I am a Christian women's author, speaker and mentor, and blended family mom. Married since 2004, my husband and I have four children and four grandchildren. I am also co-founder of Carpenters for Christ (carpentersforchrist.net), a Christian ministry dedicated to coaching married couples and families.
I love how things learned from people in the past can really benefit you for the rest of your life. For many years, I worked for my best friend’s husband who is a CPA. I learned so many things from him, but one I have used over and over is the negotiating tactic of “he who speaks first, loses.” In other words, when you are in a situation where you are wanting something – whether by gaining it or buying it – present your desire, give the why, make the offer, and then be quiet. If you go ahead and start talking again, the other person has a much better chance to reject your offer. But when there is silence, it can be a game changer. I have used that technique to buy several vehicles. I try to use it when I am mentoring someone. I have even used it on my kids!
In today’s world, we almost feel like we need to scream to be heard. How about changing that? Why don’t we use our ears more, allowing those around us to trust they are being heard, and we value their thoughts and opinions? After all, we have two ears and one mouth; we should listen twice as much as we speak!
In the beginning of my blended family, we started having family nights, which also provided the opportunity for each of us to vent and share feelings about how the dynamics of our family were going. My kids were a little more vocal about how they felt things could change or were unfair. This allowed us to see this blending process from their perspective. This also allowed Dan and I the opportunity to make some changes if we felt it would be beneficial. There were times we didn’t feel a change was necessary, but at least the kids knew they could be open with us.
We should all take the time to respect and truly listen to each other. The Bible verse that backs this up is Jeremiah 29:12, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Wow … can you imagine if God tuned you out the way so many of us tune out each other? I must confess there are times that Dan is sharing with me but my mind is thinking about something else. There have been times when my children were sharing experiences of their day, and I was thinking about what to fix for dinner, or what chores I wanted them to do. And yet, when I speak, I automatically expect total attention. The old saying is true – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31).
As you interact today with your spouse, kids, co-workers, friends, and even strangers in the grocery store line, take the time to use the negotiating tactic of “He who speaks first, loses.” Be quiet long enough for them to get their thoughts out. I think you will find you gain more information, understanding, and wisdom when you challenge yourself to listen in the same way that you would want God to listen to you!
“Run and jump!,” he said. I laughed nervously. I had never zip-lined before. I’ve watched others. They all seemed to have survived, but would I be so lucky? I’m not as young or as small as I used to be. Would the cable be strong enough to hold me all the way across? Would the trolley keep me running smoothly along the cable? Would the harness around my waist and thighs truly keep me connected to the cable from one point to the next?
I guess you don’t know until you jump. I didn’t really run and jump – it was more like a skip. I did scream for about a second until I realized I was still alive – and now was gliding through a tropical forest of pools, rivers and lush vegetation. It was breathtaking and beautiful. What an amazing vantage point to be surveying my surroundings. I can’t believe all I would have missed if I had not taken my ‘leap of faith’!
Isn’t everyday life the same as zip lining? There are many opportunities to jump into a new job, leap into solving critical family problems — skip into a new dream or business venture. But you have to be the first to move.
As a Christian, a believer in God — who sent His Son to save us — and seals us with the Holy Spirit, we have the perfect ‘equipment’ to trust in. God is the cable — sturdy, strong, unwavering. Jesus is the harness — wrapping you up safely. The Holy Spirit is our trolley — guiding us and opening our eyes, minds and hearts to what is around us and where we are headed.
You may be contemplating your next ‘run and jump’ opportunity. Ask God for the faith to give you courage. Watch for the Holy Spirit to guide. Know that Jesus, who is closer than a brother, is constantly with you. Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” Don’t jump into your next opportunity without God.
Psalm 73:28 says, “As for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.” When God is a part of your adventure, you can believe you will be able to share with others of His great work.
Being in a blended family is much like zip-lining…you definitely can’t get to the other side without stepping forward and stepping off the platform … run and jump! You may scream at first, but then you will see the beautiful opportunity surrounding you. Hang on … and … Blessings in your blending!
Life is the ever-constant teacher. I have shared in previous radio and blog posts about what you focus on and how you focus on it, tends to direct the feelings and thoughts in other areas of your life. I have often focused on the wrong things and it ultimately left my day with emptiness and bitterness. It really does make a difference whether you see your “glass as half full or half empty.”
I am an optimist for the most part – but when things don’t go as planned – when I start finding fault – my little optimistic brain spirals downwards in a heartbeat. Thankfully, God has been helping me to fix my thoughts on Him – the good He has provided and the good in situations and people. This is especially important as I coach and mentor women and couples.
I’m not saying that you have to become a Positive Polly – but I would challenge you to consider the following Bible verses along with a past coaching experience.
In Proverbs 4:23 it says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” First, let’s look at the word wellspring. dictionary.com’s definition is, “a source or supply of anything, especially when considered inexhaustible”. This gives us such a beautiful visual of our hearts – they flow constantly – are inexhaustible.
Matthew 12:34 gives us additional information; “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”. Through these two verses, we can see that it is important to guard what we allow into our hearts, as well as ears, eyes, and minds.
Second of all, we find that what we allow in, will eventually come back out through our mouths. The day I focused on a negative situation was the day that not only became frustrating and bitter, but the things that came out of my mouth were demeaning and bitter and ugly. That day was a turning point for me.
I do my best to choose to focus on where God is working, what He is doing, and the people He wants me to love and serve – not based on them – but based on God loving them through me.
