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Let's fight the good fight • www.breastcancer.com (1)He declared it good. The golden brightness pouring across the horizon like honey flowing from a hive. The ocean dancing and crashing against land in celebration. Elegant birds arching and bowing at the ebb and flow of air currents across their missile-shaped bodies.

Then, the man. Beautiful. Innocent. A one-of-a-kind creation fashioned by the hand of God.

But, God designed man for something more than a sunrise to greet him each morning or admiration for his surroundings. Just as the Image Bearer–Father, Son, and Spirit–exist in relationship, God made man for relationship.

It is not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18)

And the One who gives good gifts presented the first man with a woman–to come alongside as a companion.

We are all made for relationship, Friends. It is not good for us to be alone. Separated from others. Lacking intimate, soul-bearing, heart-refreshing relationship.

Being truly known can feel risky. It requires vulnerability and we wonder if we’ll be accepted for the faulty, flawed women we are. This is the unknown of any human relationship, but if we–the Church–love others as He expects then relationship builds its foundation on the Truth.

And in Truth? There is room for grace…love…forgiveness. There is space to be fully Self and fully accepted. Let’s trust each other enough to step away from loneliness and into love.

Lord, help us to admit we need other people and give us the capacity to love others the way you have loved us. Amen

Linking up today with Patricia Holbrook at Recharge Wednesday.

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His brow wrinkled in concern, Pastor Strutz revealed the results of our pre-marital personality tests. For every crest marked on my chart, Dave had a trough. If one area was my weakness, it was his strength. We were living proof of the old saying, “opposites attract”.

“Your differences could be a good thing…or not. How are you at communicating?”
“Oh, we’re great communicators,” I said.

Fast forward four months.  Dave and I had set up house in our first apartment–which was strategically located next to the railroad tracks.  (The managers conveniently forgot to tell us that when we signed the lease.)  Our decor was an eclectic mix of college-aged bachelor pad, family hand-me-downs, and bargain friendly purchases made on a newlywed budget.  Imagine a flag on one wall, a large wolf photo on the other, and a blue-and-white striped sofa in the middle of the living room.

One day when I was rearranging our wall hangings, Dave’s favorite framed piece of art–a work signed by the artist– slipped through my fingers.    Shards of glass lay scattered about my feet.  The frame was bent.  What have I done?  Dave’s going to be so upset.  I spent the rest of the afternoon dreading the moment of my husband’s arrival; imagining the worst.

At the sound of my husband’s footsteps I opened the door, offered a perfunctory kiss, and hurried to the laundromat below.  After folding a load or two of my own laundry–and offering to wash a neighbor’s darks–I finally made way back to our tiny home.

“I broke the picture.  I dropped it and now it’s ruined.”  The words sprang from my mouth as quickly as the tears spilled onto my cheeks.  “Is that what you’re upset about?  A picture?”  And, instead of being upset, my husband laughed.  A warm, I-love-you, it’s-not-a-problem sort of laugh. “We’ll just have it reframed, babe.”  “Oh, okay.”  Sniffle.  Sniffle.

Great at communicating?  Not me.

Even now, I sometimes struggle to express my feelings well.  I prefer sweeping things under the proverbial carpet.  But, my wonderful husband–being my opposite–thinks communication is great for a marriage.  And, he’s right.  No, I’ll never be as skilled a communicator as Dave, but I have learned a lot about  it through our years together.  Pastor Strutz might even be surprised to know our differences have been a good thing  (most of the time).

Three Important Communication Pointers

  • Pray together.  It’s tough to be angry if you are praying with and for each other.
  • Listen without interrupting.  This includes controlling your inner-monlogue–don’t prepare a rebuttal while you pause to “listen”.
  • Avoid trigger words.  Words like always and never are especially inflammatory when they’re attached to the word you.

What are your best communication tips?  Why not share them with us?

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart  be pleasing in your sight,  O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:13-14

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As a young military couple Dave and I made four moves, had two children, lived through three hurricanes, and experienced two deployments–all within our first seven years of marriage.  Our life was exciting, tiring, and unpredictable--and we loved sharing it.

