Friday, May 29, 2009


What's not to love about this guy here? Fred brought in the fruits (vegetables) of his labor from our beautiful garden. These are the best radishes ever! Tender and crisp, not woody, not too hot.

This was a crazy week and my mind was not much on the Love Dares. I am re-focusing. Oh, how I need to add margins to my schedule! I overreact and get angry when I'm rushed or pressured with too much to do. It's good to figure out when and why we get angry. I procrastinate. Then, of course, I'm in a hurry to complete some task or I worry I will be late to the place I need to be. I also overreact when I think I "deserve" something that I didn't get. Usually that means time to myself.

On Memorial Day, with little planning beforehand, we decided to take the train into the city. My son and his fiancee were here for the weekend and the weather was too nice to stay inside all day. It was a fun, relaxing day. We were far enough away not to be on call for anyone, andwe took the train to eliminate the stress of traffic. The day became a field trip for the girls as we visited historical sites and then met up with good friends who live in the city. We all had lunch in Chinatown. Dim sum in a big, busy restaurant filled with mostly locals provided a lot of laughs as we sometimes didn't know exactly what we were eating. I'm a little rusty with the chopsticks when it comes to Chinese broccoli. Try grabbing those slippery greens, holding them with the chopsticks, and biting off a piece before it all falls back down on your plate.

Everyone wanted bubble tea and if you don't know what that is, you've got to try it! Kind of like a smoothie with black tapioca balls in the bottom of your glass. We walked and walked until we were that good kind of tired, a welcome fatigue. Tired of body but not of mind. We rode home in peace and mostly silence, everyone thinking back over the conversations and sights of the city.

I think there is good reason God gave us a Sabbath day. He knew we needed margin in our life. He knew we couldn't just keep going on and on without rest. Why don't we have days like this more often?

Dare 7

Dare 7: Love believes the best. In the deep and private corridors of your heart, there is a room. It's called the Appreciation Room. It's where your thoughts go when you encounter positive and encouraging things about your spouse. And every so often, you enjoy visiting this special place. On the walls are written kind words and phrases describing the good attributes of your husband.

Down another darker corridor of your heart lies the Depreciation Room, and unfortunately, you visit there as well. On its walls are written the things that bother and irritate you about your spouse. These things were placed there out of frustration, hurt feelings, and the disappointment of unmet expectations. This room is lined with the weaknesses and failures of your husband...It's where ammunition is kept for the next big fight and bitterness is allowed to spread like a disease. People fall out of love here.

You may say, "But these things are true!" Yes, but so are the things in the Appreciation Room. Everyone fails and has areas that need growth. Everyone has unresolved issues, hurts, and personal baggage. This is a sad aspect of being human.

Love chooses to believe the best about people. It gives them the benefit of the doubt. It refuses to fill in the unknown with negative assumptions...You must develop the habit of reining in your negative thoughts and focusing on the positive attributes of your husband...It is a decision that you make, whether they deserve it or not.

The Dare: Get two sheets of paper. On the first, write out positive things about your husband. Then do the same with negative things on the second sheet. Place both sheets in a secret place for another day. Pick a positive attribute from the first list and thank your husband today for having this characteristic.

Love believes all things, hopes all things. I Corinthians 13:7

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dare 6

Dare 6: Love is not irritable. Love is hard to offend and quick to forgive. How easily do you get irritated and offended? When something goes wrong, some people quickly take full advantage of it by expressing how hurt or frustrated they are. But this is the opposite reaction to love. A loving husband will remain calm and patient, showing mercy and restraining his temper. A loving wife is not overly sensitive or cranky but exercises emotional self-control.

Why do people become irritable? There are at least two key reasons that contribute to it:

1. Stress. Stress weighs you down, drains your energy, weakens your health, and invites you to be cranky. It can be brought on by relational causes--arguing, division, and bitterness. There are excessive causes--overworking, overplaying, and overspending. And there are deficiencies--not getting enough rest, nutrition, or exercise. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. This means you must balance, prioritize, and pace yourself...You need time to recharge, refocus, and add breathing room or margin to your weekly schedule.

2. Selfishness. When you're irritable, the heart of the problem is primarily a problem of the heart... Being easily angered is an indicator that a hidden area of selfishness or insecurity is present. Selfishness also wears many other masks. Lust is the result of being ungrateful for what you have and choosing to covet or burn with passion for something that is forbidden. Or, bitterness takes root when you respond in a judgmental way and refuse to work out your anger. A bitter person's unresolved anger leaks out when she is provoked. Or, greed for more money and possessions will frustrate you with unfulfilled desires. Pride leads you to act harshly in order to protect your ego and reputation.

