Giving Grace: Chronic Illness

Giving Grace: Chronic Illness

We took a pause from our Giving Grace series, but we're back to it with two lovely people who are willing to share a bit about what it looks like to give grace in a marriage where one spouse has chronic illness. Please welcome Stacey and Ryan as they give us a glimpse into their journey together!

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Giving Grace: Stress Strategies

Giving Grace: Stress Strategies

February has been INSANE for us. We knew this going into this month. We also know that the first part of March is more of the same. Until Sunday, we were doing well. We were tag-teaming. We were giving each other space for downtime. We were connecting on emotional and spiritual levels, even though we often weren't in physical proximity with each other. Our wheels were spinning at the same speed.

Sunday morning came. We were both exhausted. I had driven two hours away to speak at a retreat on Friday night and then drove back to town on Saturday morning to be at an all-day dance competition for our oldest. The adrenaline alone from speaking and then being a dance mom was enough to shut me down. Add in chores that had been neglected and I was over the edge. Unfortunately, so was Craig. And so the downward spiral of sarcasm and snippiness began. It took two efforts to try to regain our traction, but thankfully we did.

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Why Surrender Doesn't Mean Giving Up the Battle

Surrender is hard.

Surrender is especially hard when you're a type-A emotional caregiver who struggles with anxiety. Hello, perfect storm.

I want to fix everything. I want people to be happy and healthy and free. My first instinct is to evaluate and plan. I find solutions, present them, and cajole the person into using them. And then I'm disappointed when they don't. I get frustrated, angry, and resentful. When they continue to struggle, I say in my head, "If you'd only listen to me!"

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks this way.

Ironically, when I'm in fix-it mode, trying to promote Healthy! Happy! Free!, I find myself feeling unhealthy, unhappy, and chained. I've found that the harder I try to bring about change in people with my own solutions, the more I find myself drowning in the fear of the problem at hand. I become antsy and restless, my mind spinning with more ideas, more "what-ifs," and a cascading list of new problems that might crop up because this one is still unresolved.

Praise the Lord there are some problems we can take care of with ease, but those issues that we find in others—the ones that rub us the wrong way, the ones that induce fear, the ones that seem to threaten our security—those are the ones that require surrender. Those are the ones where our solutions won't stick, where when we begin to talk to our spouse about the issue, we are met with silence, a blank "smile and nod," or empty promises.

Why? Because the problem requires their surrender, too. We can't make anyone raise their own white flag. 

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Give Grace: When Your Spouse Isn't Exactly Who You Thought

This week, we are continuing this theme of giving grace when confronted with unrealistic expectations, but coming from a slightly different angle. What do you do when your spouse ends up being different than you expected? Here, we tackle the gambit—what to do when they fart more than you think they should all the way to addressing an addiction.

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Give Grace: The Reality of Unrealistic Expectations

Give Grace: The Reality of Unrealistic Expectations

Jen told me the other day, “Valentine’s Day is the holiday of unrealistic expectations.” Ain’t that the truth?

Do you have secret hopes that your husband will show up with two dozen long stem roses, luscious hand-dipped strawberries in silky chocolate, and a handwritten card that expresses his sincerest appreciation and deepest attraction for you?

Movies, ads, and that one guy on Facebook (who actually does this kind of stuff for his wife) have set the bar so high that we end up disappointed when February 14th doesn’t deliver a fairy tale.

I’ve always been one to have high expectations of myself and others. The ugly truth is that I expect darn near perfection and when I don’t give it or get it, I’m frustrated.

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Give Grace: Unrealistic Expectations

Give Grace: Unrealistic Expectations

Right away you'll probably notice we are not on the video today! Let us introduce to you our friends, Katie and Adam Reid. Jen met Katie in Michigan and we've never laid eyes on Adam in real life, but as you'll see in the video, turns out, he's a pretty good guy (even if he didn't get Katie a birthday present). They are here with a  very timely video that is so appropriate for Valentine's Day week: Unrealistic Expectations! (The video cut off their goodbye, but don't worry—all the good stuff is here.)

