Fifty Shades of They

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I was recently asked to do a review of Ed Young’s book, “Fifty Shades of They.”  If you’re unfamiliar, Ed Young is a the Senior pastor of Fellowship Church. This church has three different campuses: Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, Miami, FL and London England. For more info. click here.

“Fifty Shades of They” discusses the importance of who the “they” are in your life, and by “They” I mean the people, places and things that contribute to who you are as a whole. I would say we all know that relationships are important because we are relational beings, but the challenge is understanding the impact that our “they” truly have on our lives. Sometimes the relationships we partake in–(not just the romantic type, but ALL relationships) are positive. Our “They” would be considered life-giving and positive. These are the types of relationships that propel us forward towards reaching our God-given potential. Everything in your life– people, places and things either bring you closer to God or take you away from Him.

Think about it.

 

 

Other times we participate in relationships that are not only unhealthy but that suck the life out of us. These relationships cause us to miss the mark. We fail to see and reach our God-given potential because these unhealthy relationships with our “They” lead to death. Death in purpose, perspective, and potential. We often tolerate this nasty type of “They” because we don’t know any better, we’re in denial, change is hard, and our vision is clouded by our sinful nature.

This book is filled with 50 short chapters detailing the different types of “they” we may find in our lives at any given time and the simple ways to identify them. Ed shares short stories that highlight the “They” and the Biblical truths that support the importance of having the right “They” in our lives.  

If you’re like me, you appreciate a book that is straight to the point and “Fifty Shades of They” is exactly that. This book is a short read and you could finish it in a few hours. I’m all about finding great reads that give me new perspective on my faith and life, and that help me to be a better me. I don’t just read books, I highlight and mark them up. I found myself challenged by the content and God affirming recent changes in my life. In fact, I think it’s time for a re-read!

If you’re looking to give your life a relational makeover, “Fifty Shades of They” will help you do just that.

 

Follow Ed Young on Instagram and Twitter!

*Who you follow is part of your “They.”—What in the Hecknology! Read the book and you’ll understand what I’m talking about!

 

Love & Respect Part 2

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The fundamentals of your relationship with your spouse or significant other boil down to these two words. At first glance, we think our needs as men and women are the same: we all just want to be loved. But truthfully, the needs we have as men and women are different.

It’s our differences as men and women that attract us, coupling in a way that moves us together with distinct form and unity. This is not only in our temperament and biology, but also part of God’s divine design.

My intent in this post isn’t to tell you you’ve been doing things wrong in your marriage, but rather I want to show you ways I’ve learned to do things right. There is wisdom to be gained through your own experiences and those of others. I hope this post breathes new life into your marriage and that you’re encouraged to make a positive change. If what you’ve been trying to do to improve your marriage isn’t working, it’s time for a new approach.

Back to love and respect… These are our deepest needs as men and women. When these needs aren’t being met, we get frustrated and that frustration can come out in ways we don’t truly mean. Maybe you’ve uttered a harsh word, given the silent treatment, withheld your love or intimacy from each other as a form of punishment. The bottom line is, none of those are effective ways to produce positive change within your marriage.  Ephesians 5 details some specific instructions for Wives and Husbands. Verse 33: However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

 

Dr. Emerson explains the concepts of Love & Respect on his website beautifully:

What is Love and Respect? We believe love best motivates a woman and respect most powerfully motivates a man. Research reveals that during marital conflict a husband most often reacts when feeling disrespected and a wife reacts when feeling unloved.  We asked 7,000 people this question: when you are in a conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved or disrespected?  83% of the men said “disrespected.”  72% of the women said, “unloved.”  Though we all need love and respect equally, the felt need differs during conflict, and this difference is as different as pink is from blue! – Loveandrespect.com

 

You see, women have their own language and means of listening/interpreting. Females speak through pink megaphones and hear through pink headphones, while males speak through blue megaphones and hear through blue headphones.

Ever wonder why it’s so hard for your husband to understand you when what you’re saying is basic English? Perhaps your wife misunderstood what you were saying because she was trying to listen to what you said through her pink headphones. There’s bound to me some miscommunication when we are attempting to motivate each other through our own preferred way.

As a woman, if I’m not receiving love from my husband, the message is “I don’t love or accept you.” For men, the message is “I don’t respect or accept you.” Hopefully that’s not what you’re trying to convey to each other as husband and wife. Marriage is truly about putting the needs of your spouse above your own. If you operate with a “I am Second” mentality, both people can experience the true fulfillment that marriage has to offer.

