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Don't Buy Stuff You Can't Afford
Every Friday my Reality Check column appears in several newspapers. Here's today's, which is based on a blog post from last weekend. I'm Canadian, so it's from that point of view, but maybe it will encourage some of you Americans, who are distressed at your economic news, to come join us up north! Hope you enjoy it!

When my oldest daughter turned thirteen I gave her a clothing allowance. We sat down and calculated what new items she’d have to buy that year, and how much they were likely to cost, and I handed her a cheque. That money had to last her for an entire year. If she bought too much and ran out of money, tough luck.

She did very well, mostly because she developed an amazing affection for thrift stores. She realized she could buy stuff cheaply and then keep the leftover money!

Actually living within one’s budget, though, seems rather quaint. A few years ago Steve Martin starred in a hilarious skit on Saturday Night Live called “Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford”. In the skit, a couple sits at a table, leafing through bills, when someone bursts in with a revolutionary new book on saving money. The book, though, is only a page long, and it’s called—you guessed it—Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford. The couple grapples with the concept. “So if I want it, but I don’t have the money, I can just buy it, right?” “No!” comes the answer. And on and on it goes as they struggle to wrap their heads around this once common sense idea.

As badly as we’ve blown it, though, governments are far worse. Imagine if the government had to live the way we should: stay within a budget, save 10% for a rainy day, and then give away a few percentage points to charity. Sounds like a fairytale, doesn’t it?

Canada will run a deficit this year, but that’s after a few years of surpluses and paying down debt. The Americans, on the other hand, have been overspending for quite a while, and now it’s getting worse. Up until now, “billion” was the biggest number in our common lexicon. Now we’re all trying to figure out “trillion”, as Obama throws a bunch of good money after what looks like worthless investments. Instead of rewarding people for budgeting, or providing a stimulus that helps everyone, the U.S. government in all its wisdom has decided to reward businesses, industries, and individuals who have wasted, pilfered, and gambled their wealth away. To make matters worse, those who actually do make an income, and do contribute to the economy, and do try to live within their means, are the ones who will have to cough up the cash.

And they’re not alone. Their children and grandchildren will be on the hook, too. Instead of using their own money to save for their own homes, these future taxpayers will still be paying this debt left from bailing out irresponsible home buyers. It’s crazy.

For most of my life I have assumed that one day one of my children might move to the United States, with its better employment opportunities. In the past few months, though, I have developed a new affinity for our True North Strong and Free. I believe we’ll grow and thrive over the next few years, while Americans will find their huge debt catching up with them. They bought too much stuff they couldn’t afford.

Canada’s debt is 20% of our GDP, whereas America’s is now over 50%. And debt means that eventually someone’s taxes are going to have to pay for all the money the government has already spent. All those interest payments are going to make it harder and harder for future Americans to pay for Social Security, or Medicare, or even schools.

I have no idea what’s going to happen to the economy for the next few years, but since Canada is so tied to the United States, I’m not overly optimistic. Rewarding irresponsibility and poor business decisions causes more irresponsibility! But I think the tried and true rules are still tried and true, even if government is making a mockery of them. We shouldn’t need Saturday Night Live to remind us; this should all be pretty obvious. Save for something before you buy. Don’t wrack up credit card debt. Don’t invest unless you’re prepared to lose the money, and most of all, don’t buy stuff you can’t afford. Now, is the government listening?

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Thinking of Motherhood as a Job
The worst thing a husband can do to a stay at home mom when he comes home after work is to look around the house with disdain and ask, "what did you do all day?".

Them's fighting words!

And we all know it. We tell jokes about inept men like that. We laugh at them.

And yet, ladies, I want to talk just between you and me right now. Hopefully no men are listening. Do we always work as hard as we can during the day? Or do we sometimes goof off?

I know I goof off a lot. Of course, that's only natural, because being home all day with kids is exhausting. We need our rejuvenating time, we argue. We need our time to ourselves. And that is very true.

But do we put our 100% in?

Part of the problem, I think, is that motherhood is not a job. We're not getting paid, and no one is looking over our shoulder (except God, I suppose). No one has made a list of all you have to accomplish today. No one is grading your performance. No one is going to fire you. So the only way to get things done around the house is by self-motivation.

What if you don't have any?

That's a tough one, isn't it? Now looking after little ones is a full-time job. I remember how exhausted I was when my children were little. And I decided that my primary responsibility was to them first, and the house (or apartment, as it was at the time) second. We would take outings every day, and I would read to them, and play with them, and make homemade baby food, and cook healthy meals, and make sure their laundry was done and their room cleaned, but the rest of the house suffered. I know that bothered my husband, but I figured he didn't have much to say about it because the kids were getting stimulated, and that was the important thing.

Looking back, I'm not sure what I would have done much differently, except perhaps get more organized at cleaning. But the kids were my primary responsibility!

What I wish I had had, at the time, was a more organized approach to housework. If I could have kept things neat, a lot of the chaos in our lives would have disappeared. And quite frankly, I did waste a lot of time. My children were wonderfully cared for, but the house was not.

But as the kids grew older, my housework didn't improve that much, either. I just didn't like cleaning, and I found it overwhelming. It was a definite tension between my husband and me, because he wanted the living room neat, and I felt the children took precedence (or really, my right not to have to clean everyday took precedence!). When I finally realized how important it was to him, I made it a priority to have that room clean when he came home, as an act of love. And when I started doing that, I realized I did actually have quite a bit of time for cleaning, if you do it systematically.

When you treat motherhood like a job, you get things done. When you treat it like a big party with the kids, where you all get to goof off, you don't. I loved those years with my children when they were babies, and I was awfully young myself, so I'm not beating myself up about it. But today, now that the kids are older, I have to ask myself everyday: am I working today? Or am I goofing off?

My husband is working, and doing wonderful things for our family. I owe him some effort, too. That doesn't mean that I don't take time to myself; but it does mean that I need to start seeing some of the organizational tasks that need to get done around the house as my job. Not because I'm female, but simply out of fairness: if he works, I should work.

I know many homes where she stays home with the kids, but she doesn't necessarily "work". She has the TV on all day, or she's on Facebook as much as possible, or she's reading a book. Sure she plays with the kids, but stuff around the house just doesn't get done.

I don't think that's respectful of one's husband or one's kids. We need to set an example for the kids that we all have to do our share, and that means getting stuff under control. And we need to show our husband that we appreciate his effort by putting some effort in ourselves, too.

Now if you work outside the home as well, things are a little different. I'll address that in another post. But if you're at home, caring for the house, you should be caring for the house. I don't mean to make you feel guilty; I just mean to challenge you. It is so much harder to work when there's no one standing over your shoulder. We need to learn to be our own bosses!

One of the things that helped me was developing charts, that I talk about in my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum, that help me get work done more efficiently. Everything has its day, so everything gets done in its time. You don't have to buy the book to get the charts, though: they're available for free download right here!

Another thing that helped was just that mental switch: I am here to do a job. Am I doing it?

Besides, believe me, your house is so much nicer to live in when it's organized. Trust me! So let's all get to work.
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Works for Me Wednesday: Storing Photos and other Mementoes

One of the problems I have in my house is CLUTTER. I'm big on decluttering, and I take at least one day a month to shove all the useless stuff out of my house.

