Something a Screen Can’t Do: Hug Your Child

Today guest author Arlene Pellicane, author of the new book Growing Up Social, shares what this generation is beginning to lose–physical touch. Let’s wake up to our children, the gifts that they are, and be present with them. Hug your child today!

Hug your childSamantha is a fifth-grader whose family recently moved to a new community.  “It’s been hard this year, moving and having to make new friends,” said Samantha.  When she was asked if she ever felt as if her parents didn’t love her because they took her away from her old town, she said, “Oh no, I know they love me, because they always give me lots of extra hugs and kisses.

Like many children, Samantha’s love language is physical touch*; those touches make her feel secure and let her know that mom and dad love her.  The language of touch isn’t confined to a hug or a kiss but includes any kind of physical contact.  Even when you are busy, you can often gently touch your child on her back, arm, or shoulder.  Although this love language is very easy to express, studies indicate that many parents touch their children only when it is necessary:  when they are dressing or undressing them, putting them in the car, or carrying them to bed.  It seems that many parents are unaware of how much their children need to be touched and how easily they can use this means to keep their children’s emotional tanks filled with love.

A man named Bob has two children in elementary school and one in preschool.  When the two older kids were younger, Bob would often put them in his lap and read them a bedtime story.  Reading together builds a sense of oneness, a sense of love for kids.  But life got busier and nowadays, the older kids read on their own and his youngest daughter Lisa, four, is used to reading children’s books on an e-reader.  Bob rarely puts Lisa on his lap to read Goodnight Moon.  She sits by herself on the couch reading with her device.

An electronic reader may save space, trees, and be convenient, but using one with kids short circuits something important – physical touch between a parent and child.

Sure a parent can put a child on his lap and read an e-reader or play a video game together on a tablet.  But typically, when a child is engaged with a screen, he or she is not touching a parent.  He’s not being held in a lap.  He’s not sitting close enough to touch mom or dad’s leg.  When family members get used to engaging with screens, they lose the physical touch dynamic which should be a normal dynamic in a healthy family.

If your child’s primary love language is touch, you will know it.  They will be jumping on you, poking you, and constantly trying to sit beside you.  I believe my youngest daughter Lucy, age 4, has physical touch as her primary love language because she always wants to sit next me and one of her favorite words is “Huggie!”  She tells me every day to scratch her back, and the first thing she does in the morning is come in my room for her hug.

When you put your arm around your child, wrestle, or give him a high-five, you’re communicating your love and interest in being together.

Physical touch communicates love in a powerful way to all children, not just young children.  Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, your child still has a strong need for physical touch.  A hug given as he leaves each morning may be the difference between emotional security and insecurity throughout the day.  A hug when he returns home may determine whether he has a good evening or makes a rambunctious effort to get your attention.  Older boys tend to be responsive to more vigorous contact such as wrestling, playful hitting, bear hugs, high fives, and the like.  Girls like this type of physical touch also, but they like the softer touches of hugs and holding hands.

Screens can’t do any of these things, no matter how advanced they are.

Children need loving physical affection from a parent in order to thrive.  So the next time you and your child are in a room together, put your device down and hug your child.  No app can do that; only you can.

*Read Gary Chapman’s bestselling book The Five Love Languages to find out more about the love languages.

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven WorldAdapted from Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Arlene Pellicane and Gary Chapman. If you’ve ever felt like screens are taking over your family, or as if your children are losing the ability to have real-life relationships, you need to read Growing Up Social today! Reclaim your family. Don’t sacrifice it to a screen!

Arlene Pellicane 600x600jpgArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.  She has been featured on the Today Show, Family Life Today, K-LOVE, and The Better Show.  She lives in San Diego with her husband James and three children.  Visit Arlene at www.ArlenePellicane.com for free family resources including a monthly Happy Home podcast.

 

 

10 Ways to Banish the Stay-at-Home Mom Blues

Stay at Home Mom Blues

I have always been a stay at home mom, but if you judge by the comments of many, I have the personality of a pea. If you’re a stay at home parent, you know what I mean. People constantly remark, “I don’t know how you do it. I would go stir crazy if I had to stay home with my kids.” I wonder if people who say that realize how insulting it can sound? The inference is that I am some sort of mutant sub-species that requires far less intellectual stimulation than normal, and can survive for days on end with the praise from Barney—”I love you, you love me”.

It’s time to challenge this notion that staying home with your kids is akin to a prison sentence with an awfully whiny jailer.

Certainly it can be tremendously difficult, draining and exhausting, especially since you usually walk around with banana mash on your jeans and spit up on your sweatshirt. But that’s not the whole story.

Many parents choose to work for a host of different reasons, and only you know what is right for your family. I know that for many, much as you may long to, staying home isn’t financially feasible. I don’t mean to leave you out of today’s post, but I do want to share with my readers who are at home how to make sure it doesn’t get overwhelming.

And so today, I’d like to share with you the Top 10 Ways to Beat the Stay at Home Mom Blues.

Top Ten Tuesday1. Think Outings, not Hibernation

We go about stay at home parenting all wrong. We start by buying tons of equipment (ExerSaucers, swing sets, trampolines) to ensure that we never have to leave the house. But what happens if we’re home alone all the time? Our kids may go stir crazy and whine, cry and vomit. Then we cry. Probably we whine, too. And if we’re pregnant, we definitely vomit. So let’s take a step back and approach this stay at home thing differently.

Instead of spending all day cooped up with the kids, plan for a daily outing, if possible. When my kids were little, we went out every single day. We went to the library. We went to a playgroup. We walked to a nearby park. We went to the museum (it was free on Thursday mornings).

The benefit was that the kids had fun, but they were tired out, and then they would nap better for me later. And if we were out, I could focus completely on them, so when we got home, it was easier to get them to give me time to myself.

2. Enforce Quiet Time

We count the minutes until we can put a child down for a nap. We rejoice when more than one child manages to nap at the same time. Sometimes we even grab a nap, too, wondering how long it will last.

And then an older child stops napping, and it all falls apart.

When a 3-year-old stops napping, enforce quiet time. Have them stay in their room for half an hour with a book or a toy, and let this be “quiet play” time. That gives you some time to yourself, and helps them get some rest (and thus not get so whiny).

3. Get Adult Stimulation

We aren’t meant to do motherhood alone, and you need adult conversation. Take your kids to a playgroup, or organize one yourself. Join the local YMCA or another fitness club that offers baby-sitting. Best of all, join a women’s Bible study or a MOPS group. Just make sure you do something at least once a week that gets you talking with adults.

