Thursday, August 14, 2008

30-Day Encouragement Challenge

Today's host: Cindy Beall

Today's topic: Marriage - Building Up Your Spouse

How well do you sweet-talk your spouse?

What are some things you can say TODAY to let your spouse know that you think the world of them?

Today I start with an admission: this is an area I struggle with. Bless, edify, build up, encourage, inspire, praise, thank, uplift. No matter how you say it, I need to work on it.

Our host, Cindy, made some great points today about talking kindly of our husbands when we are in the presence of others. This is not the area I struggle with, but it reminds me of the story that inspired me to treat my husband well in public.

Ronald Reagan is the first President I vaguely remember as a young girl. But I've heard stories about Nancy Reagan that left an impression on the wife in me. "My life really began when I married my husband," said Nancy Reagan, who happily left an acting career for a role as the wife of Ronald Reagan and mother to their children. Apparently, the press would write stories of how she would gaze adoringly at her husband during his speeches. In fact, she was so enamored with him, that many a press story was committed to debating whether or not it was an act. You have to remember, this was in the midst of the feminist movement, and to regard your husband with awe and devotion was not part of their agenda!

Upon hearing these stories, I purposed this is how I wanted to look at my husband. I knew her husband could not be perfect, he had to have faults like the rest of us. But she chose to let her love reign and to honor him by giving him respect and adoration when they were in public, in spite of the continual public criticism she received for it.

And in case you're wondering, Nancy got the last word. Listen to what I read recently. "Today, long after the fact, even some of the Reagans' harshest critics concede that Nancy's onstage affection for her husband was no act. None other than the Washington Post's Sally Quinn recently told Vogue magazine that Nancy "got a lot of flak about 'The Gaze.' But we now know it was real." This is a major concession from someone who used to regularly join in on the criticism for reader's of the Post's Style section." (Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan, by Micheal K. Deaver)

Troy and I made a committment early on in our marriage, that one of the worst scenarios we could imagine was for us to be in a group of friends and one of us starts complaining about or announcing the other's faults. We decided to keep our issues just that - ours! And we made an agreement to work on them in private. And I purposed to work on my "adoring gaze," which sometimes translated to publically complimenting him.

But somewhere along the way, in our 6 1/2 years of marriage, Troy and I recognized a core issue in both our lives. Neither one of us naturally sweet talks in private.

This presents itself as a problem, since we both acknowledge our deep need for encouragement, support and acceptance. Especially from each other.

Not only do we struggle with giving compliments, we both struggle receiving compliments. A typical Troy-response to my awkward attempt at encouragement is usually an averted gaze and uncomfortable snicker. A typical Rebecca-response is to clumsily deflect or change the subject. Seem strange? It did to me, too. What kind of person must I be if I feel uncomfortable hearing something so enjoyable, something I actually long to hear?

A friend pointed out recently that neither of us have been exposed to this wonderful gift. I do not remember hearing my parents "bless" each other. Neither does my husband. For that matter, I don't know that either one of us has consitently been on the receiving end of this kind of encouragement. It's almost as if we don't know what to do with it.

Consequently, even though we know what we are intended to be for each other, what we really struggle with is (and here's the dead give away that I've been watching way too many late night Olympics) - follow through.

So, in true Olympic fashion, I have designed a program for myself.

While I was praying and reading and studying on this topic throughout the week, I stumbled across an amazing 30-day challenge at Revive our Hearts.

The challenge is basically this:

* You can't say anything negative about your your husband...or to anyone else, about your husband.

* Say something that you admire or appreciate about your your husband...and to someone else, about your husband!

Whew! This was not going to be as easy as I thought it was. Nevertheless, I was inspired to read this, "Perhaps it has taken you a tremendous amount of courage to speak words of encouragement consistently to your husband. Courage comes as we place our trust in God. Have faith that God will continue to work long after your encouraging words have been shared."

This project was designed with me in mind. Each day includes a foundational Scripture (love it!), a positive attribute of my husband to focus on and a practical way to bless and encourage him.

It essentially gives me the words to say, all I have to do is put the heart and prayer behind those words. And trust me, I'm in need of that kind of direction. They will even send a daily email to my Inbox to make sure I don't forget!

