7 Tips for Healthier Marriage Communication

happy couple 2

Marriages are built on communication. Improve communication…improve the marriage. Poor communication…it will be very difficult to have a successful marriage. We could all stand to improve in this area.

Here are 7 tips for better communication in marriage:

Be a good listener – You can never expect to grow in your communication until you learn to truly hear one another. Have you been listening lately?

Timing is important – Don’t try to address major issues when the other party is distracted. Set aside time to address important topics. Know when to speak and when to listen. Do you need to be silent more often?

Never criticize the person – You can address actions, but when you attack the person, defenses rise and communication fails. Every time. Are you being critical of the one you are supposed to be building up?

Be willing to give each other credit for differences

There are so many…

Men, you can’t talk to your wives as you talk to your guy friends…She is more tender hearted…understand that an deeper meaning is often attached to what they are saying.

Women, if you want your husband to understand something…You must say it in a language he understands…simple…straight-forward…men don’t as easily read subtleties or between the lines.

Keep emotions under control – When the female starts shedding tears or the males anger rises, even though both can be natural responses for either person, communication is hindered. Wait until the intense emotions calm, then address the issue. But, definitely address the issue.

Prompt resolutions – Don’t let issues linger too long. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. The longer an issue lingers, the harder it is to address. Do you have some issues you need to address?

Be willing to humble yourself and forgive – Marriage is hard; people make mistakes; marriage must be free flowing with grace. Are you holding a grudge you need to release?

What would you add to the list? What has improved the communication in your marriage?

Be honest: What is the real state of your marriage communication? Be willing to get the help you need.

There’s a difference in knowing and doing. Let’s commit to improving our marriage communication. I’m in…how about you?

For more help for your marriage, click HERE.

10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss

Christmas tree gifts

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time. Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health and Christmas is a just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

In a recent Christmas message, I shared some suggestions for dealing with the emotions of Christmas loss. I consulted with two professional Christian counselors in our church Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis. With their advice and some of my own, I’m offering some practical ways to overcome that sense of Christmas loss.

Ideally, Christ is the answer (and in the message I make that clear). Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical things to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

Here are 10 ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss:

List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances…children moved out this year…whatever they are…write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. Admit the pain…write them down.

Share them – Certainly with God, but with a close friend, or with people who have experienced your loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve…even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.

Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.

Take care of your physical body- Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking – Catch the negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us that loss is universal and that other people are struggling with you.

Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.

Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.

Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.

I shared one more suggestion, one I believe is the most powerful of all, in the Christmas message. It’s this: We have to learn to worship in tears. Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

You can find all my messages on my Vimeo page at vimeo.com/ronedmondson. This message is titled Obstacles to Christmas Joy: Loss.

The Best Christmas Present You Can Give

20131213-204151.jpg

Give words. Give written words.

Years ago, when I was almost 18, and just about to graduate from high school, my grandmother gave me a Bible for Christmas.

It’s a great Bible. In fact, it was my first study Bible…a New American Standard, Ryrie Study Bible. I still have it and occasionally use it today. It was a great gift. An expensive gift at the time.

But, inside she included these handwritten notes. She shared her heart. She wrote Scripture that was important to her. She encouraged me to live a life of value. She expressed her joy in being my grandmother.

It was the greatest part of the gift. The most valuable.

It was then and it is now.

I still have the Bible…although I have many other Bibles on my shelf…but I can replace the Bible. I can’t replace these notes.

My grandmother died a few months ago. She was my last remaining grandparent. As soon as I heard of her death, I went to that Bible…to read the notes she had written. I have read these notes 100′s of times since she first wrote them. I’m positive…Lord willing…I’ll read them 100 more.

The best Christmas gift ever! … at least that a human can give…

(Take a hint…who needs a letter from you?)

5 Tips for Teaching Children Cooperation

Ants Carrying an Apple

My boy’s can “fondly” remember the time we drove from our driveway heading to an undisclosed location on vacation. I decided in advance not to tell them where we were going, but to let it be a surprise. We were actually heading to St. Louis, but to complicate the situation, I decided to drive all side roads. We went through what seemed to be every back road between our house and the hotel. What should have been a four and half hour trip ended up being an eight-hour trip. The boys complained frequently, which I expected, but when the trip was over, they realized we had experienced a great time just being together.

Why did I put my boys through such misery? Am I a bad dad? Well, the jury may still be out on that answer, but my logic was simple. I wanted us to enjoy the day together as a family and I knew if I told them in advance what I planned for us to do and how we would do it, there would have been no cooperation on their part.  As it turned out, we had a great trip, saw things we wouldn’t have seen on the main roads, and enjoyed the time together. In addition, it gave us a lasting memory and joke of a time when they were “miserable”.

