We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Love Dare #30 Love Brings Unity

DARE 30: Isolate one area of division in your marriage, and look on today as a fresh opportunity to pray about it. Ask the Lord to reveal anything in your own heart that is threatening oneness with your spouse. Pray that He would do the same for them. And if appropriate, discuss this matter openly, seeking God for unity. 

This was surprising because a potential area of division has just cropped up. And the reason for it is, as is common in most marriages: Money.

We may have to make some changes regarding finances and we're really struggling deciding on the issue. This has caused some tension and we are trying to discuss things constructively with the rules we set in Dare 13, but it will take many more talks and a lot more prayer before we can decide. I am torn because we do need to make a decision, but it's a little frightening. Lord, we need You now. Lead us in our decision and give us wisdom. Also, soften our hearts so even if the right way is not what we would willingly choose for ourselves, help us to determine to follow Your will no matter what. Let us be reassured that You know how it all turns out and that You will order things for good to those who love You! Help us to pray for each other, Father, and grant us unity and the faith to take the next step.

Jeremiah 29:11-14a

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Love Dare #29 Love's Motivation

DARE 29: Before you see your spouse again today, pray for them by name and for their needs. Whether it comes easy for you or not, say "I love you," then express love to them in some tangible way. Go to God in prayer again, thanking Him for giving you the privilege of loving this one special person- unconditionally, the way He loves both of you.

Loving someone anyway, even when they give me no reason to love, has not been my strong point. The only one I've truly tried to do this with is Hubby, and I've got to say, it's rough! Even with such a good man, there are bound to be disagreements, flat out arguments and the oh so deadly silent treatment.

But I'm beginning to see that perhaps it doesn't have to be so terrible. Perhaps it's my perception of it that is the problem.

After much reflection, prayer and tears, I've realized that in my case, it boils down to pride. I have always been one of those girls who tells you what she thinks. I've lost many a friend that way, and have learned the hard way that sometimes my opinion is better kept silent. However, in this society where women were not allowed to vote until less than a century ago, I sometimes mistake pride for refusing to be a feminine doormat. I see now there are many situations where I use sticking up for my gender as an excuse to cuttingly voice my opinion.

Praying for Hubby is a daily act of love now (Dare 16), but this was such a great reminder for me to use the prayer time to strengthen my love and compassion for him. With this change of motivation, I felt eager to see Hubby today and was very happy to be near him when he came home. Amazing how love and intention can change one's perspective of the every day things, like a spouse arriving at home the same way they do every day. Only it's different now because no matter what's happened in the past and what may happen, you have determined to love them. I'm beginning to see just how deep God's love for us goes, and how thankful I am for it, in light of all my sins.

Lord, thank you for the gift of prayer. Please forgive my sin of pride and help me to nurture and not tear down with my words. Thank you for my wonderful Hubby and the love he has for me and Baby Boy. Help me to fulfill the purpose you gave me when you brought Hubby into my life and allowed us to be married. Let me love unconditionally and to always lean on You.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Love Dare #28 Love Makes Sacrifices

Alright, I really need to get back in the habit of typing my daily dares. Here's hoping I will keep up with transferring it from my journal to B&I:

DARE 28: What is one of the greatest needs in your spouse's life right now? Is there a need you could lift from their shoulders today by a daring act of sacrifice on your part? Whether the need is big or small, purpose to do what you can to meet the need. 

I have realized that my lack of initiative may be contributing to Hubby's stress when he comes home. Well, let me rephrase: My lack of initiative does not relieve any stress Hubby may be under when he comes home.

At the end of the day, I'm dead tired. I've most likely weathered and corrected countless tantrums from our toddler, cleaned, cooked several times a day, cleaned some more, potty trained, fought to keep Baby Boy in his room at nap time, straightened up the inevitable toddler messes, been teacher at learning time, disciplinarian when tantrums fly, and mommy when owies need kissing. Needless to say, staying home is not a glamorous (or easy) job, but it's well worth it. So, this bedraggled, emotionally frazzled, starved-for-adult-conversation mama is who welcomes my man home at night.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see Hubby and I try to make him feel welcome. Sometimes being in his arms and hearing his voice is the only thing that can soothe me after a rough day. Nine times out of ten, there is a hot dinner waiting for him, I greet him sincerely thanks to Dare 9, and now thanks to Dare 15 I honor him by giving my full attention, setting the laptop aside and leaving the TV off in the evenings unless Hubby turns it on. But I believe that I can go an extra step; especially at times when I know something is bothering him.

I can tell when his neck injury is really hurting him. I sense when things did not go well at work, or when being on his feet for 12 hours a day takes its toll. But what do I do about it?
Most of the time I'll ask if he needs a massage and when he says "No thanks, Luv." I leave it at that.

Or I'll ask what's wrong and he'll go into a long monologue about his rough day and I find myself cutting him off, giving him a solution and my very strong opinion on the matter. My outburst usually leaves us both thinking, where in the world did that come from? I have an opinion for everything.
My parents began calling me Miss Opinionated when I was very young and even now I get chided with the nickname when I'm being especially ornery. Why can't I just listen to Hubby? Let the guy vent a little? I will not hesitate to tell him when he's giving me an opinion and I wish he would just listen, so I've decided the least I can do is to give him the same consideration when the situation arises.

