Marvelous Mothers

DSC_0022My two favorite mothers are a special part of my life—on either side of me—my 90-year-old mother who has been a gift in my life and my precious daughter who has blessed me with her love, marrying a wonderful man, and giving me two wonderful granddaughters. Both of these fine women have brought me so much joy and love that I can hardly contain it.

My mom has journeyed through so much—from growing up on a farm in northern New York, raising five children, serving and burying two husbands, and loving God all along the way. My daughter has been on her own special journey too—called to be a missionary when she was six, enduring some pretty tough years when her dad left, starting Paradigm Shift with her amazing husband, moving to South Africa, having her two babies in a foreign country—and loving God through it all.

Both of these women have trusted God through so many things, and I think therein lies the power of their lives. Neither of them bailed when times got tough; both of them clung to the One who could lead and guide them through the challenges and changes that came their way.

As mothers, these two women have shown a steadfast love and commitment to being the very best mothers they could be, and they loved their children well. I am the recipient of a lifetime of love, thanks to a Mom who hung in there through thick and thin and still does with every phone call and visit we get to enjoy together. And I am a recipient of abundant love, thanks to a daughter who shares her life and her children with me so willingly and extravagantly with every Skype visit and Facebook post and email and our all-too-infrequent time together.

So on this Mother’s Day, I send accolades and boatloads of love to my two most treasured Moms, and I give them my own personal Mother of the Year award! Who would you like to give a Mother of the Year award to? I’d love to know!



Enjoying Fun Together

w Quy:Ann 9-07When you’re dating, you naturally find time to have fun as a couple and discover what activities you like doing together. Having fun together is an important part of the emotional and relational bonding that instinctively happens.

Then you marry, get busy with life, and all too often you forget to have fun together. And when you’re a remarriage and are blending a family, making time for fun can be even more of a challenge. Moreover, if each of you enjoy different sports, interests, and activities, doing your own thing can get in the way of enjoying time together.

Since Dale and I both tend to be workaholics, making time to for fun and taking time to get refreshed is an important part of keeping our relationship fresh and strong. We have discovered that we aren’t very good at spontaneity, so we have to be intentional about planning to do fun things together.

Several years ago we made a Bucket List of the bigger things, and we are ticking them off one at a time. For us, travel is a big part of that, but so is camping, hiking, and enjoying time with friends. What we often struggle with is to find fun things to do in our everyday world, so we’re always looking for new and fun things to do.

For our Tenth Anniversary, we recently went on an 11-day cruise to Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, and England. We celebrated as we sailed through the Mediterranean and Atlantic, enjoyed the beauty of nature and the amazing cultures we experienced, and rejoiced that God has blessed us with each other.

And when it comes down to it, enjoying one another is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Whatever you find that will keep your marriage fresh and fun, be sure you don’t neglect that important element of your relationship.

Strong marriages have a fun factor built into the fabric of their lives together, and whether you do most things together or intentionally strike a balance between together time and doing fun things individually, have some fun—together! Life is too short, too stressful, and too precious to waste it on work and busyness alone.

What fun things do you enjoy together? I’d love to know!

For more relationship-building ideas, check out The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2013, all rights reserved.



Imperfect Marriage Partners

Wedding-Photography-by-Jon-Day-273x300Marriage is taking two unique people and uniting their souls and bodies for a common purpose, for the rest of their lives. But it’s also taking two imperfect people and putting them in a committed relationship so they can safely grow and mature together as they work on their imperfections and problems.

When we see imperfect marriages or marriages that fail, we sometimes think that marriage must have been a mistake. But God’s perfect plan for marriage isn’t flawed; it’s people who make it less than God designed. Fortunately, marriage is a unique place where God can work on our flaws—hopefully in a safe and loving environment.

Marriage is also living out God’s redemptive plan and becoming more like Him everyday. It’s seeing your mate grow through the love, grace and forgiveness you freely give him or her, while that person also allows you to grow, even through your mistakes. It’s about giving, helping, serving, trusting, forgiving, caring, learning and living through the ups and downs of life. It’s employing 1 Corinthians 13 in the process and watching God work through that process.

Our culture also encourages us to have no boundaries, to have unlimited freedom. But God wants us to be unselfish, and limit ourselves for the good of the relationship.

You need to constantly choose your relationship over material things, over other people, over work, over other selfish desires—sometimes even over ministry or noble deeds. One of my friends nearly lost her marriage because she was so busy working at her church that she neglected her husband, so beware of this subtlety.

True intimacy comes when you make your relationship more important than your individualism. Yet, at the same time, we are still separate individuals, just as the Trinity is three in one. Just as they have their own separate identities and purposes, so do we. By mirroring this sacred truth, we can guide others to the One who models perfect Oneness.

God wants us to mirror this intimate relationship—spiritually, physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially. Socially, marriage is a public contract that says “we are one” as we share our lives with others. Emotionally it’s being vulnerable, transparent and honest with one another as with no one else. Intellectually, it’s sharing your thoughts, opinions and desires. Physically, it’s everything from a tender kiss to passionate sexual intercourse. Spiritually, it’s praying together, worshiping together and growing in your faith.

Through your marriage, you can show the world that God’s plan for mankind is a good one. God can use our marriages to show a lost and dying world that love and grace–and growing in Him–can make people different, even better.

