Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dare Forty: Drum Roll Please!

After intending to finish The Love Dare in the forty days around Valentine's Day . . . I have finished The Love Dare on the 29th of November!  I don't really see the time expanse as a failure, because failing would have entailed rejecting the advice of the book and completely turning away from its list of dares.  I didn't turn away . . . I just got a bit busy.  Perhaps I will think of it as a delayed success.

I have listed on this blog forty dares and forty thoughts that accompanied those forty dares.  I have forty days that I spent specifically considering my marriage and my husband above many other things in life.  I got to have fun, such as on Valentine's Day, and I got to be a little creative, such as in the blog I Cherish You, and overall, I really think it was a great experience.

What's really great about ending the Dare on this day is that I just found out James started the dare two days ago!  Almost a year later, he's doing The Love Dare on his own.  I couldn't make him and I couldn't nag him into doing it.  Sure, I really wanted him to do it with me, but he would have done it begrudgingly before.  Being on the receiving end of The Love Dare, I'm in heaven.  Though it's tempting to make it hard on him, refer to the first dare.  I guess I'll behave myself!

Words of the final dare, "write out a renewal of your vows and place them in your home.  Perhaps, if appropriate, you could make arrangements to formally renew your wedding vows before a minister and with family present.  Make it a living testament to the value of marriage in God's eyes and the high honor of being one with your mate."

The chapter expressed how the wedding vows are the words of a covenant.  My husband and I are not in a contract that might bind with pen and paper even if the legal system might think so.  James and I are in a covenant that is upheld through God's power, not our own.  If we think we are the best couple ever and we'll never mess up, then we will mess up.  If we are anything better than ordinary then it is through God's power alone.

I appreciate any of you who have visited my blog and supported me on this endeavour.  I'm sure you thought I'd never finish!  I did!  I'm thinking about starting on another book to support our marriage, like Love & Respect or Power of a Praying Wife.  Keep checking back . . . maybe I'll blog about that too!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dare Thirty Nine: Love Never Loses

The Thirty Ninth dare states, "Spend time in personal prayer, then write a letter of commitemnt and resolve to your spouse.  Include why you are committing to this marriage until death, and that you have purposed to love them no matter what.  Leave it in a place that your mate will find it."

Here's what I wrote:

About the Chapter . . .
Let me rephrase, true love never loses. God is love, God is the Word of God, so a marriage built on the Word of God is unshaken. We've all heard "Love never fails," but what does it really mean? What does it mean to fail? I'm looking it up, hold on . . .

To fail is:Instead love is:
To lose strength: weakenTo gain strength: reinforce
To fade or die awayTo grow and flourish
To stop functioning normallyTo get better, gain familiarity
To fall shortTo make it together, succeed
To be or become absent or inadequateTo be always present or sufficient
To be unsuccessfulTo be successful in the relationship
To become insolventTo be prosperous in marriage
To disappoint the expectations or trust ofTo exceed the expectations or trust of
To miss performing an expected service or function forTo triumph in performing an expected service or function for
To be deficient inTo be abundant in
To leave undone: neglectTo leave nothing undone: attend and care for

Love never failing means loving them in spite of it all, no matter what.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dare Thirty Eight: The Cinderella Concept

Picture from my Cinderella DVD
This dare is so challenging.  I realize how truly selfish I am as I think about today’s dare.  The dare is for me to “Ask yourself what your mate would want if it was obtainable.  Commit this to prayer, and start mapping out a plan for meeting some (if not all) of their desires, to whatever level you possibly can.”  But why am I supposed to be making his dreams come true?

I want to be Cinderella.  I want my handsome prince to make my dreams come true.  I want him to have his white horse (or maybe a white limo), a grandiose castle, and I want everything to be planned and go as planned.  I want him to make my dreams come true, all of them.  It gets worse.  In my selfish Cinderella mindset, I do not want to worry about taking care of the prince!  I want him to rub his own feet, fold his own socks, and pick up his plate after dinner.  As for his dreams, I should be his dream, right?

I say this and you may laugh, but don’t many of us truly buy into this Cinderella Concept?  In our minds, we as women are to be his princess, his prize, his dream.  His dreams, those that are not fulfilled by our very presence, are his problem.  Okay, so it doesn’t always go this far, but you get my point.  Sometimes I get into the mindset that James needs to take care of me and make my dreams come true, but I leave his dreams out on the front porch getting cold (or in Mississippi getting ridiculously hot . . .).

Granted my husband’s short term dreams change with the tide, but I need to pay attention to his dreams.  If he currently wants to better himself or the house in some way, I have to not only buy into that, but align myself to making it happen in any way I can.  If he sets a goal for himself, I have to show my love for him by supporting him enough to do all I can to help him accomplish that goal.  His dreams need to be my dreams.  He’s not a prince and I’m not a princess.  We have to look to each other to bring our dreams into reality.  He can’t call a castle servant to serve me dinner on command, and I can’t wave a magic wand and have the entire house clean in minutes.  We each have to work out of love to bring about each others needs, wants, and dreams.

His dreams are my concern.  I am not Cinderella nor am I a fairy tale princess.  Life does not live happily ever after without applying some elbow grease.  My husband dreams of a wife that considers his wants as much as my own wants.  My husband dreams of having my respect him as much as I respect myself.  Sometimes if I don’t feel loved, I don’t respect.  However, love loves regardless of how I feel at the moment.  I cannot just love him when I feel up to it.  His dreams are my concern.

Lately, I’ve been little Miss Cinderella.  I have completely dismissed so many things that James has been asking me about.  Stupid things really.  Things that I could have stepped up to easily, if I had not had such a diva mindset.  God set us on this earth to serve others, not ourselves.  I must to set aside the Cinderella Concept and start making my husband’s dreams come true. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dare Thirty Seven: Humble Me

I have heard it said many times that “prayer is powerful.”  Let me clarify, “A prayer to the God of creation is powerful.” If we truly believed that, then why is it often a last resort?

