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.