well, there were probably twenty people who volunteered today.  Their experience and commitment to this project helped us accomplish all that we did.”

Wife: “Given the challenges and the magnitude of this project, I know this was important to you.” (Question 3: Although this wasn’t really a question, it was a statement that invited further conversation.)

Husband: “Yes, it was important to me.  I am so excited to see it all begin to pay off.  I was really beginning to wonder if it was even worth the effort.  Now I know we will finish on schedule, and I can relax. So enough about my day, how was your day?”

Jill says: Do you see how much deeper into the conversation this couple was able to go?  Now when she begins to talk about her day, the conversation is at a more meaningful, personal level.  By drawing one another out and really listening, we are able to take communication to the next level.

Mark says: We miss so much learning about one another when we jump in with our agenda!  When we draw each other out in conversation, we find the intimacy we really are seeking.

What about you? How have you worked to be a better listener in your marriage? 

Posted in Marriage | 3 Comments

Let. It. Go. For The Sake Of Your Marriage

ThinkstockPhotos-494632298Mark: I was asking a family we were visiting with the other day about their holiday traditions of putting up a tree and decorating it.  The husband said with resignation, “My wife wants things done a certain way. The kids and I have just decided to stay out of her way.”

Jill: One of the kids said, “If we help, she usually just re-does what we do so we don’t help anymore.”  The whole conversation made me sad and caused me to ask myself,  “Where do I have to have things my way, and in doing so, I leave my family out?”

Mark: For many years Jill insisted on white lights for our Christmas tree. It was a non-negotiable, even though I communicated that I preferred colored lights on the tree.

Jill: Several years ago, God was really working on my heart and bringing to the surface places where selfishness (I want it my way) and pride (My way is the right way) was present in my life. It just so happened to be during the holiday season and I knew, without a doubt, it was time to give up on the white lights.  I went and bought colored lights to the delight of my husband and my kids who were still at home.

Mark: Marriage is about compromise. It’s a blend between both of our likes.  When one of us has likes that overshadow the other’s preferences, something is out of balance and needs to be adjusted.

Jill: Here are some principles for getting things back in balance:

Ask God to show you the places where selfishness reigns in your heart.  Repent (apologize to God) and determine to let go of having to have things your way.

Pay attention to the likes and dislikes of your spouse. Determine to allow his or her preferences to supersede yours in some things you’ve been adamant about in the past.

If you are characterized by expecting things to be perfect and “done your way,” an apology is the first place to start. Apologize to your spouse and follow up with your kids, if they’re old enough.

Jill: Several years ago, I decided that during the holiday season when I heard the song “Let It Snow,” I would sing in my head, “Let It Go!” as a practical reminder to let go of having to have things my way.

Doing so has made a huge difference in my marriage and in the general atmosphere of our home.

What about you? Is there any place in your life where your spouse or family has learned to just “stay out of your way?” Where do you need to “let it go” for the sake of your marriage and your family? 

Posted in Marriage | 4 Comments

Living With Less So Your Family Has More

Peer pressure.

Those two words are usually associated with the teen years.

living with less cover with black edgeYet you and I face peer pressure everyday.

When you see your neighbor’s new minivan, does it make your old beater look even worse?

When you hear all the activities your best friend has her kids involved in, do you feel like maybe you’re a loser parent because you don’t have your kids involved in any activities?

Do you struggle when you hear about how the family down the street went to Disneyworld during Christmas vacation and you can’t figure out how to afford a camping getaway for three days?

Have you decided to limit the number of activities your kids do, but question if it’s really the right decision?

Do you say no to volunteering more often than you say yes, but feel guilty doing so?

If so, you have come face to face with adult peer pressure.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing with Dr. James Dobson on the Living With Less So Your Family Has More book Mark and I wrote.

I just learned yesterday that they are re-airing the interview today and tomorrow!  Need some encouragement on standing up to adult peer pressure?  You can listen online today!

Posted in Living With Less | 1 Comment

Happy Holidays Happy Marriage

ThinkstockPhotos-481686592Mark: The holiday season is upon us.  In just a few days family will be descending upon your home or you’ll be headed to Aunt Mabel’s house for Thanksgiving.