These motivations can never be satisfied. But when love enters your heart, it calms you down and inspires you to quit focusing on yourself. It loosens your grasp and helps you let go of unnecessary things.

The Dare: Choose today to react to tough circumstances in your marriage in loving ways instead of with irritation. Begin by making a list of areas where you need to add margin to your schedule. Then list any wrong motivations that you need to release from your life. If you overreacted, what was your real motivation behind it?

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. Proverbs 16:32.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Problem with Dare 5

I told Fred to tell me three things I do that irritate him. He looked at me as if I was crazy. He's thinking I must want to start a fight! Then he said, "First tell me something I do." No, I'm not going there. I say this isn't about him, just that if I am doing something that irritates him, I want to stop. He goes outside to work in the garden while he thinks about it. I come outside and ask him but he says, "I'm not going to tell you now!"

Inside he still says nothing. I ask if he's thought about it. He says yes. He can only think of one thing. He says I too often let things interrupt the girls' schooling. People ask me to do things and I can't say no. So I agree to try not to let that happen anymore. I'm sure he is thinking of other things, but he won't say! This is because from past experience he knows I am so defensive. I had decided not to say a word, no matter what he told me. But it was a little scary thinking about what he might say. I give him credit. If something was on his mind, he decided it was not worth telling me about. He extended grace to me and he is allowing me to be flawed and is not trying to correct me.

Anyone else? Did this dare bother you?

Progress with the girls

Arielle and Liana are enjoying these dares! Maybe the trip to Walmart motivated them. I promised them a small, daily treat upon completion of each dare, a little bigger prize for 10 completed and a big prize at the end. So they are having fun with this. While some may think they are missing the purpose of this, I think it is great they are practicing kindness. Hopefully it will become a habit. They love each other but seem to have lost the ability to show it. I'm helping them find their way.

On Dare 2, Arielle made Liana's bed. Later in the day, Liana sneaked into Arielle's room and straightened up. These little tasks done by the other delighted them. For Dare 3 I did not ask them to buy something to give, but rather to give something they already had. I said it had to be thoughtful, something the other person would truly like. Liana gave Arielle half her Kit Kat bar and Arielle gave Liana a handful of polished stones. They both were happy.

Dare 4 required them to ask the other one how they were doing and did they need anything. They both politely asked. No problem with this one. I've had to remind them several times about the negative comments they make to each other though. They immediately stop their bickering! Oh, those Walmart prizes are calling to them!

There has been an unexpected consequence to all this: the girls have been more helpful to me! Maybe they just like the pleasant feelings that come when family members are cooperating and being kind to each other. They have actually done some things without being told. They have taken initiative! I guess that's what this project is all about--taking initiative to show love.

Dare 5

Dare 5: Love is not rude. Nothing irritates others as quickly as being rude. Rudeness is unnecessarily saying or doing things that are unpleasant for another person to be around. To be rude is to be unbecoming, embarrassing or irritating. In marriage this could be a foul mouth, poor table manners, or a habit of making sarcastic quips. No one enjoys being around a rude person.

Good manners express to your husband, "I value you enough to exercise some self-control around you. I want to be a person who's a pleasure to be with." When you allow love to change your behavior--even in the smallest ways--you restore an atmosphere of honor to your relationship. People who practice good etiquette tend to raise the respect level of the environment around them.

Here are three guiding principles when it comes to practicing etiquette in your marriage:
1. Guard the Golden Rule. Treat your husband the same way you want to be treated.
2. No double standards. Be as considerate to your spouse as you are to strangers and friends.
3. Honor requests. Consider what your husband or wife already asked you to do or not do.

The Dare: Ask your spouse to tell you three (or one or two) things that cause him to be uncomfortable or irritated with you. You must do so without attacking him or justifying your behavior. This is from his perspective only.

"Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." Proverbs 25:24.

A caution from me: When you ask this question you risk getting your feelings hurt or getting angry. Your husband won't be honest if he anticipates a fight. Or he might take advantage of the situation and give you a long list! Prepare yourself! Tell him you want to know behavior that irritates him that you can actually change, that would better your relationship. Then when he tells you, say nothing! Ponder and consider. The temptation would be to retaliate and say, "Well, you do this and that..." Or you might strongly desire to defend yourself and say he's wrong. But this is how he perceives it. So don't fuel a fight.

