When A Spouse Steps Up

Don’t you hate doing weird or uncomfortable things? It is often difficult to step outside of our comfort zone or do a task that seems independent of our typical roles. Recently I spoke with my husband about an upcoming event where I will have to look my best for four days straight. I discussed the budget I had set aside for the event, and how I may be coming up a bit short yet wanted to get the most out of this conference.

I have been purchasing clearance rack dresses and shoes and continuing to save money by coloring my own hair (damn those grey roots). But honestly, I really wish I could justify spending money on my hands and feet. I asked if he would give me a pedicure. Every time I paint my toenails, half of the polish gets on the surrounding skin. I am at a bad angle to do a decent job.

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He was unenthusiastic and had no idea why I could not just throw some polish on my self. “Aww, come on, just try. If it looks bad, I still have a month to save up for a professional pedi” I begged. So, he stepped up and did a practice run on my toes. It actually became a fun event, and I felt like we now had another opportunity to just be together and enjoy caring for the other person.

While basking in the relaxing care of my feet being pampered, I was reminded of all of the Bible verses about washing feet and anointing with oil. John 13:14 says “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Okay, so he wasn’t washing them but more adorning them. Still, it may have been humbling for him to touch a part of my body that otherwise gets ignored. The small sacrifice did not go unnoticed. I was humbled too and began thinking of ways that I can step up too. Although he does not need his toes painted, I began thinking about some things he would appreciate; not all of them “G” rated!

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Ask yourself if there are ways you can step up in your relationship that will bless the other person. Don’t expect it to always be even-Steven. That should not be your motive in any way. Simply step it up because you can, because you know it is the right thing to do and because you want to continue to love and appreciate your partner in new and exciting ways.

 

 

Planting Seeds

When my children were young, I loved teaching them about nature as I planted my yearly garden. Although none of us particularly like the taste of hot radishes, I always made sure I grew a few rows, as they would germinate in less than two weeks if the soil was porous. This gave eager little ones a sense of wonder and they would not have to wait too long to see how the earth coaxes life from it. Remember, when you are six years old, even an hour can feel like an eternity.

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Most plants I grow take about three weeks to germinate,  but germination is only the beginning. With corn, it can take up to 100 days before you can eat the delectable, yellow ear. You want blueberries? You had better have patience. Once you plant a bush in your yard it may take three to four years before the bush produces fruit.

Are our careers and relationships like that? Do some germinate and grow with ease while others take patience and much cultivation? I certainly think so. As I walk this road of life, I added another path called “author” to my journey. The germination process was slow at first as I navigated through writing, editing, marketing, and praying that someone would be touched by my stories. Now it seems that some of the more dormant seeds are beginning to sprout, largely because of people like you who read and share my stories and occasional rants.

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Recently I became a finalist in the Author Academy Awards for the first book I wrote. Continued votes, book reviews, and prayers will be needed to get to that elusive grand prize which will be determined later in the month. I will be judged (along with the others in my category) based on a 90-second speaking spot I have in front of a crowd. Will I be the hot radish that grows quickly then burns in the sun or will I be the blueberry, taking its time to bear sweet and abundant fruit year after year?

No matter the outcome of this particular contest, I have planted the seeds of perseverance, determination, courage, and trust that I will continue to write stories meant to inspire, motivate and help others on their paths as well.

If you would like to place a vote for Stronger Than Broken – One couple’s decision to move through an affair you may go to www.authoracademyawards.com and click on the book cover in the General Fiction Category.

In November of 2018, I will release Letters to the Dead Men – Unexpected Revelations and will enter that book for the 2019 awards, in the Self Help Category. Blessings to those of you who continue to make me want to write.

Balance

Finding balance in life, relationships, finances, fitness level, and your work life is like the air we breathe. We need it! I seem perfectly happy to spend my days off at my own home reading a book, finishing a project, or weeding the garden. There is a serenity or a joy that comes from being a good steward of all that God has provided me with.

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But, my husband seeks adventure and when he had a few days off he and I planned a trip to the mountains of Pennsylvania. Until I drove up the first hill off of the freeway, I had no idea how much I needed to get away from home. The simple change of scenery was wonderful, but it stretched so much farther than seeing a couple of Appalachian Mountains.

