Three Tips for Great Family Getaways

vacationA recent girl’s night out included some shared appetizers, cool beverages and tons of conversation. It had been a while since this group had all been together and we had a lot of catching up to do.

Eventually the conversation focused on “what I did for summer vacation.” A big birthday and significant anniversary had been celebrated with a trip to Portland. An upcoming New York weekend, including a Broadway show, was discussed. And two shared their version of the Chevy Chase “Family Vacation.” You know the ones: rock-hard beds in tiny shared quarters where you learn way too much about one another. The kayak river trip in a mostly dried up creek, or the beach trip that featured six straight days of rain. People can get cross with the circumstances—and with one another.

We laughed till we cried, but later I thought about the tradition of family vacations. We laugh at Clark Griswold’s family because we’ve most likely been there at some point. All that togetherness can be a challenge.

Vacations with little ones can be stressful; they’re away from the familiar, routines are disrupted, and the items that comfort them are unavailable. Our own summer getaways when our boys were young were spent in the 113 degree heat of Palm Springs at the Oasis Water Park and Resort. Sounds swanky, right? In the winter, we’d have paid a premium price. But in July, $99 a night bought us a two bedroom condo with maid service and daily water park passes for the entire family. Living big, I tell you.

We continued the tradition as our sons became adults, adding their wives and little boys as they appeared on the scene.  We’ve enjoyed snowy mountains at Christmas, Florida’s DisneyWorld, and the many attractions of Southern California. Each trip offered a challenge or two, but we enjoyed them and recall them fondly. It’s been two years since our last trip, and we’ve added four more little boys to the mix in that time, but we look forward to the next opportunity to do it again.

Traveling with adult children is a very different experience and requires a process that varies from when they were little. And even though the traditional summer vacation season is drawing to a close, three day weekends and trips for the holidays are year round. We’ve gained some insights over the years, so  I’m sharing some ideas that surfaced as we’ve traveled together. Here are three tips we’ve discovered that can make a big difference.

  • Include EVERYONE in the planning process. You might be surprised to learn that your services as travel director and tour guide are not always welcome. You may prefer to hit the beach while others would rather see the museums or area theme parks. Let everyone weigh in; we all like to be heard. Does everyone have to do everything together everyday? Or is there room for a freestyle day when the group splits off to pursue varied interests? A break from all that togetherness can be a great bonus!
  • Clarify expectations. What are the financial arrangements? Will the cost be shared evenly across the family? What if one couple has three kids, and another has none? Will they pay the same for the lodging, rental car, and meals you prepare in your condo or cabin? Do the math well in advance so everyone knows what to expect. And what about chores? If you’re in a rental home, consider creating a plan. Rotate cooking, clean up and trash duty. Discuss it before plans are made so no one is surprised. A family meeting to discuss the details will make a big difference.
  • Be flexible. The cabin might be a bit musty, hikes gets rained out, and rental cars break down on occasion. Know going in this stuff happens, and if it does, make the best of it. Air out the cabin, do a rainy day movie marathon, and tell Hertz you expect a big upgrade in the replacement vehicle. Remember the unofficial beatitude: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break!

The “vacation” might simply be a family visit to celebrate the holidays together. Will the grandparents be expected to be on-call babysitters? We usually offer a time to let the big kids have some time together while we enjoy our grandsons. Recently we split it up: the girls stayed in with the six little boys one night, and the guys were on duty the next. Again, communicating is key; make no assumptions.

Lastly, remember that one of the big benefits is the chance to be together, to enjoy one another’s company. It should be a feature of the vacay, not a cross to bear. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving weekend, a Christmas trip seeking sunshine, or a traditional summer vacation, a little pre-planning can make it one for the scrapbooks!

Normal’s Overrated!

DeArmond40th-69Ron and I recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. It doesn’t seem possible. We were teenagers when we met and are still best friends and very much in love.

Since we’re often asked “How did you do that?” I thought I’d share our big secret.

It came from an unusual and unexpected source – our son, Cameron. Along with his two brothers, Jordan and Bryce, Cameron took a moment to say a few words and share a memory or two at our anniversary celebration.

His first few words took me back a bit: ” I’ve titled this: Anything But Normal,” he said. “Twenty years under their roof proved to me my parents are not normal—at all. Not in an Adams Family kind of way. More like an America’s Funniest Home Videos, kind of way.”

I admit, I got a little nervous in that moment. Was he going to share our most embarrassing moments? Our fumbles as husband and wife or parents? Oh Lord, there are too many for me to even remember! 

I need not have worried.

Cameron continued, “I lived in a house of honest conversation—not necessarily always quiet conversation, but honest. You knew where you stood with Mom and Dad and you knew where Mom and Dad stood with each other. I lived in a house where “I’m sorry” and “Will you forgive me?” were modeled daily. That’s not natural, not normal.”