Friends who are doing these dares with children: My girls are making progress! Children don't have the entrenched behavior patterns that we do. We have had a pleasant week and Arielle and Liana are trying hard. I'll write more about that later.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dare 4

Dare 4: Love is Thoughtful. When you first fell in love, being thoughtful came quite naturally. You spent hours deaming of what your loved one looked like, wondering what he was doing, rehearsing impressive things to say, then enjoying sweet memories of the time you spent together. You honestly confessed, "I can't stop thinking about you."

But for most couples, things begin to change after marriage...You drift into focusing on your job, your friends, your problems, your personal desires, yourself. After a while, you unintentionally begin to ignore the needs of your mate...If you don't learn to be thoughtful, you end up regretting missed opportunities to demonstrate love. Thoughtlessness is a silent enemy to a loving relationship.

A husband should listen to his wife and learn to be considerate of her unspoken messages. A wife should learn to communicate truthfully and not say one thing while meaning another. But too often you become angry and frustrated...The thoughtful nature of love teaches you to engage your mind before engaging your lips. Love thinks before speaking. It filters words through a grid of truth and kindness.

The Dare: Contact your spouse sometime during the business of the day. Have no agenda other than asking how he is doing and if there is anything you could do for him.

"How precious are your thoughts to me... How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand." Psalm 139:17, 18.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A gift to show love

Buy a gift for Fred that says I'm thinking of him? That one stumped me initially. Fred is not one for "stuff." I couldn't just walk around the mall and pick something up. Then I remembered he said something earlier about the new Walmart commercial advertising steaks. So I thought I would make a special trip out to get some. He would be surprised because I hate to shop at Walmart. Well, I never could find those steaks so I had to look for something else.

I thought of bakery goods but he is cutting back on fat in his diet. Then I found angel food cake! He loves that. I bought some of his favorite cereal and some coffee ice cream. I found some eucalyptus bath salts he likes and best of all, a big chunk of corned beef! I think he will know I am thinking of him.

He said tonight, "When's your next class? I said tomorrow. Jokingly he added, "You keep going to that class! I like this new wife!"

What did you buy your husband to fulfill Dare 3?

Dare 3

Day 3: Love is not selfish. We live in a world enamored with "self." If there were ever a word that basically means the opposite of love, it is selfishness. Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. Yet you cannot point out the many ways your spouse is selfish without admitting that you can be selfish too. Why do we have such low standards for ourselves but high expectations for our mate?

When a husband puts his interests, desires, and priorities in front of his wife, that's a sign of selfishness. When a wife constantly complains about the time and energy she spends meeting the needs of her husband, that's a sign of selfishness. Choosing to love your mate will cause you to say "no" to what you want so you can say "yes" to what they need.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I truly want what's best for my husband?
  • Do I want him to feel loved by me?
  • Does he believe I have his best interests in mind?
  • Does he see me as looking out for myself first?
The Dare: Whatever you put your time, energy, and money into will become more important to you. It's hard to care for something you are not investing in. Along with restraining from negative comments, buy your spouse something that says, "I was thinking of you today."

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself." Phillipians 2:3.

Gifts today

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." I John 4:7.

I love when the iris bloom! They are extravagant in their colors and shape and bring me joy. I had another unexpected gift today. I was at the kitchen window talking with Fred on the phone when an Eastern Bluebird landed on our deck railing! I have never in my life seen one. Supposedly these birds were numerous in our area long ago but are now rare. I never hoped to see one! This bird was a female. I hope she has a nest nearby. We watched for her the rest of the day but didn't see her again.

I thought Arielle did pretty well with the first dare. But when I kissed her good-night she asked me to clarify what "negative words" are. She decided she had not fulfilled the task and will try again tomorrow. I am proud of her because she wants to be honest about it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Love among siblings

Revelation: The love principles apply to all human relationships, not just between husband and wife. My girls were arguing and yelling at each other this morning, as usual. This behavior has been escalating and is simply not acceptable. So I presented the Love Dares to them. Before I could even explain the idea, they both said, "No! No!"

But we discussed the plan and I motivated them with daily rewards (as yet undetermined) for completion of the day's dare. Does that defeat the purpose of the plan? I don't think so. Not with kids. They need to get into good habits of responding to each other. They need to learn self-control when they are tempted to lash out. They need to learn to demonstrate love. Wouldn't these skills help them later in life with their own marriages? And maybe, just maybe, these two sisters will actually begin to love each other genuinely after they've practiced choosing to react to each other in a kind way.

