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Category Archives: The Love Dare

Day Twenty-Seven : Love Encourages

Monday, December 9, 2013 – Day 27: Love Encourages

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When we get married, we go into it expecting our spouse to be able to fulfill all of our hopes and to provide us with happiness.  Yet this is something impossible.  Our expectations will only lead to disappointment.  The higher our expectations, the more frustration we cause ourselves and the more our spouse will fail us.  If we live this way, we will constantly be disappointed.  If we are able to realize that our spouses our human and aren’t able to always meet our expectations, we will be much happier.

We need to learn to make a choice to live our lives by encouragement instead of being driven by unrealistic expectations.  We need to learn to focus on our own responsibility and improving ourselves versus demanding more from our spouse.  Does your spouse feel as if they are not meeting your expectations?  Do they sense your disapproval of them and their actions, more than they do your acceptance of them?  You may rationalize that the problem isn’t with you but with your spouse.  While your spouse may view you as overly critical, you may think your concerns are valid and need to be addressed.  It seems appropriate to point out genuine areas that problematic, right?

However, this is a very negative way of thinking.  When it is evident to your spouse that you’re unhappy with them, there is no way they will feel motivated or uplifted.  When your relationship started, you both made the effort to do everything in your power to please one another.  Never in your wildest dreams would you have thought that you’d reach a point where you’d be so critical and able to detect so many faults and problems with your spouse.

When reality sets in and your realize that your picture-perfect idea of your spouse is not quite pratical, it can be frustrating and easy to take out on them.  But instead of this making them want to take the initiative to correct things, it pushes them away or gets them more deeply rooted in their ways.  Even if you’re the type of person to be demanding of yourself, it is unfair to place those standards on your spouse.  The Love Dare compared marriage as “a unique friendship designed by God himself where two people live together in flawed imperfection, yet deal with it by encouraging and building, not by exhausting and belittling.”

Marriage should be a place where you can be free to express who you are in a non-judgmental environment.  It requires both you and your spouse to create that type of environment.  Being with you should be a source of happiness and a safe haven, not something that will exhaust them or leave them feeling broken down.

Dare for day 27:

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Day 27 down, 13 to go!

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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in The Love Dare, Uncategorized

 

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Day Twenty-Six : Love is Responsible

Sunday, December 8, 2013 – Day 26: Love is Responsible

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God designed the gift of marriage.  It has been shown that married people are healthier, happier, live longer, have better sex lives, and make more money.  The benefits that come with marriage will depend on how much effort we make to take care of it.  It is essential that we learn to take care of our own responsibility in a relationship.  It is imperative if our marriage is to be a success, versus a failure.

The more responsibility you have in following through with your roles and vows, the more you will reap the positive benefits.  Yet if you choose to let those obligations go, not placing any real significance or importance on them, only pain and division will occur.  By acting in wisdom and love, we uphold our responsibilities.  Think about whether you are giving your all in your relationship.  Do you make the other person carry all of the burden, or do you take the initiative to look for ways to ease their load?  If we are acting in love, we look for ways to help them and support them.

Love also draws us to be responsible for our own mistakes.  It is all too easy to place blame or be quick to defend our actions and justify what we do.  It can be easy to deflect responsibility to our spouse.  It is often in our nature to easily find the faults and mistakes of our spouse and be closed off to the idea that we are imperfect and make mistakes as well.  However, love does not place the blame or make excuses.  It accepts personal responsibility and then seeks for ways to improve.

The next time you’re disagreeing with your spouse about something, listen to what their saying and be humble enough to see if what they’re saying has any validity.  Instead of denying or becoming defensive, try humbly listening to their comments and take responsibility for your mistakes.  It may be a hard thing to do, but being willing to admit your mistakes and then working towards correcting them is one of the biggest ways of acting in love.  It may take time for that repentant heart to settle within you.  We all have a measure of pride and it can be hard to take responsibility.  Yet you should make it your priority to work on it.  If something isn’t right, make it your priority to work toward fixing it.

When you take the initiative to apologize, it is amazing what can change and improve in your relationship.  It can open the way for a stronger relationship and open the way for communication.  Even if you aren’t the only person at fault or to blame for a situation, take ownership of your fault and what you did to contribute to a negative situation.  Don’t wait for your spouse to apologize for their wrong first.  In order to do this, you must swallow your pride and ask for their forgiveness.  This can be one of the hardest things to do, but it is absolutely crucial in order to have a strong and lasting relationship.

