Valentine’s Day is great—it nudges us to celebrate romance. But we don’t want to celebrate only on special occasions, not when we can weave romance into the rhythm of our lives.
How do we keep celebrating romance all year long?
Between kids and jobs, home responsibilities and extended family, it is easy to let our marriage relationships go on auto pilot. But if we want to have a good marriage, a romance-filled marriage, we choose to be intentional about it.
We love intentionally
1. Discovering the best in our partner — every day — and celebrating it. Set this standard in your marriage and hold on to even in the most stressful times. Nothing builds romance like knowing your husband well and expressing appreciation for those things that are easily taken for granted.
2. Speaking to each other with respect. It makes me so uncomfortable to overhear couples speaking sarcastically to each other. It is a bad habit we fall into without even being aware of it. It costs nothing to speak well to each other. And when we don’t — it’s a romance-buster.
3. Dating each other. Dating is what helps us fall in love in the first place. It is the thing that most married couples give up first after saying “I do.” But dating is a great way to take a little retreat from those things that can pull us away from each other. At first you may have to look at dating as a project – setting aside time, money and energy for something (or someone) that is important.
I know that it can be expensive to date, but if you are creative, you can have a great date without breaking the bank. You can find inexpensive date ideas here. The point is, to go out and have some fun, to recapture a little of that romance you had early on and saying, you know what? We enjoy being together. We like each other.
4. Doing thoughtful little things. Little things add up to ongoing romance. Write a love note, buy him his favorite sweet treat, send a flirty text – have fun with it! Just let your man know you think about him when you’re apart. Do some of the little things you did when you were falling in love. There is real impact in doing these simple things, they say to your husband, “You matter so much to me.”
They sparked romance before, and they can ignite it again.
In our marriage, we learned that more effort had to be put in after the vows than before them. Today, I see my husband die to self every day to make sure that I know I am loved and that I’m happy. And I try to do the same for him. I can’t think of a better way to be married than how we are right now. It took us a long time to get there – we had to get past some things – but I can’t imagine anything better.
When we choose to love intentionally – by design and not by default – our wedding day becomes the beginning of a great romance story, not the end of it.
We’re talking about Loving Intentionally this week, and I want to share one of my tools for guarding my heart and tongue against the bend in our culture (and often our friendships) to demean, belittle, and yes, bash our husbands. We can be intentional about setting boundaries around what we let into our hearts or out of our mouths. Here’s one way I do both.
An Open Letter to my Friends who Talk Bad About Their Husbands: Why I Love You, But Can’t Hang Out with You Anymore
This is really, really hard for me to do, but I have to tell you why I can’t hang out with you anymore.
I get that marriage is hard. I do. I’ve fought with my husband (remember, when we got married, we had four teenagers, so we had plenty to “discuss” those first years of marriage,) disagreed with him, and sometimes (OK, many times) not been the wife I needed to be.
But here’s the thing: I want to do better. I want to be the wife my husband needs. I want to speak well of him and to him. I want to improve, a little bit, every day.
And when I’m around you, it’s hard. I feel like, because you throw your husband under the bus, you want me to throw my husband right under there as well.
I will not have the kinds of conversations that make men the butt of the joke, because not only am I married to a man, but I have two boys I want to respect as men as well.
I will not agree with how awful your husband is because I don’t know his side of the story.
I will not laugh at TV or movies that feature the guys as “Doofus Dads.”
I will not let you bait me into bashing husbands, yours or mine.
I’m sorry if this seems like an unexpected change-up – like I’m changing the rules of our relationship. But that uncomfortable laugh I make when you put down your husband?
From now on, I’m speaking up. It’s not OK to talk about any man like that in my presence. Ever.
Now don’t get me wrong. If you want me to pray for the tough time you’re going through, if you want to cry on my shoulder and have me recommend books on how you can improve your relationship, I will bring the coffee, milk chocolate and password to my Amazon account. I am there for you friend.
But if you only want to complain, and not let God make a miracle out of your marriage, I need to step away. Because I need to be with women who support the men in their life. I want to surround myself with women who are not perfect wives, but will inspire me to be a wife who follows God and blesses her husband out of the overflow of that relationship with God.