And talk to your hubby at night, too! Share the burden with him, don’t just retreat to a screen and hand the kids over to him because now it’s his turn. It’s tempting to want to just watch a movie or collapse at the end of the day, but do try to spend some time talking. You need that connection, and he does, too.

4. Start a Hobby

Adult stimulation isn’t all we need; we also need intellectual stimulation–something that gives our brain a creative outlet. Did you love knitting when you were a child? Start knitting again, even if it’s only at night when the kids can’t get to the yarn. Start crocheting. Start painting. You don’t have to do it all the time, but if you have a hobby to research and plan and dream about, it helps.

5. Learn Something

And now it’s time to grow! Learning keeps life fresh. So pick a topic this year that you want to master. Maybe it’s more in-depth Bible knowledge (Kay Arthur or Beth Moore studies are great for that). Maybe it’s nutrition. Maybe it’s cooking. Maybe it’s investing. Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s building a blog! Choose something that you’ve always wanted to know more about, and jump in! Research on the computer, start with small projects, and try. You can do it in 20 minute spurts while children play, or take an hour on the weekend that’s “your time”. One new blogger I know goes to Starbucks every Saturday morning while her husband watches the kids.

6. Give Yourself a Sense of Accomplishment

At work we get praise for finishing something. At home we get whines and piles of laundry that never get folded. If you want to feel like you’ve accomplished something, volunteer. Meet your neighbours and see if you can lend a hand to some older people or other struggling parents. Invite people over for coffee. They won’t mind the mess nearly as much as you think they will! And the more connection you have with your community, the more you’ll realize the difference you can make in people’s lives.

7. Get Organized

I love schedules, and kids thrive on schedules, but I always found that as soon as I figured out a schedule that worked, the kids would change it again. Their sleep patterns would change, or their eating patterns would change, and it was all up in the air again. I know that this is difficult. But as much as possible, create a schedule for your week. Know when you will go where. Go grocery shopping the same day each week. Go to the library on the same day. Try to keep naptime to the same time. When kids know what to expect, and you know what to expect, there’s far less whining.

8. Clean Everyday

Don’t let the house get out of control, because that’s just depressing. I remember visiting a friend’s home when my kids were 2 and 5 and being amazed at how clean it was. She had kids the same age as mine, but her home was spotless. Then I realized that the kids were in day care from 7-5, and the parents didn’t spend much time at home, either. When you’re all home, all the time, the house has time to get messy.

Take 15 minutes before each meal and do a quick tidy. Set the timer and have “clean up time”. If everyone cleans three times a day, you’ll find that you stay on top of it better.

Top 10 Ways to Banish the Stay at Home Mom Blues

 

9. Have Something Special You Do with the Kids

Nobody likes kids pulling at you or whining at you all day, but often that whining is caused by two things: loneliness and boredom. The boredom can be cured by daily outings. The loneliness needs some focused Mommy time. For me and my kids that meant reading. We spent hours cuddled up in someone’s bed reading books. That helped them feel the physical connection (they were touching me); it helped them rest (it was quieter time); and it helped give them security (I spent time with them). Then they would go and play together and I could have some time to myself. To expect a child to entertain themselves all day, though, is unrealistic. Plus you miss out on the bonus of staying at home–that amazing bonding time!

10. Do Something Wild and Crazy

Every now and then, do something completely out of the ordinary. I’m all for schedules and naptimes and all that, but some days, I’d wake up and say, “who wants to go to the zoo?” Who cares if it’s a one and a half hour drive, and we’d only be able to spend three hours there? It would be memorable! Or we’d head to the beach. You have freedom as a stay at home mom; use it. Create those memories and laugh with your kids, and you’ll find the busier days easier to bear.

I do not have the personality of a pea. I’d say it’s more like a bunch of grapes (the seedless kind), with many different things in my life that are all interconnected. It was, and is, such a privilege to stay at home and watch my children grow. They are my reward. But I could not have survived without acknowledging that though I love being a mommy best, I am more than that. Plan for success when you stay at home. Don’t settle for exhaustion. Your life will be richer for it.

Tell me: what’s your biggest source of stress as a stay at home mom? What do you do to relieve the stay at home mom blues? Let me know in the comments!

To Love, Honor and VacuumIf you’re having trouble finding peace and encouragement staying at home, my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, can help! I wrote it just for moms who feel more like maids than wives and mothers, and it helps you set priorities, find joy in your life, and create relationships where everybody respects each other. Check it out today!

 

Get Out with Your Husband–and DO SOMETHING!

Do you know what kills love in marriage faster than anything else? Boredom. When we get bored with each other, it’s all too easy to start ignoring each other’s needs, and to stop being kind. Contempt all too easily follows.

The key, then, is not to get bored, and the way to not get bored is to actually do things together! Even weird things.

How often does the whole evening go by after the kids go to bed with you on Netflix, watching movies, or playing video games? It seems fun at the time, but if you try to remember some great, fun event 10 years ago, I can practically guarantee that it didn’t have to do with television or computers or games. It had to do with something you were actually doing together.

Making memories means you have to be doing something memorable.

I know on Tuesdays I usually do a top 10 post, but I’ve been on vacation a lot in August and taking it easy, and I thought instead I’d share with you something kinda funny that happened to my husband and me while we were camping.

One week last month my husband and I decided to set up our tent trailer at a campground just north of the city where Keith works. He commutes everyday, so it took 40 minutes off of his commute, and let us enjoy the great outdoors. They had internet in the main building, so I could walk there every morning and tend to the blog, but then we could “switch off” and just have fun at night (and I could read and knit a storm during the day!)

I made these socks:

Homemade Socks

But then I had a bunch of pairs of handknit socks that were wearing through (like the one on the right), so I cut off half of the food and reknitted it (like the one on the left):

Socks Fixed

Anyway, that’s not the fun part. I just wanted to show you my knitting!

We booked in from Saturday to Saturday. And on Thursday I became very alarmed because a bunch of new RVs were setting up. And almost every single one of these RVs had dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.

We went for a walk that night and I saw a big dog (maybe a sheepdog?)–the prettiest sheepdog I had ever seen. But it was a little startling, and I said to my husband, “I think that dog has been blow dried.”

DogShow4

And sure enough, right across from us was an RV with a mobile dog blow-drying and grooming facility. Dog after dog was lining up to get so groomed. And all because, as we found out, there was a dog show on Friday and Saturday at this particular campground.

DogShow1

All I could picture was dogs barking all night and keeping me awake. But thankfully, these dogs were actually well behaved and the night was silent.

And so, my anxiety over, on Friday I decided to go see what all the fuss was about.

I wandered over to the “big top” tent and saw different breeds being led around the ring by their intrepid owners.