Dare for day 26:

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It can often be a hard thing to do, to ask for forgiveness.  The asking of forgiveness is synonymous with admitting you are wrong or at fault for something.  Yet, it is absolutely imperative in a successful relationship.  I have seen firsthand just how huge of a change can result from taking the initiative to apologize and say sorry for something.  When Scott and I were on our trip, we had a bit of a misunderstanding.  Both of us handled the situation wrong.  Yet I took the first step to admit I had acted wrongly and asked for his forgiveness.  That opened up the door for him to apologize for his contribution to the problem and smoothed everything over.  It was a small gesture but it made a world of difference.  So much so that he still, almost two weeks later, mentions how he appreciated me taking that first step.

Day 26 down, 14 to go!

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2013 in The Love Dare, Uncategorized

 

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Day Twenty-Five : Love Forgives

Saturday, December 7, 2013 – Day 25: Love Forgives

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This dare can often be the toughest one in the book.  Yet if there is going to be any chance your marriage will work, this challenge has to be taken seriously.  Forgiveness has to happen otherwise you will never have a successful marriage.

It painted a clear word picture.  It said to imagine you’re in a prison-like setting.  You look around you and behind bars you may see people from your past incarcerated.  Maybe it houses friends who have hurt you in the past, a parent, a sibling.  Maybe even your spouse is locked up.  It said that this prison is confined within your own heart.  It exists inside of you, every day.  Yet you have the choice, you have the ability to set them free.  But you may reason that all these people have hurt you in the past.  They realized what they were doing and still made the choice to do it.  So you keep the key and turn away.  Yet, no matter where you go, there is no way out.  By not forgiving and holding on to the anger and bitterness, you have made yourself a prisoner as well.  It made an interesting statement saying “your own freedom is now dependent on your forgiveness.”

It can often take a long while to come to this realization.  You see all the risks that come from offering forgiveness.  Some may not even admit that they have done anything wrong; or even worse, they may blame you.  Yet forgiveness offers a sense of peace for you.  When you offer forgiveness, you aren’t saying they are innocent but you’re saving yourself from having to keep account of the wrong this person did and how best to ‘show them’ that you’re angry with them.  It’s about freedom and choosing to let go.

When you make that step towards forgiveness, you feel free.  The best way to start to let go is to pray.  Ask for your anger and resentment to be lifted.  We are implored that if we have something against a person, we need to forgive and then continue to forgive.  Holding on to bitterness will only hurt you.  It is essential that unforgiveness does not have a place in your marriage or relationship.  This section ended with this statement “Great marriages are not produced by people who never hurt each other, only by people who daily choose to keep “no record of wrongs””.

Dare for day 25:

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Questions for pondering:  What did you forgive your spouse for today?  How long have you been carrying the weight of it?  What are the possibilities now that you’ve released this matter to God?

I think the thing I struggled with the most or was the hardest for me to hear during our separation and hardship was that he felt he had the inability to love me.  It was a devastating blow to hear that he felt like he never really fully loved me or opened up to me.  That is something that a person obviously wants in a marriage; to be loved and to feel loved.  He still worries today about his ability to allow himself to fully open up to me emotionally and to be able to form that emotional attachment to me that I want and that he desires to be able to have with another person.  This has been something that I’ve allowed to be my reason to view our relationship and marriage as ‘hopeless’.  I rationalized, if Scott can never love me or open up to me fully, then what’s the point of this?  I will never have the relationship and marriage that I want.  Yet we had a talk the other night after one of our marriage counseling sessions.  He expressed to me his desire and willingness to try and connect with me on a much deeper level and to really try to let me in.  He said that a main reason why he had reservations in the past in trying was because he didn’t want to fail me or let me down if he wasn’t able to do so.  He said that he still worries today that he may not be able to.