How have you become “better” because of your marriage? I’d love to know!

Adapted from Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2013, all rights reserved.



Newlywed Changes

images-6One of the biggest changes a person can choose to make is going from single to married. As single adults, many of us have spent years establishing our independence, our own ways of doing things, our own habits, traditions, plans, and dreams. Then we marry, and we go from independence and hopefully to interdependence—but that’s not easy. The changes in lifestyle are huge, and they impact us for the rest of our lives.

The excitement of change and the challenge of change as you move from season to season in your married life are abundant. But no matter how much you plan for change and anticipate all that’s good ahead of you, adjustments are inevitable.

Yet when we bump up against any kind of change, our natural inclination is to react, respond, and resist. And we usually fall back into our familiar patterns of behavior. Yet when you don’t understand your reactions or the differences in personality, gender, and culture, the normal adjustments are compounded by disappointment and hurt.

As we learn how we’re wired and consciously make the adjustments we need to make, we will have the tools to go through unexpected surprises more productively. And then we can usually come to a place of being able to release the former thing—singleness—and accept the change—married life—with a bit more grace. It isn’t easy, but if we understand what’s going on, we can more effectively deal with the feelings of disillusionment, frustration, and fear, and we can avoid hurting each other in the process.

Initially, we need to give ourselves permission to adjust to the change. If it’s a smaller thing, it might just take a few minutes or hours. If it’s a big thing, like adjusting to married life, it might take weeks or months to walk through each of these steps. That’s the value of premarital preparation—or any preparation for a big change. It gives you understanding and tools to work through some of the emotional and psychological challenges of adjusting to the situation before you’re in the heat of the moment.

We also need to trust God and rely on the wisdom of others—whether it’s through books, through classes or small groups, or through a mentor. Though change isn’t easy, it can help to have caring people walk with you through your journey.

For more about preparing for and adjusting to married life, check out The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2013, all rights reserved.


What about Family and Children’s Needs?

imagesWhen there are kids in the home, it’s often critical for you as a couple to take a long-term view of blending-family life. Yes, in the short term, you’ll probably be sacrificing many of your wants and desires—and sometimes even your needs—so you can meet the needs of your children. But it’s important to keep the end in mind; in most cases, one day your kids will be grown and moving on, and then you’ll have much more freedom to make more personal choices as a couple.

As a remarriage couple, be sure to talk about what this might look like. One of you may have a highly needy child at home; another might not. One of you may strongly feel that every need your child has should supersede your spouse’s or your own needs, while the other might not. Both of you may have severely needy kids who will require a lot of you and your second marriage.

How will you maintain a healthy marriage with these kinds of pressures and sacrifices? Although you must always keep your marriage relationship the top priority, self-sacrifice is often imperative during this season of blending family life, so it’s important to plan for these challenges. Talk about all this openly and honestly now so you’ll avoid surprises later.

In reality, in a blending family situation, so much of your success will come down to the attitude you have toward facing and overcoming the issues that arise. “I think that good will is huge,” Linda says. “Rick and I desire to bless each other, and we want to fulfill each other’s needs. Sometimes those include the needs of each other’s children—and grandchildren!”

“We don’t measure or keep score to see who’s done more,” Rick says. “We just serve.”

“Because I see so much integrity and character in Rick, I really encourage his interaction with my sons,” Linda says. “His example is important; he’s a great role model for them. And he doesn’t have to be ‘the dad’ to make a difference. He just draws them into his world and shows them how to be men of integrity. As he mentors them, he meets my need to see my sons have a good example in their lives.”

Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved.



Extended Family Life

imagesIn the midst of doing life together, there will undoubtedly be changes, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, fears, strained communication, or unreasonable expectations at times. That’s just how relationships are. But hopefully those times will be few, and with good communication between you and your spouse, they don’t have to affect your relationship negatively.

You and your in-laws will probably deal with a few communication issues, now or in the future. You may even experience some stress as they adjust to your family, or they may have negative attitudes about how you live.

They may even have disagreements about your beliefs, family traditions, childrearing methods, and more. They may have expectations about holidays, family gatherings, blending family issues, or taking responsibility for aging parents. But these all can be navigated successfully if you work together, first as a couple, and then as a family. Instead of fearing the challenges that may come, instead, embrace them as ways to learn more about your in-laws and opportunities to love them for who they are.

There will also be unexpected changes that come up. Just six months after they married, Karl’s aging parents got sick and found that they could no longer physically care for Karl’s disabled brother who had cerebral palsy. So after much discussion and prayer, Tina and Karl took him in to live with them. Talk about challenges to a new marriage and to a blending family!

The reality is that attitude is everything, and Tina tackled this challenge with the right attitude. “I’ve been pushing wheelchairs since I married Karl,” Tina says with a smile. “Though it’s not what I expected, it is what God allowed.”

When it came to extended family relationships and the life circumstances that arose, Tina chose to have a genuine positive attitude. In so doing, she became a successful and vital part of Karl’s family. She also set a fine example for all to emulate.

Karl loved her for it. The extended family respected her, and her daughter Jennie learned how give, serve, and share. It was a win-win for all of them.

What unexpected changes have come your way as you navigated life with extended family? I’d love to know!

 Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved.