Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Staying Married 40 Years: The Tools of Commitment

Jackie and I are celebrating forty years of marriage today, Sunday, June 26th. We were married in 1976, the same year our country was founded.

Oh, wait a minute, it just seems that long and we look that old at times. We actually honeymooned in Canada during most of the 200th celebration of our country's establishment so we weren't too patriotic.

Sometimes we both feel as though we couldn't even be forty years old, much more married that long. On the other hand, we are incredibly blessed to still be husband and wife in a culture where silver, golden and even ruby (40) anniversaries seem to be fewer and fewer.

We were blessed with two awesome kids, who now have their own and have given us six grandsons. Wow, who would turn that down?

But we also know that we haven't been perfect and accept our warts, scars and ongoing challenges that others face. We didn't do everything right by any means and brought our own issues to marriage, ones that we too had to overcome by the grace of God. We've shared some of those stories elsewhere.

If we can share anything, however, it might be just a handful of attitudes and practices that have been handholds and footholds in our journey together, points of balance and strength that have kept us from giving up or giving in. No, we didn't do any of these perfectly but we made them consistent throughout the years.

One, we made time for each other even when we had kids or other significant responsibilities. I've written about this in other posts plus my book, Turn Up Or Turn Around Your Marriage, but I need to highlight the idea again here. We've almost always had a least a day that was dedicated to time together. We still do today.

When we had kids, we shared babysitters to lessen the costs, but we still made it a priority. That time kept us talking, relaxing, connecting and making each other a priority. We dreamed, planned and worked through things because we had the time.

Two, we said "I love you" a lot along with other encouraging words of life. Even in conflict we avoided name-calling, comparing and shame. We knew that words were and are powerful so we kept trying to speak life into each other. A related action is that we still act romantically towards each other in the everyday times - hold hands, sit together on the couch when we watch TV and kiss each other hello and goodbye.

Third, we were always a team - as parents, partners, dealing with finances, making decisions, disciplining the children. Everything we own, we both own. It's all ours even though there might be a few items that one or the other cherishes or uses more. One of our favorite things to do was to plan special trips or other events together.

Finally, though there are more I could talk about, we both looked to God, to Jesus and the power of His Spirit for our ultimate worth and happiness and the strength to live godly. Unlike the Jerry Maguire line, we don't try or expect to complete each other. We immensely enjoy each other's love and care and hope to keep doing so for many years to come. But we are clear that when it's all said and done, God is enough.

You see marriage is a wonderful taste of what only God can do in us all the time. That's why we sacrificed to give to Him over the years, to serve other in missions or special programs like MOPS. It's why we chose ministry together over just getting more stuff. And it's what we believe will make the rest of our years special, whatever time God allows us.

We do value so many who have been our models, mentors, teachers and encouragers. Some of you who will read this are in those groups whether you know it or not. Thank you.

And if our example can help you or someone else to keep committed to marriage and not give up, then it's been worth the difficult journey even more. Feel free to share this post with others who might benefit from hearing a little of our story.

As I like to say, never quit climbing. The view from the top is worth it!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Three Things That Can Steal From Your Kids' Summer

For many parents summer is often either a blessing or a curse. It's a blessing because the early mornings, school nights and mounds of homework end for a while.

It can be a curse because mom and/or dad have to figure out how to keep their cherubs happily occupied, busy and at least somewhat productive when they get bored after only three days without the classroom.

Of course, other factors include the ages, personalities, interests and initiative of each individual child. We parents have many tough jobs but one of them is their supervisory role during summer break.

As a result we can overreact and go to extremes, several which in my mind as a parent, counselor and student of the family cause long-term problems rather than help.

Let me suggest three perspectives and strategies to avoid:

Don't over-program their time.  I know that the trend these days and often the requirements for kids if they're going to be involved again in the fall is . . . MORE. More training, more games, more practice, more experience, more talent development. And all that requires more time, energy, money and in many cases travel for the family.

Of course there are times when we feel like there aren't any alternatives. I remember our son as a basketball player being required to attend summer camps, workouts, tournaments and the like. One year he also got mono so couldn't attend most of the required activities. The kid who started almost every game since seventh grade hardly played his junior year of high school. Really? What kind of coach does that?

Whatever the case somewhere along the way we have to say enough is enough. That doesn't mean we don't let the kids do any of the offerings, but we can say "no" to some. They need a break! They're kids, not recruits.

Don't merely let them get lazy because school is over. I was an education major and taught school for fifteen years. I know that kids forget a lot over the summer. How about giving them a couple of choices that allow them to apply their knowledge, remember the highlights and do it all in a fun setting different from school?

If they started a language find a work, play or learning setting that requires they use their language skills rather than just study them. Music, art, sports, math, science, writing can all be practiced over the summer in fun ways, even ones that are done at home without cost or a leader.

In addition, don't be afraid to tack on a few more chores at home. Teach them some practical skills now that they're around the house more. They can learn to cook, help with laundry and do more yard work. You won't be there someday, remember?

Finally, don't miss out on opportunities to use this more flexible time to serve others. While most parents don't intend to merely spoil and indulge their kids (okay some do), it's easy for our children to begin to think that family life should center around their interests, needs and wants. So, why not find at least one opportunity that your family does together and/or they participate in with a community, church or other area group to help and give to others?

Whatever you do, don't buy into the more is more, look the other way or it's all about me, isn't it habits of so many families these days. Be different, stand tall above the summer status quo. Who knows, it just might change the direction and course of your family for the coming year.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.