Instead of getting upset with his response and saying ‘well what on earth are we doing this for then?’ I stopped that negative train of thought and had a good conversation with him.  I asked what it takes to have a strong, emotionally-deep relationship with a person.  How does one form that type of relationship?  He said that it is something that takes time.  It’s not something that can easily be formed but needs to slowly build and grow.  I told him that instead of worrying about his potential inability to not be able to connect with me, he should get the negative thinking out of his mind.  Instead I told him to forget the ‘what-ifs’ and focus on just trying to reconnect with me.  Our relationship has been rough for one reason or another since the beginning of our marriage and now we are both in a much better place individually as well as jointly.  So I told him that we need to just start new.  We need to start working to form a stronger relationship with one another now, both of us, together.  Only then, only given the time and energy and effort on both of our parts will we know for sure if he can really form that type of connection with me.  Yes it’s a risk.  I could find out that I give 100% and try, only to learn that he can’t connect with me on that deep of a level.  But I think it’s a risk I want and need to take.  I see the potential for our relationship to really bloom and grow into a relationship that I never thought it could.  Even in these last few weeks I’ve already seen him grow and open up to me in more ways than I had in the past.  That alone gives me confidence to keep pushing forward and to give this relationship everything I’ve got.

Day 25 down, 15 to go!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in The Love Dare, Uncategorized

 

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Day Twenty-Four : Love vs Lust

Friday, December 6, 2013 – Day 24: Love vs Lust

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It’s a quick and easy progression.  We see something, we cultivate the desire to obtain it, and then we act on that desire.  Quickly following the action is shame and regret.  We have been provided with everything we need from God in order to have a full and enjoyable life.  Like Adam and Eve, who had everything yet still wanted more, we are in a similar position.  We set out to obtain worldly pleasures.  Once we become curious about something, our hearts get drawn in and then it is just a matter of time before we act on that.

When people hear the word ‘lust’ they often equate that solely with things of a sexual nature.  Yet we can also be lustful towards obtaining money, fame, materials possessions or prideful ambition.  We see things we want and we crave it.  We often think that we will be happy if we have these things, and therefore in order to obtain happiness, we set out to obtain them.

Instead of showing gratitude for what we have, we set our hearts on things we want.  Every thing we are lusting after can become an obsession.  Yet lust always wants more.  If you allow it in, you will soon find that you are never content.  In a marriage, no matter how wonderful your spouse may be, lust will make you find dissatisfaction with them.  It destroys marriages.  Rather than finding fullness, it leaves one feeling empty.  God doesn’t want us to be unhappy and he isn’t denying us of anything, but directing us away from decisions that will not provide any real lasting happiness.

Think about things that have been enticing you.  What things are you currently longing for in order to find fulfillment?  Can you come to terms with the fact that you don’t need them?  Have you grown tired of striving after these things in order to obtain happiness, even though time and again you have found nothing but emptiness and disappointment?

Slowly start to shift your view back to God.  Focus on being grateful for the things that he has given you, rather than focusing on any cause for discontentment.  Place your focus on your spouse.  Love offers you the best life you can have.

Dare for day 24:

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Questions for pondering:  What did you identify as an area of lust?  What has this pursuit cost you over time?  How has it led you away from the person you want to be?  Write about your new commitment to see him – and to seek your spouse – rather than seeking after foolish desires.

I can easily identify one that has been an issue for a long time and that was attaining thinness.  I had this idea that once I would be thinner, I’d be happier…that all my problems of self-worth and self-esteem would be solved.  Being thin was the key; the missing link.  So I set my heart out to attain thinness.  Yet, it was never enough.  ‘Thinness’ is such a broad, undefinable term, that it created in me the desire to keep going, to keep losing.  It took a hold in my life and became my only priority, by means of my eating disorder.  It consumed every.single.day of my life.  I desired to have a skinny body more than I did to be happy, or healthy, or to work to find better ways to find self-worth and self-esteem.  Somehow I equated being thin with the only way I’d ever be happy with myself, meanwhile losing everything I was along the way.  Not only did I land myself in a pit of misery, isolation, depression, and despair, but I started to change.  The Elise I used to be, the happy, kind, considerate, affectionate, giving, patient girl was no longer there.  Instead a new Elise; someone irritable, crabby, isolated, angry, and short-tempered took her place.  I started to turn into someone I didn’t even recognize and certainly not someone that others recognized or liked.

Today, I’ve made vasts improvements in this area.  My eating disorder has gotten much more under control now and doesn’t have the same prominence in my life as it had.  I am now becoming that ‘old Elise’ again and that is such a beautiful thing.  I’m finally satisfied with my weight, which is amazing.  And not only that, but I’m AT a healthy weight.  So it is possible to be content at a healthy weight.  However, the thing about ‘lusts’ though is that they are always looming around you.  If you aren’t aware of it or on guard, just that quickly, they can start to filter back into your life.  That’s why it’s imperative that I continue to keep things in check and really continue to push myself forward in my recovery.  You can never have a day where you let your guard down.

