Category: Jan/Feb 2012

Happy Relationship New Year

relationshipnewHappy Valentine’s Day Eve!

This holiday can hold some really high expectations or some really heavy heartbreak, depending on your situation. However, I’m proposing that that Valentine’s Day not be viewed as a commercial holiday, but as a Singleness New Year’s Day or a Marriage New Year’s Day. What does that mean? It means you spend the day in reflection and celebration on what season of life you’re in and you plan to live the rest of the year to the fullest. Try these ideas:

For Single People:
→ Give gifts to all your single friends. Write them a note thanking them for being a great friend this past year. Pray for them and their future spouses.

→ Appreciate your parents and other family members that have encouraged you this year. Thank them for their hard work.

→ Take a look at how you’re spending your singleness. Are you being selfish with your time? Are you letting valuable relationships slip through your fingers? Are you preparing yourself for your future marriage? Make a plan this year to get into serving, re-establish old relationships, and prepare yourself for your future spouse.

→ Write a letter to your future spouse. Save it. Write him/her a letter every year until you meet. (You can do this on other holidays too!)

→ Take a look at your relationship with Christ. Are you living for Him and His Kingdom or simply for yourself? Spend some time in prayer and Bible reading. Plan out time for devotion in the upcoming year. Spend some time with Him in thanksgiving.

For Married People:
→ Admire your spouse. Write him/her a letter of all the things they’ve done this past year that you appreciate. Write down the things you love about him/her. Read the letter aloud.

→ Thank the people in your life that have helped you with your marriage. (Leave them a note or an email– don’t interrupt their day with their spouse!) Tell them how their wisdom helped you.

→ If you have kids, show your kids some love. Make sure they know how much they mean to you. Give them little gifts. Make some crafts with them. Write them letters for them to keep as they grow older.

→ Make quality time with your spouse today. Spend an evening or afternoon in each other’s company. Don’t argue. Don’t complain. Don’t tease. Simply love and adore. (You can do it. I believe in you.)

→ Pray for married friends in hard times. Encourage them.

→ Take a look at your marriage. Gentlemen, do you reflect Christ’s love for the church? Ladies, do you reflect the church’s loving submission to Christ? Read Ephesians 5 and reflect on your own heart.

→ Take a look at your relationship with Christ. Have you put your spouse before Christ as an idol? Have you neglected your time with Him? Spend some time in prayer and Bible reading. Plan out time for devotion in the upcoming year. Spend some time with Him in thanksgiving.

Happy Relationship New Year, everyone!

Real Marriage Tour

realmarriageAs a single with a heart for marriage, I quickly discovered that marriage is like an exclusive club. In my attempts to gain insight on common problems in marriage, I found that singles are not exactly welcome in marital Bible studies, that single studies rarely involved real marriage issues or preparation, and that books are divided into two categories: married couples that need to love their spouses more and singles who should stop being so impatient.

I spoke to a pastor of my predicament: not being able to learn about marriage without actually being married. He was able to relate to my distress, being of the same mind when he was single himself.

“I actually used to sneak into marriage conferences before I was married,” he told me with a sheepish grin. “I wanted to know what I was getting into.”

And many singles share the same desire. We notice the 60% divorce rate, and want to know what measures to take immediately to keep from becoming part of a statistic.

So you can imagine my excitement when I heard of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s marriage conference, the Real Marriage Tour, that extends an invitation not only to married couples, but to singles as well.

The tour is based off of Driscoll’s new book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together. The book – co-written with his wife, Grace – is all ready #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. The book takes a different approach to typical relationship books, asking first and foremost, “Are you friends with your spouse?”

“The first human friendship in the history of the world was a marriage,” Pastor Mark said at his conference in Corona, California. He went on to talk about the three different types of marriages: marriages where couples oppose one another (back to back), marriages where couples work together (shoulder to shoulder), and marriages based in friendship (face to face). He discussed serving your spouse, being friends with your spouse, and making your spouse your top priority.

The singles, however, were not left out. Pastor Mark applied all his topics to singles as well, not overlooking individual character and expectations when going into marriage, and – biggest of all – sex. And this wasn’t your typical uncomfortable conversation on fornication; instead, he addressed it as God’s gift. Not a god, not gross, but an amazing part of marriage.

Pastor Mark left no stone unturned. He addressed everything from porn to premarital sex, from lust to post-marital sex. Most of his sex talk was based off of 1 Corinthians 10:23, asking the questions “Is it lawful? (Biblically and legally)”, “Is it helpful?”, and “Is it enslaving?” He even took the time to do a few Q&A sessions with the audience that asked their questions via text message.