Today’s dare:  "Ask your spouse if you can begin praying together.  Talk about the best time to do this, whether it's in the morning, your lunch hour, or before bedtime.  Use this time to commit your concerns, disagreements, and needs before the Lord.  Don't forget to thank Him for His provision and blessing.  Even if your spouse refuses to do this, resolve to spend this daily time in prayer yourself."

Prayer is humbling.  During prayer I have to let my guards down, to allow God to surround me, and I must recognize my need for God.  The dare asks me to start praying regularly with James.  Praying together seems to be significant to God because in Matthew 18:18-19 Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”  I must get to agreeing with my husband in prayer about our marriage, our life, and our ministry.

God says knock and the door will be opened, seek and you will find, ask and it will be given to you.  In our marriage, I rarely knock, I rarely seek, and I rarely ask.  If I want doors to be busted open within our marriage, I have to get to knocking!  If I want to find the depths of love that God has for us in our marriage, I need to start seeking God in this area.  If I want to be given blessings in our marriage, I need to start asking.  We need to start knocking, seeking, and asking so we can begin to have doors open, find that which was lost, and be given God’s blessings.

God decides to use us for his glory, humans being the agents of his hand.  What a glorious responsibility!  Prayer is one of the ways that God uses us to change our world.  Prayer changes lives!  I want God to change my life; even more, I want Him to transform my life and marriage daily.  Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; I believe that that applies to my marriage too!  God can transform my marriage into a new creation.  I think we so often get caught up in thinking of marriage as a human institution that we forget that God has a divine plan for marriage.  A transformed marriage consists of two transformed individuals who seek God’s will for their life and marriage.  The marriage becomes a vessel for God to use to bless others and to change lives.  Marriage is beautiful if we dedicate it to God in prayer.

My Favorite Verses on Prayer:

2 Chronicles 7:14, (NIV1984)
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Luke 11:9-10, (NIV1984)
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Psalm 141:2, (NIV1984)
“May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”

James 5:15-16, (NIV1984)
“And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

Revelation 5:8, (NIV1984)
“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dare Thirty Six: Word of God Speak

Today’s dare reminded me so much of the song by Mercy Me.

Word of God Speak

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay

Find more at Mercyme.org

When am I going to fully realize that the Word of God is alive in me?  The bread of life is vital to my existence.  I need God’s word to fill me up.  Sometimes I run around starved and spiritually emaciated.  How many Christians spiritually look like the children from other countries shown in ads for Feed the Children?  The bread and water of life is not optional for God’s children . . . it is literally life.

The Bible, the very Word of God, is so important for my marriage.  The kingdom of God must reign in my marriage!  How much clearer can God be on this matter?  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV).

The dare for today was, “Commit to reading the Bible every day.  Find a devotional book or other resource that will give you some guidance.  If your spouse is open to it, see if they will commit to daily Bible reading with you.  Begin submitting each area of your life to its guidance and start building on the rock.”  Jesus is the rock and we must build the foundation of our marriage on Him.  I think of the song, “all other ground is sinking sand.”

Let me tell you right now.  The enemy does not want my marriage to be on solid ground.  As I write this blog . . . as we seek after God’s will for our life . . . James and I have been under attack.  We have been arguing more lately over insignificant things.  If we don’t cling to the rock, we will be in sinking sand.  God is powerful.  God is sufficient for us in times of trouble.  If you are reading this, please keep us in your prayers.  We are more than happy for others to invite God into our situation and for God’s hand to be upon our marriage in a mighty way.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dare Thirty Five: From Isolation to Community

I make a mistake quite often in my marriage.  I assume that my marriage is my business and that keeping others out of our trials is natural.  If I share anything, it is often out of frustration and eventually maybe out of desperation.  Blogging about the Love Dare has been a small change in the openness level about my marriage, but just because I am blogging into cyberspace does not mean I am interacting with specific individuals about the joys and trials of my marriage.

The truth?  My marriage is in isolation.

This chapter of the Love Dare is about accountability.  It challenges me to “Find a marriage mentor – someone who is a strong Christian and who will be honest and living with you.  If you feel that counseling is needed, then take the first step to set up an appointment.  During this process, ask God to direct your decisions and discernment.”  While that should be easy to do, my husband and I do not have a strong relationship with any other Christian couple.  Ouch!  Did I just admit that?  We know other couples in our church, great couples in our church.  However, we have been too busy to really devote ourselves to getting to know other couples.

The Bible tells us about accountability in Hebrews 3:13 “Encourage one another day after day . . .  so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  James and I cannot be encouraged if we are not around anyone who knows what is going on in our lives and marriage.  I have friends and James has friends, but so far, our marriage has been our business.  Maybe we actually shy away from that level of deepness with others because they might see that we are human.  Oh wait, we are all human . . . rats.

Upon this realization comes a responsibility to change for the glory of God by the power of God.  I realize that if I remain unmoved and apathetic to our current state of isolation I am actually putting up a wall in an area where God can touch our marriage and lives.  God is the only one who can take down the walls that James and I have built.  We have to let people in.  Even more so, we must actually seek relationships with other couples rather than pretending that it is okay to go it alone.  Healthy conviction, advice, and encouragement need not come from a book, but instead they can come from healthy relationships between couples who are following God with all that they are.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dare Thirty Four: What is true?

In 1 Corinthians 13:6, it says that love "does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth."  I hardly think that unrighteousness is a consideration in today's society, much less truth.  Marriages are built on "let's give it a shot" and husbands are thought of as the silly little man that is laughed at in every sitcom on television.  Is that real?  Is that true?  According to the verse, love is based on real truth that has nothing to do with unrighteousness.  I'm in it for real life and real love.

This dare has challenged me because while I hope to be upstanding, I don't go out of my way to rejoice with the truth.  Dare Thirty Four asks me to, "Find a specific, recent example when your spouse demonstrated Christian character in a noticeable way.  Verbally commend them for this at some point today."  Wow!  Intentionally rejoicing with the truth . . . with righteousness.  Applauding good character, godliness.  What a refreshing thought!

