Early Warning System

By Deb DeArmond

This Or That Way Directions On A SignpostThe lock on the high-rise restroom door seemed a little loose. I wasn’t sure I could trust it. So when I heard another woman enter, I cleared my throat, putting her on notice: this stall is not available.

She clearly understood the signal, passed by and entered the stall two beyond mine. The system worked. It got me to thinking about the unspoken language we all seem to understand. . .

Sitting in church when my sons were teens often produced another of those trust is thin moments. I could see them from my vantage point. They routinely sat with the youth group across the aisle, toward the front. On occasion I would see notes passed back and forth, or what looked like it might be the beginning of “sermon inattention.” A quick clearing of my throat carried the message: I see you. Knock it off.

It was usually met with a stiffening of the spine and a slight look over the left shoulder. Eye contact finished the job. Nailed it.

I’ve only recently connected trust with the universal sign of throat clearing. But once considered, I marvel at its power.

Marriage is the ultimate opportunity to throw the sign. How many times have we been in a social situation when the conversation began to travel a path one or the other didn’t trust would end well and the soft guttural clearing of the throat performed its magic, steering the interaction onto the safety of the shoulder? More times than I can recall.

Of course there are times when it’s ignored completely (a failure to yield), or mistaken for a hay fever itch. The resulting crash and burn is never pleasant. Sometimes we simply misinterpret the message. It’s an error. But the failure to yield is a conscious choice to rush on, despite the opportunity to pause and consider.

Initially, it didn’t seem like a godly principle. But I’m wondering, have you ever experienced the equivalent of a Holy Ghost throat clearing? I’m sure  you have. Involved in a heated discussion, you are poised and ready to hurl an angry retort when suddenly . . .you hear it. This is your moment. You are reminded. Can you trust yourself to respond in love?

Did God send us His Spirit because He didn’t believe we could (or would) make the right choices without some assistance? That seems to be the case; He knew we’d need guidance.

John is clear about the work of God’s spirit as he recounts Christ’s reassurance before His ascension:  “The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. The Spirit doesn’t speak on His own. He will tell you only what He has heard from me, and He will let you know what is going to happen,” John 16:13 (CEV).

Isn’t that the same message we send in the stall, in the pew, or in conversations alongside our spouse? Consider it an early warning system from God: don’t stop here, straighten up, or change the subject, sweetheart. God’s rerouting our path, setting us straight, or sending us to safer territory. It comes softly, never outing us, the Spirit flying under the radar to redirect us. Amazingly gentle.

We all have those moments we need someone who loves us to say, “I see you. Knock it off.”

And you don’t want to miss that. Powerful stuff.

Release Day! I Choose You Today!

Cover I choose you today JPG

My new book, I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last, officially releases today! It’s now available in both paperback or electronic book at Amazon, ChristianBooks.com and even online at Target!

I invite you to join us for our upcoming 31 Week Challenge. It’s going to be great fun with free tools and resources, drawing for prizes and opportunities to share your story and hear that of others. You will be automatically enrolled for the challenge and eligible for the freebies by subscribing to this website.

I hope you will take a moment to read about the book here. I genuinely believe that whether you are engaged and hoping to start strong, a newlywed finding your way, or a long time married seeking to refresh or sustain your relationship, this book can help. It’s worked for my husband, Ron, and I for nearly 40 years.

What if you could hang on to the happily-ever-after feelings from the day you said, “I do?”  It could be as simple as four little words: I Choose You Today.

Words have the power to create. They also have the power to destroy. Everyday you have the power to choose which it will be for your marriage.

The spoken word carries extra weight. God spoke the world and life into existence. We enter into new life in Christ, by the confession of our mouth. We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Faith, spoken moves mountains. Our words can bless or curse. Words count.

What if we could enrich and preserve our marriages, breathing life into them through a daily profession of commitment to our relationship—one that aligns with the Word of God? Regardless of how we feel in the moment, choosing to bless, not curse our union?