So, being Monday, I've had 3 days to practice my new "skill." And I've had 3 days to make mistakes. The best part is now that I've set the bar, I am acutely aware when I fall short. And with that knowledge, I can improve.

So what are some things I can say to my spouse to let him know I think the world of him?

Here's how it's gone so far:

Day One - I thanked him for choosing me, above all other women (with all my faults), and let him know I am glad God led us together and that I will be in his corner "all the days of (my) life." Proverbs 31:11-12

He laughed as he said "Oh-kay." When I asked why he laughed, he said it was because he was wondering what I wanted from him.... Obviously I have a long way to go.

Day Two - I thanked him for serving our family by working and providing for us. "...through love serve one another." Gal 5:13b

Since my daughter had a contagious infection, we were unable to go out in public this weekend. This day, I decided to let Troy sleep in. I got up before him, loaded up the girls and drove to the Starbucks drive-thru to get his favorite coffee. I told the girls we were serving Daddy to thank him for all he does, and Olivia got excited to dress in her best princess dress and shoes and present Daddy with his coffee in bed.

Later that day, Troy stepped in and offered to Olivia to take her lunch dishes to the sink for her. He explained, "Since you served me this morning, I'd like to serve you." I like the chain reaction this exercise is already having on my family.

Day Three - Blew it! Was supposed to "suffer long and be kind" (1 Cor 13:4) by appealing to him for help without complaining and letting him know it's hard for me to handle some things alone. I let him know I couldn't handle something alright....but not without complaining.

My considerate husband stepped up anyway, and helped me out. Even more to thank him for.

Day Four - Today! My goal is based on Eph. 4:28 "...let him labor, working with his hands what is good..."

I intend to let him know how much I value and appreciate the work that he does. And let him know how attractive his strength and diligence are to me. As a matter of fact, I've already sent him a text.

The interesting fact is the further I get into this challenge, the more excited I am each day to see what is to come and to find out how I can encourage my husband. I'm usually peeking ahead to the next couple days.

I leave you with this: "Criticism leaves scars; but encouragement can bring healing."


Denise said...

Such a lovely post sweetie. May God bless your efforts.

lori said... are giving us "take home gifts" at the well today!! What a fabulous, fabulous post!!

When my husband and I were first married..his sister in law would make remarks to us about how "sure, NOW we were in love..but give it 5 years...or 10." We walked away feeling so sorry for her really...To speak that.

We made that kind of commitment's not always an easy road...we have 3 MIRACLE babies..but my heart breaks when I hear so many speak so unkindly about the man they married....the one who is supposed to be their best friend....for life.

You have my vote today...the woman with the best advice to share!


Fifty Little Toes said...

What I love about your posts is that they are so honest and open. The 30-day challenge sounds like a great opportunity for learning. I really like your practical applications of those challenges, too. Your posts aren't just general words; the stories help bring those points to life!

Laurie Ann said...

Love the transparency in your post! So great and so real. Wonderful post and chock full of encouragement! God bless you for joining us At the Well!

LauraLee Shaw said...

Your authenticity and vulnerability are an incredible blessing. It's refreshing to hear that you not only admit that you have fallen short, but that you are coming up with a plan to correct it. And the fact that you and your husband work on it together, well, that is beautiful. God certainly will bless you and others in this endeavor. Can't wait to hear about it.

Joyfull said...

Thank you for sharing so honestly. I can relate so much to what you said. I plan to participate in the 30 day encouragement challenge soon. It looks fantastic!

boutcrazy said...

Beautiful words and insights. I love how you are stepping up to the challenge. My husband and I are the same way about sweet talk...if either one of us tries to say anything "sweet" we just crack up laughing because it is not us.

Marcia Wilwerding said...

You wrote:

"For that matter, I don't know that either one of us has consistently been on the receiving end of this kind of encouragement. It's almost as if we don't know what to do with it."

How very insightful! This may be a key problem with us not being able to move into the practice of blessing our husbands. They just aren't used to hearing it. They may have even been trained to think it is "mushy." Too bad! I'm going to bless you anyway, darlin'. ;)

I just cried for joy as you told how he is beginning to open up and respond. I can tell you right now, this is going to transform your home! See how the little ones begin to get in on the act and how it influenced the relationship between Daddy and your daughter?

Thank you so much for sharing this and for giving the heads up for the Revive Our Hearts challenge.