We spent four days without much internet. We checked only minimally on the things of fast-paced life. Instead, we rode our bikes on a trail, played in natural water slides that rolled right out of the Laurel Highlands, cooked steaks on an open fire, heard live bluegrass bands, hiked up a trail to see a gorgeous waterfall, and got plenty of  Vitamin D basking on hot rocks near the cold white water of the Youghiogheny. He also did white water kayaking while I read and learned how to just be still.

Is it time for you too to find balance somewhere? If you are like me, it will be difficult at first to slow down and not have “to-do” lists racing through your mind. You may not even remember how to relax if it has been a long time for you. What I can promise you, is that when you just let go and try to clear your head of obligations, you may hear God speaking. He always gives me inspiration and a new sense of purpose when I am still.

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Psalm 62:1 “In God alone my soul finds rest; my salvation comes from Him.”

Kayaks and Sunday Service

Years ago my husband tried to get me involved in kayaking. I tried it. It hurt my lower back and I was so busy with my own obsessive sports that I saw no need to add one more thing to my agenda.

I kept trying to get my sweetheart to come to church with me and the children. It was not of interest to him. He assumed our church was like the church of his youth, where there were a lot of rituals and boring sermons that had nothing to do with his everyday life.

Enter maturity. Over the years we have entered adulthood perhaps slower than most, but as they say, better late than never. At various times in our relationship, we have studied self-help books, worked through a workbook or two, had meetings with various pastors and just finally matured.

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So much to my surprise. I love kayaking. All it took was for my husband to take some packing foam from his work and fashion it into a back support for the kayak I use when we paddle together. No more back aches for me.

 

Much to his surprise, he likes going to Sunday service at our church. All it took was for us to find a church that has biblical teaching within a community atmosphere. We chose a church that has small groups, relevant sermons and is alive in the Holy Spirit. Nothing is better than being around like-minded people who all want to grow spiritually-.

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The most exciting thing for us is when we discovered that 24 hours is a long time. Did you know that we can do both church and kayak in the same day? Not only did we learn how to appreciate something the other one used to corner the market on, but we are growing in our faith and maturity while staying in shape for each other. Health and happiness never grow out of style.

Dare You To Try This

Has anyone ever seen the Christian based movie Fireproof with Kirk Cameron and Erin Bethea? This 2008 movie details the struggles and temptations that marriages can undergo. Trying to avoid divorce, which seems inevitable at the start of the movie, Kirk’s character, Caleb, embarks on a 40-day quest to see if there is any hope left for their union.

At the urging of his father, he reluctantly (at first) uses a 40-day book called The Love Dare. The acts of kindness and affection he is to do for his wife, Catherine, every day, for forty days, are done in secret. As Catherine is the one who is pushing for the divorce, she interprets these sweet gestures as nothing more than a ruse to attain more money or property in the divorce.

There are no spoiler alerts here, as I hope you will see this movie for yourself before your marriage goes to that dark place.  Check out this book and let your partner know that you would like to work through this book together. He or she may resist, as my husband did when we did the forty day dare, but once we were in the book for several days, the challenges became fun. They became something to look forward to.

There will be assignments that are fun and easy and there will be assignments that challenge you as a couple. When my husband and I did this dare, we were in an uncertain place and we were in critical need of shaking out that rug that we had been sweeping our marital issues under for many years.

At the time of this writing, we are six years out from having completed this book. It still sits on my shelf in case we may need it again or for when I just want to review our journal entries (yes there is writing involved). What a blessing it was when we took the time each day to learn and grow. As we come upon yet another wedding anniversary, I am delighted that we took the time to invest in ourselves and become stronger as a couple. #StrongerThanBroken

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I dare you to see what happens in your forty day trek, and then let me know your results. Email staceygreene47@gmail.com and many blessing to you!

