Learning a New Language

This morning I woke up tired and in pain. They tell me it’s because of age and sleep deprivation and I believe ’em.

I’d returned from a conference the evening before tired but deeply encouraged and challenged in my spirit. I determined as I closed my eyes and just before I gave into slumber, I was going to make some changes in my life.

Much needed changes.

I woke up after a restless night, I immediately started thinking about a difficult situation in my life, and then another and another until I finally decided I didn’t want to get up at all… I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.

But, it was Sunday morning and I’d made up my mind years ago to be in church. I reluctantly rolled out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen to brew a cup of coffee.

I made it a little stronger than usual.

It was after I had my coffee in hand and my Bible in the other I remembered…this was the morning I was to make some changes.

Long overdue changes.

It’s so easy for me to be hard on myself.  Honestly, I would never talk to another person the way I talk to myself.  Yes, I talk to myself in my head and out loud.  I’ve embarrassed myself more than once at a traffic light talking away to me, myself and I only to look over and see the person in the car next to me staring with mouth hung open.  I know they wondered what in the world was wrong with me.  I was so thankful when cellphones came along because then I could pretend to be talking to someone besides myself.

I just held the phone up to my ear and talked away.  No one was the wiser.  And, with Bluetooth technology, it’s even easier!

Anyway, back to what I was talking about, so easy for me to rabbit trail.

As I sat in the nosebleed section in an arena that held thousands of folks just like me, I felt the sting of conviction in my heart as the speaker reminded us that our words hold power.  The power to build up or tear down, the strength to make a strong person feel weak and the ability to cause the able feel incapable.  Our words can influence our emotions in ways we can’t explain, they can be a soothing balm or a wielded weapon.

What we say matters.

I sat there listening, and all of the thoughtless words I had said that very morning ran like a movie clip through my mind.  I vowed then and there to be more intentional about what I say.  But, it wasn’t long until I was back in the car headed home and I began to gripe and complain about the traffic.  Granted it was a very big city, and the traffic was backed up for miles, but it sure didn’t take me long to dive right back into the familiar.

Why is it so easy to speak negatively?  Why is it that thinking and speaking more positively is so often like trying to get a train moving?  When I was younger and the world was still all roses and happiness, it was no big deal to spout off a positive word of encouragement to someone who needed it.  But as I’ve gotten older I find I’m more jaded, and when there’s a negative conversation going on I put my two cents in and it’s not always on the bright side.

I have to ask myself why I lean more toward the negative these days?

Is it because of the constant media that bombards my senses?  I was standing in line at Subway the other day and there is a giant TV to watch while you wait.  It was on a news channel and in the ten minutes I stood there they reported on a suicide bombing, a missing child and the dismal state of our government.  When I got there I was in pretty good spirits and by the time I got my turkey and bacon on wheat I was ready to give up on the state of our country, maybe even the world.

If you jump on social media for any length of time you will find more opinions about popular topics than you ever wanted.  And, of course, you will feel as if your life is dull and small compared to all of the vacationers and “perfect” families living their seemingly glamorous lives.

No wonder I feel like complaining and running for the hills.

What can be done to combat all of the toxic words we hear each and every day?

I learned so many things at this conference, but I think the number one practical tool I walked away with was learning to speak God’s word into my everyday life.  I came home inspired, but overwhelmed at the idea of changing how I think.  And not just how I think but how I speak.  It’s not just using self-control to NOT say the negative, it’s learning to replace the negative with the positive.

And the positive needs to be based on a principal from God’s word.

So, for me, I long for my kids to be lovers of Jesus and to live spirit filled, powerful lives.  But I’ve found that I’m hoping they will be instead of speaking with the authority of God’s word and believing He will bring this to pass.  He longs for my kids to know and love Him, He longs for each of them to share in His goodness and see His power at work in their lives.

It is His will.

So, starting this week I wrote the simple words on an index card, “My children love Jesus and live powerful and spirit filled lives.”  And on the back I wrote a verse that supports my statement.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel inside since I’ve started quoting this and a few other statements over my life a couple times a day.  It’s never just my declaration, I always find a scripture that embodies the essence of what I’m asking for because I know that’s where the power comes from. My words alone will do nothing, God’s word brings life and light and every good thing.