So tonight, I saw that Hubby's feet were really hurting. After he ate, he said he wasn't up for much conversation and wouldn't mind if I wanted to use the laptop that evening. I shrugged and opened up the laptop. After a little while, I just couldn't get lost in my usual research/email/general doing nothing online. I shut the laptop and asked Hubby how he was. He said fine, but I saw how he winced whenever he moved his legs.
I asked if he needed a massage. He said "No thanks, Luv."
I tossed one of the couch cushions on the floor in front of him and to his surprise, proceeded to massage his poor feet.

The Bible shows over and over again that when Love sees a need it makes adjustments to fulfill it.
God does it for us, through his provision. We needed salvation and God provided a way through Jesus' death on the cross. The mere fact that we wake up in the morning is due to God's grace and love.

Why can't I see a need in Hubby's life and fill it with no thought of being repaid, just acting out of love? I think it's possible, but will take some practice. I know I can't do it on my own, I'm too selfish. I need the Lord's patience and love so I can in turn love Hubby unconditionally and act on that love.

After a few minutes, I saw that the massage was making a difference to Hubby's aching feet and by the end of it, he was visibly relaxed.
Now, was I tired? Yes. But I know how hard it is to get a good night's rest when ones feet are swollen and throbbing from standing 12 hours a day. I used to work retail too.
And I know the sweet relief a massage can give to those hard working feet.

With that simple act, my love for Hubby was deepened, which is so not what I expected! It proved to me that a selfless act can benefit the giver as well. So selfish motives are the only reason one can be unhappy when showing love because there are high expectations about being repaid. I'm overwhelmingly thankful that the Lord continues to teach, no matter how stubborn I am. And I'm happy to know that such a small gesture made such an impact on both Hubby and me!

Proverbs 28:20a A faithful man shall abound with blessings:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Love Dare #27 Love Encourages

DARE 27: Eliminate the poison of unrealistic expectations in your home. Think of one area where your spouse has told you you're expecting too much, and tell them you're sorry for being so hard on them about it. Promise them you'll seek to understand, and assure them of your unconditional love. 

I often expect Hubby to help me install decor, rearrange furniture, etc on his days off. I also expect him to help with Baby Boy the mornings he doesn't have to work. The way I see it, Baby Boy and our home are both of our responsibilities. I do what I can during the time I am alone, but when Hubby is around, I expect to equally share duties. And sometimes I can be a bit of a pain about reminding him of that. But the more I watch Hubby, I see that he actually does make my day easier when he's at home. He does the laundry, takes the trash out, does the dishes, he cooks, helps with Baby Boy's potty training, and he puts Baby Boy to bed each of his nights off. The bedtime routine is a big deal because it takes nearly 30 minutes to wind Baby Boy down with books, lullabyes and snuggles every night, so I'm very thankful for the free time I'm left with when Hubby takes over.

Obviously, Hubby is very involved in our home and with Baby Boy. The problem lies in my wanting him to do so much more than he does. I do appreciate what he does, but there are some bigger projects that I need
help with and I am easily frustrated when we don't get around to it. But here's what I've realized:

-Hubby's time off is limited and we need that time to shop for groceries, relax from our schedules, and do activities as a family.

-If the decor doesn't get hung, or a project has to wait another week, it isn't the end of the world.

-Most days off, Hubby lets me sleep in and he takes care of our son until I drag my lazy bones out of bed. So I should really stop harping about the infrequent days when he sleeps in.

-I have a wonderful, involved man who is an amazing hubby and daddy.... and who could use some appreciation and a break from nagging about the few things he doesn't do.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Khol's $10 Snail Mailed Gift Card

Aahhh.... Hubby's day off today and the weather is beautiful! We decided to take a drive and ended up, wouldn't ya know it? At a store. My poor guys! I'm glad they put up with walking around while I'm oohing and ahhing over pretty things ;) 

Well, I had a special reason to go to Khol's today and that's because I signed up for their email newsletter and coupons through the mail. Last week, I received a $10 gift card from them! I was ecstatic! Apparently, they sent the gift cards out to everyone on their mailing list and they are good for any purchase, even sale and clearance items. So, yes, that's why, on my first day of feeling much better, I dragged Hubby and Baby Boy into Khol's.

We scoured the clearance racks, hoping to find something for Baby Boy's Christmas presents, Baby Boy's clothes, or some home decor. After some searching, I found the perfect teal/turquoise sheers that were marked down to $4.99 each (originally $10.99 ea). I have been looking for this color everywhere for the master bedroom, but they've always been so expensive. Using the $10 gift card, I ended up paying $1.06 for both curtains! Well, that set me up to feeling great for the rest of the day :). 

Well, hello my pretties

No, thank you, Kohl's :)

Stay tuned for a Love Dare post.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Under the Weather

I've been sick lately. I'm continuing the daily Love Dares in my journal along with my copy of the book, but I haven't had the time to transfer it via posts to the blog. Will continue posting as soon as I'm up to it!

If you are doing the Dares with your own copy, I encourage you to continue, there's so much to be learned from this study.
And for those who may have been following along with me, I apologize. I hope to resume publishing the Dares I have done and have B&I posts caught up to where I am soon.
God bless, Beauties!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Love Dare #26 Love is Responsible

DARE 26: Take time to pray through your areas of wrongdoing. Ask for God's forgiveness, then humble yourself enough to admit them to your spouse. Do it sincerely and truthfully. Ask your spouse for forgiveness as well. No matter how they respond, make sure you cover your responsibility in love. Even if they respond with criticism, accept it by receiving it as counsel. 