 

You Zig – I’ll Zag

So often in a marriage, there is some reason or another that your man or woman exasperates you. Maybe it is too much familiarity, or perhaps you are taking your bad day at work out on your spouse without even realizing it. Whatever the reason I used to find myself getting embroiled up to my elbows in the fight. Dish it out and I’ll not only take it but shovel it right back. Throw me your angry superlatives and I will throw them at you with a vengeance.

Somehow staying angry at my husband and letting the wounds fester never seemed as much fun as making up quickly and getting on with life. That being said, we are over thirty years into the marriage and some of the same stupid disagreements still linger. It’s just our different personalities and temperments clashing (see 7/30/18 blog on Preparation).

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Solution? You Zig and I’ll Zag. You go one way and I will go the other. When we cannot handle the same strong discussion or our moods are not in alignment with true marital happiness, I will step out and run some errands, or he will go off on a bike ride. Just the physical distance of being apart for a while dissipates the anger enough that we can both come back with a new perspective. Often times we see that what we were arguing about was ridiculous, to begin with.

Have you ever had an argument about the dishes in the sink? Be thankful there was enough food in the house to dirty up those dishes. Are we out of laundry detergent again? Be thankful that you have enough other outfits to last you the week. Did you forget to bring the mail in from the box at the end of that long driveway? For goodness sake, go take a walk and get it!

Not all arguments are this trite, but honestly, most of them are. Step back and think about how angry you really are that she forgot your favorite flavor of ice cream or that you don’t understand why he still leaves the wet towels on the bathroom floor.

I can always tolerate those idiosyncrasies better when I think of the alternative; not having him around. Try understanding his or her side, and if you cannot, then revel in the fact that you have someone who puts up with your eccentricities and foibles as well.

 

Investing in the relationship

Recently our financial firm called us when they noticed that my husband had hit the big six-zero.  They wanted to talk to us about our investments and perhaps make some changes as we get closer to retirement. From time to time, we do shift around our funds and hope that investing and reinvesting will bring us greater returns when we need it.

It really got me to thinking about how we must on occasion reallocate the “funds” that we are investing into our relationship too if we want to have excellent returns.  What does it mean to be “invested” in your relationship? It means time, love, adoration, being a helpmate, honoring and respecting the other person. It means putting yourself second.

You are not invested when you treat your partner as just a friend with benefits. You go about your life as if you are the only one that matters. You are not invested when you bicker about doing more than your share or complaining that there just isn’t the reciprocity there used to be.

If I just struck a nerve, suck it up, cupcake. Now is the time to step up, show up, be there, go the extra mile and stop complaining. Investing in the relationship doesn’t have to be complicated. Small gestures go a long way.

Imagine her surprise when you remember to bring her favorite flavor of ice cream back from the grocery store on your way home from work. Imagine his delight when you stayed on hold for seventeen minutes waiting for your turn in the queue to talk to the refrigerator repairman so that he didn’t have to listen to seventeen minutes of Muzak and that annoying voice saying “We are experiencing high call volume. Please continue to hold”.

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Just as financial investments go in and out like a tide, our marital bliss flows high and low too. It doesn’t matter if your partner is silly, moody, crazy, angry, funny, easily agitated, or far from perfect. Deep down in the recesses of your brain, you know your love is powerful and that you have the capacity to share and invest again and again. Lead by example and see what your ultimate return will be.

Preparation – 2 Great Books for Couples

Matthew 19:6 -“So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Being prepared for marriage is wise. Before you married, were you required to see your pastor, father or rabbi? Did you do any sort of premarital counseling? The pastor that performed our simple, backyard wedding spoke to us one time before the ceremony. I think it may have lasted 5 to 8 minutes. That simply was not enough time to get to know us as a couple, and I remember getting no homework whatsoever. I naively assumed that if the pastor had given us the go ahead, then we would be just fine.

Now that we have survived countless fights, episodes of screaming, sulking, ignoring each other, withholding sex, writing nasty notes, talking behind each other’s backs and more, I wished that the pastor would have at least offered a few nuggets of advice, or maybe even a few relationship books to read before we journeyed off into the unknown. We were not prepared for the ugliness that can come when two very different people are put into the same space…all the time…forever.

