Working Hard or Hardly Working?

We often enter adulthood with the perspective that doing chores at home is something to avoid.

We dread the simple tasks of cleaning or straightening the home. We put it off. We think of it as punishment or as menial.

That point of view is directly tied to a lack of gratitude for what God has given to each of us. Remember when you got your first car - you kept it washed and clean, you were so excited to have it. But after a while you take it for granted and washing is neglected.

First, I start with the attitude that I have the privilege of living in a home. I get to clean the bathroom because I have indoor plumbing and hot water. I am thankful for what God has provided! Cleaning isn’t a drudgery; it’s a joy!

But what if I am doing all of the household chores and no one else does anything? 

Second, my spouse and/or children (see more about children and chores below)  all come to an agreement that it is a home for all of us and it’s not one person’s responsibility. 

So, they aren’t “helping” me, they are being part of the family where we all take part in the tasks of a home. 

Third, be flexible about the criteria for what it means to run a household. I may think that vacuuming once a month is ample, my spouse may believe that it should be done weekly. Negotiate an acceptable level of cleanliness for both people. 

Realize that during the lifetime of a family, the responsibilities will change with different life situations. One may have a heavier work load outside the home. Another may be limited by physical abilities.

Finally, be appreciative to everyone whenever they complete their part of the tasks!

The Gift of Work……
We have become so engrossed in the work of the Lord that we have forgotten the Lord of the work. A.W. Tozer

God designed humans to work from the very beginning. Before the fall, God gave man a job, Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. [Genesis 2:15]

Whether it is a job that I go to everyday or if it is a task that I do at home, God gave me the ability to work. In that work, God wants me to glorify Him.

As I do the work, I can be a testimony to a loving, faithful God. I can show His joy and His peace in whatever realm that I operate. I can show my gratitude for having clothes to wash, food to cook, and a home to clean!

The work I do is a gift from God!

Divisions of Labor ....
Each couple, no matter their culture or socio-economic class, had this in common: They worked together as a team. There was no my work or your work. It's our home, so it's our work. Fawn Weaver (after interviewing couples around the world, who have been happily married for more than 25 years)

The goal is to agree on what needs to be done, how often, and who is going to do it.

This division of labor is not for the wife to say, “I need more help.” The division of labor is for both spouses to sit down and talk about their life together - from work hours to taking care of the kids, cooking, laundry, cleaning, yard work, car maintenance, etc.

Even if one spouse does not work outside the home, one person is not capable or should be 100% responsible for all of the above, BOTH spouses do some of it. More than anything, we need to see it as a team effort (including children). Depending on our stage in life, our roles and responsibilities will change.

For us, in our first seven years of marriage, we did not have kids yet and we both worked full time. Whoever got home from work first started dinner. We did dishes together. On Saturday mornings, we both cleaned house until it was done.

After we had children, Donna was a stay-at-home mom for several years. She took on more responsibility for cleaning. She cooked. Ed cleaned up. Donna bathed the kids. We both put them to bed.

As they started school, Donna started working part-time while they were in school. Ed and the kids cleaned more.

And now, kids are gone. We work together all day. Donna carries more of the work load at Living Well. Ed does all the cooking and cleaning. Donna does the laundry. When we see something that needs to be done, we do it - “it’s not my job” is not an option. We serve each other.

Also, every couple/family needs to see what each person is good at, what they hate doing, and what they enjoy. If both people hate doing it, consider outsourcing it or alternating who does it.

The whole process should be a negotiation - not an argument or dictation. We both thank the other for tasks completed - even if it’s their “job.”

Children and Chores ....
Research from a 75-year Harvard study examined what variables from earlier in life predict health and well-being later in life. Researchers found that children who were given chores became more independent adults. 

We are always amazed about how much Zambian children help to clean at home and at school. They don’t resent it, they enjoy it. When you ask them what they enjoy, they will say, “helping at home.”

One of the keys for involving children with chores at home is to start young. Toddlers want to help, but often make more of a mess than help. Give them a part, like moving chairs while you mop or adding ingredients when you cook; they learn how to do each one better and better. They enjoy it because you are together!

Even as children get older, make it a family time. It’s not work, it’s what we do as a family to take care of our home.

Another key is to be specific, not “clean your room,” but “put your toys away, make your bed.”

Making a checklist for them takes a lot of the nagging out of the process. They can see what still needs to be done, you don’t have to keep telling them.

Chores are not punishment; they are training for life.

What does the Perfect Spouse look like?

