7 Warning Signs It’s Time to be Intentional With Our Marriage

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Cheryl and I have been very intentional to protect our marriage. Every marriage bond can slip if the couple doesn’t recognize the signs of stress in the marriage and address them.

For us, we look for warning signs we need to take some extended time and invest in the marriage. That could be a long weekend or a day trip, or just a time where we turn off the television and talk. We have learned these mini-breaks from routine have helped us maintain a healthy marriage.

Here are 7 warning signs it’s time to be intentional:

When our relationship seems to be drifting further apart rather than closer together.  This is the big one for us. “The two shall become one”. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, how strong is your marriage? Is that higher or lower than a few months ago? If you try this exercise, both spouses should write the numbers on a piece of paper and share them with each other. One is usually more perceptive than the other. For me personally, if one person feels there’s a slippage in the marriage closeness, it’s time to take action. Be proactive rather than reactive.

When life has been routine for too long. I have personally learned in counseling and ministry that a leading cause of marriage troubles is boredom. We all get into patterns, habits and routines. That isn’t all bad, but over time and often for one spouse more than the other depending on the season, boredom can become dangerous. Occasionally we need to do something spontaneous, adventuresome or out of the norm.

When conversation becomes more tense or short-fused with each other. As a rule, we talk “nice” to each other. We believe that’s how marriages work. All of us can have a bad day, but when there are numerous bad days over an extended time we know we need a break from routine to address the marriage.

When too many nights go by without us spending quality time together. Strong relationships are built over time. This includes quality and quantity of time. We need time when we can talk deeper than “How was your day?”. When those conversations have become more rare, we have to intentionally plan them. (This was true before we became empty-nesters also.)

When we have pressing issues we need to discuss, but haven’t found time to have a serious talk. That could be about finances or health, the children, our marriage, or some future hope and dream. When something is on one of our minds long enough,we often have to invest extra time to address it.

When either of us is at a point of “stress overload” for an extended period of time. This is usually work involved, but may be due to a health situation for one of us or even situations involving our extended family. When our boys were still at home, it often involved something in their life. We have learned that stress on one of us — or both of us — as individuals will always impact us as a couple.

When one of us sense in our spirit that we need to “Get away!” We are both believers — spiritual people who have a relationship with God. It could be that there has been a weakening in our individual spiritual lives that is causing tension in our marriage. When one of us senses that we just need some intentional time together, we take that seriously.

The bottom line for our marriage is that God has called us to invest in the lives of other people. We know we can’t continue to pour into others until Cheryl and I pour into each other and allow God to pour into us. That takes intentionality. Plus, we both know, from experience, that the enemy is always looking for holes in our marriage. We must guard our hearts and our marriage.

Now here are a few disclaimers.

All of these may not apply to your marriage. You may both love routine. I would want to make sure you both do as much as you think both of you do — as in you – the one reading this. However, that may not be an issue for you like it is for us. And, you may have other warning signs unique to your marriage.

You’re marriage may need more intentionality than I’m suggesting here. This is more about maintenance for a good marriage. If you’re beyond that, get help. A good marriage is attainable when two people are willing.

Also, we don’t have children at home anymore. That gives us some unique advantages. We have learned we tend to fill our time either way — with children in the house or not — but the point is clear we can be more flexible if we need to be. (It’s a good season.)

I also should point out that being intentional doesn’t mean you have to “break the bank” to do so. Some will pushback that they can’t afford to travel out of town for the weekend or that they can’t afford childcare. I understand. So, find other ways to be intentional. You could trade time with another couple where they watch your children one day and you watch their children another. The key is to break the routine to address the marriage — not to spend extra money.

Finally, I realize this is especially difficult for marriages that are apart frequently, mostly because of work. I spent most of my life in a military town where this type post is much more difficult to apply. Most of us can make the extra effort to invest in our marriage if we choose to do so. For those with unique situations, I admit you’ll have to be even more creative. Even if, however, your intentional time together is via Skype – it would be better than allowing the marriage to drift apart.

