The World Is Reopening, And I'm Not Ready was first posted on FirstThings.org.
First, the world shut down. It was inevitable as COVID-19 was spreading. But you weren’t sure how you’d handle it. Work, school, health, friends, jobs, money. There was so much uncertainty.
Then, at some point, you settled. You recognized what you could control. You started making the best of it and even realized that it wasn’t so bad. Who are we kidding? You were surprised at how much you were enjoying it. Slower pace. Family time has been fun time. Meaningful conversations with friends. You found your routine.
You noticed the anxiety level in your home decrease. Not because of the absence of issues. Jobs aren’t all steady. Health concerns are everywhere. There’s lots of unrest in America right now. But the slower pace, the presence of the people you care most about, the ability to connect with family and friends, even if they are virtual connections, has helped you to live and process life in real time.
During pre-quarantine days, many of us were moving so fast that we were simply going through the motions of life, but weren’t processing all that we were experiencing. We had become accustomed to our way of doing life and never considered alternatives. And now the world is ready to open up and you’re not sure you’re ready to give up the benefits of this new lifestyle. So what do you do?
If You Aren’t Ready, Try These Things
Accept: Just like we accepted the shelter-in-place orders and the fact that COVID-19 was spreading. We must accept that the world can’t stay shut down forever.
Identify your fears: This could be anything from COVID-19 to busyness. You may be scared of losing the deep connections you’ve formed. The return of stress, anxiety, perpetual activity. Loneliness.
Name what you don’t want to lose: Family time, slower pace, meaningful conversations, quiet time, game/movie nights, time for mindfulness, and self-care.
Be intentional: Just because the world is opening up doesn’t mean you have to dive in headfirst and resume everything you were doing before. Identify the things you have to do. Think through the things that are optional.
Practice using one of the most powerful words in the English dictionary: NO. Be willing to say “no” to those things that compromise the very things you’ve said you don’t want to lose. You WILL say NO to a lot of good things. Good will often keep you from BEST.
You may not be ready for the world to reopen for many reasons. Taking control of what you CAN will help you to re-enter the world with purpose.
First Things First, based in Chattanooga, TN is dedicated to helping others create happy, healthy, thriving relationships. Their website, www.FirstThings.org, contains expert resources that make your relationships grow stronger. Click Here for a variety of COVID-19 family resources from First Things First.
by Dr. Gary Chapman
5 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage While Living with Stress was first posted on GreatFamilies.net on June 1, 2020.
The present situation finds many couples trying to adapt to a new lifestyle. Such efforts can create stress on the marital relationship. I have recently written an e-book on how to strengthen your marriage during these trying times. In this blog, I want to give you a brief summary of the ideas I shared.
1. Call a truce on throwing word bombs.
Everything we say is either a bomb or a balm. Your words either encourage or discourage your spouse. Under stress we often release large or small verbal bombs, which explode in the heart of our spouse. Such explosions always diminish our relationship. Why not sit down and see if you can agree to call a truce on word bombs for the next week. Chances are you will create a climate in which you might even be able to sign a ‘peace treaty’.
2. Tear down emotional walls.
Many couples have allowed past failures to build an emotional wall between the two of them. It is hard to talk through a wall or over a wall. Walls come down through apology and forgiveness. Why not ask God to show you where you have failed your spouse in the past. Get your pencil ready, because He will answer that prayer. Then confess those failures to God and accept His forgiveness. Then go to your spouse and say, “I’ve been thinking about us, and I know that I have failed you in many ways. I asked God to remind me of my failures and I have asked Him to forgive me, and if you will allow me, I would like to share these with you, and ask you to forgive me.”
They may not forgive you immediately, but they will walk away thinking, “That is different. All I have heard for weeks is condemnation and blaming me. Now, they are apologizing.” God can use your apology to open their heart.
