Married Mondays – Old School

Over the past few weeks, I know that I have repeatedly, wrote about shutting off your devices and spending good old fashioned quality time with your spouse and loved ones.  This week I want to step past just talking about things to do with your spouse and hit on things to do as a family.

As we get further into the holiday season, take time to focus on what truly matters most.  Many of us just finished up Thanksgiving, and still have days worth of left overs.  Many of us went out for Black Friday sales on Thursday and through the weekend, and many more of us will be spending time going through all of the Cyber Monday/Cyber Week deals.  These aren’t the things that matter.  What truly matters is looking at what you can do as a family to touch those around you.  Maybe, as a family, you can start a tradition of doing Operation Christmas Child(a little late for this one now,) Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, or working with one of the many other charities out there.  As a family we have made it a point to do something every year.  For less than you would spend on junk that you don’t need, you can use that on someone else.  We tend to fill our lives with stuff, and we retreat to our STUFF to make us Happy, but then we just need the newest thing, or the thing that is better than someone else’s.  And we get stuck in a cycle of want.  Let’s put it in perspective, the phone that many of you are reading this on, will cost you over $600 ($10-30/month at a time.)  If you feel that you can use that same phone for a year longer, what could you do for someone else, for another family, for someone in another county.  As a family take a moment to do something for someone else.  We are now a global community, from your house in the US, you can with a simple click, buy chickens for a family in another country.

This week’s title I took from the book my daughter is reading right now Diary of A Wimpy Kid : Old School.  It has taken her a little while to understand what it is really about.  From what I have seen of it so far is one of the things that I have been touching on over the past few weeks.  Stepping away from technology, actually communicating with words from your mouth, and enjoying what is around you.  Enjoying the outdoors, enjoying company, enjoying each other.

For our marriages and for our families, shutting down the electronics, and spending time playing, using your imagination, talking, and being present changes everything.  The past couple weeks, my wife and I have had the chance to just chill at the house after the munchkin has gone to bed.  It has been awesome to unplug, not watch a show or anything, but spend time together with the Christmas tree on.  We have been able to take this little bit of time to catch up with each other, and put into practice what I’ve been writing these past few weeks.

Also as we get further into the holiday season, I encourage you to make sure that you are taking time out as a couple and as a family, to refocus and rebalance your needs and wants.  Focus on the things that you can do together as a couple and/or as a family, that don’t involve the TV, computer, or game system.  Pull out an old board game, do something that requires imagination, and give them your full attention.  The worries of tomorrow can wait until tomorrow.  Don’t make you family, your spouse, your loved ones, compete for your attention. Go Old School, shut down and have family time.

Married Mondays – Thankfulness

All over social media the past couple weeks, people have been posting days of thankfulness.  It’s this time of year that people are focusing on what they are thankful for.  It’s this time of year that we are spending more time in the next 45 days with family than many of us have all year.  But holidays aren’t what I’m talking about this week.  I truly hope that you aren’t only expressing your thankfulness for your spouse this time of year and just because your friends on Facebook are saying what they are thankful.

As life catches up with you, days, weeks, months may go by without you telling your spouse that you are thankful for them.  You probably tell them you love them every day, but are you saying this out of habit and are you just going through the motions of marriage.  It is easy over time to become complacent and accidentally start taking each other for granted.  We must daily and whole heartedly make sure that our spouses know how much we love them and how thankful we are for them.

Taking each day, making it special, and recognizing the good things that happen every day.  Even the worst days, have a bright moment.  That moment of thankfulness in the day might not come until you get back home, or until you get that phone call right at the perfect time.  No matter how bad you think that your day has been, there is always someone who has it worse.  We live in a nation of “First World Problems,” we live in a time that has forgotten how to be thankful.  We live in a time, that we easily get lost in wanting.

So this week, my challenge to you, is to take the time to stop and look around at what you have, who you have in your life, and reflect on your blessings.  Each day find at least one thing to be thankful for, and share it with your spouse.  Find something everyday that your loved one does that goes unnoticed and make sure that you recognize it.  Take time together to write down things that as a couple you are thankful for, write down what you are thankful for in your relationship, and remember each day that you have someone that loves you, and that is at least one thing to be thankful for.

Married Mondays — United

Welcome back to another Monday!  I’ve gone back and forth on what to talk about this week.  I’ve finally went with being United.  To me this takes being a team, being partners, being there, to another level.  When you get married you are referred to as one mind, one body, and one soul.  You are United.  You stand together as Mr. and Mrs.  You are now one unit.  Again, you will have different strengths and weaknesses, you will have different opinions on things at times, but when it comes to big things you must be united together.