What are some warning signs you need to be more intentional with your marriage? Are you there now?

7 More Ways Husband And Wives Injure Each Other — Without Even Knowing It

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I recently wrote two blog posts 7 Ways a Wife Injures a Husband…Without Even Knowing It and 7 Ways a Husband Injures a Wife…Without Even Knowing It. These two posts have quickly become the most read blog posts in my blogging career. I received lots of feedback. Numerous sites re-posted them. I made a new friend when Stronger Marriages shared them. I can see Dave Willis and I becoming friends and working together in the future.

One site, Charisma Magazine, suggested I add more ways husbands and wives injure each other, based on the two post’s feedback.

This is that post.

Here are 7 more ways husbands and wives injure each other:

Sarcasm – In my original post, I wrote it with some sarcasm, explaining it was easier that way to address a more difficult subject. I still think it was easier, but it wasn’t received well by everyone. A few very vocal people were offended, so I edited that version. It reminded me though why I wrote the post. We sometimes unknowingly hurt one another in the way we approach an issue. That certainly was not my intent. Attempting humor isn’t funny if it’s only funny to you, but actually hurts another. (And, I also learned that some people need to learn how to better offer constructive criticism.)

Comparison – I learned that some were offended that they were grouped into a general post, rather than making one post for husbands and wives combined. I get that. We do generalizations all the time though. Conservatives, liberals and moderates. Introverts and extroverts. At the same time, I understand that no one is just like someone else. We are all unique, but equally true, in many ways we are also alike. We all have similar needs and desires. Still, it did remind me of a way we injure our spouse and so the the point is well taken. We should be careful not to compare our spouse to others — especially in a negative way. They are unique individuals.

Ignoring – Some commented they feel ignored in the marriage. It could be the response to an argument or the boredom in a relationship or simply refusing to actively listen. But, when a spouse pretends the other spouse isn’t even in the room — or makes the other spouse feel as if that’s the case — it hurts.

Devaluing the relationship – Some spouses feel they are more serious about making the marriage work than their spouse. Not taking the relationship serious, allows holes to develop and injures the other spouse. And, a spouse knows when we aren’t placing a high enough value on the marriage.

Lack of contentment – Numerous people indicated they were tired of their spouse never being satisfied in the marriage. It feels to them like the discontentment is towards them. In the relationship — in life — with social status — with finances — when one spouse is never satisfied, even when the dissatisfied spouse doesn’t intentionally or knowingly blame the other — it injures. Deeply.

Putting others first – Some spouses feel forgotten — or neglected. When everyone else gets the best of a spouse’s time and the family gets the leftovers — it injures the relationship — and the heart of the neglected ones.

Ignoring a spouse’s needs – Several spouses noted they were hurt most when their spouse didn’t realize how something was so important to them. It could be as simple as closing the cabinet doors, which may seem like a frivolous request to one spouse, but to another, it drives them crazy. When we act like it doesn’t matter or isn’t “that big of a deal”, we injure the one to whom it is a big deal. (Now granted, everything can’t be a big deal — or nothing really is a big deal, but we should value the other person enough to care about the things they care about, and, when it’s easy enough to do, why not comply?)

By the way, the last example is one from my own marriage. It doesn’t matter to me that a cabinet door is slightly ajar. It bothers my wife greatly. I can clearly see that cabinet doors were designed to close. So, knowing it matters to her — I close them. Easy enough. For more complicated issues it requires better communication, mutual understanding and a willingness to humble ourselves in the relationship. When two spouses are doing this — and yes, it takes two — I am convinced that any marriage can be a great marriage.

Sadly, in my experience, many people think they are doing that, but they are really only expecting one spouse to do all the humbling of themselves. If the other spouse would only see and do thinks their way things would be good in the marriage. That doesn’t work, however. It takes two people, both willing to collaborate and compromise towards a greater reality of the two unique individuals becoming one.

