Thursday, February 28, 2013

Let's make a deal, dear

"It is a deal maker!" 

"That was a deal breaker."

Marriage isn't a used car lot, nor is it a game show. We are not married to make deals.  But too often we think that we do.

The devil, when he tempted Jesus, tried to make deals.  God told him no.

Throughout the Bible we read about people bargaining and making deals both with God and with themselves, and with each other.  Rebecca and Leah were victims of deals made by their husband and father.  Daughters and sons paid the price for deals their parents made.

Marriages are not made that way. People are not made that way.

I see so much stress and hurt in marriages, in friendships, when there is an unstated, or even openly expressed deal. 

You do this and that lets me do that.

I give you this so I can get that.

Promises broken. Hearts hurt. And we cry: that wasn't the deal!

A deal in business is an agreement with mutual benefit to all parties.  Sharp dealing is when one party makes something seem better than it is to the other party.   There is an implied contract of conduct and outcome.  Sometimes we have to work hard to make a deal happen.

We don't have to make deals with God.

We can't make deals with God.  

It doesn't work that way.  We had a debt worth our lives, and it was paid by Holy blood. For eternity.  No deals.  Accept the payment, or don't.  God seeks all hearts to repent and return to Him.  He won't make deals to get you to come to Him.

God teaches us to love one another, as He loves us.  No deals.

God teaches us our marriages should be filled with the same love.  No deals.

I will love you more if you loose the weight, get job, let me play video games all weekend, buy that toy I want, or buy you things you like.  I will love you if you do something for me.

Our children try to make deals.  A child is a naturally talented deal maker with a cute factor that is hard to resist. But as parents we know we have to resist.

Our spouses might want to make deals.  I want to go out for supper, she says. He says, what is in it for me?  He wants X and she expects Y for letting him have X.  The let's make a deal, dear game is on.

It isn't always for mutual benefit. Often the deal is done for control and sometimes in anger.  If someone feels their deal has been broken the first thought that comes to mind is often payback.  You owe me. 

He did something she didn't want him to. So she 'cuts him off' from their marriage bed.

She went against his wishes and in his hurt he does something to hurt her back.

The deal is a dangerous trap for a marriage to live in.  It implies that there is always a negotiation going on, and there is both a benefit and a cost to the 'deal'.  

The biggest danger in the deal is that THERE IS NO ROOM FOR GRACE.  There is no forgiveness in the deal. There is no mercy.  There is no redemption.

Renounce your faith and you can live. The deal - give up God and stay alive.

Give in to temptation and be satisfied. The deal - when sin is easy, easy is right.

There are a whole Bible full of examples of deals gone bad and a whole love story without a single deal that saves us. Redeems us. Buys us back from the grave. Gives us the model for parenting. For marriage. For service. For everything. No deals. 

The wages of sin are death.
No deal.

The Son comes, and bears our burden and our sin, and lets us come to the Father clean.
That was no deal.  He asked nothing of us but to accept Him and the sacrifice of redemption.

The temptation is great, the worldly models many, to make a deal. Make the deal work. Know what your deal breaker is.  These are not what God teaches. This is what the dark one, in the world, tempts us with.

Do you struggle with deal making?  How do you manage the temptation to deal make?  Please share below in the comments.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent: giving up my sense of direction

Jack Sparrow, in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, had a compass that 'didn't work' because it didn't point to one of the actual directions. Rather it pointed to what his heart desired most. I've written about that before (What The Heart Wants).  This time though Jack's compass has me thinking about the Lenten season.

This past year I've packed up and moved and stayed packed and unsettled.  And we are happy. We are together as a family. We are also in a state of: what next?  There are many options available to us, but which one is the one God is leading us to?

I have long felt I had a sense of direction for our family. I could sense where God was leading us.  I could count on that intuition from the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps too much.  Perhaps I was starting to think it was my sense of direction and not my following God's direction.

So I sit, blessed to be in a warm house that is not my own, beside my husband whom I missed when we were apart, and listening to our son read his Bible aloud.  God brought us here, together.  I could have never guessed this.  Nor planned it.  My human sense of direction is easily swayed by other human desires.  Understand able human desires.  Forgivable human desires.  Ungodly human desires.

