Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘relationships’

The Joys of Nothing Doing

Doing nothing is always better when you've got someone to share it.

Doing nothing is always better when you’ve got someone to share it.

Musings on the nature of love

“I’ve got a little list!
I’ve got a little list!
Of people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face!”
– ‘The Mikado‘, Gilbert and Sullivan

How a little list saved my lifeWhen I was about 14, I made a list. It described the attributes of my perfect man. I hid it away, ready to pull out when (if) I ever met someone who I thought could be marriage material. I wanted to get it right.

Five years later, when I did finally meet someone who seemed to be Mr Right, I must admit that I rushed in and accepted his proposal before I even remembered that there was a list to be checked. I found the list when I was packing up my life to go and be his wife. Amused, and utterly convinced that I’d made the right choice, I compared Mr Soon-to-be-Mine to the Mr Right I’d concocted in my youth.

He ticked very box.

He even met criteria I thought no one ever would, and which I’d left off the list as being “too much to ask for”. (Honestly, can you really hope for a MacGuyver-type who does a killer John Cleese imitation AND knows all the words to every episode of the Goon Show? Yet that’s what I got! I’d have settled for “has once heard of the Goon Show.”)

In retrospect I may have put other items on my list which I could never have imagined as a teenager. Things like “loves doing dishes” or “picks up after himself”. I imagine I’m not alone there.

My point, though, is that I knew what I wanted, and I recognised it when it stood in front of me. Before I accepted Papa Bear’s proposal, there had been other contenders for the role. I’d nearly settled for a trainee teacher (I love academics) and a wanna-be fireman (brave!). I was diverted by a banker for a while, and even considered and actor/veterinarian. I didn’t really think I’d ever get everything on my list, and in a way that list was an insurance policy. Because I so adamantly did not want to get married, the list gave me a way out of every relationship. And then it didn’t.

We’ve been married for 16 and a half years. Of course we’ve had our share of trials, but we are still in love, and our relationship gets stronger all the time.

Not all of my friends are so lucky, and I recently found myself contemplating the nature of love. I believe that a big part of why we’re good together is because we’re a good fit. And a big part of being a good fit is intentional planning. The men I didn’t marry didn’t meet some key criteria that, to me, were non-negotiable. There were things like, “he must be able to spell”, “he must love to read”, “he absolutely may not demonstrate violence”. Those things might seem obvious to you, but each of the men I turned down (except perhaps the vet) barely read anything, couldn’t spell, and demonstrated violence in subtle ways. And as soon as those things became apparent, I lost interest. It wasn’t a rational act as much as a visceral reaction.

My less fortunate friends find themselves married or involved with men who are distant, unkind, uninvolved, and even violent. Men who don’t read or even value the written word. Men with little clue about what parenting involves or that it ought to involve them. I am astonished that they could have chosen those men in the first place, as I would have run a mile in the opposite direction from that kind of attention. I actually did. They kindly point out to me that they didn’t choose. They fell in love. It just happened.

How could that just happen? This single “fall” has the power to create a lifetime’s worth of joy or bring a seeming eternity of lonely misery. How can we leave something like that to chance? How can we let willful, capricious emotions – possibly created in a moment’s intoxicated weakness – take charge in such a critical aspect of our lives? Is it not far too important to allow a few months of chemical reactions to set us on a course for the rest of our lives??

And yet – didn’t I fall in love? Didn’t Papa Bear and I declare our intentions within days of our meeting? Didn’t we get engaged barely a month after we met? Wouldn’t we have been married a whole year earlier if the law had allowed it? And here, at last, we reach the culmination of my musings. Could it be that I rewired my brain when I made that list? I don’t know what I would have selected without the list, although the near-misses give me a fair idea. I knew my training and experience had set me on a course for self-destruction. I wanted better than that. And I got it. I got better than I dreamed, and better than I ought to have had.

I believe that marriage is hard work, and that any two people willing to put in the effort required can make any marriage work. I also believe that we foolish humans self-sabotage, and if we don’t take thoughtful and definitive steps to identify and circumvent our own personal brand of sabotage, we will be powerless against it. So my musings lead me to think that that little list of mine saved my life, and laid the foundation of my children’s happiness. I wish I could give them more, but I can give them love, safety and security. And that is more than most.