Let me close by sharing a couple of general thoughts. First, I’m trying to help marriages. I realize all of these — maybe none of these — apply to your marriage. Some marriages are in serious trouble and these posts can’t help at the stage where you are at right now. You may need professional counseling and I strongly encourage you to get help if needed.

Some have dismissed these as too elementary. I understand that too. Although, I must say, some of the replies were extremely harsh and unkind in the way they expressed themselves. I seriously couldn’t help but wonder if that type response is occurring in the marriage if there is a wounded spouse and the spouse doing the injuring is totally unaware of the hurt they are causing. (Which is why I wrote the posts.)

No post can be an answer for everyone. I’m grateful, forever, for the numbers who have been positively impacted by them. I’m overwhelmed by your responses. Thank you.

Now, help other marriages (and be kind in your reply).

What are other ways husbands and wives injure each other — without even knowing it?

7 Suggestions When a Good Marriage Isn’t Working

Rear View Senior Man and Woman Couple Walking Holding Hands

All marriages go through periods where things just aren’t as they should be. It’s a natural occurrence in any relationship involving people. (I suppose that would include most marriages). The stress and pace of life causes tension in the best marriages. Even good marriages suffer at times.

Cheryl and I have had several of those times, usually due to external pressures we did not cause or invite. It could be my work — or hers — or family situations. Outside stress causes tension in the relationship. Things aren’t falling apart. We aren’t questioning our commitment to each other — but we both know things aren’t working as well as they should be. We are having more miscommunication, we are more tense in our reaction to each other, or we may just feel we are passing each other through our days, not connecting as well as we usually do. Thankfully, we’ve always been intentional during those times.

Those times are usually seasonal and they happen in most every marriage. That appears especially true in the earlier years of the marriage, but we shouldn’t be surprised if they happen later in a marriage either. When major changes in the marriage or in life occur, such as children moving out of the house, loss of job, or other serious trauma, marriages can struggle for a time. That’s normal.

Those periods can last a week, a few weeks, or a month or more. It isn’t that the couple doesn’t love each other, or even that they want out of the marriage, but that they just aren’t on the same page as much as they should be. The key in those times isn’t to panic, but to intentionally work to restore total health to the marriage.

Have you ever been there?

During these times the way a couple responds is critically important.

Here are 7 suggestions for those seasons of marriage:

Communicate – Keep talking, to each other and to God, even when it’s awkward to do so. Admit where you are in the marriage. Again, this may hurt for a time, but it’s better to be honest than to allow the marriage to fall apart or slip further from health.

Stay close – Keep doing things together. Sleep in the same bed. Find times to do special activities. Have regular date nights. Talk. This will help protect your heart from wandering.

Discipline yourself – There will be times when you are tempted to say the wrong things or treat your spouse unkindly. It will require discipline to do the right thing, and say the right thing, but it will help protect the marriage.

Get help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the best marriages need some at times. This may be counseling, meeting with Christian friends you trust, or doing a Bible study together, but it is important you invite someone to speak into your life.

Learn - There are always principles to strengthen your marriage that can be learned during these times. Cheryl and I have learned, for example, that during especially stressful periods that we have to be more intentional with our marriage. You may need to learn how to communicate better, how to handle conflict, or how to dream together again. This is a great season to do some of those things.

Be Patient - You’ll want change immediately, but relationships don’t work that way. Chances are it will take longer than you expect or want it to take to get through this period. Be patient.

Hang on - Renew your commitment to the marriage and each other. These seasons won’t last forever if you continue to work on your marriage. Be committed enough to your marriage to stick with it until this season passes. Every marriage can be restored and improved with two parties working together.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about times of abuse, neglect, affairs, or severe marriage issues. I’m speaking of times when the marriage just isn’t as much fun anymore. This is also when both spouses still want the marriage to work and are willing to work at making the marriage better. If any of those more serious issues are occurring, get help immediately.

You might also read my post “Making Marriage Fun Again“.

Again, have you been there?