I took a deep, sweet breath. He went on to illustrate our many abnormalities – a tribute to the fact we did things differently in our home than in others he knew. He nailed it.

If I had to identify one consistent practice that held us together, and molded our individual lives into one – it would not be that we never argued or became upset with one another. We did. Often. Sometimes loudly with a bit of ugly thrown in for good measure.

No, the one thing that has made God’s crazy math (1+1=1) possible, would be that we took responsibility for our behavior. “I’m sorry” and “Will you forgive me?” are not magic, but they are transformative. In those brief sentences we morphed from adversaries into allies – aligned with God and defeating an enemy who loves to divide.

Try it – own your upset, admit you’re wrong, acknowledge, “I got a little over the top in that discussion.” Just follow the light from His word and you’re there. Join the ranks of the abnormal; come on over to the bright side.

Normality is overrated anyway.

 

 

Use Your Words!

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“If you’re upset or need something, don’t whine or complain. Use your words.”

I raised three sons in a busy household. A kindergartner, a toddler and a newborn in one thousand square feet. It could be the best gig ever on good days and so defeating on bad ones. Missed naps could create crabby kids. Meltdowns were rare, but an empty peanut butter jar or a lost toy could push even the best behaved into tantrum territory.

Little has changed. Kids are the same today.

“Use your words,” is a phrase I hear directed at young ones with a cranky complaint delivered via non-verbal communication. Pouting, sulking, whining and crying seem to be among the favorite methods to express dissatisfaction with life in the moment. I’m embarrassed to admit I avoid young families in the grocery store checkout line. It’s that “impulse” aisle—those candy and chewing gum infused shelves right at eye level for kids. It’s the perfect storm; a melee in the making.

I recently watched a sweet mom at church remind her three year old to “use your words if you want me to listen to you.” It made me wonder, does God ever feel that way about me?  

Perhaps like you, I have my moments. Times I’ve needed a nap, or a meal, or maybe a chill pill. Times when my communication devolves to the toddler-toned whine or the full-blown tantrum. “I’m tired” or “I was upset,” are the excuses that accompany the inevitable apology. God’s not impressed, but He’s faithful to forgive – and He’s equipped us to do better.

Consider:

  • Words are a gift.     

 The Lord’s given us the ability to express our fears, our hurts, our hopes, and concerns. Among His most valuable gifts (especially when feelings run high) is our voice. Our words. Words are certainly an upgrade over the grunt or groan of the caveman. And James certainly agrees: “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it,” James 3:5 (MSG).

  • Words are powerful. 

God spoke the worlds into existence. Our confession that Jesus is Lord transforms us into new creatures in Christ and changes our destiny forever.

  • Words matter.

Jesus is the living word. His words in our mouths are the mightiest communication we can create. His words change circumstances.

 

When life is discouraging, disappointing, or downright devastating, His words give us hope: “ For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:13 (NLT).

When financial issues pile on and the numbers don’t add up, declare His words, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19 (NIV).

I’ve always delighted in words. I love finding the right ones, the perfect turn of phrase to express delight or dismay. To praise or petition. Turns out not only does our Abba Father listen to us, He provides us the perfect words.

His words.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path,” Psalm 119:105 (NLT).

Powerful. Effective. Always successful.

“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it,” Isaiah 55:11 (NLT).

Now, that’s quite a promise!

What words will you use today to find favor, comfort, direction, or success?

 

 

 

Margin For Error


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Margin for Error

 My husband and I recently completed what may have been the most significant collaboration of our marriage, with the exception of creating three marvelous human being with our bare hands. Well, perhaps that’s not exactly how it worked, but you understand what I mean. We’ve written a book together. Two heads, two hearts, but only one set of hands on the keyboards. It’s only practical. Four hands could create a lot of words, but few would result in in chapters that made sense.

The topic of the book? Marital conflict. Trust me when I assure you we’ve personally tested every idea and approach in the book. We did it contemporaneously with writing the book.

At one point, we realized we’re incredibly qualified to author such a work. We’ve been disagreeing for years. Forty-plus years, to be exact. We’re both strongly opinioned people who are not hesitant to share our thoughts. Intensely, at times. But at least no one around here can say, “Gee, I didn’t know you felt that way.”

Those intense moments of fellowship, however, have not dimmed the intensity with which we love one another. It’s as fierce as it’s ever been.

Recently, however, during one of those “he said, she said” conversations, I stopped to consider whether it might be time to cut one another a break now and then. The issue at the heart of the discord was insignificant; it was a matter of principle. Or so I thought.

The Lord pulled me up short and encouraged me to examine which “principle” had placed me on my high horse, as my mom might say. “Was it love?” His Spirit inquired. “Or patience? How about selflessness or humility?