Perfect vs. Perfect for Me
The percent of young adults (25-34 yrs old) who are married has dropped by almost half in the last 50 years - now it is about 45%.

When asked why they aren’t married, the main responses are :
  • not financially prepared 
  • haven’t found what they are looking for 
  • not ready, too young 
Consequently, the age of first marriages has risen considerably. That statistic is not all bad.

But the reasons for the delay display a need to get everything right before taking the step of marriage. It is not that a person shouldn’t be thoughtful and prayerful about who to marry, but high expectations can delay or disintegrate the onset of a marriage relationship.

The search for the perfect person or the perfect relationship puts an unreasonable expectation and burden on a future marriage partner.

Waiting until the perfect moment in life to marry causes some people to forego marriage entirely or miss some of the best parts of marriage.

How many of us who have been married a long time cherish those first years of marriage?

Instead of waiting for the perfect timing, we plunged ahead to make our life together - figuring out life, career, and family as we went.

Instead of looking for the perfect person - look for the person who is perfect for you!

Instead of looking for the most attractive, the best personality, the smartest, or the most affluent, look for God’s perfect gift for you! 

A Gift
Within this Christian vision of marriage, here's what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, 'I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!   Tim Keller

God provides my spouse as a perfect gift to me. The person isn’t perfect but is perfect for me. That doesn’t mean that the marriage won’t have struggles or adversity. The marriage relationship is one of the instruments that God uses to make us more like Him!

Myth of Perfect Spouse ….
Marriage is more about being the right person than marrying the right person.

I start with a list in my head of qualities for a perfect spouse. If I can just find the person with whom I can be compatible - then we can have a great marriage!

The hard reality is - I am not compatible with anyone! The person that I should be most compatible to live with is a sibling of the same gender. We wouldn’t have gender differences. We would have very similar life experiences and family background. We have a similar genetic makeup.

But how many of us are compatible with a sibling? Didn’t we fight and argue when we were growing up together?

Ahhh, you say, but we get along fine now that we are adults. First of all, you don’t live together anymore. Secondly, you have matured - you won’t let anything come between you.

What is the application to marriage? 

It’s unrealistic to think that you will always get along with someone that you live with in such an intimate relationship and close proximity.

But as in a sibling relationship, we learn to overlook the irritating habits and understand the meaning behind their statements. We accept them as they are and love them no matter what.

The other part of this myth is that somehow I believe that I measure up to being the perfect spouse for someone else. Wrong! I am not a perfect person or a perfect spouse. In the same way I want my spouse to commit to love me for a lifetime, no matter what, I must make that same commitment. Then, we can learn to be compatible!

We have to work our way through the nuances of our personalities, our hope, our dreams, our goals, and our values. We end up with a marriage that has been forged in the fire into a beautiful work of God.

"For all the productivity and success advice I’ve read, shaped and marketed for dozens of authors in the last decade, I’ve never really seen someone come out and say: Find yourself a spouse who complements and supports you and makes you better."

That comment was written by a young male blogger about his marriage.

Who is The One?

Is it the bright, successful one? Be careful about making your (potential) spouse an idol.

Or is the one who will stand alongside you to find God’s will for your life together, who seeks the very best for you?

Christ's life unfolds, in part, as we learn to appreciate the gifts He has given us. How easy it is to blame others for our unhappiness, but we are only unhappy when something other than Christ has become our life. (For example) The husband or wife who has Christ as their life, comes to their spousal relationship already satisfied. They do not come continually looking to made happy by another person's attention; they bring Christ's life to their spouse.
Francis Frangipane

What happened to the fun in marriage?

We get married because we have fun together. Remember how you would talk for hours or hang out together, just the two of you?

Somewhere in marriage, through the years, we forget to preserve the fun.

Fun comes from time spent together and usually from an activity that we share. Click here to read  about how the drift occurs and ways to increase fun times together.

The fun in marriage can also come from enjoying my spouse and seeking to bring joy to my spouse’s life.

When I shift my focus to my own personal pleasure apart from the desires of my spouse, my selfishness has taken over.
I can find momentary pleasure in buying things or sex or eating or gambling, but the short term pleasure comes at the expense of happiness and joy in marriage.

God is NOT a cosmic killjoy! He created the world for our enjoyment, but He never intended for us to find that enjoyment apart from Him. When He satisfies my life, I don’t have to seek selfish pleasures, I can find joy in seeing my spouse have joy.