So I'm having a rough time understanding the need for this one.
I thought this had been dealt with during Dares 12 and 25. Maybe I'm over thinking the dares, but those dares sparked much prayer and many heartfelt discussions with Hubby where I asked forgiveness of him and the Lord for every single thing I had wrongfully done in our relationship. Maybe I wasn't supposed to go into depth like that, but I'm very thankful the Lord answered my prayers to bring to mind the things I had yet to make right. There have been days since Dare 12, when something from the past came up and God gave me the grace to ask forgiveness right away and square it away with Hubby as well. I can't describe the peace and freedom that comes from being truthful! I would have had a big problem being humble and admitting my wrongs before, but this study has changed my perspective on that.

So, it's silly, but I feel a little guilty, like I skipped forward when I wasn't supposed to, but this dare has been completed. Today I'll focus on prayer and Bible study to maintain the foundation of truth Hubby and I are trying to build on.

For my Bible reading, I'm meditating on some very pertinent verses found in Prov 19.
Proverbs 19:14b "...a prudent wife is from the Lord."

Proverbs 19:16 "He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die."

Proverbs 19: 20-21 "Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord that shall stand."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Love Dare #25 Love Forgives

DARE 25: Whatever you haven't forgiven in your mate, forgive it today. Let it go. Just as we ask Jesus to "Forgive us our debts" each day, we must ask Him to help us "Forgive our debtors" each day as well. Unforgiveness has been keeping you and your spouse in prison too long. Say from your heart, "I choose to forgive."

I had several grudges I was surprised to realize I had never forgiven Hubby for. I hadn't known I had allowed them to fester and grow. There really are no words to describe how soothing the Bible, and God's forgiveness are to such pain.

Each grudge was from early in our marriage. They developed from the miscommunication nearly every new couple experiences. But by leaving them in place, they grew to influence how I react to Hubby now during disagreements or misunderstandings.

Disagreements are normal.
What's abnormal is the crippling hurt I've felt wash over me during a disagreement.
A recent example: my suddenly offended attitude during Dare 18.

Now I see that my anger was rooted in the past. I can't expect it to go away if all I do is gather the fruit off the tree.  More will grow in it's place.
I have to take a bulldozer to the tree itself and tear out the roots.
Then the only way to be truly free is to plant something good in its place to discourage any old roots from growing a brand new tree.

Lord, thank You for the gift of forgiveness! Thank you that I am now free to love my spouse without any reservations or old pain. Please remove that bitterness and replace it with love and compassion for Hubby. Thank You for blessing our marriage and giving me this opportunity to grow.
But most of all, thank You, Father, for my wonderful husband. Thank You for his unwavering faith in You and for his inexplicably deep love for me. Teach me to love, Lord. And to always forgive.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Love Dare #24 Love Vs. Lust

DARE 24: End it now. Identify every object of lust in your life and remove it. Single out every lie you've swallowed in pursuing forbidden pleasure and reject it. Lust cannot be allowed to live in a back bedroom. It mus be killed and destroyed- Today- and replaced with the sure promises of God and a heart filled with His perfect love. 

I claim God's promises and will stand fast knowing, not just hoping, that I do not need more material things. Lord, please give me Your peace.
I want to be content in You.

I renounce the incessant lust for "more"; for something "better". I am a daughter of the King and those things have no hold on me when I am delivered from them by Your grace.

I have access to everything You've ever promised through my salvation by grace and Your Word! I have all I ever need and I confess my sins of wanting that perfect house and that perfect car.

I renounce the lie and the emotional pain of 'needing' a socially accepted body.

And I beg forgiveness and renounce those times of frustration when I've wished for a better, easier or wealthier life.

Please, Lord, cleanse me of my selfishness, vanity and envy.
Replace them with contentment and love.
And grant me the wisdom and strength to bloom where I am now planted in life.

I kneel, broken, before You praying for a change in me that will strengthen my marriage and family.
Help me to shine Your light every where I go, presenting myself as a daughter of the King should in thought, manner, speech and action. Teach me to put keeping my home well, and physical presentation in it's place, remembering that although I should take care in these things, nothing is more important than Your work.

Use me, Lord, even if it's only as a quiet example of how wonderful and good You truly are.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Love Dare #23 Love Always Protects

DARE 23: Remove anything that is hindering your relationship, any addiction or influence that's stealing your affections and turning your heart away from your spouse. 

I was nervous as I prayed and went over in my mind anything that qualified as a parasite, bad influence or affection stealer in my life. How amazingly grateful I was to realize that the Lord has protected our marriage from anything like that. However, even though I don't have anything to throw out, I do have a few things that have taken up much of my time in the past and have potential to become addictions if left unchecked:
Bargain/coupon shopping (Touched on in Dare 12)

I pray that by being on guard I can consciously limit the time spent on these things and will commit to put my marriage/spouse first and family second before considering giving my time and heart to these things.