I know just how vain it is to seek something that is impermanent and something that is essentially ‘unattainable’.  Since being thin is not so easily defined, it’s striving after something that could never be achieved.  I want to place my importance on things that matter.  Who I am as a person.  Being the best friend I can be.  Giving my parents reason to be proud and being the best daughter I can be.  I want to be present in my life, in my relationships.  I want to be viewed as a good employee and co-worker who is hardworking and gives her all.  Life is out there, waiting to be lived.  I don’t want to let it pass me by because I am too caught up with myself and my body.  It’s time to put things in perspective and get the life that I want to live.  I have the power to make that happen.  And I also have the power to be present in my relationship with Scott.  He deserves it; we deserve it.

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Day 24 down, 16 to go!

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2013 in The Love Dare, Uncategorized

 

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Day Twenty-Three : Love Always Protects

Thursday, December 5, 2013 – Day 23: Love Always Protects

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When a couple marries, they never intend to become enemies. The intention is to have a lifetime full of love and happiness. Yet with divorce rates being so high, it is quite evident that there are seemingly insurmountable obstaces to overcome in a marriage. There are problems that can start to arise. That’s why it is necessary to stay on guard and be alert of those things that can slowly start to tear a marriage apart. Acting in love makes one fight against those corrosive influences and allows one to put on armor to fight off and protect its own.

There are many examples of problems that can slowly start to creep into a marriage. The Love Dare addressed 6 different examples. 1) Misplaced priorities.  Even good things can turn into something harmful if it becomes all-consuming.  Innocent things such as friends, hobbies, or work can overrun a relationship if they aren’t kept in their proper place.  2) Unhealthy relationships.  Sometimes we have toxic friendships that don’t help or support a healthy relationship with our spouse.  They may be the type of people that discourage us from trying to work things through, or reason with us that we can just give up and “throw in the towel”.  3) Harmful influences.  Are technology and the internet staying in their proper place?  These things can be enjoyable but they can also allow for a waste of time and draw you away from your spouse.  4) Sexual temptation.  It can be all too easy to start to slowly get close with a particular person of the opposite-sex.  It may start off innocently enough, but the more you let your guard down and allow emotional attachments to form, the easier it can be for the other person, or even you, to start to develop feelings for another person.  Any relationship that starts to pull your affection away from your spouse is entering a dangerous territory.  5) Shame.  We all have our weaknesses.  Our spouses often see our weakness more than anyone else, and vice versa.  We don’t want to share our spouses secrets or reveal things about them to others.  Love covers over the faults of others.  6) Parasites.  Parasites can be anything that grabs a hold of you or your spouse and pull the life right out of your relationship.  It can be easily identified with addictions like alcohol or drugs.  While it may seem to offer pleasure in the moment, it can quickly turn into an all-consuming addiction.  They steal you away from the people you love.  If there is a parasite in your marriage, it is bound to fail.

As a spouse, you have a role to be a protector.  It is essential that you guard your heart and don’t have a blurred perception of what is real or place expectations upon your spouse that they will never be able to live up to.

Dare for day 23:

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Questions for pondering:  What did you throw out first?  Are there others that need to go as well?  What do you hope the removal of these things will do for you, your marriage, and your relationship with God?

The first thing that comes to mind along the lines of an ‘addiction’ for me would be my eating disorder and things relating to my eating disorder.  I can remember just how much it impacted our relationship in the past.  It was all consuming.  I couldn’t ever give my focus or attention to Scott or our relationship because I was so consumed with my eating disorder.  Nothing else mattered.  I was numb to anything and everything else going on.  Which clearly meant I couldn’t be present in my relationship and marriage with Scott.  I was not there for my husband.  I have made HUGE improvements in my recovery and my eating disorder has taken a backseat in my life.  I want to ensure that I don’t let it ever spiral out of control again or start to overtake me again.  It is something I will always need to keep in check so as not to let it ruin me again, and therefore ruin my marriage.

Also in the past, exercise never had an appropriate place in my life.  It was the priority in my day and if anything got in the way of a scheduled workout, I would decline doing it.  Now I have a much healthier view of exercise.  I no longer let it take priority in my life.  There are things that are much more important, including simply spending time with my husband and being present for “life” to happen.  I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made in this area and want to make sure I keep this healthy view.

I’m certain there are other areas of my life that could use some tweaks and will continue to look for ways to let certain things out of my life that are unhealthy influences or take away from my marriage and relationship with Scott.

