Day 11: Generosity

Start with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is “generosity.”  Generosity is a virtue that pretty consistently distinguishes happy couples from unhappy couples. Unhappy couples fight for their rights, each stubbornly holding to marriage as a 50-50 proposition. The reality (as evidenced by their happy counterparts) is that marriage is not 50-50, but 100-100. Then there is the 100% you give the kids so … yeah … a happy marriage is a tiny miracle, and a foretaste of heaven.

Twenty years ago, as a new bride, I had no idea how much this principle was going to be tested in our new lives together. No idea how many kinds of generosity that marriage requires. Sure, there is the “for richer, for poorer,” literal variety. My husband overlooks my occasional shopping binge at Target, while I force myself not to roll my eyes when he finds one more electronic gadget to adorn his jam-packed office.

But there are other, subtler kinds as well: emotional generosity, which consistently believes the best, hopes for the better, and trusts in the goodness of the other person. There is generosity of time, not insisting that the other person always blindly follow our own agenda or timeline (this one is hard for me). There is parental generosity, which steps up to help set the boundaries in times when you really just wish the other person would be the Bad Cop.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said that it was easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle then for the rich to get into heaven? While money has a tendency to keep us self-centered, generosity keeps us ever other-focused. And this, my friends, is the very nature of love: to give not just what is convenient or easy, but even when it means giving till it hurts. Just as Jesus gave all the way to the cross.

When was the last time you were generous with God? Is he presenting any opportunities to you right now?

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Second Sunday of Lent: Family Fun Day!

kissesThere’s those chocolate kisses again … It must be Sunday!

This week I’m going to let you dream up your own family fun. Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, maybe you want to take everyone out for Shamrock Shakes!

Be sure to share what you did on “The 40 Day Challenge” Facebook page – include a picture, too!

What will you do with your second Family Fun Day today? Don’t forget to offer your daily Prayer of Abandonment.

Day 10: Fun!

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is “fun”!  (Don’t worry if you are on a tight budget … surprise can add a spark of fun to almost anything!)

As we were returning home from our annual Christmas trip to visit Craig’s mom, I thought about how much fun it had been to hang out with each other. The highlight (other than a virus that had me flat on my back for four days) was the “Downton Abbey Exhibit,” a spectacular collection of original costumes from the popular BBC series. Wedding gowns, dinner ensembles, and tiaras for days … All that was missing was the crumpets.

Having a “fun buddy” — a friend with whom you share a common interest, someone who makes you laugh and see the lighter side of life — can be good for a marriage if it helps you to return energized and better able to embrace your vocation.

Don’t overlook the potential fun you can be enjoying in marriage, too! Have fun and enjoy each other in all kinds of ways, flirty and playful and not the least bit serious. Dress up or down; express your artistic side with face paint or fresh strawberries and cream; take a relaxing bubble bath or indulge in a sensual massage. If actual sex is, for whatever reason, not in the cards . . . it’s still important to connect, physically as well as emotionally. Snuggle up or neck on the couch after the kids are in bed.That’s good for marriage! Don’t forget to be each other’s favorite playmate(even during Lent)!

What are you going to do for fun today? And don’t forget … TOMORROW is Family Fun Day!

 

Day 9: Forgiveness

Alice (interpreter), Heidi, Fr. Ubald, and Straton.

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is “forgiveness.” Not just each other, but those who move in your sphere of influence.

This year Craig and I flew to Rwanda to help Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga complete his book for Ave entitled Forgiveness Makes You Free. The highlight of the trip was getting to interview Straton, the man who now works alongside Fr. Ubald to bring reconciliation and peace to the people of Rwanda. Once a powerful burgomeister who gave the order for the execution of Fr. Ubald’s mother and extended family, he now works construction and travels with Fr. Ubald into prisons and speaks to those who, like him, were responsible for the deaths of more than a million former friends, neighbors, and co-workers — slaughtered in just 100 days simply because they were Tutsi.

Looking into Straton’s eyes, I did not see a hardened criminal. There was no hate, only sincerity. This was a man whose life had been transformed by the power of forgiveness — the forgiveness of his victims, the forgiveness of his family, and the forgiveness of God. All of it possible because of forgiveness and mercy.

Think about your own life. Is there anyone — even someone in your intimate circle — you are finding difficult to forgive? Are you willing to set your relationship free through the power of forgiveness? You will be amazed at what God can do in the heart that is willing to surrender.

Day 8: Finances

Today is a particularly good day to begin with the Prayer of Abandonment. Pray it slowly, pray it again. OK, now. Ready?

Today’s theme is “finances.”