So if you want to be that kind of girl – come on over to my house.
But if not, I’m going to need to bow out. I know God wants more for you than what you have now. I’ll be here when you want that cup of coffee.
This question comes up a lot when I’m speaking: What should I do when my husband is overwhelmed?
And I get it – we are all looking for ways to connect during the hardest times.
His struggle could be because of work – or finances. Or there’s stuff going on with his parents, or in your family. Whatever the reason, we all know when it’s happening.
Maybe he gets really quiet and withdrawn. He may be in a place where talking about it (or about anything,) is overwhelming. He’s exhausted, so either he sleeps all the time or he doesn’t sleep at all.
You know what it looks like for your man. But when you see it happening, don’t just wait for the wave to pass. There are things you can do to actively help your man during this difficult time.
Here are ten things you the right away when you realize your husband is overwhelmed:
1. Feed Him Food. It makes him feel like everything might be okay for just this one hour. I don’t want it to seem like I’m making our guys into cavemen, but there is something about knowing where his next meal is coming from that can really make a man feel more secure. Cook him one of his favorites.
2. Brag on Him. Let him hear you bragging on him – to your friend, to your kids, to his mom. Pick one thing he did this week (went to work on a hard day, played tickle monster with the kids,) and make sure he knows how much it meant to you.
3. Unburden Him. Are there things around the house your husband normally does, that you, (or an older child) can do for him right now? Even hiring a teenager to mow the lawn could be just what your husband needs to know that you’ve got his back.
4. Seduce Him Again. Not trying to go caveman here, but sex is — for most men — the best tension reliever. Setting aside some time will do more for your husband than just about anything else. However, if sex is an area of discouragement, offer a no-strings-attached massage, or head, hand or foot rub.
5. Date Him. Plan a date geared for him. Take him to his favorite dinner spot and to a movie that involves a ball, something blowing up, or robots.
6. Treat Him. A Jamba Juice can improve my husband’s outlook on the world. Surprise him with a little something to let him know that you were thinking of him.
7. Encourage Him. One of the reasons your husband may feel overwhelmed is that he is feeling undervalued. What can you say to make him know that he is valued and respected? Tell him. Need some ideas to get your encouraging words flowing? Download my 21 Post-it-Note Encouragements.
8. Tag Him. Give your man a Facebook or Instagram shout-out and let the world know why he is just that awesome.
9. Pray for Him. Set an alarm on your phone and stop and pray for your husband every single day. Need some inspiration? It’s important to let your husband know you’re praying for him. Roger walks with new confidence when he knows I’ve got his back, prayer-wise.
10. Surprise Him. I have an alert on Amazon any time my man’s favorite author releases a new book. Surprise him with something he loves.
It’s a new day, ripe with promise and potential … until I walk into the kitchen. Dishes in the sink, counters dotted with dirty dishes and crumbs, and a cluttered table converge to sing a taunting chorus, “You can’t even keep the kitchen clean, how can you accomplish anything today!”
The strains of their tune causes my motivation to plunge to the depths where my only response is to use the messy kitchen as my excuse for another unproductive day.
Organizing the kitchen without being overwhelmed
The overwhelm knocks me off of my game and renders my to-do list unattainable.
I can’t prep dinner until I unload and load the dishwasher, wipe the counters, and find the recipe. Do I even have thyme in the spice cupboard for the soup? I go to the narrow pull-out cupboard of spices and decide then and there that it is time to win a battle.
I remove unalphabetized spices from the cupboard, meanwhile telling the voices in my head to be quiet; I know I don’t have time for this! But I need a win! The thought strikes me that squelching the noisy refrain from the clutter does not require a weekend of organizing and cleaning. I can win this battle one decision at a time, in just 15 minute increments at a time.
And so I record a victory over the spice cupboard! Now I open the spice drawer and I smile. I smile that I can find what I want. I smile at the homemade spice labels that I commissioned my daughter to make. Such a simple accomplishment but it’s huge for my mindset!