Day 23 down, 17 to go!

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2013 in The Love Dare, Uncategorized

 

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Day Twenty-Two : Love is Faithful

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 – Day 22: Love is Faithful

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This section reminded of the importance of loving God and loving others.  It should be our life’s work.  Love is often a hard thing to display towards others, but if we keep in mind the love that is shown to us, it will allow us to deal more lovingly with others.  We were intended to share love, so how do you respond when your love is seemingly rejected?  How would you respond if the person you were married to, who professed their undying love for you, stopped accepting your love?

No doubt when you make the choice to marry someone, you never anticipate your love for them fading or dying completely.  You always envision that love to flow freely and with ease and to never become difficult to express.  Yet if we keep in mind the unselfish love that Jesus has, it will allow us to continue to love even when that love is returned unwanted.  The Love Dare mentioned that “love is often expressed the most to those who deserve it the least.”  Maybe our spouses have hurt us or done things to us that we no longer feel they are worthy of our love.  Yet if we ask for God’s help, we can learn to express that love even when it seems impossible to do so.

Dare for day 22:

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This dare is actually extremely challenging for me.  I can’t even remember the last time I told Scott that I loved him.  It’s been that long.  To tell him I love him, out of the blue, after not telling him for so long, is a tough concept.  Yet, I did it.  I brought it up when we were together last night.  I told him that I recently learned what love really meant.  What true love and unconditional love really meant.  I told him that although I haven’t said it to him in a while and that although we’ve had many rough patches along the way, that my love for him is lasting, despite it all.  I told him that I never plan on stopping loving him.  It opened up a great conversation for us.  It also felt really good to say that to him.  Although it was difficult, I know it will only help things for us going forward.

Questions for Pondering:  Why is this kind of love impossible without the love of Christ beating in your heart?  How does his presence within you enable you to love, even when its primarily one-sided?

I think it takes a measure of forgiveness and understanding.  If you keep in mind that Jesus love was so self-sacrificing and given so freely even when we are all unworthy of it, it allows you to realize that we need to be more understanding and forgiving of others, too.  If he can continue to offer his love to us on a daily basis, despite all of our sins and failings, then how much more so should we try and do that to others.  He gave the greatest sacrifice and yet we still often times don’t show our appreciation.  Until we understand that love, there is no way we can fully grasp a love of that depth and a self-sacrificing form of love.

Day 22 down, 18 to go!

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2013 in The Love Dare, Uncategorized

 

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Day Twenty-One : Love is Satisfied in God

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 – Day Twenty-One: Love is Satisfied in God

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This section in the Love Dare discussed the importance of realizing that every single day we need God.  It is not a part-time thing, something we do when we face hardships and trials, but something we should be doing on a regular, consistent basis.  Too often today people think that money or personal success will ensure happiness and contentment.  When we feel low or unhappy, we think it’s because we don’t have something.  However, we don’t really realize that God didn’t intend for material things to be our source of happiness.  God will never disappoint us, even when others do.

Each day we have expectations we may place on our spouse…sometimes they may meet them, other times they may not.  Yet they do not have the ability to always meet our demands, either because our demands are unreasonable or simply because they are imperfect and can’t do everything we’d like them to do.  Yet God never disappoints.  He will always exceed our expectations.  We can always turn to God to fulfill the real needs we have in our lives.

Our spouses don’t have the ability to give us inner peace and yet that is in the realm of possibility for God.  Our spouses may not be able to offer us contentment when life throws us challenges, yet God can.  We can’t expect other people, including our spouses, to keep us going or leave us feeling fulfilled on a continual basis.  Our desire to find love and intimacy, peace and joy are real.  Yet instead of trying to attain those things by focusing on unstable things, like our health, money, and even our spouse, we need to focus on God.  He’s the only constant in our lives who will always be there for us.

When we try to find happiness through material possessions, we will never attain it.  Yet when we try and pursue a close relationship with God, we can.  It’s a matter of making that relationship a top priority in our lives.

Dare for day 21:

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Questions for pondering: How do you think spending time daily with God will change your situation and perspective?  How can you make him a bigger part of your day?

I think that by allowing God into my life more, I’ll be able to fully create a deeper relationship and connection with him.  The more I allow him into my life, the more I am convinced that I will be able to keep strong in all areas of my life.

Day 21 down, 19 to go!

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2013 in The Love Dare, Uncategorized

 

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