Why aren’t you like me?

Have you ever wondered how it’s remotely possible that someone could think completely differently than you? Is it just me that is continuously shocked that people don’t view things the exact way that I do?

I find myself falling into the trap of desiring “sameness.” And it creeps it’s way into my marriage the most!

I will say to my husband, How can you possibly rationalize THAT? Or WHY did you think that was ok? Or worse…have you LOST YOUR MIND?

What I really mean is…

Why aren’t you like me?

There are so many well-meaning spouses out there that fall into this same trap. We want to connect with our spouse, we want to love them well…but we get stuck…primarily because we have a hard time stepping outside of ourselves.

In it’s extreme, this can be a form of narcissism. For many of us, it’s simply a lack of understanding. We have yet to understand HOW to connect or give love to someone who is different from us.

There is no greater lie than a truth misunderstood.

-William James

First of all, let’s lay this out…gender differences are real. There is a marked difference between men and women. We must see that for what it is.

Generally speaking, men tend to be motivated by achievement and women tend to be motivated by relationship. When you have a conversation, it’s likely a woman will want to extensively chat it out and a man will want to fix it quick.

Beyond gender, we have our unique personalities. We are each created in the image of God, with unique characteristics and gifts. Each of us is a one of a kind, yet we tend to fall into general personality styles or traits.

Have you ever taken a personality test?

There are all kinds of them out there…many people have take the Myers-Briggs test for their job. Some folks have done a quick Facebook test. There are plenty of options.

Whether extensive or not, a personality test can help to give you insight to understand yourself and love who you are. When you understand yourself well, you can communicate to your spouse how they can best love you well. It’s a win-win, if you ask me!

Understanding our personality types has taken our marriage to a new level.

By identifying our individual needs, desires, fears, and default modes of operation, we are able to understand each other in a deeper way. Even more important, we are able to communicate and love in a way that is edifying for our spouse.

You may be saying, where do I even start? Good question!

Specific to your marriage and helping you understand how to love each well, Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is a great place to start! It’s an easy to read, concise tool to get you loving your spouse according to THEIR love language by the end of the week!

If you want to dive a bit deeper into how you can enhance your marriage by understanding you and your spouse well, check out How We Love by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. This book helps to identify the things that are disrupting your marriage and leads you to make lasting changes.

How about taking a real good look at you? Want to learn more about yourself and how you tick? If so, the Enneagram is a stellar personality test that can help you discover yourself more deeply. The book we reference the most for Enneagram is Understanding the Enneagram by Don Richard Rios and Russ Hudson. The Enneagram test that we took is here. (Please note there is a small fee for this one, but there are also free tests out there)

One of the most important skills you can learn is how to talk so your mate will listen and how to listen so your mate will talk.

That skill is much easier attained when you both have a true understanding of WHO you are and WHY you think the way you do.

So, with a better understanding of your spouse’s personality type, the question of “have you lost your mind” won’t be relevant anymore. You will KNOW that their mind isn’t lost…it’s just different from yours.

And that makes all the difference.

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Summer Fun: Date Challenge!

We are smack in the middle of summer.  Are you wondering where the time has gone?  Have you planned plenty of activities and fun for your kids but none for you and your spouse?

Welcome to the club.  sigh.

How does that happen??  Somehow, we find our calendars filled with all kinds of summer activities, most of which are not dedicated, intentional time with our spouse.  Even those of us without children will tend to focus more on group activities during the summer, rather than dedicated alone time with the one we love.

Group summer activities are not “date night.”  A fun group softball game with friends or a bbq with neighbors are great, social summertime fun!  However, those activities do not count as dedicated, intentional time nurturing your marriage.  

If we are not leaning in to our spouse, we are slowly leaning away from them.

SO, let’s lean in!

Let’s plan some intentional, summer fun for just the two of us!!!

Here are 5 ideas for affordable, easy, fun (and some you don’t have to leave the house) dates for you and your spouse.

