From the archives: As you count your blessings today, take time to tell those living, breathing blessings in your life how much you appreciate them. They won’t know it unless you show it!
When making moment-by-moment decisions throughout the day, author Kim Brenneman suggests that we ask ourselves the following two questions:
- “Is this activity glorifying God and serving Him?”
- “Are my first priorities taken care of?”
She suggests that routinely thinking through these questions is a habit Christian women should deliberately foster, and I’m inclined to agree.
To be honest, though, it’s the second question that is most convicting for me. I’m fairly good at finding ways to glorify God and serve Him in the extra-curricular things I do. But tending first to those mundane, repetitive responsibilities such as laundry and cooking and cleaning? That is where I can really trip up if I’m not careful.
I can get so laser-focused whenever I’m working on a project—especially something creative, like writing, drawing, music, sewing, etc.—that I lose all track of time. If left to myself, I won’t stop to eat or sleep or shower until I finish whatever it is I’m working on.
I’m pretty sure that’s why God gave me twelve children and a husband who is quick to tell me when enough is enough -— to save me from myself. It’s hard to get too swept away in the creative process with so much flesh and blood anchoring me to reality.
For me, the solution (in addition to getting up extra early to tackle creative endeavors while the rest of my family sleeps) has been to recognize that the things I have to do are the training ground for the things I want to do.
This concept was beautifully illustrated in the 1984 classic, Karate Kid. In the movie, a bullied boy by the name of Daniel LaRusso seeks help from martial arts master, Mr. Miyagi, who puts him to work painting fences, waxing cars, and sanding floors, with very specific instructions on how the tasks should be done.
Daniel chafes at doing these chores and wonders when the karate training will commence, little suspecting that the chores are the training — or at least a substantial part of it.
Through all those long hours of sanding, painting, and waxing, he is unwittingly learning discipline, building muscle, developing endurance, and committing to memory the smooth, fluid body movements that will ultimately win him the martial arts championship (provided he sticks with the “training” and doesn’t quit in disgust).
That imagery does wonders for my perspective. Those mundane, repetitive chores like folding clothes and washing dishes and brushing tangles and sweeping floors? What if those are the tasks God is using to shape and strengthen and teach and refine and prepare me for the something bigger?
Will I chafe and grumble about His chosen methods, or will I tackle my tasks whole-heartedly, trusting that the Master knows exactly what He is doing?
Note: This post was adapted from my new book, Balance: The Art of Minding What Matters Most, now available for pre-order in both print and digital versions through Amazon. Reserve your copy before November 27 and receive some terrific free bonuses from the publisher.
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the release of the film version of OKLAHOMA by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and I’ve uploaded a new music video to YouTube in honor of the occasion.
It’s a recording of “I Can’t Say No” (the way Ado Annie would have sung it were she a 2015 soccer mom instead of a 1907 pioneer girl).
Of course, I’m singing this song with my tongue slightly in cheek. As my children will attest, I actually can say NO and do so fairly often.
Whether consciously or not, we all say NO to a variety of things every day. The trick is not so much knowing how to say NO as knowing when and to what we should say it.
We need to make sure that we are answering all of life’s many opportunities and distractions in a way that accurately reflects our goals and priorities. The challenge is saying NO to things that don’t matter so we can say YES to the things that do.
For me, a lot of NOs have become second nature:
- To be more productive, I say NO to watching television.
- To prevent unwanted weight gain, I say NO to excess sugar.
- To preserve family time in the evenings, I say NO to most of the extracurricular activities that would split us apart.
But even more importantly, I try to consistently say YES to the things that matter most to me and my family:
- To nurture my children, I say YES to spending time with them, listening when they need to talk, homeschooling them, and heeding when my little ones say, “Hey, Mom, watch this!”
- To nurture my faith, I say YES to Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, and Scripture memorization.
- To nurture my marriage, I say YES to communicating respect to my husband, praying with him daily, and sharing intimacy with unfailing regularity.