Jill: Yummy food and time with family beckons us while quite possibly, stress is waiting in the wings. The holidays are ripe for marriage miscommunication, misunderstandings, unspoken expectations, and the joys and stresses of extended family relationships.

Mark: The Bible talks about “leaving and cleaving” but the holidays often raise up challenges to truly do that well.  Over the years, Jill and I have had to be intentional about sticking together during the holiday season. Acknowledging extended family desires while deciding what is best for our family, takes priority.

Jill: As you prepare for Thursday’s festivities, here are some “holiday communication” and “leave and cleave” principles to help you navigate the holiday season:

Talk with your spouse about what’s important to you for the upcoming holiday celebrations. Don’t assume he or she will know. There’s no possible way for him or her to read your mind. Talk about your expectations, wants, and desires for how the day or weekend will look.

Talk about what is needed to be done to prepare for the holidays.  Does food have to be prepared? Are you traveling overnight and suitcases need to be packed? What division of duties assures that everything gets done and the responsibilities are shared? Fight the temptation to think that your spouse will think about the same things you think about as you think about holiday preparations. Talk to him or her to make sure they are on the same page you are.

Resist the urge to think “we’ve always done it this way.” Instead sit down and talk as a couple. What works best for our family on Thanksgiving? How long should we stay at Aunt Mabel’s? What do WE want our Christmas to look like? Just because everyone always goes to Grandma’s on Christmas morning doesn’t mean your family has to do that if you really desire for your kids to wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning.

Be prepared to make someone unhappy. If everyone dances around Uncle George’s drinking problem and you choose to have your family stay only two hours at the Thanksgiving celebration Uncle George attends, you may disappoint other family members.  Remember that your immediate family (spouse and kids) take priority over your extended family (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins). This is hard but it’s where “leaving and cleaving” really comes into play.

Protect your spouse. If your extended family is critical of your spouse, doesn’t include them in conversations, pretends they don’t exist (yes there are families that treat people that way!), be willing to protect your spouse and either address the issue before the holiday or choose to limit time or simply not attend a gathering with extended family that mistreats your mate.

Mark: It is possible to have happy holidays and a happy marriage, but you have to be intentional about making it happen.  Jill and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and an enjoyable long weekend with friends and family.

What about you?  How do you make sure you have a happy marriage and a happy holiday? 

Posted in Marriage | 4 Comments

Got the Tingles?

Mark: Jill and I spent this past weekend with over 2500 moms at the North Central Regional Hearts at Home Conference.  While I go with her to serve and work the conference, I also get the opportunity to hear some wonderful speakers. At this conference, I really enjoyed Dr. Gary Chapman’s message.

Jill:  Mark and I sat backstage and listened to Dr. Chapman’s message. It was excellent. Afterwards, we decided that we wanted today’s Marriage Monday to be about something Dr. Chapman talked about: the tingles.

Mark: Dr. Chapman talked about when you’re dating and you get “the tingles” for this person. They intrigue you. You spend hours talking. You feel connected. They are all you think about.  Eventually you decide you want to spend your life with this person.

Jill: According to Dr. Chapman, once you get married, on average, the tingles disappear within two years. That’s normal. That’s what happens emotionally after you start living with someone and seeing all of them…including their strengths and their faults.

Mark: Dr. Chapman said there’s a great probability that as a married person, you will get “the tingles” for someone else along the way.  Getting “the tingles” for someone else isn’t wrong in and of itself.  It’s what you do with those feelings that makes all the difference in the world.

Jill: Getting the tingles for someone other than your spouse is temptation and it’s a tool used by Satan to steal and destroy your marriage. If you get the tingles for someone else, you need to do NOTHING and you need to do EVERYTHING.

Mark: You need to do NOTHING about the new person you have the tingles for. Put distance between you and the other person. Resist the lie the enemy whispers that says, “you’re not meant to be married to who you’re married to….this person is your soulmate.” RUN the other direction. The Bible says, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Recognize this is temptation and do NOTHING to feed the temptation. In the words of the Apostle Paul….RUNNNNNN!

