25 July 2016

Whole30 and Marriage: Effort Required

I'm pretty sure I'm addicted to sugar.

When people talk about sweet vs. salty, I'm definitely a sweets girl. And I don't just have a sweet tooth, I have a full mouth of sweet-loving teeth. I'm not quite sure how I've never had a cavity, but I'm not complaining! Some of my favorite things in life are Reese's, black and white cookies, chocolate peanut butter milkshakes. If my husband surprises me with a Frosty, I get WAY more excited than if he bought me flowers (this is embarrassing).

I know it doesn't sound like it but I can actually eat fairly healthy on most days. When I cook, I'm very picky about what types of ingredients I use. And having a toddler constantly eating off my plate makes portion control easier than ever! But even on days when I eat healthy I usually need at least a few chocolate chips or a bit of chocolate syrup added to skim milk just to take the edge off. I knew I had a problem but I just didn't know how to fix it.

My friend told me about the Whole30 plan. The book I bought is called "The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom." I need food freedom! I want total health! The basic premise is that it's not a diet, but a program that will change your relationship with food and break its control over you. For 30 days you eliminate all foods from your diet that could possibly be inflammatory or disrupt your hormones, gut, metabolism, or immune system.

My husband and I are totally on board and are about to start the Whole30 program in August (prayers please!). In preparation, we've talked to friends that have gone through the program. We've researched recipes, mentally prepared ourselves for what might be challenging in cutting out certain foods. We even figured out some strategies ahead of time for navigating difficult situations. We've spent countless hours before starting it and will spend many more hours with meal prep and cooking in August in order to complete the Whole30 successfully and become healthier individuals.

As I was thinking about Marriage Monday, I had a thought smack me in the face (does that ever happen to you too?!). Do I spend even half of that time working on my marriage? I know eating is a constant and essential need, but our marriages also affect our everyday lives, as well as those around us. The way we go about our marriages can even affect our children  - how they treat others, their views on relationships, and possibly even the person they will eventually marry.

I'm not saying we shouldn't spend time on our health. I am saying that our marriages deserve and need time invested in them as well. We need to be intentional. Just like a healthy body doesn't happen accidentally, or even quickly, you also can't just stumble into a good marriage without putting in any effort.

Spending time working on a marriage may look differently for everyone, but here are a few ideas to help you brainstorm what might work for you. You could try:

- setting aside Marriage Monday time to discuss a blog post over dinner (I wonder where you could find one of those? Hmm...)
- planning a much-needed date night out to keep the spark alive
- putting the kids to bed and spending time praying for each other
- reading and discussing a marriage book, such as Sacred Marriage or Love & Respect
- creating a budget together to reduce money fights. Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University is great for guidance on this!

What is one way you can (or do) set aside time to work on your marriage?

18 July 2016

Change Your Perspective to Change Your Marriage

I love nothing more than having readers from all different types of backgrounds and walks of life. Discussions are more interesting that way and I love to learn and grow! That being said, this specific post will be mainly directed to fellow Christians who love Jesus. If you don't fall into that category, you are still welcome along for the ride this week! You may still get a healthy discussion out of it with your spouse!

Today we are going to discuss a concept that is one of the main differences that sets apart a marriage between two Christians versus any other marriage. It is what gives those marriages a purpose greater than just the sum of the two.

The other day I heard a verse I've heard many times before: "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23, ESV). Growing up, I've applied it to schoolwork, chores, and later my job. But for some reason it never crossed my mind to apply it to my marriage until I saw it in the full context of the chapter. Future note to self: always remember to look at the full context of the chapter! Ha.

I had to mull it over. This was a doozy! What would it look like if I gave selflessly in my marriage for God instead of my just my husband?

Right before this verse, Paul gave instructions to various groups of people with applications according to their roles. Husbands and wives were among these to love and submit. It's humorous that it seems like God knew what our immediate protest would be:

But he doesn't love me the way I need!
But she is so mean!
But he is selfish!
But she is disrespectful!

So of course the very next verse puts an end to our seemingly justified excuses why he or she doesn't deserve it. Do it for the Lord, not your husband who isn't acting very loving at the moment. Do it for the Lord, not your wife who just let you down yet again.

We need to ask ourselves - what is our ultimate motivation? Is it your spouse's behavior? He or she is imperfect and will not always deserve your love or respect at the moment. But God is always perfect. He is very deserving of our obedience, so our motivation can stay constant if we make that our main focus and goal.

One thing that sweetens the pot is that the following verse states that we "will receive the inheritance as your reward" since we are "serving the Lord Christ" (v. 24).