But here's a problem: some of the stuff that clutters up our house isn't useless. It's the things that hold priceless memories for our families.

We don't want to get rid of them, but we also don't want them messing up our homes!

You know what I'm talking about: the finger painting pictures on the fridge; the little stories our 7-year-old writes; the crafts they bring home from Sunday School. And most of all it's all the photos! I don't print a lot out anymore since we have a digital camera, but that doesn't stop OTHER people from giving me photos of my kids! And I can't put them all in albums.

So what do you do with all these mementoes? These are things you want to keep, but you don't necessarily have room? Well, today on Works for Me Wednesday I want to direct you to two resources that have worked marvelously for me. These aren't my ideas, so I'm not going to pass them off as mine! I'll just point you to where I got them.

Control Kids' Clutter
First, a great blog post with awesome ideas of how to save children's "artwork" and other papers. When I was married my mother read from something I had written in kindergarten, which was just hilarious and had the whole wedding party in stitches. But we wouldn't have had that moment if she hadn't managed to save it--and remembered where it was when the time came.

Great advice for what to throw out, what to keep, and how to keep it!

Organize Your Photos

Maybe you're a scrapbooker who loves to make photo pages--but you only use about 1% of your pictures! Or maybe you're like me, and you just have hundreds and hundreds of old photos that aren't yet in albums. You don't know which ones to keep, and it seems overwhelming to even get started!

Here's where Christine & Tracey can help! They've come up with a great resource that will help you Save your Photos & Your Sanity! Learn which to keep, how to organize them, where to store them, and best of all, where NOT to store them! Don't miss these amazing tips, and the motivation they give you to get your photo clutter under control! (Now this is a paid e-book, it's not free advice, but it's really good!).
Click Here to Save Your Photos

I'm in the middle of reorganizing my office right now, and turning it more into an office/guest room. My whole house is an absolute mess, which always happens as soon as you try to organize. But as I'm leafing through myriads of papers, I've realized the true blessings that come when your mementoes are well stored. At least you know they're safe, and you can find them quickly!

I hope these help you deal with your prized possessions!

Thanks for dropping by! Why not stay a while? I've got great blog posts on marriage, parenting, s-e-x (in marriage) and more!

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Wifey Wednesday: Where do you go for help?

We get married with stars in our eyes, expecting everything to be great. But then something happens: we have issues with sex; we don't see eye to eye on kids; we don't feel loved.

And where do we turn for help? When a couple honestly needs help, or a wife honestly needs advice, what do you do?

Part of the problem in the church is that marriage is SO revered that it's hard to admit you're having problems. If you fail at marriage, you fail at The Big One, so to speak, and so it's hard to speak up. I don't think most pastors would mind or would judge you if you came in for advice, though. Nor would most older women. But it's this idea that we have that often stops us.

Or maybe you go to the other extreme. You talk to everyone about your problems. Not a good idea. First, you're really betraying confidences with your husband. And second, you don't know how many people those women are going to tell. People may start seeing your husband differently, because they're only hearing one side of the story.

If you absolutely must pray and talk to someone (and periodically we all do), pick one person with your husband's approval, and have him pick one person. And make sure that person will keep it confidential! My husband has had a mentoring relationship with a man fifteen years his senior for a few years now. They go out for breakfast once a month, and I honestly don't know what they talk about. I'm pretty sure that they talk about their marriages, but I'm fine with that. He's a mature Christian, and I absolutely trust his opinion.

Do you have that older woman you can talk to? For many of us, the internet seems to fulfill that need, because we can ask questions, and we can even pray with people online. But we still need the face to face help every now and then. It's not always because we're having a big crisis. Sometimes it's just a reality check. There's a woman I like to call when I'm wondering if I'm really right, or if I'm just being selfish. I need someone to bounce something off of. It's not that our marriage is at stake; not at all. But sometimes you just need that listening ear.

This is biblical, too! The older women are supposed to help the younger women figure out how to love their husbands. So find an older woman you can talk to, and call on her for advice. Most women would love to be a mentor!

But what do you do if your questions are of a more personal--ahem--nature? I mean, what if you're having an issue in the area of sex that you just can't share with anyone? It's a burning question, and you really want the answer to it, or at least someone else's opinion, but you just can't ask it in your circles?

Well, I get a bunch of questions coming through my email and from marriage conferences and teleseminars I do. I think there's a pent up demand for real Christian advice in this area, and anonymous, when it comes to sex questions, is usually the way to go!

So I've decided to write an ebook called "Sex Questions You're Afraid to Ask Your Pastor". I've set up some web forms where you can enter your questions anonymously, and a different one where you can enter your email so that you can be notified when the questions are all answered!

Do you have a question you really want answered? It doesn't matter how X-rated or risquee it is. I think we as Christians especially need to be able to talk about these things. I'm not God, and my word isn't gospel. But I've spent a lot of time studying and counseling in this area, and I'll give all questions my prayerful answers.

If you have questions you want answered, just go here to enter them. I've got a bunch already, but I'd love to have more! And I really do want to help those of you who just don't know where to turn.

And now, do you have any challenges for us as wives today? Do you have advice you want to leave us with? How do you find a mentor, and what do you do when you need to talk to someone? We'd love to know! Just write your own post on your blog and then come back here and leave the URL in the Mr. Linky!

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New Podcast: What is Happiness, Anyway?
We all want to be happy, right?

But what if happiness isn't all it's cracked up to be? In fact, what if there's something far deeper that is far more satisfying.

Let's think about this for a moment: what should the aim of our lives really be? Is it to be happy, or is it something else?

And if I say it's something else, does that mean I'll never be happy?

Wow, this gets deep the more we think about it. Why not listen in to this quick 5 minute podcast, a clip of a talk I gave on true peace, that tries to sort this dilemma out.

Every Tuesday I post another quick podcast, usually a clip from a talk I gave. I've talked marriage and romance a bunch lately, and I think I'll move in to some podcasts on parenting in the next few weeks. Do check out the archives and see if there are any fun ones you missed!

Related Posts:
Don't Worry, Be Happy?
The Happiness Wars

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Why People Need to be Productive
I've talked economics a bit here on this blog lately, and I want to take a stab at one more thought. I hope I don't make your eyes glaze over; just bear with me for a minute. It will be worth it.

People can be divided economically into two types: those who contribute to the GDP, and those who don't. (GDP is the total domestic product that is created in a given year, as measured in dollars. That's why we say the economy is $13 trillion). You contribute when you have a job or a business that creates something that people want, causing them to buy it from you.

But let's say that you work in a place that is losing money. Then you're not actually contributing to the GDP in the long run. Today your wages show up on the GDP, but basically you're using your labour to prop up a business or an industry that's dying. It's sucking resources, like labour, and money, and bank loans, that could be going to something else. If your labour were used to prop up something that was growing, the economy would grow MORE. It's great if everyone has a job; but if everyone has a job making stuff that nobody wants, then eventually there's going to be a problem.

How do we tell if people are making stuff that people want to buy? Quite simple. They buy it. But what if you're making stuff and nobody is buying it? And then the government steps in and gives you money, so that you can keep making it anyway? You actually hurt the economy. That money that the government gave you would have been better spent in areas where the economy had growth potential. By putting it in something that was dying, you've just prolonged the death. You haven't prevented it. But you have prevented the birth of other, more profitable, industries. If people were forced to leave the dying industry and start something else, Western ingenuity means that they would.