Until…a silent predator stayed for a visit.  It’s name?  Depression.  You see,  I had effectively submerged deep-rooted emotional scars left from an earlier time in my life but–for some reason–those feelings weren’t willing to be contained any longer.  I became someone I no longer knew.  Anger, anxiety, and fear became my constant companions.

At the same time, Dave began pursuing his post-graduate degree.  Any flux in his schedule was swallowed up by studying–after work and on the weekends.  My days were full of two rambunctious little boys, errands, and….those other constant companions.  Our once blissful marriage began to deteriorate.  Instead of building one another up, Dave and I exchanged sarcastic remarks or avoided talking altogether.  Rather than cuddling, we sat at opposite ends of the couch.  We were lonely–in the same house, in the same room, and even in the same bed.

One day, I walked into the family room and stood staring at my husband–this man I loved and adored–not knowing what to do.  Looking up, Dave asked, “What are you thinking?”   “Like something is dying inside.”

We knew something had to change and, at that moment, realized we were at a crossroads.  Were we going to choose each other or a road that led us in a new direction?  Dave and I chose each other.  We began practicing the best advice ever shared with us–always date each other–which we did (and still do–after almost twenty years of marriage, four children, two full-time jobs, and my impending return to school).  It wasn’t easy, it took work, and we found love was both a decision and a feeling.

A few of our tried and true tips?

  • Set aside at least half an hour each day for “couple time”.  Take a walk, sit beneath the stars, or just hold hands.
  • Institute TNC (better known as Thursday Night Club).  Choose one mid-week evening to spend a significant amount of time with each other.  Go out or stay in–but make that time about the person you love.
  • Take turns planning for dates no less than twice every month.  You can get creative–even on a budget. McDonald’s at the park, anyone?
  • Finally, get away from it all.  Stay at a quaint bed-and-breakfast or nice hotel three or four times each year.  (And, ladies, wear something pretty.)

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Transition–the uncomfortable place I find myself when the latest move, deployment, or reunion requires adjustment.   As with most military families, one of the most challenging transitions for our family involved the return of my husband from his tour.  This doesn’t seem to make any sense, does it?  After all, like a young mother anticipating the birth of her child I spent months imagining what life would be like when my husband returned safely from Afghanistan.  Emotions ran the gambit—joy, relief, and anxiety—until the day finally arrived.    But, after a few weeks of renewing family relationships, the day-to-day reality of sharing life set in.  We had to adapt to togetherness as much as we did to being apart.

Rules of Engagement

Two-hundred-forty days of boots on the ground—not including training.  That number symbolizes the amount of time Dave spent in the combat zone and away from the home front.  It also defines nearly a year of our family life.  Dave slept on a narrow cot; I slept (or lay awake) between two anxious children.  He dealt with insurgents outside the wire; I installed a home security system to keep adventurous teens inside the home.  My husband ate the cold remains of what had conveniently been labeled food; I served cereal for supper.   The “normal” of each of our lives assumed a different shape. Now that he was home, how were we to re-engage?

I could temporarily vacate my parenting role; perhaps enjoy an emotional vacation while Dave re-established his position in the home.  Or, maybe I should assert my way of doing things.  Why exchange predictability for a different approach?  Unfortunately, I sometimes waver between these two extremes.  But scripture reminds all of us to “consider others better than yourselves.”  (Philippians 2:3)  Neither approach is acceptable.  Wives and husbands—even those experiencing the interrupted lifestyle of being a military couple—provide their children with a level of stability and security when family norms are jointly agreed upon and managed.

Love and War

The distance imposed by Dave’s deployment clouded my thinking in the same way a dust storm filled the desert sky.  Was he safe?  Did he still love me?  Would he come home?  Such thoughts, constantly a part of my mental landscape, stung.  Unfortunately, remnants of the storm remained behind even after my husband’s return.  What if became my new mantra.  What if Dave isn’t happy to be home?  What if being a family man seems less appealing than it did before?  What if…

Fear and negativity, my strongest adversaries, threatened to invade the confines of our home.  If Dave expressed frustration or felt overwhelmed by the demands of four children and an unusually independent wife, I reacted defensively.  Separation required we re-examine boundaries, adjust to the climate, and expect the best of one another.