How are you doing in this important area? Your NOs and YESses may look different than mine. And that’s okay.
The important question is: Are you making choices that will carry you where you really want to go in life? Or are you stuck singing the “I Can’t Say No” refrain, exhausted from frantically trying to do it all — and weighed down by guilt because you can’t?
I’m Just a Mom Who Can’t Say No
It’s not so much a question of not knowin’ what to do;
It’s just that I’m so busy, I can’t think.
I’m barely treadin’ water, and my family’s drownin’, too.
But if I don’t keep paddlin’, I’ll sink.
My schedule’s overloaded to the max,
And I don’t have a moment to relax.
I’m just a mom who can’t say no,
I’m in a terrible fix.
I usually say, “Alright, we’ll go,”
Just when I oughta say “Nix.”
When a kid pitches a temper fit,
Some say his little bottom needs a smack,
But when my child throws a fit for me,
I sometimes sorta wanta throw one back!
My list of projects seems to grow
Faster than I can keep track.
I’m feelin’ ready to crack.
How will I ever turn back?
I can’t say no!
What you gonna do when your life gets so busy,
You start to feel dizzy?
What you gonna do?
S’pose your sense of balance gets a little off kilter
From running full tilter?
From having tons to do?
S’pose you want to mind all the things that matter most,
But you know you will be toast if you try?
Your life’s already swamped by so many other things —
Adding any more would make you cry!
I’m just a mom who can’t say no,
Something has gotta change quick,
Before I completely lose control —
The chaos is making me sick.
Though I know I can’t do everything,
Sometimes it’s really hard to pick and choose.
Now I’m wound up tighter than a spring —
You better duck for cover when I’m loose!
Lately, I sense an undertow,
Exhaustion has made me feel faint.
My husband has lodged a complaint:
It’s high time I show some restraint!
I must say no!
Incidentally, If you watch the video, you’ll notice I have a new book coming out in December. It’s called Balance: The Art of Minding What Matters Most, and I’m so excited about it!
It’s taken me several years to finish it (primarily because when I “mind what matters most,” my writing inevitably gets pushed into the margins), but little by little, it’s taken shape — and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my heart on these matters and offer strategies for keeping a balanced perspective in every area of life.
I’ll be sharing more details about the book and its contents in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
Of course, nobody sets out with that goal in mind, but as I read through her list, I realized that from time to time, I’ve been guilty of every single one of them (with the possible exception of #3).
And sure enough, when I think back to days I’ve devoted to such self-defeating activities, they don’t normally rank among my most productive or joyous.
I thought perhaps a similar tongue-in-cheek post about marriage might kindle some comparable sparks of recognition.
Nobody sets out with the goal of ruining their marriage in mind, but — unfortunately — that’s the position in which many couples find themselves.
Maybe if we could recognize the habits that are undermining our relationships early enough, we could change our ways before it’s too late.
So, in that spirit, I offer you…
7 Ways to Ruin Your Marriage — Guaranteed:
- Put yourself first.
- Dwell on his flaws.
- Assume the worst.
- Refuse to forgive.
- Withhold respect.
- Turn him down.
- Cast blame.
Don’t accept personal responsibility for any of the problems in your marriage — they are all your husband’s fault. Even your own poor attitudes can be pinned on him: If he were the kind of husband he ought to be, you wouldn’t react the way you do. If he’d get his act together, yours would quickly follow.
Always look out for #1. Make everything about you. Prioritize your needs and marginalize his. If you have children, put them ahead of Daddy, as well. Your husband is a big boy; he’s old enough to take care of himself.
Focus all your attention on those things he does that most annoy you. Blind yourself to any good traits, and zero in on the bad ones. Who cares if he is a hard worker if he’s irresponsible with money? What does it matter that he’s a loving and devoted father if he’s also a complete slob?
Assign a malignant motive to anything he does that you don’t like. If he really loved you, he would know how much it bothers you and stop doing it. Convince yourself he’s acting that way on purpose, just to tick you off.