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Marriage Takes FUN!

Marriage Takes FUN!

I've always been on the serious side. I've valued deep conversations, explorations of the soul, going to the hard places. This is what I thought made up a good, solid, real relationship. This was so important to me that I thought every time we had date night or a quiet, intimate moment alone that we had to have this kind of talk. And if we didn't, something was wrong or missing or disconnected. And if we were just silent? Silence was a killer. Silence (because of how I grew up) meant that we were angry and harboring resentment or that we had grown apart and had nothing to talk about.

You see now why I needed an entire year to just practice having FUN!? I went into marriage knowing it was going to take grit. What I didn't know was how fun would make the grit so much easier to put forth.

A focus on fun changed my life and my marriage in key ways. Here's what I learned:

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Marriage Takes Grit

Marriage Takes Grit

Maybe your marriage is looking like the Patriots in the 3rd Quarter of Super Bowl LI?  Whether not you love or hate Tom Brady and the Patriots, you have to admit they showed grit.  In the face of overwhelming odds and a desperate situation, they relied on each other, dug in their heels and fought like hell.  God’s call to us is the same.  Fight for one another.  Fight for your marriage. It takes grit. You're going to get dirty. It's going to take every ounce of strength you have...and then a whole bunch more from God and the people around you.

Be tenacious. Don't give up. Rally.

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Super Bowl Sunday Fun!

Super Bowl Sunday Fun!

Craig and I love to play games and we both love to win. Truth be told, we just had a lot of fun making this video (it was so good to laugh after a really hard week)! Clearly, Jen overused her penalty flag a few times too many (and maybe let out a cackle)—but it was all in good fun! However please note: this just in from the MNL (Marriage National League):

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The Weapon of Self-Care (and how it can slay Anxiety)

The Weapon of Self-Care (and how it can slay Anxiety)

There are many benefits for all of us in the practicing of self-care in order to reduce the symptoms of anxiety: breathing, mindfulness, prayer, slowing down, exercise, and accepting comfort from God and others. And it is often hard for many of us to do these things because of how society tells us we should operate (push harder, go further, work longer, be better).

For others of us, though, practicing self-care is critical to uprooting the very cause of our anxiety. It's not just about mitigating the symptoms. It's a crucial key to solving the problem. And because of this, it may be even harder for us to practice it.

You, Emotional Caretaker. I'm talking to you. (And me, or course.)

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Because Who Wants to Feel Like They're Dying? (Tips on making it through a panic attack)

Because Who Wants to Feel Like They're Dying? (Tips on making it through a panic attack)

I was dying. 

At least, it felt like it. It was a normal day. One moment I was just fine and then suddenly, I wasn’t.  I remember feeling completely out of control.  My chest was tight, my heart was beating furiously, my breathing was really labored, and my brain was struggling to figure out what in the hell was going on.  My boss noticed that something was not right and walked over to check on me.  I remember telling him that I wasn’t sure, but I needed to leave.  Not only did he agree, he put me in his truck and drove me home.  When I got home, I immediately went to bed.  Though it wasn't a heart attack, this was the first in a series of panic attacks that would plague me for almost three years.  I was in the grips of anxiety. 

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Giving Grace: When Your Spouse has Anxiety

Email subscribers click here to see our video about dealing with anxiety in your marriage.

Not sure if you suffer from situational anxiety or if you have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)? Click here for info.

We wanted to provide you with some questions you and your spouse can discuss as you navigate together to health and learn how to manage anxiety. There is a "conversation starter" question for each of the strategies we've given in the video.

Question 1: What are some of the things that trigger your anxiety?

(Note: Sometimes anxiety seems to come on even when things seem calm. If this happens to you, be sure to let your partner know. Anxiety often lurks in our subconscious and rears it's head when we least expect it. It can be hard to explain why it's happening in the moment and we have a hard time making sense of it.)

If you'd like some more info on the difference between triggers and causes, I found a short article here.

