Smiling Socks…(Visiting my friends…)

My husband and I just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary last night with a scorching hot softball game (it was 105 degrees outside) and a trip to Chili’s for dinner with the kids.

My how our lives have changed!

Over the last thirteen years we’ve learned a lot. Experience is a great teacher, and, well, she comes by our place often.

So while we are certainly not the end-all-be-all-know-everything resource for marriage, we do have a tip or two in our back pocket to share with you every now and then.

When my friend, Sheila Wray Gregoire, asked if I would write a guest post for her site on marriage and family relationships, I was honored and excited.  Won’t you join me over at To Love, Honor and Vacuum for a little tea and story…I promise you won’t be disappointed!

I Love You's from the dresser drawer..

This week our Marriage Champions discussion group focused a very heavy topic, you ready?….duh-duh-dun….household responsibilities.

And while at first, it may seem like small potatoes in the land of marriage enrichment (I mean we are discussing difficult topics like communication, conflict management and sexual intimacy here), what we discovered is that “neglect of home and family” is second only to “mental cruelty” as a stated reason for divorce.

That’s right, household responsibilities are no small potatoes in marriage….click here to read more…

Guest Post- We Aren’t Islands

Many of us long to live in a world where we shouldn’t have to do anything for anyone else. We set the course for our own lives; we decide what paths we will take; and nobody should have the power to derail our dreams. Freedom is our rallying cry!

What I can’t figure out, though, is why freedom is so great. So many of us are so busy proclaiming our autonomy, saying “you can’t make me do this,” that I wonder if we’ve ever stopped to question whether being beholden to someone is actually such a bad thing.

Modern day feminists, for instance, cry that no man should be able to tell a woman what to do, and that no woman should twist herself in knots to get or keep a man. Instead, she should seek to fulfill her dreams, and any guy who wants to tag along had better adapt.

Yet speaking as a woman who is greatly in love with a certain man, I have to wonder why it’s so bad to want to please him? What’s wrong with wanting to make the house nice for him to come home to after he’s been on call for thirty-six hours straight and he’s exhausted? What’s wrong with doing his laundry? After all, he gives great foot massages, and he contributes more of the income! But even if he didn’t, isn’t it nice, sometimes, to have someone to fuss over?

I don’t do these things because I have to; I do them because I want to. I know some would call me an oppressed wife, but I don’t think those people have ever really experienced the joy of a give-and-take relationship. Besides, he cleans off the car for me, takes out the garbage, and figures out how my Bluetooth device works. It’s a two-way street.

It’s not only feminists telling women that they should never change for men, though; a new cohort of young men has concluded that they don’t need relationships, either. One night stands might be fine, but commitment is out of the picture. In fact, one man in a very open relationship once reported to me that he was as happy as he could imagine; neither of them made any demands on the other, and because of that the relationship was perfect.

Five years later that relationship is long gone, and I often wonder if ultimately they would have been happier if they had made demands on each other—demands that they stay faithful, do things together, be nice to one another, forge a life together instead of just side by side.

When we focus our lives solely on what we want life becomes rather shallow and awfully erratic. We can never achieve real intimacy with anybody, whether friend or significant other, for when we don’t make or accept demands, nothing can be permanent. And if nothing is permanent, we can’t be vulnerable. We can’t really open up. Sure, you may be able to pursue surface things, but what about our deepest needs to be accepted, loved, affirmed, and cherished? Without vulnerability and transparency, which can only come when we do make demands on each other, real intimacy can’t be achieved.

Loving someone isn’t a burden; it’s a privilege. Sometimes we should do things we don’t really want to do. Sometimes we should let someone else set the course. True love, after all, whether it’s with a sibling, a spouse, a child, or a friend, is so much better than autonomy. And, in the end, it’s far less lonely.
Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. She blogs at http://tolovehonorandvacuum.blogspot.com and has a great newsletter called Reality Check.
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Guest Post- How to Be an Encourager

Welcome Company Girls! Thanks for tuning in..today I am featuring a guest post by Sheila Wray Gregoire of  To Love, Honour and Vacuum…she rocks! Enjoy and be sure to check out the post below to find out how to get your copy of Living  Life with Strings Attached, released March 1st!

There are some days when I’ve just about had it. Recently, when baby-sitting a friend’s two preschoolers, I realized how much one can forget in the six short years since both of my girls have been out of diapers. On that day, the three-year-old got into the paints when I wasn’t looking. I discovered him sitting atop the kitchen table, making interesting designs on his clothes. After taking one look at him, I decided he was too far gone to interfere with now. I just gave him some paper and figured at least this would keep him busy for a while. And it did. It kept him so busy he didn’t realize when he had to pee. My table got the worst of it.

But even my days with my own children can be disheartening. I really enjoy cooking, and sometimes I make these sumptuous meals, lay out the silver, sit down with excitement, and watch the kids’ faces drop. Even though they know it’s definitely not in their best interests to voice any complaints, they sit, dejected, and suffer in silence as they look at all the yucky green stuff I sprinkled on the chicken. I want to enjoy the meal, but the whole atmosphere is ruined. Don’t they see what I went through for them?

Some of us have jobs that make us feel that way, too. If we work at a place where morale is lower than a double-jointed limbo dancer, everybody is grumpy.

We Need Encouragement

The problem, whether at our jobs or at home, is not necessarily that the work we do is miserable, or that the job is too hard. It’s that nobody appreciates our efforts. Attention only comes our way when something goes wrong.