3. Discover and speak each other’s love language.
Once walls are demolished, then love can flow freely. Speaking love in a language that is meaningful to your spouse will touch them deeply. Our deepest emotional need is the need to feel loved by the significant people in our lives. If you are married, the person you would most like to love you is your spouse.
4. Learn the value of teamwork.
Certainly we are different in many ways, but differences need not divide. In fact, they can be assets. Look for the personality traits in your spouse that have irritated you in the past. Now ask God to show you how these may be an asset. Ask Him to help you to not only accept your spouse, but to appreciate the things that formally irritated you.
5. Have a daily ‘sit down and listen’ time.
We normally say, “sit down and talk.” But what most of us need to do is “sit down and listen.” This means that instead of responding immediately with our ideas, we ask questions to make sure we truly understand what our spouse is saying and how they feel. The psychologist call this ‘empathetic listening’. It is trying to put yourself in the shoes of your spouse and see the world through their eyes. Then verbally affirm their ideas and feelings. When they feel affirmed, then they are more likely to hear your perspective.
For more information on these five approaches to strengthening your marriage you may want to read my newest book: 5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage . . . When You’re Stuck at Home Together. Available on Amazon as e-book June 2 or pre-order print book to be released June 16.
Dr. Gary Chapman is an author, speaker, and counselor and has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships. He is the bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages® series and the Director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Dr Chapman is also a Senior Associate Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC.
by Don Schmidt
Beware the Mirror was first posted on GreatFamlies.net on May 16, 2020.
Have you noticed how easy it is to see the (apparent) faults of others while missing those same qualities in ourselves?
Yes, I am speaking from personal experience. And yes, I do have something specific in mind. But no, I won’t use this forum as a place to share the most recent example of that in my life.
One of the things that frustrates me is when others don’t get it. Or maybe more to the point, when others don’t get me. This happens when I have shared my opinions, my perspectives, my ideas regarding how something ought to be handled, and the person I am talking to listens politely and then proceeds to do something entirely different from what I suggested.
In many of those situations there is something inside of me that wants to say, “If you had half a clue you would have known that my suggestion was far better than the plan you decided to go with.” (Actually, that’s a filtered and sanitized version of the thoughts that have gone through my mind.)
But then, at least in my finer moments, there is a quiet voice in my head that reminds me of just how arrogant my thinking is in that moment. Sometimes the voice may remind me of how often I press forward with what I want to do without heeding the counsel of others. But oftentimes the voice points out how arrogant it is for me to assume that my perspective on the current situation is somehow inherently better than the other person’s perspective on the situation.
Something I’ve noticed is that my ability to hear that quiet voice is largely dependent on how strongly I feel about the situation. The more my own emotions have been triggered, the more worked up I have become about a particular topic, the harder it is for me to maintain a posture of humility and openness to what others think and feel about that topic.
You’ve probably observed this happening in the current conversations surrounding the COVID-19 restrictions. A lot of people have a lot of opinions and many of them feel rather strongly about their opinions. Or if you spend any time on social media, this way of responding to other is common. And if you are married or have children, then you’ve experienced this in your own home.
So what do you do about it?
I once heard Dr. Gary Chapman (author of the Five Love Languages) speaking on marriage and he made this comment: If you are married, you know that one thing is true … you are married to another human. And if you are married to another human, then you can expect that your spouse will see things and think about things and feel about things in ways that are different from how you see and think and feel about the same things.
For me it comes down to respect and acceptance. Do I respect this other person enough to let them be who they are, to have their own opinions and even to decide what seems best to them, particularly in those areas where I think they are mistaken, uninformed or even wrong? And am I willing to accept them, which means to love them and be kind to them (even behind their backs) in spite of our differences?
That’s where the quiet voice in my head invites me to land. But it often begins with the humility of recognizing that these things I find frustrating in others are often a mirror to help me recognize those same realities in my own life.