So I gave them the first challenge not to say anything negative to each other for a whole day. I have my doubts. But with God, nothing is impossible!

So what about you? Have you done the first two dares? Are you ready for Dare #3? Hint: you may have to go out shopping today.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kindness to Fred

Day 2 was fairly easy for me because Fred and I were separated all day. He had real estate business and I was home with the girls. So I didn't have to worry about saying anything negative. But I kept thinking of what act of kindness I could do for him. The book said to do something "unexpected." I did make him a nice dinner, a huge hunk of beef and his favorite macaroni salad. But that is pretty much expected. It was getting late and then I knew what to do. And I resisted!

I love ending the day by reading. I have little time to read during the day and so I read novels at night. Not that there is much time to read at night either, but I do read fast. So while I was taking a shower and anticipating my book, I realized I couldn't cheat and call making dinner my act of kindness. Fred would enjoy a massage. But I am so tired, I argued. But it would be very kind to do! So I made the choice to give my time to him. He was in shock when I asked if he wanted a massage, but eagerly offered his back!

Okay, girls, share what you have done these past couple of days! (Being sensitive, of course. One rule we have in class is, don't say anything you couldn't say if your husband was sitting right next to you.) If you'd like to brag on your guy, share the 5 characteristics you admire most about him!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dare 2

Dare 2: Love is Kind. "Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventative, the other proactive. Let's break kindness down into four basic core ingredients: 1) Gentleness. When you're operating from kindness, you're careful how you treat your spouse, never being unnecessarily harsh...You speak the truth in love." 2) Helpfulness. Being kind means you meet the needs of the moment. If it's housework, you get busy. A listening ear? You give it. 3) Willingness. Kindness inspires you to be agreeable. Instead of being obstinate, reluctant, or stubborn, you cooperate, you stay flexible." 4) Initiative. Kindness thinks ahead, then takes the first step. It doesn't sit around waiting to be prompted or coerced before getting off the couch. The kind husband or wife will be the one who greets first, smiles first, serves first, and forgives first."

The Dare: In addition to saying nothing negative to your spouse again today, do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness."

The scripture for today: "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32.

Resources for Fireproof study

I added more detail to the first dare since some people want to follow along. So check it out. I also want to show you where you can get the Love Dare journal for yourself. You can also see a short clip of the movie and order it too. I have single friends and I want to let you know this journey is for you too. Use the Love Dares on your children or maybe someone in your family who is difficult to love. The principles will work for anyone. In our class at church we call this your "focus person." It doesn't have to be a husband.

Also, ladies! Please write your focus person's name on a card and write 5 characteristics you admire in that person. Keep the card where you can see it several times a day.

I checked off Day 1 in my journal! I went through a whole day without saying anything negative to my husband. It was hard. Last night we went to a wedding in an unfamiliar part of town. Fred has a new GPS and he wasn't used to it and he was distracted. His erratic driving (in my view) is a source of contention in our marriage. After several close calls on the road, Arielle spoke up from the back, "That makes four, Daddy!" She needs to have more respect for her father. But where does her attitude come from? Me, of course.

Instead of criticizing in a negative way as I usually would, I chose to express concern and understanding. CHOSE. That's important. We choose to respond in a certain way. Because I was thinking instead of overreacting, I realized how Fred drives all day long, back and forth to school and then all over town showing property to clients. His mind is weary. I did chant a silent mantra to myself, "I will say nothing negative...I will say nothing negative." We both joked a little about it and that lightened the mood. But I need to be cautious not to let joking carry over into sarcasm.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fireproof: Dare 1

I signed up for a women's study at church called "Fireproof Your Marriage." It is a three week course to watch the movie Fireproof and then have table discussion. We also have homework--The Love Dare journal. From the book--" is a decision and not just a feeling. It is selfless, sacrificial, and transformational. And when love is truly demonstrated as it was intended, your relationship is more likely to change for the better." Each day we read about one aspect of love and then are challenged to a dare to do for our husbands. The class started Wednesday.

When we arrived we had to write our husband's name on an index card and list five characteristics that we admire in him. We keep this card in front of us during discussions to remind us of his good qualities when we might be tempted to complain about him. I wrote these things about Fred: hard-working, affectionate, decisive, generous, and friendly to others. As soon as I wrote these down, I had my first revelation. These five things I AM NOT! I do not have Fred's attributes. He is my opposite, my complement. How amazing.

