When Communication With Your Spouse Breaks Down

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The snarky remark came tumbling out of my mouth before I had time to think about the outcome. I saw the look on my husband’s face, and I knew I shouldn’t have said it. Immediately, I began trying to explain away the hurt already caused.

But the words were already out there, the line of communication severed. My husband was trying to ease my worry over a stressful financial situation, but instead of hearing him I’d decided to defend my attitude.

We often focus more on being right than trying to mend the wound, don’t we? Our pride blinds us from seeing the damage that is growing with each syllable.

My instincts told me to get defensive. After all, hadn’t I tried to address this situation a week ago? We’d exchanged a few sentences over the subject and I thought we were on the same page.

When it comes to relationships, assuming the other person can see the inner workings of your mind only leads to frustration and disappointment.

If I’d talked to my husband about the matter nearly as much as I’d thought about it, perhaps we would understand each other. But between kids and bedtimes and chores and other demands, somehow the conversation kept getting put off. Over and over. Until the tension mounted and my snide words came tumbling into the room.

In my tiredness I had let the mind-numbing noise of the T.V. do the talking for us both for weeks on end, but The Voice doesn’t do a very good job of voicing my thoughts.

As I stood there in the kitchen regretting my words, I realized the need for me to be intentional. The need to communicate with my husband instead of just thinking about it. That means not trying to have a conversation when I’m rushing out the door to make an appointment or assuming that he knows what’s bothering me without my taking the time to explain it.

When I don’t take the time to communicate with my spouse, I sever the bond that unifies our marriage.

Proverbs 25:24 says, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have my husband in the house with me than on the corner of a roof. Nor do I want be the reason he wants to live there. I want to our kids to see a unit that is strong, healthy and reflective of Christ.

And a healthy marriage is not something we simply find. It is something we have to work toward. Each and every day.

I knew I was wrong after uttering those hurtful words and I apologized. I explained what I wrongfully assumed my husband already knew, and we made plans to sit down and talk about a solution.

If there is a problem or cause of tension that is creating disfunction in your marriage, can I encourage you to sit down and talk to your spouse about it? One of the worst reactions is to simply do nothing.

When we invite our partner into our world, the loneliness and stress start to dissipate. When we realize that we’re working together as a team, we become stronger.

 

*Photo credit (text added)

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday. Come join us and be inspired.

When You Don’t Know How to Pray

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Sometimes I forget one of the most powerful things I can do for my family is pray for them. I worry and I strive. I try to control situations that are far beyond my ability to control.

And then I wonder why everything seems to be falling apart when I neglect time spent before the throne of grace.

On a trip home a few months ago my mom put a book by author and speaker Stormie Omartian in my bag before I left. The Power of a Praying Parent. She has written an entire series of books on this topic. Prayer for your husband. Prayer for your marriage. Your family. Prayer for every aspect of your life and the lives of others.

This is a woman who has seen God move and act through this two-way communication with our Heavenly Father.

In her book, The Power of a Praying Parent, she states that one of the most effective weapons we can wield in our prayers is the Word of God. After all, isn’t this the same weapon Jesus used against Satan when He was tempted in the desert?

When we employ God’s word in prayer, we are laying hold of the promises He gives us and appropriating them into the lives of our children.” (page 22)

As I walked through my house praying this morning, here is what the Lord laid on my heart: teach me that I may teach them.

He led me to Psalm 86:11-12:

“Teach me your way, O Lord,

and I will walk in your truth;

give me an undivided heart,

that I may fear your name.

I will praise you, O Lord my God, with

all my heart.”

If I want to raise my children in the ways of Jesus, my heart must be fixed on Him, and Him alone. When the distractions of this world divert my attention from the One who gives life and peace, my greatest desire is for the Spirit to lead me back to my Maker.

As I lifted my words up toward Heaven, I stopped in the living room. The room where we gather around the wood stove in the colder months and read bedtimes stories. The room where our Christmas tree will go up next month.

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I realized that as a time of reflection on why Jesus came to earth approaches, I don’t want to be distracted from what really matters: Him. I don’t want to be running around in frenzy and stress, as it is so easy to do during that time of the year. I want my children to see the love of Jesus shining through my words and actions, not a mama who is stretched far past her limits.

With these thoughts running through my head, I saw that that verse I’d fallen upon today was perfect.

Teach me your way. Give me an undivided heart.

Sometimes, my words wear thin and I simply don’t know how to pray. Today God gave me a reminder that his Word is always the best place to start.

 

*Linking up with Suzie Eller today as we talk about prayer over your home. Visit her blog for encouragement and community.

When the Days Are Long and Tired

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Although the days have been getting shorter, within the confines of this house they have been long. Over the past couple of weeks as my entire family has battled sickness, I’ve seen my favorite season passing by. From our bay window I’ve watched the rain and the leaves give their last vibrant bursts of color before falling to the ground.