Question 2: When you're experiencing anxiety, what are some of the ways your spouse can comfort you?

Helpful resources here , here and here.

Question 3: How have you seen growth in your emotional well-being? What further steps do you feel like you may need to take? What steps does your spouse see might be beneficial?

Prayer is always powerful. Here's a prayer card you can pray for yourself and for your spouse.

5 Tips for Finding Marriage Community (because suffering in silence is never fun)

5 Tips for Finding Marriage Community (because suffering in silence is never fun)

Guess what—things in your marriage are going to happen that are BURDENSOME. They are simply too heavy for you to carry on your shoulders alone. You aren't born with all the relational tools you'll ever need and the wisdom from other couple's around you is invaluable. Will they always have it together? Will they always have the right answer? Of course not. But part of community is simply empathizing and encouraging each other that marriage is worth fighting for.

Here are 5 tips for finding community for your marriage:

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3 Ways to Steward Money Well (without being a control freak)

3 Ways to Steward Money Well (without being a control freak)

Organization, clean lines, matching baskets, tidy boxes—these things bring me great joy. 

Every paycheck, with a click of the "record pay" button in my budgeting software, the entire amount gets distributed across rows and rows of envelopes.

The dollars assume their positions. I know what I can spend and where. It's nice and orderly and the money obeys the boundaries I set for it.

But because it is the way life happens (two kids in braces at the same time???), my envelopes are hardly ever overflowing with money. In fact, it seems, more often than I would like, the needs are overflowing. And when the incoming needs outpace the outgoing amounts of money, my sense of orderliness and calm flies out the door and, in my anxiety, I invite in chaos.

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Video Games Don't Yield Real Treasure

Video Games Don't Yield Real Treasure

I can tell you that I have spent a lot of time over the years doing hobby or leisure type activities.  Besides my addiction to porn, I’ve logged hundreds of hours playing video games.  I’m sure I’ve spent even more time binge watching shows and movies. 

But, what do I have to show for it?  Has it changed me for the better?  Has it deepened my relationship with God and others?  If I am truly honest about it, the time was spent simply to satisfy myself.  These were all self-medicating distractions to keep my mind off of what was really going on in my life.  Instead of seeking God and His presence, I chose to isolate and sequester myself in a fantasy world.  Now, I want more and these hobbies and distractions are not fulfilling me.

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Giving Grace: Money Matters

Giving Grace: Money Matters

Our first topic in our series, Giving Grace is MONEY. 

We're not sure about you, but we have definitely struggled through money matters in our 16 years of marriage. Money is a charged topic! So, how do we have grace for each other, especially when we find ourselves on opposite ends of the spectrum? I'm a saver. He's a spender. How do we ever figure out how to manage our money without an argument every time?

Craig and I have learned a thing or two about showing grace to each other as we budget, make financial plans, and deal with the unexpected. Here are our ABCs to giving grace when it comes to finances.

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A Thousand Miles in a Single Sentence

A Thousand Miles in a Single Sentence

There's an old song by The Proclaimers called "I'm Gonna Be" (also known as the "500 miles" song) that has been a favorite of mine since the original Shrek movie came out. The chorus made me swoon every time I heard it:

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

Those grand gestures have a way of capturing my heart and leading me to believe, "Now this. This is love." And then, unfortunately, it morphs into statements like, "If Craig really loved me, he'd do _________." And it's not limited to how far he'd walk for me.

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How Grace Moves from Theory to Reality

How Grace Moves from Theory to Reality

For me, grace was theoretical for most of my life.  While growing up, I knew God said I was loved and forgiven, but I didn’t expect to receive anything that would prove that.  I built a wall between God and myself that kept me from tangibly experiencing grace. I found out that if you don’t have expectations, then you can’t be disappointed.  If you don’t request anything of anyone, then you don’t have to face rejection.  After all, you can live happy knowing that you are loved and chosen without feeling it, right?  Well, no, not really. But, that is how I lived much of my life before I met Jen and started building a relationship with her.  

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