Um. No. It was the I’m right, I know I’m right, and you need to know that too, principle.

It’s not there. In the love chapter. Or the Beatitudes. Or the gifts of the Spirit.  I looked. Ugh.

Because He’s a good, good Father, He didn’t leave me there. He brought a turn of phrase to mind. You two need to create a margin of error for one another. What does that mean? Isn’t it a financial term? Math is my third language (apparently High Horse is #2). But I looked it up. Here’s what I found:

Margin for (of) error:

  1. an extra amount of something, such as time or money, which you allow because there might be a mistake in your calculations.
  2. an amount (usually small) that is allowed for in case of miscalculation or change of circumstances.

An extra amount of something? Like humility, patience or love, perhaps? In case of a change of circumstances? Isn’t that where we live these days? At the corner of empty nest and why don’t you listen to me anymore? 

When I consider our years together, I’m convinced we’ve beaten the odds of most who marry as teenagers. We had no clue what we were saying “I do, to” that day at the altar.

And when I consider our years, our age, while we’re certainly not old, I recognize we have a lot of stuff on our hard drive, better known as the brain. We walk into rooms without recalling why we entered. And there do seem to be more frequent, “You never told me that!” “Oh yes, I did,” conversations recently. So how do we fix it? How do we inject kindness, patience, and mercy into our interactions?

Create a margin for error. We must accept there is a possibility, no matter how slight, that you said it and I didn’t hear you. Abdicate the need to be right; send the high horse out to pasture. Release the dogma. Gumby up—be flexible enough to deposit a bit of extra love to smooth the path.

Here are a few tips to help create that margin.

  • Face to face communication. Ditch the drive by interaction with 10 assorted and unrelated topics on your way out the door or while he’s brushing his teeth. The eye contact makes a difference in retention.
  • Write it down. I’m a list maker. If it’s not on the list, I’m not responsible for it. If it’s there, it gets done. My husband doesn’t use lists, but science tells us something magic happens between the brain and the hand. We get it. It’s a done deal. Plus there’s a written record in the event you need evidence in court, “I’m sorry, your honor, I had to put him in time out. Dry cleaning pick up was definitely on the list! Please review my exhibit A!”
  • Check for understanding. Confirm you both heard and understand the details in the same way. “So, we need to leave for the airport by 4:30pm. Is that right? You’re comfortable with that?”
  • Let. It. Go. I can hardly type the words without hearing the Disney darling belting it out. Let it go. It’s not my gift. Ron once said to me, “It’s not enough that I eventually just agree with you. You want me to believe that you are right!” Why is that a problem for him? I mean, I was right, right? So it shouldn’t be difficult for him to acknowledge it. Don’t you agree? And then I hear the Holy Spirit, tapping His toe. I got it.

Another definition tells us that margin is a place of safety or something that makes a particular thing possible. Like loving one another, fiercely, all the days the good Lord gives us with fewer bumps and scrapes. Or scraps.

And you know I’m right about that.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Fonda MILToday I am sharing an abridged excerpt from my first book, “Related By Chance, Family By Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships. I hope you enjoy it. You can find the book at Amazon with this link: Amazon

“This is my mother-in-love, Deb.”

The young woman behind the counter in the green apron smiled at me and waved. She was Sarah’s Starbucks boss, and I was glad to meet her. I was thrilled, however, with my daughter-in-law’s introduction of me. “Mother-in-love” was a sweet surprise, and I was once again reminded why this lovely girl has captured not only my son’s heart, but mine as well.

Mother-in-love is what Sarah calls me when she introduces me to friends or coworkers. It touches my heart and makes me smile when she says it. It is a wonderful honor. It also made me think about the terms in-law and in-love. I was intrigued by the contrast of these two titles. Love versus law. The more I meditated on them, the more interested I became. Where did the term in-law originate?

The explanation is simple: we are in-laws because of the legal joining of the couple. We are related according to and through the law.

Next on my quest was to understand what the term law means. What are its attributes? How does it serve? Who does it protect? The law has specific qualities and characteristics that distinctly define it.

• The law limits and excludes.
• The law is a finite thing: black and white, inflexible, ?focused on minute details.
• The law is conditional: if you, then I.
• The law is of the mind and intellect.
• The law seeks to benefit itself. Its only fulfillment is to ?be obeyed.
• The law is without emotion and without mercy, and it ?pronounces judgment.
• The law demands a high price to be paid if it is not ?observed correctly.
• The law is designed to rule by power; it enforces norms ?and standards of behavior.

The purpose of the law includes a coercive effect in regulating conduct. ?If a personal or family relationship is ruled by law, it leaves a lot to be desired, doesn’t it?