I Choose You Today is based on the principle that marriage and love is always a choice—one that benefits from a daily-renewal of our commitment. Christ followers are charged to live in God’s truth. Feelings are not the basis for truth; feelings are subject to change. God’s Word is the basis for truth. The title of the book is built on the line included in the wedding ceremony: “I choose you to be my lawfully wedded husband to have and to hold….” Choice is a gift from God. We must choose marriage, choose our spouse, and choose to live in a way that pleases God. The book’s chapters contain thirty scriptural principles – or choices – that support marriage and help develop behaviors that support healthy relationships. Inspirational stories, conventional wisdom and thought-provoking questions help you explore your choices and commitment to each other . . . every day of your marriage.

Greg Smalley, Vice President of Family Ministry at Focus on the Family says this about I Choose You Today: 

  • “It’s often been said that our choices define us. That’s true personally, but it’s also a key to our relationships. Deb DeArmond has provided a practical and insightful book detailing 31 choices we can make as husbands and wives that have the potential to transform even a good marriage—and make it a great one.”

Dr. Meg Meeker, bestselling author and co-host of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk radio broadcast offered her review of the book:

  • I Choose You Today gives us a clear roadmap to achieve great love with our spouse. Every couple—married or not—will benefit from reading this book.”

James tells us: A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it!” (James 3:5 MSG).

What will you choose today?

Where There’s a Will, He Makes the Way!

Real People: Head Shoulders Caucasian Little Girl Arms Crossed“Debbie has a tendency toward willfulness.”

My mother spent much of my third grade year in the hospital. She suffered from terrible headaches that often sent her to bed. There were no MRI’s in 1963, and there were few treatments for what we now call migraines. A brain tumor was suspected as she went from hospital to hospital.

I spent those weeks sitting in white-walled waiting rooms, with the bitter smell of antiseptic, fearing my mom would die. At eight, it seemed like a reasonable fear.

What was not reasonable was the fear that struck once she was released. I would find any reason to avoid being away from Mom. Every morning a new malady appeared: my head hurt, I was sick to my stomach, the teacher didn’t like me, or the kids were mean to me. Each excuse had the same motive: I wanted to stay home to make sure my mother wouldn’t disappear again.

Reassurance didn’t work, nor did stern conversations, pleading or promising a treat if I’d just get dressed and go to school. When those efforts failed, the school psychologist became my new “friend” and Mom and I began a series of conversations and testing.

I recall it clearly: a very nice older man who seemed interested in me and what I thought and how I felt. Very pleasant. And eventually, either his conversations with us did help or I outgrew it, although I’m not sure which. But life returned to normal.

Thirty-seven years later, while sorting through Mom’s paperwork after her death, I found the report prepared by that school psychologist.

“Debbie has a tendency toward willfulness.”

It was not a compliment. It was not in the plus column.

And while it was true, it was never over the top, overt, throw a tantrum till I get my way willfulness. My folks were a couple of smart cookies who would never stand for that behavior. It was subtle. Skillful.  Understated.

The report went on to suggest, “When fearful, Debbie may try to control the situation, which must not be allowed. As her parents, you must assert your authority.”

This weekend I heard a gifted teacher at church speak about willfulness. “When obedience to God’s Word occurs it’s always an act of our will. A choice. Willful obedience.”

Hearing those words reminded me of the assessment of my character by that nice man in 1963. Is it possible I can use my powers for good, not for evil?

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose,” (Phil. 2:13) NIV.

Willful obedience. Willful mercy. Willful love, grace, forgiveness. An act of my choice, fueled not by fear, but by my loving Abba father, who desires to see me act in order to fulfill His good purpose, and who delights over me when I do. It’s the redemption of something the enemy once twisted to torment me, and Jesus has reclaimed it. I can see it now. The eight-year old me, who refuted authority, trying to run the table, is grown up.

Most days, at least.

Holidays bring family gatherings and occasionally, old hurts, fears, and resentments come along for the ride. The baggage of our past has the ability to turn even the most mature adult into a willful eight-year old.

This season can be different, by a simple act of our will, drawing on God’s strength, not our own. Choose peace. Refuse to pick up the offense. Willful grace, willful patience. Radical, willful obedience to love. This is my personal prayer, to fulfill His purpose and celebrate the birth of the One who makes it all possible.

Yup, using my powers for good!

