Your 2018 Plan: Is God Laughing?

By Deb DeArmond

 

Oh, this will be fun!

“Complete the jigsaw puzzle found in your backpack. You have one hour for this task.”

It was the next assignment in a long list of to-do’s. The retreat organizers clearly understood that we needed a break at this point from the intense journaling, prayer assignments, and scripture reading. A full day, alone in the great outdoors originally sounded onerous, but I had enjoyed it – most of it. And now, a puzzle. Fabulous.

I was surprised when I pulled the plain box from the backpack assigned to me. No picture. No clues to what we were creating. Okay. A mystery puzzle. Tough, but intriguing.

I sorted the straight-edged and corner pieces and completed most of the frame. 17 minutes already gone. That surprised me. Gotta move. I began to sort by color, but found few pieces that fit together. Did I mention the pieces were small? Tiny, almost.

I did manage a few multi-piece blobs, but couldn’t fit them into anything already assembled. 32 minutes. Ugh. This is impossible. Nobody could make sense of this. But I kept at it. It looked like a flamingo and a barn might be part of the landscape, but that made no sense. Maybe it’s not a bird, but a Vegas showgirl’s headdress. Not that that’s more feasible.

At the 48-minute mark, I switched my thinking about the clock: Oh, good. Only 12 more minutes of torture till I’m done. I eyed the river and thought about tossing the whole thing in the water. But how would I explain that?

When the alarm on my watch rang, I gratefully slid the pieces into the box, and turned to the journal page I was directed to once the puzzle was complete where I found the following instructions: “Take a moment to ask God the following question and record the response in the space provided:

“What is God teaching me through this activity?”

I had many immediate thoughts (meaning before prayer):

  • Who in their right mind could miss this box with no picture??
  • That’s a lesson in frustration.
  • Thank God that’s over!
  • It’s just a lesson about patience or something!

 Oh. That last one tagged me. I’ve often joked that when gifts were handed out in heaven I thought they said patients, and decided to pass. Let’s say it’s not my gift. I’m working on it.

And then God’s Spirit prompted me to do as requested. I prayed and asked the question: God what are you teaching me through this activity?

 His answer knocked me for a loop: “Trust. I’m teaching you about trust.”

I was stunned. I do trust you, Father! I’ve trusted you for my salvation, my family, my finances – everything.

Then clearly, I heard, “I can’t trust you.”

I felt like I’d been punched. Hard.

And then He gently showed me all the times I had what I believed were all the pieces of a picture God wanted me to complete in my life. Ministry. Career. Kids. Marriage. Finances. And because I felt equipped, I ran ahead of Him, rather than seeking Him for each step along the way. It was almost as if I was saying, “I got this God. Go help someone who needs your direction.”

Tears came quickly. He couldn’t trust me with the full picture because I’d take off without him, running at my own pace, on the course of my choice. Self-reliance at its worst. Confident, but often, wrong.

************

He brought this experience to me this morning, as I reviewed my goals for 2018 in my beautiful new planner. I love the process of a new year stretching before me on paper and dreaming of the possibilities. I’m a bit of a planner wonk.

I was putting the finishing touches on the goals when God reminded me of this experience. How much time had I spent in prayer before I recorded these plans? Not enough. Thank goodness for erasable ink.

There is an old Yiddish saying, “Man plans and God laughs.” Kind of harsh, right? I think of Him in the heavenlies clucking His tongue and shaking His head at our self-determined, but poorly informed path. But it’s Biblical: it’s based in part on Proverbs 16:9 that says, “People may make plans in their minds, but the Lord decides what they will do,”(CSB).

As I said. I’m (still) working on it. What about you? You may know where He wants you to go, what He wants you to focus on – but do you know His plan for getting you there safe and successful?  My prayer for 2018 is simple:

I will trust you, Father. Hand the pieces to me one at a time until I develop the ability to rely solely on You. I will seek your face for each and every step, and pray it becomes my supernatural instinct – to occur even when I’m not aware of it. Let it become my new normal in 2018.

Sound familiar? I’d welcome your company on the journey – and your comments along the way!

 

 

 

 

Curing the Holiday Hiccups

by Deb DeArmond

“Aren’t you just devastated?” my colleague moaned.

“No, not really. I mean, we will certainly miss them,” I replied. “But they are clear that California is where God is taking them. I want them to be where He wants them to be. It was such a gift to have them here for two years.”

I told her about a dinner, hosted by my hubby and I — a gathering for a few family members recently. The purpose of the event was to share a meal and bid farewell to my oldest son and his wife as they prepared to relocate back to the west coast. They were set to leave the next morning.

“Oh, that would just be impossible to think about,” she said, shaking her head. “I couldn’t stand to lose my boys.”

Her declaration of “losing her boys” made me smile. Her sons are in elementary school. I can clearly understand her feelings, even if I don’t share them. But I did at one time . . .

My boys are all grown up with careers, with families of their own – adults. It took some getting used to – that awareness that mom and dad are not the central force in their lives. But we did get used to it—and we appreciate God’s clarity about the concept of leaving and cleaving. “Train up a child in the way he should go . . .” the Word says. Most importantly, Mama, remember they are to GO.