Another principle Steve and I learned was when faced with an argument or conflict in your relationship was: the person who is most mature should act first. The logic is we both want to be perceived as mature; therefore, we’ll work together to come to a resolution. Rather than be stubborn, which can be hard for me, I’m going to put down my sword, come alongside my husband and word it out. Now we all know that it’s not always that’s simple. There will be days when you might ask yourself, Did I really choose him? or What was I thinking when I married her?  I wouldn’t suggest uttering those words, but stepping back reminding yourself about why you fell in love in the first place.

There’s no doubt that you’ll face moments when you just want to scream, “You aren’t loving me!” or “You need to respect me!” But demanding either of these things from each other never goes well. It probably makes you want to do the opposite, especially if you’re stubborn.

Our pre-marriage counseling began to peel back the layers of marriage and then we were introduced to the crazy cycle. The Crazy Cycle looks like this:

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The Crazy Cycle occurs when conflict arises. Instead of taking a moment to reflect on our own actions towards our spouse and making change, it’s common to act in ways that aren’t desirable when our greatest needs aren’t being met. For wives: without love, she reacts without respect. For husbands: without respect, he reacts without love.

 

Steve and I learned how to handle negative situations and how to prevent having negative actions and reactions towards each other. I learned that I will not only satisfy Steve’s needs by being respectful, but I can motivate him to meet my own needs by fulfilling his first. When his needs are met, he is motivated to meet my needs too, which is the energizing cycle. His love motivates my respect and my respect motivates his love.

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Rather than demanding his love, I can show him how to love me by truly loving him through my respect. When I do so it’s as if a switch is activated. He feels honored, valued and affirmed and he in-turn wants to fill my cup with love.

We continued to learn more about how to make our marriage successful. We were able to use what we had learned and applied it to our relationship immediately. Pre-marriage counseling brought our relationship to another level. I felt loved and he felt respected… talk about a win win.

 

I highly encourage you to read the book with your spouse or fiancé, attend a conference and apply the Love & Respect principles. I can’t do your homework for you.You’ve got to get to work.

Knock the socks off your spouse and take initiative. Rather than complain about what’s wrong with your marriage, make a change and do something right. And guys, if you want to get your wife’s attention, take initiative. I guarantee she’ll be looking at you in a new way!

 

Remember, it’s not about being comfortable.

You cannot celebrate a marital championship unless you’re willing to work together on your fundamentals. Don’t ignore the things that are hard for you or that cause you to struggle. Address your weakness head on–as I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” You’ve got to set yourself and your marriage up for success.

It’s not about you; it’s about being selfless. You must willingly be second, so you can both experience what it’s like to be first.

Perfectly Loved

If you’re engaged or married, you’re familiar with the joys and challenges of wedding planning.

I don’t know about you, but my husband to be was an easygoing guy when it came to the details of the wedding. The two things Steve cared about for our wedding was our venue and our photographer, so I agreed he could make the decision on those details.

Steve had expensive taste. He chose to have our reception at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club, as I told you about in a previous post. We invited 404 people to our wedding, and the jury was still out on how many were actually going to show up.

Since I was teaching, I had a set salary. Steve was the personal training department head at Life Time Fitness, so he could make more money if he took on more clients. So he agreed to do just that and I’d do the rest of the planning. It helped that I had the summers off  which gave me more flexibility to get things done.

The next item on our wedding “to-do” list was to get our engagement pictures taken. I had created an account on TheKnot.com to assist me in my planning. I actually found the planning was more stressful using that website. I swear there was someone sitting on the backend of the website adding more items to my to-do list just as I finished one task. I felt like it was designed for a crazy OCD bridezilla. And planning a wedding in 6 months was preposterous according to TheKnot! That website loved reminding me how behind I was on my to-dos that weren’t done. I know several people who have planned a wedding in less than 6 months. It can be done ladies!

Originally Steve suggested we get married in June or July, but I didn’t want to wait until then. Besides, summers are known to be wedding season, and I didn’t want our wedding to be just another event to attend on a summer weekend.

Anyhow, we ended up taking our engagement pictures on August 11, 2011 at the Minnesota photography hotspot, the Stone Arch Bridge. We didn’t take any pictures on the bridge, just around that area.

I felt of course like I had nothing to wear. That always seems to happen to me when I have a photography session of some kind. What I have to wear just never feels right and of course it didn’t help that I was still a brunette from my little hair-color experiment.