Spoken together they are changing my mind.

I’ve found I’m feeling more positive about the world around me, more confident that God is in control.

I’m at the very beginning of this new thing, but already I can tell the Lord is shifting me from “believing He can” to “knowing He will.”  Two statements that seem similar, but are so very different.   I’ve believed he could for a long time, but now I can feel Him leading me a little farther down the road in my personal growth to knowing He is going to do what His word says.

What is it you need to feel more confident about in your spiritual life?  Is there a longing in your heart that you need to see God fulfill?  Is there a dream you need to pray some scripture over?  Let me challenge you to write these things down and then look for scriptures to affirm your request, it will boost your confidence and ultimately your faith.

Well, we finally made it home after fighting our way through more traffic than this small town girl has seen in years.  It was time well spent.  I did have my strong cup of coffee the morning after I got home and I wrote and read a few index cards that made me feel hopeful and excited about what God is going to do.

He is always up to something.

So, if you find yourself needing encouragement or some index cards, hit me up, I have both.

 
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

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25 Things I’ve Learned Being Married for Twenty Five Years

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Twenty five years ago two very young, some might argue too young, people stood before an altar and vowed to love each other “until death us do part.”  We had no idea what we were saying, at least I didn’t.  For me, standing there in a white dress with good hair and make-up was like being in a Hallmark movie. The ones where the most handsome guy falls for the average girl and makes her feel like a princess.  So, in the movie, the couple dates, gets engaged, marries, and goes on a fabulous honeymoon with nothing but stars in their eyes.  Perfection.

And then they go home to live happily ever after.

BOOM!

Reality check.

I remember feeling shocked when I realized my prince didn’t rinse his toothpaste out of the bathroom sink, even though I had asked him so kindly to do so.  And how could he leave his dirty socks in the bedroom floor…again??  And what was the big deal if I slurped my soup off the spoon, didn’t everybody?  Why was he so annoyed by it? And what do you mean we only have $1.27 in the bank to last the rest of the week? What were we supposed to eat?  And, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to cook like your mother.  Maybe you should go live with her…

Those were the glory days.

When I think back, I’m amazed we are still here standing…together…only slightly battle scarred from twenty five years of trying to figure out what marriage is supposed to look like.  We’ve pretty much given up on reading articles about what happily married couples do or self-help books on how to make your marriage better in ten easy steps; although those articles and books do have their place, I guess, with some folks.  The problem with us is we never seemed to fit into any one book or step, our relationship could’ve been summed up as a mess married to an even bigger mess.

And there was no book or plan for that.

I was laughing with a friend a few days ago about the early years of our relationship.  We were discussing flight or fight.  We defined fight as the one who wanted to stay and fight for the relationship, and flight as the one who was ready to flee as soon as things got too hard. Well, for those of you who have been married for more than one second, you know that marriage is always hard on some level.  Well, in our situation I was the flight risk.  Honestly, I would probably be single and miserable if I’d had my own way.  I was young and immature and only by the grace of God and my husband’s determination are we here to celebrate this milestone. 

Our silver anniversary.

I could tell you some stories, seriously, stories that would make you wonder why he would want to stay, but I won’t rabbit trail.  Let me just say I married an almost saint.   I harbor no illusions about him, I still remember the toothpaste, but he has stayed with this by definition dysfunctional woman for longer than he was old when he married. (Think about it.)  So, he must be “sainted” somewhere or he deserves to be at least.

Instead of telling you the highlights of our relationship that might make you laugh or cry, I decided to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the last quarter of a century.  Twenty five things to be exact, just to carry out this whole cheesy number thing we’ve got going on here.

Actually my husband helped me with a few ideas of his own, I’ve marked them with an asterisk so you’ll know which ones are his.