Whenever he forgets your anniversary or loses his temper or leaves his dirty socks on the floor, make sure he knows that he has seriously flubbed up. Glare at him with disapproval or, better yet, give him a cold shoulder. The longer you hold a grudge, the less likely he’ll be to make the same mistake in the future.
Don’t just give him respect — make him earn it. The harder he works to win your approval, the more he’ll appreciate it once he gets it. (Until then, feel free to disparage him as much as you like, both to his face and behind his back.)
You don’t have to have sex to have a good marriage. The sooner your husband understands that, the better. Why make love when you can make excuses? If he’s in the mood and you aren’t, just tell him to go take a cold shower. Put him off enough, and he’ll eventually give up and stop bugging you about it.
The good news is, you don’t have to do all these things at once to ruin your marriage. Just doing one or two of them habitually is usually enough to make most couples miserable.
Of course, if you’d rather nurture your marriage than destroy it, then simply do the opposite of this list: Place more importance on your husband’s needs than your own (Philippians 2:3-4), focus on the positive (Philippians 4:8), believe the best (1 Corinthians 13:7), forgive freely (Colossians 3:13), shower him with respect (Ephesians 5:33), don’t deny him physically (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), and own up to your own failings instead of pointing fingers (James 5:16).
Jane Austen once wrote, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” But that doesn’t ring quite true.
Experience has proven time and again that chance has much less to do with happiness than do attitude and outlook. Austen might have more accurately written, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of choice.”
Our success in marriage, as in life, is in large part determined by the choices — large and small — that we make day after day after day.
So… what is it going to be? Will you:
- Affirm or criticize?
- Rejoice or complain?
- Hope or despair?
- Listen or ignore?
- Smile or frown?
- Work hard or give up?
- Show respect or contempt?
- Put others first or look out for #1?
- Build up or tear down?
- Make love or make excuses?
The choice is yours. You decide.
QUESTION: “Your book [Love Your Husband/ Love Yourself] mainly deals with wives who are denying their husbands of sex. What if it’s the other way around and the husband has a lower drive than the wife?”
ANSWER: The Bible teaches that the husband has a responsibility to the wife in this area, just as surely as the wife has a responsibility to the husband. (See 1 Corinthians 7:2-5) Each is completely dependent upon the other, as we are given no other righteous alternative for experiencing sexual fulfillment other than with one’s own spouse (thus God’s command that neither is to deprive the other).
That’s why I think the frequency with which a couple has sex should really be determined by whichever spouse has the stronger drive. I suggest you discuss the matter with your husband and remind him of your complete dependence upon his active cooperation. You might also read this post, as it has other suggestions for a wife whose husband seems disinterested in sex.
Although it is more common for the man to have the stronger drive, I’ve heard from many, many wives for whom the roles are reversed. It is an agonizing place to be.
If something were to change and I found myself in that situation, I wouldn’t hesitate to discuss it with my husband. Depending on how that talk went, I would probably get a doctor and/or counselor involved, as well.
And since, in our case, a sudden disinterest in sex would be a huge departure from his thirty-year norm, once I ruled out any health concerns or other legitimate causes, I would likely be asking some tough questions about masturbation, pornography, and/or adultery.
A frank discussion about those topics might be in order, even if there hasn’t been an abrupt change in your husband’s interest in intimacy. Although there are definitely some physical things that will affect a man’s libido — low testosterone, depression, anxiety, fatigue, alcohol, drugs, and certain prescription meds, to name just a few — there is a big difference between a man with a low sex drive and a man with a high sex drive who is getting his needs met elsewhere.
From the first moment you held that tiny baby in your arms, you knew the day would dawn when you’d have to let her go.
But it came much sooner than you expected, didn’t it? The child who yesterday was snuggling in your lap has almost overnight transformed into a wonderful young adult who is packing bags, leaving home, moving away… and taking your heart along for the ride.