Jill: You need to do EVERYTHING to water the grass in your own yard. Flirt with your spouse. Write your husband or wife a love letter. Make a list of their strengths and what drew you to them in the first place. If your marriage is in crisis, get help. Set up a counseling appointment. Talk to your pastor. Make plans to go to a one-week marriage intensive. Take action to get the help your marriage needs. Even if you feel you and your spouse have tried “everything,” there are other resources or other counselors out there…keep pursuing the right thing. (We are assuming that you are not in any physical danger in your marriage. If you are in physical danger, you need to protect yourself and your children if they are still at home.)

Mark: Even if “the tingles” have disappeared in your marriage, they can be re-ignited again. Don’t fall for the lie that you’ve “fallen out of love.”  Love is a choice. Choose to love and pursue the spouse you committed to join your life to “until death do you part.”

What about you? What strategies have you used to keep “the tingles” in your marriage?”                       `

Posted in Marriage | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

An Open Letter to a Woman Who Has Breast Cancer

ThinkstockPhotos-176984427Dear Friend,

I know your world has recently been turned upside down. You can hardly breathe and you’re worried about your future and your family’s future.

It’s possibly you’ve come to grips with your diagnosis but are recovering from surgery, or going through chemotherapy or radiation.

Regardless of where you are in the journey, this letter is for you.

Today marks two years since I first heard the four words no woman wants to hear: You have breast cancer.

In the cancer world, that makes me a two-year survivor.

During my six months of treatment, there were many breast cancer survivors who had served as my “cancer coaches” along the journey. They shared their experiences, wisdom, and knowledge.

Over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of doing the same for those coming behind me. Today I want to share some words of encouragement from one survivor to another:

1) This too shall pass. As devastated as you feel right now, I promise this will pass. Your priorities will change and you’ll gain clarity on what’s really important in life. Take one day at a time and when that is too much, take one hour or even one minute at a time. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and calm your anxious heart.

2) You are more than your breasts and your hair. It’s hard for anyone to lose any part of their body, but losing two parts of our body that define our femininity make it double hard. No matter what you choose: lumpectomy, mastectomy, double mastectomy, reconstruction or no reconstruction, you will survive and become accustomed to your “new normal.” If your treatment includes hair loss, it’s not the end of the world.  Choose to handle this however YOU want to handle it: wig, scarves, hats, or simply embracing bald.

3) Advocate for yourself. Ask questions. Request tests. Communicate about side effects. This is not the time to be the martyr. I suffered terrible side effects from my first chemo treatment until my doctor said, “Jill, you have to let us know if the meds we give you are working or not. If they’re not, I have a dozen more options I can give you.” I learned to speak up early and not “push through” the tough days. Now more than ever there resources available online to help you understand what your treatment options are – Cure Forward is a platform that can inform you about your treatment options and help you connect with a clinical trial administrator.

4) Accept help. You don’t have the energy you usually have. Let others grocery shop, cook, clean, and help with kids if they offer.  If they don’t offer, ask for what you need. You are not putting people out…you are helping them help you.  (Check out www.cleaningforareason.org for complimentary housecleaning for cancer patients).

5) Don’t go to doctor appointments alone. You are hearing terminology you’ve never heard before. You have treatment options to consider. You may be emotional which causes you to miss important information the doctor communicates. Ask a spouse, friend, or family member to accompany you to all your appointments.

6) Set up a free Caring Bridge page for mass communication. This makes life simpler for you so you don’t have to contact friends and family members with test results and health updates. Those who care can subscribe to your page. When you post an update, they get an email notification.  My husband even used my Caring Bridge page to provide updates during my surgery. This helped him to be focused on me instead of making dozens of phone calls to update family and friends.

7) Lean into God. We can build our life on sinking sand or on a Solid Rock. God’s word kept me strong even when I felt weak. It gave me footing when it felt like the rug was pulled out from under my feet. Right now, life is changing. You need to focus on an unchanging God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Even when it is not well with your circumstances, it CAN be well with your soul.