Lord, let me be like the wise woman who builds up her house and not like the foolish one who tears it down with her own hands. Thank you for revealing to me these areas which can steal time away from my spouse and family. I pray for wisdom and discernment as I seek to walk in Your will. Please give me the strength to put these things in their own place and spend no more time on them than necessary. If it comes between blogging/crafting/shopping, and spending time with Hubby or Baby Boy, give me the grace and wisdom to choose time with my family over my own wants. With Your strength and patience, I will guard my heart and my marriage and ultimately my family by not allowing anything past the protection of which I am a keeper in my household.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Love Dare #22 Love is Faithful

DARE 22: Love is a choice, not a feeling. It is an initiated action., not a knee-jerk reaction. Choose today to be committed to love even if your spouse has lost most of their interest in receiving it. Say to them today in words similar to these, " I love you. Period. I choose to love you even if you don't love me in return." 

There are so many times I've tried to love with my own limited human capacity and it has been a train wreck. I realize that I am incapable of loving unconditionally unless it's through Christ. My Savior's love is endless, and deeper and more profound than mine could ever be. That love is freely given to me by Christ and in turn, I can share that never ending, always patient love with my spouse when my patience is at it's breaking point. Praise the Lord for my salvation and His unconditional love! It's a perfect example of how I should love my darling Hubby, rising above my judgmental nature to love as Christ loves.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Love Dare #21 Love is Satisfied in God

DARE 21: Be intentional today about making a time to pray and read your Bible. Try reading a chapter out of Proverbs each day (there are thirty-one - a full month's supply), or reading a chapter in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). As you do, immerse yourself in the love and promises God has for you. This will add to your growth as you walk with Him. 

I think daily time with God keeps my priorities focused and keeps my Lord at the top of my mind when rough circumstances arise throughout the day.

I've been doing this sporadically, when I am able to wake up early enough, but I want to try to make it a priority to wake up before Baby Boy and do my Bible reading. I will usually have a time of prayer in the mornings, studying the Bible during Baby Boy's nap time and after he's gone to bed at night. But I know it will make a huge difference in how I approach the day if I've already done my reading.

Draw me closer to You, Lord, through prayer and the study of Your Word. Thank You for Your many promises that bring me through life's darkest moments. Help me to always give You the glory, Lord, no matter my circumstances. Bless my desire to know You more and show me in Your Word how to walk in Your way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Love Dare #20 Love is Jesus Christ

DARE 20: Dare to take God at His Word. Dare to trust Jesus Christ for salvation. Dare to pray " Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner. But You have shown Your love for me by dying to forgive my sins, and You have proven Your power to save me from death by Your resurrection. Lord, change my heart, and save me by Your grace."

The Love Dare experience is now halfway through and at times I felt like a washrag that has been wrung out one too many times. But even after those tough times when I realized there is so much changing to be done in my heart and life, I am reassured and confident. Because I know, through my salvation, that I don't have to do it alone. I can't do it alone. But I have the one God on my side that is capable of healing all my past hurts and showing me a blessed future and how to live in that future full of His joy and truth!

Thank You, Lord for loving me even though I am a sinner. Turn my heart always back to You, Lord, no matter my circumstances. Teach me Your perfect way. Please give me the grace to live and walk in Your will to bless my spouse and our family.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Love Dare #19 Love Is Impossible

DARE 19: Look back over the dares from previous days. Were there some that seemed impossible to you? Have you realized your need for God to change your heart and to give you the ability to love? Ask Him to show you where you stand with Him, and ask for the strength and grace to settle your eternal destination. 

Well, there were moments when the last dare seemed impossible. And the one where I was convicted about finances was rough. But especially with what happened for Dare 18, I understand more than ever that without God's perfect love, there's no way i'd be able to love unconditionally. I'm so thankful for my salvation! But I still need to be actively nurturing a relationship with my Savior to be a vessel of His love to Hubby. There's no other way I could forgive and forgive and learn. If it was left to my own strength and love, I would have given up when things got rough.

Lord, help me to love as You love! And let me be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Let your beautiful love shine through me so I can be a proper helpmeet to my husband. I only want to please You and to serve You in everything, especially in loving my spouse unconditionally.

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Love Dare #18 Aahh... Romance

DARE 18: Prepare a special dinner at home, just for the two of you. The dinner can be as nice as you prefer. Focus this time on getting to know your spouse better, perhaps in areas you've rarely talked about. Determine to make it an enjoyable evening for you and your mate. 

This was a learning experience. I had a migraine so went to lay down before starting dinner, but I had told Hubby in the morning that we were going to have a romantic dinner. He was pleased with the prospect. Well, imagine my surprise when I came out to start dinner half an hour later and Hubby had everything well under way and gave me a quick kiss and a sympathetic "Go ahead and sit down. Relax."
What a sweetheart!

Well, since he had everything almost done, I decided I could decorate our table, which I hadn't thought I'd have time to do with my sudden headache. I gathered simple decorations from other areas of our home and decided to feature tea light candles and the flowers Hubby brought home for me earlier this week.
Used our wall sconce for the very first time for our romantic dinner.

Oh, I just had to leave that pattern board in the background!
Trimmed a few flowers and placed them in candle holders
 interspersed with some tea lights.

So, I'm not the greatest photographer. The steak was delicious, though.
Hubby did a great job!