How about you? When looking for a mate, do you base your choices on how he (or she) makes you feel? Or do you know what you’re looking for? And how important is knowing when it comes to falling in love? Do you think you can programme yourself to make smart choices? Please tell me what you think.

 

What your Mama should’ve told you about marriage (but didn’t).

A very good friend of mine is getting married in just over a month. He’s nervous, understandably, and has been asking me for advice. His primary concern is that, since they’ve been living together for a number of years, that initial “spark” has fizzled.  He’s worried that if he can’t reignite it before the wedding, it could mean that he’s making a big mistake, that they’re not meant for each other, and that somehow he’s “fallen out of love” with her.

Here’s my response:

It’s a trick!

In fact that initial spark is utterly fake. (Watch the video below) The initial spark is pure chemistry: your body and her body flood with hormones for long enough to allow your brains time to connect and identify a potential relationship partner. Science shows that this chemical reaction NEVER lasts more than 2  years (even 18 months is long), and everything after that is what it’s all about. Love is NOT a feeling. It is a decision. You decide to sacrifice your preferences and needs for someone else’s. In an ideal world, she decides the same thing. Then you lay the ground rules as a foundation for your relationship (eg: no cheating, no hitting, no badmouthing, no leaving), and you both apply a WORLD of plain, old-fashioned GRIT, and you work at it every moment of every day of your life.

Excellence requires EFFORT

Love is a VERB

Love is a VERB

To be good at ANYTHING requires hard work, practice, effort and determination. If you were aiming to be an Olympic athlete, you’d expect to train long and hard, for months and years on end, just to have a HOPE of success. In marriage, we should try to be the best spouse we can possibly be. We need to commit to training long and hard, disciplining ourselves and making an effort – for months and years. The key difference between marriage and Olympic sports is that in marriage these factors ALWAYS guarantee success, whereas on the sports field they only guarantee a CHANCE at success.

Failure is the result of expectations

The reason marriages fail is because people don’t realise these two things: love is an ACTION, not a feeling; and marriage takes lots of consistent work. It is worth it, but you need to go in with your eyes open.

Consider the cost

The only way to get that fluttery feeling back is to get it with someone else. And that costs so much more than you can quantify. True love in a committed marriage is DEEP. It lasts. It supports you when you feel that you’re facing the world alone. It comforts you when you’re at your lowest and rejoices with you at your highest. It supports you on the journey from low to high, and inspires you to get that. It knows you, understands you, cares for you. One day you’ll be old and infirm, and if you’ve traded your life of committed bliss for a few moments of feeling amazing, you’ll be alone. But if you’ve taken the plunge to be the person someone else needs in exchange for them being the person you need (whether they do their part or not, you NEED to do yours), you’ll be rewarded with contentment and a deeper version of love than you can even begin to fathom now.

Romantic love is a chemical addiction – Helen Fisher on TED

What do you think about marriage and love? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

True Love

“And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” – John 4:21

If I say I love God, but I don’t love my family and friends, I am a liar, and God’s love isn’t in me. God is love. A relationship with Him is characterised by perfect love and indescribable peace. It is is not a relationship filled with judgment, hate, persecution and guilt. It is free of fear or retribution.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – John 4:18

Freedom from fear

The truth is that I am not perfect. While I certainly don’t fear for my soul, I do get fearful here on earth. Will we make the ends meet this month? Will bad guys break into my house? Will the economy collapse? These are fears that have plagued nations and individuals almost as long as there have been nations and individuals. But that waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night, gut-wrenching terror about the future of my soul if there should happen to be a forever? Nope. I’m sorted. I have peace.

What, then, is love?

How does this perfect love play out in one’s life? Being imperfect, I certainly don’t see people the way God does. But I do know that I can model my actions on His, and develop a worldview that mirrors God’s devotion to us. When we’re learning a new skill, who better to learn from than someone who’s mastered it? And when we learn to love, who better to learn from than The Master?

Let’s review, then. How has He shown His love for us?

