Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Five Love Languages

(From the February edition of my church's newsletter.)

During his 30 years as a marriage counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman noticed that many problems between couples stemmed from different ideas of how to love and be loved. He theorized that people speak in five different love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Chapman believes that each person has a preference for one or two of the five languages, and that he or she feels the most loved when it is expressed in this language. When couples speak different love languages, it can lead to misunderstandings, even feelings of neglect or being unloved.

In his the book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate Chapman provides two short questionnaires to help you and your spouse determine your primary love language. He then goes on to describe the five languages. Words of Affirmation refers to kind and uplifting words, such as an unsolicited compliment or a verbally expressed, “I love you.” Quality Time means time with your spouse when you have his or her undivided attention – no TV, cell phones, or other distractions. If your primary love language is Receiving Gifts, it does not mean that you are a materialist! The importance in this language is the thought and effort behind the gift. Acts of Service refers to “anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on your spouse” like washing dishes or going to the grocery store. If Physical Touch is your primary love language, then for you there is great meaning in hugs, holding hands, and pats on the back.

Though Chapman believes that every person has a preferred language or two, we can all relate to the other languages. The book explores how we can learn to express love in our spouse’s primary love language.

I think this is light, easy read could be helpful for couples young and not so young. I first read this book several years before Jason and I got married, and it has been helpful for us. We do have different preferred love languages, and identifying that has helped us to care for each other better.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

To Do

I like to make lists. I make grocery lists, lists of school assignment due dates, lists of what to pack on a trip. I write lists on paper and now have free apps on my phone that let me make lists digitally. Lists keep me organized and help me to ensure that I don't forget anything important. Lists can be a wonderful thing.

But sometimes I feel as though I'm living my life like it's a list. I start to view everything in my day as just another item to be accomplished and checked off so that I can move on to the next. Things I love to do start to be framed in my mind as just another item on the day's list. I have woken up on a day off thinking, "Ok, first I need to take a walk. Next I need to play with the dogs before I bake chocolate chip cookies. Then I want to read at least three chapters of this novel that I am reading purely for pleasure." This frame of mind can really suck the joy out of life.

Yesterday I woke up to one of these days. It was a beautiful, sunny day with a slight breeze so it wasn't too hot. I dutifully got dressed and went outside to take a walk, not because I was excited to move around in the lovely weather, but because it was the first thing on my mental list for the day. I don't remember much about the first half mile or so of the walk. My mind was absorbed in all of the other things I *had* to do that day, which led to the list for the next day, which led to the next...

A turkey brought me back to noticing what is important.

Turkeys are big, funny-looking birds. I think they are one of the animals that can be pointed to when people want to show God's sense of humor. And there, in my neighborhood, just wandering along, was a turkey. I stopped walking and watched it as it meandered across the road, through someone's yard, and out of sight. As I resumed my walk I started to notice other creatures - several types of birds, a few squirrels. I saw the trees and flowers in all of the yards along the street. I felt the warm sun on my face and cool breeze on my skin. I noticed the houses and thought about how blessed we are to have safe homes with running water, electricity, and climate control. One positive thought lead to another just as my stressful thoughts had just moments before.

Joy, hope, beauty, peace - they're all around us. My prayer is that I slow down enough and look outside myself enough to see, and truly embrace them.

P.S. Brought to you by Patrick on Spongebob Squarepants.

When God Winks at You

(From the January edition of my church's newsletter.)

Author Squire Rushnell coined the term Godwink and describes it as “what some people would call a coincidence, an answered prayer, or simply an experience where you'd say, ‘Wow, what are the odds of that!’” A godwink is “a message of reassurance from above, directly to you, out of six [now seven] billion people on the planet, saying ‘Hey kid...I'm thinking of you! Keep the faith! You're never alone.’"

For many years I have be amazed by coincidences. Certainly there are some things that are simply flukes, but there are others, those with deeper meaning, that make you pause and realize that God must have arranged it. Tammy Yeager shared an amazing story of coincidences, or Godwinks, in her sermon on August 21, 2011, “The Pursuit of God.” In it she mentioned one of Squire Rushnell’s books about Godwinks, so I went to the church library after the service and checked out When God Winks at You: How God Speaks Directly to You through the Power of Coincidence.

The book is comprised of short, true stories about times in peoples’ lives when God intervened through coincidences. Some are simple, and others are more powerful, but they are all uplifting and hope-filled. They remind you that God is constantly interacting with us, though sometimes we are too busy to notice. This book inspires you to actively look for God at work in your life. When you start looking, I think you will be amazed at the many Godwinks, large and small, that you see. I know I have.