Those of you who are lovers of justice and all things being "fair" in the world, especially when your spouse really doesn't seem deserving at the moment, you can take comfort in the following: "For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality" (v. 25). You can be a rockstar wife or husband, doing it purely for God, even when your spouse doesn't "deserve" it. You can rest easy knowing that when they are in the wrong, it does not go unnoticed. But your actions will be seen and rewarded. Basically, let God take care of your spouse's actions and just be concerned with yourself.

So when you see dirty laundry on the floor yet again, don't just leave it knowing your spouse should have to pick it up. Do it for the Lord. When your spouse verbally berates you and you want to yell back with an equally scathing comment, instead use your words to build him or her up because your focus is on pleasing God.

What is hard to do for an imperfect spouse, is infinitely easier to do for a perfect heavenly Father. If you can change your perspective, you can change your marriage.

11 July 2016

Marriage is a Big, Fat, Ugly Mirror

"I was a much better parent before I had kids." Yes, SO TRUE! There is nothing like actually being a parent to show you how difficult raising a child can be. Parenting aside, I thought I was a much better person before I got married. I had no idea one person could have so many flaws... and I am talking about myself!

Marriage is a big, fat, ugly, intrusive mirror in your face at all times. Any flaws you didn't know you had will be instantly visible and thrown at you, and flaws you were already aware of will be amplified a million times. Single people - sounds like fun, right?

An unmarried person in a dating relationship can easily walk away if they feel uncomfortable after seeing a glimpse of their selfishness. In fact, they may blame it on the other person and not realize the problem was actually on their own end. But selfishness and flaws in a marriage immediately affect the other person and thus, have to be fixed.

In my case, my ugly marriage mirror showed me I have a bossy streak. I am a first born child with three younger siblings. Growing up, being a momma hen had its advantages and was even necessary at times, but being bossy and taking over situations unnecessarily in a marriage is not a good thing. If I hadn't seen how negatively it affected my husband, I would never have had to make a change and keep it in check. (More later on how birth order affects marriage, coming soon in a post series. Get excited!) I've had to learn how to tame my tongue and do my best to not hurt my husband with my words. Read more about that in this blog post. I saw that I was critical at times, which I had to fix in order to not push out my husband from helping alongside me. And I honestly never realized how lazy I can be at times until I saw how hardworking my husband is!

“If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question—stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise.” - Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

Even though it can be difficult seeing all of our imperfections thrown in our face so clearly, God uses marriage to grow us, shape us, and mold us to look more like Him.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17, NIV).

I asked my husband what he thought of the ugly marriage mirror. He replied with this:

"I think I'm a better person since becoming married. When I was single I could carry on as I wanted, only thinking about me as my daily decisions mostly only affected me. As a married man, I am forced to deal with my selfishness, flaws, imperfections, shortcomings and insecurities. Living with someone who knows you more than anyone on the planet brings these things to the surface like nothing else can." - Lane Sebring, aka "Hubby"

So there you have it. We are both imperfect, flawed human beings. Once confronted with a clear image of ourselves that our spouses will not sugar coat, we are forced to continually work on ourselves. We both fail at this every day, multiple times a day when we try to fix this on our own. So we are forced to turn to God to help us become better spouses. It is not easy or fun seeing the flawed reflection of my sin nature, but I am thankful I have that big, fat, ugly mirror in my face to force me to become a better version of myself, one that day by day looks a bit more like Jesus.

What has your marriage mirror forced you to change that has helped you become a better person and improved spouse?

04 July 2016

Five Simple Tips To Get Your Husband to Help Out Around the House

Paige threw her hands up in frustration. “My husband rarely helps out with the kids,” she grumbled. Her friend Elise chimed in, “Mine too. And I feel like I'm completely alone in cleaning our house. You would think he doesn’t even notice the mess.” Unfortunately, this is all too common.

As any good counselor would tell you, you can't change your husband’s behavior, but you can change your own. Although in some cases it certainly could be due to a lazy, selfish husband who may never change, I’ve found that’s usually not the case. Most of the time a husband truly wants to make his wife happy but he often don’t know how to help. Or his wife has completely pushed him out from helping, whether or not she realized what she was doing.

I think we can all agree that there’s no such thing as a perfect wife. So let’s each go into this with an open mind to see if there could possibly be, just mayyybe, an area that we can each make a positive change to benefit our marriage. It’s worth a shot, right? So read on for five simple tips that could be the ticket to get your husband to help out more.