I often praise my husband on his leadership ability and his physical strength.  I applaud his cooking ability.  I definitely tell him how daggone smart he is.  Sometimes I forget that more importantly than all these things is his strength of character, his integrity, and his genuine heart.

God has made James a person who stands by what is right even when everyone else says that breaking the rules is alright.  He rarely bends the rules and even less often does he break rules.  His integrity is outstanding.  Forget how excellent a cook James is, his upright stance is worth rejoicing!  I can praise my husband for his character.

Another thing that James is amazing at is being a father.  I was not privileged to have a father while growing up and seeing James act as a good father to my son means the world to me.  He gets to represent to my son what a father is, so when my little guy grows up he will understand that God as our Father is an amazing God who will take care of our needs, teach us, and guide our steps.  I do rejoice that James is the best father my son could have.

The truth is that James is an amazing man that God has brought into my life as my husband.  The truth is that James is a wonderful father and a man of integrity.  I rejoice in the truth.  James will always be this person even in human mistakes.  I reject the lies that make me feel that James might let me down or will not live up to my expectations and rather I accept the truth of who God made James to be.  Our mistakes can never remove the truth of who God made us to be.  My mistakes make me no less of the true person that God intends.  Sin is still sin, but as a Christian, it does not represent the truth but rather lies. When we follow God's plan we are living in the truth, while when we are following our own way we are living in a world of lies.  Real life is God's plan.  The truth is worth rejoicing!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dare Thirty Three: Team Spirit

Have you ever known a spouse that acted like their counterpart was a burden, a hassle, and the person holding them back in life?  This is normally accompanied by a list of their faults and an eye roll at their shortcomings.  However, the spouse that treats their mate this way is just as much a failure!  Marriage is about standing in the gap for your love.

The dare for today is about completing one another.  Basically, the chapter expresses that man and wife are to work together and blossom in the areas where the other person doesn't.  The husband might be a better cook, but the wife might be better at the laundry.  The wife might be better at finances, but the husband might be better at taking care of maintenance issues.  Each person has their strengths and weaknesses and works to balance the other one out and work as a team.

I love the verse provided in this chapter of The Love Dare, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up."

So back to the first example, how many of you know spouses who kick their counterpart when they are down, tear them up in their shortcomings, and rip them apart with words, actions, and gossip?  Not only do I know plenty, I have been and sometimes am guilty of this myself!  Rather than bludgeoning our spouses to death with our words, actions, and gossip, God has called us to support them in their shortcomings.

While the chapter reminds me of how I am supposed to be a support to James instead of being critical.  The chapter actually dares me to "Recognize that your spouse is integral to your future success.  Let them know today that you desire to include them in your upcoming decisions, and that you need their perspective and counsel.  If you have ignored their input in the past, admit your oversight and ask them to forgive you."

Basically, if I were to tear down James to his face or to friends, I'd be tearing myself down.  Sometimes we end up treating our spouse as our enemy, we don't want to do anything for them to help them.  Think of this though, Romans 12:20 states, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."  If we are supposed to take care of our enemy when they have needs, how much more should we be doing for our spouses who are our partners NOT our enemies!

As a team, James and I make decisions.  We consult each other about everything.  At times, I'll mean to not tell him something, maybe because it's something little that honestly doesn't matter, then I'll end up telling him anyway.  We have an open relationship where we depend on each other's opinions and differences to help us to make the right decisions.  Sometimes we give advice and the other chooses not to take it.  However, the balance still remains.  We advise each other but we don't boss each other around.  Completing one another isn't about fixing one another, it's about being the couple that God intended for us to be.

We aren't perfect but we make plans to do things right.  I decided early on in our marriage that I would never publicly tear him down or humiliate him.  I succeed much more often than I fail, because I planned to do it right.  He does the same, but he's even nicer.  He tends to build me up and say nice things about me in front of other people.  We also agreed that any big purchases would be talked about first.  Though, we aren't always in agreement over the purchases each other makes.  However, what we have done right is putting an importance on dialogue between us and realizing that we affect each others lives.  The power of a spouse can be used to bring completion to a marriage or dissention to a marriage, the choice is yours.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dare Thirty Two: Sex

I knew this day would come.  Since The Love Dare is a book about the marriage relationship, there eventually had to be a chapter about sex.  Much of marriage is emotional and intellectual, but obviously marriage is also physical.  How else do you think couples get all those little people running around?

I see no reason to disclose the specifics of this dare to the world, or the intimate details of my physical relationship with my husband.  Still, there is plenty to blog about.

Many women have their views of sex tainted by what the world has to say on the topic.  The media makes sex out to be some cheap pleasure meant for any person, any time.  Sex In the City, soap operas, and every other movie make it seem unusual for a woman to remain loyal to one man.  In fact, they make it look exciting for women to be "empowered" or in control of their own sex life.  Let me reassure you that this is a lie.  What is empowering is the grace of God covering the life of a married woman who keeps her marriage bed pure.  She is no less in control of her sex life and no less bold.  She knows that sex is about love, not power, not lust, and not even about pleasure.  The world says that sex is about pleasure and about the individual, but God says sex is about the oneness of marriage and about sharing genuine love.  I prefer to accept the authentic version and not some cheap Hollywood mimic.

I would imagine some people do not want to hear that sex is not all about them being pleased.  Too bad.  Selfish sex is not God's intention.  Which is why it is so terrible when a woman empowers herself by holding back something that means so much to her husband.  Many, many, many men receive love by physical interaction, by withholding sex women are withholding respect and love.  If you are a woman who cannot understand why your relationship with your husband is so poor, yet you keep your body from your husband, then you may need to rethink your decision.  The Bible says in I Corinthians 7:4, "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does."  Basically, withholding the precious gift of sex from your husband is wrong.  It causes a separation that is not intended in the marriage relationship.