Help others out. How did your marriage survive through these stressful times?

20 Life-Changing Acts of Courage

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One single act of courage can change a life…often many lives.

No doubt, if you live a “normal” life there will be decisions you have to make that take courage. You will often have to walk by faith, be willing to risk everything, and trust God for the results, which often seem slow to arrive.

Sometimes doing the right thing is not the easiest thing to do. Most of the time, it takes courage to follow your heart, conviction, or God’s calling on your life.

But, when we act with courage into the places where God leads, it always brings greater rewards than we could imagine.

I reflected recently on some random examples that I have seen people make over the last few years…some of them from within my own family…that took courage, but the results were huge. At the time, some of them may or may not have seemed to be that “big of a deal”…and some of them were obvious risks, but in the process of completing them, the courage required can be equally huge.

20 Random Life-Changing Acts of Courage

  1. Leaving the job you hate (or love) so you can start the dream you’ve hidden.
  2. Taking the first step towards your God-given dream when everyone else is saying it can’t be done.
  3. Confronting the unspoken conflicts in a marriage.
  4. Offering forgiveness even when undeserved.
  5. Trusting God with money you don’t have.
  6. Beginning a Christian ministry in a predominately Muslim country.
  7. Letting go of the employee who is holding back the team, yet refuses to improve.
  8. Attempting again something you’ve failed at so many times.
  9. Planting a church…or trying to change an existing one.
  10. Ending the friendship that always drags you down.
  11. Trusting one more time the one who has hurt you so much.
  12. Moving the family for a new “opportunity” when the outcome is unclear.
  13. Speaking truth in love when it’s politically unpopular.
  14. Releasing the right to get even, even at the expense of your pride.
  15. Surrendering your will to God’s will.
  16. Putting other’s agenda ahead of your own.
  17. Standing up for someone everyone else is rejecting.
  18. Reaching out to a stranger, because you felt “led” to do so.
  19. Admit your struggle, sin, or failure to someone…even though you are afraid of the consequences.
  20. Ask for help even though you’re embarrassed to do so.

As I stated, those are random examples and your examples will be different from mine. Granted, some of these “appear” harder than others…requiring more courage. I never know when I write a post like this which chord I will strike and with whom. I have learned, however, that context makes life relative. Your act of courage can be “equal” to mine if God is calling you to an unknown reality. Moving forward into uncertainty requires a courage you don’t always have initially. Choosing whether or not to move forward and mustering the needed courage, is often what separates the ones who achieve great things from those who remain disappointed with their progress in life.

Here’s a voice of encouragement to you today…if you know you need to move forward…but you are afraid…I understand. I’m praying you’ll find the courage to trust God with the outcome and do what you know to do next.

What is something you have had to do that took a great deal of courage?

7 Ways I Deal With Fatigue as a Leader

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I posted recently on what happens when I’m tired. It isn’t pretty. (See that post HERE.)  I hear someone say every day “I’m so tired”.  It’s epidemic it seems. There appears to be a lot of fatigue in our world these days. I know it’s true of those in ministry. Someone asked me how to deal with the issue, besides the simple answer of rest.

Here are 7 ways I have for dealing with fatigue:

Check-up – Make sure you are routinely getting medical check ups from your physician. Many health issues have fatigue as a symptom. Make sure something isn’t physically causing your fatigue.

Exercise  and Weight Control – For me, this is number one. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight helps me stay energized and feel better.  I wrote an extensive post about that HERE.

Watch what you eat – Junk food slows you down. Healthy foods build you up. I’m not an expert here, and don’t practice this as I should, but there are plenty who are equipped to help know what to eat.  What you eat does make a difference in how you feel and most of us know what foods slow us down Learn to fill your body with foods, which help you feel more alive.

Rest - It had to be on the list. Rest is the ultimate solution to coping with fatigue. The body signals that it has reached a point where rest is needed. Sometimes a short nap or extended night’s sleep is the needed response.  Sometimes NOT watching the last television show before you go to bed is a better option.