That's why government intervention into the economy can hurt more than help. What happens when the government pays out a ton in welfare or Social Security? If you know you can get money without working or saving for it, people will not work or save as much. I'm not arguing against either welfare or Social Security; I'm just saying that these can both be a drag on the economy, even if it's a drag that we decide is worth it.

Even foreign aid can do the same thing. Some argue that foreign aid is why Africa is hurting so badly. Listen to Dambisa Moyo, a native Zambian who argues against Bono:

What do you think has held back Africans?
I believe it’s largely aid. You get the corruption — historically, leaders have stolen the money without penalty — and you get the dependency, which kills entrepreneurship. You also disenfranchise African citizens, because the government is beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people.

Does this mean we shouldn't give money away? Not at all. Moyo recommends microloans (or giving small loans to help entrepreneurs in Africa, something that I've been involed in a lot. We're currently helping girls set up a business making sanitary pads). But why give it to government, when that just encourages corruption? Give it to the people who need it in a way that it is tied to work.

I'm not sure I'm right about what I'm about to say, because I'm not an economist. But a number of people commented on my post about the bailout saying that their bankruptcies actually helped them get a new start. Sure, it was tough, but that was the break they needed. And I wonder if our economy needs something massive like a clean break. Instead of bailout out failing industries, or pouring money into pet projects, we should let the economy fall, because once it does, all those resources that have been piled into losing propositions will get redirected into things that will grow the economy. It's going to be a tough transition, but let's not kid ourselves. That transition is coming anyway. The only question is when.

Do we go through a really hard time now, and then get it over with, or do we try to keep plugging holes, and in the end dig a bigger one for ourselves? Many economists are saying we should just hold our noses and do the stimulus thing. But it doesn't seem to make economic sense to me. All we're doing is telling people to keep on being unproductive, and we're subsidizing people who aren't contributing.

Now I do have sympathy for those caught in the middle. I have friends in the auto industry who are wonderful, hard workers, and I pray for them as often as they come to my mind (there, I just said a prayer for Gary & Mark & Kevin again). But what we're doing right now isn't working. The stock market has plunged 20% since the inauguration, and 40% since Obama took the lead for good in the election. The stock market isn't buying this. And the stock market needs to come up because people my mother's age have responsibly been saving for retirement. And I have sympathy for them, too. (I've been saving, too, but retirement's a lot further away for me, so it's not as much of a catastrophe).

And the stock market will not come back up until regular people believe that it's worth investing in America. They won't believe that until they believe that the economy will grow, and they can't believe that if we're subsidizing a losing scenario.

So I think we need a clean break. I think we need no bailouts, but just maybe a broad stimulus of a corporate tax cut to encourage employment. Am I nuts? Or am I on to something? I really want to know.

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Thoughts on True Poverty
I have written before about the Mulli Children's Family, an orphanage in Kenya where my family and I have travelled, and where my mother is now.

Remember the pad party video that I posted a while ago? That was all to benefit these girls in the orphanage.

Anyway, my mother is on the board of the charitable foundation in Canada that raises money to help the orphanage, and she sent an update over the weekend of what she's seen. For reference, the Mulli Children's Home is located east of Nairobi, but up north, in Eldoret, there's a refugee camp that started after all the violence in that country a year ago. The orphanage was instrumental in starting relief work there, feeding 3000 people a day and setting up an impromptu school for 1000 children. Three hundred teenage girls were taken from the camp to live at the orphanage, because many had been repeatedly gang raped each night. That was a year ago; they now have several hundred babies at the orphanage, too.

MCF, the orphanage, is doing very well because they believe in self-sufficiency. They've started an elaborate farm and greenhouse operation that feeds the thousands of people there almost entirely, and exports to Europe to bring in cash. They have a fish farm, and a meat farm, and they have a construction company and they start small businesses. It's quite the enterprise, and it's entirely Kenyan run. They don't just take donations from the West for food; they take donations really to build their infrastructure so that one day they will not need donations. And it's working really, really well.

But in the meantime, the need is just so great. My mother sounds very burdened after seeing it all. Here's a bit of what she wrote:

We are all safe and sound but heartbroken...Somewhere this week we flew to Eldoret. MCFCF had raised considerable funds for emergency relief in the IDP Camp and we felt part of our audit should include seeing the site and facilities. There are still about 3500 people living there although the camp was officially closed last July. MCF pulled out in December because they had run out of all funds. As we arrived and starting walking about the camp people gathered. Mueni Mulli was accompanying us, but they also had the MCF Pastor who spent the last 5 months in the camp with us.

We were walking about and one or two women invited us into their tent and told us their story. Richard was able to video this which will help in telling the story, but you cannot imagine the hardship these people are facing. They have not had food since MCF pulled out in mid December other than what the children are able to beg on the streets of Eldoret during the day - and it is a long walk from the IDP Camp to town.

One woman came up to me and asked if we could help her neighbour. The woman had given birth two days ago and neither she nor the baby had anything to eat or drink since nor did she have any help. I told Mueni and she and the pastor went to visit the tent. Apparently Richard got a photo so we can tell the story. Later Mueni explained that she would give the Pastor some money to buy some food for the most desparate situations we encountered, but we all know this is not a solution. Nor can you ignore the reality of the situation. What to do.

The absolute irony (I am not sure that is the right word) of the situation is that, after returning to Nairobi and showering, we took the Mulli family out to dinner that evening. We had a wonderful time with them and heard more about the challenges MCF is facing, but what a contrast!

When we think of the economic hardship we are going through here in North America, it really does not compare. Imagine having to live in a tent, and having no way to protect your teenage daughter from rape. Imagine giving birth all alone, and not having any food.

We are suffering now because as a society we spent what we had frivolously. How much better if we could share what we have with those who need it, in ways that it will actually get to the people who need it (and not go to corrupt governments!). Despite the grim economic news, I am reminded today how much we do have, and how grateful I am for what God has given me. And as soon as my mother gets back, we'll start another round of fundraising, selling all the neat African stuff she's importing! I'm excited.

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Menu Plan Monday: Using Your Freezer Well

I'm a big believer in organizing when it comes to cooking. Little is as stressful as figuring out what you're going to eat at 5:30 every night, especially when you haven't gone grocery shopping in a while.

When we are organized, meals tend to be healthier, tastier, and easier! Which means that we have to think about it ahead of time.

I try to plan my meals on Sunday, or Monday morning if that doesn't work out. But there are two kitchen appliances that make my life so much easier: the freezer and the crockpot.

I love the crockpot because I can make dinner in the morning while I'm homeschooling! Often from 3:30-5:00 we like to go to the YMCA to work out, so cooking then is out of the question. But this way we can work out and still come home to dinner!

The other appliance that I don't think we use to its full advantage is the freezer. I don't just mean stocking up on meat (we buy half a cow every other year, and chickens from friends who raise them), but by making meals ahead of time. Whenever I cook, I try to make double (like spaghetti sauce, stews, casseroles, etc), so that I always have a meal in the freezer! This prevents that urge to "order pizza" or go out to eat because you don't want to cook. Heating something up isn't that stressful.