Standard Operating Procedure

Our first step toward preparing for transitional trials was to create a plan in advance of major change.  We set aside time with each other to discuss questions, concerns, and feelings.  Then, Dave and I prayed together.  After all, what better way is there to support a marriage and family?  And, thanks to technological advances, praying for one another—and our family–continued throughout training, deployments, and more.

While we expected difficulties, we didn’t invite them.  I quickly learned that when my inner monologue developed into a diatribe, I had to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 2:5) and replace it with positive thinking.

Finally, remembering the storm will end provides motivation to continue.  Eventually the dust settles and, sometimes, an oasis lies within reach.

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Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.  (1 Cor. 13)

I wander through the aisles of Hallmark cards and wonder if I’ll find a card that honors her– without extolling the sort of childhood that never existed.  God nudges my heart. “It wasn’t what she wanted for you, either.”  I pause long enough to stop feeling sorry for myself and remember…chocolate chip cookies, coloring together, and all of the basketball games/recitals/plays/track meets she attended–proud I was her daughter.

I pass by the drippy sweet cards lining the shelves and choose one that thanks her for who she is.  She’ll like this one; it’s sincere.  I smile, knowing that –for a while–she’ll forget the sadness and just remember chocolate chip cookies.  And, maybe, she’ll know I’m proud to be her daughter.

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If stereotypes hold true (which is rarely the case), I might imagine him as a burly, rough-around-the-edges sort of guy.  But because of his willing sacrifice, the entire world now recognizes him as the man who endured the pain of chemical burns in order to pull his co-worker to safety.

Just yesterday, Rob Nuckolos jumped waist-deep into a vat of nitric acid when he saw a co-worker fall 40 feet into the corrosive liquid.  As a an experienced contractor, Mr. Nuckolos had to have known the probable side effects of nitric acid–severe burns, coughing up of blood, low blood pressure, and possible long-term damage to eyesight.  Why, then, did he follow his friend into liquid fire?  Because Mr. Nuckolos acted out of love.  Not love as emotion or love as a feeling, but love as a noun–an action oriented, selfless giving of oneself despite the cost.

It’s an unbelieveable story–repulsive in its horror and beautiful in its sacrifice–that reminds me of the story of another man.  He was a blue-collar worker from Galilee–a town ridiculed for the worthless rabble it produced.  But, because of his willing sacrifice, the world knows him as the One who endured the pain of crucifixion in order to offer us salvation.

As the Creator of all things, Jesus knew what he would endure–temporary loss of glory, poverty, contempt, and abuse to the point of being unrecognizable.  Why, then, did the King of Kings embrace life as a man?  Because he acted out of love–the kind of love meant to bring us safely home.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friends.  John 15:13

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More often than not, my mornings consist of reminders, reprimands, and rushing.  Did you pack your jacket?  Change that attitude, little mister.  If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all.  Then, my children scramble out the of the car–backpacks slung across their tiny shoulders.  I won’t see them again until the sound of the bell sends them rushing out of the building–laughing and ready for a snack.

As I pull away, I’m consumed by “mommy guilt”.  Did I remember to tell them I love them?  Were my words more than just directives or critiques?  Will they know they’re prayed for today?  Did I say anything nice?

There are times the guilt is well-earned.  Sometimes my words fail to build up my children, husband, friends, or even strangers I encounter.  As Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb,  sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Tomorrow–whether I’m in the midst of the morning rush, the dinner hour, or the bedtime routine–I’m going to slow down enough to remind those around me of how important they are to me.  I’ll tell them they are a precious gift in this life.

Then, I’ll let the “mommy guilt” go–at least for the day.