Mind-breaks – If your job requires you to think deeply, taking short mind breaks is often helpful. One reason I break to Twitter is to give me a quick break from the heaviness of thought. I also change projects throughout the day to keep my mind from wearing me out physically.  Sometimes I step outside and breathe the fresh air or, depending on the type of the fatigue, even go for an afternoon run.

Preparation – Having a plan for your day and week helps to cut down on unnecessary time wasters. You’ll work smarter and feel less exhausted when you begin prepared. Take time to organize yourself for efficiency. (Read a similar post HERE.)

Prioritize – You can’t do everything. Remind yourself that you’ll do better quality work if you aren’t trying to do it all. Try to complete the most important things on your list first, before your energy is drained for the day. Say no to things someone else can do.

Leading today (actually life today) requires a lot of energy. I meet so many people who don’t have the energy they need to get through the day. I realize there are seasons in life where this is unavoidable, but we should strive to keep ourselves healthy enough to be productive and enjoy life.

What advice do you have? What slows you down? What helps your fatigue?

Which of these do you most need to implement?

For a similar thought, read my tips for managing stress HERE.

7 Ways to Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy

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How do we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Pulling from his “I Have a Dream” speech, here are 7 suggestions:

Do the right things – “we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.”

Let go of bitterness and anger – “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

Remove violence from our cities – “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.” (For a riveting read on MLK’s influence on the stopping of violence, read THIS.)

Assist someone less fortunate – Help “the rough places…be made plain” in someone’s life.

Look for the bright side of life – “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair”.

Hug a brother of another color – Expand your friend base. King had a dream that “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Let the glory of the Lord shine through you – “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

Let the dream be lived in us.

How are you going to celebrate the legacy?

Gaining Wisdom from a Fool

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Having wisdom doesn’t mean you have made all wise decisions. In fact, it could mean the exact opposite.

Wisdom often comes from painful experience. Hard times. Failure. Disappointment.

My son tweeted recently “@NateEdmondson: I’m always encouraged by the wisdom of @RonEdmondson.”

Am I bragging by sharing that tweet? Maybe, but it was also a great reminder to me.

Some of the greatest wisdom I have gained has come from some very foolish decisions I made in life. Many times you could have easily called me a fool. Hopefully I’ve learned from those times and can share my experiences with others. But, they are foolish times in my life where I hope my sons are learning some of their wisdom from my bad decisions.

The Bible is full of this concept? Take for example Solomon, supposedly the wisest man of all times.

Those who know his story know he made many mistakes. Read 1 Kings 11:1-4, as an example. Then read Ecclesiastes 10:1-3, 8-10 It’s almost like Solomon was saying, “I’ve learned a few things…take it from me…” Solomon was full of wisdom, given to him by God, but much of that wisdom, especially towards the end of his life, apparently came through experience.

Life experience, good and bad, has a way of smoothing out the rough edges of a person’s life and over time gives a person wisdom. Sometimes the “wise old man” (or woman), didn’t get that way by living a perfect life, but by learning from the times of imperfection.

So the point or this post…there are two:

Be willing to learn from people that have failed greatly.

Be assured that their wisdom today can protect you from making some of their same mistakes.

Allow others to learn from your times of foolishness.

How has the foolishness of others…or your own foolishness…shaped your life?

(For those who may ask, I bought this picture from iStock, so I don’t know the guy. If he’s your grandfather, I don’t mean to offend, but he posed for this picture sometime…of course, probably not knowing it would be used in this post. I was simply looking for the picture of an older man. I am sure he is a very nice man, but I bet if you could find him, you’d find a man that would agree he’s learned a lot from his mistakes in life.)

5 Ways Physical Health Impacts My Total Life

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I recently starting writing periodically for Pastors Today through Lifeway’s blog. This is one of my first posts.

