If You Can’t Say Something Nice …

Be QuietToday is National Say Something Nice Day. That would make my mother happy. She lived that theory “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” Easier said than done.

If you’re married, you already know it can be tough duty. Especially in the face of what my husband, Ron, and I call, “an intense moment of fellowship.” When it gets heated, something nice is not always the first thing that rolls off my tongue.

And the tongue is often the problem with conflict, isn’t it? The Word gives us that heads up. “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way,” James 3:2 (NLT).

You mean if I could manage my mouth, I’d also be able to resist the call of Cappuccino Crunch ice cream? Now there’s some motivation!

Over the years I’ve become more aware of the need to be intentional with Ron when conflict arises. Mostly because the Spirit of the Lord has been persistent to point out missed opportunities, little slips, and major mishaps of the mouth. I’m working on it.

Just remember we do have an enemy, but it’s not our spouse! Marriage is worth the effort and it’s always worth fighting for.

So celebrate the opportunity to say something nice today. Smile  when you say it. A kiss and a hug for your sweetheart can help seal the deal. And if you really want to make an impression – write it down. Slip it in his pocket or tuck it in her purse to discover when least expected. It might just make your honey’s day.

And it will make your Mama so proud!

Want more help on this topic? Our new book, Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! releases June 21. But you can pre-order it and enjoy a 37% discount on the cover price. Find it here: Book Deal  Don’t delay – this special offer is only good through June 20, 2016!

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

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!)

Week 6: I Choose You Challenge – Commitment

CommitmentDid you realize there are three different levels of commitment in marriage? And only one of them helps secure the happily-ever-after you dream of. Are you choosing it? Take a look and discover the choice you can make, beginning today! Fine it here: Commitment

My New Favorite

3 Star Golden Vector Icon ButtonWith the release of a new book, authors typically follow the reviews closely to get a “read” on the response to their work. I’m one of those authors. Several times a day, I login and take a look. It’s kind of like showing up at work with your new baby and having the group give it the once over. You labored painfully, birthed it, and now it’s on display for everyone to see. And comment on. I recall my always-appropriate mother once step back from a wrinkly squawking bundle of joy and say, “Wow! Now that’s a baby!” It was the kindest remark she could muster in the moment.

That’s typical of the information you receive on your book baby. Some days you feel pretty good about the data. Other days, not as much. And the perfectionist in me can fixate on the few that are not so good.

I’ve been blessed not to have anyone take to my bundle with a hatchet or an ax to grind, but on a five-point rating scale, you pray for reviews in the four or five star category. But today, I’ve got a new favorite. A three-star favorite.

The review caught me off-guard, as three stars is not a predictor for great news. She had received the book free of charge through an Amazon program, and often folks get books they’d never have purchased on their own. So as a faith-based author, you occasionally get some folks unhappy that you reminded them about God.

But this reader titled her review as “Helped Me Realize a Thing or Two.” That created real curiosity on my part. Here’s what she said:

“I’m not usually into self-help relationship books that are based on religion but this one seemed like a good fit for my situation. I picked this up weeks before my husband plopped down divorce papers on the counter so… yeah. There’s that.

There is a lot of helpful advice here to take – religious or not. The religion base didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. The thing that stuck with me the most was the fact of “I choose you.” and being married or even being with someone for over a decade, sometimes you forget why you’re there. Sometimes life sweeps you up and drops you both on your butt and all you can think about is all the stressful parts of life. You lose sight of the fact that this person is here because they decided to dedicate their life to helping you. To being there for you. Yet it’s so easy to push them away. To say we’re fine when we’re not. Then get angry that “no one was there for us.”

 I still choose my husband today and he still chooses me. Beyond that, we’ll have to figure it out. But I am thankful I decided to pick up this book.”

 And so, she helped me realize a thing or two . . .

God is at work in my work. When I’m sitting at the computer, I’ve got the Christ-following reader in my head. I thought I was writing for them. God’s got the bigger plan in mind and my hands on the keyboard belong to Him and His purposes. He sees every reader as a candidate for kingdom principles. I need to understand that.

5-Star reviews are great, but ministry is the point. Whether the reader’s a believer or not, I write to point others to Him and His love for us. Period. Not to entertain or amuse, (but maybe to challenge) and to draw them closer to an intimate connection with God.

Since ministry is the point, God holds me accountable for that privilege. There are days when getting the words on the page is demanding and difficult. Getting the right words on the page must always be my standard; can’t settle for anything less.

So thank you three-star lady. Today – and maybe for a lot of days still to come – you are my favorite.

Book Cover Reveal: I Choose You Today

The cover for my new book, I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last, has been visible on all the online bookseller sites for months. So I thought it was time to share it with all of you, here at Family Matters. The publisher, Abingdon Press, did a beautiful job and I couldn’t be more pleased. I hope  you like it too! Look for it beginning January 6, 2015.
Cover I choose you today JPG

Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships

The caricatures are everywhere, the jokes are inexhaustible, and the stereotypes fill the screens. From Marie Barone (Everyone Loves Raymond) to Viola Fields (Monster-in-Law) to Internet sites and social media pages like ihatemyinlaws.com and a Facebook page for ihatemymotherinlaw there is no shortage of examples of the caustic relationships that can develop between the two women in a man’s life.

Deb DeArmond and her three daughters-in-law have conducted their own exhaustive research into the status of the women-in-law relationship. Their research, which incorporated online surveys, interviews, and discussions, included asking about the faith factor in the relationships they studied. Of the respondents, nearly 90 percent claimed they were Christians, and 79 percent said their faith was foundational and guided their actions and decisions. As discouraging as it may be, the numbers of those they surveyed who reported that their women-in-law relationships were “bad” were nearly identical to those in a survey conducted by a popular secular website that recorded no statistics on faith.

Beyond the statistics and their analysis, Deb brings to this book more than thirty years working with adults to improve communications and deal constructively with conflict. Aside from her research and her professional expertise, perhaps the most important asset Deb brings to this work is her own relationship with her three daughters-in-law that is so obviously and unusually positive that she—and they—are often asked to explain the secret of the relationships they share.

This practical and unapologetically scriptural book covers issues of personal perceptions, strained communication, the roles of sons and fathers in the relationship’s success, how to begin these relationships on the right foot, and the necessity of trust and love. Deb’s one motivating objective is to help women-in-law move from women who are simply related to strong and confident members of a truly spiritual family.