Sunday, December 27, 2009

Love Dare: Day 39 and 40!

Well, my goal was to finish before our anniversary (tomorrow) so I could tell Ryan I Love Dared him for the past 40 days (I still don't think he realizes!). I did it. It was really nice to have a refresher course on a godly marriage and, most importantly, a sacrifical marriage where I am submitting to and serving Ryan out of love. I would highly recommend this to anyone thinking about it. I haven't been able to blog about much else, but it is good record of what I learned and practiced over these (more than) 40 days-give or take.

Chapter 39 was entitled "Love Endures". It is about how sticking to your marriage no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT. We have discussed how divorce is so quickly an option for so many people. God doesn't think so. We have agape love--unconditional love. We shouldn't be inconsistent, wavering or limited in our love. Our love is a choice and commitment.

The dare is great. I am to write a letter to Ryan telling him that I commit to loving him no matter what. I will never choose to leave him or find something better. My love is not conditional. Even when he is unlovable by world's standards, I will love him because God asks me to do so and I will obey. I plan to write this and give it to him on our anniversary outing tomorrow. So perfect!

Finally, chapter 40 is about "Love is a Covenant." This chapter talks about marriage as a covenant, not a contract. A contract is self serving, limited if conditions aren't met on the other end, written, breakable and cold. A covenant is sacrificial, trusting, verbal, unconditional, strong, sacred and unending. God made covenants in the Bible, such as with David and Abraham. God helps us keep our covenant of marriage. We can't do it in our own power. Our marriages are to be a picture of God's covenant with His church. That is a strong and powerful bond.

The dare is to renew your vows, rewrite your vows, or revisit your vows. I plan to watch our wedding video with Ryan and read our vows again to each other. We have them mounted on our wall in our bedroom (thanks to my sister-in-law, Sarah, framing them for us when we got married), but we walk by them so much, they get lost in the wall art. They are special. It will be nice to revisit them, reread them and remember that we are in a sacred covenant with one another--thanks to the gracious, ever abundant help and blessings from God!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Love Dare: Day 38

Today's chapter is AWESOME! It is called "Love Fulfills Dreams." It is all about loving your spouse by fulfilling an obtainable dream or being extravagant in your love (not just practical). I was thinking about this since yesterday was Christmas. When we didn't have kids, I used to plan fun getaways with Ryan as his gift. He would love that. Seriously. He just LOVES to have vacation and travel.

That really isn't feasible right now because of having two very young kids at home AND finances. However, I could easily surprise him with a one night away somewhere. I know he'd really appreciate it. Maybe in June or July when busy season is over, we have had enough time back from Maui to need another break, I will surprise him (unless he's reading this, in which case I will have to pick a different, undisclosed time).

It is so fun to do something unexpected and really fun for your spouse, but we get into our budgets, practical needs, time crunched lives and really forget to do nice surprises once in awhile.

We also have to remember it doesn't have to be financially draining. Some women would LOVE to just have a day to be kid free, go to the spa and lunch with friends and just not have responsibilities. Men would love to have you take the time and energy to be affectionate or to hear you respect and encourage them in front of others. Think creatively and think about what speaks to your spouse.

This chapter was a good reminder. : ) Take some time out to really think of what your spouse loves, dreams about, or would consider extra special. Create a goal to get this/do this for them. It is fun for them and you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Love Dare: Day 36 and 37

The two chapters under today's post really agree and belong together. They are called "Love is God's Word" and "Love Agrees in Prayer." Time in the Word of God and prayer should be a priority for you and your spouse. Both chapters urge you to be in the Word and to pray DAILY, and, if possible, to not just do this yourself, but to get your spouse to do this too.

Ryan and I were blessed when we met. We both had established daily quiet times of our own, and it was understood that we would come together to study the Bible and pray together as well. Over the years of dating and marriage, we have honed our habits. We meet every night for a quick devotional and prayer time (about 10 minutes). Each week, we meet for an extended period of prayer and Bible study (an hour or two) together. This year we also started sharing what we learned in our personal quiet time each day. We talk about this at the dinner table to show the boys the priority we place on God and our study of His Word and will for us.

This is such valuable time, and these chapters are right on. An encouraging part I read was that if your spouse is not willing to do Bible study or prayer with you regularly, still do it by yourself. God will give you direction, strength and enurance to live out your marital role with obedience and success. In addition, you have no idea how much your actions will also motivate and inspire your spouse to follow your example!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 34 and 35: Love Dare

I got behind on my posting. We celebrated Christmas early yesterday (with my side of the family), and we also served a dinner for some needy families at church. I absolutely LOVE everything about Christmas and traditions with it, but I always find behind on the regular routine (cleaning, laundry, etc.). So, to make up for it, I'm posting two days together.