DogShow3

DogShow7

But, as I was informed by a rather nervous man from Montreal, whose corgie was about to compete against 29 other corgies, some of those people leading the dogs weren’t owners. They were “ringers”, hired for the purpose to help the dogs win.

Seriously? They have ringers for dog shows?

I thought this was a riot, and I went back to my camper, grabbed a canvas chair and my knitting, and plopped down next to an older couple who had also just been camping and decided to watch the show.

DogShow2

By the time Keith came back from work that afternoon I had a feel for what was going on, and he joined me and took pictures and we laughed and had an amazing time talking to some of the “junior trainers”, the kids who would be competing later, and many of the owners. And we saw this poodle (and a black one just like it that won “best of fair”. Seriously. I thought people made this up, but they really do look like this):

Dog Show 2

I kept trying to ask the competitors, “what do you get if you win?” Is it prestige? Is it money? Can you charge more for breeding your dogs if you win? But I never did get a satisfactory answer. It’s like people just enter to win because they love it. This was their life.

DogShow5

DogShow6

It’s probably going to be one of the highlights of my summer. I’ve never seen people actually blow dry a dog before, and I’ve never seen that many dogs behave so well. And I’ve never seen people so nervous about whether or not their beagles will properly run in a circle.

And we never would have seen it if we hadn’t have been camping at the right campground.

It got me thinking: there’s a lot of fun to be had just meeting people and doing crazy things.

People have all kinds of neat hobbies–arts and crafts, model trains, model planes, gardening, wine making, tons of stuff! You may not be interested in any of those things yourself (I don’t even own a dog and never will; I travel too much), but going to community events can teach you something new and give you a ton of laughs. How many things do we miss because we’re afraid to do something impulsive, and do a little bit of exploring?

Why don’t we try making memories more often?

Why is it that we turn to Netflix out of boredom, rather than check out the community section in the paper and see what’s actually going on?

I would bet that if you opened it up you’d see some neat contest or show or event that would end up being fun! Old movies in the park. Jazz by the beach. A train show. A dance recital.

Pick one this weekend and just go. Put the kids in a stroller if you have to. It’s those memories that make your marriage fun–and push boredom away.

Making memories with your husband: shut off the computer and do something!

Tell me: What weird and quirky things have been going on in your community this summer? What strange things have you done that ended up making the best memories?

Maybe Boys Need a Little Danger

Boys Need a Little DangerAre we making life too boring for little boys? What if boys need a little bit of danger?

I wrote a column about that a few years ago, and I thought I’d rerun it today. In my post where I recommended 10 different summer reads, I recommended the book Why Gender Matters, which looks at the hard-wired gender differences between boys and girls. And one of those differences is that boys naturally lean more towards danger and risk-taking–and too often we moms, and the schools, and society in general, are trying to eradicate that from boys’ lives. But what if they need it? Let’s talk about it today!

I have a little friend who, when he was only five, did a horrendous thing. He bit a boy at school.

This particular boy had been pestering him for months, and my little friend lashed out by sinking his teeth in.

A human bite, unfortunately, is not clean, and it sent the bully on a trip to the Emergency Room. Meanwhile my little friend was given quite the verbal lashing by the principal about how violence is never the answer.

His mother, a good friend of mine, was quite perplexed about how to react. Personally, I told her, I think his transgression was twofold: he used his teeth rather than his hands, and he did so at school where violence is never permitted. Other than that, was he really so wrong? Kids have been fighting back against bullies for time immemorial, and it’s often quite effective in getting bullies to back off.

Taking the publishing world by storm a few years ago was The Dangerous Book for Boys. It doesn’t give secrets on how to get your mothers to feed you chocolate or how to get your way with women.

It simply talks common sense about things that have been part of boyhood almost forever, until our generation forgot them.

Things like how to tie a knot, how to fish, how to jump from a rock into the water, or how to survive in the wilderness. These were the plotlines of most boys’ novels until relatively recently, when we started to believe that what boys truly desired was to share their feelings.

When places like schools try to curb boys’ natural impulses to be active, risk-taking, and even a bit violent, we run the risk that children will start acting out inappropriately in places with less supervision. If boys are told they must sit still and listen to books all day, they’re more likely to go off the rails after school. If boys can’t play tag at recess because it’s too competitive, or they can only play if everyone gets to be “it”, we aren’t going to curb their natural boyhood impulses. They’re simply going to express them in other ways.

Over the years we have taken all the danger out of childhood. We do this in the interest of safety, and few could argue against bicycle helmets for children, or against safe playground equipment, or for playing with matches. But there is a part of boys, and even many girls, that still yearns for risk.

Remember the playground equipment when we were young? You ran a risk every time you used the teeter totter because you had to trust the guy on the other end not to jump off suddenly. And what about that merry go round? They’re removed from most playgrounds today because if you get a few bigger kids creating momentum, a smaller child could go flinging off. Of course, that’s why many boys ride them in the first place—the flinging part is the attraction! But that’s all the more reason to get rid of these dangers.

As schools banish anything resembling danger, much of the adventure of childhood is being removed.

For all children, but especially for boys who tend to gravitate towards risk-taking more than girls do, this isn’t always a good thing. That’s why The Dangerous Book for Boys is needed. It’s a philosophy to bring adventure back into family life, even if the schools are squeezing it out because they’re afraid of being sued. And now that summer’s here, we’ve got a great chance to create some danger all on our own!

Most boys love seeing things explode, or collapse, or go bang. They love starting fires, sleeping outdoors, and even killing things. It’s time for some adventurous, adult men to step up to the plate and let boys be just a little bit dangerous. What else is childhood for?


Okay, everybody, true story:

When my girls were little, we took a yearly camping trip with another family who had two boys pretty much exactly the same age as our girls. The kids would love helping Derek (the other dad) start the fire at night. After the little kids went to sleep, we adults would play games late into the night. When the kids woke up at 6:30, then, we really didn’t want to get up yet.

And so I will tell you about one of the bad parenting things I did. I actually let Katie and her friend Liam start fires when they were about 6 and 7. It kept them busy for like half an hour so we could still sleep! And they would resurrect the coals from last night. When I talked to Derek about it (he’s a “dangerous” kind of man’s man himself) he always said, “the problem is letting kids PLAY with fire. Liam and Katie aren’t PLAYING with fire. They’re building a fire. And they know what they’re doing.” And they actually are really good at starting fires today! (Likely still shouldn’t have done it, but there you go).