Anyway, after all that, we were enjoying the evening talking over candle light as Baby Boy happily watched Veggie Tales in the background. Then, something horrible happened. I allowed myself to be offended over a very small thing and.... it almost ruined the rest of our evening! Terrible how selfishness can creep in and spoil an otherwise wonderful, time of pure togetherness, isn't it? So, there I was running to the bathroom in tears and Hubby was close behind me. He apologized over and over and tried to comfort me and you know what? It was phenomenally hard to forgive him! Even though I was basically nit picking I found it very hard to forgive. Thankfully, within the hour, I was able to ask the Lord for forgiveness regarding my selfish attitude and was free to, in my turn, forgive Hubby. Well, the poor man felt terrible, and before my little tirade, we were having an amazing time talking about the future and our hopes. So, I learned the hard way that no matter how much I am trying to be a good wife, there will be instances that trip me up. Spiritual maturity will show whether I handle it well or not. I think, by tonight's display, it's safe to say I am far, far away from being spiritually mature. But, I'm willing to learn and will be praying more that I be on guard for situations like this.

I want to be used of You, Lord! Take away the selfish desires in my heart and replace them with your perfect peace, patience and most of all wisdom! Strengthen my faith so I can recognize and deny the pride that inevitably creeps into my human heart. Leave in pride's place a willingness to glorify You in everything I do, and the wisdom and understanding to serve You (not myself) in every situation.

Proverbs 4:7
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Love Dare #17 Just to Know You More

 Summer 2010

DARE 17: Determine to guard your mate's secrets (unless they are dangerous to them or to you) and to pray for them. Talk with your spouse, and resolve to demonstrate love in spite of these issues. Really listen to them when they share personal thoughts and struggles with you. Make them feel safe.

Praise the Lord that critical words didn't come as I listened to Hubby's concerns! I know a short time ago I would have given my opinion instead of listening fully. After a very honest conversation, I was able to acknowledge what Hubby had shared with me and be confident that I can pray specifically and more effectively for him. I hadn't realized how important it is to offer to listen after establishing a supportive environment for him to air his thoughts in. It also made me realize again what a wonderful man he is! His biggest concern is worry for me and Baby Boy and I am now able to do more of my part by encouraging him that he is doing well as husband and father and by praying that these worries will be surrendered to the Lord.

Song of Solomon 6:3 is quoted in the book in reference to this dare.
 "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."
Hubby and I both love that passage, but it has a whole new meaning to me now. It's not just about ownership, or husband/wife rights like I had thought before. I now see it as an encouragement. We were given to each other to keep each other's hearts, guard each other's peace of mind and when doubt creeps in, to point the other back to the Lord. What a wonderful, reassuring thing to know! And what a blessing marriage is! I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine..... Beautiful.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Love Dare #16 Prayer

DARE 16: Begin praying today for your spouse's heart. Pray for three specific areas where you desire for God to work in your spouse's life and in your marriage.

I have definitely experienced the power of prayer in the past, and am fully aware of how God can work through this seemingly passive action. After much thought, I have chosen the three areas in which I'll pray for Hubby and I was so thankful to find that praying for him didn't feel forced or unnatural or bring up unresolved anger in me like I feared it might. It felt wonderful to pray specifically for Hubby! I had been praying for him, but praying in detail about three specific areas really helps me focus and pray more effectively for our family. I've begun praying for three specific areas in Baby Boy's life as well as my own and what a difference it makes! Thank you Lord, that we will find You if we seek You with all our heart, and that if we pray fervently, You promise to hear us. God is so good!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Love Dare #15 To Love and Honor....

Wedding day..... when we promised to love and honor each other

DARE 15: Choose a way to show honor and respect to your spouse that is above your normal routine. It may be holding the door for her. It might be putting his clothes away for him. It may be the way you listen and speak in your communication. Show your mate that he or she is highly esteemed in your eyes.

From now on I choose to honor Hubby by trying to actively be in the moment when we are speaking to each other. Being a chronic multitasker, it's very hard for me to do one thing only. So when I'm talking to Hubby, I either have the laptop on doing research on whatever has my attention at the moment (I'm a chronic fact junkie as well) or a few projects, cleaning and the television going. I may occasionally look him in the eye and I am totally able to really listen and respond as well as work on something else, but..... I never stopped to think how it appeared. Now I see the scenario and am inwardly cringing. It would appear I don't value my time or conversation with Hubby and that's not true. So I choose to honor him by giving my full attention to our conversations whether it be on the phone or in person. I especially want to pay attention to this in the evenings, which is really our only alone time since I'm not up early most days. This may take some practice as it's pretty much second nature to me now to have a million things happening at once. But I'm excited about it especially with how much Dare 14 helped my perspective!

I also think that in the future, I need to make it a priority to keep the master bed and bath a peaceful place for us as another way to honor our relationship. That's another ingrained habit I'll have to work at chipping away. It's no secret that I struggle with housework. And while I keep the rest of our home in decent condition (ie: I wouldn't be embarrassed if someone were to walk in at any minute), the master room is increasingly becoming more or less storage for things that don't have a place. It will help me as well, to rest better and not constantly be worrying about the piles of things around us when I'm trying to fall asleep.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Love Dare #14 Just to Be With You

 With my love

DARE 14: Purposefully neglect an activity you would normally do so you can spend quality time with your spouse. Do something he or she would love to do or a project they'd really like to to work on. Just be together.

I chose to not be on the laptop in the evening. Hubby works late so when he comes home he eats dinner and then we both relax on our respective computers. We carry on a conversation most times with the TV on in the background, but tonight I gave him my full attention, making my mind up before hand not to be offended if he chose to continue to be on his computer. After all, he gets going early in the morning and works 12 hours, so the evenings are his only chance to be off his feet and unwind.