5 SUMMER FUN DATES!

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  1. Farmers Market Surprise:  Go to a local farmers market.  Give yourselves $10 each. (or whatever amount you prefer)  Split up for a short amount of time and find something (or many things!) for your spouse, only spending the amount given.  Enjoy the time thinking only of what your spouse would like and then have fun surprising each other!  Once you have your gifts, spend as much time enjoying the market together.

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2.  Game Night:  Grab a board game, new or one you’ve played a million times, and play.  No kids allowed.  If you want to go the extra mile, get The Discovery Game, which is specifically for couples.  I have a good one planned for us…..BeanBoozled.  That looks like it will be a hoot!

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3.  Row, Row, Row Your Boat:  Find a body of water, rent or borrow a canoe or kayak (preferably one you share) and spend a couple of hours rowing your boat.  You can learn a lot about a couple by how they row a boat together!  LOL!  Seriously, though…we’ve had some stressful boat experiences because, shocker, we were fighting over who was in charge of steering the boat!  (Disclaimer: I was in the front and should not have been steering even though I totally was)  However, we have had some beautiful moments on a boat surrounded by nature.  Conversations are different on a boat…I don’t know why, they just are.  Try it.

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4.  Food Adventure:  Time to get daring!  Go to to a restaurant that you NEVER thought you would go to….or make a recipe together that seems a bit scary or includes ingredients that kinda freak you out.  Whichever you choose, decide together to try something new and strange!  What’s the worst thing that happens?? (Don’t answer that)  You could discover–TOGETHER–something new and exciting that you love!  *see above, I LOVED this beet pizza! Steve, not so much.

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5.  Tourist Time:  Find a local “tourist trap” that you have never been to and visit it, just the two of you.  It doesn’t have to cost a thing.  We have local museums with free admission.  Or you can visit a local park or beautiful vista off the side of the road (see above!).  It’s amazing how many wonderful things are all around us…and we only see them when we have guests in town.  (can I get an Amen?)  Go enjoy those interesting, fun and gorgeous places with the one you love most.

OK.  There they are.  Five, easy, totally do-able dates for you!  NOW, go do them.  Here’s the deal.  We are issuing a challenge, that we will do right along with you.  We challenge you to pick 3 of these dates.  Schedule them on the calendar.  Plan your babysitting swap or whatever it takes to free up 3 days or nights BEFORE LABOR DAY.

Experience 3 of the 5 date nights prior to Labor Day (September 3, 2018).  Take pictures (we need proof, kids!) during your date.  Post them to our Instagram or Facebook page with the hashtag #sidebysidedates.  When you have posted 3 dates, you will receive a gift from us!!!

Summer Fun Date Challenge:

  1.  Go on 3 of the 5 dates (just the two of you!)
  2.  Take pics on all your dates and post to FB or Insta with #sidebysidedates
  3.  Receive a fun gift from Side By Side!
  4.  Most importantly….lean in and have fun!!!

We can’t wait to see your #sidebysidedates pics!

http://www.sidebysideministry.org

 

 

Coping: In, Out or Up?

In the month of June, our focus here at Side By Side Ministry is on the subject of coping.  If you haven’t noticed, we do our best to follow a theme each month…addressing subjects that are on our hearts, and might be on yours, too.  Coping is a timely subject, as we have had to do our fair share of coping in the last several months.

The definition of COPE is:  deal effectively with something difficult.

The synonyms are especially interesting to me: manage, survive, subsist, look after oneself, fend for oneself, carry on, get by/through, bear up, hold one’s own, keep one’s end up, keep one’s head above water.

How are we supposed to cope or deal effectively with something difficult?

I can tell you this…it’s much easier to talk about how to do this when there ISN’T something difficult to “manage.”  Right?!  We can easily come up with some lovely answers to this question when our most difficult problem is deciding what to have for dinner.

But when we are burdened, I mean REALLY burdened with something that we have to figure out how to SURVIVE….how should we cope?