It's never too late to accept the real deal and put away being selfish.  Whether your sex life has been tainted by Hollywood's cheap imitations or by keeping yourself from your husband, God can renew your sex life with your husband.  Sex is God's plan, not just for baby making, but also for unity.  Consider me bold, but I'm going to include some Godly tips for renewing the physical relationship in marriage.

1.  Pray with your husband about your sex life.  God cares about every aspect of your marriage and sex in marriage is in no way shameful.  Ask God to bless your sex life and He will.

2.  Make time to talk.  Yes, I know talking seems to have nothing to do with sex, but how can you have an authentic loving physical relationship if you do not talk to each other and know each others daily joys and pains.  Talking is a very important part of intimacy.

3.  Confirm your husband!  Build him up.  Tell him the good things he does.  Praise him for being the provider, the fixer, or the strong one of the household.  If you want him to act like a manly man in your physical relationship, then make sure he feels like a manly man in your marriage.

4.  Accept his advances.  Don't push away his arm or tell him that you are too busy.  For Pete's sake, don't tell him you have a headache!  As his wife, accept him, confirm him, and let him pursue you.

5.  Make time to . . . yunno!  Set time apart in the day or at least in the week that is made a priority.  Make your physical relationship an important part of your marriage relationship.

6.  Get the kids out of the bed.  I know this sounds harsh, but it is so important that a man and wife have the marriage bed to themselves.  Sharing on occasion is not bad, but the lack of physical intimacy caused by having children always in the bed can cause serious problems to a marriage.

Marriage and sex are God's idea.  As a spouse, you must consider how to care for your husband emotionally, intellectually, and physically.  For the wife that refuses to consider her husband in this manner, she is dooming her own marriage.  I honestly believe this.  Tend your marriage and love your husband completely.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dare Thirty One: Leaving for good . . .

"A man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife;
and they shall become one flesh." - Genesis 2:24

Ha, ha, I am sure I got somebody with that title.  Seriously though, this chapter was about the need to leave the child-parent relationship to be joined in the wife-husband marriage.  However, the first thing this chapter of the Love Dare made me think of was the expectations that James and I had for each other because of the different style homes in which we were raised.  As is more and more common, we both came from homes with divorced parents.  Therefore, some of our expectations were not built upon true life, but fairytales of how our homes "should have" been.

At times, I would think that James needed to say "Yes, dear" and let me do all the decorating and planning for the house.  However, that's not the way James works.  My expectations were that women (in particular me, because I am an Interior Designer) should have full control over the decorating decisions of the home, but James happens to care about home decor and enjoys having a say in how I put together the home.  Most times, we compromise and work together, though not always without difficulty.

James came from a home where everyone was in the kitchen, ladies and men.  Everyone helped with the cooking and it was a family affair.  For me, I was used to no men in the kitchen, and normally, only one lady at a time in the kitchen.  It took us years to work out the compromise on this one!  Whenever I'd be cooking, he'd come in and start advising.  Then I'd get mad and tell him to do it himself.  Or he'd be cooking and ask me to come in and help.  I would be upset to have to do anything when my expectations were that the cook who started it better finish it.  These days, I spend a little more time in the kitchen with James and we've learned how to cook together. 

So, back to the dare, "Is there a "leaving" issue you haven't been brave enough to conquer yet?  Confess it to your spouse today, and resolve to make it right.  The oneness of your marriage is dependent upon it.  Follow this with a commitment to your spouse and to God to make your marriage the top priority over every other human relationship."

Thankfully, we both don't really have "leaving" issues.  Chaplain Park gave us a little advice when we were in pre-marital counseling.  He said that it was extremely important for each of us to let go of the way our past relationships were with our parents and to realize that our new marriage relationship was more important.  I really feel that having that knowledge helped us to be aware of how our relationship with our parents affected our marriage.  If one of our parents said something that would cause dissention in our marriage, we have stood up for our marriage partner.

I realized a few years into marriage that when I had really exciting or really bad news I would call my mother or my friends before I would call my husband.  I would let them get excited with me or let them get upset with me.  I cannot be sure but I think one day in a marriage class with my old church they expressed the need to go first to our spouses with our joys and troubles.  In a sense, how can we expect our spouses to have the "right" reactions if we are not giving them the full emotion of our joys and sorrows?  We gave the biggest emotion to the first person we called, we gave the next biggest emotion to the second person we called, then by the time we get to our husband . . . we express our tale, but he doesn't seem to share it with empathy.  Duh!  The message was lost in translation!

Anyway, once I learned that this is an area to watch, I began to ask myself who I should call about things.  Is this something that I should share first with my husband, or is it trivial enough that I can go to someone else first?  If it's big to you, let it be big to him!  When James deployed, I did rely on my family and friends for support.  That's what they are there for.  But I had to make an intentional effort to make communication with him a priority.  I had to transfer that "first call" back to him.  So be at ease, if I ever get sent to jail, I won't be calling you!

This kind of goes back to the last dare post, but my issue has not been the "leaving" as much as it is the "cleaving."  However, when we realize that God does not intend for us to depend on anyone else so much as our husband, we should abandon ourselves to cleaving to our husbands for dear life.  Our affections should not be stolen away by anyone or anything.  I just know that I want to make my unity with James an intentional act rather than a distant consideration.  When we chose each other and stood at the altar, we made a commitment and that commitment stands intentional.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dare Thirty: Priority Check!

What do I think of when I think of unity?  I think of the unity candle when we were married.  Symbolic, but slightly empty with so much else going on that day.  Unity does not mean a lot in our society.  The word is scarcely used yet it brings images to mind of some religious cult that says “Ohmmmm” too much.  Once again, the definition of a word is lost due to misuse and disuse.

According to Merriam-Webster Unity means: the state or quality of not being multiple – oneness; a condition of harmony – accord; a quality or state of being made one – unification.  I am not sure about you, but sometimes marriage does not feel like oneness, harmoniousness, or unification.  He wants to do what he wants to do, and I want to do what I want to do.  I do something and he gets mad, or he does something and I get mad.  We tend to be unified in our decisions about Josiah, but in other things we are divided.  While God did make us two separate beings, I’m starting to understand that He has a better plan for our marriage than for us to exist outside of unity.