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

A Trip in the Way-Back Machine

James TaylorBy Deb DeArmond

 

Bald heads, bad comb-overs, and enough bi-focals to start a bonfire. I was among my peeps.

We assembled to watch a music icon take the stage and transport us all to a sweet time in life—our twenties. That’s quite a voyage for most of us, judging from my fellow concertgoers in the event hall.

James Taylor, at age 66, continues to capture our hearts with his songs about love gained and lost, odd characters he’s known, and life in his beloved North Carolina. And I could sing every word without missing a beat. Odd, since I can’t remember where my car keys are most days or the time of my next appointment without consulting the calendar. Even if my last look was only an hour ago.

Music is the ultimate time machine. I hear the first few lines of “You’ve Got a Friend,” and I’m 16 again driving to the beach with a car full of girlfriends or dancing with my first love at the senior prom. Great memories. Good times. Easier times.

Does it happen to you?

I married my first love – my high school sweetheart, 39 years ago this week. Sitting together in that concert was a trip in the way back machine. I remembered how I saw him when we first fell in love. I was reminded how much I appreciate him, how much I love him, and how much I need him. When we first married, a simple look was all the reminder I needed. But years, and kids, and jobs, and broken toilets take their toll. I get caught up in the stuff around me and forget he was the man of my dreams nearly 40 years ago.

He still can be today.

But love and marriage are not feelings. They are choices every day. I must choose to put him before my job, my friends, and myself. I must choose to be patient when he’s on my last nerve, and to be praise him when he’s down – or when he’s rescued me (again) from a flat tire. It’s my choice today—and every day— to honor the choice I made nearly four decades ago.

John the Beloved wrote about first love in the book of Revelation. “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first,” Rev. 2:4 (NLT). First love is tough to maintain, whether you are a new bride or the Bride of Christ.

When I first met Jesus, my desire to spend time with Him was overwhelming, even if it meant skipping an evening with friends. Days without Him felt empty, and without purpose. Bible Study was something to look forward to, because I knew He’d be there.  Really quite similar to those early months of marriage. He’s still the same Jesus. But just as is true in life with my husband, I have been given the choice in my life to remember the Bridegroom. And the more often I choose Him, the greater my desire for Him.

Sweet Baby James took me back to the prom. Sweet Baby Jesus takes me to the Father. Climb aboard the way back machine – it’s the ride of a lifetime.

Bless My Mother-in-Law?? Really?

Mother with her daughterWith Mother’s Day just a few days away, why not entertain a new thought this year? Bless your husband’s mom. She did raise the man of your dreams, after all.  If for no reason other than that, this is a great time to let her know you appreciate her. Find my brand new article today on my friend Dawn Wilson’s website. Here’s the link:  Upgrade with Dawn

New Year, Clear Vision

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 12.03.06 PMThe coming of a new year nearly always includes a time of looking back. How did I do? What do I feel great about? What might I need or want to change going forward?

Could be some of the “starts” – eating healthfully, exercising more, carve out more family time. There are often some “stops” on the table: texting while driving, fried foods, or any number of bad habits you’d like to get rid of.

We also begin to look forward to how we will leverage our past success and identify ways to take new territory in those areas we’ve yet to achieve. Lots of us write New Year’s resolutions, which is just another term for a goal.

A goal without a plan, however, is just a dream. So one of the most helpful things I’ve discovered is to base those goals on something bigger. A vision of how I want to live my life – based on my values and beliefs.

Without a values based vision, I’ve meandered all over the self-help section of the bookstore and never really produced any lasting results. Where I’m going and how I get there needs to line up with who I am and what I believe.

I’ve created a brief booklet that contains the process for getting clear about my vision. I hope you will find it as helpful as I have. You will find the link below. Just download and start 2014 with a vision that’s focused and clear. And Happy New Year!

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD:   VISION STATEMENT TEMPLATE copy 2

CALLING ALL BOOK CLUB LOVERS!

Book Club Image copyI’ve recently added a couple of exciting new resources designed to help you get the most out of Related By Chance, Family By Choice. With book lovers in mind, it’s perfect for use book clubs, Bible studies or small group discussions. And if you are pressed for time and would like to go solo, it can help make your individual reading experience even more meaningful!