The beginning of our marriage was amazing. We were young, in shape, good looking and had very few bills. Our days were spent working out together and our nights were spent eating out or enjoying the company of other young couples.  Eventually, we ended up in what I refer to as “middle marriage”. In this phase, we seemed to fight about everything. It seemed as if we were totally divergent personalities speaking different languages. Enter my two favorite books. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and Personality Plus  by Florence Littauer. These two should be required reading for anyone in a relationship. My summary will only scratch the surface of the direction these books can take a relationship.  In The Five Love Languages, Gary proposes that there are five distinct ways in which we show love. We gravitate primarily towards one or two of those “languages” while our mate seldom “speaks” the same language. The languages include words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch.

As you can imagine, if my favorite language is quality time then all I really need from my husband is to know that he wants to spend time with me. That could include sitting in the backyard on a summer day, hanging out with me while I weed in the garden or any other mundane activity done together. But, if his love language is acts of service, he feels that spending his time chilling in the backyard could be used more wisely. He feels loved when I have a good dinner for him when he gets home from work, when the checkbook is balanced or the house in order. Except for having a good meal, I could care less if there are magazines and shoes all over the living room. Can you see where I was knocking myself out chasing him all around the house to just spend time with him and he couldn’t understand why I was chasing him all over the house instead of doing the two or three loads of laundry on the washer or cleaning out all of those gross little hairs in the bathroom drain? If I learn to speak his language and he learns to speak mine, we both win.

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In the second book, Personality Plus by Florence Littauer, be prepared for a fun personality assessment that helps you realize your own nature as well as being able to identify other people’s disposition. Her four temperaments are right from a man she was inspired from (Tim LaHaye) who wrote about the four temperaments originated by Hippocrates. Her interpretation of sanguine, melancholy, phlegmatic and choleric are strikingly accurate ways to describe our make up.

My husband and I took the test in Chapter Two of the book and saw that we shared one trait while differed in our second strongest. His primary spirit was that of a melancholy: a person who sees the glass as half empty, wants to know the facts and figures, likes to be alone, very organized, doesn’t like chaos, to name a few characteristics. I, on the other hand vacillate between choleric and sanguine. The choleric likes to be in charge, can steamroll over people’s feelings, wants to get the job done yesterday, while the sanguine traits include not always following through, wanting to be the life of the party, often loud and the sanguine may not take him or herself too seriously.

This is where my personality loves dragging my husband all over town to do errands because I think it is fun and I am spending my time with him. But, in his perception, he just wants to be left alone to go for a run and do some deep thinking. He is annoyed that I found three people to chat with in line at the grocery store and added two impromptu errands since we were out and about anyway. My sanguine and quality time personality does not mesh with his melancholy, acts of service character.

Solution? I go and get our errands done alone while he goes for his run. The boring errands showed him my act of service toward him,  and because he was able to complete his run, he now has some quality time left for me. Perhaps this example is a little bit trite, but honestly, understanding your partner is not that difficult. Often times we just choose to make it so. As we always have at least two choices in life, let’s choose to work on ways to love, appreciate and understand the one we are committed to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Yet I Run – Endurance Marriage

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I ran my first 50-yard dash at a race in my elementary school. I only placed third, but I was hooked. By the age of 12, I was running 10K races and ran my first marathon at the tender age of 13. The funny story is that they had planned to take the finish line down at 5 hours but my mom knew I was on my last mile and she begged the race director to keep the finish line up for me. Finish time 5 hours and 12 minutes. Ahh!

For some odd reason, despite being ridiculously slow, I loved the distance. I adored long bike rides and endurance swimming as well.  Perhaps my penchant for endurance activities led me to this crazy idea that marriage is also an endurance activity.

Most marriages profess in their vows to love each other for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, bla bla bla. Why then do so many relationships run out of steam at the first sign of a bi-polar diagnosis (in sickness), or they quit the relationship when the finances run sour (for poorer), or any other myriad of reasons that “it just wasn’t working out”?

If I had quit running when I got my first blister, first set of shin splints, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs or chondromalacia, I would have never experienced the richness of being a runner.  The injuries and disappointments are part of the sport.

