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Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.  -Waldinger

We do not follow a list of do’s and don’t that lead us to heaven. No jot nor tittle of prescribed religion offers sanctification or eternal life.png

In a world of being ‘friended’ and ‘unfriended’, acceptance and belonging have been reduced to photos, Tweets and images of the best of our lives. Vacation spots and smiling faces. Highlights of proud moments, but little of what floods our hearts with everything that makes us human.

Yet loneliness and social isolation are heralded as the new international health epidemic, reducing life expectancy up to 29% for those in its grasp. Why? A multitude of reasons exist. The propensity to live crazy busy. Fear of being truly known. Failing marriages and even fewer heart-level friendships.

Made in the image of God, we are designed for relationship. For community. For sharing our deepest hurts and greatest joys with one another. For laughter shared over a cup tea and tears of companionship in times of loss.

Loneliness invites herself into their lives and ours... Click To Tweet

Married women. Single women. Women with homes filled with children and women with empty wombs. Women of every age, color and status. Loneliness invites herself into their lives and ours and embeds unhealthy thoughts and habits in vulnerable hearts and minds.

For some, sharp-tipped words prick our souls as we wonder. Will I ever be enough? Will I ever belong? Will I ever matter? Others of us battle depression or allow the demands of a full schedule to rise above the need for community.

You are a woman worth knowing.You are enough and you do matter.#nomoreloneliness#John3:16#toknowafriendbeafriend Click To Tweet

Friend, loneliness is a joy-stealing, heart-wrenching, life-altering burden. If she is your unwelcome companion, can I challenge you to take action? Step out of her shadow today and invite someone else to take her place. Call a friend you’d once known well and reconnect. Call, text or message that woman you’ve wanted to get to know.

You are a woman worth knowing. You are enough and you do matter.

Praying for you today,

Tammy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A momentary visit to an online population clock revealed this number— 7,386,695,958. On November 9, 2015 at approximately 8:20 p.m. there are more than 7 billion people on earth. Me? Not one in a million…not even one in a billion.

My life is small measured by numbers.

With fewer than 300 Facebook friends, no more than 75 people on my Christmas card list, just three or four people I could turn to in a major crisis, and with a life expectancy of about 80 years how can I expect to make a difference?

My life is small measured by social performance.

I haven’t earned any awards. I am not a Nobel Peace Prize winner or a Rhodes Scholar. I don’t have a Teacher of the Year Award to hang on the wall. I can’t even claim to be the PTA president. How can I expect to make a difference?

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My life is small, but like most of us I long to make an impact…to change lives…to do something bigger and better than I ever imagined possible. But those differences? They aren’t discovered in the spotlight of self-adulation. Changing lives? That doesn’t happen tucked neatly behind the clean lines of a carefully maintained lawn and closed shades.

Impact…changed lives…something bigger than me? It happens in the showing up–in the obvious action of loving someone through their hard and in their hurt. Impact exists in the giving of more than we have and digs deep into the place of faith where Christ enables the more.

If my life—small by every measure—has any value it comes not in living inward. Living is about loving others large! It is the meal prepared after an exhausting week at work for a neighbor bent over in pain from a broken heart and bleeding soul. It is the giving of time to speak with the woman in a Home Depot parking lot—the one holding a sign that says, “Please help”—and you are human to her. It is in the doing and the joining our life with others. We just need to show up…to love outward…to give more of ourselves even until we’re empty.

And in that place? To that person? In that moment? Even one small person among billions makes a difference.

Scripture for Reflection:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

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What is the road we take toward each other,

and how do we show forth the love of Jesus,

even when our disappointment wells up fiercely in the gut

and threatens all we thought we knew about the other?

-Diedre Riggs

 

Months before I spoke words meant for all of us.

Foreshadowing .

A warning.

“We will offend one another, but we are called to bear with one another in love.”  Each of us smiled, heads nodding in agreement.  Sure of own hearts…certain of our own character…established in our faith.

But somehow…in some way….I managed to offend.  And in the space between us?  Instead of peace, compassion, love?  A spirit of dissension grew, fed by Dear Ones who follow hard after Jesus.

“There is a fine line between sharing concerns and gossiping,” one explained.  In the meantime, harsh words tore at the tender flesh of my heart like scalding water peels flesh off of bones.

Can you relate?  Have you ever been slighted, rejected, or even hated by those for whom you have prayed?  Cared for?  Done for?

Yesterday, a man ambled past our home.  I peered at him dismissively.  Garbed in low-hanging, baggy jeans, an orange beanie, and head hanging heavy I knew the neighborhood pot-head was heading toward The Place where he makes the sale.

Then the unwelcome whisper of conviction reminded my heart.  Guilty.  You are guilty of the same sin!  You may not have spoken the words, but you judged The Man.  What do you know about him….his life…his wounds?  He needs love….hope….forgiveness.  Pray for The Man—this one who is an enemy of all you believe.

And my spirit knows the truth.  I judge others unfairly….just as others may judge me unfairly.  Oh, may we learn to love like Christ!

Friend, when the Son of Man stood before his accusers and felt the weight of an unfair judgement—even a judgement to death—He refused to utter words of condemnation.  Instead, Christ loved The Man whose roughened, soiled hands marred the back of The Innocent with a razor-edged rope.    Instead, Christ forgave The Man who took pleasure in piercing the hands of The Innocent with hard edges and merciless pain.  And instead, Christ loved The Woman who had not yet been born.   I, too, would have been like the Dear Ones at the foot of the cross—perhaps hurling insults—or those cowering in fear in a hidden corner.  I don’t know Him!

We will offend one another, but we are called to bear with one another in love. Christ has borne all for us!  Oh, Church, let us do the same.

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In the sheltered simplicity of the first days after a
baby is born, one sees again the magical closed circle, the miraculous sense of
two people existing only for each other. 
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I thought I understood love–it’s complexity, depth, and vulnerability.  Then I had children and all of my preconceived notions about love were shattered.  Blossoming in their place like a seedling receiving its first drops of water, a pure, true love sprang up.  Tender.  Unselfish.  Sacrificial.

It was a love strong enough to urge a sleep-deprived mother out of bed during the black hours of the night to comfort a colicky infant; a love tender enough to encourage a mother to stay for endless hours in the NICU singing softly to the baby struggling to for every breath; and a love dedicated enough to stretch and exercise her son’s twisted feet despite his cries of pain.

I thought I understood love–then I had a Savior.  Tender.  Unselfish.  Sacrificial.

His was a love merciful enough to offer forgiveness to a lost and lonely child; a love tender enough to be a Father when she was without hers; and a love sacrificial enough to give his life in her stead.

Parenting is the closest I’ve come to experiencing the sort of love He has for us.  Real love.

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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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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 always imagined our family gathered around the table reciting poetry or engaging in meaningful conversations.  Our dinnertime dialouge, though, has much less to do with poetry than with lines learned on the playground or reminders to chew with mouths closed.  All the same, I treasure the regularity of sharing meals together.  Our oldest two children–now teens–are away from home regularly.  Extracurricular activities and friends are far more interesting than trips to the zoo with their younger siblings or hours spent in the company of two out-of-touch parents.  But dinners spent together are an established part of our family tradition.  It’s when we connect and build relationships.

Like my children, I find  my own schedule is crowded.  Job requirements and family needs quickly crowd out moments spent with the my heavenly Father.  There are times I come to His table full of complaints or with a reluctant heart.  Other times, I’m animated and full of excitement.  But, I always leave His presence nourished.  Refreshed.  Sated.

Just like the children I see around the dinner table each night.

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