  1. He made us. That’s pretty big. He gave us life – arguably the greatest gift this side of forever.
  2. He gave us choice. He could have made us all love Him automatically. Instead, He lets us choose our own path through life.
  3. He gave us His Word. Even though we have the option of going any way we like, He gave us the manual, and shows us how to get the most out of what He’s given us.
  4. He gave us Jesus. To make it easier to understand His Word and His will, he sent us His Son. A gentle and humble teacher, overflowing with love for each of us, Jesus lived out the Way, and taught us how to do so, too.
  5. He gave His life. What greater gift could anyone ask for, ever? He gave everything; He took our place.
  6. He conquered death. Not only did He take our place in paying for our sin, He took away death and gave us everlasting life.
  7. He did all that – and we did not deserve a bit of it. Before we were created, He’d saved us (if we want to be saved – He’s even left that choice up to us). We certainly couldn’t have earned a single one of these demonstrations of love before we even existed. He loved us first.

That’s pretty awesome, right? So how should I love, if this is my model?

  • I should love first. I shouldn’t wait for the person to earn it, ask for it, or deserve it.
  • I should love sacrificially. Love doesn’t always cost something. But I should love even if it does cost me something. I should love even if it costs me everything.
  • Loving is giving. Do I have what you need? Here ya go, then. It’s yours. You don’t have to pa me back. I ask for nothing in return.
  • Loving is forgiving. Whether you meant to hurt me or not, whether you want my forgiveness or not, whether you know I exist or not, I forgive you, and won’t hold it against you.
  • Loving is taking action. Saying, “I love you” is not enough. I show my love for you by meeting your physical and emotional needs to the very best of my ability. Whether you need warm clothes, a plate of food, a place to stay, a hug, or any other practical, real demonstration of my love, I need to be willing to do it.
  • Love gives life. Our words and actions have power. Every day we impact lives in ways too numerous to mention. We can use that power for good if we choose to. We can breathe energy and encouragement and joy into the lives of others. Love chooses life.

Perfect Love requires no payment.

I love imperfectly. I want a reward for my sacrifice, and I withhold good from those to whom it is due (Prov. 3:27), even if I have it by me, because I have harboured some root of bitterness in my heart against that person (Heb. 12:15). I may be justified in my pain and disillusionment, but that doesn’t make me right. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I’m walking in God’s love. If I can harbour a root of bitterness and not forgive, then I’ve lost sight of what really matters in life. I’m focusing on me. And having walked that way, I can testify that it is not the way to happiness.

Imagine.

Imagine a world without conflict or hatred. A world of peace and self-sacrifice, where everyone has what they need and no one goes without. Imagine a world in which no one judges anyone, no one keeps score, no one is selfish. That’s the world I’m living for, and I’m going to start today by loving in deed, not just in words.

How about you?

Lesson #15: Expectations vs expectancy

When we live a life filled with expectations, we create a pressure cookie for disappointment.

I know that this statement is a broad generalisation and not always true. For instance, if we expect nothing from ourselves, we’ll achieve it. Not great. We need to set reasonable expectations for ourselves. Furthermore, if we expect nothing from those that matter to us, we can make them feel worthless and insignificant – the last thing we ever want!

My problem was (and still is, to some extent), expecting too much. I expect myself to achieve too much, and fail hopelessly every time. This disappoints me and leads me to feel that, since every effort is an inevitable failure, I shouldn’t try at all.

I expect myself to not have to do as much as I do have to do. I feel that I should only have to do half of everything that needs to be done, and that I should be able to have some “me” time. Since that’s not really practical or reasonable right now, I get frustrated and start to “steal” time from other place. I spend a few more minutes on Facebook than I can reasonably justify for work. I spend a few more minutes cloistered in the bathroom, reading my book. I take longer in the bath and put off doing the dishes. After a week of this, I have a heap of dishes, a laundry FULL of dirty clothes, and the screaming, wooshing sound of deadlines flying by. I also have a pair of grumpy, understimulated children and a bewildered husband.

I expect my husband to love me the way that I love him. I’ve spoken in the past about Love Languages, and while I know that the way he receives and shows love is not the same as mine, I expect it to be. I expect him to process stress the way that I do (find the problem and fix it at any cost), not the way he does (go to bed till the fit passes). I become disappointed in what I see as his lack of delivery, and frustrated by his lack of action.

I expect my children to magically achieve their potential now that I a) home educate and, b) have overhauled their diets. They should instantly be free of head aches, mood swings, concentration challenges and sore tummies. Somehow all of this should also address their low muscle tone and make them strong. When they aren’t instantly perfect, or when they have one of those days – you know the ones, where a single English worksheet takes four hours! – I become despondent and doubt my decision to home educate. In fact, I doubt all my life choices and dissolve into an unproductive puddle.