Here’s a pic from the summer of 2000 when the kids were little–and enthralled by fire:

2000CampingPaulLiamBeccaFire

(That’s Paul at the fire with his older brother Liam on the right; Becca’s sitting down. Katie’s not pictured. She’s probably raiding the cooler for more chocolate to make smores).

And here’s Katie and Liam on Liam’s 4-wheeler last Sunday for Katie’s 17th birthday:

2014LiamKatie4wheeling

So now you tell me: what “dangerous” things do your sons–or nephews–do? What dangerous things does your husband do? And how do you deal with it?

10 Ways to Stay Close as a Family

For Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, Dayna Bickham shares some great tips to stay close as a family.  It’s never too late or too far gone to build relationships–or rebuild them even! Here’s Dayna…

10 ways to stay close as a family
My family was not always close. It was an “us versus them” universe: a cosmic battle between parents and kids. I was a young mom who made lots of mistakes along the way. I thought that meant I would be stuck raising the products of that bad parenting for years to come. But there was hope.

Slowly we made changes that grew us closer as a family, gave my kids room to develop into productive teens, and relieved a mountain of stress from off of our shoulders as parents. Here are ten suggestions to make your family closer. They are all inexpensive and (fairly) easy to do.

1. Take an honest survey.

Ask your kid how you are doing. Make sure you ask both open ended and yes or no questions. Be prepared for whatever they may say in response. For example, I ask my kids things like this: “How do you know Mom/Dad loves you?” or “Can you name a time when I gave you good advice?” or “Am I a good listener?” followed by, “How can I be a better listener?” These are just suggestions, but kids will generally tell you what they need if you know how to first ask and then listen. Don’t bombard them with twenty questions all at once. Make these casual moments. Just listen closely for the answer.

2. Stop parenting from the couch.

I used to sit on the couch giving instructions to my kids from there as if it was a throne and my house was a fiefdom. I established my territory and soon my kids just stayed away altogether. They found their own sanctuaries – their rooms, a friend’s house, or in front of a computer. There was disconnectedness between us. When they weren’t showing up when I bellowed from the couch I started parenting via text. “Cln ur Rm” equaled clean your room and “DYH” meant do your homework. I realize that there are times when communication must come in other forms than face to face, but limit these as much as you can. Once I began entering their space and taking the time to “find” them in the other room our relationship began to grow closer. They also stopped yelling from the other room for me (wonder where they got that?) and that was a pleasant consequence I could live with.

3. Date your kids.

Each child has special interests, hobbies, and quirks. Spend time with each one doing something meaningful to them. Is one kid a science geek? Then go to the Natural History Museum. Is one an artist? Take her to a gallery opening. Does one live, eat, and breathe hockey? Go to a sports shop and check out the latest gear or go watch a local team practice. Not every “date” has to be super expensive or extravagant. Sometimes a trip to the local drive in and an ice cream cone are enough. Taking the time to spend time with them speaks volumes.

4. Eat as a family.

I know everyone has busy schedules. Practices, study dates, work, and other busy events pull at our time. But if we do not give priority to the things that matter then we end up with a life void of matter – otherwise known as emptiness. One meal a week. If the average family eats 3 times a day for seven days that is 21 meal times. Surely at least one of those times can be a coordinated effort to sit around a table together eating at the same time. During Tuesday dinner, Saturday breakfast, or Sunday lunch find time to talk to each other about your day, your plans, projects, or current events. Make it less about the food and more about the togetherness of it all.

5. Have a pizza night.

This is different than eating as a family at a table because first, it can happen less often (once or twice a month makes it routine, but special enough to take time out for) and secondly you don’t have to cook. Win – win. Rent a movie, order the pizza, and just spend some time relaxing together as a family.

6. Create an activities bowl.

This is super easy to do and gives your family ideas for inexpensive (often free) activities. I’ve got a downloadable list of 30 activities to get you started right here! If you’d rather do it yourself, just write activity ideas that are budget friendly down on strips of paper, fold them over and toss them in a bowl. If you are a more scheduled and structured type of household you can pre-assign one activity a week together at the beginning of each month, or if you are more spontaneous you can draw one out every Saturday morning and do whatever it says to do. Some ideas are seasonal, so you can throw those to the side when they are out of season – you can’t go snow sledding in July. (Maybe you Canadians can, but here in Texas, snow is never really an option.)

7. Check in face-to-face once a day.

Face time may be a new feature on your latest gadget, but it isn’t anything new. We all need to know we are seen and feel like we are being heard. Seeing each other face-to-face is one way we do that. If we are constantly ships passing in the proverbial night, then soon our lives become independent from one another and we drift farther apart. This is all about growing closer. So take the time to see your loved one’s face every day.

8. Figure out your kid’s love language.

Love languages are the way we hear or receive love in our lives. Some feel more loved when they are held, some when they are given gifts and others when you wash and fold their socks. There are 5 love languages altogether. This is a concept written by Dr. Gary Chapman and the wisdom in this approach to communication has borne out in my life over and over. You and your kids can take a test here.

9. Hug once a day for eight seconds.

This can be a part of your face time, but I highly recommend it. We hold the things we value close. We wear our favorite earrings, we feel at home in our favorite sweater, and we cozy under our favorite blanket when we feel under the weather. Holding these things makes us feel better. Apply that logic to your kids. Mom’s arms are special. They are where we feel the most loved. Dad’s arms are special too. They are where we feel safe. Our body language changes when we are hugged. We bond when we hug. We relax when we hug. You may not be a touchy-feely person, but every human needs physical touch to thrive. So hug your kids every day.

10. Stop yelling at one another.

I left this for last on purpose. The volume with which we communicate is as important, if not more important, than what we have to say. “I love you” is hard to believe if the rest of the communication you have is several decibels higher than average. I do not care how many times you say it. I used to yell (mostly from the couch) at my kids all the time. We fought constantly. They thought I was a nag and I felt like no one listened to me. There was no easy way to stop yelling. I just had to stop. At first I still wanted to, so I stage whispered through my teeth. My kids say when I did this for the first time it was one of the scariest moments of their lives. We laugh about it today. But it made them have to strain to hear me. Over time I lost the scary talk-through-the-teeth-like-a-crazy-woman look and the volume came down on a regular basis. The kids noticed. It took a few months of consistent effort, but it did work. We are better for it and have grown closer because of it.

You may or may not use all ten of these suggestions, but even small stones thrown into the water eventually make big ripples. You may think of some suggestions I might have missed. So tell me about what does and doesn’t work for your family? Leave your comments below.

Don’t forget to download my Family Activities Ideas!