The dare today reads, “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.”

Let’s just be frank, sometimes the military is a huge drain on our marriage.  My husband gets home late, I want to spend time with him, he is tired, and then we both feel discontented.  I really do support my husband in his career, but sometimes it is hard to get the leftovers of his time day after day.  After a while of busy schedules and late hours, I feel completely disconnected and start to make decisions that benefit me instead of considering him as a part of my plans.  I think I may have isolated that “one area of division” in our marriage.

Even though the problem may seem like the busy schedule that is delegated by the military or by my schoolwork, the truth is it’s a mindset.  I get unhappy with the way things are and I disengage.  Hello!  If I find myself drifting away from my one partner for life, the one to whom I gave my heart, my lifetime best friend, why in the world would I simply emotionally disengage from our relationship?  That really does not sound smart, but I am going to bet that I’m not the only one who does this.

When I feel us drifting apart emotionally, when I feel the stress of our schedules begin to beat us down, when I feel like I could not care less how he spends his time, I need to press the imaginary alarm button in my mind that reads, “Priority Check!”  My unity with my husband is worth turning off the television, it’s worth getting a babysitter, and it’s worth stopping everything to reconnect.  When life starts to threaten the beautiful unity of my marriage, I have got to sound the alarm!  I must not waste any time in tightening back the bond of marriage and it is worth every ounce of effort.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dare Twenty Nine: Love's not about me

If I don't feel loved, sometimes I don't give love.  If I feel wronged, I feel justified in being a little less cordial.  If I feel angry, I'll show it in a heartbeat.  Honestly?  My attitude is pitiful!  Love is not about me.

Dare Twenty Nine: "Before you see your spouse again today, pray for them by name and for their needs.  Whether it comes easy for you or not, say "I love you," then express love to them in some tangible way.  Go to God in prayer again, thanking Him for giving you the privilege of loving this one special person -- unconditionally, the way He loves both of you."

This dare was about recognizing that the true motivation of love is not about getting love or about maintaining a perfect marriage.  Love is about God.  We love each other because God first loved us.  The two greatest commandments in the Bible are "Love the Lord your God" and "Love your neighbor."  Even when I don't want to give love, God's love is enough that I might still give love.  The motivation for love is God's call to us to love one another as He loves us.

Colossians 3:17 states, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  Even our love in marriage should be done in the name of the Lord.  I am not sure if my love is always comparable to God's love, but I know that God can make it the same.  God's love is unconditional.  So our love, through God's love, should be unconditional towards our spouse.

Unconditional . . . regardless of whether he does something that makes me livid, regardless of whether I'm in a bad mood, regardless of whether I've had a long day, I can and must love my husband.  I keep telling my son that every good and perfect gift is from above.  Love is that good and perfect give and it is my job to appreciate the love that God has given me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dare Twenty Eight: Sacrifice

Today's dare was about stepping back from my personal woes to consider the needs that my husband has in his life.  Basically sacrificing my "woe is me" attitude to realize that other people, particularly my husband, have problems and needs too.  Especially with our society being so focused on living for oneself, it is so easy to think about personal issues and to be self-absorbed in our own life that we forget that our husbands need us to focus on them, our children need us to consider them, and our friends and family need us to think about them.  It's not all about me.

The Twenty Eighth dare asks, "What is one of the greatest needs in your spouse's life right now?  Is there a need you could lift from their shoulders today by a daring act of sacrifice on your part? Whether the need is big or small, purpose to do what you can to meet the need."

Strangely though, returning to the dare is my fulfillment of this dare.  With my life being so consumed with taking care of my son, doing schoolwork, selling Mary Kay, helping out with church, and considering the future, lately I had forgotten that my first responsibility is to be my husband's helpmate.  If I'm the best mother, the best student, the best Mary Kay consultant, and even the best volunteer but I neglect my husband then I'm not doing what God intended for my life.  God has made me a married woman and as such, I am to be there for my husband.  By recommitting to this dare, I'm making a conscious effort to put my relationship with James above all the other things that make my day busy beyond all reason.  Busyness is not an excuse to put God on the backburner, and it's also no excuse to put my husband on the backburner.

My husband needs my attention, he needs my affection, he needs my support, and he needs to know that I cherish him.  How is it that couples say they will cherish each other on their wedding day then spend no other day living up to those vows?  Let's define cherish.  According to Merriam-Webster cherish means, "to hold dear, to keep or cultivate with care and affection, to harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely."  How often do we let go, tear down, and dismiss our spouses?  Maybe the pastor reading the vows should hand out a dictionary during the service!  I want to accept my responsibility, though it means a sacrifice at times, to cherish my husband cultivating our relationship and keeping him close in my mind.

"I take thee to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dare Twenty Seven: Love Encourages

It's been a while.  Life has a way of throwing curveballs, and forks and knives, and meteor showers, and honestly anything else it can possibly throw.  Just when I think things are going to calm down and get back to normal, then here comes a refrigerator and maybe a 2" x 4".  If I was smart, I might expect life's surprises and quit stressing out about every new happenstance.  I'll let you know when I make it there.

I'm getting back on board with Dare Twenty Seven, which challenges, "Eliminate the poison of unrealistic expectations in your home.  Think of one area where your spouse has told you you're expecting too much, and tell them you're sorry for being so hard on them about it.  Promise them you'll seek to understand, and assure them of your unconditional love."

God has a way of getting me messages exactly when I need to hear them.  Sometimes it comes through Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" and today, it was through The Love Dare.  The message that I heard sounded something like, "Stop being so daggone critical to your husband and give the guy a break!"  Yeah.  That was the message.