This went off without a hitch, and honestly, I'm not sure Hubby even noticed, but that's not what this was about. I was able to really concentrate on being there with him. I found that without expecting attention in return, I ended up enjoying the evening and our sporadic conversation as he caught up with email and things online. I really was surprised to realize I enjoyed simply sitting there with no pressure on either of us to fill the silence with inane conversation or becoming distracted by what was on TV. The evening ended with a feeling of contentment, even though it consisted of what, a short time ago, I would have considered as a boring time. It truly is a blessing and a joy just to be together! Thank you, Lord for opening my eyes!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Love Dare #13 Fight Fair

DARE 13: Talk with your spouse about establishing healthy rules of engagement. If your mate is not ready for this, then write out your own personal rules to "fight" by. Resolve to abide by them when the next disagreement occurs. 

Hubby was very agreeable and willing to talk about this. I'm continually amazed at how the Lord is using this study to better our relationship! We made a list of rules for future use and I'm feeling unexpectedly relieved and more prepared. Every couple has disagreements, and I remember us making a similar list when we first got married, but we've both ignored the set guidelines at times.
Here are a few of the ones we've decided on:

-We will not bring up unrelated things from the past.
-We will not use absolutes. Eg: You always do this... I never get to do this..."

The list has more rules, but that's just a peek. I don't want to influence anyone else who may be participating. The rules need to be personalized for your particular relationship. As it is, Hubby and I are confident in our new rules and even though we hope to never need them, at least when we do, we'll be prepared to fight fair. Instead of arguments tearing us apart slowly they can be a constructive way to air disagreements, forgive and move on as a stronger couple.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Love Dare #12 Love Weathers Storms

This is a long one, because it was very personal.

Rainstorm in Samoa

DARE 12: Demonstrate love by willingly choosing to give in to an area of disagreement between you and your spouse. Tell them you are putting their preference first. 

Oh my. I wasn't sure what to do for this dare so decided to spend the day praying about it and hoping the Lord would reveal to me what needed to be done so I could continue to grow.

By the end of the day, I knew for sure what I needed to speak to Hubby about but was struggling with being humble about it. Then I reread the dare and saw that quoted as a reference to the topic was this verse:
James 3:17 "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy."

If I wanted to be obedient to God's Word and yield to His wisdom, I needed to first be sure my intentions were pure, peaceful, gentle. I had to do away with partiality (or selfishness) and my hypocrisy in our marriage! This was a tough pill to swallow, but I placed it all in the Lord's hands, asking for forgiveness in my selfishness and asking that He replace it with a willingness to promote peace and gentle interactions between Hubby and myself. I can get pretty feisty. It can be a good thing to be passionate, but not when it turns into hard hearted selfish action. After asking God's forgiveness, it was time to ask for Hubby's and to yield to his preference.

My conviction was about finances.
Ooh, big scary word.
I love to find things on clearance and often will smudge my household budget a bit when I find something for a great price that I just 'have to have'. I'm not talking about my normal spending I get to do as part of my job as decorator, teacher and wife. I mean those times when I've spent my weekly allotment but will knowingly purchase something else, essentially taking from another part of our budget to scratch that retail itch. And here's the part that I was convicted about: I don't tell Hubby about it. The man will call me in the middle of the day to ask if he can purchase a soda, for crying out loud! Because he knows it's not in our regular budget and that we both control the finances as a team. But I have been doing this sneaky spending for a while now, ignoring the little nudge in my heart telling me, You're being a hypocrite. I try to hush the guilt by bragging about how little the awesome thing cost. Now, every time Hubby finds out about my purchases, either by coming home and me showing them off to him, or by his weekly balancing of our accounts, he is never angry. He tells me how good I did and how great the clothing/decor, etc looks. Well, of course, then I feel terrible! But another week goes by and I do it all over again.

I don't spend frivolously. I don't buy full price and it's rare that I even buy things as high as 50% off, it's usually discounted even deeper. But the household and clothing budget is totally different from our grocery budget, so it's not like I don't get to shop. This covert extra spending, no matter how little, has been my tiny way of rebelling and I never admitted it to myself. I have been lying by omission to my husband! The strange thing is, I haven't done this type of spending since starting the Love Dare. I knew deep down that I was sinning and so avoided it, even though I never confronted it and removed it from my life.

This hypocritical spending has been my underhanded way of rebelling against the 'couple identity' I so hated early in my adulthood. I chafed to be recognized as my own individual and feared being known simply as so-and-so's girlfriend or wife. Even though I'm now happily married and am proud to be Hubby's wife, old habits die slowly and even as they're dying sometimes you have to administer the final blow. I had given up the outward actions and attitude from the old habit. And a good thing, too. My fear of being seen as anyone but myself made our dating life and first years of marriage tougher than it needed to be.
So much pride.
So not worth it!
I'm so thankful the Lord gave me such a patient and good man! Hubby loves me still, stubborn idiocy and all. But even though the outward attributes of my habit were gone, this undercover one persisted. And I was scared to death to talk to Hubby about it. I prayed and cried, asking for strength and humility.
Then I took a deep breath and told Hubby everything and asked for his forgiveness.

Proving again that our heavenly Father is always good to His children, Hubby forgave me and we had a wonderful talk about our finances and what we'll do from now on. And now we know that we are committed to keeping our word and not making our bills harder to pay than they need to be. A little bit here and there certainly add up, and he, sweet man, had noticed (well, yeah, I should've remembered I didn't fall in love with a stupid man) but had said nothing. Why? Because, as he said, he trusts me. Because he loves me. So of course, I bawled. And he held me and we talked about our future and how thankful we are for everything God continues to provide.