Since life lessons are great teachers, I shared this with a young wife. She visited with me about how everything was wrong with her marriage. He didn’t do some things, and then he did other things she didn’t like. She started focusing on all the negatives until there was no room for any positive thoughts about him or her marriage. The source of her heart – the wellspring – had turned sour and the bitter and nagging comments from her mouth were the result.
I asked her to look for the good in her husband. She immediately told me he was a good man. She started talking about how he was a diligent provider and a list of other qualities and characteristics that were wonderful.
I almost saw the lightbulb go on inside her head – she pretty much figured out all by herself that she had forgotten about the value and worth of her husband.
I encouraged her to start thinking and reminding herself about who she married – her friend, lover, confidant, encourager. This, of course, did not address all the ‘wrong’ things in her marriage, but it did provide a more positive setting for them to work through the issues.
I didn’t hear from her again until months later… a simple text thanking me for my time and encouragement and that her and her husband were back together and the issues seemed to be working themselves out.
Above all else – guard your heart. Let God pour into your heart through reading His Word and talking with Him daily – all throughout your day. Be careful what music you let yourself listen to. Be cautious of the movies and TV you allow to penetrate your mind … because your legacy to your family is what you pour out to them.
When I think about marriage these days, it conjures up a mental picture of a square dance. You start with a partner and as you dance around a circle, at some point the square dance caller, in his sing-song voice, will say, “change your partner.” So many marriages have mimicked this – you go along for awhile, and then at some point, you change partners.
God’s plan? I don’t think so. Forgivable? Absolutely. Doable? Yes. Difficult? Yes and Yes! Just get ready to learn a new dance!
So as this dance continues with your partner, you may run into a past ex- … or two. This is where things can get sketchy. In a typical square dance, you have four couples who all dance in response to a square dance caller calling the next dance configuration. If all the couples comply, the dance moves effortlessly and in unity — plus it’s a lot of fun! If one couple gets turned around or does their own dance steps, it sends the whole group into chaos.
You may not know a thing about square dancing, but you may know tons about going along in life, and then a text from an ex- will send everyone going in a different direction. You may need a little encouragement today to grab your partner and “do-si-do” and get back in step in your marriage dance. Here’s how you can do that …
First, we need God, His wisdom, and His Word. Romans 8:16-18 says, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud nor conceited. Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
From these verses we first and foremost know that we are responsible for our words and our actions. We cannot control the ex.
Secondly, again, verse 18 says, “As far as it depends on you”… on me. The ex- may text how horrible we are. The ex- may text ugliness and disregard for all of our efforts to help raise and nurture their kids. And, we are going to have to let the words, the accusations, the insults, the obscenities, roll off us like water rolling off a duck’s back.
In other words, the comments will not be allowed to have an effect on us. I know that is easier said than done, but it might help to remember that “hurt people hurt people.”
It doesn’t matter if the ex- is the one who left your spouse. It doesn’t matter if the ex- has numerous hang ups. Somehow, you – and your spouse – are going to take the brunt of the anger and resentment.
So, knowledge is power. Expect those verbal digs. Find compassion for their pain and bitterness. Pray for them. Complain to God – not back at them.
Thirdly, keep all correspondence to the facts. Personal feelings can explode all over one comment. So keep damage to a minimum – as far as it depends on you! I know I want the last word in an argument so badly – but usually my last comment has a zinger within it that doesn’t help the conversation one bit. In fact, it does more damage. Keeping silent is a virtue … and I’m still trying to zip my lip at times!!
We all know that life is not like a perfect square dance. But, we can sure have a lot of fun during times when everyone is playing nice and following the caller’s directions. Sometimes we just need to quit trying to do our own dance – and join the other people who are in your same circle. As far as it depends on you …
Lists. I love making lists. I have a list for the day, for the week, for the month and then the goals list for the year. I love writing each item down and then find joy and satisfaction in crossing off as many items as possible every day.
Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” captured my attention because Alice had a list. Her list looks different from mine, but I’m going to follow her example. In one of the final scenes of the movie, Alice is getting ready to face her opponent – the Jabberwocky in which she is to slay. To bolster herself, Alice tells the Mad Hatter that sometimes she believe six impossible things before breakfast. The Hatter then tells her this is an excellent practice.
Wow! I’m an optimist and this practice never even crossed my mind.
First Samuel 17:34 is David’s list – you know, the one who killed the giant named Goliath. His list included rescuing a sheep from the mouth of a lion and bear. When the animals turned against David, he killed them. He had quite an impressive list of conquests, so taking on Goliath wasn’t that intimidating to him. He believed that God had delivered him from the lion and the bear and would also deliver him from the giant.
Let’s take this a step further. What about Jesus? Guess what? I found a list! Jesus turned water into wine. He healed people, drove out evil spirits, raised some folks back to life, fed thousands of people with just a handful of food and then did the ultimate – died on a cross for our sins. It didn’t end there though. He went on to conquer death and rise again after three days in a grave. He sits at the right hand of God and is our most precious mediator. He paid the price for our sins – which is very high – death. He did that. What a list of impossibilities.
My list of impossibilities includes being adopted at birth instead of being aborted. Surviving a husband’s death. Learning to cope and not worry about my children’s kidney disease. Functioning well while I was a widow raising two small kids, owning a home and finishing my college education. All of which prepared me for my giant – my Jabberwocky – my blended family.
I had survived and conquered other tough life situations – this would be no different. I had the past to help me look to the future. My story is much like David’s. God had delivered me from other impossible situations and He would be there to get me through the next ones.
Make your list. You have lived long enough to have survived some things and conquered some things. Maybe before breakfast we should go over this list. I have a feeling that during this lifetime, we will be facing many more Giants and Jabberwockys.
Get ready to go forward in faith because as Joshua 1:9 says, “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”