How many times as parents do we wish our children would just go along with the plan? Are there days we simply wish they would cooperate, because we know in advance that if they will, everything will be so much better? Do we want our children to cooperate with others, maybe even others with whom they do not agree on every issue?

We are each born with natural tendencies towards selfishness and independence, but families work better when everyone gets along and cooperates. Teaching your children to cooperate should begin at an early age, as they first begin to play with other children. Once a child reaches elementary school there is a certain expectation, that he or she knows how to cooperate with other children. Learning to cooperate with others, however, is something in which each of us continues to mature throughout our life.

If you are struggling with instilling the value of cooperation in your children, here are some suggestions:

Do not make your children think they are the center of the world.  Sometimes we mistakenly give our children everything they want, refuse to see their faults, and never allow them to fail. The danger is that when they become adults they expect equal treatment from the world.  How is that working for you as an adult?

Model cooperation with others. Let your children see you getting along with other people, including people different from you. Be kind to the waitress who serves you. Don’t always have to have your way or prove your point. If you are constantly complaining or arguing with your spouse or other family or friends, your children will be more inclined not to cooperate with you or others and they will have learned it from you. Do you need to reconsider how you talk to people around you?

Do not provoke your children.  Ephesians 6:4 is our encouragement here, which says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children”.  I was probably pushing that limit with the illustration above, but I kept it light-hearted and I knew my limits. Don’t make your expectations for them be so high they can’t live up to them. Don’t set unrealistic goals for them that are really your goals and not theirs. Remember they are children you are teaching how to be mature adults. Are you placing too high of expectations on your children for their age?

Be a giver. Let your children see and participate in opportunities to give to others.  Find ways they can observe you being generous with others and look for family activities where they can help you bless other people. Do a service project together. Be a giver. What is a way you could lead your family in a project to give back to others?

Live life with other people. One of the benefits of being in a healthy church or playing on a local sports team is your children get to be around other people and are often forced to figure out how to get along with each other. Find ways to allow your children to experience different cultures. Take a family mission trip. How have you exposed your children to people different from them?

What ways have you taught your children to cooperate?

5 Suggestions for Teaching Children Honesty

boy and father

When our boys were in middle school, we did not allow them to roam the mall on their own without an adult in the building. I know, call us bad parents, but we believed their safety was more important than their coolness with other children.

Once when our school system was closed because of snow, one of our boys spent the night with another boy his age. He told us they were going to a gym and would be home afterwards, but before he returned home, we received a call from another friend that had seen him at the mall. He was BUSTED! What was worse for him was when he found out that we would have been fine with him going to the mall, because the parent was going also. That was a huge lesson for him in honesty. Years later, when this same son had another situation that required honesty, he told the whole truth and nothing but the truths…so help him, God. As an adult now, I would “honestly” say that honesty is one of his best qualities.

Scripture is very clear for the believer about how we are to approach honesty. We are told to “let your yes be yes and your no be no”. Honesty is a value, however, that is shared by believers and non-believers. It’s sort of a baseline moral standard of expectation of society. Raising our children to be honest, therefore, is an important part of our parenting.

With that desire in mind, that is the purpose of this post.

5 suggestions to encourage your children to be honest:

Model it – If your children see you being dishonest, even on the telephone with the telemarketer or with your employer as to why you are not going to work, they are learning bad habits. Be honest with your words and your time.

Teach it – The Bible is full of great stories about honesty. Spend time reading and discussing them with your children. A few suggestions are stories such as Joseph and his brothers, Esther and her situation with Haman, and the story of Jacob and Esau. Obviously, you will need to study them first so you can discuss them with your children. Ask questions to see if they understand and what their values are towards the issue of honesty.

Enforce it – There are some issues that should be handled more strongly than others in parenting. Enforcing honesty is one of them. If you allow even little actions of dishonesty to go unchecked, you are building a negative principle into your child’s life that you will one day see again and regret. Of course, the punishment should always fit the age and the severity of the wrong, but the issue of honesty is one area where zero tolerance should be a part of your disciple plan.

Encourage it – Honesty should become an aspired value in your home. Find examples of honesty around you and talk about them with your children. When you see good news of this value being demonstrated, whether in the news, the church or community, make sure your children are made aware of the positive effects of honesty. Again, ask questions to make sure they understand the importance of being honest.

Reward it – When your children are found being honest, reward them. Our boys were told consistently that if they told us the truth we would respond much differently than if we had to figure out the truth on our own. Make being honest a big deal to them, even something to celebrate.

Working to establish honesty in your children early will help ensure they live honest lives as adults. Even though honesty is a shared value, most of us would agree, our level of trust in others has diminished in recent years. As parents, we play a large role in raising the level of honesty in our society, one family at a time.

What tips do you have for teaching children honesty?