My desire to be the only one who could read the compass led me to believe I could anticipate God.  I could feel His direction early.  And maybe I could. For a season. This is NOT that season.

This is my season of giving up my sense of direction and trusting completely in His sense of direction.  

Jeremiah 29:11

New International Version (NIV)  11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

He has plans for us.  God loves us.  He has plans for us.  God doesn't have to tell us His plans.  One day at a time. One step at a time.  

My sense of direction is faulty.  Each time I think we are going one direction, over another, I start making plans. I start thinking of steps to get there. And the direction changes.  A phone call. An email.  A storm.  A broken truck.  

I was crying out one night, tearfilled and confused.  Wondering where God wanted us to be.  I finally fell asleep. And He spoke to my heart.  Where you are is where I want you to be.  Be content. Be still. Trust me.

No sense worrying about what could come if we do this or that when God has it under control. 

This is not a comfortable place for me.  I like having a plan. I like having direction. Road signs. A scribbled map on a napkin. SOMETHING.  And God smiles. 

We are abundantly blessed, and thankful. We are together.  We are not where we are meant to be YET.  God is leading us.  God's sense of direction over mine.  As it should be.

What are you giving up for Lent this year?

Feel free to read the above posts as well.

Monday, February 11, 2013

High Maintenance Husband

I remember one time, when I was first with my husband, he and I were at a shopping mall.  We saw a woman walk by.  He turned and looked at me, She looks like she'd be high maintenance!

So I asked him what he meant - he thought she would be expensive to take care of or maybe would require a lot of work to make her happy. Based on his quick assessment of her appearances and male intuition.

How often do we make those sorts of snap judgements?  How often do we decide that because someone needs something from us, that we don't want to do, makes them high maintenance?

The Bible tells us to care for one another, as we would like to be cared for.  To love. Did I just catch you thinking, "Heard this! Heard this! Know the verses!"

Okay. I'm busted on that one.  And with the much promoted Valentine's Day looming this week I'm sure some of you are thinking of what to do for your beloved.  Or wondering what he may be doing for you.  It is okay to admit it, I won't tell.

I admit. I have a high maintenance husband.  He has a high maintenance wife.  But not in a bad way. It used to feel like hard work until a wise woman I know (read her blog here) introduced me to the Respect Dare, which in turn allowed us in a group setting to discover the Five Languages of Love.

What is high maintenance for your marriage may not be high maintenance in mine.  My husband's love language is touch.  Mine is time together.  How we defined that those two things looked like changed us from feeling stressed at being or having a high maintenance spouse and brought us to a more loving  place.

Taking time to learn what moves my husband's heart brought me to a better place.  Instead of being frustrated at his needs I learned to appreciate how he feels love.  Think about that.  If touch is the way you feel most loved, then the absence of touch would give you the opposite feeling.  What if you knew that and could respond with love instead of frustration? You could surprise him, and in turn be surprised, with what you long for most.

This isn't a romance movie recipe and it isn't a magic marriage fixer but it does help bring you together. When you learn respect in marriage, when you are open to communicating your needs without feeling or sounding needy and when you are willing to understand your beloved's love language you can find something new. Something special.

What did we find? A way to say, I love you without words.  An intimate way to grow together through the two things we both need most - touch and time together.  He has learned that sometimes I get to choose the touch. Just as I let him choose what we do for our together time.  We have compromised and found a sweet spot in the middle.

I can read a really good book and rub his shoulders.  He can watch his show while I hold his hand.  I can do the dishes or cook and he keeps me company.  I can walk out to the truck with him for a hug and a kiss on a wintery morning.  We can be high maintenance with each other and have it not be a negative thing. Instead it becomes balance with strengths and weaknesses, wants and desires, being loved and beloved.

We still frustrate each other. No getting around it. Sometimes we even feel like the other is asking for a bit more than we can give.  That is human nature.  What is God in what we are doing is that we still show one another love, we still work for respect and we can come to a place where we can say, safely, I need a bit more today.  