Imagine if I had kept this bad habit. It may have only been a few dollars a week now, but in a few years that dollar amount may have grown to financially crippling proportions! I shudder to think of the consequences I may have subjected my precious family to by my thoughtless actions.

These dares are really hitting home lately. From the easy changes to the ones that take a lot of humbling. But so far, they've all taught me something. One dare can encourage me in something I am doing right while another forces me to honestly look at myself and see how I can handle a situation better. I can feel our marriage bond strengthening, and I know Hubby can feel it too. God bless the authors of the Love Dare, Stephen and Alex Kendrick! The book is definitely an experience and one I'm looking forward to continue if the Lord wills.

A few verses that I will use to keep accountable. Praise the Lord for the tools to draw closer to Him!
Romans 12:18 "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."

Romans 14: 7-8a " For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord:"

Romans 12: 9-12 "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;"

Isaiah 55:2 "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Love Dare #11 Need- A Condition Requiring Supply or Relief

Stolen kiss on a doorstep. Not a need, but very nice :)

DARE 11: What need does your spouse have that you could meet today? Can you run an errand? Give a back rub or foot massage? Is there housework you could help with? Choose a gesture that says, "I cherish you" and do it with a smile.

I was at a loss as to what I could do for Hubby that fills a need, and then I realized something. I had spoken with him and arranged for him to sleep in tomorrow on his day off. He usually likes to rise early anyway so he can spend as much of the day as possible with me and Baby Boy, but he has been so tired lately. During our conversation, Hubby admitted he was tired and sleeping in would be good. So I agreed to keep Baby Boy out of our room until an appointed time.

UPDATE: Hubby loves when we get woken up by our little one, but he really appreciated the extra rest this morning. Yay! It's amazing what a little consideration can do for a relationship. We are off to a great start on our family day :).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Love Dare #10 Sweet Somethings

Heart shaped coral Hubby and I found on the beach

DARE 10: Do something out of the ordinary today for your spouse- something that proves (to you and to them) that your love is based on your choice and nothing else. Wash her car. Clean the kitchen. Buy his favorite dessert. Fold the laundry. Demonstrate love to them for the sheer joy of being their partner in marriage.

I am seeing more and more as I go through these dares how Hubby does most of these on his own ever since we first got married! Very humbling, as I'm only now looking in detail at my own actions and reactions in our marriage. He definitely does something 'just because' at least once a week. And that's at the very least. Usually it's 3 times or more that I find a pleasant surprise in the morning: The dishwasher running and the sink cleaned or Baby Boy happy and dry in his room (Hubby having changed his soggy night time diaper before leaving for work), etc. And he always makes a full pot of coffee in the morning, drinking his half and leaving the rest warming in the carafe for me to stumble into the kitchen and find an hour later with a toddler in tow.

Well, because of a busy day, I never got around to reading this dare and remembered at the last minute. Oops! I read it right before bed and then determined to complete it the next day, but was at a loss for what to do. Really, what could I do? I do most of the household things, happily, I might add, it's part of my awesome job :). But on those mornings when a sparkling sink (that I didn't have to scrub) greets me, I count my blessings. Hubby works all day too, after all, and is wonderful about doing his chores. So when he takes on a little extra in our home, it's makes me feel like a kid with a huge chunk of homework done! I use that extra time just for me, either reading, working on crafts or watching a movie while Baby Boy naps, because I know that's how Hubby intended it. He was trying to give me a break and I always appreciate it! Anyway, back to the dare. I set my alarm and had my plan in place.

I beat Hubby to the coffee pot in the morning and he looked at me oddly but smoothly walked down the hall to Baby Boy's room and soon I heard a cheery "Good morning, Daddy!" followed by lilting toddler conversation about everything fascinating in the world. He was changing Baby Boy's diaper. No fair! I seemed to be handling this with all thumbs. The thing was to show him unexpected and unconditional love, not to get him to take on one of my morning jobs! Neither of us see taking care of our son a chore, but the point was to get Hubby to relax and feel special. So, I didn't feel like just making the coffee made much of an impact. I waited around and when the coffee was ready, made both our cups. Yay! That was good because Hubby is self appointed coffee maker, he loves to make mine exactly how I like it and bring it to me as I'm getting ready. Sweet man. So I was able to show my appreciation for him this morning, even though I sheepishly asked him how many sugars was it again? And then as we sipped on our coffee and Baby Boy ate breakfast, I watched Hubby's cup like my life depended on it and offered him more coffee when it was empty. The look on his face was amused and curious but his tone was very obviously pleased, whether at my offer to get it or the possibility of more coffee, I can't say. You see, Hubby is self appointed coffee refiller as well. So, I proudly brought him his second cup and we snuggled on the couch as Baby Boy periodically snuggled with us or played with his toys on the carpet. I think it's safe to declare this as a success! And it made me feel more tender towards Hubby, too. Because I realized how many little things he does for me all week long. I'm just catching up, but I'm finally catching on :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Love Dare #9 Happy To Be Here....With You

Hubby and me. Photo courtesy Lemao Tupua

DARE 9: Think of a specific way you'd like to greet your spouse today. Do it with a smile and with enthusiasm. Then determine to change your greeting to reflect your love for them. 