Living that kind of life, with no positive feedback, can be like living a slow death. Even when we have pursued a life which we feel God has called us to-a career we feel proud of, a family we’re raising that we love, a business we’re starting-that inner sense of motivation, satisfaction or vocation only takes you so far. We are social beings, and we’re made to need positive human interaction.

That’s what poisons so many marriages, and causes employers to lose the best people. These bad feelings, even if they don’t stem from huge issues, can start to add up as, brick by brick, we build up walls between us. Soon there doesn’t seem anything left to hold us together.

Acknowledge What Other People Do

How can we stop this impending death? My grandfather, after every meal, would always smile and thank my grandmother. “Mother,” he would say, “that was wonderful,” whether it was or not. He was acknowledging the effort and the love that she put into that meal. When we don’t acknowledge that love, too often it flickers out.

Don’t Wait for Them to Make That First Step

Much as we may know this kind of appreciation is vital, though, when we’re feeling unappreciated, it’s really hard to appreciate anybody else. We’re each waiting for the other person to thank us, before it even occurs to us to acknowledge them. It’s strange how we’re often the most critical with those we’re the closest to. We can be kind to strangers, but are we kind to those who really matter? And when our lives feel like endless to-do lists, taking time to encourage someone seems overwhelming. Why should they need it? I’m keeping up with all my work without anybody fawning all over me. Why should I fawn all over anybody else?

That’s a dangerous, though understandable, attitude. Many of us are tired. After that day with four kids, I certainly was. But think about those around you. Why not break through that wall today, before it becomes too high to climb over? You may think you’re tired now, but don’t sacrifice the people who comprise your support system. Take my advice: whether you’re at home or at work, stop reading, smile at the person nearest you, and say thank you for something. You’ll be tearing down bricks, and that’s ever so much better than piling them up.

Do you feel overwhelmed with all the things you need to get done? Get your FREE household organization charts, including chore sheets, checklists to make sure you’re putting first things first, and more!

Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books specializing in marriage and household organization. She blogs athttp://tolovehonorandvacuum.blogspot.com

Why Many Women’s Events Miss the Mark

Recently, I was reading a post (of the same title) by Sheila Wray Gregoire at Becoming A Christian Women’s Speaker, and she nailed it. Perfectly. She says:

Anyone who is involved in women’s ministry in a church today has on her heart the goal to reach people for God, and help move them into a deeper relationship with Him. I have no doubt about that absolutely.

The problem is that the way we go about women’s ministry often works in direct opposition to that goal. For instance, I think that in order for people to journey closer to God, they have to have two things:

1. Deeper friendships with other Christians
2. A chance to respond to God.

Most women’s events work directly against both of those aims, even if they don’t mean to.

Many people involved in organizing women’s events are so focussed on getting a “Bible teacher” for their event, that they forget that luncheons, retreats, and other women’s events are social events.  They are places that women go to seek relationships…relationship with God being primary, but relationships with one another.  They are looking for connection with others of like mind.  These opportunities can get lost in the hustle and bustle to set up a really “professional” presentation.  Sheila goes on to discuss what is wrong with the way we are working women’s events these days:

1. They focus on talking AT you.

Too many events leave no time for any relationship building. They have special music and special features where people are supposed to listen, and then they have to listen to a speaker. Getting an evening away is tough for most women. We want it to be relaxing and rejuvenating. If we’re sitting there, just listening to others, we’re unlikely to feel rejuvenated, because what we most want is to connect with other women. That won’t happen if the whole evening is geared towards talking at us.

Ways around it: Have “hands-on” features where women do something together, like a spa night, a make-your-own wreath event, a craft night, or something. When we do things together, we forge friendships because we can laugh together.

Plan times for people to talk. Leave some free time for mingling or just playing games.

2. Ice breakers don’t focus on actually getting to know people.

Often the point of ice breakers is to have everyone talk to everyone. Not going to work. No one will remember everyone’s name! Instead, focus ice breakers on encouraging 4-6 women to talk about something, so you feel as if you have connected. Ask people to share stories, or do something funny. The most hilarious ice breaker I ever experienced was when 6 women were asked to perform a “synchronized swimming” event–without the water! We were given points for artistry and synchronization. I was at a table with women in their 50s and 60s, and it was still hilarious as we danced around in a circle, waving our arms. We laughed and laughed, and we needed that!

3. Little time is given for personal reflection

Too often, right after the speaker, they bring up a musician, sing one song, and then it’s done. It doesn’t matter how good the speaker was; if that’s the way the event ends, people will not carry the message home.

For a message to make an impact on a person’s life, that person has to OWN the message. They have to think about it. Chew it over. Even talk about it. From a speaker’s standpoint, I have great teaching on how to craft a message so that it invites people to journey towards God. But from an event planner’s standpoint, you can’t leave it entirely up to the speaker. You have to help her out! You have to give her time to direct the audience towards an encounter with God.

Strings Attached Presentations use all of this wisdom to work for women’s groups.  Cari’s work as a corporate team-building coach offers her a unique perspective into experiential relationship building, and her passion to help women develop an intimate and deeply personal relationship with God pushes her to build personal reflection time into her presentations.  They are always fun and interactive.  Imagine an evening of laughter, sharing, and learning biblical principles of covenant friendships- all in one presentation!