Category Archives: Encouragement

When Opposites Attract and Marry – 7 Tips for Making Your Marriage Great

My husband Dan and I are two very different people.  He likes to tell people, “She is like the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and I am more like Full Metal Jacket.”   I like Antiques Roadshow and he prefers The Walking Dead.  He is very social and needs to connect with people to feel energized.  I am more introverted.  I need quiet, alone time to recharge my batteries.  So how do such opposites make a marriage work?  Glad you asked.  I have a few tips for you garnered through our 37 years of marriage.  I am writing this post to wives, but the same tips apply to husbands.

wedding dag On our wedding day, October 29, 1978.

#1.  When those moments come that cause you to look at your spouse and wonder why you ever married, make a list (write it down!) of all the qualities that attracted you to them in the first place.  They must have many great attributes because you chose to marry them, right?  Sometimes in the busyness of life, we forget to appreciate our spouse.  I have been guilty of this many times, especially as a young mom.  

#2.  Think of at least one thing each day that you appreciate about your spouse and TELL THEM.   Write a note and put it in their lunch or briefcase.  Send them a text or email.  Praise them in front of your children or others.  BUILD THEM UP!  Men especially eat this up.  They crave the love and respect of their wives.  That is the way God made them.

#3.  Encourage your spouse in their hobbies.  My husband loves guns and going to the shooting range.  I was not raised around guns and I did not feel comfortable around them when we first married.   I have gone to the range with him several times through the years (kicking and screaming) because he wanted me to learn to handle a gun.  It is not for me.  The last time we went I told him, “This is a man’s sport.  It is loud and dirty and no one picks up after themselves.”  We laughed.  Now, while I don’t enjoy shooting, I want my husband to be able to enjoy his hobby.  I encourage him to go to the range and have fun.  I even introduced him to a co-worker of mine who has since become a good friend and shooting buddy.   You have to, at least, try your spouse’s hobby a few times, then if you don’t enjoy it, you can still encourage them to pursue it on their own or with a friend.  The good news is that once your spouse sees how you encourage their hobbies, they will begin to encourage yours, too.

#4.  Accept that there is more than one way to do things, and your way (or your mom and dad’s way) is not always right.  This one tip will save you so much heartache in life.  I grew up with a dad who could fix or build anything.  When I married, I just expected that Dan would have that same ability.  It took many years for me to realize that growing up without a dad around meant Dan didn’t have the opportunity to learn those skills.  It was unfair of me to expect him to be something he was not.  I have learned that it is better to pay someone to do the things that Dan cannot do rather than impose impossible expectations on him.  My husband is happier and knows that I respect him for his many other fine qualities.

#5.  Learn to embrace imperfection.  Learn to laugh at yourself and your silly expectations.  I wish I had learned this long ago.  I’ll never forget a Christmas dinner with my husband and young children sitting around the table.  I put on some beautiful Christmas music, Nat King Cole singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”  It was going to be the perfect Christmas dinner, just like my mom used to make.  But Dan, with his silly sense of humor, started singing, “Rudolph roasting on an open fire…”   I was so angry!  Of course, the kids loved it, but at the time, I thought he had ruined our special holiday dinner.   In truth, the only thing that ruined it was my bad attitude and silly sensibilities.  Ugh.  Sure wish I could go back and change that.

#6.  Recognize that God brought you together for a reason.  Your spouse has strengths that you don’t have.  You have strengths your spouse doesn’t have.  God brought you together for this very reason, to compliment one another.  It is a very good thing my husband and I are not alike.  I have often thought how blessed my kids are to have Dan for a dad.  His gentle, loving presence soothed many stressful moments.  He taught them (and me!) many lessons on forgiveness and grace.  He truly is a gentle giant of a man and one of God’s greatest blessings to me.

#7.  Learn to laugh at yourself.  Don’t be so sensitive and easily hurt.  One of the joys of a long shared history is that we can look back and laugh at some of the silly things we have done, or mistakes we have made.   We are secure enough in our love for one another, that we can laugh at ourselves.  Sometimes all it takes is a word to make us crack up laughing, or a song on the radio to bring us to tears.

#8.  Pray, pray and pray some more.  Make your spouse your prayer partner.  It is hard to be angry when you are praying together.  Keep God at the center of your marriage and make it your goal to serve and honor Him.  God will bless your marriage!

If you are married to your opposite, don’t give up on your marriage!  Learn to recognize and appreciate each other’s strengths and build on them.  God brought you together for a reason.

Dan and Anita 2014   Are you married to your opposite?  Let me know how you are doing.  What lessons have you learned along the way to help you in your relationship?  I look forward to  hearing from you.