One phrase that really stood out to me from the chapter was, "You must choose to live by encouragement rather than by expectations."  I have so many expectations of James.  Depending on the day, I might have expectations that involve him helping me with Josiah, but at times, I practically expect him to hang the moon.  Really?  Why do I put that kind of pressure on him?  Yes, there are things that he should do, but I'm not his referee that comes in and blows the whistle whenever he makes a foul or misses the basket.  I'm his wife.

As his wife, I can encourage him and build him up, but I can't make him do anything.  I can't expect him to be super human, but I can expect him to be human.  On human power we muddle through life, but with God's power we soar.  I don't want to force him to muddle by pushing expectations on him, instead, I want him to soar by expecting God to do great things in his life.

Here's the funny thing.  When I apologized to James for being critical recently, he actually told me he didn't think I was overly critical because he thought he deserved it.  I was shocked!  Granted, I still think I could have been nicer, but maybe I have kept my overall criticism down enough so that when the real problem occurred he could recognize why it happened.  Think of it this way.  If we as wives are always "crying wolf" about issues around the house and in our lives, when a real problem happens how do we express that the problem is out of the ordinary?  We should keep encouragement as the norm, and exhortment (aka a nice version of criticism) as unusual enough to be important.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day Twenty Six: Owning Up

While I am not sure why this is, I am a person who easily sees my own faults.  For over half of my life I was a shy introvert who constantly felt like others could see how much of a mess I was and while I was that person, I was a mess.  Since then, I have grown up to realize that God has plans for me despite my faults and that my past can be used for his glory.  Unfortunately, mistakes are not always in my past and I still stumble right here and now.

Sometimes I yell at my husband.  Sometimes I yell at my kid.  At times I say too much when I should have bit my lip.  Shoot!  Sometimes I commit to doing something . . . like a dare . . . and take forever to follow through.  Yesterday’s dare challenged me to take responsibility for my wrongdoings and ask James for forgiveness.

"Take time to pray through your areas of wrongdoing.  Ask for God's forgiveness then humble yourself enough to admit them to your spouse.  Do it sincerely and truthfully.  Ask your spouse for forgiveness as well.  No matter how they respond, make sure you cover your responsibility in love.  Even if they respond with criticism, accept it by receiving it as counsel.”

I could completely relate with the chapter and I often feel that I am “doing the best I can" and “he'll just have to deal with it”.  Instead of fessing up or taking responsibility, sometimes I hide behind excuses.  The book is clear that "love doesn't make excuses.”

When I forgave James for things that I was holding against him in Dare 25, I also confessed how awful I had been lately.  I let him in on the fact that I had been acting poorly towards him because I was not giving him the forgiveness that God calls us to give.  While this should have been a good step in the right directions, habits die hard.  Yesterday, I lit into him for some stupid thing . . . oh yeah . . . because he wanted to make a garden trellis with expensive pipes and I thought he should use less expensive wood.  The crazy thing was that I could have given him the different opinion without being awful and he may have been thankful for a new idea.  He ended up using my idea, but was less thankful because of how I "let him have it".

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, but as a spouse I have to take hold of it.  I have to give it and I have to ask for it.  Forgiveness does not always just happen; instead it needs to be an intentional choice.  I have to intentionally give it, and I have to intentionally seek it.  I am human and I will make mistakes, my husband is human and he will make mistakes as well.  Forgiveness lets God be in control instead of acting like we have the power to hold things over each other.  Besides, it feels a whole lot better to let go.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dare Twenty Five: The Dare Is On

I find it surprising how much has occured within two and a half weeks that I paused the dare to remind me how much I need to really listen to The Love Dare.  The last week of the term was awful.  I was stressed and I was angry.  Instead of keeping my class work as my class work and realizing my stress belonged in that area, I brought it on over into family life.  I was a bear.  The kind that goes “rrraaaawwwrrrr.”  My classes ended up just fine, but my attitude was no where close to fine.

After the term finished, James, my little guy, and I took off to Gulf Shores, Alabama for two days.  I was convinced a vacation was just what we needed.  However, I found that if I do not let go of stress, it doesn’t let go of me.  It took me forever to relax.  My goodness, I am good at holding onto things that are no good to hang on to.

The end of the vacation week, we went to go visit James’s mother.  I really think she enjoyed seeing all of us, especially my little guy her only grandbaby.  She has been dealing with a lot lately, and I really was glad that we were able to take care of her for a few days and bring her a bit of joy.  The rest of the vacation went really well.  James and I had tons of time to talk on the way back from Auburn.

What I really realize is how much things pile up in my heart when I do not take the time to deal with them.  When I took a hiatus from the dare, I took a hiatus from loving my husband fully.  I know I said I was not going to stop tending my marriage, but I let life get in the way of good intentions.  The dare is intended to instill lasting habits, and I let go of some of them.  Let me say, the dare is back on, and I am going to work on making these habits lasting.

Yesterday’s dare was about forgiveness.  I have had no forgiveness lately.  Each little offense has been building up inside of me and I honestly am convinced that if this dare had not come along, I’d be bursting.  Instead of holding on to all of that unforgiveness, God wants to loose forgiveness in my life and marriage.  It is not my job to hold James accountable for his failings, nor am I to hold other peoples offenses against them.  Forgiveness frees them and me into God’s hands.

The dare said that “Whatever you haven’t forgiven in your mate, forgive it today.  Let it go.  Just as we ask Jesus to “forgive us our debts” each day, we must ask Him to help us “forgive our debtors” each day as well.  Unforgiveness has been keeping you and your spouse in prison too long.  Say from your heart, “I choose to forgive.””

I even wrote a bible study on forgiveness.  It was about situational forgiveness.  Even when little things such as stubbing our toes make us mad, we have to let it go.  I am horrible about this.  I find that God keeps bringing me back to things that He knows I need to let go to Him.  I need to let go of my unforgiveness.