My fuse, on the other hand, has been short. I’ve counted the hours until my husband would be home from work to help care for whining babes. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve apologized more than once.

I’ve sent up prayers for recovery, for patience, and protection for my husband, the only one who has not fallen ill. And in the middle of it all, I’ve seen that even in this I am so, so blessed.

I’ve seen it in friends reaching out with words of encouragement. In hot bowl of soup from a kind spirit. In text messages, well wishes, and thoughtful gestures. Yes, I have so much to give thanks for.

When I focus on the gifts, all of the grumbling fades like a mirage. I see how long his love for me is, even when my vision is short-sighted. I see how long his patience with me is, even when my anger flares.

With all illusions gone, I feel that much closer to the One who gave it all.

 

*This post was written for Five Minute Friday. A beautiful group of brave, bold writers who meet every Friday to free write for five minutes on one word. Today’s word was: long. Click the button below to learn more.

When Raising Them is Hard and You Feel Alone

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It was an ordinary Tuesday afternoon when I opened my email to find a Groupon ad for a cruise on the Caribbean. I desperately wanted to hit “buy” and wondered if it would be possible for my husband and I to leave the next day.

I imagined myself in my straw Panama Jack hat and my bermuda shorts, sailing off into the sunset with my camera in one hand and my other draped around my man. Certainly the grandparents could come up for a week to watch the kids, right?

Screams of, “I’m telling Mama!” echoed from the next room as I buried my face and tried to pretend I didn’t hear them. Then came the pitter patter of small feet looking for the referee who would surely give little brother a time-out for not playing nice.

“Mama, Gabe hit me on the head with the toy and I told him to say he was sorry but he did not.”

Nope. Of course he didn’t.

Two minutes. That was all the time it took after I left the room for brothers to go from getting along to bickering. I pulled myself away from my island fantasy to be peacemaker. My mind searched for a solution that would be permanent but couldn’t find one.

How many times would I have to punish him for the same actions? Everything I tried felt like putting a band-aid over the situation rather than fixing it.

Sometimes in the long road of parenting, it’s easy to wonder whether anything we do makes a difference.

I once heard a friend say she often felt like monkeys could do a better job of raising her children than she did, and sometimes I think the same thing.

We reiterate the same lessons over and over, but wonder whether our children really get it. We model the type of behavior we want them to practice, but there’s that one child who is violent in spite of it all.

So what do we do? Let the monkeys take over? No, friend. We turn to God and each other. 

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When parenting gets hard, one of the worst things we can do is retreat.

For me, a hug often goes further than a round of advice. And a pumpkin spiced latte may not hold all of the answers to my problems, but it will give me the boost I need to go another round.

Friend, if you’re weary with the war wounds of mothering, can I encourage you to reach out to someone? You will be amazed at how much an adult conversation can revive a weary soul.

You may not leave the coffee shop or play date with a list of solutions, but you will know that you are not alone. 

Several days after my Caribbean daydream, I spent the morning recharging with some other moms and their kids. After my oldest came home from school, he and his brother played for an entire hour without any fighting. That is a new record. Somehow, even when I didn’t think all of my discipline and correction was making a difference, it did. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

Keep pressing on, dear one. You will see the fruits of your labor. Sometimes when you least expect it.

 

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday. Come join us and be inspired.

*Pictures courtesy of Derek + Diane Photography, LLC.

When You Wonder Which Way Your Child Should Go

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As I watched my son kick the dirt on the field, it was painfully obvious that soccer was not his thing. When we asked him if he wanted to play another year, he said, “Yes,” but I knew better.

I watched him get excited about singing. I watched him get excited about building stuff. I saw his enthusiasm over camping, forging trails, and learning a new musical instrument.

But I rarely saw him get excited over kicking a ball.

In the journey of motherhood, it is so easy for me to jump on the bandwagon of what other parents are doing. Other moms are signing their kids up for soccer, so I sign my son up too. Their kids are participating in multiple sports. So I naturally wonder if my son should have a full docket of sports activities as well.

All of these interests are worthy of pursuing and help build character. But here’s the thing.

In all of my preoccupation with what other mothers are doing, I miss out on the unique personality of my child.

I want to train up my child in the way he should go, not in the way every other child is going. And my child is distinct and special just the way God created him. My desire is to push him to be exactly who God designed him to be, not to try to be someone else.

Not to be who I am or who his dad is or his cousin or his friend. Just his one-of-kind self.

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In the words of Thriving Family writer Wess Stafford, “The spirit of a child is a lot like wet cement. It doesn’t take much effort to make an imprint. Any time you see your child go skipping by, you’re in the presence of a construction zone and out to ask yourself, ‘What is being built here? Is there anything I can do to advance this cause?'”