I just needed a win. The next day I silence the noise in the cupboard that houses the varying bottles of olive oil. Another win. I will continue to build on this and soon the kitchen will motivate me instead of overwhelm me.
As I bask in my two wins I realize that once the kitchen is a motivator instead of a killjoy I can apply this to other areas of my home and life. Some momentum in the kitchen will spill over to the rest of my responsibilities and perhaps soon I will feel able to tackle the things that I want to do instead of being overwhelmed by all the things I need to do.
One Small Win: For me, the way out from under overwhelmed is to claim one win and allow that to carry me forward. Who knew that one of the kindest things I’ve ever done for myself was to clean out the spice cupboard?
You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.
by Shaunti Feldhahn
You know that colleague or family member who drives you nuts? The one who second-guesses everything you do, is super-sensitive, and doesn’t return urgent emails for help?
No, wait, that would be my colleague! You probably have a different relationship that drives you nuts. Your grumpy step-father or passive-aggressive sister. A daughter with an Olympic level skill in eye-rolling. Or perhaps it is your spouse, as your marriage has slid from happy to hurting.
Or maybe it isn’t a bad relationship, but a good one … and you want it to be great.
Well, I’ve got great news. I’m a social researcher; and after years of study on what we call the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, we found three actions anyone can do to transform any relationship. Because targeted kindness is a superpower that will soften any heart.
Including our own!
Here’s what you do. Pick the person with whom you want a better relationship. For 30 days, you will:
- Say nothing negative about your person—either to them or about them to someone else. If you must provide negative feedback (for example, to discipline a child or correct a subordinate’s mistake), be constructive and encouraging without a negative tone.
- Every day, find one thing you can sincerely praise or affirm about your person and tell them, and tell someone else.
- Every day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.
That’s it! So simple. And yet in our research for The Kindness Challenge, 89% of relationships improved!
What does this look like in practice? Well, suppose you and your husband have been irritated with one another for months. Now every parenting decision is a battle, and your feelings are regularly hurt.
During the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, you resist the urge to ask “Why did you let the kids stay up so late!?” And you completely stop yourself from venting about it with your girlfriends at work. (This is just for thirty days, remember!) Instead, you’re looking for things to praise. So you notice it was really nice of him to come home early to get the boys to football practice. You thank him for it – and then you tell your girlfriends at work about that nice thing he did.
You’re also looking for that little act of generosity to do each day. So when he’s super tired after work, instead of getting annoyed that he’s not helping with dinner preparation you sincerely say, “I’ve got this. You go watch the game for a few minutes.”
Trust me: Starting this process will show us a whole lot about what needs to change. Not just in the other person: but in us. You will see just how negative you have been, in ways you never realized before. (In The Kindness Challenge, I outline the seven distinct types of negativity we found in the research, ranging from exasperation to overt criticism to suspicion. I strongly recommend you find out your negativity patterns, so you can watch for them!)
One Small Win: But as you go, you will also see something amazing: you will see your feelings changing. You’ll start appreciating the other person more. You’ll see their defenses lowering. And you may see enjoyment and positivity in the relationship you haven’t seen in years. An effort toward kindness won’t solve every problem – especially the big ones like addiction – but it will make them easier to solve.
I hope you will sign up for the 30-Day Kindness Challenge! Get a group of friends to do it together. Be a part of a movement of kindness in our culture – and in yourself!
Shaunti Feldhahn is a social researcher, speaker and best-selling author of books such as For Women Only. She thinks Kathi Lipp – and anyone who loves Kathi – rocks the world. She hopes all of you will go rock the world with kindness.
Homework often feels like swimming in quicksand; it takes a lot of effort to make a small, microscopic bit of progress. I think my son often feels the same. His face, his voice, his delay of the inevitable all lead to a night of overwhelm, and there isn’t one of us who welcomes the arrival of it. Instead, we have had to reframe homework time in order to do more than simply survive the wade through quicksand.
Changing the homework atmosphere
In a moment of desperation, when overwhelm was about to suck every bit of joy from the house, I opted to change the atmosphere. It was time to think outside the box.