I choose to forgive.  I choose to keep “no record of wrongs”.  I choose to live each day as a fresh beginning rather than darkening every new sky with the rain of yesterday.  I forgive my husband for the areas in which he has failed, and realize that if I don’t forgive I’ve failed most of all.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Slight Pause

Since I am also taking grad school classes online while doing the Love Dare, I am going to have to take a few day pause to finish up this term.  This coming Sunday I will complete the first term of classes, but until then I need to concentrate on writing my research paper and not on my blog.  Today marks a temporary pause in writing, but not a pause in my marriage.  Consider this a "to be continued" . . .

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dare Twenty Four: Love Vs Lust

I must begin with a definition of lust because I often lose sight of how broad the subject of lust really is.

Lust per http://www.blogger.com/www.access-jesus.com/definition-of-lust.html: The simple definition of lust is having a self-absorbed desire for an object, person, or experience. When we are in lust, we place the object of our desire above all things in our lives. From a Christian perspective lust is bad because we are putting the object of our lust above God.

The Love Dare explains that “lust is in opposition to love.”

Do I have a self-absorbed desire for an object, person, or experience?  A love that is not godly?  Sometimes I lust after food.  I lust after success.  I lust after appreciation and approval.  I look to the food, the success, the appreciation and approval to fulfill me and to make me happy.  When I expect them to do what only God can, I’m lusting after them.  I’m not placing my trust in God and I am desiring other things to bring me contentment.

The dare challenges me to “end it now.  Identify every object of lust in your life and remove it.  Single out every lie you’ve swallowed in pursuing forbidden pleasure and reject it.  Lust cannot be allowed to live in a back bedroom.  It must be killed and destroyed – today – and replaced with the sure promises of God and a heart filled with his perfect love.” 

Obviously I shouldn’t remove all food, but I need to give my desire for food as fulfillment up to Him.  Food does not satisfy but a moment.  God says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled.”  I love how God takes those things that we desire to make us happy and the Bible shows how God is the true fulfillment of all our needs and wants.  We may hunger within our body, but the hunger in our spirit is what can be truly fed and can bring us joy.  Food cannot be an idol, nor can it bring us fulfillment whether too much food or starving ourselves of food.

Success.  So many people strive after success.  Maybe if I spent less time trying to succeed and more time seeking my Savior, I might do less trying and more . . . succeeding.  God is ultimately in control.  I can lust after success or I can pursue God with all that I am.  I must choose the later.

I am a woman and being such I lust after appreciation and approval.  I tend to want approval more than I want anything else.  I want the new person I meet to like me.  I want my husband to show that he is happy with me.  I crave appreciation.  Do you realize how many I’s were involved in these statements?  In light of God’s love, I must take my need for appreciation and approval and nail them to the cross.

Maybe I do not lust in the way most people think of the word lust, but when I love other things that aren’t a part of God’s plan I am lusting.  Lust is a very selfish thing, and I really want to learn to become more like Jesus and become selfless.  I must end my obsession with food, I must end my obsession with success, and I must end my obsession with approval.  God is my stronghold, not these meaningless things.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dare Twenty Three: Habits and Addictions

I am not sure about you, but some of my habits are basically addictions.  While I am not addicted to drugs or alcohol nor am I tempted to look at bizarre pictures, I have habits that are just as time consuming and just as detrimental to my marriage.  I watch.  And watch.  And watch.  Television.  Netflix is like air for me some days.  I want my episodes of old sitcoms and I want them now!!!!

When the dare told me to “remove anything that is hindering your relationship, any addiction or influence that’s stealing your affections and turning your heart away from your spouse,” I knew that I would have to give up the remote.  Maybe not permanently, but I need to reject the TV enough to show him that I am changing my habit.  So far it hasn’t gone well.  I was exhausted last night and curled up in a ball to watch Hannah Montana on Netflix.

Part of the problem is that James and I have no joint hobbies.  We have nothing that we do together to spend time together besides just vegging out in front of the television.  Occasionally we play a board game or play the Wii, but on a regular basis we have no hobbies that we share.  Instead of finding things that we both enjoy doing and incorporating the hobbies into our evenings, we default back to the television.  This is going to have to change.

Instead of my feeble attempt at not watching the television as much, I have decided to have a problem solving session tonight with James.  We will work through this instead of defaulting.  We’ll make a list of possible evening activities and start hanging out rather than being lost in the land of the tube.  Instead of devoting our time to regarding an actor or actress, we will devote our time to each other.  I can definitely see this as a change that is a long time coming, and will change us for a long time to come.

Dare Twenty Two: I love you regardless

To James:  I love you regardless.  No matter what you do or say, you are getting love from me.  The love that I offered on our wedding day was not a whishy washy dependent on you type of love, I offered you a love that was unconditional.  These are the vows that I said on our wedding day:

I do take you James to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to be loyal to you, till death us do part according to God’s Holy Law.

James, to you, I offer my life, my body, my strength, my support, and my loyalty.  I offer my faith, my hope, and my love in all the changing circumstances of life as long as we both shall live.

The twenty second dare expressed that “love is a choice, not a feeling.  It is an initiated action, not a knee-jerk reaction.  Choose today to be committed to love even if your spouse has lost most of their interest in receiving it.  Say to them today in words similar to these, ‘I love you.  Period.  I choose to love you even if you don’t love me in return.’”  I am blessed.  James does reciprocate my love, but not always the way that I wish he would.  Sometimes it feels like he’s expressing his love in Zulu while I feel that I’m expressing my love in Cupidese.

In response to God’s unconditional love, I can give James love no matter whether he loves me “adequately” or not.  James’s love is not sufficient, God’s is.  My love is not sufficient for James either, only God has the love that is unlike any other.  Sometimes I find myself looking to James for fulfillment in love, but only God can provide that to me.  As I learn to depend on God’s love to fulfill my heart, I want to love James unconditionally with all my heart.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dare Twenty One: Over Halfway Dared

Dare Twenty One makes me over halfway through The Love Dare.  I was almost celebratory, until I realized I was not eager to finish but instead I’ve been enjoying ever dare that has been thrown my way.  Of course some of the dares have been challenging and hard, but life is challenging and hard.  For that matter, marriage is challenging and hard.  No more than someone would be super excited to be halfway through with their life, or halfway through with their marriage, I am not excited to be halfway through with the dare.  Instead, I am reflective.