Under the tab “Resources” you will find two documents. The first is a guide for creating a book club or small group. It has information that will work with any book in addition to the discussion guide for Related. The second document is the discussion guide alone – perfect for all of you pros with experience in creating and running discussion groups and Bible studies.

I hope you’ll get a group together, or think about suggesting Related to your current group. If it’s local, I’d love to come for a Q & A session. If it’s somewhere out there, we can arrange a Skype connection.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions about using these resources! Happy reading!

Hug A Daughter-in-Law Today!

IMG_9999_237By Deb DeArmond

September 26 is National Daughter-in-Law Day. I’m blessed with three wonderful DILs. I’ve also authored a book on relationships between Daughters-in-Law and Mothers-in-Law. Related By Chance, Family By Choice, releasing November 1. This article is written as a reminder to mother-in-laws to honor those sometimes considered “the other woman.”

“You know what I love about you?” asked my daughter-in-law Sarah as we sat in our favorite coffeehouse. “You don’t have an opinion about everything we do.”

I almost laughed out loud.

“Of course, I do,” I replied. “I’m just not entitled to give it unless you ask for it or God instructs me to share it.”

She seemed surprised—and that felt good. Those who know me are aware I always have an opinion. Her surprise was feedback that I’d done a fairly good job of keeping it to myself more often than not.

Unsolicited advice on topics like finances, childrearing, cooking, or housekeeping masked behind “I’m just trying to help”—are a recipe for conflict. To your son’s wife, it sends the message that what she’s doing isn’t acceptable—she may feel you’re attempting to control her and the home she’s making for her family. The need to control never comes from a position of love. It comes from a position of fear. Let it go.

Instead, set your heart to pray for your daughter-in-law, to encourage her, to learn what’s important to her. I’d never been interested in the sport of running until DIL Penny joined our family. I’m looking forward to attending a race that marks her return to competitive running after the birth of my grandson. She’s her regaining her strength and speed. It’s been fun to share in her success, and I’m so proud of her.

When you appreciate the young woman your son has chosen, the need to point out her shortcomings becomes less tempting. Once you see her as God made her to be, you stop seeing flaws and you value her in a new way.

I recently shared an important lesson with a young friend, raising two little boys. She can’t imagine a woman could ever be good enough for them.

“If you make your sons the center of your world,” I told her, “you will be devastated, because you will never be the center of theirs.” She nodded, her eyes brimming with tears, the truth of the words sinking into her heart.

“How can I get beyond this? What can I do to make sure I don’t become a monster-in-law who ends up alienating not only my future daughters-in-law, but my sons as well?”

Here are the tips I shared with her.

  • Accept the Word as the authority on family order. The Lord is clear on this. The covenant we make is with our husbands, not our sons. Scripture in both the Old and New Testament all carry nearly identical passages about leaving and cleaving. It’s critical we acknowledge and submit to this principle. If it’s God’s plan for the family, it should be our plan.
  • Surrender your need to advise. This can be tough, but’s not optional. Wait till she asks, or until God prompts you. She may do things differently than you, but different is not wrong, it’s just different.
  • Pray for your son’s spouse-to-be. Son still single? Pray! When our son proposed after a very brief courtship, friends questioned my calm. The answer was simple: I had prayed for her all of his life. My heart recognized her the moment I met her. I experienced peace, certain of his choice. Praying for your son and his future wife when they’re still children also helps to prepare your heart. So no matter his age, pray. Start now.

When you are willing to honor your son’s choice, you are honoring God and walking in obedience. I didn’t lose my sons; I gained three wonderful daughters. What a gift.

The boys did not necessarily want a girl “just like the girl that married dear old dad.” We are unique, different from one another, but we share a love for Jesus and the desire to live life together successfully as a family. I learned to think of the differences as a gift. Different isn’t wrong—it’s just different.

Amazing how much easier it was to suspend judgment when I stopped comparing my way to theirs. I’ve been surprised by how much they can teach me if I’m open to learning. We’ve grown closer as a result. I know these are smart girls—they think my boys are wonderful!