One thing I've never taken advantage of, though, is "cooking parties", which I know lots of women attend! Basically, you buy all the ingredients for five meals, or ten meals, or whatever, and then you get together to package them all for your freezer. It makes cooking much more fun, and you know your meals are ready! Freezer Meals in Minutes offers a great service where they provide the shopping lists and directions for one of these parties. It's really easy--you pick the recipes, and they tell you what to do! And there's no cooking involved on the assembly day. You just measure ingredients and bag them up. Check it out!

In the meantime, here's what I'm going to make this week:

Monday: Rump Roast in the Crockpot. I love roasts in the crockpot. They come out so tender! I wouldn't put a sirloin or tenderloin roast in one, because they're great in the oven, but some of the tougher cuts work wonderfully in the crockpot. Add some onion soup mix and some veggies, along with some beef broth, and it's really tasty!

The best thing is the leftovers that end up in my freezer, divided out so I can make beef barley soup several times. I love soup & salad & rolls for dinner. It's easy, and it's really cheap to make!

Tuesday: Meatballs. It's been a while since we've had this family staple, and I'm going to make double so that I can freeze some!

Wednesday: Salmon. It's time for fish again. I do make my family eat it every now and then, even though they're not particular fans, because I believe the health benefits are important. The problem is that the kids like it plain, whereas I love to marinate it in soya sauce, honey, and other good stuff. So I tend to marinate mine and not theirs. It will be great when one day I'll just be able to make everybody's meal the same!

Thursday: Asian Chicken Thighs. Chicken thighs are often cheaper than breasts, but you can buy them boneless and skinless too! These ones I do marinate in soya sauce and honey and salsa, and then they're yummy!

Friday: Beef and Barley soup with rolls. Here's where the leftover beef comes in. I buy my beef broth (I do make it sometimes, but I'm out of homemade broth). It just makes it so much easier. And then I throw in whatever veggies I want. I have a bunch of the dried soup mix in the cupboard, so I think I'll use that up this week. And I'm going to pull out my breadmaker for the rolls.

What about you? What do you find helps you with meal planning?

Thanks for stopping by! Why not stay a while? I've got lots of posts on parenting, marriage, and more!

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What a Beautiful Obituary--and I mean that!
My mother's cousin died last week. They were quite close as children, but she's out of the country on a missions trip to Kenya, and so she doesn't actually know about it now. I guess I will have to tell her when she arrives home. I didn't see the point in emailing her while she's over there.

Anyway, I didn't know him well. I only ever met him once at my grandparents' memorial service, because he lived across the country from me. But after reading this obituary, I wish I had known him better!

He lived and died in a small town, where everybody knows your name, and you're allowed to write really, really long obituaries! So this one was full of fun and interesting facts.

I won't copy the whole thing, but here's the last bit:

Mark always listened to people, never left anyone out and had a real passion for serving his community. This translated into years of volunteer service, including Prison Fellowship at Milner Ridge Correctional Center, the Winnipeg Flying Club and Open Doorways Haitian Orphanage. Mark was well known and respected in the local community. He was a very caring and compassionate person, and always put the needs of others before his own. A very descriptive and great story teller, he was able to command anyone's attention and was a natural born leader. Mark was an avid pilot, enjoying numerous flying adventurers; including soaring through the mountains of BC.

Over the past two years, Mark's second home became Lake Wanipigow. It was here he was able to spend countless weekends with his sons and favourite dog Maggie, building cottages, fishing and enjoying the beauties of nature. He had a true appreciation for the outdoors and loved to wake up early at the Lake. He would sit with his Bible at the water's edge and write in his log book about the activities of the birds and beavers and how wonderful life was. He loved to watch the sunrise and make the most of each day.

It was the simple things around him in life that he never took for granted, commenting daily how fortunate and thankful he was. Above all, Mark was absolutely devoted to his wife and sons. He was a father who always involved himself in every detail of his son's lives and supported, respected and loved his wife unconditionally. He was a man of strong faith, believing in the power and strength of Jesus Christ's love and the beauty and peace that would await him after his passing.

Isn't that lovely? I am so looking forward to spending a million years or so in heaven beside Mark, at the water's edge, and catching up on life. I hope my obituary will be that beautiful one day, though I am sad that he left this earth when he was only 62, and never really knew his grandchildren. But at least he is safe and secure with his Saviour.

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On Debt, Bailouts, and Reaping what you Sow
I'm not American. I'm Canadian, which is almost the same thing, but not quite. We add silly "u's" in words like favourite and colour. Our government pays for our health care (which I don't think is an ideal solution, either; I think the ideal mix of public/private has yet to be found). We say "out" and "about" and "roof" funny.

But most of all, we haven't had to bailout our banks. Our economy is actually very strong right now, though we're hurting just like everyone else. But of all Western countries, we're probably doing the best! So if any of you want to move up here, feel free!

Anyway, I am watching what is happening in the U.S. right now with all the bailouts with a mix of shock, incredulity, and just plain fear. And then I turn to God and remember that difficult times are to be the norm, and when we are weak, then He is strong.

I want to talk a little bit today about personal responsibility. I'm going to touch on the bailouts, because I think they matter, but on the whole I believe in certain immutable laws of human nature that God put in place: you reap what you sow. If you make a bad decision, bad things will happen. That's just the way it is. We may not like it, but that's how life works.

In our personal lives, it is extremely important to act responsibly. I've talked about that ad nauseum on this blog when it comes to parenting, getting kids to do chores, being strong in your marriage, keeping your relationship alive, overseeing your children's education, and more. We are the ones who primarily determine the course of our lives.

That's why we need to budget appropriately. Credit card debt is a horrible thing. It enslaves you to too high payments and makes you live a lifestyle you ultimately can't afford. All of our expenses need to stay within our means. Perhaps that means that you can't afford a house and you rent for a time. Perhaps it means that you don't have a flat screen TV, that you live with thrift store furniture, that you only have one car (or none at all). This was the case in our family for the first seven years of our marriage. We lived very frugally and managed to save tens of thousands in those years for a downpayment for a house. We could have lived in a better apartment, and we could have bought a car. But we didn't so that we could save up for a house.

What happens if you decide to buy that house too early? You end up owing too much. And the mortgage payments are too high because you didn't have an appropriate downpayment. So you have to borrow from credit cards to meet your monthly expenses. And once you have a house, you have to decorate and furnish it appropriately, right? So you buy all this stuff on the "don't pay a cent for one year!" deals, and then you commit yourself to major debt, even if there's no guarantee that your income will actually increase. You just get further and further in debt. You may look like you have it good on the outside, with a nice house, but your net worth is negative. If, on the other hand, you live frugally, you may look like you're poor. But you're actually further ahead, because you're managing to save.

At one point this was all common knowledge. This was how everybody lived. Today we don't. It's like that Steve Martin skit from Saturday Night Live, "Don't Buy Stuff You Can't Afford". They've taken it off YouTube, so I can't link to it, but here's a remake:

The reason that's funny is because they make something that is pure common sense sound revolutionary--because today it is. We have lost that sense of perspective.

With the bailout, what Obama is essentially doing is saying that all these people who bought homes when they shouldn't have need help, and we have to help them. So that family that has been living frugally in an apartment and saving is now going to help pay the mortgage of someone who bought a house that was too big with no plans to pay for it. That hardly seems fair.