How does money touch your marriage? Is one of you a spender, the other a saver? Do you have an extended family member who needs help, and struggle to balance love and prudence? Does revolving debt have a stranglehold on your future? Are you one paycheck away from disaster?

After twenty years of marriage, my husband and I are saving to make a long-time dream come true: This November, we are flying to Rome to renew our wedding vows (with friends who are also celebrating their 20th), then boarding a cruise ship bound for a long-time bucket list destination: Israel. I’ve secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) envied friends who have been able to visit the Holy Land year after year. But this year, it’s our turn: the kids are old enough to leave with extended family, my sister is coming to tend to mom and dogs, and financially we can manage it (better now than after Craig retires!).

This is a sweet spot in our relationship that is all the sweeter because we have had to struggle in the past. I remember a time when the kids were younger when I tried to pay for a gallon of milk at Kroger, and had my debit card declined. It was shattering, humiliating. But somehow we made it through … and found the sunshine once more.

Hand Putting Deposit Into Piggy BankAs you look back on your spending habits, do you recognize similar highs and lows, to remember with equal gratitude? Our lean years taught us to trust; the fatter ones simply made us thankful.

Where are you on this spectrum of gratitude today?

Today’s challenge: Write down your three most pressing money-related issues, and ask your husband do to do the same. Then compare notes. Did you agree on at least one of the three most pressing issues? What is one thing you can do this week to take a small step toward financial fidelity?  What do you need to abandon to the loving hands of God, and trust him to resolve?

Day 7: Diversions

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment. (Have you memorized it yet?)

Today’s theme is “diversions.” A bit of an overlap from yesterday . . . but whereas we “dream” together, a good marriage includes a variety of physically and spiritually healthy diversions, both together and independently.

One Christmas I splurged and got Craig a camera he’d had his eye on for some time now. It was more money than I’d ever spent on a Christmas present. But watching his eyes light up, and seeing him play with the lenses and filters with all the excitement of a kid with a toy train, I knew I was investing in our family’s future memory bank.

From that moment, the pace of our family outings slowed. “Hold on, Heidi! Let me get this shot!” he’d call to me on one of our family walks, fiddling with the lenses again as Sarah and I struck a pose and Chris pulled up the hood on his jacket. Maddy was the only one who seemed to enjoy it . . . other than Craig, who reveled in getting the perfect shot. DSCF0569

It can be a real temptation for any couple, as their family grows, to get so caught up in the merry-go-round of sleep-eat-work-eat-sleep that we forget what it is to live. What diversions do you most enjoy, that have gone by the wayside? How can you strengthen your relationship just a bit more today, by taking it up again?

While healthy diversions can do a great deal to strengthen a good marriage, toxic diversions (explicit movies or books, excessive drinking, or becoming overly invested in work or volunteer commitments) can wreak havoc on our relationships. Is there an area of concern here? If you’ve raised the issue before and have been unable to settle it, consider making an appointment with your pastor or a marriage counselor to discuss it.

“A clean heart can see God, can speak to God, and can see the love of God in others,” writes Mother Teresa. “When you have a clean heart it means you are open and honest with God, you are not hiding anything from him, and this lets him take what he wants from you.” (p.27, “Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta.”)

Day 6: Dreaming

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is “dreaming.” Our dreams can teach us many things: What we wish for, and what we fear. What we hope and what we dread. What we need and what we regret.

Several years ago my husband and I were going through a particularly trying time with the kids. Sometimes we would escape the challenges of the day by imagining where we might be in a year, in five years. Deliberately turning our minds from the potential landmines before us, we would dream together of what life would be like, where we would go and what we would do. Happily, these positive thoughts buoyed us up and got us over those rough patches. These small bits of happiness were a mercy, keeping us in hope.

mother-teresa-13If you are cut from a more pragmatic bolt of cloth, perhaps you derive your mutual sense of comfort in another way. For Mother Teresa, it was all about obedience — doing everything for love of Jesus. Every moment of the day she continually adjusted her sights not on her immediate circumstances, but on her Lord, waiting for her there in the chapel. She did not always feel his presence, but she knew with every ounce of certainty that he was there. She often quoted the assuring words of Francis de Sales, who said: “Prayer opens the understanding of the brightness of Divine Light, and the will to the warmth of Heavenly Love — nothing can so effectually purity the mind from its many ignorances, or the will from its perverse affections.”

When was the last time you dreamed (or prayed) with your sweetheart? Why not find a quiet bit of time today, and try it?

Are you finding this Lenten series helpful? Is there a friend who might like to join you on this 40 Day Challenge, to strengthen her own marriage?