Even though Pastor Mark made us all laugh to tears with his insights, I don’t believe anyone left without some heavy conviction. Beyond his discussions on marriage and dating, Pastor Mark got to the core of faltering relationships: selfishness, pride, and a lack of a real relationship with Jesus Christ. In our love for Christ, we submit as servants to one another, because that is the picture of Christ’s love for us.

“All Christians are called to be servants,” he said, “It is a high honor because that’s what Jesus was.”

To find out more on the Real Marriage Tour visit The Hub website, which offers tickets and resources for the tour, as well as resources for small group Bible studies written by Mark Driscoll and other pastors such as John Piper and Matt Chandler. You can also go to marshill.com to watch Pastor Mark’s sermons about Real Marriage. (And I highly recommend his Song of Solomon series, The Peasant Princess.) Driscolls’ book, Real Marriage, can be purchased at most bookstores or any of the sites mentioned above.

I thank Pastor Mark for inviting singles with a heart for marriage into the exclusive club. Perhaps if more pastors and conferences let singles have backstage passes to learn about the real hardships of marriage, we can see the divorce rate diminish considerably, and see more marriages paint the beautiful picture of Christ’s love for His church.

Valentine’s Reads

reads

It seems like only yesterday Thanksgiving ended and we all panicked as Christmas approached. Now the holiday pressures of Christmas have faded, and instantly, we’re shoved straight into Valentines Day. We went from the anxiety of remembering a token of affection for everyone we know, to the anxiety of planning a night of affection for the person we care about most.

I’m always excited about the Valentine’s Day.  I enjoy the over-abundance of heart decor, the candy, the affectionate gifts, but most of all I like the romantic books that are displayed during this time of year.

Read more

Indoor Dates

Inside/OutsideWith the cool Winter weather, it may be preferable to stay indoors on date night. If you’re tired of the usual sit-on-the-couch-and-watch-a-movie routine, try one of these indoor date ideas.

Get Creative

Indoor Vacation
Turn your living room into a foreign getaway. Use sand, shells, and beach chairs to create an indoor beach vacation; or roast s’mores and hot dogs in the fireplace for that mountain camping feel; or bake a baguette, brew some coffee, and set up some outdoor furniture in the kitchen to create a French café. Pay attention to places your sweetheart likes to go, then set up a room in your house to reflect that location.

Movie Dub
Pick a movie (foreign is a good choice), turn off the sound, and dub the movie together. Change the storyline, the dialogue, and the mood of what you’re watching. You can also put on a sports game and be the announcers, or put on a soap opera and turn it into a comedy. Don’t take yourselves too seriously on this one!

Child’s Play
Get out your childhood toys and reconnect with your imagination. Pick games and toys you used to play with as a child and discuss your childhoods. Explore children’s toys for the newer or older generations. Play with jacks, play dough, Lego’s, army men, or even coloring books.

Get Crafty

Create a Scrapbook Togethergame
Make a scrapbook about the last year you spent together, your relationship “firsts” (first date, first kiss, first “I love you”), or your overall love story. Then again, the scrapbook the two of you make doesn’t even have to be about you! Make a scrapbook for a mutual friend who is going through a hard time, for a relative who is sick, or for another couple’s anniversary or wedding.

Make a Board Game
Pick an interest you both have and build a board game around that subject. Make it on a piece of poster board, or even have it professionally manufactured. If you can’t think of a board game to make, simply play one. Set up a candlelit table accompanied by an intimate food such as chocolate or cheese fondue, then play your favorite board games. Change the rules of the game to be more romantic and intimate. (For example, if you’re playing Monopoly, kiss every time someone passes Go.)

Explore Culinary Delights
Pick up a soda maker kit or an ice cream maker and try your hands at coming up with new flavors and treats. Baked goods are also a good idea because they are fun to make, decorate, and enjoy. Build gingerbread houses, or decorate cookies or cupcakes and give them to relatives, friends, or even to a community organization. You can also make non-edible products in your kitchen, such as spa treatments, lip balm, lotions, candles, or soaps.

Get Smart

Play Word Games
Work on a crossword, word search, or word scramble together, or make two copies of the same puzzle and compete to see who completes it first. (Winner gets a romantic prize!) You can also create your own romantic versions of crosswords, word searches, word scrambles, or Madlibs.

Speak in Code
Spend an evening learning a secret code together, such as Morse Code or reversed alphabet. Incorporate that code into your romantic lives. Leave messages in code on your refrigerator, email them, or even text them to each other during the day. You can even create your own – just don’t let anyone else know the translation!

Learn a Language
The best way to learn a language is to have someone learn with you. If you both are interested in learning the same language, set up a date centered around that language. Incorporate culture into your date, such as making an Italian dish for dinner if you’re learning Italian or buying German chocolate if you’re learning German. Look up music or books in that language and see how much you can translate. If you don’t have the time or desire to be fluent in another language, just learn sweet and romantic sayings in another language.