Standing up for something, believing in something, standing strong together, is how to truly build you relationship and shape the future for generations to follow.  It is being united as parents, that shape your children’s futures.  Just being partners in your marriage works for a period of time, then for many that season of life ends and another season starts with a new life coming into yours.  Now the decisions have gone from what do you and I need, to what do WE need.  Life changes.   The partnership and sharing of responsibility now becomes, who is changing the diapers, the diaper genie, doing the 3 AM feeding…  Face it if it’s both of you together that’s great but at some point someone is going to be in someone’s way.

And it’s easier as the kids are younger, but even at an early age, your kids will know if you aren’t united.  If one is the “fun” parent and one isn’t, kids are going to play at that.  They don’t know that they are picking one over the other, their kids they want to have fun and be kids.  And kids are kids, not bargaining chips, not leverage.  Your kids are going to model their future relationships off of what they see in your house.  If that is a life of manipulation and fighting, they are more likely to go toward that type of relationship in the future.  If they see parents, that are truly in love with each other, that take time for each other, and time for the kids, that show that they know where the proper priorities are, they are more likely to have a relationship that is long lasting.

I am very happy to say that my wife and I both come from families that were like that.  After around 30 years or more of marriage, our parents are still together.  We had great examples growing up, and I feel that is why our marriage has been successful up to this point.  We saw what it looked like, to work as a team, stick to decisions, and be dedicated to each other.

This week I challenge you to make sure that you and your spouse, are on the same track.  Make sure that you have the same vision for your family.  Make sure that you are setting the example for your kids, of what a God filled, love filled marriage looks like.  And if you still can, thank those you helped shape your marriage and your life.

Thank you Bob and Deb and Rick and Jazmina, for shaping us and being an example of how to work through things and be united.

Married Mondays — Communication is Key

communication

[kuh-myoo-ni-key-shuh n]
noun
1.the act or process of communicating; fact of being communicated.
2.the imparting orinterchangeof thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.
3.something imparted, interchanged, or transmitted.

hearing

 [heer-ing]
noun
1.the faculty or sense by which sound is perceived.
2.the act of perceiving sound.

listen

[lisuh n]
verb (used without object)
1.to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2.to pay attention; heed; obey
This week, I wanted to touch on something that I have been hinting out the past couple weeks.  One of the things that I feel give my wife and I a successful marriage is that we communicate with each other.  Communication, true communication is back and forth.  It is listening, and then responding.  You cannot respond properly if you haven’t listened to everything that is being said.
Now let’s be honest, the women in our lives will use words that we don’t understand and will say things in ways that we have to really pay attention.  Listen to her words, watch her actions, listen to her voice.  Does this look ok? and Does this LOOK ok? and How do I look? are not the same question, and an answer with the word fine, does not mean the same either.  It comes down to knowing the question that was asked versus the question you think was asked.  My wife had a co-worker at one time that would always answer that they thought they heard in the most intellectual way possible.  A simple question about the time could turn into a story about Swiss watch makers, and 15 minutes later you still didn’t know what time it was.
It comes down also to sometimes she is just going to need you to listen.  Sometimes you just need your spouse to listen to you.  I have always struggled with trying to find the answer or resolution half way through the story.  I’m planning my response not as a rebuttal to conversation, but as a way to work something out.  Guys STOP do this.  There are going to be things that we can’t fix.  There are going to be things that are going out that you don’t want a certain level of detail on.  When you are there as the ear to listen, the hand to hold, and the shoulder to support, sometimes that is all they need.  They don’t always need you to fix it.  Be there, be present, be a listener.  Some times they do want you to take action, just not always right then.
The other factor into all of this is vocabulary.  I included the definition of the work hear as well as listen, but I’ve been very careful not to use hear in this.  Hearing is only receiving the sounds, we hear the keys of the keyboard, we hear cars outside, we hear someone at the door.  We listen to music, we listen to our children, families, and spouses.  You also know over time what the proper vocabulary is for whatever mood you are both in.  As time goes on you learn when to just shut up and let them vent or stew.  Just make sure that you are there for all parts of the communication process.
Take this week, and again as I have said before, put the phone away, put down the game controller, put the computer away, wrap your arms around your loved one.  Ask them about their day, and be truly interested.