My Thankfuls: 10 Reasons for a Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-clock

For years, when the boys were at home, we shared our list of “Thankfuls” each Thanksgiving holiday. We would each take turns (one item at a time) of ten things we were most thankful for that year. I remember early in this tradition the boys’ spellings weren’t always correct, but their lists were always sincere.

I miss those special times sitting in our living room, but that shouldn’t stop me from sharing my list with you.

Here are my “Thankfuls” this year:

1. My relationship with Christ. And the grace that got me there. (And keeps me there.)

2. My loving wife. She’s my best friend. She’s seen my best and my worst and keeps being my biggest supporter.

3. My two amazing sons. Jeremy and Nathaniel (Nate)…age 25 and 22…are simply two of the best men I’ve ever known. Seriously.

4. Jeremy’s wife Mary. If I had raised a daughter…or picked a wife for my son…I would have wanted a Mary. Thanks God.

5. My calling. I work for Jesus. How cool is that? I ran from it for years…but it’s the best “career” I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had several.

6. Family and friends. Cheryl and I are so blessed with amazing families…with low or no drama. We have friends we can call upon at any time day or night. The greatest asset of our married life together is people.

7. The staff and people of Immanuel Baptist. Nearing a year and a half with them, I can honestly say we’ve met some of the most loving, supportive people we’ve ever known. We’ve already made friends for life.

8. My health. Granted, I work on it, but I’ve had friends die of cancer (and other causes) this year…some younger than me. I am thankful for being able to run…and walk…and feel well enough to work…and play.

9. The city of Lexington. We adopted our new home quickly. It’s our mission field, and that’s what missionaries do. We love the sports, exploring the many restaurants, the neighborhoods, and especially the people. What a lovely place to live!

10. The future. I look around the world today and see a lot of darkness. But, this year, I’m thankful, as always, that I serve a risen Savior. That makes every morning new with His mercies and grace. I’m grateful the days ahead are bright…because He is my light. (Cheesy…maybe…but always true.)

There’s part of my list. I could continue, because I am blessed. No, my world is not trouble free…far from it actually…but when I pause and consider all that God has done and is doing around me…thanksgiving is my only proper response.

And for what (or whom) are you thankful this year?

6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships

family prayer

It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. Family and friends. Good food and good times.

Mostly.

Truthfully, this time of year is especially stressful for some. I am not referring, in this post, to the ones who have lost loved ones this year. That’s especially difficult. My prayers go out for you. I’m talking about those who have living “loved ones”…positionally speaking at least.

The holidays expose many people to broken relationships, hurt feelings, grudges from the past. Many will have to be around people, by default, that they wouldn’t choose to be around unless those people were blood relatives…or in-laws…or friends who aren’t your friends, but come with the package of celebration. They will be there…and the reality of that causes you to be less enthusiastic about celebrating this year.

That’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes…doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.).

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most…or who always seems to say the wrong thing…or who is…honestly…even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are six tips:

Bite your tongue – When you are tempted to snap back…don’t. Sure, it will be difficult…even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26)

Extend grace – Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes – Anyone who hurts you…has a story. Usually they were hurt too…by someone. Remember…hurt people…hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience – Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t that what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility – When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break point in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them – The last one is sometimes the most difficult…but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer…the One whose yoke is easy…the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life…and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

Apply liberally, as needed.

You’ll have healthier, happier relationships this Thanksgiving and Christmas season…and even into the New Year.

Do you have a difficult relationship facing you? What tips do you have?

10 Suggestions for Healthy Grieving

troubled young woman

Part of my work is helping people grieve. Or at least learn how to grieve. It’s not one of my favorite parts, because it always stems from the reasons why they need to grieve. It means hurt. Brokenness. Pain. Disappointment. That never feels good.

Yet the fact remains…part of living in a fallen world…is living among the thorns. We must learn to grieve because there will always be reasons to do so.

As much as we need to know how to grieve, however, I continually meet people who either don’t know how or refuse to allow themselves to grieve. I’ve even met well-meaning believer who believe they shouldn’t. The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.

So, here are 10 suggestions for healthy grieving:

Don’t deny the pain – It hurts. Admit it. Be honest with yourself with others and especially with God. If it’s anger…tell it. If it’s profound sadness…say it. You’ve got to grieve at some point to move forward, and you’ll grieve sooner and better if you’re honest about the need.

Learn to pray – Grieving can draw you close to the heart of God. See that as one blessing in the midst of pain. The Scripture is clear…draw close to God and He will draw close to you. He is close to the broken hearted. Use this difficult time to build a bond with God that you’ll never regret having.

Remain active – You may not feel like being around people, but if you’re normally a very social person, discipline yourself in this area. Granted, some people were never very social, even before their grief. We shouldn’t expect much more from them in grief, but even for them, community matters. Don’t shelter yourself from others.

Stay healthy – Eat well and exercise. Sleep as regularly as you can. Stick to a schedule. You’ll need the strength to carry you through this time.

