Tag: lifestyle

Time Tip: One Way to Plan Your Month

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I have a habit of not knowing what day it is. Special occasions tend to sneak up on me, and I find myself unprepared and usually rushing off to the post office last minute because there’s some birthday I’ve forgotten. I think everyone experiences this at some point (at least, that’s what I tell myself to feel better about it), so I decided to share my limited wisdom on time management. If you want to avoid days sneaking up on you, try my method to see if it works for you.

Using a calendar with extra large squares, I grab a bunch of flag stickies and plan out my month. I use stickies instead of writing it on the calendar, that way if something comes up and I need to rearrange, I don’t have to erase. My month ends up being color-coded as follows:

Green – church events
Pink – holidays/special occasions/birthdays
Orange – writing deadlines
Yellow – Bills due/library books due/miscellaneous deadlines

I don’t do this because I’m organized – I do it because I’m forgetful. Using little flags on my calendar is great because it makes me intentional with my days instead of watching them waste away behind me.

What’s important to you? What do you need to allot time for? Do you need to be more intentional about church involvement? Put it on the calendar. Do you need to be more intentional about date night? Put it on the calendar. Do you need to be more intentional about sorting out your thoughts and brainstorming ideas? Put it on the calendar.

Don’t let days sneak up on you. Make sure each day gets the proper attention it deserves.

How do you effectively manage your time? Comment below!

5 Magazines You Should Be Reading

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Last week we told you what 25 websites you should have bookmarked on your computer. But a lot of great resources are also available in paper form. Don’t miss out on these excellent materials whether you’re married or single, male or female, young or seasoned.
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The Blame Game

point2Blame came into humanity early. The first recorded blame shift is in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve chose sin, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the snake. (Gen 3) We shouldn’t be surprised that blame finds its way into our every day lives. We can’t deny that we have pointed our fingers at others, especially at those who have wounded us. Whether or not we are justified in our accusations is irrelevant. Blame is completely useless.

Blaming Doesn’t Solve the Problem
Even if the blame has been shifted, the issue at hand still remains. The problem you face will not disappear because you have pointed your finger at someone else. Blaming your parents for your baggage won’t set you free. Blaming your spouse for your misery won’t make you happy. Blaming your kids for your stress won’t bring you peace.

Although we cannot deny that the poor decisions of others have affected us, holding onto the idea that someone else is responsible for the struggle inside yourself will never bring resolve. Blaming never solves a problem, it simply sustains it. It creates a larger trench between the problem and the solution. Nothing is solved when no one takes on their own responsibility. Even bystanders hurt in the act have a responsibility to face.

Blame Doesn’t Free You From Responsibility
Every person is responsible for their own actions, and that includes reactions. Bitterness is a reaction. Hatred is a reaction. Refusing to move forward is a reaction. All three of these reactions do not manipulate the other party to repent, they instead only torture us to our grave. Saint Augustine said, “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Blame is ultimately resentment, and resentment is poison to our souls.

When we have been mistreated, when we have been led astray, when our expectations have been unfulfilled, we have the responsibility of choosing our next steps. It is our responsibility to forgive. It is our responsibility to speak up in love. It is our responsibility to move on and heal. No one else can do these things for us, no matter how much blame we put on them.

Blame Does Not Deepen Relationships
If your goal in life is to never have deep relationships, blaming others is a great way to reach that goal. A pointed finger keeps everyone at arm’s length. The blame you hold against your spouse, your kids, or your parents will destroy your relationship, and ruin any chance of deep intimacy.

Not all relationships should be deepened. There are some relationships that need boundaries, and some relationships that need to be completely severed. But realize that the blame you hold onto will create a wall between you and the person on the other side of your pointed finger. If this is a person you love and long to be closer to, you will need to let go of your resentment.

When Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the snake, no one escaped the consequences. Regardless of who was at fault, every person involved felt the impact and was held responsible for their actions. Blame will never give us the freedom we desire, only forgiveness will. When we let go of the blame, we can solve the problem at hand, move forward, and strengthen our broken relationships.

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!

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.

Harmless Pornography

computerWe want to believe pornography is harmless. Pornography is everywhere in one form or another and more is done to encourage it than confront it. But think for a moment: What are the actual, solid benefits of viewing pornography?