With the holidays approaching quickly, I want to encourage you to remember that God set them apart to stand with their spouses. That can become an issue and a bone of contention when it comes to holiday celebrations. Here are a couple of tips to make the season far more enjoyable for everyone:

  • Communicate early. Make sure you discuss what everyone’s plans or intentions are for celebrating the holiday. Make no assumptions, as it may lead to disappointment for you and them.

 

  • Be flexible as to what and when and where and how – and you may be surprised with the best day ever! Traditions are great, but if they no longer work, create some new ones.

 

  • Be fair. You don’t get to have them 100% of the time. They have in-laws, friends, and may decide that this year is not your year. Don’t pout or punish them. Make your own plans and prepare for a lovely time.

 

  • Celebrate their independence.  It’s a sign you did a great job of prepping them for adulthood. This is what is supposed to happen, and because it did, you can rejoice.

 

So, don’t hold so tightly to those adult kids that they want to squirm free of your grip. Make this holiday season one of the best celebrations ever.

Check out additional tips in my book on in-law relationships, which can be a holiday challenge: Related by Chance, Family by Choice at http://bit.ly/RelatedByChanceFamilyByChoice

 

Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2016)

Don’t Go to Bed Angry: Stay Up and Fight is a guide to help couples deal with marital conflict in a way that honors Christ and the marriage vows. The book explores the importance of healthy conflict and provides tools to learn how to express it in a way that aligns with scripture and allows the couple to develop a relationship of genuine understanding and intimacy.

Men marry women thinking, “I hope she never changes.” Women marry men thinking, “I can change him.” The resulting struggle creates disappointment, dissatisfaction, and sometimes divorce. And Christians are not immune to this experience.

My husband and I beat the odds. We met at 16, married at 19, and find ourselves 38 years later, a very happy couple. We are not immune to conflict, but we’ve learned how to let it change us together as a couple in ways that have built and strengthened our marriage.

We believe that conflict is not the real problem. It’s how we deal with the conflict that is important. It can lead to discovery—greater insight and understanding of thoughts, feelings, and perspective. But if handled poorly, it can lead to damage, and ultimately, destruction of the relationship. When we shoot from the hip, we may both walk away wounded.

This book is not a memoir of our marriage. Instead, we will share the stories of men and women just like you. We will unearth the treasure found in both their struggles and their triumphs. Throughout, we will explore the instruction for marriage found in the Bible, our ultimate user’s guide to marriage, honoring it as the authority in the life of the believer.

ECRS: Early Conflict Response System!

I’m often asked about the book, Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight, which I co-authored with my husband, Ron. It released a year ago this week. People are interested— was it hard to collaborate with your spouse? What they really want to know is: “Did you fight while writing it?” It’s a fair question.

Having written two books on my own, this was an entirely different process. As co-authors, our goal was to collaborate. Meaning we had to find common ground as we created the content. Did I mention the topic was marital conflict?

We knew it might be a challenge. The process of talking about conflict had the potential to create conflict. So we developed a process – a plan – to move forward as a unit. It worked, and we delivered the book to the publisher on time. Hurray! High five!

Once the book was released, I had a moment when it hit me: we’d be interviewed together. Radio. Television. Print. When I was a solo flyer, I knew where I wanted the discussion to go, how to get there, and what to say. But, as much as I love this man, managing him—and what he says or does—has not been successful. No doubt, I’ve tried (and still occasionally try), but my record is dismal. He’s experienced similar results when the table is turned. We’re independent, strong willed – and completely committed to one another. It makes an interesting life.

I thought through all the possibilities, all the potential interview disasters that might await us. Stepping on one another’s comments, interrupting one another, and heaven forbid, correcting or disputing what the other said. I did mention the topic was marital conflict, right?

Once again, we created a plan: we assigned topics each would cover and defer to that assignee so we weren’t stepping on toes. The first few interviews were a little bumpy, but overall, went surprisingly well. We also created a sign – our own personal code that signaled, “I’d like to take that question,” or “you’re running on too long with your answer.” A simple knee bump. Hopefully under the table, unseen by the interviewer.

It worked. So, okay, occasionally I ignored a knee bump. Or he did. Or worse, the bump gave way to a look and a tighter than comfortable squeeze of the hand. But all in all – it worked and we enjoyed the process far more than we ever imagined.

It’s affirming to hear from couples who have found the book helpful. Some learned new ways to deal with old issues. Others, identified new strategies to be proactive, so that when conflict hunted them down, they can respond, not react.

A plan can help you prepare for success. It’s important in so many of life’s opportunities: getting married, having a baby, or buying a home. A plan provides a path forward when conflict comes calling.

What are the areas in your relationships that can create conflict? How might you be able to plan and prepare for a smoother, if not seamless, process when it comes knocking? Here are a couple of tips to get you started.

  • Identify the potential stress inducers. What’s your track record for winging it? How’d that work out? Typical pressure point areas include money, sex, the in-laws, and childrearing. There are many more, but those are the Big Four. If these topics produce conflict, acknowledge it. At what point does it go south? Once you’ve figured out where you got off a peaceful path, stop next time you get there. Ask yourself, “how can we work together on this?”