Confession time.  In the last several months, I have had several experiences where I have had to figure out how to “keep one’s head above water.” From unfortunate personal attacks– to the bittersweet leaving of friends and family to move to a new state– to the heart wrenching shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland– to my Mother’s recent (and way too early) death.  It’s been a season of difficulties that I have had to cope with.

As I have walked through this season, I noticed that I had three choices of coping: In, Out, or Up.  Let me explain.

3 Ways of Coping: In, Out, or Up

In

This type of coping is generally internal.  We choose to keep things inside, bottle them up, internalize emotions, process quietly, possibly wallow.  We may believe that we are simply “boxing up” the difficulty, perhaps to save it for a better time.  People around us may comment that we are “strong” because it’s hard to see that we are even experiencing a difficulty, as we are certainly not wearing it on our sleeve.  In general, we are counting on ourselves to heal ourselves when we follow “In Coping.”

“I can do this.”  “This ____ won’t get me down.”  “I’m better/smarter/stronger than that.”  

“No one else could possibly understand this.” “It’s too hard to share.” 

These are just a few phrases we might use when we are internalizing our coping.

Out

This type of coping is generally external and inclusive, meaning we are looking to someone or something else to help us manage our difficulty.  What or whom we seek out varies immensely.  We may seek out people, even to the point of clinging to them as we would a lifeline.  We may seek out escape items such as food, drink, drugs, tv, sex, pornography, gambling, extreme hobbies…anything that will help us escape the difficulty.

“I need a drink.”  “Call me back, I NEED to talk to you.”  “When I _______, I don’t even think about ________.”

Again, just a few phrases we may hear when we are externalizing our coping.

Up

This type of coping is the kind that allows you, even when fallen to the floor, to look up and seek God’s face.  Listen, I know this is the obvious “good way to cope.”  What believer doesn’t know that seeking God would be a good way to cope?  What believer doesn’t know this is the winning answer?  Deep in our hearts, as Christians, we know that our best method of coping would be to reach out to God to help us.

Yet, this method of coping is often the last one we choose.  Oftentimes, it’s more likely to be our “last resort.”  We are “reduced to prayer.”  How sad does that sound….reduced to prayer.  Sigh.

Seek the Kingdom of God first, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  Matthew 6:33 NLT

Here’s the deal, it’s not that we can’t utilize the IN and OUT coping strategies.  BUT when we seek those methods FIRST, we are less likely to utilize them in a healthy, godly way.

When we seek God first, He will lead us to HEALTHY, GODLY coping methods.

The IN and OUT will look different when we seek UP first.

So, when God is sought out at the first sight of difficulty, we can certainly use IN and spend quality time in thought and prayer, processing what just happened with clear leading from the Holy Spirit, who lives IN US.

When we “go to the throne instead of the phone,” He will lead us to healthy external methods of coping….such as sending us to godly friends who will pray with us and keep us accountable or  introducing us to healthy habits like walking out in nature or taking an art class.

If we follow the OUT method without seeking God first, it’s highly unlikely we will seek out godly coping mechanisms.

Coping internally and externally are not necessarily bad, as long as God is guiding you first.

Confession time again.  In this season of difficulty, I have made some good choices in coping methods and I have made some poor choices.  My own choices are the main reason that I wanted to focus on coping this month.  I wanted to learn more about how, as a believer, I can cope with difficulty in a more godly way.  I hope you don’t mind exploring that with me.

In my next blog post, we will talk more specifically about tangible ways that we can cope well, in a godly way, with difficulty.

Friends, may we all seek God first in all we do, not just in hard times.  Knowing Him is what we need most in our lives and will lead us to cope well with all that life throws at us.

www.sidebysideministry.org

 

My Own Worst Enemy.

Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

There are some days that I literally look at myself in the mirror and say, “what were you thinking?”  Or I look behind me to see who my husband is staring at in horror only to realize he’s looking at me…because of something I just said or did.  And I think to myself, “How did that even just happen?”