If you live for private pleasure at the expense of your spouse,
you are living against yourself and destroying your joy.
But if you devote yourself to the holy joy of your spouse,
you will also be living for your joy and
making a marriage after the image of Christ.
John Piper

The Joy ……

You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.  Psalm 16:11

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Philippians 4:4

God commands us to rejoice in Him. He promises us His joy and pleasure.

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.  C.S. Lewis

When we find joy in the Lord, we will be filled with JOY and can pour it into the lives around us . . . without demanding anything in return.

Are you drifting apart or running on separate tracks?

Being intentional about connecting in your marriage is essential to avoid the “drift” apart.

We start marriage on the track together. At some point we lose sight of the destination; the journey gets on separate tracks.

  • Too busy, not paying attention to each other and what is happening. 
  • Hurt by the other, turning away, instead of turning towards each other. 
  • Unrealistic expectations of each other. 
  • Don’t spend time together, lose that feeling of closeness. 
  • Don’t connect except to deal with problems. 
  • Consumed with work, kids, hobbies, etc.
To stop the drift, become intentional with connecting in your marriage! 

It may take time to get back on the same track but you can do it!
  • Daily: Spend 15-20 minutes every day talking face-to-face (not texting/calling unless you are in separate cities) with no family or friends in the room; cell phone and TV off. 
  • Weekly: Go out for fun! Just the two of you. No serious discussions. 
  • Yearly: Take two or more days off, go somewhere as a couple.

Finding Fun ….
Click here
Research shows that having fun together is a key factor related to a couples overall marital happiness.

To ensure successful, fun times together:
  • Agree on a daily time together. 
  • Make a regularly scheduled date night. Put it on your calendar. Block it off, make it a priority. 
  • Don’t discuss conflict issues on date nights. Fun only! 
  • Make date nights and get-aways appropriate for your budget. Find free activities in your area, take a walk, go to a park. Get the book “$10 Great Dates” for more ideas. 
  • Focus on each other. Put away cell phones. Inform the kids to call only if it’s an emergency. 
  • Try something new that you have never done before or go somewhere new. 
  • Make a list of dates that you would both enjoy. Write them out on cards. Get them out when it’s time to plan the next date. 
  • Let go of expectations. Enjoy the moment, even if it’s not what you thought it would be.
See our next post about bringing more joy to your marriage.

The Greatest Influence of a Life

For the hand that rocks the cradle,
Is the hand that rules the world.

William Ross Wallace

The influence of a mother is undeniable. The influence can be good, or not so good, … or some of both.

The topic of motherhood is full of emotion, for many reasons - the great mother who has passed away, the absent mother (physically or emotionally) that left a hole in a child’s life, the unfulfilled desire to be a mother, mother of children of another mother. [The complexities of motherhood will be explored in the next blog post.]

Even as I write this, I am full of emotion, thinking about my own mother. Even though she passed away over 7 years ago, I still talk to her in my mind everyday. Her presence is felt always.

My mother gave me a sense of self-confidence, a feeling of being loved always, and a positive spiritual influence. She wasn’t perfect, but she was a great mom. Her life has shown me that I don’t have to be perfect but I can still strive to be great.

Mothers have the most remarkable ability to love their children endlessly, no matter what. When we do that, we show them how God loves.

Our culture sends the message that achievement outside the home is more significant.

Without a debate on working versus staying home, moms that choose to work inside the home, raising their kids are doing a very significant and valuable job, one that no one else can fill!

Influence ……
The influence of a mother upon the lives of her children cannot be measured. They know and absorb her example and attitudes when it comes to questions of honesty, temperance, kindness, and industry. Billy Graham

Paul wrote to Timothy about the great influence of faith, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” 2 Timothy 1:5

Susanna Wesley gave birth to 19 children (10 survived past infancy). She had a strong spiritual impact on them. Two became great pastors who founded the Methodist church. John Wesley said of his mother, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.”

See the next post about the complexities of motherhood and fulfillment.

How To Live In A New Family

Two times in our lives we have the opportunity to have a new family – one is a spiritual family, the family of God, and the other is when we get married. Both times, God tells to leave the old behind and be united or to be one with the new.

What does that mean and why is it important? 

Many problems in marriage come from a lack of oneness in marriage. That lack of oneness often has its roots in a failure to leave the family of origin.

What does it mean to “leave” the family you grew up in?

