Inside Your Circle – Working on Yourself.

ReEngage

The best thing Jim and I have done recently to strengthen our marriage was to attend a 16 week marriage ministry called ReEngage. We have since become leaders and  taken multiple groups through. Every time we learn something new about ourselves and about each other. Re Engage uses a small group model to create a safe  community where we can be honest, authentic, and real. We spend 8 weeks working on our relationship with God and 8 weeks learning about aspects of marriage. Alongside our spouse and 5 other couples, we dive deep into working on ourselves.

The Circle

One of the most powerful things we teach in ReEngage is to draw a circle around yourself and then to work on every one that is inside the circle. Really staying in your circle is just a practical principal that empowers us to stop trying to change our spouse. Though it sounds like a simple thing, it is much harder to practice. Learning to stay in your circle will change your marriage, your parenting and even how you foster deep friend ships.

Staying inside my circle does not come easily. It is much easier to look at all the reasons and causes of my actions, than to focus only on myself. I would prefer to share all the circumstances that led up to me pouting. If he just loved me more…If he just talked to me more…If I wasn’t so stressed at work, then I wouldn’t pout.  When I realize that regardless of my circumstances, I get to react in a way honoring to God, then I am empowered to change myself

Focusing on ourselves can feel uncomfortable. Many times, people would rather generalize when they answer questions. We say things like, “We…” or “Most of us…” But when we get in our own circle, then we own our actions, with statements like… “I did this….” Or “I feel …” We vulnerably, honestly share our stuff. It becomes a much stronger statement that pierces our heart when we hurt others.  Learning to own your own stuff takes practice, courage and will change your relationships.

Create a Safe Place

Staying inside your circle also means not giving other people advice on how to fix their situation, unless they ask. When people share hard situations or get emotional, most of us feel pretty uncomfortable. We try to make it go away as fast as we can by trying to fix the problem or directing the focus somewhere else. Not giving advice creates a safe place for honesty and openness about struggles. Leaving space for emotions validates feelings. We have to trust God in the process instead of trying to fix others ourselves.

Another way we get out of our circle is by keeping score. We work on our marriage for a while but as soon as we notice that we’ve made more changes than our spouse, then we feel like they owe us something. We become resentful and backslide thinking why should I do all this work if they aren’t even trying. Working on yourself is not about becoming who your spouse wants you to be. It is about becoming who Christ wants you to be. Regardless of what your spouse does or if they do anything at all, we can work on ourselves.

Draw a Circle

One of the most powerful exercises you can do to help you sort through any struggle is to take a piece of paper and draw a big circle. Then write everything that you can control inside the circle. Everything that you cannot control write outside of the circle.  Pray over the things on the outside of the circle and give them to God. Then focus on the few things on the inside of the circle that you can control and focus on them. What changes can you make? What small practical steps that might help? Where you can start? What choices do you have?

I am often reminded of Matthew 7:3  which says, Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Regardless of our situation, we all have things to learn. Rather than feeling helpless in your situation, get inside your circle and discover what you can change. Own your brokenness and give the rest to God.

The Joy of Sharing Life

My husband and I are very different. We have different tastes, passions, and even things that we love during sex. As I have matured, I am learning the joy of sharing life. I find pleasure in  seeing delight in my husband’s eyes. I don’t try to convince myself to fall in love with something just so we can have common interests. I have fallen in love with seeing my husband’s love of life.

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A Slight Detour – And Finding Fun

Last week my husband and I took an unexpected detour. In the past, before I had learned how little control I have over life, I might have been upset at my husband when our plans changed. But I have grown to realize we have little control and when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

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Trust – An Essential Ingredient to Great Sex

Trust seems like such a basic  ingredient for a great sex life and yet I am just starting to understand the depth of importance. Though basic trust in a marriage feels very similar for men and women, the challenges men and women face during sex vary drastically. The first step to create trust is an awareness and empathy for each other’s struggles. I want to share some specific ways that wives and husbands needs vary in regards to trust.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Today I gather with my husband Jim and my daughters to give thanks. We will cook recipes passed down from my mother and recipes my daughters have introduced to our table. The kitchen will be filled with chopping, girls laughing, debating the rights of women and trying to solve the most basic human rights of accessible housing and medical care. Jim will stroll through on his way to the basement. Instructed to cobble together a candle holder or centerpiece base required for the festivities, he’ll pause to smile at his girls.

