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!

ALL IN THE FAMILY

Tact-is-the-act-ofBy Deb DeArmond

I love this quote. Turns out Isaac Newton was not just a gravity genius. He apparently was a relationship guru as well. Must have come from a big family.

I was raised as an only child; my only sibling was 16 years my senior. By the time I was two, he had gone off to college and never returned to our home state. We grew close only after I grew up. So, as a child, I had my folks all to myself. I never needed to call “shotgun” to ride in the front seat, never had to split the last cookie with a younger sibling and never had the heartbreak that comes with being asked to sacrificially yield the last of the ice cream to another child in the family.

Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? I won’t lie—it was a great life. One I discovered (later in life) my friends envied. But it turns out, there was a dark side.

I never learned to share. Or at least to share graciously.

When required to do so in the midst of a school event or neighborhood pow-wow, I was known to be demanding, bossy and  loud about what I wanted.  Later I learned it was behavior considered immature. Well excuse me! Experience had taught me differently than it had my multi-siblinged comrades.

I eventually developed the ability, but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight. And now I wonder how I ever avoided being pushed out, pushed down or simply outcast. Very grateful looking back it hadn’t gone that way.

So now, as a full grown adult, I watch as we all struggle with the urge to “have it our way” even in the relationships that are most important to us in life: in our  marriages, with family members – adult kids, sibling in-laws, aunts, uncles, even grandparents have their preferences. It’s hard not to campaign for the thing you want, even as an adult. It can be tough to set aside your own preference without getting sulky and sullen.

But it’s also not okay to simply let the loudest voice lead. How do you cope? For starters, stop being the loudest, and start being the clearest voice— to bring a sense of peace and order when the conversation begins to give way to self-interest without regard for the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of others.

How do we do it? How do we find a way to have candid open discussion without damaging the people we love the most?

Effective communication skills and using the Word of God as our guideline is a foundation that will stand every time. Here are two Spirit-led reminders, designed to help us walk in love.

  • Prefer one another. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another,” Romans 12:10 (NKJV). Putting the interests of another is counter-intuitive to the flesh. Preferring others will always cause people to sit up and take notice, because it’s not how the world does things, so it serves a dual purpose, as it draws attention to our great God.
  • Love does not seek it’s own way. It’s not Burger King, friend. It’s not always going to go as you’d hoped. Set your preference aside and listen, really listen. Be willing to be changed by what you hear. (1 Cor 13)

And remember that the way you say what you say matters. Volume does not equal leadership.

So remember, tact counts. Just ask Isaac. Turns out that apple bonk on the head must have loosed some real Godly insight!

Can You Hear Me Now?

I Told You So!By Deb DeArmond

As a consultant helping others develop and improve communication skills, I am always intrigued by the dynamic between husbands and wives. As a participant in the blessings of matrimony, I’m right there with you.

Have you ever found yourself in a heated exchange with your beloved when suddenly it dawns on you: “We’re not even fighting about the “thing” any more. We’re fighting about the fight.”

“You’re not listening to me!”

“Stop interrupting and let me talk.”

“I just wish you’d stop trying to solve my problems and just hear me out.”

“He thinks he’s helping, but I’d really prefer he just let me vent a little without having to fix it for me.”

Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Does to me, but then I am a woman.

In fairness to my hubby of 38 years, I believe he’s better at this than most men. Ron has often served as a sounding board and he’s quite skilled at asking me the questions that help me arrive at my own solution. And I’m always more committed to the ideas I come up with myself, even if he helped me find my way there.

But it didn’t happen the day I wore the fancy white dress and he wore the tux and bow tie. Nay nay. It’s been a process. We had to learn to express ourselves, to be open about what we need, and to be intentional in staying focused on the thing. You remember the thing, don’t you?

So I thought it might be helpful to share an example of how that might occur. Take a look at this quick mini-movie by clicking on the link below. I think it will all make sense when you see it.

Enjoy!

It’s Not About the Nail

It’s Never Too Late To Finish, And It’s Always Too Early To Quit!

By Deb DeArmond

Biblical Wisdom:

  • Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you. A prophet to the nations – that’s what I had in mind for you.” MSG
  • Romans 11:29: “For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable (He never withdraws the when once they are given and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call).” MSG

GPS is a wonderful invention. Because I travel so frequently, it’s often helped me recover from a wrong turn or a missed exit. I can always ‘get there from here’ with the help of the soft- spoken lady who gets me on track.

God is the original GPS. Regardless how far off His intended route we may wander, He will guide us to complete the journey He has in mind for us. Even though the journey may take longer than He had hoped, we will arrive at our destination if we keep our ears open for the guidance provided.

Many of us grew up with adults asking us the question, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” It was fun when I was five – “A dancer and actress and maybe a singer!”

By ten I had decided I would be a journalist. I believe it was more an effort to identify with my much older brother (who was a news man) than follow any real interest of my own. But I discovered that I enjoyed it. It came easily and my teachers said I was good at it. And it made me seem more grown up, too. A journalist was a real career. And by that age I think I had come to the realization that Hollywood was not really a place for a chubby kid with ‘too curly’ hair. One Shirley Temple seemed like enough.