Day 34 is a really good one. It is entitled "Love celebrates godliness." We know we are supposed to celebrate our spouse's success, right? We host a dinner for that new job, we give pats on the back for a great meal cooked or a house repair done correctly . . . What about spiritual success? Are we encouraging and congratulating our spouse when they demonstrate growth and success in righteousness? We should be worried about this all the more than worldly successes.

I have to say I probably am lazy in this area. I need to do more "Thank you honey for praying for our boys each night." "Ryan, I am so proud of you for always putting Bible study and prayer with me as a first priority." "I love how you memorized so much of the Bible this year. It is an inspiration to me." "I am impressed with how easily you forgave this person and didn't let pride interfere with your ability to let go." "I have seen so much growth in ___ area, and I wanted you to know." I think these things, but I don't always say them as much as I should. So, this chapter was a great reminder!

The dare today is to think of a spiritual success your spouse has demonstrated lately and to verbally commend them today. I can't wait!

Day 35 is about mentorship. The title is "Love is accountable". This chapter talks about the importance of having a married couple you admire for their godly marriage to whom you can chat when you have a dilemma, question, concern, etc. Sometimes you might go chat as a couple, and sometimes you might seek the advice of your gender role mentor.

I have to say that Ryan and I don't really have this in place. We are blessed with an amazing church that teaches us the godly way to live out our marriage roles, and we have pastoral counseling for us if we ever hit a snag in the road or couldn't surmount a sin issue in our marriage. It would be nice to have a close couple to whom we could meet once in a while and always approach if we had any marriage questions/parenting issues, etc.

The dare for today is to find a marriage mentor--a Christian who will be honest with you and always point to what the Bible says. I need to bring this up with Ryan and see if we can brainstorm a couple we admire and trust to be our confidante in our marriage journey.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Love Dare: Day 33

Today's chapter was "Love Completes Each Other". It was interesting because it talked about how God brings people together who have differences which complete and aid the other person.

So often, married couples dwell on differences negatively. He is such a night owl! She is so sensitive! He always wants to have people over! She would spend all her time helping others if she could!

I was thinking of these the way we say them--with a sigh, complaint and whine. We don't take the time to see the unique personalities of our spouse as complimentary to us.

I know I've recognized this in Ryan and I. For instance, Ryan is very optimistic and takes things at face value. I am a professional pessimist who reads into things and likes to assume motives and outcomes. When you leave us isolated, we are either unrealistic dreamers or judgmental discounters. However, when you put us together in a situation, we balance one another. I keep Ryan's head out of the clouds, and he reminds me not to be so negative and down about things. I give him some intuition, and he gives me the reminder to be hopeful and joyful in life. We are a good balance.

Today's dare is to tell you spouse you value their differences and that you wish to take what they have to say about issues into perspective. If you have been wrong in picking on a uniqueness in your spouse, ask for forgiveness and make every effort to see the positive aspect of differences and how you complete one another.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Love Dare: Day 32

It's here! Today's chapter is about sex. I was wondering when I'd have to write about that. Well, there isn't anything mind-boggling to write. The chapter talked about how sex is a legitimate need in a married person's life and God made the spouse the person to meet that need. If we withhold sex for any reason, we are dishonoring our spouse and in sin.

Leading a marriage ministry, and really just living life, I have seen multiple marriages destroyed by unfaithfulness and affairs. If you withhold sex from your spouse, you are making the temptation of an affair all the more likely and tempting to your spouse. Why would you want to send your husband off to work or your wife off to the gym knowing that you have purposely avoiding sex with them. They will be tempted to look to meet their emotional and physical needs somewhere else. That might be through another person.

Truly, we snicker at the topic of sex, but it is such a vital lifeline in a marriage and such a common area of concern in dysfunctional unions.

Make sure you are intimate with your spouse regularly and that you even initiate it sometimes. This was the dare for today! That's all I'm going to say about that . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Love Dare: Day 31

So, if Ryan doesn't know about me doing the Love Dare on him, I am shocked. If he does know, he is doing a great job of hiding the fact he knows. I was thinking about how I would tell him, and I thought our anniversary night away--on December 28th--would be a great time to talk about it. I should be finished, and we can talk through the points I found hard or on which I need to work more. : ) As you know from last year's blog post right after our anniversary, we go away each year to celebrate and set our marriage goals. This year we are running a goal setting conference on January 9th. We will be teaching other couples how to run a goal setting time each year and what should be communicated. You can be praying that goes well!