1. Keep Christ a priority in your marriage and go to church.  Just. Go. To. Church.  Without God’s strength and mercy my husband and I would surely not be celebrating today.  That, and the fact that my daddy told him once we were married not to “bring her back,” and I quote. So, there’s that…

2. I can’t stress the importance of this lesson…NO ONE WINS when you fight.  I say WHEN because, you WILL have arguments, fight fair and always strive for resolution.  If you fight to “win” you both lose.   

3. When you look at each other, look past the wrinkles and age spots and see the young man/woman you married.   I don’t understand it really, but I still see my man how he looked at twenty.  The clock hasn’t stolen his youth in my heart. I understand the phrase now, “you’re only as old as you think you are.”

4. See the humor in life.  I wish we had laughed more when we were younger, I think we took things too seriously and stressed out more than necessary.  It’s funny because all those things we were so upset about I can’t even remember today, they all worked themselves out.

5. Tell your spouse how much you love them and show them in many different ways. *  My husband and I have gotten better at this over the years, it takes practice. 

6. Don’t be a backseat driver.  I need a bumper sticker that says, “Back seat driving destroys relationships.”  Telling your significant other how to drive will only make them mad.  Trust me. Just buckle up, pray hard and hang on.  If you live, just think of the stories you’ll have to tell.

7. Don’t wish away the years of “not plenty.” Sometimes I miss having to search for change in the couch and under the car seats just to buy a pizza.  I think it tasted better when I didn’t take it for granted.

8. Compromise is foundational and cannot be understated.  Always be willing to give and take, it makes living together so much easier.  Most of the time whatever it is you think you can’t be flexible about, you won’t remember in twenty, ten even one year.  Let it go.

9. Life is not fair and it’s hard, but it’s definitely worth living. 

10. Always have each other’s back.  We face enough judgement and rejection outside of our homes, we need to feel that no matter what happens there is someone who matters to us that will come to our defense. 

11. A night IN can be just as much fun as a night OUT with the right person. Be better than me and play games with your spouse, they will appreciate you for it.  And if you want to be truly amazing, play Monopoly.

12. When choosing between family and making extra money, choose family.  Every time. *

13. Long walks and talks are as good as therapy.  Maybe they ARE therapy.

14. Kids change EVERYTHING. No explanation needed.

15. Say “I’m sorry” a lot. *

16.  Let go of the dream of privacy once you have kids.  One day, like me, you’ll have an empty nest and you’ll have all the privacy you want.  Hang in there, it will come back to you.

17. Even when you don’t like each other very much, be best friends.  You know, sometimes my husband and I go to bed angry.  I heard you gasp.  Well, it’s the truth.  But, we never stop believing that we are best friends, even BFF’s fight sometimes.  Just always make up as soon as possible.

18. Cheer for each other in success and support each other in failure.  Failure will come, handle it with grace and understanding.  I wish I could go back and relive some moments…  

19. Always kiss, every day. I won’t tell you what else my husband said you should do every day, I’ll let you use your imagination. And the answer is no, we don’t, not every day. Sorry, if that makes you uncomfortable, you must not be married yet.

20.  Celebrate milestones, like birthdays and paying off credit cards.  I remember going out to dinner to celebrate paying off some painful debt, we had done it together, as a team and we celebrated big.  Don’t underestimate the value of celebrations.

21. Cry with each other in grief.  Sharing in each other’s pain is a holy experience.  It will bond you in ways no amount of happiness ever will.

22. Don’t let finances destroy your relationship. *

23. Don’t forget how to have fun in the midst of chasing dreams and raising kids, find hobbies and new things to do together. *

24. Don’t be a flight risk, it damages the relationship and erodes trust.  Stay and fight, it’s worth it.

25. Live each and every day to the fullest; one day too soon one of you won’t be here anymore. 

 I wish I had practiced each of these things from the time I said “I do.”  I learned a lot of them the hard way.   I want to leave you with one final bonus tip, call it number twenty six if you want…don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up trying, loving, listening and being interested.  It’s worth all the blood, sweat and tears.   And, one day, when your hair is grey and the house grows empty you’ll be left standing with your very best friend, the one who lived with you through it all.

And maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to celebrate gold.