The argument is that the effect on the economy of doing nothing will be worse than doing something. So we have to intervene, even if it sounds dumb.

But is that true? I'm not an economist, but one thing I do believe is the markets, and here's why. TV news reporters and journalists can talk about what a great deal this bailout is. They can talk all they want about how Obama is bringing hope to the nation. But the way to actually tell is by looking at the markets, because in the markets real people put their money where their mouth is. And the stock markets are essentially people betting on the future: they're buying and selling based on what they think will happen down the road. And right now the markets are tanking. They fell 500 points when Obama was elected. They keep falling everytime he talks about another stimulus. And they've lost 20% since the election. Here's an analysis of that that's pretty easy to understand.

In other words, journalists and the chattering classes can talk up the bailouts all they want, but the people who actually have to invest in the economy aren't buying it. They think it's making it worse. And I believe it will.

You're throwing good money after bad money. These people in these homes have already shown they can't afford them. How is helping them out in the short term going to solve that? And if they simply let those mortgages foreclose, yes things would be tough--but likely only for a short while. In the meantime, housing prices would fall to where they should be, and people would start buying again, like those people living in that apartment who have been saving responsibly.

It's the same thing with the bailout to failing industries. These companies have already shown they can't handle money. Why give them more? Yes, it will be a shock if those companies go under. Yes, people will hurt. But then the resources and the people would be moved to a more profitable sector of the economy.

But there's another aspect to all this. As a Canadian, our deficit is quite small. We've been paying down our national debt lately, and it's only 20% of our GDP. The American debt is now 50% of your GDP, and that's before factoring in the trillions in bailout funds. Your deficit stands at about 10% of your GDP.

Why is that important? Well, have you ever been in a position to have paid off your house? What a feeling! It's like winning the lottery! Because all of a sudden you have $1200 or $1500 or even $2000 more money a month, because it's not going to mortgage payments!

By contrast, when we add to debt, every month we have to make massive payments to support that debt, even if all we're paying is interest. The higher the debt goes, the less America will be able to spend on normal government expenditures as time goes on. More and more will have to pay down the debt. And that's our children and grandchildren who will be primarily on the hook. There won't be social security or medicare for them; the country simply won't be able to afford it because it has to pay back all this money. We eventually do have to reap what we sow.

Responsibility is the cornerstone of a healthy society, and right now, whether it's at the individual level or the government level, our society is showing very little of it. And that makes me very, very scared. And very glad we have a God to run to who is above all of this!

So as we're going through these rocky economic times, can I make a few suggestions?

1. Pay off your debt as quickly as you can. Do not go out to eat. Do not buy stuff you don't need. Get yourself on as strong financial footing as you can. Downsize if you have to. It's not nice, but try it.

2. Start saving. You never know when unemployment will hit. Make sure you have a cushion.

3. Research small businesses you can start. Often small buinesses are more stable during a recession than a regular job, where you can be laid off. A small business is more adaptable to the market. Raise your children to be entrepreneurs, so they aren't dependent on others.

4. Learn how to garden! At least if things get really bad, you can grow your own food! Plus, boy is it tasty! And it's fun for kids.

5. Pray, pray, pray. We need God right now. That's the good thing about tough times; they push you back to your Maker. So get close to Him, rest in Him, and know that He will always care for you.

And next time it's time to vote, think carefully about responsibility. Only vote for those who believe in it, of whatever party.

Thank you for listening to my rant! Have a great weekend!
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Live, Love, and Laugh!
So I'm just back from vacation, and I have some living and laughing and loving to tell you about to get caught up.

First, the laughing. Never ever ever ever drink 4 Diet Cokes right before boarding an overnight flight where you have to sleep. I quit drinking Diet Pepsi this year, but I ordered some on Hawaii on vacation, and at the restaurant we went to for dinner they just kept filling it up. I did not sleep on the overnight flight, and boy was I grumpy.

I am now severely jetlagged, but hopefully I'll come around soon. The really bad part is that I remembered how much I liked Diet Pepsi. And now I have to quit all over again. So not only am I jetlagged and tired, I'm trying to stop the caffeine fix again. Never a good mix.

While I was away I watched multiple episodes of Clean House, as I blogged about earlier this week. And I came home all excited to redo my computer room! One of my main gripes about my house is that I don't really have a guest room. We have a futon in my study, which opens up to a bed, but it looks like an office with computers and papers and files everywhere. Well, tonight we went to Sears and found an awesome computer armoire that hides everything away! It holds my computer, fax, printer, files, binders, paper and CDs. I'm so excited! Best of all, we got the floor model which is 50% off. So now I get to go declutter! I'm just a happy homemaker right now.

How about some love? My interview on The Joyful Christian Wife blog is up about Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight! We've been talking about that book a lot lately, but here's me being interviewed for a change. A taste:

JCW: In your experience, what is the main difference between husbands and wives and how they view intimacy?

SWG: Men make love to feel loved; women need to feel loved in order to make love! So we see intimacy as relational, whereas they see it as more physical.

Now, here's the rub: often women feel superior to men over this! We're the ones who are far deeper; they're the ones who are so superficial. All they want is the physical, whereas we want the deep connection. So we see ourselves are their moral superiors.

We need to get out of that, and realize that this is simply a difference in the way we are made! It isn't that men need relationship less; it's that they experience it in a different way. They yearn for sex essentially to feel close and intimate, whereas we yearn for emotional intimacy first. But just because the men want physical intimacy doesn't mean that it's a lesser form of intimacy, or that they're more like lizards than they are human beings.

Read the rest here!

Now, you want a peek inside my brain? I really think I have an adult form of ADD sometimes, because I have all these big plans running through my head at any one time, and it's so hard for me to focus on one thing and get it done. So here are all the things I'm thinking about right now:

- When am I going to go grocery shopping? All there is is mayo and ketchup in my fridge after our vacation.
- I want my new computer armoire!
- Wouldn't it be great to finish those socks I was knitting on the plane?
- A bubble bath would feel great right about now.
- I need to email in my book proposal that I finished yesterday.
- I think I'd like a new duvet cover. I wonder how much it would cost to make one? And how expensive would it be?
- This weekend I think I'll redo my storage room so I have room for all the stuff I'm taking out of my office.
- This weekend I think I'll redo my summer clothes after watching 27 episodes of What Not to Wear on vacation.
- This weekend I think I'll write three columns and get ahead of the game!
- This weekend I think I'll organize all my sewing stuff so it's not all over my office.
- This weekend I think I'll sleep.

I wonder what will win?

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Wifey Wednesday: How Important is Caring for Yourself?

Are you an introvert or an extravert?

If you're the life of the party, you may automatically say you're an extravert. But that's not necessarily true. An introvert is someone who gets energy from being by themselves. They process things internally, and usually don't speak until they've made up their minds about something.

An extravert, on the other hand, processes things by speaking. They need to talk it through. They get their energy from being with other people. So if they have a big decision to make, they call five friends and talk about it. An introvert may call a bunch of friends, too, but only after she's already thought it through.

Now here's where this comes into play in a marriage. If you're an introvert, chances are you need time just to be by yourself in order to stay emotionally healthy. I'm actually an extravert, but barely. I need that time to myself, too.