Married Mondays — The Elusive Mythical Date Night

Hey everyone and Happy Monday.  This week I want to talk about the elusive date night.  Let’s face it, life comes along and date nights get few and far between once you get married.  Now I don’t want this to be discouraging so just stay with me through this first part…

  1. The initial dating phaseonline-dating-header2
    1. You are on your best behavior, ALL of the time.
    2. You are still getting to know each other.
    3. You are spending time just the two of you
    4. You are spending time with friends
    5. You fall madly in love.
    6. You talk about everything and nothing for hours
  2. Engagementproposal
    1. You are in love and don’t care who knows it.
    2. You know and learn more about each other
    3. You go on private romantic dates
    4. You talk mainly about the upcoming wedding
    5. You unintentionally alienate your, not as close friends
  3. The Honeymoon Phase (The first year(s) of Marriage)Just Married
    1. You are involved with yourselves
    2. You spend hours upon hours talking about how much you love each other.
    3. You have a few close Friends that you still get together with
    4. You go out as much as possible at least a couple of times per week.
    5. You love each other and those around you are close to sick of hearing about it.
  4. The Career PhaseCouch couple
    1. You are both working hard on your careers trying to get things in line for a family.
    2. You go out when you can.  Usually just on the weekends
    3. You catch up with your friends if you can, but you don’t make as much effort
    4. You still spend as much time as you can with each other, but occasionally work gets in the way.
    5. Long nights of talking turn into binge watching shows while you finish up extra work or browse Facebook, or read some blog.
  5. The Family PhaseA-family-watching-TV-006
    1. Kids are now in the picture or on the way or both
    2. Life has gotten crazy.  Days, weeks, months, move faster
    3. You go out sometimes maybe.
    4. The big outing as a couple is a trip to the grocery store without the kid(s)
    5. You take the few hours that you have of grown up time to catch up on shows, reading, and to catch up with each other.

I could go on with lists but I won’t you all get the picture.

Where do you find yourself in this list?  It doesn’t matter where you find yourself, eventually you will hit one part of these lists or another.  This happened with my wife and I.  We realized one day that we hadn’t really done anything for ourselves for a while.  We started making sure that we at least got a weekend just us every few months.  You have to spend time working on your marriage.  It doesn’t matter how strong of a marriage you believe that you have, if you aren’t continually working on keeping in touch with the person in your bed at night, you’re not on the right track.

I fully understand how busy life can get.  Face it you have 3-4 hours of family time each day, you have 1-3 hours of spouse time, and 16 hours things to do after you’re 8 hour work day.  It seems impossible to make time for it all.  It takes A LOT of effort.  But anything worth anything isn’t easy.  It wasn’t easy at the start of the relationship getting to know each other, but you found time for each other.  Now that you’ve been together 2, 3, 7, 10, 20 years, are you still willing to put in the same time and effort?  I hope so.  Yes, dates are going to become few and far between once you have kids.  Make the effort to go out, by yourselves, start with once a month.  Go to a nice grown folks dinner, go out to a movie with real people as the actors, and DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go grocery shopping.  Any date that ends in the Wal-Mart/Kroger/(Insert Local Store here), is not a date.

And this if for the men reading this, make the effort.  Surprise her, do something you wouldn’t normally do.  She has dropped hints, at some point recently about something she would like to do, make it happen.  We are men, we are doers, even when you fail, if your plan is so jacked up, it will give you something to look back on and laugh about. To the women reading this.  We are men, we are doers, we are literal.  We are not going to pick up on the hints that you are dropping in small doses.  We need direction.  Don’t mention something 4 years ago in the middle of doing dishes after that one meal that we had, and expect us to remember in intimate detail.  We are going to let you down when we plan a date.  Sometimes we will knock it out of the park, but we will try.

Not every date has to be epic.  But you need to ensure that you are taking time for yourselves.  Go out for coffee and just sit and enjoy being with each other again.  Pick one thing that you used to do when you were dating, or engaged, or newly married and go do that. Take time to remember those things that you used to do before life got in the way.  Maybe your favorite date memories were riding around in the car talking with no real place to go, maybe you loved going out for coffee and desserts and reading a book together.  No matter what it was that brought you closer together and built that love that you have that used to drive everyone around you crazy when you were starry-eyed lovers, do the best that you can to go to that point again.

If you don’t know by now, my challenge for you this week – Go on a date.  Spend time together, as just a couple, catch up on each others lives even if it’s only for an extra couple of hours that you get together.