Help others - There is a special blessing that comes from serving others that can help you recover from your own pain. Serve at a soup kitchen. Deliver toys to needy children. Find a way to give back and you’ll invest in the health of your own heart.

Journal your thoughts and feelings – One day you’ll be glad you did. You’ll see the process God has taken you through and the healing He has allowed you to experience. You’ll need these reminders again some day.

Give it time – Grieving doesn’t complete itself in a day…or a week…or even a year. The depth of the pain always is relative to the time of a sense of recovery. And, some pain never leaves us. We simply learn to adapt to it. We learn to find contentment and even joy in the midst of sorrow and loss.

Share your story – You help others when you allow others to see you share and understand their pain. When you hide your story, you deny others of the privilege of healing through your experience.

Get help when needed – Don’t suffer alone. There are times all of us can use professional help. Don’t be ashamed to seek it.

Remember hope – If you are a follower of God…the best days are still to come. Even in your darkest days, remember, one day…every tear shall be wiped from your eyes.

You can get up, recover and move forward again even stronger than you were before, but please don’t fail to grieve. It’s necessary. Vital. Healthy. Natural. Even Biblical. (1 Thessalonians 4)

Praying for you who need to grieve.

What suggestions do you have for healthy grieving?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

The little tree that could…

tree

I saw this little tree while I was running in our local arboretum this fall.

It made me stop and take a picture. It also made me think.

You may not be able to tell from the picture, but this tree is not very big. Not a whole lot taller than me.

It reminded me of the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

And, some other principles about little things.

This little tree, one of the smallest in the park, is doing its part, in a marvelous way.

Displaying God’s glory through the amazing colors of fall.

In fact, this was one of the prettiest trees I saw all season.

It made me look. It made me stop. It prompted this post.

And, I was reminded.

Sometimes it is the smallest that brings the greatest impact.

When God chooses, He can use the smallest, or seemingly insignificant, to bring Him the greatest glory.

Because, ultimately, there are no minor players in God’s economy. He works all things for good.

Don’t overlook the small things in life today.

The small gesture. The one kind word. The small start. The beginning stages. The often overlooked. The gentle whisper.

The small things may actually be the big things.

Do not despise these small beginnings” (Zechariah 4:10)

5 Don’ts of Healthy Communication

man woman talking 2

In my career, I work with a lot of people in a lot of settings. You might say my job involves a lot of relationships. And, in the process, I have learned the key to healthy relationships is communication. Communication is an art of sorts. Some are better at it than others.

I have seen relationships destroyed because of poor communication. I know marriages that could improve if we improved the communication in the marriage. I’ve seen people avoid other people, because they know how the communication will go when they encounter them. I’ve known people who are short on quality relationships, and, honestly, many times it is because they never learned or don’t practice healthy communication.

So, sincerely, this post is intended to help. We are all guilty or some of these at times. This blogger/pastor included. So, this is a reminder to me also.

Here are 5 Don’ts of Healthy Communication:

Don’t always have a bigger story. This is the one I’ve been guilty of the most of these five. Someone is telling you their story and their experience reminds you of your experience. So, naturally, you interrupt their story, or don’t appear to be listening closely, because you want to share your story. But, remember, right now they are sharing “their” experience. It is important enough to them to share it with you. Don’t try to trump their story. It is rude and it shuts them down. Discipline yourself to wait for the right opportunity…and be okay if it doesn’t come…sometimes your only role is to listen.

Don’t talk more than you listen. This will address the person you’re thinking of in the first point that is always sharing their story. They never listen. They don’t give you a chance to share yours. If this is you…stop talking and listen. Ask questions. Show genuine concern. Be interested in what others have to say too. You’ll find people more interested in what you have to share when it’s your turn.

Don’t always be negative. All of us are negative at times. Life is hard and it impacts us. That’s partly what friendships are for…to share our burdens with one another. But every conversation and every comment we make shouldn’t be negative. That makes it difficult to build a sustainable, healthy relationship, because sometimes the other person needs you to be positive on the day they are especially negative.

Don’t consistently have the last word. Sure you’ve got one more word to share. We get that. You’ve already proven that point. But, sometime let them say the final word. It’s humbling for you. And, good. For you and them. And, the conversation. And, the relationship.

Don’t speak before you think. This is so important. Maybe the most important. It includes the saying, “If you can’t say something good…don’t say anything…or nothing if you want to be like Thumper…at all.” If we could catch our words before they exit our mouths, filter them through the power of love and grace, then release them, we could keep from injuring those with whom we are trying to communicate. And, relationships could thrive apart from the injury of inappropriate or awkward…often even mean-spirited words.

Okay, be honest, upon which of these do you need to improve? What others would you share? Remeber, I shared mine. Now your turn.