How strong are the arguments in favor of it? Excuses that run along the lines of “It doesn’t hurt anyone”, “It’s natural to explore your sexuality”, or even – when grasping for the really thin straws – “It’s legal, so what’s the problem?”

The problem is our selfish desires. The problem is the perversion of sexuality. The problem is the destruction of intimate relationships.

“Come on now,” you may be saying to yourself. “It’s not that big of a deal.” Is it?

In each of us is a sex drive. This is a great thing. Our sex drives not only steer us towards procreation and intimacy, but even stoke our creativity, playfulness, and adventurous side. But in our attempts to satisfy our desires, we can fall into the habit of turning to lesser things that indulge us for a moment, but never fully quench our thirst. Pornography is guilty of the same false sense of gratification that alcohol, drugs, or any other form of addiction offers us.

Pornography is often used as a filler or a distraction. It is used when someone is waiting for marriage and feels stifled in their sexuality. It is used when someone’s sex life is stale or on hold. It is used when someone is empty or stressed and wants some form of escape from their reality. And it works, but only for a very short period of time. Maybe only a day, or even just a few hours. That’s when a pattern evolves and an addiction forms. Someone longs for the distraction it brings; for the high their imagination gets from it.

The high from pornography, however, is something completely different from the satisfaction of sexual intimacy. Pornographic highs are caused by lust. Lust cannot be cured, it can only be fed. And sooner or later it will, in fact, demand to be fed. It will not stop despite the status of your sex life. When you are married and have a great sex life, or when you feel content and satisfied as things are, the lust that has been fed will still seek you out.

In addition, an addiction to pornography cannot be cured by marriage. Although some people think that they’ll just play with pornography until they get married, the truth is that most people who get addicted to pornography before marriage continue to look at it after marriage. This is a huge cause for divorce. According to a meeting by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2003, two-thirds of the divorce lawyers that met said the internet had a heavy contribution to their cases, with pornography relating to half of those cases.1

In reality, viewing pornography is an attempt to fulfill a selfish desire instantly, avoiding any human intimacy or responsibility. Michael Leahy, whose family was torn apart by porn and sex addiction, addresses this in his book, Porn University. He writes to his sons, “It was all about me. I made it that way. In fact, I was so into me that after awhile, I hardly noticed you or your mom at all.”2

The desire to have sex is not wrong; the act of finding a way to satisfy it outside of marriage is. This goes for many things: pornography, premarital sex, romance novels, racy magazines, or even television programs. All these can pervert or distort the view of sex, and in turn, it lessens the gratification of pure sexual intimacy. It doesn’t matter if the people in these forms of pornography are real or not. The destructive feelings are. The destructive patterns and distorted views of sexuality is what makes pornography harmful. It takes the beauty of sexuality and turns it into a selfish indulgence, free of real intimacy or commitment.

No one was ever cured of loneliness, a bad sex life, or sexual frustration by viewing pornography. It is not created to assist society in any way; it is really only out for money. The workers behind pornography will never take responsibility for– or even feel sympathy towards– what happens to your relationships or life due to an addiction problem. Pornography is not interested fulfilling your desires. It is only interested in fulfilling its own.

But we are not guiltless when it comes to the equation. We are the ones guilty of handing over our money, along with our intimate relationships, our self-control, and our pure and powerful sexuality.

Pornography is not harmless. It is as dangerous and destructive as any other kind of addiction that sinks its teeth in us.

 

1 “Divorce Statistics: Pornography.”California Divorce Online: Orange County Divorce: Do It Yourself. Divorce Wizards. Web. Aug 2011. <http://www.divorcewizards.com/Divorce-Statistics-Pornography.html>.

2 Leahy, Michael. “A Letter From Dad.”,Porn University: What College Students Are Really Saying about Sex on Campus. Chicago: Northfield Pub., 2009. Print.

Are You Making the Most of Your Singleness?

full2Are you living your single life to the fullest?  Take our quiz to see.