I've been on vacation for a week with my family, and it's been great. But we're leaving in about five hours and what I really really want to do right now is take a walk on the beach by myself. I haven't been by myself for a week! But the family often interprets that as me being depressed (which I'm not) or me rejecting them (which I'm not). So I have to sit down and explain I just need some thinking and praying time. And I will do that as soon as I've posted this!

But in the meantime, even extraverts may need time to themselves, especially with small children. And if we don't get that time, then when our husbands want us to be available for them we can become quite resentful. They're stealing the only time we have for ourselves! And then they expect us to be there for them! How selfish!

You see how this can become a big problem? He just wants to connect, and there's nothing wrong with that. And you want to connect, too, but you first need some time to replenish your batteries. He experiences that as rejection.

So, ladies, what's the answer? Today on Wifey Wednesday, let's share what we do for ourselves so that we're not exhausted, and we feel rejuvenated.

Personally, I do two things: I knit, and I take baths. I love baths. They give me some thinking and planning time which I desperately need (I often take a piece of paper and pen in the bath with me. They get soggy, but they do the job). And I knit to ground me.

What about you? Do you have any suggestions for us as to how to find time to ourselves? And how important is it? Let's talk about it!

(I'm hoping the Mr. Linky shows up. I'm writing this a day ahead and posting it tomorrow, so hopefully it will. But if it doesn't, just leave your link in the comments! And by next week I'll have the Mr. Linky thing solved!)

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Podcast: What Does Submission Really Mean?

What do you think of Ephesians 5:22? You know the verse: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord?

I've heard some pretty wacky interpretations of that. Some take it to mean that husbands can beat their wives. Last week, in Wifey Wednesday, one commenter wrote about a man who believed that because the wife was to submit, she had to understand love in his love language, even if that wasn't her natural bent! Others take submission to mean that they have to submit in the bedroom, even if he asks something bizarre.

And then there's the more run of the mill interpretations, which go something like this: "When you can't make a decision, he gets the final say," as if God essentially means submission means he wins in the case of a tie.

I don't think any of those things are biblical. I think submission means something quite different. We probably don't all agree; I don't think I've ever met any two women who completely agree on the idea of submission. But I think it's good to think and pray about it, and to see if you're at peace with God about it. So have a listen to my podcast this week: What Submission Really Means. It's short, and I don't deal with everything. But maybe it's a leaping off point where we can start talking about it!

Every Tuesday I upload a new podcast, and this week this is it! When you go to the podcast, subscribe by clicking on one of the links to the right, so that you hear them every week! They're not overly long, but just nuggets to get us thinking.

So, on that vein, what do you think about submission?

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Down with the Victim Mentality!
Have you ever noticed how everyone is a victim these days?

Yesterday I wrote about women who feel like they just can't get their kids to clean up, so they give up. They don't use the authority that God gave them; they throw it aside because "no one ever listens to me".

That's a victim talking.

How did we ever get into this culture where everyone is a victim? Do you know what being a victim means? It means that you can never accomplish anything. You don't have any power on your own (or even with God). You are completely at the mercy of others, or at the mercy of your own private demons, or at the mercy of your circumstances. There's nothing you can do to change it.

Do you really believe that?

What a horrible way to live! Now I know some of you have come from very difficult backgrounds and very difficult circumstances. I don't really want to turn this into a post on how to be healed of the deep hurts in our lives. I just want to look into the whole idea of victimhood.

We may have been victims of some hardship, but that does not mean that we need to stay in the role of victim throughout our lives, where we're helpless to get anything done. And in fact that whole idea of victimhood is the antithesis of Christianity.

Other religions love victimhood. They see the individual as quite passive, and subject to the whims of others, or even the whims of nature. The Greek gods often were victims themselves, drawn into conflicts that they couldn't avoid. Hinduism sees us as passive in the face of the karma that we have built up in past lives. Even Buddhism demands passivity to some extent: we are to forget about desire, and eradicate desire, so to achieve nothingness.

And Islam sees God as doing whatever he pleases, and we can't do anything about it. Life is about fate.

But life isn't about fate! First and foremost, our God is an active God. He made this universe. He's creative. He's not reactive like Greek gods; He actually does stuff. Imagine that!

And then He turned around and asked Adam and Eve to do the same thing. They were to be creative, too! Adam was to name the animals. We were to multiply, and make other people. And we were to have dominion over the earth. It wasn't to have dominion over us; we were to manage it.

We serve an active God who expects us to be active, too. We aren't victims! After all, when God Himself faced an almost impossible situation, He took the ultimate action. He wanted to be reconciled to us, but He couldn't live with sin. But He didn't sit there and mourn about it or complain about it or get angry. He did something! He came to earth and died in our place.

We should never feel helpless or hopeless, because we are not. Even if others take everything from us, we still have control over our hearts. We can choose how to respond; no one can take that from you. But most of us aren't in that situation. We're not in a Nazi prison camp, or in a war. We're simply in our own homes. And we should not feel like there's nothing we can do to make things better.

God is active, and He wants to be active in your life, too. He wants you to do stuff! He doesn't want you just to sit there and mourn your situation! Now I know for some of you that is hard, but look at the example He gave.

This idea that we're all victims is a lie that eats at the hope God has given us. It says that we never will change, that things can't be redeemed, and that you are stuck. But you are not! Don't believe that lie when it comes to your marriage, your kids, your home, your job, or your other relationships. God loves making amazing things happen, but we need to participate.

So let's not be victims. Let's pray, let's act, and let's get excited! Are you with me?

Tomorrow we're going to have Wifey Wednesday, where we talk about what we can do to help our marriages get better. Here's one place where we do need to take some action! So come back, and we'll chat some more!

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Holiday Musings
Sorry posting has been light! We're still in Maui enjoying a vacation, although I didn't do so well today. We were taking a 50 mile long, winding road to Hana drive, with waterfalls, bamboo forests, and lots of natural wonders. But because of the windy part of it, I took a Gravol so I wouldn't get carsick. And it worked! Unfortunately, it knocked me out so I slept straight for three hours and didn't see a thing after our first stop at the waterfall. Pretty pathetic.

Anyway, one of the fun things that we enjoy when we're away is watching television, since we don't have one at home. We go crazy and watch it nonstop (when we're not in the ocean), concentrating on What Not to Wear and Clean House or Clean Sweep. We just love these makeover shows, whether it's making over a person or making over a house. My daughters and I are glued to the television and enjoying every minute of it!

Clean House, though, has really opened my eyes to how a lot of families live. For those of you who haven't seen the show, basically you go into a house where the people live in piles of clutter. It's disgusting, and it really impacts the family life.

I want to talk clutter later this week, but one theme that seems to keep coming up in some of the episodes we watch, and that's women feeling as if they're hopeless about getting their children to do chores. "They never clean up! They see me cleaning, but they never help, and finally I give up because it's not worth the hassle and arguments they give me!"

Where did women ever get the idea that they were this hopeless? They are the MOTHERS. They can make their children clean up. But somehow we have this idea that we no longer have authority over our children. So instead of giving them orders and instruction, we ask them. And then they say no and whine and complain. Why give children choices when it comes to cleaning? That's ridiculous! They're part of the family, and children need to learn to contribute.

We've always tied chores with allowance, and the children, from the time they were 3, had specific chores they had to do. At this point they can now clean the whole house, though they may not do as good a job as I do. But they know how.