I have gotten caught running in a hail storm, and yet I ran. I ran when it was so cold that the air pocket on my Nike running shoes broke. I once arrived at a race with no running shoes. I borrowed an extra pair from someone and ran 26.2 miles in shoes too big for me. Oh, the blisters I had that day! And yet I ran. Many times I trained my butt off only to fall short of a goal in a particular race and yet I ran.  While running with my father I got bitten by a dog. The dog chose my inner thigh and bit me four days before a qualifying race. You know what I did? I ran in the race. In my twenties, I qualified for the Boston Marathon but my heel spurs were in full pain mode when we arrived in Boston. What did I do? I taped my feet and I ran.

What was the point of those short stories? My hope is to bring home that marriage is an endurance activity. Yours may suffer from addiction, infidelity, a loss of a job, a loss of a child or any number of things that can feel like there is simply no hope. Maybe you are married to an unbeliever who does not share your faith. Perhaps you just have no idea what you were thinking when you said “I do” and now you can’t fathom staying with him one more minute. Did you get married young because all of your friends were doing it? Was the biological clock on the baby machine ticking? Did you got married to get away from your parents? Perhaps you assumed all of her weird habits would disappear after the vows or you expected him to do things differently once you showed him the right way to do it. Will this second (or third) marriage be the charm?

Let’s face it. We all had different reasons for saying “I do” so where do we go to avoid saying “I don’t”? Your marriage will get “blisters” from time to time. I truly hope that you will understand that the tough times are part of the richness of being in a relationship. Look past the difficulties long enough to avidly find a way to view your partner in a new light. Allow yourself the opportunity to “run” into her arms again. You won’t be sorry like someone who dropped out of the race. You will be victorious and proud to have crossed the finish line with the knowledge that you ran your best race ever. #GoTheDistance #strongerthanbroken #staceygreene

 

The Little Things We Do For Our Love

Do you remember when you and your spouse were dating and getting serious? Perhaps you felt comfortable enough to lay some ground rules about the association. Early in my marriage, my husband was my bike trainer. He was getting me ready to compete in the Hawaii Ironman, which included a 112-mile bike ride, sandwiched in between a 2.4-mile ocean swim and a 26.2-mile marathon. I vividly remember him telling me that no matter how much he loved me, he was not going to work on my bicycle. I had better be comfortable doing my own basic repairs. That was the rule. He had his own several racing bikes to maintain.

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A few years into our marriage, I had become quite adept at changing flat tires, and only the very basic adjustments to the machine. I was riding many miles each week and there were times where as soon as I clipped into the racing pedals, I became one with the machine. On one particular ride, I felt like the bike was simply faster, The chain felt like it was brand new and I seemed to be gliding, almost flying. Upon returning home, I bragged about how effortless the ride was and that something just felt different. Well, the love of my life, who warned me he would never work on my bikes said that he saw my worn chain and had replaced it. Oh, that sweetheart!

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I make good coffee. My husband makes great coffee. Our coffee maker sits on the counter of our kitchen where we both have equal access to it. I am a grown woman. I know how to use this simple machine, however, because I like my husband’s special flair for the right amount of coffee to water ratio I always ask if he will make me coffee. He does. He always makes me feel appreciated by doing this when I am standing just as close to that coffee maker as he is.

So what little things do you do for your partner that you either do not enjoy doing or feel you shouldn’t have to do? Here are a few of the things that I do, just because I like to show I care.

  • Take the recycle stuff to the recycle station before the can in the garage starts to overflow.
  • Keep him company when he has mundane errands to run.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Clean the cat litter box.

Do you know what he does for me on a consistent basis? He cleans the bathrooms! Yes, I have married an angel from clean bathroom heaven.

When he does jobs that I usually do and I do jobs that he usually does, we feel loved. Now, here is the caveat. If you are doing these things to score brownie points or show how sacrificial you are, you will get no reward. These acts of kindness will not always be noticed by your spouse. You should be doing them because you want to. If you have an ulterior motive, you will be disappointed.

I would love to hear your story about the things you do just because you want to lighten the load of the love of your life.