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Book Review: Dare to Respect

IMG_2918I was sent the book, Dare to Respect by Tammy Oberg de la Garza and was asked to give a candid critique on it. Honestly, I didn’t expect to enjoy it because I have not read The Respect Dare, the original book this one is based on, and because I do not read Christian fiction as a rule. Many years ago, I realized that reading about young couples who spend every waking moment together and falling in love is not healthy for a reader with a husband who travels extensively. It created all kinds of discontent for me and I learned that what is beneficial for one can be detrimental for another. Because I had agreed to, I dove in and was pleasantly surprised to find that this Christian book was different.
The reader is introduced to six women who have a common reason to come together weekly and complain about their husbands. One of the wives suggests the group engages in a 40 day challenge to improve their marriages. This is the story of six very diverse women who embark on a journey they cannot predict and hit upon issues such as infidelity, pornography, alcoholism and co-dependency.
I was on a Spring Break trip with my two daughters and brought this book along on the beach, expecting it to be a quick read. I enjoyed the story line so much, and even sacrificed some quality time with my girls to finish it. The book is hopeful in that it points back to our true source of fulfillment, Christ, and it removes pressure from expecting our husbands to provide where they cannot. I appreciated the fact that the characters were not perfect, that they allowed each other into their lives and were open to change, and I loved that the characters were wildly different from one another, so the reader should be able to connect with at least one character.
I would recommend this book to any woman who has been married for more than five years, it is a refreshing read with an important message. You can read more of Tammy Oberhausen de la Garza’s work on her blog: www.daretorespect.com

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Porch Talk

porch

One night we were sitting out on the porch and a friend shared with me that she and her guy had been trying to get pregnant again. This is nothing new, I spend time one-on-one with a lot of women and am often privy to such information. But this situation was different; my friend is in her forties and has already raised her children. I was completely floored, because I can’t think of anything I would less like to be today than pregnant, except maybe the mother of toddlers. I asked if she was excited at the prospect and she sighed and said two words: not really. What??

You see, her guy loves having kiddos around the house. And over the last few months he kept hinting that he would like to have more. They finally sat down and seriously talked about it and he confessed that he felt that they were supposed to have more children. He said he had prayed about it, hoping the feeling would dissipate but it came on stronger, would she consider it? This friend of mine is a fantastic Mom, she is all in on the parenting gig right up until they fly the nest, and is so close to having it be just the two of them. And yet…..she said she would pray about it.

My friend asked God about having more children and did not feel what her guy did, she basically got no answer, and yet she agreed to try to conceive for a few months. She said she never prayed against having another baby, and even got excited at the thought here and there, and yet in her heart, really did not want to start over again. At the time that we talked about it, there was no baby news and as a couple they agreed that the time had come to stop trying. She was sad that her guy did not get what he wanted and believed was right, but she was also so relieved. Bittersweet.

I sat with my mouth hanging open as she shared her story; what would I have done in her place? Can I honestly say that I would be open to such a departure from my plan, just to appease my guy? In my opinion this is an extreme act of service and sacrificial love. And trust, in her guy and in her God. Over time I have watched many friends being taken on adventures that they never could have imagined, because they were open to God’s calling, even when it seemed inconvenient or even reckless. What crazy idea is stirring in your heart these days, or in the hints of your spouse? How are you going to respond?

Behind Every Great Man…

great

What were you thinking??

Are you serious??

I just don’t trust you.

Three statements that can crush a man. There are many more, but they all share similar characteristics; from the woman they love, these words inflict wounds that do not heal.

I don’t think most women understand how much impact we have on our men. There are so many jokes floating around about selective listening and how men tune out our words, but I think they listen very carefully. At least, early in the relationship I am quite sure of it. Over time they may feel forced to close you out in order to survive.

Your guy is looking for support, encouragement and grace that only you can give. He doesn’t need judgment or doubt, he hears that all day already. When he shares a crazy dream for your future together, instead of telling him all the reasons it won’t work and belittling his ideas, say something like, “I don’t think I understand. I’d like to hear more about that.”

When he asks if he has what it takes, instead of using the opportunity to share your doubts in his abilities, try, “I believe in you.”

And when he messes up and asks for your forgiveness, instead of reminding him of all the past hurts inflicted, respond with, “I forgive you.”

I have talked with so many men over the years who share that they feel paralyzed with doubt in their own abilities, afraid that they do not have what it takes. The difference can be the words that you are speaking into his life, detailing his strengths and potential.Your response to your man is incredibly powerful, that saying, ‘behind a great man is a great woman’ should be, ‘behind every great man is an encouraging woman.’

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. Proverbs 21:9

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Lights

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Each year we pull out all of the lights, decorations and garland to decorate for Christmas, like most folks. It is a tradition that I relish and my guy does not. This year was a little later than most because we were waiting for our girl to come home and help, she enjoys it about as much as I do. As I was pulling out the lights I noticed a pattern; on one side of the box were many sets of lights, tightly wound and carefully placed in circles and on the other side, chaos that had to be sorted through, unwound  and tested. I knew immediately who had put away which sets of lights, my guy is known for lacing extension cords into intricate braids before storing them in the garage, I am not.

This was just another visual reminder of how different my guy and I are. I am enthusiastic and on to the next thing before this one is completed, while he is more reserved but sure to finish well. We could be (and have been in the past) frustrated with the other for being wrong, or we can choose to appreciate the differences and celebrate the season for the right reasons in the right way. In your marriage there are bound to be differences that can sometimes feel like deal breakers, or we can decide to make room for the differences and even use them for the good of the relationship. It really is a choice.