What really has changed since I have been taking on the dares?  My husband has not changed.  My situation has not changed.  Mostly I have changed; my priorities have changed, and my mentality has changed.  Rather than putting marriage as the pot warming on the backburner, I have decided that the “dish of marriage” needs to have some spices added and get to boiling.  Of all the dishes that we work on within our life, marriage needs the most time and attention.  I do not want to wake up one morning after raising my children, completing my education, and being successful at a job realizing that my marriage was lost because I neglected it.  What I’ve learned most through the dare so far is that God is the God of my marriage, and God intends for my marriage to be my second priority after Him.  That’s up there!

The twenty first dare was to “be intentional today about making a time to pray and read your Bible”.  I decided to begin reading Proverbs each day for a month.  Sadly, I haven’t read Proverbs all the way through since I was a teen, but I learned so much when I did read it that I’d like to do it again.  In addition, I’ve begun to really make a point in praying for James each day.  He lets me know a few things he struggles with in his day, and I want to lift them up to God.  I also pray for his heart for the Lord.  What could be better for a husband than to draw closer to God?  God’s the best at pulling us to himself in love.

This dare is really a reminder about how God is the top priority for life.  As the title holder as the number one priority, time spent with God each day is a must.  More important than food, water, or even air, God is that important!  I desire to have such a hunger and thirst after Him that I cannot function in my day without filling up on his word and dousing my life in prayer.  I can do all things through God who strengthens me, and I can do nothing without Him.  In effect, the dare is asking me to feed myself, to breathe in air, because that is how fundamental a relationship with God is.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dare Twenty: Learning to Love Love

I have already placed my faith in Jesus as the Lord of my life and trust in Him for my salvation, but I also realize that in accepting Him daily I must learn to love love.  I John 4:16 says, “God is love,” and if I resist God at all I am resisting unconditional love.  The dare asked me to commit my life to God, “Dare to take God at His word.  Dare to trust Jesus Christ for salvation.  Dare to pray, ‘Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner.  But you have shown your love for me by dying to forgive my sins, and you have proven your power to save me from death by your resurrection.  Lord change my heart, and save me by your grace.’”  While I do trust Jesus for my salvation, I have been sincerely asking God to change my heart.  Instead of keeping God locked up in a room of my heart, I want to make sure that He has free reign in me.

God has been calling me to radically change my life.  I keep feeling his draw to give up certain things for his glory and to live my life in a special way devoted to Him.  One of the things that helped me see that I wasn’t fully abandoned to God’s will was the fact that I was stumbling so regularly in loving James in this dare.  This past week was a rough week for me.  I was selfish, rude, and I was not succeeding in love.  What I realized through the last dare and this one is that I cannot love with unconditional love if Christ does not have my whole heart in which to pour his unconditional love. 

The last two lines of the song I wrote yesterday were “I’ve let go of all I’m grasping for, I’m grasping for you.”  The life that God has called me to live is a life devoted to grasping after Him.  I am learning to hunger and thirst for God like I have never known before.  How does this have to do with the love dare?  I can only love my husband fully if I know the love of God in a real way.  If I tip my hat to God, then go on living my life, I am not receiving God’s unconditional love that I can pour out to my husband.  God loves me unconditionally and in response to that kind of love, I can love unconditionally.  I don’t deserve that kind of love, and sometimes my wonderful yet flawed husband doesn’t deserve that kind of love, but that doesn’t stop God from loving me, and that shouldn’t stop me from loving my husband.

How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
- Charles Wesley

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dare Nineteen: Reaching the end of me

The dare: “Look back over the dares from previous days.  Were there some that seemed impossible to you?  Have you realized your need for God to change your heart and to give you the ability to love?  Ask Him to show you where you stand with Him, and ask for the strength and grace to settle your eternal destination.”

All I can say about the effect of this dare on my heart is expressed in this song that I wrote as God called me to accept his love into every part of my heart and life.

Grasping for You

I’m down on my knees
I’ve reached the end of me
I’ve done all I can do
I’m nothing without you

Take me to the cross
It’s the starting place
At the foot of the cross
I surrender me to you

I’ve been blinded by my labors
Pressing forward on my own
After all this time of doing
I found myself alone

Take me to the cross
It’s the starting place
At the foot of the cross
I surrender me to you

Abase me for your name
Pour me out for your glory
Empty out my life
Dwell in me today

Take me to the cross
I abandon all I am
I’ve let go of all I’m grasping for
I’m grasping for you

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dare Eighteen: Dinner for Two . . . or Three

Last night, I cleared off the table, set the table with plates, napkins, and silverware, and lit a candle.  While the dare for yesterday was to “prepare a special dinner at home, just for the two of you," we also included our little guy in our meal, because it would be a little hard to leave the little guy out.  He hardly noticed that we were having a special dinner for two while he ate in his high chair.  The dare went on to say that "the dinner can be as nice as you prefer.  Focus this time on getting to know your spouse better, perhaps in areas you’ve rarely talked about.  Determine to make it an enjoyable evening for you and your mate.”

James did not know what the dare for the day was.  So when I made the table look all spiffy, he was left scratching his head.  The candle tipped him off to the dinner being a special effort, even though the meal itself was not all that special.  I made the Chicken Bog all by myself, but I made it two nights before.  However, this was the first time we got to sit down for a meal together to eat the dish.

Having put a little extra effort into preparing a special dinner, I realize that sometimes doing something special should be a part of my routine.  Why shouldn’t I set the table before dinner and clear the mail and extra items off of the table?  Why shouldn’t I make sure I know what I’m fixing more than 30 minutes before dinner?  I could probably spend a lot more time talking with James if I planned our meals in advance, even if he’s cooking for the day.  Maybe I’ll spend a little time making dinner special and have enjoyable nights like this more often!