Other Fun Indoor Dates
→ Do a large puzzle                                                                                      → Redesign a room
→ Explore literature together                                                                        → Play video games
→ Play paper games like Tic-Tac-Toe or Hangman                                       → Play instruments

Explore Literature Together

books2Books offer opportunities for deep discussion and entertainment.  Why not share these things with your sweetheart?

Create a Romantic Book Club
Gather other couples that have an interest in reading and start up a romantic book club. Pick classic romantic books, biographies, modern fictional stories, or even non-fiction relationship books to read every month. Organize questions to discuss at each meeting such as, “What do you think are the weaknesses in the main characters’ relationship?” or “Do you agree or disagree with the author’s remark about dating in Chapter 10?” A book club can consist of a large group of people, or it can just be you and your sweetheart.

Read Each Others Favorite Books and Authors
It is a wonderful gesture to find out what books your sweetheart loves and read them yourself. It not only gives you something to discuss with each other, but it also helps you get a look into their preferences and viewpoint. Feel free to even read the books your sweetheart doesn’t like, just so you can bash the book together or argue its valid qualities.

Write Together
For the more creative couples, you can enjoy literature by writing together. Write short stories, poems, or even a novel together. If one of you is a better artist than writer, have that person do illustrations while the other writes. Write a story with yourselves as the main characters, or create something to professionally publish.

See Plays or Shows Based on Books
If there is a local play or show in your area coming soon, read the book before seeing the show. Discuss how the book was different than the show, what parts you liked better in the show, what parts you liked better in the book, and how the show measured up to your imagination.

Other Ideas:
→ If one of your has a short attention span when it comes to reading, or you simply don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to a large novel, read poetry or short stories together.
→ Get a local library card and pay special attention to library events that you can enjoy as a couple.
→ If you’re reading a play, take on roles and read it to each other in character, acting it out if you wish.
→ If you don’t want to start a book club, you can always join an existing one in your area. Chances are it won’t be romance-based, but it will be a fun activity to do together.

Craft Idea: Relationship Stock Board

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes it’s difficult to find a way to communicate your feelings about your relationship. Talking about things like, “I’d like to go out on more dates.” or “I don’t really feel appreciated.” can end up becoming a nag if approached incorrectly, or can turn into a conflict if confronted at the wrong time.

To get the message across while avoiding a negative start to a conversation, create a relationship stock board. Get a white board or a cork board and divide it up into different categories or “stocks.” Your stocks can be Appreciation, Touch, Flirting, Intimacy, Dates, Quality Time, Sex, or Affirmation.

If you’re using a cork board, create these labels using either markers and paper or your printer. Also, create a pair of arrows for each category, using one color for the man and a different color for the woman. Pin the arrows, pointing up.

When a part of your relationship starts to weaken, pin your arrow facing downwards. This indicates, “I think this category needs some special attention.”

If you see your spouse’s arrow pointing downwards, approach them saying something along the lines of, “Hey, I saw that you think the Quality Time stock is dropping. What can I do to address this part of our relationship?”

Place it in a private area, such as your bedroom. (Guests don’t need to see and question your relationship categories.)

The idea of the board isn’t to replace communication and confronting a situation, but to spark the conversation in a way that avoids retorting out of anger or frustration. It gives the other person a chance to reflect on their actions and a strategy instead of becoming instantly defensive and walking away in frustration.

Why the Man Chases

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIn this day and age, we have been convinced that since men and women are equal, that means that women should take on the role and responsibilities of a man in a relationship and vise versa. Wrong! Men and women each have their own responsibilities in a relationship. It is designed that way in order build the character of both parties and to help the relationship flourish to the fullest.

One particular responsibility we have become confused on is initiating a relationship. The man is made to chase, not the woman. Here’s why:

It Tests His Affections
A man goes after what he cares about. He will be the first in line at a midnight release for a video game or a movie, he’ll workout diligently each day to win a physical competition, or he’ll pick up a second job to get that motorcycle he’s been looking at. How much more valuable is a woman compared to these things! When a woman initiates the relationship, she will never truly know whether or not he responded to her advances because he was interested in her or because he felt lonely that week and thought, “Sure, why not? It beats being single.” A man who loves a woman enough will put in the effort for her. And she should let him, because she’s worth it.

It Keeps the Woman From Settling
If a man doesn’t chase a woman it is usually for one of two reasons: either he’s a coward or he isn’t interested. If he is a coward, he will struggle with being the leader of the relationship and probably will slack on his responsibilities as the man. If he isn’t interested, the relationship is doomed to fail no matter how the woman plays the game. A woman should want a man who adores and appreciates her, and who chooses her first, even 20 years later. A woman does herself no favors by being with a man who is there simply because he can be.