Married Mondays – No Mulligans

Over the past couple weeks I have heard so many people talking about time and how no matter what we can’t get it back.  We all have the same number of hours every day, we all get 24 hours each day.  It’s what we do with this time everyday that matters.

“Time is free, but it is priceless.

You can’t own it, but you can use it.

You can’t keep time, but you can spend it.

Once you’ve lost it,

you can never get it back.”

–Harvey McKay

Recently at our church in Kentucky and in Ohio we had a series backed up by secular movies.  The weeks that involved time used Interstellar and About Time.  Both were focusing on trying to do things differently and trying to change your past.  We don’t get that chance.  We can’t go back in time and change our decisions.  We can only make the most of the time that we have right now, and what we can do differently going forward.  We have to value the time that we have with our family, our loved ones, our friends.

A couple of the most interesting things that I have heard about our time these past few weeks have been that it’s a bank.  We must invest into others lives, before we withdraw too much from them.  We have to be careful how we withdraw from others lives, and make sure that we have invested properly into this bank.  We get out of people what we put into them.

The other example was around a man putting gum balls in a jar that equaled the number of days between then and when his son would go off to college.  Every day he removed one knowing that it was one day that he could never get back with his son.  Our pastor in Ohio took this a step further and placed gum balls in a jar for every year between now and when he would be 76 – The average age of a man in the United States when he dies.  Yes, this seems morbid, but put it into perspective how much longer you have with your loved ones.  I want to take this a step further, the average age of women at death is estimated at around 81.  How many gum balls do you have left with your spouse?  How many gum balls do you have left before your kid or kids go off to college?  How many gum balls do you have left with your parents?

I want to leave you with this challenge this week.  Shut up and listen.  Stop focusing on what you have to do tomorrow or next week.  Focus on what you can do with your family today.  Focus on what you can do as a family tonight.  Spend this week going just a little slower and looking at what you have around you.  We are now in the fall, leaves are changing, day light doesn’t last as long, find a spot to look at the trees or look at the stars.  Look at the beauty in the world around you.  Invest in the lives of your loved ones, invest in the lives of your friends, invest in the lives of those that you come across every day.  Do something for someone else, give the server at the restaurant a compliment along with that tip, pay for the person behind you in the drive through, Turn off you work brain at the end of the day.  I have to admit that I’m a fan of the new Hyundai commercial that says “When did leaving work on time become a badge of courage?”  Leave work at work, focus on what is right in front of you.  You cannot get time back that you miss out on with your family.  Your child only takes their first steps once.  There is only one first time for anything.

Take a look at this video, and have a great week.

Married Mondays – No I in We

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

There is no I in Team and there is no I in We.  As a married couple the last time anything you said with an I mattered is when you said “I Do.”  From that point forward You don’t matter.  All of your decisions, problems, issues, and life is shared.  You are now in a partnership.  All of your things have become our things, all of the I want should reflect a WE need.

I headlined this week with the Bible verse that my wife and I have engraved inside of our wedding rings.  We decided earlier in our relationship that our relationship and our marriage would be based on us being a team, and being equal partners.  We also held strong the fact that God would be that third strand and fully integrated into our lives and relationship.

You have to make sure that you are living your life as a team. Too many times you see marriages that start out great, but then they discover that they are both too selfish, or at least one person in the marriage is too selfish.  Marriage is a partnership, it is a true team sport.  For a marriage to work well, both husband and wife must be equal partners.  There are going to be somethings that one is better at than the other, but they will end up complimenting each other.

If you find yourself focusing only on you and the things that want, take a step back, and reset your focus. Make sure that your decisions are based on the best for both of you.  Make sure that you are communicating about decisions no matter how small they may seem.

Being a team and communicating isn’t only about making decisions and money.  It is about sharing responsibility.  It is about working together through everything.  It’s sharing the workload at home, it’s doing things together and working through even the most mundane tasks, TOGETHER.

If you have been having a rough day, you need to make sure that you are talking to your spouse.  Taking time out to talk about what is going on in your life and what was good and bad in both of your days no matter how small, are the extra things that will continually bring you closer together.

Ruth 1:16-17 (NKJV)

But Ruth said:

“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

This week take time to focus on each other.  Take time to realize the things that your other half does that keep life moving.  Make sure that you thank them for the things that they do.  Make sure that you show them that you appreciate all that they do.  Take on some of the things that they do and give them a break.  Make sure that they know you will always be there.

Be the shoulder that they need, be the ear that is there to listen and hear, be the hands that help.