5 Ways Physical Health Impacts My Total Life

One would have to be living under a rock to not know we have grown larger as a people in the United States. Obesity is a growing concern in our nation. And, few in the church have bothered with the issue or even seen it as a problem. We have no problem addressing issues such as greed or guilt, but seldom do we approach the word gluttony. Yet, in my opinion, and experience, how I feel physically almost always impacts my spiritual life.

In Joshua 14, Caleb was 85 years old and “just as strong” as when he was called to mission. Somehow, to me, that seems to be a better motivation than learning to navigate the rocking chair and television remote. I’m not trying to be funny—and certainly not cruel—but I do believe as much as it depends on me, I should take care of the body God has given me. And, as a pastor, I have taken it personally to lead my church in total transformation: caring for their body, mind, and soul.

I haven’t always thought this way, but shortly into my thirties I began to get heavier. I had always been called “skinny”, but suddenly the candy bars began to catch up with me and my stomach approached near “Pillsbury Doughboy” proportions. It didn’t take long to realize that my new physical form was impacting me in every other way. Since then, for about the past 15 years, I have disciplined myself to be healthier. I have experienced remarkable difference. At 50 years of age, I feel better and am more productive now than I was in my mid-thirties.

Here are 5 ways physical training helps my total life—not just my physical life but my spiritual life as well:

My mental capacity increases. I can focus better when I’m in better physical shape. In fact, if I want to work on a major project requiring extra brain power, I always spend an hour in the gym first. I don’t know all the chemical reasons exercise jars the mind, but I know the impact.

For the rest of this post, please go to the Lifeway Pastors Today site by clicking HERE.

Learning to be Content with the Fences of Life

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The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. Micah 7:11 NIV

Driving down a country road I saw something that reminded me of an important principle in life.

I passed a field full of cows grazing. Close to the road was a large metal gate covering the entrance to the field. At the gate was a little calf, seemingly trying desperately to get through the gate on to the other side of the fence.

It appeared to me this calf had seen some grass that looked better outside the fence. Sure enough, I looked and there was a patch of the greenest grass any calf could hope to find. Just feet outside the gate.

In the meantime, all the other cows appeared to patiently graze among the grass within the fence. I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the calf would have gotten past the gate.

It would obviously be unsafe. A calf…wondering in the road by itself…I would have probably felt inclined to stop had I seen it in the road. Innocent of the ways of the world. Helpless. I would have feared for its safety. And, I’m sure it would have missed it’s mother when the time came for milk. This calf had no business outside the gate. No business at all. Anyone knows that.

But, then the calf reminded me of how I am at times.

Just being honest, I’ve struggled most of my life with patience…contentment…being satisfied where I am now and waiting until God does something new. I have often thought the “grass looks greener on the other side”. It’s hard for me to be patient within the fences of life at times.

In that discontentment, I often find myself testing the boundaries…the fences…God has placed me in life…trying to create my own “opportunities”…only to find out later that what God had for me was best. A God-ordained wait is always purposeful. His fences are always for my good.

Have you learned some those hard lessons in life?

Have you found out that what you thought you so desperately wanted wasn’t really worth it once you got it?

Oh, thank God for boundaries. Thank God for fences.

Thank God for unanswered prayers.

Thank God for all the trouble and heartache He has kept me from…because I have surely brought enough on myself…by keeping me within the fence.

Lord, help us to find our contentment in life in You! In the fences you provide.

12 Ways to be a Winner This Year

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It’s not too late to make a resolution.

Do you want to be a winner this year?

Here are a dozen suggestions:

Walk with someone through their personal trial.

Share love with someone who did nothing to deserve it.

Forgive someone who hurt you the most.

Display character when no one is looking.

Provide hope to someone who has lost theirs.

Embrace courage when fear is dominant.

Practice patience in your most frustrating situations.

Find joy in the midst of sorrow.

Receive grace when you don’t deserve it.

Believe and invest in someone others have rejected.

Reject apathy when everyone else is throwing in the towel.

Share Jesus with one whom knows Him not.

What ways can you share to be a winner this year?