By the time I was a senior in high school, the questions inquiring about my plans for the future made me feel anxious, uneasy. It also felt invasive, a bit nosy, to be honest. The truth was I had absolutely no idea how to respond because I had no clue what the answer was. Or what answer the adults who asked expected of me.

I graduated and made choices about what to do. I chose a college and a major, although I felt unclear about whether it was right or not. I wrote letters to my high school boyfriend every day at his selected college across the country and lived for the mail each day. I worked a part time retail job and hung out with my friends. And never once did I think about what God might have wanted me to do with my life.

A month before my 20th birthday, I married that high school sweetheart. It was the one thing of which I was absolutely certain. And 37 years and three sons later, I am still just as sure. The night before we graduated from high school, he led me to the Lord. Together we walked our life, learning together, leading our boys to love and trust Christ. We did music lessons and Little League, Sunday school and homework at the kitchen table. My husband and I built careers, each establishing a business of our own. Neither of us had finished school, yet God had provided opportunities well beyond our expectations.

And even though it was a life that had evolved without a real master plan, it was a good life. A great life. And I always felt blessed. My brother used to say my husband and I lived a charmed life – that he had never known a couple so incredibly lucky. We knew it was never luck. We knew it was the blessings of our heavenly Father. We were grateful beyond belief and although we had challenges as all families do, I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t happy.

It wasn’t until after my sons were grown and gone that I began to think about this scripture: “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you. A prophet to the nations – that’s what I had in mind for you,” Jeremiah 1:5 (MSG).

Not until the nest was empty did I take a breath deep enough to consider the possibilities. What was it that He had sanctified me for? What was I ordained to do?

I began to seek God diligently, asking for that answer. I read scripture. I asked for input from my husband. I knew the answer was there, if I could just uncover it. I kept expecting a bolt of lightning to come from the sky. The good news is that He answered. But there was no flash-filled moment when I was struck with full understanding.

It came at an odd moment, as I was involved in an activity that I never guessed would provide me the answer I was seeking.

I lost my brother in 2010 after a 10-year fight with cardiac disease. He did as much as he could for as long as was possible. The 16-year age difference between us had not kept us from being close, and losing him was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I miss him every day. His wife asked me to speak at his memorial service; I said yes without hesitation. And although I had plenty of time to prepare my remarks, I arrived on the other coast, 2 days before the service with nothing but a blank sheet of paper.

Oddly, I wasn’t alarmed. I knew that somehow it would come. As I sat at the dining room table with my sister-in-law, I asked if she knew whether my brother had saved the cards and letters I had sent over the years. She was unsure, but went to his desk and looked through the drawers. They were there. Not all of them, but many from the past 20 years or so. It appeared that the ones that had meant the most to him were rubber banded together and tucked in the bottom drawer.

For the next couple of hours, I sat on the floor and read them. Some made me laugh. Others made me cry. It was a good afternoon. Out of the contents of that correspondence, the Lord began to weave the story I was supposed to tell to those who would come to honor the life of my dear Jack.

I got through it with only a moment or two when I had to pause to swallow hard. I shared moments of his life that they knew little of. When I took my seat at the end of my time at the podium, I felt a warm satisfaction. People were smiling through the tears. Later during the meal we all shared to celebrate Jack’s life, his friends and co-workers, most of whom I did not know, thanked me. “You made me laugh, you made me cry. But most of all, you made me glad I knew your brother.”

And there it was. I had written the words that God had given me and they had impacted people in a way I had not anticipated. Something about the way in which I had arranged letters on a page had meaning beyond anything I had ever imagined. I recognized in that moment: I am a writer. I am called to encourage, exhort and educate through my writing. My husband had told me so, many times, as did several friends. I had dismissed it, although I am unsure why. Perhaps it just wasn’t time yet.

What were you doing when you realized what you were meant to do? What was the dream or desire that you left behind to pursue the life that unfolded before you? What is the hope or the vision that God has shown you, even though it may seem fairly impossible at this point in your life?

It turns out that at age 10 when I decided to be a journalist, the pull of the Holy Spirit on my heart was presented, but for some reason, I had missed the significance. Thank you Lord for a second chance to hear you. I’m starting 40+ years later than you intended, so my commitment is to go all in to fulfill this call.

It is never too late to be what you were meant to become and it’s always too early to quit. “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn,” Romans 11:29 (NLT). He never changes His mind about us or about His purpose for our life. It’s easy to tell ourselves we missed the moment, that the opportunity has passed. A year from now you may wish you’d started today. Don’t forget who you are. He certainly hasn’t.

So, what are you waiting for?

Bumper Sticker Bytes for the Busy Believer

By Deb DeArmond

I love bumper stickers! They’re brief but they’re pithy. They send a message -putting it out there for the whole world to see. They’ve been around for a very long time – maybe because they strike a chord with us. It’s a little truth above the tailpipe.

Bumper stickers abound for many purposes: commercial, religious, secular, humorous, or in support of a sports team or other organization. They may promote or oppose a particular philosophical or political position. Bumper stickers support political candidates for elections. One thing is universally agreed: no matter the cause, bumper stickers are an expression of who we are, what we think and how we live.