The law is inflexible and coercive, enforcing standards established through harsh penalty. It is relationship based on the conditional proposition that if you do as I require, then I will not punish you, or I may even provide you with some benefit. Wasn’t that the arrangement between God and man after the Fall in the garden and before the death of Christ on our behalf?

Relationship between God and man before grace was built on the Law given to Moses. The book of Leviticus provides a thorough and detailed description of the requirements by which man could maintain relationship with God. There was a lot of blood involved. It required daily attention and a constant investment of time. The next required act of obedience was never far from one’s mind, because the penalties for failing to follow the Law were substantial.

Sounds like some in-law relationships I know. Characterized by demand and obedience, inflexibility and personal preference, these relationships choke out the potential for family unity and harmony. Grudges are nursed like babies at the breast. Walls are erected, bridges are burned, and the structure of the family divides like the waters of the Red Sea.

But love is quite another matter. The characteristics of love are very different.

• Love is a living thing.
• Love overlooks, forgives, and grants pardon.?• Love includes and gathers in.
• Love is easily satisfied and does not demand on its own behalf.
• Love is unconditional.
• Love is from the heart and seeks to benefit others at the expense of itself.
• Love is fulfilled when it’s invested and given away.
• Love is full of mercy.
• Love pays the price.

Now that’s more like it. There’s an element of promise, hope, and possibility in a relationship rooted and grounded in love.

So, the burning question is this: Should we be living our in-law relationship in love or under the law?

It’s not a surprise the Word of God provides us direction.

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law,” (Rom. 13:8). “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works,” (Heb. 10:24).

Love accomplishes what the law cannot. And love is a choice.

Christ chose to love us when we were anything but lovable. He knew every last secret, every shred of pride and rebellion, every ugly thought. All of it. He loved us still. And He asks us to do the same to a lost and dying world. Even with our woman-in-law.

Demonstrating love on a daily basis is not easy. Some people are hard to love. They are difficult, arrogant, opinionated, prideful, selfish, and the list goes on. It does not matter to Christ. To love those who are lovable is nothing special—those who walk without Jesus can manage that. He asks us to love those whose behavior is hurtful and damaging.

That’s a tall order. Being civil is not sufficient. Love those who seem determined to take you down, to hurt and demean you. Pray for the ones who use you in a spiteful way. Remember that before we trusted in Christ, we were just as unlovely in the eyes of a perfect and spotless Lord Jesus. If we can’t or won’t make this our goal, we are failing to follow the foundations of life in Christ.

Love is a choice.

I hope you will make an important choice. If you desire to live your life aligned with God’s word on the subject of MILs and DILs, this book can be a very helpful tool. You can find Related By Chance, Family By Choice at this link: Books by Deb

Week 9: I Choose You Challenge: Forgiveness

Forgive Week 9“A good marriage is made up of two forgivers.” That’s the gospel truth. There’s no other relationship that will give us so much opportunity to develop this ability. God’s got lots to say on the subject. It’s the topic of this week’s I Choose You Challenge.

Find it here: I Choose to Forgive

Week 8: I Choose You Challenge – Trust!

Week 8 IChoseYou-8TrustIt’s Week 8 of the I Choose You Today Ten Week Challenge! This week is one of those tricky issues: trust. Regardless of your trust track record of the past, you can take it to the next level. Whether it’s solid, or on shaky ground – you can build or repair it starting today. It’s always your choice!

Find the link to this week’s podcast and trust handout here: Week 8 Trust

Week 7: I Choose You Challenge – Loyalty

Week 7 ChallengeThis week’s focus is loyalty. Even the Bible acknowledges loyalty’s not easy to come by: “Many people will say that they are loyal, but who can find a reliable person?”—Proverbs 20:6

Loyalty often comes at a cost, and it’s not a value we discuss often in our culture. It’s not based on our feelings in the moment. It requires doing what you said you’d do, long after the mood you said it in has gone.
What does loyalty require?
  • Consistent action.
  • Determined decision.
  • Dependable behavior.
Loyalty is about making the choice to remain reliable and faithful with the best interest of the other person guiding the decision.
It’s a choice. It’s always a choice.
This week you can win an Amazon gift certificate! Here are the details:
WIN a $15 Gift Card to Amazon.com
Tag me (@DebDeArmond) or my publisher (@AbingdonPress) in reposting the image shown above and you could win a $15 gift card to Amazon.com. We’ll randomly select a winner on Wednesday, April 15! Stay tuned to my Facebook Page to see if you win!

I Choose You – By Sara Bareilles

Several of you have asked me to post the lyrics to the song, I Choose You, that we played at my book launch by artist Sara Bareilles. I’ve done one better – here is the YouTube link with the music and the lyrics. It’s the perfect theme for my book. Enjoy – I think you’ll love it as much as I do! (If you are the home page, click the title above and the screen will appear to connect you!)