Have you ever felt like that?  (Please tell me I am not alone!)

Well, actually, I know I am not alone, because the Apostle Paul tells us about something similar in his letter to the Romans.  And I gotta tell you…I really love this verse.  Not because I want to hear that Paul messes up.  Back up…yes, it IS because I want to hear that Paul–the Apostle, amazing follower of Jesus who led multiple people groups to the saving power of Jesus Christ–wasn’t perfect.  He made mistakes.  He did things he didn’t like and didn’t understand why.  Even the great Paul was a sinner….just like me.

I imagine him saying, “I am my own worst enemy.”

(It’s actually the sin within us that is the enemy, but I will get to that)

So, if the things that I do, the things I don’t understand but I know are wrong are coming from ME….then I am the only one that can change them.

If I am my own worst enemy, I–with the power of God–need to choose to change those things.

It’s super easy to look at others (especially those that are in close proximity-like your spouse) and see what they are doing that you don’t understand or things that you hate.  It’s easy to label them the enemy.  We seem to prefer to have other people to blame–scapegoats for our issues.

It’s not easy to look within ourselves and see the things we truly dislike, even hate.  And then, imagine being like Paul and publicly professing it!  What?!

Who wants to admit that they don’t have control over themselves?  Who wants to tell their spouse, or neighbor, or friend that they are doing something they don’t like to do?  It’s not such a fun task.

BUT it’s freedom.  Confession of sin is part of the process of growth.  Admitting our own faults–rather than focusing on everyone else’s–frees us to heal and grow.

We are always going to have sin.  We will always have something we are doing that we probably wish we weren’t.  But when we seek God to identify them, confess them and free ourselves from them, we have greatly lessened our burden and drawn closer to God.    That’s a win, in my eyes!

Sin (those things we hate that we do) separate us from God.

So, technically, I am not my own worst enemy.  My sin is most own worst enemy.  I am a child of God who daily needs to make the choice to kick that enemy out and make lots of room for the God I love.  The more I do that, the more open I am to loving those around me.

What do you do that you hate?  How can you ask God to help you remove it?

 

15th Anniversary Fundraiser Event Recap + Testimonials

Have you ever been on a road trip and looked around at all the other people in cars and thought to yourself…where are they going? Or where have they been? Sometimes, I will look over at a car and see that it’s the same person that was in line next to me at the last rest stop.  Or I will see that someone I passed earlier in the day is now passing by me.  We are all on a journey, seemingly going along on the same path in the same direction.  But when you look closely, though we travel along simultaneously, we are having vastly different experiences at varying paces.

Recently, we shared Side By Side: Our Journey From Hurt to Hope at our 15th Wedding Anniversary Fundraiser.  Nearly 150 people experienced our story and learned more about the future of our ministry, Side By Side.

 

Looking from the outside, you would see many people in the same room having the same experience.

But each and every person in that room was in a different place in their own personal journey.  So, their experiences were completely different.  Just like the cars on the road traveling next to you.

In the days following our event, we have heard comments from many of the people that attended.

It’s amazing to hear how they receive the story of our journey based on where they are in their journey.

The story we tell is “our journey from hurt to hope.”  Well, the people that came to see Side By Side are all over the spectrum of that journey from hurt>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>to hope.  People tend to gain different insights from our story based on where they fall on that spectrum.

From a godly couple that has come to Side By Side three times:

“Our marriage is better since being introduced to Side By Side.”

From a couple that viewed it on video when headed for divorce (and now have seen it live, too!):

“If it weren’t for Side By Side, we wouldn’t be married.”

From a couple that has been married over twenty years, and seen Side By Side twice:

“God shows me something new each time.”

From a ministry leader seeing it for the first time:

“It’s like Christian Broadway!”

From a couple experiencing marriage difficulties:

“This was life-changing.”

From a single woman:

“I can apply much of what you talk about to any of my daily relationships.”