The Power of a Handwritten Letter or Card

Life is busy and there are so many ways to communicate with family and friends.  We are blessed to live in an age when we can communicate with just about anyone at any time: phone, texting, and email are so quick and easy.  I enjoy those forms of communication, too.  But, there is tremendous power to be found in your handwritten letter or card.  Your written words of encouragement and love will ripple through a person’s life and make a lasting impression.

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This time of year, I receive lovely, hand-crafted cards from family and friends.  Who can throw away these beautiful works of art after someone put such love into making it?

It may be because I felt forgotten and overlooked as a child, but as an adult, I have always enjoyed sending notes and cards of encouragement, especially to children.  I know how much they love to receive something in the mail.  Don’t we all?

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I never received a card or letter from my dad.  After he passed away in 2012, I received a gift I treasure from my mom.  You see, my dad was not very good at communicating his feelings and was uncomfortable talking about personal issues.  When I accepted Christ at the age of seventeen, God put it on my heart to being writing to my dad to express my love for him and encourage him.  Through the years, I sent many letters and cards.  He never spoke of them or acknowledged them to me, but after he passed away, many of my letters were found in his dresser drawer.  My words meant something to him!  He saved them!  It brings tears to my eyes just to think of it.  I wonder, did he take them out and reread them every once in awhile?  I hope so.

 Your words don’t have to be on expensive stationary or cards.  

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A 1978 letter from my high-school sweetheart, who I have been married to now for 37 years.

FullSizeRender (26)       A 1993 note of encouragement from my sweet daughter, read and re-read many times.

These cards and letters become family treasures through the years.  They are worth more than any gift my family could give me.  Do you keep a box of cards and letters that minister to your heart?

FullSizeRender (25) Here are just a few of the special ones I treasure from my husband, son, and daughter.

Proverbs 25:11 says “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Your words have the power of life and death.  Choose to speak love and encouragement into the lives around you.

Who needs to hear from you today?  Who can you reach out to and bless with just a few moments of your time with a handwritten note or card?  You may never get an acknowledgement from them, but I guarantee that your words will have an impact in their life.

Slaying the Dragon of Anxiety and Depression

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Image courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have struggled with anxiety and depression all my life.  You might say it’s in my DNA.  Growing up, I watched my dad wrestle with it, although at the time I didn’t know what it was called.  We didn’t talk about it.  Men of his generation would never admit to suffering with anxiety and paralyzing fear.

I had a front row seat to see how it limited my dad’s life and how his world shrunk smaller and smaller as he got older.  As parents do, he passed on his predisposition to anxiety to his children.  “Don’t do that!  The neighbors will laugh at you!”  “You don’t know how to do that!”  “Don’t do something unless you can do it right!”  “Close the drapes!  Someone might look in the house.”  The mantra he spoke over us imprinted deep on our souls.

We grew up afraid to try anything for fear that someone would laugh at us.  We never thought we were good enough.  Because he was a perfectionist, we could never do anything right or please him in any way.   The sad thing was that dad was always hardest on himself.  He never thought he was good enough.  He thought people looked down on him.  He bristled at imaginary slights.  He thought people were watching him in anticipation of his failure.

The man was a genius mechanic and could literally fix or build anything.  He had a patent for an invention he called an “Energy Conversion Apparatus”.   The tragic thing is that his intolerance for imperfection and unrealistically high expectations prevented him from passing any of those skills on to his children or grandchildren.  What a loss.

As kids we didn’t understand that he was suffering.  We only knew that we could never measure up. It created a tremendous sense of insecurity in all of us, along with deep-seated feelings of unworthiness and shame.

It wasn’t until many years later, through the lens of God’s grace that I was able to see my dad as a human being tormented by feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure.  God gave me such love and acceptance for my dad.  The last ten years of his life I was blessed to be able to make the 160 mile round trip to visit with my parents every other weekend.  God allowed me to speak words of affirmation and acceptance into his battered heart.  I sat and listened to him tell his story.  I spoke of God’s grace and forgiveness.  I boldly told him I loved him.  I held his hand.

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Image courtesy of worradmu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Even today my eyes fill with tears at the thought of holding his hand.

My dad was a wonderful, complex human being who fought a daily battle with a fierce enemy that he felt helpless to overcome.  Maybe some of you are fighting that same battle.  I fought it myself for many years.

There is victory.  Your life doesn’t have to be limited by your insecurities and fears.  Anxiety does not have to rule your life.  In my next post I will share with you how God transformed my life from one of insecurity and anxiety to freedom and peace.