8) Find encouragement from those who have gone before you. During my journey, I wrote several blog posts you might find helpful. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

Seven Reasons Why I Have Hope in the Hardship

The Value of Nose Hair and Other Things You Might Not Know About Cancer Treatment

5 Things You May Not Know About Radiation Treatments

Cancer Humor

8 Promises You Can Count On In A Crisis

How To Be Jesus With Skin On (share this one with your friends!)

9) Give yourself time. Cancer treatment takes a lot out of you. I’m two years out and most days I feel like myself again. I don’t think about cancer everyday anymore.Yet, there are times where I just don’t have the stamina quite like a did before cancer. That’s okay and to be expected. Give your body the time it needs to recover.

Right now, you’re in the middle of the muddle. Most likely, this time next year, cancer will be in the rearview mirror of your life. Until then, let yourself heal. Accept help when it’s offered. Draw close to those around you. Allow yourself to be loved…by your family and by God.

You’ve got this, girlfriend, and you’re going to be okay.

Love,

Jill

Posted in My Cancer Journey | Leave a comment

An Open Letter To A Woman Who Doesn’t Have Breast Cancer

ThinkstockPhotos-477843344

Dear Friend,

Tomorrow marks two years since my breast cancer diagnosis. Today I’m sharing my heart with you in hopes that you’ll take care of yourself and do all you can to prevent cancer and detect it early if it shows up in your life.

Tomorrow I’m sharing my heart with any woman who is walking through breast cancer. If you know someone who is on that journey, would you please share tomorrow’s post with them?

For today, however, I’m asking you to:

1) Do a monthly self-exam. If you’re old enough to have breasts, you’re old enough to check them! Know your body and check yourself every month.

2) If you’re 40 or older, get your annual mammogram scheduled NOW. Do not put it off. My cancer was discovered on a routine mammogram. I never felt it. My doctors never felt it.

3) If you have risk factors like family history, confer with your doctor on when to begin mammograms. My daughters’ doctors are recommending they begin mammograms at age 30 because my cancer was discovered before I turned 50.

4) If you find a lump or the appearance of your breasts change, follow up with your doctor immediately. Do not wait. Don’t tell yourself you’re too busy to go to the doctor. Don’t put your head in the sand and tell yourself it will go away. Early detection is key for curing breast cancer.

5) Maintain a Healthy Weight. Women who are overweight are at a greater risk for developing breast cancer. Not only that, but you’ll feel better and have more energy!

6) Exercise. Women who exercise have a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Aim for four to seven hours of exercise a week. A daily walk can make a big difference!

7) Eat Nutritionally. Avoid processed foods and meats. Choose hormone free meats and dairy when you can. Eat whole grains and limit refined sugar to special occasions. Read labels and put products back on the shelf that have unpronounceable ingredients in them.

8) Limit contact with environmental risks. Start using glass over plastic containers. NEVER use plastic in the microwave. Choose non-toxic cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda. Limit contact with pesticides. Buy organic options for fruits and vegetables listed on the Dirty Dozen list (these are the fruits and vegetables that absorb the highest level of pesticides).

In 2015, the International Agency for Cancer Research reported that five factors account for 1/3 of all cancers: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use. The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 33% of all breast cancer cases in the US could be prevented by dietary changes and exercise. (source: www.beyondboobs.org)

YOU can make a difference in you and your family’s risk factors!  I wish I’d really understood that years ago. Now I know and I’m making necessary changes. I hope you will too.

So what will you do today to reduce your risk? Pick one or two of these and get started today!

After all, today’s the first day of the rest of your life.

Love,

Jill

Posted in My Cancer Journey | 4 Comments

Decorate Your Dorm

photo text 1Last year our youngest headed off to college. Two hours from our home in Central Illinois, Austin started his four years of living in the dorm at Moody Bible College studying communications.

In early November, I found myself in the Dollar Store to pick up a couple of things. That’s when the idea struck me to put together a Christmas Care Package for my college boy. This care package wasn’t filled with food; it was filled with Christmas decorations to make his dorm room festive for the holidays.

photo 4I picked up two stockings, personalizing one for Austin and one for his roommate. I filled the stockings with goodies and then tucked mugs, Santa hats, decorations, garland and sparkly snowflakes for their dorm window into the box.