I love this one! We are very affectionate whenever we say hello but it never hurts to tweak :) I have made a decision to consciously be in the moment when I greet Hubby and to let him know whether by words or an extra hug how happy I am to see him. I was very sincere today in my greeting and Hubby's brows furrowed a bit as he said "Everything ok?". He was very happy, though, when I explained that everything was fine, I was just so happy to see him.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Love Dare #8 Good Thoughts Into Words

Thoughts near the ocean in Samoa

DARE 8: Determine to become your spouse's biggest fan and to reject any thoughts of jealousy. To help you set your heart on your spouse and focus on their achievements, take yesterday's list of negative attributes and discreetly burn it. Then share with your spouse how glad you are about a success he or she recently enjoyed. 

It actually wasn't hard to destroy the negative list. I tore it up into tiny pieces and threw it away. Very therapeutic.

To start with, I can help Hubby celebrate a top score on a recent test at work. This is so important. Because of this dare, I've committed to celebrating his successes and encouraging him to future success by telling him how proud I am of his hard work as a provider, father and husband.

The backstory:
I know there were times early in our marriage when I resented no longer working, and that habit has probably affected the way I react to Hubby's successes now. Not that I feel the same way as I did then, but a habit is a persistent thing! Not that I was forced into staying home, either. We made the decision to be a one income family together. We didn't choose it because it's a commandment (it's not specifically in the Bible about being a SAHM) but because we wanted to personally raise our kids. But just because I chose it didn't mean I had a clue to what I was doing. Being content in my job as SAHM was a long journey and still a work in progress at times. Click here for details. Then and now I find great comfort in the virtuous woman in Proverbs.

Look at the Proverbs 31 woman. She works hard for her family and runs her household wisely. She purchases property with her own money. She has multiple business endeavors that provide clothing, food and comfort for those she loves and those she employs (yes, she's somebody's boss!). She helps the needy. Nowhere in there does it say she stays exclusively at home! Her husband is respected and does his part as well. They are a team.

But here's what it took me a long time to realize: those are the Prov 31 woman's talents. Not mine.
And my talents may not be the same as yours. We are all different and all have our own unique purpose.

Here's what I've learned from my own studies in God's Word.
I believe it's my personal responsibility (no matter if I work outside the home or not) to diligently teach our child about the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), to actively invest my talents and time in my home to 'build it up' spiritually and emotionally (Proverbs 14:1), and to learn from older wiser women (who are living for the Lord) about how to bless my family (Titus 2:3-5). All these things can be done by WAHMs, SAHMs, and working wives/mothers. I applaud working women! I used to think that was the road for me until my priorities changed. So right now, I'm where I need to be and am doing what I should be doing. I had to learn to cultivate the talents I've been given and use them to bless my family. Find your personal purpose and bloom where you are planted, that's the beginning of contentment. And that's what I'm striving to learn, that no matter what the situation is, in the Lord I can be content.

This is my purpose for now and I'm learning to live for the Lord now. Because I can't control what will happen in the future, but I can choose to seek out God's will today.

It's taken lots of sacrifices, living on one income, but there are so many wonderful things about it as well! We are able to focus on the simpler things in life and spend time as a family without having to work around two corporate schedules. We appreciate what we have, including each other.

Overall, we've been blessed because we are not afraid to make sacrifices and fight for our family and how we believe our home should be. Having confidence in God's promises really helps! Without them, there are so many times we would have been depressed and maybe given up without knowing what to do.

All that to say:
Hubby likes to tell me how proud he is of me, how good our home looks, and encourages me in the areas he knows are a struggle for me (*ahem* dishes!), sometimes taking them on himself when he knows I'm overwhelmed. I often think of how proud I am of him, but nine times out of ten (because of a bad habit) I don't say it. I want to change that. I will make sure to encourage him as well, because I believe encouraging Hubby to excel is part of my 'keeping the home'. I told him today how proud I was of his recent accomplishment and made plans to celebrate soon!

I know this is a bit rambling, but you wouldn't believe how much I actually deleted. This was originally three times as long :) This dare gave me so much to think about and I needed to work it all out for myself so I could draw on the past and learn from it. On to Dare 9!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Love Dare #7 I Believe in You...

Love and laughter on our wedding day

DARE 7: Get two sheets of paper. On one, make a list of positive attributes about your spouse. Then do the same with the negatives on the second sheet.  Place both sheets in a secret place for another day. There is a different purpose and plan for each. At some point during the remainder of the day, pick a positive attribute about your spouse and thank them for having this characteristic. 

The positive list was the easier one to make and that encouraged me so much because 1) it means I'm not dwelling so much on the negative, and 2)I have one great hubby!  Also, I loved that the positive list is way longer than the negative one. I know that at times I can stew about the not so attractive attributes, but hey, my own negative list may be pretty long for all I know, so who am I to judge?

Today I thanked him for always kissing me hello and goodbye. It's something about him that I've always loved and he still does it.

So far this study has me learning things about myself that I thought were pretty worked out. Like Dare 6 about control, I totally didn't see that meltdown coming. And then this one, I groaned when I first read it, but as I made the lists, I realized this is actually a good part of our relationship. Wow, kind of shows how messed up my thinking has been. So worried about controlling things I can't control, and thinking it's fine, then meditating over negative things at times when there are so many more positives about Hubby to focus on! After Dare 6 I was a little apprehensive, but I'm encouraged and looking forward to tomorrow.

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