How busy are your weekends?
A. Empty
B. Somewhat busy
C. Ridiculously Busy

How good are you with kids?
A. Very inexperienced
B. Some experience
C. Highly experienced

Can you balance a checkbook?
A. Can I do what now?
B. I know how, but I don’t actually do it
C. Yes, I’m actually pretty frugal

How well do you cook?
A. I’ve memorized many fast food menus
B. I can cook the basics
C. I can cook just about anything

How close are your relationships with others?
A. I’m not really close to anyone
B. I have a few very close friends, but not a lot of friends in general
C. I have a really close community group

What does most of your time consist of?
A. Daydreaming
B. Working or playing, but not both
C. Working hard, then playing hard

How often do you travel?
A. Almost never/very little
B. Occasionally
C. Whenever I have the chance

How involved are you with the community or ministry?
A. I don’t do anything related to either
B. I do some volunteer/ministry work
C. I donate a lot of my extra time to community/ministry work

How are your professional skills?
A. I can write a résumé . That’s it.
B. I have the basics covered, such as customer service and some minor skills
C. I’m great with personal relations and I have a solid skill set

How often do you work on your hobbies/talents?
A. I don’t have any hobbies or talents
B. I work on them sometimes, but not as often as I could
C. I spend a lot of time on my hobbies and explore new things often

Tally Your Score:
Mostly A’s – Singleness Slacker
You aren’t utilizing your single season at all. Where are you directing your focus?

Mostly B’s – Intermediate Single
You’re doing pretty well in your single season, but you still have room to live your singleness to the fullest. Don’t be afraid to do more.

Mostly C’s – Singlestar
You’re doing great in your single season of life! The skills you have now will definitely be of service to you in your marriage.

Your single season of life has three major benefits: it gives you time to serve your community or in ministry, it is the best time to create lasting relationships with others, and it is a time to prepare yourself with the skills you’ll need for marriage. Can you do those things after marriage? Of course. But with the demanding attention that a home, spouse, and a family needs, doing these things proves to be more difficult in a married life than your season of singleness.

Singleness is not a curse, although your aching heart might think it is. It is the only time in your life where you are free to explore your talents, passions, and interests to the fullest, without any heavy responsibilities and distractions hindering you. Marriage is indeed a magnificent blessing, but it also causes you to sacrifice a lot of time and energy to keep it thriving.

The idea of singleness is not to take time to focus on yourself, but instead develop yourself. If all you’re doing in your single season is spoiling yourself or obsessing over nothing but your own needs, you’re going to find that your single season will end up feeling empty and will render quite fruitless. But if you spend your single season developing yourself by serving others and gaining skills that will serve you greatly after you are married, your single season will be fulfilling. And when your single season is fulfilling, there is a better chance that your married life will be also.

Help For Loneliness

lonely2Loneliness happens to everyone. Although you may not be able to cure loneliness completely, there are some ways to prevent it from taking over your life.

Deepen the quality of your relationships
Ever heard the phrase “lonely in a room full of people?” The number of relationships you have is not the problem, but the quality of them. You can be in a room of 100 really great acquaintances, but it won’t have half the satisfaction as one or two deep, meaningful relationships. Romantic relationships are not the only types of relationships that have depth. There is no doubt that there is a great level of intimacy in a romantic relationship, but it’s important to remember how critical it is to have deep relationships with others, such as a family member you respect or a friend of the same gender who can relate with you and support you during certain phases of life.

Serve others
Most people think by spoiling themselves will take the edge off of loneliness. That’s just not true. Human beings are built for company. Although spoiling yourself is pleasant, it’s not gratifying. There is a greater amount of pleasure in helping others; to feel as if you’re making a difference, and to think about things larger than yourself. Thinking about yourself all the time will only end in a pity-party. Thinking about others will not only make you great company, but it will also keep you from feeling sorry for yourself.

Stay away from things that make you lonely
If you’re single and you’re watching romantic movies and reading romantic novels, you’re not helping yourself any. Surrounding yourself with the things that remind you of your loneliness is a bad strategy. If romantic movies make you lonely, don’t watch them. If reading romantic novels makes you depressed over your lack of intimacy, don’t read them. It’s not to say you can never watch or read these things again, but realize that when you go to these things out of your loneliness you’re not filling any of your voids, you’re only making it worse.

Tear Down Your Walls
Joseph Fort Newton said, “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” Past hurts and mistakes can cause us to clam up and refuse to relax and be ourselves. It’s really hard to be closed off and have deep relationships with others at the same time.

If that freaks you out, do this: think of someone you love. Do they have bad habits? Have they made mistakes? Do they say some dumb stuff from time to time? But you love them anyhow, right?

Bad habits and mistakes don’t make people unlikable. It makes them human. Accept your weakness, admit your mistakes, and think about others more than yourself. Loneliness is a choice, so choose to get up and do something about it.