I added a bag of my homemade hot chocolate mix in a baggy inside each cup to top off the “Decorate Your Dorm Kit!”

I mailed it right after Thanksgiving so they could enjoy it for a few weeks before Christmas break.

They were beyond thrilled. I’ll let this video I received speak for itself:

What about you? When you were in college, did your mom send a memorable care package? If you have college age kids, what ideas do you have for care packages? 

Posted in Parenting | 3 Comments

I Know What You’re Thinking…NOT

ThinkstockPhotos-483468476Mark: Last week I was talking with a friend who was reeling from a big argument he and his wife had on Halloween. As we talked through the challenge, it became evident to me that the whole mess happened because expectations weren’t talked through.  Been there…done that…learned some lessons!

Jill: So many of our conflicts, particularly in the early years, happened because of uncommunicated expectations.  We needed to tell each other what we were thinking, wanting, hoping for as we headed into the evening, the weekend, a holiday celebration, or just managing daily tasks.

Mark: There’s no way Jill will know that it’s been a hard day and I need tonight to be a “veg in front of the TV” night unless I tell her.

Jill: There’s no way Mark will know that I have a home project I’d like his help with unless I tell him.

Mark: Communicating expectations needs to happen on a daily basis.  Dinner is a great time to talk through what you’d each like the evening to look like.  This helps you understand each other’s needs and work together to help each other. “I’d like to pay the bills tonight and then head to bed early. How about you?” “Could you help Joey with his homework while I work with Susie?”

Jill: Weekend days are important days for communicating expectations. “What do you want tomorrow to look like?” “What’s your plans after church today?” “The kids have soccer games in the morning. What would you like the afternoon to look like after we get home from the games?”

Mark: Of course, going into the holidays is a very important time to talk about expectations. “What’s most important to you on Thanksgiving?” “How can I help get us ready to go out of town?” “Could you help me with food preparation the day before Thanksgiving?”

Jill: None of us are mindreaders. We see life through different lenses and have different priorities so even as spouses, we won’t look at the same time and space and want to necessarily use it the same way. This is why communication is so important!

Mark: As you start this week, take your communication to a new level. Talk about what you hope. What you think. What you desire.  And ask your spouse about what he/she hopes, thinks, and desires.  Then work together to help each other, bless each other, and encourage each other.

What about you? What have you found helpful for communicating expectations?

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Soul Care: Breathe

ThinkstockPhotos-482224799Last week I took a first ever four-day Silence and Solitude retreat all by myself. My body was tired, my soul was dry, and I knew I just needed to be with Jesus.  I shared a couple weeks ago how I made the decision to take this soul care retreat.

As an introvert, I looked forward to the alone time. Still, though, I worried about being completely alone for four days. I admit being a little stir crazy the second day, but that soon subsided as I embraced the reality that I really wasn’t alone.

I chose to simplify life for those four days in order to really focus on Jesus.  A four-day juice fast helped me step away from food but not nutrition. For two of the four days I also fasted from driving, social media, computer, and make-up (loved the freedom!)

My first day I napped three times! Can you say tired?  Oh. My. Goodness. Three naps…and I still went to sleep that night! I found myself sitting and staring….a lot.  Talking with God in short thoughts. Reading my Bible and then falling asleep.  “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” 

In fasting from driving, I fell in love with walking. I walked to the store. I walked on the beach. I walked and prayed. I walked and did lots of thinking. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

In fasting from the computer and social media, I turned to the Bible more and more. I picked up and read one (short) book of the Bible. Then another. By the end of my four days I had read ten books of the Bible. My soul was finding it’s sustenance in God’s word. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord…” Jeremiah 15:16

In fasting from food, I removed distraction from my head and my heart. I experienced a break in cravings that I often fight…even in my clean eating journey. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

In time God began to whisper single words to me:

Rest

Breathe

Slow Down

Depend

Reset

I returned home refreshed like never before. It was a spiritual reboot I’m grateful I experienced.

Now as I’m back into the rhythm of life, the challenge is finding ways to keep those whispered words a regular part of my life: rest, breathe, slow down, depend, reset.