James 1:22-24 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
Don Schmidt is a husband, father, grandfather, pastor, counselor and friend. He currently serves as the Pastor for Family Ministries at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. He also serves as the Executive Director for Great Families of the Triad.
by Shannan Roussel
Have You Ever Felt Like Me was first posted on GreatFamilies.net on May 11, 2020.
Binge watching TV has seemingly become the accepted past time during the COVID-19 Stay at Home order. I admit that I have watched more movies and sitcoms in the past few weeks than I have in years. One of those movies is Ant Man 2.
You might remember a scene in the movie that resonates with me right now. Ant Man is shrunk small enough that he is able to be transported to a quantum realm. His goal? To save the Wasp (aka Hope’s mom) who is trapped in that dimension. The mom has no idea how long she has been there or how long it will be until she is rescued. She has been “floating” with no real sense of time and no sense of purpose.
I feel like Hope’s mom right now. My normal has been completely been turned upside down and the hours go by slowly but the weeks go by fast. I often feel like I am floating, just waiting for this to end. Have you ever felt me?
I have heard it said that in times of extreme pressure our true selves are revealed. Some men and women show intense bravery and some show their hearts are selfish. My husband is bold and strong of character typically and so a crisis only brings out more of the warrior in him.
I admire that but unfortunately I am the total opposite. When my sense of security is disrupted I quickly go to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. My fear of the unknown and inability to control my situation make me feel stuck – like I am floating between what my life was and what I am supposed to be doing or feeling now. Have you ever felt like me?
I want to be strong and bold – but that takes too much energy, and the anxiety I wrap around me like a blanket seems to be an easier response. I wrestle constantly with trying to enjoy the moment I am in and empathizing with those hurting all around me, but a gripping fear of the unknown persists.
I am not proud of my anxiety. It feels contrary to everything I claim to believe. I am a Jesus girl through and through. I believe that the moment I acknowledged I was in need of a power greater than myself that Jesus committed to not only assure me a home in Heaven but to also be my Way Maker in my everyday life. I stake my eternity on it. And yet so often I still default to floating. Have you ever felt like me?
My only hope is Jesus. He loves me regardless of my emotions. He knew I would wrestle with feelings of insecurity and fear. Jesus loves me when I fail as much as the times I crush it. He does not see me as a check list of good or bad but as a child of His.
When l feel insufficient I need to remind myself that God uses my weakness to demonstrate His power and that I may never know what my purpose was during this season. He is ultimately enough for what I need because many years ago I gave my life to Him. Have you ever felt like me?
I may feel like I am floating right now, but there will come a time when this season will end. I want to be a better, stronger person when all of this is over. And not in spite of my weaknesses but because of them – because of what God did with my anxiety, fear, and even the floating. I want to remember the good times that have evolved over the past weeks and never forget how God got me through the struggles. Have you ever felt like me?
We all have our struggles and our insecurities. Here are some verses to encourage you as we navigate through this season together:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
2 Thessalonians 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation.The Lord be with you all.
The LORD is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged."
Shannan Roussel is a wife and the mother of three adult children. Shannan currently assists Don Schmidt on the Family Ministry team at Calvary Baptist Church but has worked in various ministries over the past 22 years. Shannan’s passion is connecting with people to encourage them with the Hope that comes only from Christ.
by Dr. Shannon Warden
Good Roots, Good Fruits, Self-Compassion and Parenting was first posted on shannonwarden.com
Good roots, good fruits. I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about this lately. Specifically, if you and I as parents want to see better “fruits” in terms of our children’s behavior, we must first examine our "roots" (how it is we behave).
The fruit of the Spirit
What are the “roots” you and I need to examine in our own lives? I’m thinking about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Before we can enjoy these “fruits,” we must first develop them as part of our roots, or our everyday way of being. Just like trees, our roots determine our fruits.
Our roots and fruits then, of course, contribute to our children’s roots and fruits. So, if we, for example, treat our children with love and kindness, they’re more apt to treat us and others with love and kindness. If we exercise patience and gentleness with them, they’re more apt to respond to us and others with respect and cooperation.