Dayna BickhamDayna is a writer and speaker. She is also a wife, mother, and part-time missionary. She loves great music, food, and laughing. Above all she loves laughing. Dayna blogs at daynabickham.com. During the summers she leads mission trips around the world. Her passion is teaching people to hear the Lord for themselves and to pursue whatever He says with their whole heart. You can friend her on Facebook and Twitter. Dayna is the author of Chosen for Purpose: Overcoming Giants and Living Your Dreams, available at online retailers everywhere.

Making Your Child’s Room Special–with Giveaway

Playroom Wall Decal from Evgie.com

I’m a big believer that a child should have a place of his/her own. That doesn’t mean each child needs his or her own room, but I do think they should have space that’s theirs AWAY from parents, even if they share a room.

Parents need time to connect, and we need time to nurture that relationship that is central to the family. That doesn’t mean kids are never allowed in Mommy and Daddy’s room–my kids used to love piling into bed with us in the mornings to “help” wake us up. But I do think there should be that expectation that Mommy and Daddy have their own space. It’s so easy to have motherhood take over your whole identity and your whole life, and yet what those kids really need is for you to love their dad. Kids want to be raised in a family where the marriage is stable and secure and Mommy and Daddy love each other. So keep that bedroom to yourself!

And one of the easiest ways to do that is to make your children’s rooms fun! Create a room where they feel at home, and feel safe. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money, but you should:

  • Keep it bright with fun paint colours and open windows
  • Keep clutter to a minimum by cutting down on the number of toys and including big toy boxes throughout the room
  • Have a bookshelf with lots of favourite books (kids need books more than gadgets!)
  • Plan regular times for kids to help clean up their rooms (or clean them on their own). Tidy up for five minutes before each meal, and on Saturdays do a bigger clean with the kids helping. If you stay on top of it, the room will always feel cozy!

And here’s something else that’s fun: Use children’s wall decals to create an imaginary getaway. Evgie.com is offering a giveaway for our readers today, and I’m so excited to offer these to you. Honestly, I wish these had been around when my kids were babies because they’re so adorable, and I’m really decorative challenged. I never had any good ideas for their rooms, but this would have made it easy peasy!

Here’s the neat thing about wall decals: you create such a cute theme in a room, but then you can remove them easily when the child grows. It’s not like a paint mural you’d have to spend hours painting over; you just peel and off they come. It’s so easy to transform a room with children’s decals or nursery wall decals!

Take a look at these dinosaur wall decals:

Dinosaur Wall Decals from Evgie.com

$139 with Free Shipping

Or these Monkey Wall Decals for a nursery:

Monkey Wall Decals from Evgie.com

On Sale for $130

Or this Adorable Growth Chart:

Monkey Growth Chart Decal from Evgie.com

$80 from Evgie.com

You can even brighten up other rooms in your house–not just kids’ rooms! I love this idea of a family tree wall decal for your living room:

Family Tree Wall Decal from Evgie.com

$135 from Evgie.com

All Evgie.com wall decals are Non-Toxic, Non-Fading, Repositionable, Self-Adhesive Backing, Top-Quality Matte Vinyl. They include a free test decal so you can play around with it and get used to it before you stick on the big decal. All decals are designed and cut in-house. Elements come separately and can be installed as on the picture or adjusted to your wall height.

And until the end of November you get 25% off with the code TOLOVEHONOR! They’ve set it up just for us!

(That’s even 25% off the cost I’ve quoted below each decal). It’s always hard to buy Christmas presents for a baby or toddler who doesn’t really know what’s going on. I think this would be a great idea–give them a wonderful, imaginative room to grow up in.

Check out Evgie’s selection of children’s wall decals and nursery wall decals! And pin your favourites onto a wish list so that you can choose some with your hubby (or kids if they’re old enough!). Evgie’s on Pinterest, too.

And then enter our giveaway, where you could win $150 towards wall decals of your choice. I’m doing the draw next Friday night! And I know I’ve done a bunch of draws lately and haven’t announced the winners. I’ll do that this Saturday–so tune in on Saturdays to see the winners!

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Dream Together: Developing a Vision for Your Family

Ignite the Fire Christian Marriage Series

Ignite the Fire Christian Marriage Series

It’s time for our Ignite the Fire Marriage blog series, with three bloggy friends! We’re all writing on the same topic today, so you can read this post and then follow the links to see their unique take on how we can ignite the fire in our marriages.

Today we’re talking about vision in marriage: pursuing your dreams together.

In many ways, this post is the closest to my heart of anything I have written ever on this blog, so please listen to me here. It can be summed up like this:

If we do not live intentionally, then we will never, ever live out our values or have the impact we long for. Too many of us let life happen to us, we don’t bother to live it.

LifeHappens

 

Are you familiar with the saying, “without vision a people perish?”

It’s from Proverbs 29:18, but I don’t think God meant that just for the nation of Israel. I think He meant it for marriages and families, too. If we have no clear idea where we are going, then we will never, ever get there.

I have heard people say, “You can tell what someone values just by looking at how they spend their time,” but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If you look at many men, they spend more time on video games than they do talking to their kids. Does that mean they don’t love their kids? And many women spend more time on Facebook everyday than they do talking to their husbands. Does that mean they like Facebook more?

No, I honestly don’t think it does. I think what happens is LIFE. We love certain things, and we value certain things, but we’re not intentional about actually living those things out. We don’t take the time to figure out how to make those things part of our daily routine. And so, when other things threaten to crowd in, like technology, or screen time, or too many extracurricular activities, we let them. And then we wonder why we feel so unfulfilled, as if something is off, not quite right. It’s because we’re not valuing the things we value! It’s because we’re not living our lives with purpose.

And so today I want to invite you to take a journey with me first, and then with your husband.

Developing a Vision for Your FamilyI want to invite you to dream: to dream about what you want for your family, and what you want for your marriage, and what you want for your home.

And then I’m going to encourage you to share those dreams with your husband, listen to his, but most importantly–figure out practically how to put them into action. I’ve even got some free printables you can download to help in that conversation!

But first let me tell you two stories, of two families that I know. Some details  have been changed to preserve privacy, but both families are quite wealthy. In both cases the parents are totally committed to Christ. Both sets of parents serve in the church. Yet only one family is on solid footing.

The first family, and we’ll call them Sam and Betty, are both family doctors. They could have focused on making a ton of money, but they didn’t. They lived moderately, and the mom worked very part-time when the kids were small. Once the kids were big enough, they started involving them in volunteer activities, even taking them on missions trips occasionally. Whenever the kids would mention a problem or something they found was disturbing, Sam and Betty would always turn it into a challenge: What do you think God is asking you to do about it? Anything? How can you be part of the solution? How can we pray about it?