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When we got our pictures back, I didn’t love them at first, not because there was anything wrong with the quality of the work, but it was more me being nitpicky. My hair wasn’t the right color, my arms weren’t lean enough, my smile was unnatural in some of the pictures, and I had a double chin in one of the pictures we took in the grass. YUCK.

It wasn’t until later that I realized what I was doing. I was tearing apart the beauty of what these pictures captured. The point wasn’t to be perfect, the point was to capture the milestone of our engagement and the joy and love we had found in each other.

The ability to criticize is something that I’ve noticed myself and in other women I know. We are our own worst critics when it comes to our beauty, self-confidence, and what we think are “flaws”. We stare in the mirror and tear ourselves down, being overly critical about the most trivial of things, when there is a woman not far from you that is dying to have what you have. Most of the time it’s something physical.

If we have stick straight hair, we want curly hair.

If we have curly hair, we want straight hair.

If we think we our butt is too big, we go to great lengths to trim it down.

If we weren’t born with a shapely bum, we’re trying to build one.

And the list goes on…

 

Why do we strive to attain such unreasonable goals of what this world deems as perfection?

When was the last time you were given a compliment and you just said “thank you” instead of dismissing what was just said about you with some lengthy explanation of why what was just said is untrue?

We have to stop doing that. We have to stop acting as if we’re unworthy of such praise. When you’ve given a compliment, the polite thing to do is to say “thank you” and the healthy thing to do is to believe it!

You need to know and believe in your heart of hearts, that there’s a special stamp of unconditional approval that has been given to you. It resides in the essence of all that you are, put there specifically by God and it extends beyond the hair on your head or your buttocks. It’s more like the special signature that can be found on the bottom of a Cabbage Patch doll, but it’s so much more valuable than that.

 

What do kids do first at school when they’re given a piece of paper?

They sign their name.

 

What do you do when you agree to a financial responsibility?

You sign your name.

 

What does an artist do when they finish his/her masterpiece?

They sign their name.

 

What does a professional athlete do with memorabilia at a press event?

They sign their name.

 

In all these situations, there is some level of value in signing one’s name, but the value of all of these examples pales in comparison to being created by The King. You have immeasurable value and worth because you were created in the Imago Dei, (Image of God)– in his likeness because he has marked you as his.

We have the DNA of our Creator in the depths of our souls. He knows us at our core, our innermost being. Those deep places of fear, insecurity, self-doubt, He already knows about even if you don’t want to go there with him. He knows you struggle with the comparison game, which is quite a nasty one to take part in. You know, the kind where you scroll through your Instagram feed to see how perfect everyone’s life is, only to look at your own and feel less than adequate. I’m guilty of doing the same. When was the last time you saw a bad picture on Instagram? I bet you haven’t, because WE ALL want to be perceived as perfect so why would we post such imperfection?

But really, isn’t the idea of perfection and imperfection in itself? We’re under some illusion that if we just keep trying, we’ll get there eventually, and if not, we’re going to tough it out until we make it across the imaginary line of acceptance. Oh but wait! As soon as you’re about to cross the threshold, the line has been moved and the standard has been changed.

 

The bottom line is we need to quit giving the lies of the enemy power over our lives. He’s been allowed to feed you spoonfuls of death and doubt for far too long. We’ve been conditioned to measure ourselves against a standard of measurement that ALWAYS changes because there is nothing in or of the world that is constant.

You see sisters, we need to put our stock in something real…the ONE that is real, authentic, constant, and accepting, and quit trying to compete with the annoying pest called perfection. We don’t just play this game with ourselves, but we do it to each other.

 

We have all faced rejection in life and part of the problem is we put unreasonable expectations on ourselves to look, act, and be perfect. When we fall short of that perfection we feel rejected and discouraged because of some unrealistic standard we’ve placed on ourselves and each other.

 

Read this excerpt from the book “You’re Already Amazing” by: Holly Gerth.

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I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that we don’t have to be perfect! Thank you Lord!

 

I love this passage of scripture:

For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.

1 Samuel 12:22

 

Read it again:

For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.

1 Samuel 12:22

GOD WAS AND IS PLEASED THAT YOU ARE HIS! He loves everything about you because HE MADE YOU.

As God’s Word says: the Lord WILL NOT reject his people, because the Lord WAS PLEASED TO MAKE YOU HIS OWN. You don’t have to be perfect, because you are perfectly loved.

He is proud of you. He loves who you are, perfect or not.

 

 

 

My challenge to you is to dig into God’s Word and read about what He says about you. But I want you to do more than just read it, I want you to believe it! And the next time you hear someone struggling with feelings of inadequacy, stand in the gap and speak truth into their lives.