I need some time together, just us two, with no distractions.

I need a massage, the tension this week has me tight as a rope.

I need to hold your hand during church.

I need a kiss every time you walk by me.

I need to see your love in action.

God brought these two hearts together and like anything that is worthwhile growing love requires work.  My husband is a farmer and he knows some crops are 'seed and forget' and others need almost daily checking and care for a bountiful harvest.  The work you put in often, not always, comes back to you at the harvest.

Storms come. Floods too. Droughts. Insects. Disease. Tests and trials. But if we face them together we are stronger on the other side.   Iron sharpens iron.  Who better to be sharpened with than someone you love dearly?

For Valentine's Day I'm doing a coupon book for my husband and son. One each.  Coupons for their favorite things from me that I don't always have time for when they ask.  This week I'm going to be asking them what their favorite things are to do together. They go in the book.  

We are in a good place now. We haven't always been here. God knows right where you are at.  And the very best thing for us all, as His children, is that to Him we are never too high maintenance!  How great is that?  God never says, oh AGAIN!  He is there. As close as our breath. The space between spirit and soul. How wonderful is THAT?

Please join us in sharing your thoughts, and as always, pray for one another sisters and brothers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Getting through the day

Be honest. How many times have you read this, and smiled?  It is a joke and meant to be funny but there is also a lot of truth here!

We all do this. We keep score. We think we need to make sure we are measuring up to some mark on the holy wall of our hearts, church, Bible study or family.  We think: so far so good.  We forget that good, no matter HOW GOOD falls short. EVERY TIME.

Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

No matter how hard we try to be good we will fail.  Human kind left being good behind a long time ago.  HOWEVER we have not left DOING GOOD behind at all.

Titus 3:6-8 NIV

whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Devote themselves to doing what is good. Not being good.  There is a world of difference there my dear brothers and sisters.  Neither is possible without God's grace. God's love. God.

Don't quit when you think you aren't being good at something.  Concentrate on doing good with the talents God has blessed you with.

I admit I struggle with this.  I am a human being not a human doing and yet God wants me to stop worrying about the being part and prayerfully and with grace work on the doing part.  Why?

Because being good, being holy, being right isn't going to get us one step closer to heaven. Not an inch. And it doesn't bring anyone else closer either.  UNLESS WE ARE BEING GOD'S CHILD DOING GOOD HIS GOOD.  Not our good. His good.

When you want to quit, give up, stop trying ask yourself this: is this because I think I am not good enough or am I not doing enough good?

When we do good things with grace and God's love shining through us we show others living grace, living good that draws them closer to God. Not closer to us.  If we are good, how does that draw people to God instead of to us?  

Don't be like me! Please. If sarcasm became unavailable I'd be stuck doing interpretive dance some days to communicate.  I'm short tempered, I get down, really really down.  I lose my cool. I forget to put God first and see things through the eyes of grace.

I am a very fallible human being, however, I am also a grace covered, faith filled redeemed doer of all the Good I am able to for God.  And some days that doing of good is getting through the day being a Godly wife and mother.  For a few minutes at a time. With prayer breaks.

I want you to be encouraged though. God blesses us with gifts and talents we can use to do good for Him.  They don't have to be great or grand. They don't have to be all day, every day.  They just have to be His, just as we have to be His.

The best days are the ones where I can surrender my being to His doing.  When I can step back and say, "Okay Lord, one step at a time let's do this!" instead of me saying, "Check this out God, I got this!"

I am learning, slowly some days so so slowly, that when I don't get distracted by the dark whispers of the devil telling me who I am and I dwell, instead, on what my Lord wishes me to do the days are better. Even the hard ones are better because I put Him first.