Every person at our event was in a different place in their journey….all over the spectrum from hurt to hope.  As we shared how God has worked in our lives, He was working in theirs.  He uses our mess, on a daily basis, to speak to people and show them that He has a beautiful plan for their life, no matter where they are on their journey.

So, how did our event go? (People have asked us that a lot in the last couple weeks!)  It went exactly as God intended it to!  We shared our journey and, through God’s providence, spoke directly to each person in the way they needed to hear it.  For some, God used our story to make radical changes in their lives.  For others, God helped people to see how they can support Side By Side.  For us, He faithfully reminded us of His goodness and His love and His grace.

Thank you to each journey that was represented that night.  We pray that we are all journeying on God’s path toward the HOPE that can only come from Him.

 

 

Wait. Why do you do this?

People ask this question quite a lot.

Why do we do this?

Meaning…why do we publicly share very personal details of our lives with absolute strangers?  Why did we start a non-profit organization?  Why do we revisit a very painful time in our lives over and over and over again?

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Real marriages are being saved!

Side By Side Ministry was created out of our mess.  Our marriage was broken and headed for divorce.  Miraculously, God restored our marriage.  And we began the difficult yet amazing journey from hurt to hope.

In our desire to inspire and encourage couples to do the same, we created Side By Side, a musical storytelling experience, in which we share the details of our journey and support it with faith-based music.

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Since Side By Side Ministry was created, over 800 people have viewed it live.  Two people have committed their life to Jesus, hundreds have made significant changes to their marriages, and at least 4 marriages have been saved!

God is restoring marriages through Side By Side!

Between live events, we have sent a video of Side By Side to hurting couples.  Guess what?  Those couples were deeply changed by God’s story.  Some made significant changes to their marriages, some felt convicted to seek further counsel, and…

MORE MARRIAGES HAVE BEEN SAVED!

This got us thinking…what if couples could view Side By Side whenever they needed to? What if they didn’t have to wait for a live event? What if they could just do an internet search and find our story of hope?

What if thousands upon thousands of couples could see Side By Side with a simple click?

It is our deepest desire to see ALL marriages God-centered and thriving.  If hearing our story can help couples make the choice to go from surviving to thriving, then we want EVERY couple to have the opportunity to view Side By Side!

Here’s the plan!  We will professionally film our Side By Side presentation.  It will be high-quality, eye-catching, intimate and inspiring.  It will include all the same content as the live event.  It will be available for viewing on our Side By Side YouTube Channel, where couples will also have access to accompanying reflection questions, bible verses, and additional resources.

Side By Side is blessed to have a team of professionals that will strategically market the video online, so that it will be very simple for a couple to find our story of hope.

Just imagine you are a hurting or frustrated spouse searching the internet for direction and inspiration….and up pops Side By Side, leading you to follow God’s design for your marriage!  Sometimes all you need is a little mustard seed, a glimmer of hope, a story that inspires you to keep on keepin’ on or convicts you to make a change. 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Pray.

First, pray for us! This is a huge project and we need God’s guidance and provision.  Your prayers are so important.

Tell.

Please tell people about us!  Invite them to our upcoming fundraiser on July 23rd at Parkridge Church.  Tell them there is a non-profit organization out there that wants to see all marriages God-centered and thriving.  Like us and share our posts on Facebook. Follow us on Instagram. Don’t assume that people know about us.

Give.

In order to create and implement this video project, we need to raise $75,000.  This is a huge project that requires a great deal of resources.  It is important to us that we are able to offer the Side By Side video and resources FREE OF CHARGE to those that need it.  Please consider partnering with us to save marriages!  GIVE NOW.

Friends, we believe this is God’s plan for Side By Side.  We have already been so blessed to see how He is orchestrating this next step for us.  We thank you in advance for being a part of this project.  We believe it is a “game-changer” for Side By Side.  We also believe it is going to save marriages and change lives! 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.                   2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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www.sidebysideministry.org