 

  • Ask, don’t tell. Use open ended questions to explore options, possibilities, and solutions. “What’s the best way to approach this?” or “How can we make this work that works for both of us?” Open-ended questions can lead to new and creative ways to deal with old problems.

 

  • Take a time out. It’s not just for temperamental toddlers. When you realize the heat is rising, take a break before it escalates. A simple, “I need to step away for 15 minutes,” can slow a discussion that’s spiraling into non-productive—or damaging—territory. Take time to gather your thoughts, and manage your emotions so they don’t end up managing you.

A conflict response plan can provide a path to peace. Give it a shot—what’ve you got to lose?

Find the book here: http://amzn.to/1ULkaJT

Family Matters Fun Friday!!

More Weird ThingsThe list of things couples fight about is expansive – and it can be expensive. It can cost us peace, connection, and intimacy.

But today, it’s not about you and me. It’s a chance to peak in on the universal topics that turn us topsy turvy. Marital conflict happens in every marriage. The secret is to remember not to make the little things the big things – no matter how big they seem in the moment.

So take a look here at More Weird Things All Couples Fight About.

Find our new book on making your marital conflict work FOR you instead of against you:Don’t Go to Bed Angry

Family Matters Fun Friday!!

Happy Wife Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 12.00.53 PMHappy wife, happy life. I’m not sure who coined that phrase, but probably somebody who learned it the hard way. Comedian Jeff Allen has made it the crown jewel in his stand up act for years. I guess you can say it’s stood the test of time.

Jeff touches on a touchy subject in a funny way. But candidly, who runs the table at your house? Is your spouse the boss? Or do you have the final word? Marriage works best as a partnership, with each partner having a voice. If one of you has become a silent partner, it’s an issue.

But for now, take a moment to get Jeff’s take on the topic. It’s gonna be fun. I promise.

Watch it here: Happy Wife Happy Life

Find our new book on making your marital conflict work FOR you instead of against you:Don’t Go to Bed Angry

Family Matters Fun Friday!!

Tim Hawkins is a terrific talent – a Christian comedian that never fails to make me laugh. Often – at myself. He seems to have an Tim Hawkins 2 Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 11.57.53 AMuncanny eye into the relationships between us married folks. After all, he is one.

And he is dead on in his observations. I’m just grateful my husband doesn’t make HIS living as a stand up comic. Lord knows – I’d be fodder for that act!

Laugh along today on Fun Friday! Find it here: Study Your Wife

Find our new book on making your marital conflict work FOR you instead of against you:Don’t Go to Bed Angry

 

Family Matters Fun Friday!!!

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 8.27.12 AMYou may recall the “Doghouse” video from a few weeks back. Well, here’s the sequel. Still funny – still great at making the point. The doghouse prolongs the conflict by punishing the “guilty” party. Who made us the judge? Hash it out and move on people! Life’s too short for this kind of stuff. So ask yourself as you chuckle, “could this be us??”

Watch it here: FMFunFriday5

 

Find our new book on making your marital conflict work FOR you instead of against you:Don’t Go to Bed Angry

 

What Does It Weigh?

glass of waterIn our new book, Don’t Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight!, my husband Ron and I bust a Bible myth. Every Christian couple heard it in pre-marital counseling. Sometimes it came as bridal shower advice from Aunt Anna. And if you haven’t heard it in a women’s Bible study you’re just not at the right church! You know the verse: don’t let the sun go down on your anger. For years I thought that meant we had to keep at it till we solved the problem, identified a solution, or achieved a harmonious outcome.

Nope. We got it wrong, and so have millions of marrieds who were taught “No solution. No sleep.” Or  more often for us, at least a cease fire that masqueraded as a solution when we were both too worn out to care any more and one of us said, “Uncle” and threw in the towel.

That’s not what it means. Look at it again. “And “don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,” Eph. 4:25 (NLT). It doesn’t say “don’t go to bed till you’ve brokered a deal.” Or “Stay up until dialogue creates unity and perfect alignment.” We’ve been overthinking this and making it all far too complicated. Don’t go to bed angry. But by all means, go to bed. Makes perfect sense – and my mother always said that going to bed mad was bad for your digestion anyway.

How long does it take to realize, “Whoa, we’ve let our emotions get way out of hand.” You know when you’ve crossed that line. A good rule of  thumb is if there are tears, accusation, blame, or someone spitting while s(he) talks – you’re there. And when you’ve acknowledged that, the rest is easy—or at least possible. ” I don’t feel good about how we’re doing this, and I’m fairly sure God’s not feeling honored by our behavior. Can we put a stake in this for tonight, pray and release the anger we’re experiencing, and come back together in the morning with clear heads?”

It requires both of you to make the decision. But it only takes one of you to speak up to propose it.

It’s not the weight of the conflict that drags us down. It’s how long we’re willing to hold on to it. To illustrate this point perfectly, take a moment to watch this 2-minute You Tube flick. It’s worth it’s weight in gold.