So, today's chapter was called Love and Marriage. It is about the oneness of marriage, with a focus on the need to let go of the parent/child relationship when you get married. Really, it is talking about any relationship in which the husband or wife is second fiddle.

In our marriage, it is a balancing act. We both have great parents who live very close. They are supportive and loving, but it is tempting to have such a close relationship and not sometimes value their input over your spouse's. I don't think it is a huge problem, but we do need to always be aware that we have that oneness and continually check that we have left and cleaved to our spouse. I am so blessed to have such a great marriage AND godly parents on both sides. We have an amazing support system.

The Dare for today is to identify any "leaving" issues you may have and to confess it to your spouse. Then, together, commit to making it right and make your marriage a top priority over every other human relationship.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Love Dare: Day 30

Hi, friends. What a week! I apologize for not posting sooner, but, like I said, what a week! We had a roof leak, a play to perform and memorize for church, two sick kids, one night of no sleep and up with a feverish kiddo, and no end of Christmas prep and life's normal business.

I'm back, though.

Today's chapter is called Love Brings Unity. It was a wonderful look at how God is the perfect picture of unity. He asks the church body to be in unity, He gives us the perfect example of the trinity, and he points to Christ's mission here on earth to do the will of the Father.

Marriage is a small picture of God's call to unity. Husbands and wives are to be faithful for life, they are to serve one another in peace, and they are to think about the plans, desires and needs of the other. Imagine if we all could live out our marriages with such ideals in place--what blessings it would bring in our homes!

The dare for today is "Isolate one area of division in your marriage, and look on today as a fresh opportunity to pray about it. Ask the Lord to reveal anything in your own heart that is threatening oneness with your spouse. Pray that He would do the same for them. And if appropriate, discuss this matter openly, seeking God for unity."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Love Dare: Day 29

Today's chapter is called "Love's Motivation." This chapter is about how our love for our spouse is not motivated by what they earn or deserve. As Christians, our love for our spouse is motivated by God's love for us. We are to love "as unto the Lord."

The dare today is to pray for your spouse before they get home. Pray for them by name and pray for their needs. Then, when you see them, you are to say, "I love you," and love them in a practical, tangible way. After you do this, pray for them again and thank God that you are given the chance to show unconditional love to your spouse.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Love Dare: Day 28

Love Makes Sacrifices. This was a tough chapter to read, and I would guess it would be for anyone. We are programed to respond to our own needs when we need help or intervention. Like a finger touching a burning surface, we move into action and let everyone around us know we are out of sorts. "I'm so tired!" "The kids have been SO sick/bad/crazy . . ." "I am feeling down" "I am overwhelmed!"

When our spouses speak to us with some complaining or confession of needing help, we dismiss it easily and don't respond as we expect people to respond when WE need help.

Today's chapter even reached into the realms of physical intimacy. Our spouses often have to let us know they need this through vocalization. This is sad. We need to be paying enough attention to protect our spouse BEFORE this happens and we certainly should respond when they voice a concern.

Today's dare is to sacrifice time, energy, and resources to do the one thing your spouse needs you to do most today. I told you this was a tough read . . . but a good one!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Love Dare: Day 27

Love encourages. This is the chapter title for today, and it was a great reminder. Both Ryan and myself are a bit type-A, and we can impatiently project high expectations on each other rather than encouraging and accepting one another.

I know I've gotten a lot better in this area. I used to have the romantic notions that men could read women's minds and that life is much rosier in a relationship. Well, life is blessed by marriage, but it is still hard. Furthermore, I know that I have to communicate if I am feeling disappointed by my spouse. Ryan can't read my mind, and I have to assume it isn't a purposeful ommitance. Rather, he just is being human. I certainly don't consider others all the time or perfectly in every situation.

So, today's dare is to eliminate any unrealistic expectations and to promise your spouse you will be more accepting in any area you identify (and seek forgiveness if you have been discouraging them).

I think many couples struggle with unrealistic expectations, which is why divorce rates are so high. We all married fallen human beings, so we can't expect more than that. We need to forgive, encourage and admonish when biblically necessary. How marriages would change if we lived in a way where we die to self and consider our spouse more! Imagine!