Who knew that lavender essential oil was just as important as a No. 2 pencil? It was news to me but now I keep it on hand. Diffuse it or wear it on your wrists to erase overwhelm – yours and your child’s! I bet fresh baked cookies, freshly cut rosemary or flowers would work to invigorate and motivate as well.
A clear space to work makes a big difference. It drives us all nuts to have to clear a spot or work around the syrup on the counter. Have a clear spot ready to go. Also, there’s something about a flickering candle that ushers in peace and shows overwhelm the door. The candlelight serves as a reminder of what home is – a place of peace, it serves to remind me not set a place at the table for overwhelm.
Music is powerful and completely customizable! What type of music focuses and calms your child? Instrumental music, soft rock, a movie soundtrack, or white noise? One night I put on John Coltrane just as I was about to pull my hair out and the strains of the talented saxophonist melted the frustration so that we could all stay focused on what is important – our relationships with each other!
Sometimes everyone needs a break. “Finish that worksheet and we can go shoot some hoops.” “Let’s practice your math facts and then we can have a snack.” “Go ahead and finish that sentence and we can go dance it out.” Homework will feel less like a prison sentence when there are opportunities to blow off some steam.
Atmosphere matters in homework. I can’t do my son’s homework for him (I already passed 4th grade), but I can set the tone in our home. Homework is not always going to be fun but there can be more smiles in the midst of math, more patience in the writing of the report. It is possible to end the night tired yet satisfied, that together, we navigated homework well.
One Small Win: With a simple step outside of the box, homework becomes more than just school work – it becomes a lesson in being patient and kind while mitigating overwhelm.
You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.
Oh, I am no stranger to the New Year’s Resolution, my friend. I know that I made them as a teenager, but the first clear memory I have of making a list was in 1998, in my fourth-floor walk-up in Uji, Japan, where I was serving as a short-term missionary. I was full of energy, passion, and drive. I sat down, made a list of ten goals, and free of a boyfriend, American TV, and other distractions, I lost weight, had daily Bible study time, cooked at home, and generally crushed it.
And then I got back to my real life, and over the course of less than a month, all those resolutions slowly unraveled. Not only did I break each and every resolution, I was actually worse off than when I started.
For years after that, I would make resolutions, only to find myself in February again, feeling guilty about the resolutions I didn’t keep. I think to myself, “Why is it that everyone else can keep their New Year’s resolutions except me?”
It’s taken me dozens of years to realize, maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s the resolutions.
Resolutions are All or Nothing
You don’t get credit unless you’ve done the whole thing. You said you wanted to lose twenty pounds, and only lost seven? In resolution-world, that’s a big old failure. You said you would exercise five times a week, and you only are getting to the gym twice a week. Well, why go at all?
When your goals are all or nothing, 99.9% of the time, they will be nothing.
As humans, we need to see our progress and we need encouragement along the way.
When it Comes to Resolutions, Turns Out That SMART Goals for Life Change Aren’t That SMART
We’ve all heard about SMART goals. That our goals should be:
I use SMART goals all the time in my business, and for short term projects. But for lasting life goals? SMART may not be the way to go.
Peter Bregman, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, argues “When we set goals, we’re taught to make them specific and measurable and time-bound. But it turns out that those characteristics are precisely the reasons goals can backfire. A specific, measurable, time-bound goal drives behavior that’s narrowly focused and often leads to either cheating or myopia. Yes, we often reach the goal, but at what cost?”
So If Resolutions are Not the Answer, What Is?
Bergman says that instead of goals, we should be focused on areas of change. “An area of focus taps into your intrinsic motivation. It offers no stimulus or incentive to cheat or take unnecessary risks, leaves every positive possibility and opportunity open, and encourages collaboration while reducing corrosive competition. All this while moving forward on the things you and your organization value most.”
For over a year, my resolution has been not to make a list of resolutions, but instead, to create a personal manifesto.
A personal manifesto is a statement of your core values and beliefs, what is important to you, and how you plan to live your life. It is written in the present tense, even if not everything you state is one hundred percent true about you today, it is a declaration of what you are working to become.