The movie is great! If you have not seen it, plan a date night with your husband and watch together. Tissues were tossed back and forth among the women at my table. We told why we came to this class. One woman seems to have some difficulties in her marriage. A few had seen the movie, enjoyed it, and wanted to talk about it. I really didn't want to come. I want to finish school with my girls and not be interrupted with going out in the middle of the week. But I think Fred is worth the effort and I don't want to be complacent about my marriage. We could all use a tune-up.

I was excited to have my quiet time today and begin reading the journal. Day 1: Love is Patient. "When you choose to be patient, you respond in a positive way to a negative situation. You are slow to anger..." The Dare: The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It's better to hold your tongue than to say something you'll regret."

Scripture for this day: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with on another in love." Ephesians 4:2.

That shouldn't be too hard, I thought. Fred had just left for his classes and I thought back over our brief exchange so far this morning. No, I hadn't said anything negative. Off to a good start! He called me from school later, said he would go to the fruit market on the way home. A big burden off my schedule today. When he got home I hugged him and thanked him. I'm doing great with this "dare."

The girls and I were finishing up school. Fred had gone outside and I heard him start the tiller. We had just bought some seedlings, so I thought he was preparing the soil for them. It was a very windy day with a storm coming. Large branches had already fallen from the trees, thudding in the grass. When school ended, I went outside to talk to Fred. He had planted most of the fragile plants. He did a great job, except the wind threatened to rip them from the ground! I said the first thing that came to mind, "Fred, are you crazy? Why are you planting them now?" I know I hurt him. He had little cages around the tomatoes and peppers and eggplants. The fine soil was mounded up on each stem. He had worked so hard. I suggested we cover the cages with something to protect the tiny plants. He brought out some black cloth he had used to stop weeds last year and silently we cut it up and taped it around the cages and made little tents.

I failed the first day. In an attempt to be inclusive of many readers (I guess), this Love Dare journal neglected to warn us that any attempt to transform our lives in our own strength will be futile. Tomorrow I will pray that the Holy Spirit will do a work in my life and help me to be patient with my husband.

Anyone up for the challenge? I will post the dare for the day in bold print as I get to it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Miracle in our midst

Mother's Day.

Years ago I got the middle-of-the-night call no mother wants to get. "This is the hospital. Your son was in a car accident." For that split second before the voice added, "but he's okay," terror struck me. After I hung up the phone and hastily dressed, I sobbed with relief.

A few nights ago my sister got that call. Only her terror lasted longer. "Your daughter was in a car wreck. She's alive, but that's all I can tell you." My sister didn't know any details until she arrived at the hospital.

It was a rainy night, and it had been raining for days. The road was slick, the shoulder muddy. My 17-year-old niece lost control of the car on a mountain curve, went over a steep embankment, flipped several times and crashed into a ravine. If not for a small tree that slowed the car, she would have landed in the swollen river. She kicked her way out and climbed up the bank where two college students were looking for her. They had observed headlights ahead of them on the road that suddenly disappeared into the black night. My niece was transported to the hospital but doctors only found minor bruises. The trooper on the scene said he had never seen someone survive such a crash.

I listened to my mother tell the story, first with horror, then with thanksgiving. I said good-bye to her and got down on my knees to thank our mighty God who saved my niece from death, who saved our family from unspeakable sorrow. Then I wrote this, so you too would be reminded to praise God for miracles in your midst. And maybe give your child an extra hug. It's a happy Mother's Day indeed tonight.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


An interesting quote about media coverage of the swine flu from Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today: "The media would not be tempted to overhype the swine flu if it didn't believe people were genuinely worried about it. But it's hard to understand why the swine flu elicited such fear. Even when we are told that flu viruses kill some 36,000 Americans annually, and that the swine flu has yet to kill five—well, it doesn't seem to calm us.
That may be because the "normal" flu tends to kill only infants and the elderly, while the swine flu can kill perfectly healthy people in the middle of life—people like us! While we pride ourselves on our compassion for the defenseless (i.e., infants and the elderly), this hints at another contradiction: We can live comfortably with the fact that viruses kill tens of thousands annually—as long as the victims are infants and elderly. We only panic when we hear that people like us are threatened, even if only a few dozen of us."

What do you think?