Their attitude, in everything they did, was, “how can we shine a light here?” They taught their kids to be lights to their neighbours, and living in a really small town, with few good churches or a good youth group, they had to provide that themselves. And they worked hard to do so. Even though the parents could have been the most important people in the town, the ones everybody wanted to know, they became more beacons for those a little down and out, and to many teenagers. Even though they were wealthy, their favourite place to shop was the second hand store. They had oodles of fun trying to come up with new outfits and learning how to live by a budget. Because of that, other teens never thought Sam and Betty’s kids “were too good for me”. They were regular people.

Their kids are grown now; Sam and Betty are empty nesters. And their lives are focusing more on each other as they continue to pray for their kids, who are all out in the world, asking, “how can I shine a light here?”

The second family I’ll call John and Helen. They loved their kids with a fierce love, too. Helen stayed home with them; John worked major hours in the corporate world. Helen made sure the kids always went to church and were always involved. But Helen also wanted the kids to have fun. Everytime there was a party, she’d make sure the kids had new stuff to wear. The kids were involved in all kinds of activities; because John was always at work, Helen found it easier to have the kids be busy, too. And so gradually the kids’ friends came primarily from outside the church. And as those kids entered high school, Helen was often shocked to see what was on their Facebook statuses. But “kids will be kids”, she thought. And so she did nothing about it, and the kids are really drifting.

Both families had more resources than most, yet only one had a firm vision of how they were raising their kids and who they were raising them to be. And because they had that vision, they were able to figure out how to put things into place so that their kids would pick up on the vision, too. And the kids grew up caring deeply about the things the parents also cared deeply about.

I went to a family camp every summer with Betty and Sam, and I will never forget how they would use that week to do their planning for the year, pulling out their calendars, scheduling in all of their conferences and work, and then figuring out what they were going to do with their kids this year, and what they would concentrate on as a family. They spent time praying, visioning, planning together.

If we don’t take time to take stock, plan, and develop a vision for our family, it’s very unlikely that we actually live out our values. Other things will creep in and steal our time.

And what is a vision?

A vision for your family, I believe, is simply a plan of how you will live out your values.

God gives us specific visions about specific things we are to do, certainly. But sometimes I think we wait too much for God, and we don’t bother to work with what He’s already given us. And so today I’d like to give you some tools to turn the values that you and your husband already share into a vision for your marriage and for your family.

Values and Vision for Your Family

Here’s how it works:

I’ve got some printables to download that you can pray through and create an “action plan” to live out your vision.

It’s divided into three sections: Character things (like what God wants to refine in you); The “Feel” of your home (like what vibe you want your home and family to give off); and Calling things (like what role God specifically has for you as a family).

I’d suggest working through this on three different “date nights”, or nights when you set aside time to talk. Stress to your husband that this isn’t about telling him what he is doing wrong; it’s about you both thinking and praying about where your family is heading. He gets input, too!

It helps you figure out what you value–because each family will value slightly different things–and then it encourages you to break these things down into small, manageable steps that you can do to work toward this goal. Betty and Sam, for instance, valued service and generosity. That was their big family value, and they lived it out. Other families may have slightly different values: one may value influencing the political process; one may value music; one may value becoming self-sustaining on a farm. There isn’t a right or a wrong; it’s what you feel called to as a family. But if you both have dreams of being self-sustaining, for instance, but you’ve never learned how to can your own tomatoes and you still order pizza 3 nights a week, you likely have to work at making this dream more of a reality.

I’d encourage you to work through this sheet with your husband. I’ve tried to keep it simple and relatively short, but with enough “meat” that you can talk about the issues.

I truly hope and pray this helps you.

Download the Printable Worksheets Here

Most of us do value good things; we just have little vision of how to put that into practice. I pray that these worksheets help you do just that as you develop a true vision for what God wants to do in your family!

Ignite the Fire Challenge: Make a list with your husband about your future marriage dreams and talk about how you can work towards these dreams together. Then spend time praying over this list together.

My three blogging friends have also written on this today, and you can see what they have to say, too!

Courtney from WomenLivingWell, Darlene from TimeWarpWife.com, and Jennifer from UnveiledWife.com have all written awesome posts on passion! Click on through to see what they have to say.

UW-button Time Warp Wife

 

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Wifey Wednesday: Is Your Internet Addiction Wrecking Your Marriage?

Internet Addiction: Don't let it ruin your marriage! Tips on how to get real--and spend time offlineIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can leave a comment or link up your own marriage post in the linky below! Today I want to get real, ladies, and ask you honestly: Do you have an internet addiction?

I received this letter from a male reader a little while ago:

I love your blog an have been a follower for a couple years. Even have your books!!(Awwww, I love readers like that!)

Anyway, I have a problem. My wife is addicted to the internet! It hurts my feelings every night when instead of putting her head on my pillow and giving us a chance to reflect, pray, plan, etc., she plugs her phone in, turns on her side with her back to me (because “the cord is so short”) and plays a game or gets on Facebook or Pinterest. Most nights I fall asleep without a “good night” or a little kiss or even holding her hand. It really makes me feel neglected and not important.

I know she is tired and has taken care of our kids all day but I work hard all day, too. When I bring it up, she is defensive and it might change for a few days, but then right back. Now the kids are even saying they can’t get her to do anything with them because she is always checking email or pinning something.

Could your husband have written that?

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the addictions that our husbands can have–to video games, to porn, to TV. Certainly men can become too entangled in something and never want to spend time with us.

But let’s face it: we can be just as guilty. It’s all too easy to become addicted to Facebook if we’re not careful. And if you’re routinely choosing the computer over your husband, you have a problem.

I really struggle with this because my job is completely tied in to the internet. Pretty much everything I do is online. I’m not actually using the internet to relax. I just always feel like I have to check comments or check my stats or something, and it’s silly. The internet will always be there, yet my family won’t.

Today’s young moms are growing up in a whole new world. When I used to take my kids on outings when they were small, we would talk. In fact, we would talk so much that they often let me have some free time at home. We’d have these special bonding times on outings, when they had my full attention, and it meant that at home they’d play more quietly and I’d feel more at peace.

But so often today I see moms with strollers walking their kids while texting. The babies and toddlers aren’t getting their attention!

And it’s the same with marriage. Couples go out for dinner and they get on their own phones. And often this is primarily one person’s fault. When my husband turns to his phone, I turn to mine, and vice versa. If one of us didn’t start, the other wouldn’t follow. We’re losing out on real, face-to-face communication, when people know that we’re sharing hearts.