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I can imagine the perfect woman for my husband–and she is not me.  Now, I’m not suggesting I would rather Dave be married to someone else.  What I am saying is that if I were his best friend, parent, or sibling I would have expected him to marry someone unlike me.

Dave’s perfect wife  would  eagerly anticipate the next shared hike together, certain she could conquer the ragged terrain of any mountain.  This someone would engage in political debates, enjoy running in marathons, and read Time magazine.

Instead Dave chose a woman who’s afraid of heights, rarely reveals her political affiliation, and prefers a relaxing walk on the beach to the rush of endorphins at the end of a five-mile run.  And my favorite reading material?  Think Jane Eyre and Anna Karenina.  I don’t remember when I read Time last.

But, Dave didn’t want perfect–he wanted me.  And, after all of our years together, he still does.  The remarkable part of all this is Dave is more aware of my flaws, faults, and foibles than during the early years of our marriage.  He sees me clearly.

My dislike for closet doors haphazardly left open?  Dave hears about it regularly.  The temper that flares when we disagree about discipline?  He’s been an object of that anger.  My high-maintenance food ordering habits?  If the avocado is fresh than I’ll have the southwestern burger, if not then I’d like the patty melt with the onion straws on the side but no cheese.  Yes, Dave is aware of this hang-up.  (He says I’m discerning; not picky.)

Despite knowing me as intimately as he does, Dave loves me all the more.  What, then, is principle number three?  Accept your husband for who he is.  You cannot change him.  When you are convinced your husband needs to change, begin praying the Lord will change you.

3 Ways to Demonstrate Acceptance Toward Your Husband

  • Talking Trash–Have you been around a group of women lately?  Don’t join their “My Husband is an Idiot Club”.  Honor him with words of affirmation–even when he isn’t nearby.

             Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others upEphesians 4:29

  • Point of Reference–Extend grace and mercy to the husband you have pledged to love.

             Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. Ephesians 5:21

  • Practically Speaking-  Just put the lid down yourself.  He won’t mind and it will make you happy!

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I’m not inviting my girlfriend over because you embarrass me. The words, emphatically offered by my teenage son, stung. How could I possibly cause embarrassment? After all, I never produce questionable baby pictures or use childhood nicknames when meeting Ben’s friends. Instead, I make popcorn, rent the requested DVD’s, and remain outside of the immediate area.
Mother guilt engulfed me. Had I done anything in particular to cause embarrassment? He must think I’m too serious. Maybe I should buy a few joke books. Or, it could be my music. I’ll need to remember not to play smooth jazz when people visit. Then, the truth struck me. Ben isn’t embarrassed by one specific thing—he’s embarrassed by who I am.


While considering my son’s assertion I was reminded of Romans 8:35 which reassures Christians that “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ”. Despite my areas of weakness, poor choices, and sinful nature God offers love and acceptance. And, unlike my earthly family, the heavenly Father is never embarrassed by who I am. Instead, he sees me through the lens of Christ’s sacrifice—as his beloved child.
Do you ever struggle with acceptance? Are you afraid you might do something to put an important relationship at risk? Friend, take comfort. Your Lord knows you intimately and nothing you do will ever jeopardize your position in his family.
Now…about those baby pictures.

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Teach your preschooler practical ways to love others using this simple activity.
First, assemble a booklet made of blank construction paper. Join your preschoolers on a “picture walk” as you look through magazines. Help your children find pictures of people who are demonstrating love. Ask such questions as, “Can you find a picture of someone being helpful? Do you notice anyone sharing? Praying together? How else might a person show they love somebody?”
After deciding on a few pictures, cut or tear them out of the magazines and glue onto pre-assembled booklet pages. Using the pictures as a prompt, discuss ways you and your children can love other people. Give your child a supply of crayons and a piece of paper labeled with the words, “I can show love to (name) by (action).” Attach the personalized page to the new book and place it in your family library.
Review-
1. Read the book together during family devotions.
2. Create additional pages as your children discover other ways to express love.
3. For each day of the week, choose one person to whom your children can demonstrate love. You might bake cookies together, draw a picture, or pray for that person.

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