I’m finding that taking a deep breath can immediately change my body’s response to stress. I’m finding an earlier bedtime is providing the rest I need on a regular basis. I’m finding that putting less on my calendar is bringing balance back to my life. I’m finding that placing my challenges in the hands of God quicker is increasing my dependence on Him. Finally, I’m finding that I need to be intentional about “rebooting” each and every day with God’s word because this gives me His perspective throughout the day.

No one can care for your soul but you. You may have little ones clawing at you every hour of the day, but they need you to practice the art of soul care in some way. Maybe it’s taking the first 15 minutes of naptime to breathe and rest. Maybe it’s scheduling one night a week to head out without kids and go to the library to read. Maybe it’s meeting a friend for coffee and praying together.  Maybe it’s a few minutes of memorizing God’s Word every morning.

Four days was a rare experience of heaven on earth, but four minutes is what you and I have to find each and every day to breathe.

Posted in Faith, Taking Care of Me | Leave a comment

It is what it is…

ThinkstockPhotos-480112260Mark: When we found out Jill was pregnant with our fourth child I was angry. We had an appointment on the calendar for me to have a little “snip snip” surgery and the stick turned blue two weeks before surgery.  I spent much of that pregnancy angry at Jill for being pregnant. Sad…I know.  Immature…most definitely.  And yes, I know that it takes two to tango so my perspective was definitely selfish and skewed. It wasn’t like anything could change, but I was absolutely ticked at reality.

Jill: I hated dealing with Mark’s anger all the time. He seemed to always be disappointed with life because it didn’t meet his expectations.

Mark: “It is what it is.” This is a phrase I’ve been characterized by saying in the past three years.  It is representative of a huge mindshift I’ve made that is serving me well and making an impact on my marriage.

Jill: Truly I’ve heard Mark say that dozens, if not hundreds, of times over the past three years.  More importantly though, I’ve noticed that Mark is characterized by being less demanding, exhibiting more peace, and having more realistic expectations.

Mark: As Jill and I have talked about before, unrealistic expectations can really wreck a marriage.  Being unwilling to accept things that cannot be changed is a form of unrealistic expectations.

Jill: The Serenity Prayer is a powerful marriage prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  

Mark: This was the heart of my challenge: I was unwilling to accept the things I could not change and I lacked the wisdom to know the difference.  These days, however, I feel my eyes have been opened to see and accept what I cannot change.  How did that happen?  It was a two part process:

  • Brokenness: My unrealistic expectations were not only present in my marriage, they were present in every part of my life: my faith, the church, my work, my friendships and more. I was even demanding of God that I understand him. My midlife crisis ended when I gave up fighting and demanding. I accepted the reality that I couldn’t change anything in life except that which was inside of me. This helped me to accept things as they are which led to saying more and more, “it is what it is.”
  • Humility: In my unsubmissive heart, I demanded that God be someone other than who He was. In my pride and arrogance, I demanded that Jill be someone other than who God created her to be.  It wasn’t until I humbled myself, submitting my heart fully to God that I was able to experience the serenity to truly accept things I couldn’t change.

Jill: Acceptance is important, but one of the things Mark and I have talked about is how important it is that it doesn’t cross over into passivity.  If we say “it is what it is” about issues that really need to be addressed, then it’s not about submission or acceptance. Instead, it becomes a form of stuffing my emotions.

Mark: So a healthy “it is what it is” would be me accepting that Jill is an introvert and needs time alone to refuel.  An unhealthy “it is what it is” would happen if Jill did not embrace my extrovert needs for being with people and I chose to stuff my frustration instead of addressing it with her. (She’s pretty good about that by the way….just using it as an example. :-) )

Jill: Having a healthy sense of acceptance in marriage can make a huge difference in experiencing a deeper contentment and giving our spouse the freedom to truly be themselves.

What about you? Do you have some places where you need to increase your acceptance of things you cannot change? 

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Being fully me is so much better than being an imitation of someone else.”      

                                                     ~Lysa TerKeurst

Posted in Miscellany | Leave a comment

Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.”

                                                       ~Unknown

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