So here are some thoughts on cutting down technology use. I don’t think we can eliminate it entirely, nor do I think we should. The internet is my go-to place for recipes, printables, ideas, even phone numbers! It’s how I keep in touch with friends. I want to be plugged in. I just don’t want it to take over my life.

1. Set Technology Free Times

Make sure that everyday, both with your kids and with your husband, you have technology free times. Maybe it’s the two hours after dinner when you do something as a family, like play board games. Maybe you take a walk. But turn those devices off!

This is especially important for kids, too. As much as we may suffer from internet addiction, they’re prone to it even more because they’re growing up with it. Teach them to limit it, and to turn to other things, like books, or they’ll end up unable to have real relationships in the future.

2. Do Not Allow Technology in Your Bedroom–it Feeds an Internet Addiction

This man was saying that at night, when he wanted to cuddle and pray, his wife would be on her phone. I’ve been convicted recently that I need to stop bringing my computer into the bedroom. When my husband’s on call and not home at night, I often do work in bed at night to pass the time. But then that habit continues when he is home. So now I tell myself: I can work in the kitchen and the study, but never in the bedroom, even if Keith’s not home. The computer is not for the bedroom. The bedroom needs to be inviting for us as a couple!

Another tip that has worked for many people is to turn the wifi off at a certain time every night: say 10:00 or 10:30. This helps teens get to bed earlier, and it helps reduce the temptation.

Charging DockIf you get one of those central charging docks for all your devices, like phones and tablets and iPads, then you can all, as a family, put them to rest at night in the living room or kitchen and leave them there. That can even be a family rule! Yes, the kids will complain. Yes, it may be hard for you. But you need your sleep, and using technology before bed hurts the quality of your sleep, and the quality of your marriage.

3. Go to Bed Together

It’s so easy to get carried away with Pinterest or Facebook and suddenly hours have gone by. Instead, consider that time right before you go to sleep as sacred space, when you’re going to connect with your husband, read, pray, even make love! So set a bedtime and stick to it. Then the technology won’t own you–you’ll own the technology.

4. Replace it With Something Else

Do you get antsy if you haven’t checked Facebook in a while? Do your fingers twitch if you haven’t instagrammed something or texted someone? It’s hard to quit something cold turkey, and I’m not saying you should.

When we eat badly, we don’t say that the solution is to never eat. We say that the solution is to find ways to eat the right amount of the right stuff. We just change our eating patterns, and that’s what we have to do with technology, too. It’s not a matter of going completely without, as much as it is about figuring out how to incorporate technology in a healthy way into your life.

And I find that’s easiest if we take a positive spin on it. Instead of saying, “I have to quit the internet!”, we say, “I want to knit more,” or “I want to walk with my husband more,” or “I want to take up a new sport with my hubby.” In other words, do something. It’s harder to surf the internet if you’re actively engaged in something–a hobby, a sport, even a volunteer activity.

So talk to your husband about what you could do instead of technology that will feed your soul, because you don’t want the internet taking over everything!

5. Apologize for Your Internet Use

Finally, if you’ve suffered from internet addiction, and you’ve hurt your husband and kids, you need to get real with them. Apologize. Admit where you’ve been wrong. Ask for help. Tell them that they’re allowed to hold you accountable. Say to the kids, “I want to stay off of Facebook from 7-9 every night, and if you see me checking my phone, you have permission to call me on it.”

And give your husband a heart-felt apology, too. The man who wrote this letter feels so neglected and so sad. No guy deserves that. If you’ve hurt your man, don’t tell him, “I’m sorry, it’s just that I’m so stressed with the kids that I needed to unwind.” Just say, “I’m sorry I hurt you and neglected you.” No excuses. No explanations. You were wrong, and admit it. And then tell him you want to move forward, and build a much more intimate marriage–one that is better for both of you!

6. Apologize to God

And here’s a big one: I think we need to apologize to God.

Think about what we pray when we say the Lord’s prayer:

They kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

That doesn’t just mean, “God, I’m going to sit back and wait for your to do Your will.” That means that we need to be active participants, allowing God to use us to bring His kingdom to earth, to bring His will here.

And how can He use us if we’re wasting so much time?

I do not believe that there is anything inherently sinful about Pinterest, or Facebook, or surfing the web. The internet is not sinful. But when it has such a hold on us that we start neglecting the things that God wants to do in our lives, and neglecting the people around us, that’s a problem. And we need to own up to God about it.

There’s another benefit to this: addictions are very hard to break. You can’t do it in your own strength. But God can help you fill that compulsion with something else. And the way that He starts working is when you are humble before Him and admit, “I messed up.” So confess before God, and ask Him to give you His strength to put first things first, and to help do His will. That way you’ll be operating in His strength, and not just your own!

Christian Marriage Advice

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to grab the Wifey Wednesday code and share it on your site, so that other people can come back here and read these awesome marriage posts!


The Unwired Mom--Beat Internet Addiction

Want more inspiration and help to beat an internet addiction? Sarah Mae has a great book out called The Unwired Mom, which helps us make sure we’re still giving our families the attention and love they’re due!



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31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

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Wifey Wednesday: Sex and Family Vacations

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage (although I talk about it most days around here!) I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the linky below (it’s a great way to get blog traffic if you write a blog!)

Today I want to tackle a seasonal issue: what about sex on vacations? I received a letter from a woman on Facebook recently which said that the whole thing stressed her out completely, because she was tired, and exhausted, but felt like her husband expected a ton of sex because they were “on vacation”. I understand the feeling.

Let me explain a little about what’s going on in my life. About three months ago I had to do a total overhaul of almost all of my online activities. I’ve been putting in 12 hour days during the summer moving stuff around, and optimizing SEO, and a whole lot of other stuff that goes on behind the scenes. And everyday there’s a new technical glitch I have to deal with, which is also equally exhausting.

And at the same time my oldest daughter is in process of moving out, so I’ve been helping her with that (obviously I want to be there for such an important thing!) My youngest daughter was preparing for a huge competition she had last week, and needed help with practicing. So obviously I had to help with that. And dinner still needed to be made, and laundry still needed to be done, and I was just exhausted.

So when we did take a week off to get out and go camping last month, I spent the first few days collapsing. I was just so tired. And getting ready to go on vacation is always stressful to me, because I feel like I have to clean the whole house before I can leave (here’s a really funny column I wrote about just that phenomenon! See if you can relate).

Last week, when we were away, I was going to bed at 9:00 every night just because I was so tired. We were in Pennsylvania, with an 8-hour drive home, and I slept almost the entire way, even though I had had 9 1/2 hours of sleep every night that week. I just had so much catching up to do.

That happens to a lot of us on vacations. We’re finally able to relax, and our bodies just shut down.