If you're struggling with your children, much of it may be your attitude. Don't doubt yourself. You are the mother. God gave you the role of authority over your children. Authority is a bad word these days, but it shouldn't be. Children should obey. It teaches them limits, and it teaches them responsibility and necessary skills. You are doing your children a favour when you make them obey.

So pair chores with consequences. If they don't do chores, they don't use the computer, or the television, or the phone. Their iPod is confiscated. They can't go to that birthday party. They don't get taken out for ice cream this week. They don't get their allowance. You don't have to yell and fight and get in a tizzy about it. You can just tell them calmly what is expected, and what the consequence is for non-compliance. And then follow through. You should not be cleaning the whole house yourself, if your children are over 3. And you should never feel hopeless and helpless when it comes to your kids.

You do have authority! So buck up! God can help you exercise it appropriately. And life is so much better for everyone when you do!

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Love on Purpose
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in several community newspapers. Here's today's Reality Check, just in time for Valentine's Day!

I travel well. I enjoy plane rides, I don’t mind airports, and I’m a big fan of cruise ships. But I don’t pack particularly well.

It’s not that I forget the essentials; it’s that I get stressed out trying to remember them all, let alone trying to accomplish the massive to-do list that I make for myself before I can depart.

But I think this acknowledgement of my pitfalls is actually one more brick in the road towards familial bliss. Certainly it’s not bliss living with me as I frantically reply to emails that have been sitting in my inbox for weeks, or decide that it is imperative that we clean out the fridge right now, even though that rotting stuff in there hasn’t bothered me up until now. Knowing I’m going to be a bear, though, gives my family time to plan for it. They know I’m a wreck, so for the most part, they can laugh it off, realize it’s nothing personal, and eventually we’ll get on the road and all will be well. When we prepare for the rocky road ahead, we end up faring much better.

This is the weekend to celebrate love. And yet, for a society that values love, praises love, yearns for love, and chases love, it seems so odd to me that we fail to prepare for love.

On Valentine’s Day, the popular image is Cupid’s arrow, which the plump cherub aims at unsuspecting people, causing them to love completely out of their own control. Or what about the way we speak of love? “As soon as our eyes met I knew I was falling in love.” Love is like falling. There’s nothing you can do it about it; you’re just walking along merrily one day when suddenly something pushes you over a cliff, and there you go, hurtling towards coupledom. It’s Love by Accident. We’re thankful that we’ve found someone, so we count our blessings and prepare to keep falling.

But what happens when the ground hits?

If we stopped seeing love as an accident, and realized that love may be more of a journey, maybe we’d prepare for it more. Yet when it comes to love, preparation is one of the furthest things from our minds. We’re told to do what feels good, to find the one who completes you, and then to jump in with both feet. What we’re not necessarily trained for is how to keep a relationship going.

Think about the wedding day. We spend, on average in Canada, about $25,000 to tie the knot, and yet very few couples take any kind of marriage preparation course. It’s assumed that love will tide them through. If we spent less on the wedding and invested more in counseling, personality testing, marriage books, or even just interviewing couples who had been happily married for decades, we’d be better off. Maybe the wedding would be a little less extravagant, but imagine the fiftieth anniversary party!

Cupid’s arrow fades, but love doesn’t have to. When we know that certain stages in marriage are more stressful than others—like when babies are born, the kids start school, or the kids leave home—maybe we’d understand these things are common to all, and work through them, rather than assuming there’s something wrong with our spouse. And if we understood that love is a decision, and not always a feeling, maybe we’d work more at cultivating it. After all, when we decide to forgive, to be kind, to listen, or to hold our tongue, even when we don’t always feel our efforts are reciprocated, we keep the relationship going. When we decide to appreciate, rather than to condemn or nag, we build something far more precious than a career, a hobby, or a bank account. We build love.

Sometimes, in a marriage, we won’t always feel love. I wish every new couple starting out could understand that. But we can still prepare for love. Let’s not love and live by accident; let’s love on purpose. That’s a much richer love than the one our culture so eagerly glorifies.

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Figuring Out What Clothing is Modest
Sorry that posting has been light, but I'm on vacation this week!

And as I've been here, we've learned something very important. My oldest daughter fits my clothes.

And we've been clothes shopping a lot, which has opened up a whole other realm of problems.

Becca hasn't bought very much, because she's on a clothing allowance. She has budgeted herself a certain amount to spend while we're here, and she wants to look around and make sure what she's getting is attractive; affordable; and unique. No sense bringing something home that she could buy there just as easily!

But down here in Hawaii everything is about boobs. You know what I mean: the deep V's, the boobs outlined, etc. etc. I know that's the fashion right now, but I'm not comfortable with it.

I don't mind deep V's if they're paired with a modest camisole, which is how she always wears them. Absolutely no cleavage is my motto. But I'm also uncomfortable with shirts, dresses and bathing suits that don't just plunge in the middle; they also plunge at the sides. If you have a wide band of fabric over the shoulder, and the dress goes nicely under the arms, you can still wear a bra and camisole. But if the dress comes down at the sides, too, so that you're seeing the side of the you-know-whats, I don't think that's right.

Becca listens to me and agrees with me on the whole, but even some of the things that are pretty and modest by comparison I'm still not sure I'm comfortable with. When we were teens fashions weren't close fitting, but now everything is. All curves are revealed.

She looks great, but I just don't know. So tell me, all of you who have gone through this or have opinions, how do you decide what to buy for your children? What do you think is modest?

I often ask my husband, since he knows what teenage boys think, and if he says it's okay, I go with him. But I'd still like some better guidelines. Anyone want to offer some?

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Wifey Wednesday: Knowing His Love Language

Last week, during my online party for Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight, I started a bunch of conversations both here and on Twitter and Facebook.

And one thing that kept coming up was love languages.

So my question to you today is: Do you know your husband's love language?

For those of you who don't have a clue what we're talking about, let me explain. We all tend to want to receive love in a certain kind of way. We have preferences that determine whether or not something says "I love you". The five possible love languages are:

1. Touch
2. Time
3. Words of Affirmation
4. Gifts
5. Gifts of Service (doing something for someone).

Before you can figure out what your husband's love language is, it's good to figure out what yours is. Here's why: we tend to give love in the same way that we want to receive it. So if you're a huggy bear, chances are you hug everyone in sight, and want them to do the same for you.

So perhaps you're hugging your husband all the time, and you feel like therefore you are showing him love. So why isn't he reciprocating? What is wrong with him?

What may be going on, though, is that he may not be receiving it as love. He may even find it a mild irritant. So we need to know what makes his clock tick, and be aware of where we may be tempted to love in a way that he doesn't necessarily understand.

It took me a long time to figure out my own love language. I always thought it was touch, because I love being hugged. But I think that's something that's common to a lot of women. What really speaks to my heart, though, are words of affirmation. When he tells me that he thinks I'm beautiful, or he likes my writing, or he thinks I'm a great mother, that does wonders for me.

It turns out that his is the same thing, but I didn't realize that, either. I always thought it was touch, because men seem so interested in--well, you know. But he needs to hear words of affirmation, too.

When we were first married, though, the words that I said to him didn't necessarily affirm him. I was constantly saying, "I love you", or "I think you're a great husband", or later on, "you're such a great dad".