I hope you are having a Merry Christmas season, not just pushing for the 25th to be a good one but for the fullness of the season to come alive!

Community

30

A few months ago I read about a 30 Day Prayer Challenge for wives to pray for their husbands. I pray for my guy on a regular basis; asking for safety and success and to be found favorable by his employers, to be a good dad and a faithful man of God. You know, rote words that meant something one time, but have lost their zeal as I repeat them over and over. So when I saw there was a detailed plan for praying intentionally for my guy, I was intrigued. And because I am a woman of social media, I shared the challenge with my Facebook community, asking if anyone wanted to join me. Within two days, 55 women had made the same commitment, to pray for our men daily in the month of June!

I was so excited as more women from church, as well as all over our country, signed up to challenge themselves to ask for better for their men and their marriages, but I was blown away by the community that has been created in this group. If you’re reading closely, you can surmise that the 30 days should be over, but the group re-committed themselves to another month of prayer, along with five agreements for the month of July. We are now a group of 70 women who are sharing what is really going on in our lives and praying for each other and for one another’s husbands. Deep friendships are being made outside of the group, finding common struggles and goals, and many are from different states.

It has been easy to start the group, but quite a commitment to keep it going for six months, and there has been some significant pushback from the enemy. When we feel this, we call it what it is and dig in even deeper one summer morning we held a collective prayer time within our group, praying at the same time for 30 minutes and it was powerful! Women are sharing that their marriages are changing, their hearts are softening towards their husbands and their husbands are showing signs of growth. I think some have entered into this group in hopes of changing their husbands, but the biggest thing we are seeing are changes within the praying women themselves. That’s transformation.

If this sounds like something you would like to do, please grab a friend and start a group or talk to me about joining us. The 30 Day Prayer Challenge is a great place to start and can be found here: http://www.ibelieve.com/relationships/30-day-prayer-challenge-for-your-husband.html

Still Learning

lovelifeRecently my guy was telling me about an interaction with a colleague where the other person was incredibly rude, swearing at him, making accusations and issuing ultimatums. The guy is known as a hothead throughout the organization, but this was beyond his normal antics. I found myself getting agitated as he described the discussion that had been going on for days at that point. I was not able to offer any kind of resolution, in fact, I reminded my guy of several times in the past when the co-worker had done similar things and tried to get my husband to see that this was not going to get better. I resolved in my mind that the next time this jerk came to our home, I would make it very clear how I felt about him.

A few days later my guy walked in our door while laughing and joking with someone on the phone. When he hung up I realized he was talking to the same guy that had said terrible things to him days before. I was incredulous. I couldn’t believe that my husband could just let him get away with that! Apparently they had talked it through after the man had cooled off and everything was all right. But it wasn’t all right with me! I wasn’t ready to forgive and forget.

Have you ever done this? It’s called a secondary hurt – the pain you feel when someone you love is unjustifiably hurt. You conjure up enough emotion for the both of you and want to do damage to that person who hurt your loved one. As strongly as I feel this sometimes for my guy, who can certainly take care of himself, the feeling is exponentially greater when it happens to my children. This is exactly the reason that we counsel young couples not to go to their parents or siblings when they argue within their marriage; those who love you most cannot hear your side of the story and reasonably conclude that you both were at fault, and need to work it out together. Family members react just like I did with my guy, reminding you of all the times your spouse has done something similar and worse, and probably predict doom and gloom for your whole situation.

Not helpful. But understandable.

When you are in the midst of an argument with your spouse, who do you talk to? Your parents, who know your faults but are loyal no matter what? Your high school best friend, who predicted this would never work years ago? Your co-worker, who perhaps has never even met your beloved? We should all have someone in our lives who champions our marriage, who can listen and withhold judgment and turn you back towards home to work it out. I have personally both failed and succeeded at this very thing over the years, and when I fail I have to admit and seek forgiveness. If you have children who are married, the best thing you can do for your adult children (beyond praying) is encourage them to have a mentor couple in their lives, someone who wants them to work it out as much as they do, and will help them do just that. It’s normal to empathize with those we love but sometimes we need to extricate ourselves from a situation in order to help the very people we love most.

Fight Fair

argument

When you are in an argument with your spouse, do you tend to move towards or away from your significant other? I was always the one ready to fight, and used my readiness as an advantage over my guy, who needed time to take stock. Given time, he could think things through and get down to the main point instead of staying up in the realms of emotion with me. It was so much better for our relationship to go this route because calmer heads prevail, but I really liked to win, so I would push him to talk.right.now. If I forced him to talk before he was ready, I was likely to get a very angry response, and little would be settled.

For most couples, there is one person who wants to communicate, always ready to talk and cannot imagine walking away and waiting a while. The other person may need time and space to determine what they truly feel and to determine the words they will choose to share. In my experience, it seems that women are often the party that wants to talk it out here and now and men need processing time. We have seen the same thing with our children; they often need time to think about their feelings instead of erupting with emotion, and yet it can be so difficult to allow them that space. The trick is knowing when to let up and let him walk away, and when to return to her to finish the talk.

The best thing to do is to talk about how you will handle conflict when you are in a good place. Go for a walk and discuss the roles the two of you usually take; being careful to note that neither way is best, just different. Then agree that when it comes to it, you will allow some room to breathe, but go ahead and determine how much – a half hour? A day? Making a plan when things are good sets you up for success later on.

There will be conflict, but having a game plan as to how you are going to honor each others needs insures that both parties can be heard and the argument won’t last longer than it has to. Have you noticed this trend in your relationship? How have you worked toward reconciliation with these differences?

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