So instead of a resolution that says, “I will lose twenty pounds this year,” my manifesto states, “I cannot buy good health. I must earn it. Daily.” Instead of short-term goals, I’m looking for lifetime growth.
I sat down and wrote my manifesto in about an hour. (As an author and speaker, I spend a lot of time mulling such things over in my day-to-day life already. So when it came time to put it down on paper, it was pretty easy for me.) But others can get stuck in the creation of such a personal document. That’s why our team has designed this download “How to Write Your Personal Manifesto” as our gift to you.
I can think of dozens of reasons to create your own personal manifesto, but let me give you my top three:
- There is no “Breaking” a Personal Manifesto
Yes – there are going to be days when you don’t live up to your own hope of the manifesto. That doesn’t mean that you throw the whole thing out. The personal manifesto has built-in grace. There is a recognition intrinsically within your PM that this is who you are becoming. Slow growth is still growth.
- Your Get to Dream (and Pray) Bigger With a Personal Manifesto
Resolutions are all about temporary changes. Lose weight, eat healthy, quit a bad habit. But a Personal Manifesto enables you to not just focus on the behavior, but on the person you are becoming, and who God wants you to be. Plus, you get to include others in your dreams, plans, and prayers.
In resolutions, you only get to set goals for yourself. In my Personal Manifesto, one line says, “I help others be world-changers.” To me, that’s a powerful reason to get out of bed and do life every day.
- Your To-Dos are Born Out of Your Personal Manifesto
Don’t think that with the Personal Manifesto you will walk aimlessly through life with no goals. Oh no. your goals, daily to-dos, and even your routines are all born out of your Personal Manifesto. In fact, you will be more focused with a Personal Manifesto than with resolutions, but the focus will not be born out of your self-will, it will spring from your heart.
Are you feeling Overwhelmed?Do you want to leave behind “out of my mind“ and move to “in control“? Me too my friends! Introducing my new book, with my co-author Cheri Gregory, Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity.
Do not go another year living under overwhelmed.
That’s how long the marketing experts told us to offer the special pre-order bonuses for Overwhelmed, our new book that officially releases on January 1.
“You have to create a sense of urgency! Otherwise, nobody will buy.”
We almost did what the experts said. We almost ran a high-pressure, TODAY ONLY, Cyber-Monday special.
But at the last minute, we changed our minds.
Well, for one thing, we knew that the last thing our readers needed was us pushing a our “sense of urgency” on them. (If there’s anything overwhelmed women already live with 24/7, it’s a sense of urgency!)
But more than anything, we had a feeling that our readers are just the kind of women to prove the experts wrong.
So, we said “no” to 24 hours of pressure tactics and “yes” to two full weeks of sharing the love, instead.
You proved the experts wrong!
We’ve been totally blown away, in the best possible way.
A Gentle Reminder
In just over 24 hours, the December pre-order bonuses will expire. For each and every copy of Overwhelmed you pre-order, you get:
- The “Get Out from Overwhelmed Planner: Do Great Things, Be Less Cranky” + 7 short coaching videos by Kathi
- FIVE of our most popular book titles in ebook format from Book Shout
Getting your freebies is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
1 — Order Overwhelmed from your favorite retailer. (Out of stock right now with your favorite retailer? You can still order now and enjoy your free bonuses while you wait for your book to arrive.)
2 — Fill out this form to receive your bonuses.
3 — Check your email for your bonuses. (Be sure to check those promo or spam folders in case it gets misdirected.)
Feeling overwhelmed? Wondering if it’s possible to move from “out of my mind” to “in control” when you’ve got too many projects on your plate and too much mess in your relationships?
Kathi and Cheri want to show you five surprising reasons why you become stressed, why social media solutions don’t often work, and how you can finally create a plan that works for you. As you identify your underlying hurts, uncover hope, and embrace practical healing, you’ll understand how to…
- trade the to-do list that controls you for a calendar that allows space in your life
- decide whose feedback to forget and whose input to invite
- replace fear of the future with peace in the present
You can simplify and savor your life—guilt free! Clutter, tasks, and relationships may overwhelm you now, but God can help you overcome with grace.