After the pie has settled and the dishes are washed, I am ready to put my feet up. A game, a movie or scouring the adds in preparation for shopping. Whatever we do, we will do it together. Eventually Jim and I will excuse ourselves and head up for bed. Laying in his arms we will talk, and pray and eventually our bodies will warm up to each other.

Friday morning with no real purchase in mind, we’ll look for quirky, unusual items only found at places like Menards or Fleet Farm. Jim will lead the charge with a stop for coffee and donuts and we will all pile out to partake. My greatest pleasure will be to watch Jim laugh with his girls.

Life keeps marching on. My babies are not babies any more. Jim’s boyish looks have been tamed by the pepper in his hair. I can feel the arthritis in my hip and wrinkles in my face.  Life keeps marching on and so today I thank God for today. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. God is right beside you. He will guide you and guard you. God has given us a pleasant land.

Happy Thanksgiving

Psalm 16:5-8 (NLT)

Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
    You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
    What a wonderful inheritance!

I will bless the Lord who guides me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

Barriers to Having Great Sex

Things exist that create barriers to having a great sex life. Sometimes they impact our mindset and other times they steal our energy. Sometime we need to change them for ourselves and other times we need to be part of the solution for others.

I want to share the barriers to having a great sex life  that I have recognized in my own life and inspire you to identify your own barriers. We need to get on the offensive to proactively battle our barriers in order to claim God’s good gift of sex.

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How to Help Your Husband Lead Spiritually

Most Christian wives have a deep desire for their husband to lead spiritually. Many of us have this romantic idea that when we get married our husband will suddenly transform into the spiritual leader. Daily, he will gather the family around the table for an evening bible study to share deep insights.  He will intuitively sense when we are struggling and gently lay his hands on us to pray. He will energize the family to get to church when all we want to do is sleep.

But why would getting married suddenly change our husband into the spiritual leader?

My guess is that leading spiritually is another area that men feel they can never live up to their wife’s expectations. It was an area that I found myself critical. After I took a hard look at myself, I realized I was a big part of the issue.

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The Roles God Calls Us To – Lead and Submit

Ingrained in Christian marriage is the expectation of roles – that the husband will lead and the wife will submit.

Ephesians 5:21-23 –And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.

I have to admit that I still prickle at the verse. As a woman that grew up climbing trees, playing Little League baseball with the boys, and attending a male dominated engineering school, I have to remind myself that this verse is not about holding women back. The verse is about bringing order to human relationships and about loving each other by denying ourselves.  And even though the verse prickles me, deep down I want my husband to lead. In fact, it is a real turn on for my husband to lead, and I constantly hear other women say the same thing.

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Getting Away

Getting Away feeds our souls.

It was important to Jesus, it is important to us as individuals, and it is important to our marriage.

Jesus made it a habit to get away by himself and pray…

Luke 5:15-16 ….vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

In the midst of busyness, serving others and feeling overwhelmed Jesus escaped to find refreshment with his Father. He knew that in order to care for others, He had to care for himself by communing with God. Jesus withdrew to quiet places where no one could find him. Places without the distraction of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Places where no schedule existed and no phone rang. Jesus withdrew alone. He did not take his disciples – not even Peter, James or John. He knew that true communion happened when it was just Him and His father and sometimes He even spent all night praying.  I think these moments of solitude with God fed his soul so that He could pour himself out again.

Have you ever gotten away with God? Extended time, free from the noise of life, where just you and God exist. It might have been a solitude retreat, a day in bed, 15 minutes of quiet or a hike through the woods. God speaks so clearly when the noise is gone. Time with God leaves me refreshed to be a better mom, wife and friend,  and I could not do ministry without it.

If intimacy in marriage mirrors intimacy with Christ…

Then it is important for us to have times where we as a couple withdraw to a quiet place to commune.

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Interruptible

I have this friend that prays,

“God help me to be interruptible.”

She wants to live so in tune to God, that if He calls her to stop and pray with someone, or help someone in need, she will do it. She will put aside her own plans, her own agenda, trust that God has something for her and step into it. It’s not an easy thing to do, to be interruptible. It takes living in a way, that you hear God throughout your day. You have to let go of control and your own agenda. It takes being flexible, and spontaneous and it takes trusting God.

If our relationship with God mirrors intimacy in marriage…

Then shouldn’t the same be true in marriage and in sex. Aren’t we supposed to be interruptible.

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