So now you are choking back the tears and trying to swallow that lump in your throat. Not because you have a lot of regrets. You don’t. You were the best mother you knew how to be, and you love your child more than life itself.
Always have. Always will.
But, oh how you miss her! You miss hearing the details of her days. The happy chatter. The sparkle in her eye. The infectious laugh. The music she made when practicing piano.
And that empty place at the dining room table is a daily reminder that she’s gone.
It’s a bittersweet time of life. But in the midst of your lonely, melancholy moods, I hope you’ll find encouragement in these thoughts:
- This is the natural order of things.
Our little ones were never meant to stay little forever.
The whole goal of parenting is to work ourselves out of a job. To raise capable, confident children who are able not only to survive, but to thrive as responsible, caring adults.
Leaving home brings them one step closer to that objective.
- We still have telephones.
And Skype. And Facetime. And instant messaging. And Twitter. And email. Not to mention snail mail (a perennial favorite in our household).
Even when my daughter spent six months on the other side of the globe, whenever she Skyped us, it was almost like having her back in our living room.
When our fore-mothers said goodbye to their adult children, it was often as they were boarding a ship to sail to the New World or climbing into a covered wagon to cross a continent. Those mothers knew they literally might never see their child again.
When you think about it in those terms, we really have it easy.
- Kids come back to visit (bringing reinforcements with them).
Whether your child is moving into the dorms or exchanging vows at an altar, she isn’t leaving your life forever. Not only will you hear from her again, but she’ll come home to visit, as well.
And when she does, there’s a good chance she’ll bring her college classmates, then later a spouse and children, with her.
So do what you can to make home a warm and welcoming place to be, and be happy for whatever time she’s able to spend there with you.
- The other people in your home are depending on you.
If your child left younger siblings at home when she moved away, then you haven’t worked yourself out of a job quite yet. Your other children need you to remain fully engaged in their lives. Let the first child’s leaving motivate you to use well the time that remains with the others.
If you are blessed to still have a husband at home, now would be a great time to give him an extra measure of love and attention, as well. One of these days, that last little bird will finally fledge and fly away, and then it will just be the two of you together again. By investing wisely in your marriage along the way, you can ensure it continues to flourish even after the nest is empty.
If this child’s departure left you truly alone, with no spouse and no younger children needing your attention, then look for ways to invest in the lives of others in your church and community.
My own mother, now widowed, lives out this principle beautifully: She works in the nursery at church (weekly), attends Bible Study Fellowship (weekly), teaches a BSF children’s class (weekly), volunteers with Buckner Children’s Home (weekly), is active with several widows’ and senior citizens’ groups (often hosting them in her home), and plays a vital role in the lives of her children and grandchildren. Mom is proof that living alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely.
- The next season of life deserves to be savored.
If you spend too much time pining for the season just past, you’ll fail to fully appreciate the season in which you presently find yourself.
Those happy, hectic years of nursing babies and changing diapers and chasing toddlers marked one of the sweetest, most precious seasons of my life. But I must admit that when I first began my journey into motherhood, I spent many a night wishing for a little more of the uninterrupted sleep I’d enjoyed in the previous season! If I hadn’t learned to embrace those midnight feedings, I would have missed out on a lot of warmth and joy and closeness that came from those sweet, undistracted hours with my babes.
Now, after being pregnant and/or nursing for twenty-five years solid, it would seem my baby days are behind me. But rather than grieving that the last season has come to an end, I’m determined to make the most of the season I’m in now.
Your child’s leaving home is not the end of the story — certainly not for her, but not for you, either. It’s simply turning the page and beginning a new chapter.
Best of all, you get to help determine the direction that chapter will take. Will it be a drama or a romance? A tear jerker or a comedy? A plodding documentary or a page-turning adventure?
You’ve got a lot of life left to live, so come on out of your child’s empty bedroom, dry your eyes, and get busy living it. Your next adventure awaits!