More fruits please
As you’re looking at the list of the fruit of the Spirit, you can likely pick out at least a couple and say, “I need to work on that!” Why? Because who doesn’t need to work harder to cultivate more of these fruits, or behaviors, in our lives?!
To get you moving toward your goals, perhaps you could share with your family, “I’m realizing I’m not as kind as I’d like to be,” or “I need to control my words and my reactions more.” Tell them you’re going to work specifically on these areas (whichever ones you’re focusing on). Ask them to help you by letting you know if they catch you, for example, being kind or using self-control.
Also, when you feel tempted to be unkind or tempted to react in ways that you know might discourage them or hurt your relationship, tell them you need to take a time out to calm down before handling the matter at hand. And, if you do mess up, quickly take personal accountability. Say, “I did it again. I’m sorry. Can you give me another chance?” Then get back to work on your goals.
Roots take time
Like our children, we are not perfect. And, technically, we’ve had a lot more time to accomplish perfection. We still feel, think, say, and do things we sometimes wish we didn’t. With this truth in mind, we can and should show our children and ourselves more compassion because we know behavior change is hard and requires ongoing effort.
On the subject of compassion, I know for some of you, it is hard to be compassionate toward yourself. Perhaps you came from a home where compassion was rare, or perhaps you’re really driven and feel like your value rests in your performance. Whatever the case, I encourage you to think more about just how unrealistic perfection is and how self-compassion may help you stress a little less.
More than simply think about self-compassion, actually, if you’re working on cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in your life, that can naturally feed into self-compassion. Remember…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You’re not only cultivating these roots and fruits for the sake of your children; you’re cultivating them for your own benefit as well. Showing yourself more love, patience, kindness, etc., can change your life for the better.
What about the Spirit
There’s no denying the fruit of the Spirit are great goals for us to strive for in life. But, the striving part really can wear us down. I often refer to Ecclesiastes 4:6, which basically instructs us to rest rather than strive after things that we can never fully attain (like perfection). The good news about the fruit of the Spirit is that, if we focus on our relationship with God—really make Him the top priority, pray, listen, study the Bible, live out His principles—the fruit of the Spirit will naturally emerge in our lives without us having strive so hard. These are the fruits of being rooted in the Lord. If we tend to our relationship with God, He will tend to our roots and fruits.
Some people would respond, “I have (or can have) the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ without a relationship with God or without even believing in God.” Yes, you can have the “fruit” of positive behavior aside from God. I, too, like to think I am a “good person,” but my relationship with God changes me in ways that I can’t easily describe. I know what it is like to be nice and good on my own, and I know how much easier being good and nice is when I feel God’s presence in my life, leading me, supporting me, holding me accountable in ways that are higher and better than what I can do on my own. He certainly has changed and continues changing my parenting and family life for the better, and I want to give Him proper credit for that.
Great parenting resources
I want to tell you about an amazing resource I’ve discovered: https://axis.org/. Axis’ mission is helping parents understand and engage with their teenagers. You can get their free “culture translator” email each week and, through that, learn about the music, television, movies, apps, trends, etc., that your teenager is involved with. You can also find tons of free and low-cost parenting resources that can help you cultivate better roots and fruits in your family life.
Also, check out Focus on the Focus on the Family’s website and YouTube channel for a wide assortment of resources to encourage and equip you for improving your marriage and family life.
And, lastly, keep an eye on Great Families of the Triad’s website as well. This organization is all about raising awareness of the many marriage- and family-related events and resources that churches in our community are providing. Check in periodically for updates.
Dr. Shannon Warden is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and based in Kernersville, NC. She serves on the Board of Directors for Great Families of the Triad. For more resources from Shannon and to learn how you can seek counseling through her private practice or invite her to your church to speak, please visit www.shannonwarden.com.