The world doesn’t always agree with the beliefs or particular brand of Christian thinking. The funny thing is, we can see God in places never intended for that purpose by the non-believer—even the bumper of a car or sign on a billboard. I’ve been working on a book that aims to leverage an opportunity to see God through bumper sticker statements.

A social network friend posted two bumper stickers that she thought to be clever:

  • Don’t believe everything you think!
  • The truth will set you free, but first it will tick you off.

I agreed with her immediately that they were catchy, but also found them to be bytes of truth that I could quickly correlate with scripture and application for the believer. As a regular contributor to several online publications, I selected the second of these two stickers and wrote, “But God! I am Special!” It combined personal experience, and scripture, with a call to action and application at its conclusion. Response was good, and I knew that this format had appeal beyond online publication.

As I began to research the world of bumper stickers, friends, family and readers began sending me their favorites. What a wealth of material. These quippy sayings are universally accepted as nuggets of wisdom on the go. They make us smile, think—even laugh out loud.

So for the next few weeks, or maybe even longer, I’m going to share some of my favorite BS – Bumper Stickers, that is. A little truth above the tailpipe andI invite you to share some of yours as well. And remember, Honk If You Love Jesus!

 

Day 29 – Cliché a Day: Fair Weather Friend

By Deb DeArmond

I have been blessed in life with good friends. Some I’ve known since we were kids. Some were added to my life in the last few years since our move to Texas. But there are some friends that are special indeed. You know the kind – the ones that stick with you through the storms of life.

God joined my heart seven years ago with a fellow former Californian whom I met at church. We are more different than we are alike, aside from the fact that we both love Jesus and both consider our families among our greatest gifts from the Lord. Our children are all grown and we are both grandmothers. Aside from that – soooo very different. And it’s the strength of our relationship.

The Word of God tells us “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend,” Proverbs 27:17 (NLT). What exactly does that mean?

This proverb deals with the character of a man or woman – a very precious thing indeed. Character is by far the most important measure of an individual. The proverb promotes noble friends – they will make you better (Proverbs 27:9). A good friend will make you brighter, sharper, and more useful. But not any friend will do. Only wise friends make you wiser (Proverbs 13:20) Weak and foolish men will dull and corrupt your life (Proverbs 13:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:33).

My sweet friend will pray for me regardless of the time I might call, day or night. We have shared our joys, our disappointments, our failures, and our dreams. We have confessed our faults to one another without the fear of judgment. What a wonderful gift! We have dealt with challenges together, addressing issues of concern. We joke that we must work together as she brings mercy and I bring truth. Mercy alone might make a nice conversation, and truth without mercy tends to ruffle folks’ feathers. Together we are the full package. She has been a great cheerleader for the things God has placed on my plate, and I am her true fan. I am blessed by her friendship and believe she feels the same.

Two are better than one, Solomon taught, because they sharpen and improve each other in at least four ways They can share successes of labor together, help each other up when they fall, combine complementary abilities for greater accomplishments, and defend against mutual enemies. A good friend is a great blessing! (See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Have you such a friend? Are you such a friend? One that contributes to the life of another? One who stands shoulder to shoulder in every kind of weather?

Day 27- Cliche A Day: Zigged When You Should Have Zagged

By Deb DeArmond

“Google it. Just Google it, would you please?” she pleaded.

“I know where it is. I don’t need Google to tell me where I’m going. I know exactly where I am,” his confident reply.

Ugh. If my dad had lived long enough to enter the digital world, this would have been a regular conversation with him. We went some fascinating places when I was a kid, I mean, truly interesting. Too bad we could never go back. He had no idea of how we got there.

This is often true for life in general. And while it often turned out great for my family’s outings, there were times we ended up absolutely nowhere, impossibly lost and the day wasted.

From a spiritual journey perspective, this can, unfortunately, be a familiar route. Have you ever taken a wrong turn and ended up someplace you didn’t want to go?

I’ve been there more often than I’d like to admit, forging ahead, confident, resisting the urge to check the “map” and found myself incredibly lost. But never hopelessly lost.

God has the best GPS system, ever. Even when I zig instead of zag, I’m never beyond His ability to know exactly where I am and how to get me back on track. Just like the GPS in my car, when I’m off course, the lady in the box politely announces, “recalculating” and directs me to the right path once again. The Holy Spirit does the same thing. Usually very politely. On occasion, less so.

God is always ready to help me get back back on that narrow path He’s called me to. He tells us that it’s a challenging route that many will find difficult.

“Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:14 (NKJV).

The Lord never gives up on me, regardless of my wrong turns. I’m going to get there, despite my stubbornness and pride in wanting to do it myself.

Thank you, God that you never look at me, shake your head and think, “You can’t get there from here.” The path may be narrow, but it’s never closed. If I am willing to consult with the best direction giver ever, I will make it safely to my destination – even when I’m not exactly sure where that is. That’s okay, ‘cause He knows, and I’m willing to go along for the ride.