It is true that I’m an extremist, and that should be borne in mind.

However, the gift of expectancy breathes life into our family.

When I face the new day with expectancy, excited about the possibility of achieving my Three Important Tasks for the day, eagerly anticipating my morning run or pilates session, I can’t be disappointed. The anticipation adds to the joy of the action itself, and makes the day a landscape punctuated by eager expectation and fulfilled goals. In a nutshell: satisfaction.

When I enjoy Papa Bear’s differentness and realise that I can learn so much from his view of life and approach to challenges, each day becomes a classroom, or better yet, an adventure, a mystery waiting to be uncovered. What will I learn today? What will I become? How will my perspective change and grow, making me a better person? It becomes almost impossible to stay in bed when faced with a whole day where I can meet my beloved’s needs, help him to achieve his potential, and learn about him and from him along the way.

When I see each moment with my children as a moment for all of us to learn, when I realise that whatever I say is absorbed into their growing self awareness like water into a sponge, when I understand that English and Maths serve a limited purpose and are not the final point of lifelong learning, I can seize each opportunity, each window into my children’s souls, capitalise on it, and help them become the best that they can be. I can teach them balance, self-discipline, acceptance, generosity, hard work, sensitivity, strength and so much more. I can comfort them when the work is hard, and rejoice with them when they master it. It’s a journey, with maturity as the end product, not a university degree.

This lesson is far from over, but writing it down helps to remind me of these truths and fills me with awe at God’s grace and mercy that He would take the time to teach these truths to a hard heart like mine. I wondered how a Christian could truly know the joy of the Lord, and here I see it so clearly. Stop expecting things to be different and start anticipating the joy of what already is.

Hebrews 13:5 “Be content with such things as you have.”

Overparenting?

I came across this today on Crosswalk, and found it very thought-provoking:

Why is “parenting” even a verb?

There is one conversation I have with other parents that always ends the same way: our heads all nodding vigorously.  You know the conversation.  It goes like some version of this:

“Gee, when I was growing up, my parents did not spend this much time watching my every move.”

My brother-in-law recently sent me an article from Boston Magazine about this same topic that hit way too close to home for me.  The title is “Welcome To The Age Of Overparenting,” and the author writes about the anxious, hovering moments spent with our kids that many of us know far too well.  She goes on to describe how she’s noticed even her kids beginning to signal to her: “Mommy, it’s too much!”

What is going on?

Yes, there is all the craziness out there that causes fear to grip our hearts and pull our kids in closer.

But there is another grip on our hearts as well.

I believe it is the desire to worship, misplaced onto our relationships with our children.

On the whole, as a culture, our dependence and reliance on an all-powerful God has weakened. Even those of us who call ourselves Christians struggle mightily with giving up control to God. We’re used to blazing our own trails, to being our own saviors. In fact, it’s encouraged.  “DIY” didn’t become a catch phrase out of the blue!

So when we search for meaning in our lives, we no longer turn to God.  Instead, we begin to turn to our own achievements and our closest relationships.

As moms, we can easily find ourselves worshiping our children and our roles as mothers.  In fact, our marriages can come under stress because of this very dynamic.  We frequently put our children ahead of our husbands, and both ahead of God.

But this kind of worship won’t hold water.

Children grow up. We see them changing before our eyes, skipping out the door, not looking back.  And it’s the right order of things!  We want them to move forwards in their lives. We grieve when that forward motion is interrupted.

What then, can we do, to help our hearts with this desire to “overparent”?

First, we must remind ourselves constantly that our kids are not ours.  We are their stewards for awhile, but they don’t belong to us.  We barely had a hand in creating them.  They are truly gifts from God.

Second, we must commit them with joy to the Lord.  He upholds them, He has their lives in His hands.  He’s the one they ultimately belong to for all the days of their lives.

Last, with a great gasping effort, we’ve got to turn our own lives over to Him as well.

In my own life, this is not the most gracious thing you’ve ever seen!  Much of it comes about because I have nowhere else to turn.  It happens when I realize that no other foundation holds up.

He is a firm foundation.

For us and for them!

Question:  What about you?  Do you find you struggle with the desire to overparent?  How do you respond to it?

I must admit that I tend to overparent my gorgeous girls, and I hadn’t really thought about it as a worship-substitute until today. What do you think?

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