1. Avoid nagging. For how often wives do this (myself included), one would assume that nagging must actually work. Dictionary.com’s definition of “nag” is “to annoy by persistent faultfinding, complaints, or demands.” If it worked, a wife wouldn’t have to keep nagging! There would be no need for the persistent, on-going complaints. There must be a better way.

2. Don’t insist on your idea of perfection. When we had our first baby, I was so excited that I had a husband willing to change diapers. One day, I noticed him fastening the adhesive strips in an odd spot, resulting in a bunched up diaper. I almost said something, assuming my way was the correct way, but thankfully stopped myself. Is it really going to hurt our daughter if her diaper is on a bit different? No. Hubby diapered our baby without me having to lift a finger. I consider that a win! Decide now – do you want everything done “perfectly” (i.e. your way) or would you rather an enthusiastic, willing husband?

Similar to all snowflakes being unique, I’m convinced there’s no two people in the entire world that load the dishwasher the exact same way. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that has opened the dishwasher to load a plate, only to proceed to take several minutes moving items around until I got them to my liking. Over time I’ve become much better about letting that go. I try to remind myself there are dishes in the dishwasher that I didn’t have to load. And they will come out clean, even if they are not in my ideal formation. Hurray!

Besides learning to be okay letting my husband do things his own way, there have been times where I’ve found his way to be (*gasp*) even better! Guys sometimes have a different way of viewing things, often outside of the box. Females have been taught standard ways of doing things that get passed down from generation to generation, often without questioning the status quo. When I’ve actually stopped to ask Hubby why he does something a different way, it often makes even more sense than the way I do it! Take a step back, let go of the reigns and expectations that things need to be done a certain way, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

3. Ditch the criticism. I know this can be a tough habit to break, but this can be toxic to a marriage so it is important to practice biting your tongue. If it is a common theme in your marriage, you should go as far as asking for forgiveness before moving on. Back to the diaper example, imagine if I had said to my husband, “No, that diaper is on all wrong. That looks ridiculous the way you did that!” Can you guess how eager my husband would have been to change another diaper? I would have instantly become the sole diaper changer in my household. Guys hate failing. If they feel like they can’t do something well, they often won’t attempt it at all in order to save face. Don’t be the reason your husband gives up helping out because he knows you will criticize his technique.

But what if he really doesn’t know how to do something correctly that is important to be done a particular way? Sometimes situations can be a safety issue. For example, if your husband isn’t correctly fastening your precious baby in their car seat. In those situations, you should…

4. Teach gently. Most females are natural caregivers. But somewhere along the way, even we had to learn some tips and tricks. No matter how simple it may seem, we aren’t born knowing how to change a diaper. It’s not intuitive to know how to scramble an egg or even do laundry if no one has ever shown you how to do it. I actually had to call my mom from college, staring at the coin-operated washing machine in the basement of my dorm, and ask how to wash my clothes. Yep, that happened. Things that seem common sense to us are not always intuitive.

Some caregiver traits have been modeled for us over time, which is why we often pick them up faster than our husbands once we try them. And other household or child-rearing tasks we have learned over time through trial and error, yet we don’t give our husbands the same grace to figure it out on their own, making some mistakes along the way.

When we first got married, Hubby thought he just wasn’t talented in the cooking arena. I knew I didn’t have it in me to cook three meals a day, seven days a week, so I gradually taught him how to cook some simple meals. We would put on some music and cook and laugh together. I’ve always liked the quote: “I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food!” Basically, make it a fun learning experience, whatever that looks like for you.

After Hubby learned some cooking basics, he quickly surpassed my skill level. Apparently he was a natural! He now makes breakfast almost every day, which is super helpful since I’m usually tied up nursing our little one first thing in the morning or am still groggy if she kept me up at night. The key is to gently and lovingly teach, just the way someone once taught you.

5. Give positive reinforcement and encouragement. I do not mean to manipulate your husband or give false flattery. I simply mean you should celebrate the wins. Give praise where it is due. When your husband raves about a meal you made or says, “You are such a good momma”, it feels GOOD! Why not return the favor and spread some joy? A bit of positive reinforcement can go a long way, especially if it is your husband’s first time attempting something.

If it feels awkward at first to praise your husband, try texting it to him. A quick, “You looked so sexy today when you vacuumed” could result in him wanting to clean the floors daily! Or tell him, “I really appreciate you bathing the kids and putting them to bed tonight. Now I have extra energy for you (wink, wink)!”

Let’s discuss:

Wives, which of these tips do you already excel at? Which ones do you think you may need to tweak? Other thoughts?

Husbands, are there other tips that could be added to the list?

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