 

And remember, you don’t have to be perfect because you are perfectly loved.

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Being With You is a Walk in the Park

It was May 6, 2011 and it was a sunny day. Both Steve and I worked and then I went over to his townhome after work.

I looked forward to days like today because we’d get to spend time with JT. My sister Mel would also be coming over today. Steve, Mel and I spent a lot of time together, and since he was dating me, my sister was part of the package deal.

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Mel is a speech language pathologist and she works with 3 and 4 year olds. Any day that Steve and I would have time with JT, Mel was automatically invited. JT loved when she was there. Mel has a gift with kids. Not only did she play with JT, but she’d teach him at the same time.

Steve and Mel had several nicknames for each other. Steve called her doctor, because her initials were MD, but that wasn’t even the best one.

When I was training for a competition Steve was on a similar diet regime. He was doing the same amount of carbs I was on any given day. My sister was my roommate so she knew that this particular day was a zero carbohydrate day for me, which meant no complex carbs.

Mel had just arrived at Life Time to workout and saw Steve sitting in the Life Café She went into the café to say hi and he was eating eggs and had a stack of toast on his plate.

“What are you doing? You’re not supposed to be having toast!” giving him a “gentle” reminder as if he forgot. “You’re on a zero carb day!”

“Don’t tell your sister,” he said with a smirk.

Of course my sister didn’t keep that from me. When she got home she told me all about it and Steve knew that she would.

The next time I was at Steve’s house, we invited Mel over. She walked in the door and greeted him “Hi toast.”

“What’s up Judas?” he joked. She had busted him for eating toast and Mel had narked on him for not following our diet. Those two nicknames stuck from that moment on. Mel wouldn’t let Steve forget that he got caught, nor would he let her forget she was a nark.

There was so much joy when all of us were together. Our time together was always lighthearted and we were either laughing with each other or at each other.

 

 

Today Steve, JT, Mel and I went on a walk. I loved going on walks with Steve. He worked very hard at his job and it could be very stressful, so walking was a great way to spend quality time together and he could decompress after his day. Of course we loved it also because we could take JT to the park and get in more exercise.

We walked up to the park and Steve took JT out of the stroller. He couldn’t walk yet so Steve brought him over to the swings and put him in one.

I loved playing with JT, but I also loved to watch the two of them together. I couldn’t help but fall more in love with Steve every time I got to witness him in daddy mode. JT filled Steve up with so much love. He was such a proud dad and he talked to JT so tenderly even though JT couldn’t respond in complete sentences (obviously). It was still as JT knew what his daddy was saying to him. He hung on every word and action of his daddy. He showered him with kisses and told JT that he loved him.

The giggles were contagious. JT squealed with delight shoving his hands in his mouth as Steve pushed him in the swing.

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I found myself reflecting in that moment, as I often did when the three of us were together. I thanked God for blessing me with my boys. I was thankful that he humbled me when I thought there could be no way this life could be right for me.

 

There I was, blessed to have this sweet baby in my life and his daddy.

I couldn’t believe how right Steve was for me. I had dated guys before who I thought they were right for me, and then things changed. I either ended up being broken hearted or realized they weren’t the one for me.

Steve and I shared the same passions and values. He understood my stubborn and quiet side, or maybe he just learned how to deal with it. I loved how he was so selfless in everything he did. Whether it was at work, a random stranger, friends or family, he would do whatever he could to help any one who needed it. I couldn’t help but love his giving heart. He was my biggest cheerleader. He never set limitations on what he thought I could do but supported me in my big ideas and dreams.

 

For the first time I had felt like I was with someone who appreciated me, all of me. He didn’t try to change me or forced me to be someone I wasn’t. Simply by being Steve Toms, he inspired and helped me to be the “best me.” I loved this man and I had no doubt that he felt the same way about me because he told me every day.

 

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The person you’re with and the person you choose to spend your life with should make you a better you. They shouldn’t detract from who you are or cause you to be less than the person God designed you to be. God didn’t intricately design you so you could pretend to be someone else. God already knows your potential and we need to wake up and realize how amazing He thinks we are.

 

 

How Steve made me feel reminds me of one of my favorite motivational movie speeches by Coach Carter, in the movie Coach Carter:

 


 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 


 

 

My challenge to you today is for you to get out of your box and let your light shine! Stop downplaying your God-given gifts and talents. The world needs you to be you. You are ONE OF A KIND.

 

 

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