What are your thoughts and experiences on this?  Share and pray together won't you?  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Talking challenges

There are some real oxymoron's for abuse survivors – no matter our age.  Most of them centre around the idea that you can disagree and still be okay.  You can be expressing your thoughts and worries without fear.  It is a mine field with all sorts of triggers, bombs and emotional landmines.
This is one area, though, that can be a source of so much confusion and hurt in relationships. It deals with old habits and coping mechanisms that don’t need to be used anymore, that are in-fact, not healthy for us in a healthy relationship.  Dealing with someone who is out of control and dangerous gives us survival modes and coping mechanisms that don’t work when we are safe, when we are in a safe and healthy relationship, when we are moving forward through the hurt into the healing.  For those who learned those as children, and had it reinforced into adulthood this becomes quite a struggle. Add into the mix our spouses who are often wondering what they can do to help and still avoid being caught up in ‘friendly fire’.
The challenges our spouses and children face as we learn, sometimes for the first time, that conflict won’t get you injured or cause someone you love to be threatened with death, are so daunting.  How can I disagree with him still be okay in our marriage?  Is it possible for us to argue, even loudly, and neither of us be threatened with violence?  That we can at the end of the day not harm ourselves or our children?  How do I stop shaking and feeling like I’m going to be ill when he says, “We need to talk.”
As children of God and survivors we have both advantages and challenges.  One of the challenges we face is that our faith culture does not often encourage us to share about our past, so when we do flash back and respond with old habits, it is shocking to everyone. The advantage, of course, is that we have a faith community who can pray over us, for us and with us. We are forgiven and redeemed, we are washed clean. Even if the devil delights in reminding us daily that we were soiled and bloodied.  Friendships, prayers and learning new ways to deal with both the stress of a marriage, and working on the healing.
Having support is so important, prayer support and good friends who can help learn what is safe, positive and healthy when it comes to resolving conflict are critical for us who wish to learn new habits and new communication skills.
Often when we have an argument or having trouble resolving and issue, my sweet husband doesn’t know if it is something from the past flashing back, something more recent between us or a complete survival mode knee-jerk-reaction. What he does know is that it is confusing and hurtful. Sometimes it is a tone, a word, a look. Oh yes a LOOK was sometimes all the warning I got that the world was on the verge of ending, or so it seemed.  With those who abused me disagreements were when they told me what I did wrong, why I was wrong and how useless I was to them, to the world.  I know it is a lie. Even then part of my soul screamed that it was a lie. What we both know is that we can learn, together, how to communicate in healthy, Godly ways.
Reading Nina’s post (here) got me really thinking.  If it was my old life with the sump pump it would have ended badly for me, no matter what I did.  Now, with my loving husband, we would have decided when together (perhaps after some debate) and we would have installed it together. We have learned to do things together, and we both have learned to communicate better with each other about things.  And that means with respect, with love and without fear. 
One of the saddest days of my life was when my husband told me he didn't feel safe telling me things, and that when I lost it I really hurt him. I was still so deep in trying to protect myself I was in reaction mode to everything. Even the things I should not be reacting to.  We had a rough spot there, but we came through together. No one was abused, even though we both were hurting.  We prayed, we cried, we gave each other space and we came back. We always come back.  God never leaves us, and even if we have to step back for a time, we come back.
Life is fragile, handle with prayer the saying goes. Relearning and sometimes learning anew is also fragile, and needs to be handled with care too. We are better now than we ever were, but sometimes I get confused about what battle I’m fighting or even if it is a battle at all. I either shut down or I fight back. I’m learning to pray first and to know when God wants me to speak and when He wants me to be silent and in both I trust in Him first.  Being in a healthy marriage and doing the Respect Dare, again, has truly been a blessing. A challenge to be sure, but a blessing that has given us a stronger marriage.  Don’t stop on the path of healing, no matter what happened before, keep going through the hurt into the healing. That is where the hard work remains but so do the blessings, and it is safe there. Knowing I am safe, our son is safe and my husband is safe with me is such a blessing.  Yes, we will argue. Yes, we will disagree. We even fight with words, but we always come back. God never leaves us.  If you are in a healthy place, a safe place, in your marriage then you can let the other things go too.  Relearn how to communicate well, and let go of the old tools that don’t serve you well anymore.
Please share, and don't forget to visit Nina at to see her take as well!