I looked at my son and considered his personality. I thought about what I could do to help him not just survive, but thrive.

So the other night when the flyer for the Cub Scouts came home in my son’s school folder, I looked at my husband and said, “This is something Jaden would love.” He wholeheartedly agreed and took him to his first pack meeting the following Thursday.

When my six-year-old came home that evening, he was grinning from ear to ear.

“I’m a Cub Scout now, Mama,” he said as he showed me his new hat and stood proudly in the kitchen with his bag of popcorn.

The hat was so big it made his head look tiny.

“Wow, look at that! That is the coolest, buddy!” I listened to all of his latest adventures as he put his gear in his room, where he supposed it would be safe from the mischievous hands of his little brother.

As we winded into our bedtime routine and got the kids down for the night, I reflected on the events of the evening. My son had found something that fit. He was going to be a part of a group that would help him develop into the man he would one day become.

When I saw his smile and watched him walk tall, I knew we had taken a step in the right direction.

 

*Linking up with Meredith Bernard, Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee.

Learning When to Release the Hold

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I remember my oldest son’s first trip to the ER. He was covered in hives and his face swelled up like a balloon. Food allergies. The news that no parent wants to hear.

When I first saw the symptoms, I had no idea what was happening and stared in horror as my son, though still breathing, was having visible difficulty doing so. But my husband immediately recognized the signs and rushed him to the car. The staff at the hospital called it a “mild reaction.” I thought they were crazy.

Looking back at the incident, I see that it was during those scary moments racing to the ER that I realized how little control I had over my son’s life. Sure, I played an important role. A critical one. But there were so many things that could happen that were unpredictable. So much uncertainty.

Years later, when my son started kindergarten, I was afraid to let him get on that bus. Every time the phone rang and I recognized the school’s phone number, I thought they were calling to tell me my son was in the hospital. In fact, they were usually calling to ask me if a particular food was okay for him to eat.

As a parent, I struggle to let go. I want to hold my kids and protect them from every force of nature that can harm them in any way. I want to put a protective blanket over them and keep them safe.

But that was never God’s plan.

One of the hardest lessons to learn as a parent is knowing when to release the hold.

I still don’t always get it right. I’m learning every day. But the more I let go, the more I find that there is freedom found in the release.

 

*This post was written for Five Minute Friday. A group of beautiful, bold writers who meet every Friday to free write for five minutes on one word. Today’s word was: hold. Click the button below to learn more.

 

There’s Glory Right Here in the Mess

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Our first family camping trip with our church friends began with a torrential downpour, which caused me to let go of any future expectations of how the weekend would go.

Instead of complaining, we laughed. Three families huddled around a picnic table and ate soggy burgers under a leaking tarp. We made jokes. We took pictures. We watched the red areas on the weather apps move directly over our campsite.

Memories were made. Community was forged. And the rain just gave us something to talk about.

That evening, when we were all beyond tired and ready for rest, my two-year-old decided it was party time. It was his first night outside of the confines of his crib. This fact did not escape him. I closed my eyes and feigned sleep, thinking this might calm him.

Instead, he crawled to my side of the tent, put his face directly to my ear, and in a loud voice said, “Hey!”

It was an extremely long night.

As much as I love my bed and a good R.E.M. cycle, I will never forget that night. Even as I type about it now, a smile comes to my face.

When we embrace what is instead of wishing for what isn’t, memories that last a lifetime are made.

We have the freedom to open our hands and receive the blessing that is right in front of us with gratitude, instead of clenching our fists because things didn’t go as we’d planned. We can receive what’s given to us as grace, because everything is.

Our God is not one whose miracles are limited to saving lives and healing the sick. Everywhere we look, the earth is filled with them.

A beautiful sunset after a storm. An expanse of stars that forms the Big Dipper. A dry tent.

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The following day after our restless night, we took a hike around the lake. As I was walked hand in hand with my oldest, he looked up at me, all of a sudden, and said, “Mom, I love you. I really like walking with you.”

I would have given a hundred sleepless nights for that one moment.

So today, I’m opening my arms to the unexpected. I’m embracing the glory in the mess, and letting go of those unseen ideals.

And I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me next.

 

Far But So Close

My family used to live so close I could throw a pinecone and almost hit their house. I would wake up in the morning to find them in my front yard, with my mom planting flowers and my dad mowing the grass. Because that is what they do. Their love language is acts of service all the way, and they would literally give you the shirts of their backs if you were in a bind.

My definition of family changed over the last eight years. I got married. I had two beautiful boys. And we moved over two thousand miles away. Then we moved again, closer but still far from the place I was rooted.

And lately I’ve been feeling a little homesick for my South Carolina abode. But I realized something.

Yesterday, when I was talking to my Dad on the phone and listening to him laugh, I knew we are closer now than we’ve ever been.