It’s His Job
A man has many responsibilities in a relationship, with pursuit being the first in the list. If he cannot take on the task of pursing a woman he cares for and wants to know better, how can he be expected to step up and do all the tasks that come after pursuit? Men are designed to be leaders, not only of the home but of the relationship; not because women lack leadership qualities, but because the man should guide his wife and family in a way that protects her and benefits the household. It does not benefit a man’s character for a woman to lead him; it instead promotes adolescence and laziness. So, ladies, let the man do his job. Not because you can’t do it, but because it’s his responsibility!

 

Women:
DON’T: Make excuses for his lack of courage or commitment
DON’T: Chase after guys
DO: Protect your heart
DO: Show interest in the guy you’re interested in

Men:
DON’T: Be a coward or afraid of rejection
DON’T: Be over-bearing or creepy
DO: Lead the relationship
DO: Show your affections

Once

AgendaEach new year comes with a handful of vague, easily broken resolutions that people do not even remember making by the time June rolls around. Instead of making resolutions to lose weight or resolutions to quit making resolutions, makes goals instead. Make a goal for each day, each week, each month, and each year; goals to improve the quality of life as an individual, and goals to improve your relationship as a couple.

Once a Day

As a Couple: Say a Word of Appreciation
It is surprising how gratifying it is to hear “thank you for dinner” after a long day. Everyone likes acknowledgement of their hard work or accomplishments. Give a grateful remark to your spouse once a day, even if it is just for a small gesture.

As an Individual: Indulge in All 5 Senses
It is easy to take your senses for granted. It usually takes some sort of illness to realize how much you use a specific sense and just how much it enhances every day life. Take time each day to appreciate your senses. Watch the sunset, listen to some moving music, light a great smelling candle, indulge your taste buds with a sweet treat, and keep a soft blanket around to wrap yourself in. Deliberately notice your senses when you use them and enjoy them to the fullest.

Once a Week

As a Couple: Have a Date Night
Scheduled romantic time together is very important for any couple. It allows both parties to step into a mini-vacation from their struggles, conflicts, and rough situations. Make sure to schedule a date night once a week– even if you can only fit it in a couple of hours. All dates should include something fun and relaxing, with no talk about work, kids, or family members. Turn off your cell phones, exclude all third parties, and spend the evening (or morning or afternoon) completely focused on relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

As an Individual: Indulge in a Hobby
Hobbies are a great way to improve your skills and overall enjoyment of life. (And no, television watching or internet surfing are not considered hobbies.) Regularly schedule time to enjoy a hobby that refreshes you, such as dance, martial arts, writing, baking, or fishing. Try a new hobby each month. Remember to invite your friends to join you! Avoid hobbies that isolate you from others; try to find hobbies that encourage socializing.

Once a Month

As a Couple: Give Each Other a Random Gift
A gift is a way of telling someone “I think about you.” Gifts can be anything from a car to a candy bar. Once a month, you should give your sweetheart a token of love and appreciation. Men, pick up flowers on your way home from work or a box of specialty chocolates. (Do not buy anything generic. Make it personal!) Ladies, pick up the DVD your man talked about getting or a specialty food he really likes such as bacon salt or hot sauce. Edible and perishable gifts are a great way to go because they can be used up instead of being put on a shelf and collecting dust. Pay attention to what your sweetheart enjoys and surprise them with it.

As an Individual: Give Time to a Good Cause
There is nothing more miserable than thinking about yourself all the time. Regularly donate your time or resources to a community shelter, food kitchen, or charity event. With hectic work schedules and other responsibilities it may not be easy or profitable to volunteer every week, but at least try for once a month. Do not simply show up at a community service to give yourself a pat on the back for helping out; genuinely pick a service that tugs at your heart. Volunteering really helps others in your community and it gives you a new perspective on your own life.

Once a Year

As a Couple: Take a Vacation Togetheradventure
Take a honeymoon every year. Take your spouse and run away for a weekend (or a full week) each year, rekindling your friendship and intimacy. Block out the outside world as much as possible. Ask a travel guide for help finding romantic getaways– there are usually wonderful honeymoon or romantic packages you can reserve. If you cannot afford to travel, be creative. Find a local honeymoon package for the weekend, or turn your house into a romantic getaway.

As an Individual: Have a Grand Adventure
Do something big. Gather a group of friends and make a cross-country road trip, or fly to another country all together. Do something extreme like water rafting, or sky diving. If you are single, do a short-term or long-term missions trip if you have the opportunity. Do something that requires planning, saving, and preparing. Make it big, adventurous, and memorable.