But one day, when we were talking, he got exasperated with me and said, "but why do you love me? Why do you think I'm a great husband?" What he needed was not just to know my thoughts, but to know what lay behind them. When I started to say, "you're such a great dad with the way you play with the kids," or "Rebecca just loves the way you take time to listen to her," he felt affirmed.

He needed to hear the why, and not just the what. I've now learned that when he's really down, it's even more important to say these things.

I have a friend whose husband love language is gifts. He just loves choosing the perfect gift for people. He loves giving more than receiving. But she couldn't care less about gifts, so she doesn't put the same kind of effort into it. When he gives her something incredible for Christmas, she likes it, but she's not in heaven or anything. But when she just gives him a gift card to a favourite store, he's devastated. It says to him, "you weren't worth putting any thought into this year."

So she's learned now to think carefully about gifts for him, and to start studying him to find out what would be a good gift. It goes against her natural bent, but she's had to learn so that he can feel loved.

If you're not sure of your husband's love language, why not read The Five Love Languages? You can even read it together for Valentine's Day. But this year, try to speak his language!

Now, you may be thinking: why should I speak his if he doesn't speak mine? But let's remember that marriage is not about manipulating him into doing what we want. It's about learning how to love. And ironically, often the best way to get our own needs met is to meet his! That doesn't mean that we meet his needs in order to get him to do something; it's just that when we act in a selfless way, and show love to him, he feels appreciated. He feels valued. He feels loved. And when he feels loved, he's more likely to reach out to you, too.

But even if he doesn't, you are still acting in a loving manner, and learning how to serve. And that pays dividends all on its own!

Now, do you have some marriage advice you want to share? Have you had an interesting time working out your love languages? Why not join us for this discussion? Just leave your link in the comments below!

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Living in the Moment
I just finished reading The Shack. I don't want to write a real review, because I know it's controversial. Some of you love it, some of you think it's too unorthodox, and some don't care.

Quite frankly, I don't want to get into a debate about its orthodoxy.

But I do want to mention one little thing, which I think we all can agree on. In the book, the main character was challenged about where he usually lives--or is it when?--in the past, in the present, or in the future?

And Mack has to admit he lives in the past and the future. He's either dwelling on what happened to him already, or he's thinking about the future.

Yet God lives with us in the present. He's in the past, and He's in the future, but He's present with us now. And if we're always in the past, or always in the future, we don't experience Him to the fullest.

I think that's true. I live in the future, mostly. I'm planning and thinking and yearning and dreaming. I have a very hard time just being in the moment. And I'm a big time efficiency type person. If I can't multi-task while I'm doing it, I don't do it. I need to be able to accomplish things. But isn't accomplisment itself an effort to live in the future?

I find it hard just to relax and enjoy life without feeling guilty. There's always something I should be doing.

And yet the moments that I will treasure with my kids or my husband are those when I was able to put all that aside and just BE; be in the present. When we live in th present, we listen to those around us. We look into their eyes and laugh, and share, and bond. When we live in the future we're somehow not always concentrating on them, even if the future that we're planning centres or revolves around them.

The only way to live in the present is to put stuff aside and just enjoy those who are with us. I know I've been on this role lately, but even with sex, we need to be in the present. If we're thinking about the future, or thinking, "let's just get it over with so I can...", then we're not in the present. We have to be in the present to concentrate on what's happening and enjoy it.

Or what about our kids? My post below about how disciplining our children leads to a much better relationship is so true. But often we're so focused on where we're trying to bring our kids that we don't always just play with them today. I'm not saying don't discipline; I'm just saying don't forget, in those years, to also enjoy your children.

What is it that our human hearts long for? It's connection, isn't it? Connection with others, and connection with God. But we can only connect with others when we decide that we will stop sacrificing the present for the future (or the past, if that's where you're stuck). We can only connect with our husbands when we give them our full attention. And we can only really experience God if we give Him time. So often we just rhyme off a list of requests we have of God without just listening to Him to find out what He has to say to us TODAY.

He does have a message for you today. He doesn't want you to concentrate only on storing up your barns, or building treasures (even if those are good treasures). He also wants your undivided heart, and sometimes we divide our hearts because we're focusing on what type of family we're building, or career, or even ministry.

No matter what you're focused on today, make sure you take some time to put some of that aside and look deeply into someone's eyes. Remember to laugh. Remember to listen. Remember to pray.

That's a hard thing for me to do, because I have so many goals. But I'm going to try to practice it now. Will you?

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Podcast: Valentine's Day, and Romance Amid Reality
UPDATE: my podcast link is fixed! Just scroll below, and you'll be able to listen!

Hello all!

I'm sorry posting has been a little light lately. I have a confession to make. I'm not actually at home. I'm in Maui.

I know you all hate me now, but I do wish I could have brought you all with me! We're having a wonderful time, and went on a whale watching expedition yesterday. It was just awesome.

It's a much needed time away, because I've been far too busy lately.

But in the meantime, have tried to get some work done when we have an internet connection.

So I want to tell you about my new podcast this week, which I think you're going to love! It's on Valentine's Day, and this year, as you all struggle to do something romantic when you have kids around, I think it's going to help you laugh, at least!

Go listen to Romance Amidst Reality. It's short and fun! And I'll try to think of you while I'm on the beach. :).

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Some Words of Reassurance for Parents of Young Ones
I do not always enjoy my kids. I do probably 98% of the time, because they are great kids, but occasionally there are times when I'm mad. They're being inconsiderate to each other, or they're making a mess, and I get frustrated.

But those times are getting fewer and farther between, and I just want to say that those of you who are tired, and who are trying to set limits and finding it exhausting, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

When my oldest daughter was young, we used to hang out with another little girl who was exactly three weeks older. They were remarkably similar in personality. They were quite demanding babies, and didn't like being put down. They wanted to be carried, entertained, and stimulated.

As they got to be toddlers, they both decided temper tantrums were good ideas. They threw them massively.

But I began to notice that my daughter was slowly calming down, and I think it's because I set very strict boundaries for her. And she became a lovely girl, so much so that I think she has a stronger moral framework than I myself do. I know that she has a much higher standard for honesty than I do. (that's something God's been convicting me of lately; it's not that I lie, but I do sometimes elaborate to paint myself in a better light than I deserve. I guess that is lying! But I want to stop it, and I'm asking God to help).

Anyway, I heard someone say around that time, when Rebecca was in the throes of tantrums and I was so tired always trying to stay consistent, that the first few years are the hardest, if you do them right. Picture discipline like a pyramid: you discipline a lot in the first few years, and then when they're older you don't have to do very much. What's required gets smaller and smaller because they internalize good morals (and hopefully a relationship with God).

But if you don't discipline when they're young, and cater to their every whim, you end up with an inverted pyramid. You find you have to do a lot when they're teens, right when they should be getting more freedom, because they make bad choices.

The more you work when they're young, the less you have to when they're old.

And I can tell you that I really do enjoy my homelife with my children. Aside from the fact that they've grown out of the hardest years, when kids don't sleep through the night, and when they demand so much attention, they've also become decent people.

So if you're tired, and you're exhausted, take heart. You're investing in a really great family, and it will pay off!
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To Love, Honor and Vacuum


About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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