That’s why I don’t think family vacations should really be thought of as “sexcapades”, so to speak. In general, they aren’t times to get away and have a spectacular sexual experience, for several reasons.

Family Vacations and Marriage: Is romance hard on vacation?

Realize that vacations are often times to decompress

When life is busy–and sometimes unavoidably busy–we force ourselves to keep going. Vacations are the times when we can finally let go and get some sleep.

You’ve got kids with you!

We spent most of our vacations when the children were small in tent trailers, traveling around Canada. It was great fun, but the children are right there with you. And you know what happens to trailers when you try to–you know? They move.

2001CampingTrailer

Friends of ours who often traveled with us were in stitches one morning. I asked what was so funny, and my friend explained, “last night we were having fun when our 6-year-old gets out of bed and yells at the top of his voice, “Will you please stop rocking the trailer!”

Yep. Tent trailers and sex are difficult.

But hotel rooms can be worse. You’re in two double beds, and the kids are only about 6 feet away from you. Not exactly romantic.

And as bad as it is when kids are little, it’s way worse when they’re older and actually know what’s going on.

That’s why my husband and I have just realized that family vacations are for just that–family. They’re not really couple time. Sure, you can take advantage of times when the kids are off doing something else (if they’re old enough to go somewhere by themselves), and quickies can be fun (and funny!), but in general, a family vacation is a time to concentrate on your kids, not the sexual side of your marriage. And I honestly think that’s okay.

Take Couple Vacations

That’s why my husband and I take specific couple vacations throughout the year–sometimes we go on camping trips just us to keep the cost down, or if he’s going on a conference I’ll go with him. We’ll take an occasional night or two away in a hotel, too. And the nice thing is I can plan the timing of that so that it doesn’t fall during the time of the month that wouldn’t really work for a “sexcapade” anyway.

Stress Sex at Home

Honestly, my favourite place to be intimate is at home anyway. I’m far less stressed, because I’m used to the place. I didn’t have to go to a ton of extra work to get ready to head out the door. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s natural.

So if you’re having regular sex at home, and you get away for occasional times, just the two of you, I think it’s honestly okay if a family vacation doesn’t end up being a great time sexually for you. The 31 Days to Great Sex is probably not a good one to begin when you’re camping!

Your marriage isn’t just about one night, or one vacation, or one week. It’s about the sum total of your relationship. And at different times you’ll concentrate on different aspects of your relationship. Sometimes you’ll focus more on the sexual side, and sometimes you’ll focus more on the parenting side. As long as you talk about this, and agree with it, I think that’s perfectly healthy.

Besides, vacations are stressful enough. Don’t make yourself think you’re a failure if you couldn’t figure out how to try new positions while the toddlers are sleeping three feet away from you in a tent. Let what happens, happen, and let yourself relax a bit. That’s what vacations are for!

What about you? Have any advice for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below. And be sure to link back here so that other people can find great marriage advice, too.

And if you have any tips for family vacations, leave them in the comments!

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

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Just DO Something as a Couple

Going to See Paul Brandt

Last night my husband and I and my in-laws went to Paul Brandt’s Just As I Am concert. It was awesome.

For those of you who don’t know Brandt, he’s a country music singer. You’d recognize some of his songs, like Convoy or Home (my personal favourite).

What many people don’t know, though, is that Paul is also a very committed Christian. So he’s got this new album out called Just As I Am where he does his own version of old gospel hits, like I’ll Fly Away and What a Friend We Have in Jesus and How Great Thou Art. He even gives a gospel invitation. And all of the proceeds from the tour are going to help an orphanage he supports in Haiti. Really great guy.

He’s got an awesome band, and the sound was amazing. I even sat through It Is Well With My Soul, which is quite a feat for me. We played that at my son’s funeral, and for the last seventeen years, whenever that song has come on at church I’ve excused myself to go to the bathroom. It’s not that I don’t agree with the words; I just don’t particularly feel like getting emotional.

But it would have been awkward to leave last night, so I sat through it, and I did okay. I even managed to sing along a bit.

Now we live in a small town, so an event like a Paul Brandt gospel concert is a big deal. It was held in the largest church which probably seats about 1800 maybe? And before the concert I just walked around saying hi to people. It was like homecoming! Everywhere you looked was someone you knew.

Here’s the thing, though:

Earlier in the day I didn’t really want to go.

I get in this groove where I like being online. I have things to do, projects to finish, emails to answer. And when I’m finished that, I sometimes just want to veg.

I think many of us are like that. I remember one teenager that I knew well who used to go to youth group and made quite a few friends there. Every time he went he had a great time. But he stopped going because it was a hassle. He liked staying home and just playing video games. And he more or less secluded himself because it was easier. He became more and more unhappy, but his life was easier.

Getting out and doing something takes effort.

It’s so much easier to flip on the TV, or surf the web, or read a book. But those things rarely feed your soul. I’ll admit a good book is a necessity sometimes, but real memories that are shared are based in shared activities. The easy route may seem preferable, but usually leads to a mediocre life. The harder route usually brings more happiness.

I will remember that concert for years; I would not have remembered the evening if we had sat at home and watched a show and knitted a bit and answered some emails.

My husband and I shared something fun (which we shared with my in-laws, too!).

When my mother turned 70 on Monday, and I was getting ready to throw her a party, one of my biggest problems was the guest list. She simply knows so many people, and knows them well. She has a ton of friends from all different walks of life.

I talked to her about it a little while ago, and she says the reason is because she makes it a point of seeing two different people every week (and sometimes more). No matter how busy she gets, she makes it a point of seeing two friends. She’s been single for a while, and she knows she needs a wide social circle. So she makes the effort.

And her life is so much richer for it.

It got me thinking about marriage. My mom’s life is richer because she makes the effort. Yes, it would be easier to sit at home and knit (she loves knitting, too!). But it would not be as fulfilling. Her life would not be as rich. So she fights against what’s easy and she does what is actually fun.

Do we do that in our relationships?

All the problems people have in their marriages–from low libidos to a husband not helping around the house to needing forgiveness–could be solved so much more easily if people simply DID things together.

When you spend time together, doing something (like not in front of a screen), you build memories.

You build goodwill. You laugh together. And that makes it so much easier to solve the problems we do have. First, because those problems diminish in importance. And second, because with the added goodwill, it’s easier to talk about things.

So let me ask you: are you settling for the easy, or are you actually DOING things together? And what could you do? The weekend’s coming, so dream a bit. Let’s do something to build a memory and to laugh a bit. Your marriage–and your life–will be richer for it.

Successful Couples Do Things Together

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