It DOES NOT mean you:
  • Love them less 
  • Quit seeing them 
  • Don’t talk to them 
  • Don’t ask for advice 
It DOES mean that you:
  • Love your spouse as much or more than your parents/family 
  • Make your spouse a priority 
  • Are loyal to your spouse above anyone 
  • Are no longer under the authority of your parents 
  • Respect and honor your parents 
  • Go to your spouse first with a problem 
  • Decide as a couple what your values are 
  • Still see and spend time with your family 
  • Are the one who manages conflict with your own parents, rather than your spouse 
No matter what the situation or what our parents are like, we are to show them honor and respect - no matter what. That part never changes. We speak respectfully and honor their role as a parent.

Leaving your family is often difficult. It is hard to make that transition from talking to your mom/dad/sibling about events and feelings first, to talking to your spouse first.

Because it takes awhile for a couple to learn how to support each other and communicate, sometimes it is easier to go to your parents.

Your parents may give you advice whether you ask for it or not. We are to continue to be respectful but to make decisions about our new family with our spouse.

Many concurrent themes run through the Bible about leaving/uniting in marriage and leaving our old life to unite with Christ. See below for more info.

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.  C.S. Lewis

When we receive the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ, we are to leave behind the ways of the world and follow the Lord.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:22-24

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things….. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived…. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self.   Colossians 3:2, 7-10

See our next blog about the big picture and being united.

How to Love Well

From a very young age, we each want the people in our world to love us. We do things to get attention or to get approval. “If I do something nice for them, they will love me more.”

The universality of love confirms the central role it plays in life. Everyone wants to love and be loved.

Unfortunately, the weight falls to the “be loved” part of the equation for most people. We are more concerned about feeling loved than we are about giving love.

I wonder what would happen if we truly loved unconditionally - no matter what - expecting nothing in return.

It’s one thing to love someone, but to express that love in a way that the other person receives it - that’s another level.

Gary Chapman is well-known for his book, The Five Love Languages. He proposes the idea that everyone has one main way that we hear “the language of love.” He breaks down the five languages into Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical touch.

We think that we should go beyond those five. We believe that we should each be a “student of our mate.” I should study my spouse all of the time, so that I know how to express love to my spouse in a way that he can recognize it and receive it.

Even if “Acts of Service” is my spouse’s language, I need to know which acts are most important. I may think that I am being loving when I give him a gift, but he doesn’t care about it. He wants me to run some errands for him. Then, he knows that I love him!

Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.  C.S. Lewis

Rooted in Love ……
He loved us not because we are lovable, but because He is love. C.S. Lewis

I am incapable of loving unconditionally and without end. That’s right - it’s impossible for me. I can only love as God loves if He lives in me and through me. I do not have the capacity to love like that on my own.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:17b-18

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11

Dissipation of Love ….
That hunk of burning love that existed before marriage often gradually dissipates after marriage.

What happens?
  • I equate real love with that “hunk of burning love”. When the passion diminishes (and it will!), I think that I have lost the love.
  • I think my presence in the marriage shows my love, without doing anything else. Most people need some kind of connection to recognize the love of another. The connection could be touch, words, actions, or attention. 
  • I think that the same things mean love to my spouse that mean love to me. I may want my spouse to do something to show love, but my spouse wants me to give a hug. So, I keep doing things, but my mate doesn’t see the love without the affection.
  • When I don’t see love from my spouse, I quit giving love. My love is predicated on what he does or doesn’t do. I am not really loving unconditionally. I give out of what I receive from the other person, rather than giving from what I receive from God. My spouse isn’t capable of meeting my needs for love - only God can do that! 
  • We don’t intentionally work to strengthen our marriage. Neglect isn’t helpful. We don’t plan fun times together or set aside time to connect everyday. 
  • We allow relationships or activities to take precedent over our marriage. We may let our kids, parents, work, or hobbies to take more of our timed and/or attention.
Love Motives ....
When an action doesn’t come naturally to you, it is a greater expression of love. Gary Chapman

What is my motive for showing love to another person? 

Most of us don’t think about our motives. But usually I want something back from my friend or my spouse.

I may want to feel loved by another; I want that feeling that I am worthy to be loved.

I may want the other person to do something for me.

Or maybe I feel like I have fulfilled my duty by showing love to another.

Most of us want a deep, intimate connection with another person. We think we can achieve that by expressing love to them, so they will love me back, care about me, and connect with me. We confuse love’s actions with connection.

What if my motive was to see joy in that person?

Put the glory of Christ on display by pursuing your joy in the holy joy of your beloved. Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved.  John Piper