We share stories. We listen. We digest each word spoken over the miles that divide us. We talk about faith and hope and those sweet boys that have stolen our hearts.

When the miles between us evaporate into the sultry hot summer sky, we savor each moment spent together. I put away my phone, my schedule, and my consciousness of time and just sit. I soak it all in. The smell of the home where I grew up, azalea bushes and fried okra.

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I understand now that though we are far apart geographically, we are close. Closer than we’ve ever been.

 

*This post was written for Five Minute Friday. Where hundreds of writers gather each week to write about one word. No hyper-editting. No backtracking. Real. Raw. Words. Today’s word was “close.” Click the button below to find out more.

*Azalea photo courtesy of gardening.wikia.com

 

Five Minute Friday

When You Want to Be Right

As startled awake sometime after 3 AM, my anger was almost as palpable as the laminate floor. The air mattress which had been my bed for the past two nights was deflating rapidly since I’d failed to seal it properly. I clumsily got up and fastened the seal, inwardly counting the hours until I’d have to wake my oldest for school.

For two weeks our family had battled rounds of sickness and I wore my tiredness like an emblem across my eyes. I used it as an excuse for my poor attitude, my snippy tone, my lack of attention to details and anything else I could. Now my husband had strep throat and I was doing everything in my power to keep the rest of the family from getting it.

Since he had refused to go to the doctor when his first symptoms of illness emerged, I hung this fault over this head like a dark cloud, reminding him that I had told him at the first of the week to get checked for a possible infection.

The morning after my fight with the air mattress, my oldest son stopped me in my trek of self-righteous anger. Five-year-olds have a staggering way of doing that.

“Mama, do you have to take care of Dadda since he’s sick?”

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I hung my head in shame. Yes, I should have been taking care of him. Instead, I was whining and using his mistake as a reason for my behavior. Was I really mad at my own husband for being sick?

When I promised to take care of him in sickness and in health, I don’t recall an addendum that said, “when you make wise choices.”

Sometimes our obsession with being right becomes the sin that blinds us to our wrongdoing.

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We convince ourselves that because we are right, we don’t have to apologize. And then the pride sneaks in and blinds us to the truth. And the truth is that any act which isn’t done with love does not reflect Christ.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Transforming my mind is a discipline. It does not come naturally, or simply because I want it to. I don’t know about you, but once I start complaining, I find it difficult to stop. I sink deeper and deeper into my self-induced pit of pity until I don’t know how to get out.

My five-year-old’s remark was the trigger for me to snap out of it. Because they’re watching. Each and every day, they are modeling my behavior, my tone, and my words. As he keeps his eyes on me, I’m filled with a huge sense of responsibility.

I want to raise a child who respects and loves his spouse as Christ loves the church. And to do so, I must start in my own home.

 

 

 

When Your Child is a Victim of Bullying

As I listened to my son narrate his encounter with the bully from school, I tried to contain my emotion. I didn’t want him to know how much this story upset me. If I followed my maternal instinct and showed tears, he would be even more bothered by the situation.

I know that these types of things happen to kids.  I was picked on as a child. My husband was harassed by the bigger kids. But I was hoping that my son would move past kindergarten before he had to deal with this type of behavior.

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However, I’ve learned that children model the conduct that they see. And this kid was no different. He was imitating talk he had seen either from a parent, another adult, or possibly even another child.

I was at a loss for how to instruct my child when I remembered the following verse from Proverbs 31.

“She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26 NASB)

My first inclination was not to show kindness, but to have my son identify his peer and wring the kid’s neck. But I know that repaying evil for evil is not the type of reaction I want my son to see, nor does it reflect attitude of Jesus.

So I went to Him in prayer. I laid out my heart before Him, seeking the words that I lacked. For His ways are not my ways, nor are His thoughts my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8)

What I realized was this.

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When the voices of my child’s peers tell him he is “less than,” the words of his Creator must become louder.

I tell him he is God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10) I tell him he is the apple of God’s eye. (Psalm 17) I tell him that he was created in his Father’s image, and that He isn’t finished with him yet.

And then, after instilling all of these thoughts God has toward him into his brain, my husband and I gave him advice on phrases he can say in return. Words which say, “your name calling doesn’t bother me.”

As we instructed our five-year-old, I realized that I was more bothered by the incident than he was. He is my heart, and I want so much to protect him from every force which threatens to steal his innocence. From every kid who is seeking the attention and love he lacks. From every bully and name caller.

He knows that if this kid continues to harass him, his dad and I will intervene. So far we haven’t had to do so.

Despite all my effort to protect my child, I know I must continually give him over to God. He was never mine. In the time I have with him, I will keep the words from Proverbs before me, being faithful to instruct, show kindness and love.

I will be the mother who shows her child that our attitude should not reflect those around us, but the One who created us.