HURRY! For this moment ONLY, you can get in on this DEAL OF THE DECADE!! But you must act QUICKLY! No time to think about it! This offer will GO AWAY any nanosecond! Just click, swipe, share and re-tweet RIGHT NOW with 500 of your closest friends! NO ONE WANTS TO MISS OUT!!! If you buy one product you get only one product, but if you buy 27 products you get 2 baby unicorns! ABSOLUTELY FREE! And if you buy 127 products we will give you something so amazing that legally we are not allowed to divulge, but it’s pretty darn fabulous and you WON’T BELIEVE IT’S AWSOMENESS! But only if you act NOW! If you take your next breath it may be TOO LATE!!!! Supplies are LIMITED!!! YOU MUST ACT NOW!!!
Does this seem Overwhelming to you? It does to us as well. So we’re not going to go that route. You have enough people screaming at you. But we do have something to share with you that we are pretty excited about it! There’s no big hurry though. In fact, why don’t you get a cup of your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and we’ll tell you all about it. Go ahead. Don’t worry you won’t miss anything. We will be here when you return.
Got that cup? Good! Take a sip. Relax…
We know how this time of year can be crazy, busy and overwhelming. Though feeling overwhelmed is not strictly reserved for the holidays, that’s for sure! So that makes us very excited about the birth our newest book, Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore your Sanity by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory coming in January.
But we want to help you ease into the season with a little more balance and organization, so we’ve bundled some gifts for you early birds! And we chose these intentionally to help you implement your less overwhelmed life now. With your order of Overwhelmed we want to give you:
– A downloadable Overwhelmed calendar/planner (Can we just tell you how awesome this planner is? We have tested many of them and this could be very well be the last planner we will ever need! It’s customizable to fit your personal needs, you print out the pages as you need them, and it incorporates the systems you will learn in Overwhelmed. This planner will get you where you need to go faster! Also included are 5 FREE teaching videos tailored to get your planner up and running and perfect for you!)
– FIVE FREE ebooks (this offer ended 12/31/16) geared to refocus your priorities to live the life you crave. People, this is $80 worth of books for F-R-E-E (and some of Kathi’s favorites handpicked for you!)
– Get Yourself Organized for Christmas
-The What’s for Dinner Solution
-The Cure for the Perfect Life
-The Get Yourself Organized Project
-The Me Project
With these tools, you will feel more on top of this season than ever before. With more peace and joy too! We bet right now you are thinking of a few friends who would love to receive these free gifts, and we want them to as well! We hate for people to miss out because an offer was for one day only, so we want to give you ample time to share with your friends and decide for yourself.
For these next two weeks, December 15-31, we will keep this offer open to you and your friends. Wow! Christmas presents after Christmas even! That’s fun! No pressure. No gimmicks. No limitations. Just a heartfelt thank you for journeying with us on the road to simplifying and savoring life!
Order your copy of Overwhelmed here. Then jump over to http://overwhelmed.website/freebies to submit your receipt and get your bonuses!
Share with your friends here.
I was a guest at Girlfriends in God and wanted to share it with you today!
For years, I’ve heard the same message in sermons, Bible studies, magazine articles, and on social media: Christmas is not about the gifts, decorating, how the Christmas ham is prepared, parties or even Christmas cookies. We are all supposed to stop doing All. The. Things. and simply reflect in the glow of our Charlie Brown Christmas tree and spend the entire month rereading the story of Christ’s birth from Luke.
And for all those years, I’ve felt guilty about being madly in love with the “stuff” of Christmas. I love having friends and family over to eat, drink (hot chocolate) and be merry. I enjoy filling our grown kids’ stockings with care. I adore planning for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner. I even get a thrill from sending out (and receiving) Christmas cards.
While the world may go overboard when it comes to “celebrating” the season (just watch any video of a Wal-Mart opening on Black Friday to see what I’m talking about . . .), in many ways, I’ve felt guilty for finding happiness in any other way than attending church and singing Christmas carols. I know we are to have joy at Christmastime, but does God also care about our happiness?
Read more at Girlfriends in God!