Struggling for Unity

UnityAchieving and sustaining real, productive unity seems more and more like grabbing a handful of water these days. Sure, we see glimpses of people uniting for a cause or to accomplish a specific task or goal, but those events seem more like a bandage on a gaping wound than any real gain toward unity.

Instead, many (most?) countries lack a unified people and/or government, and so many companies and organizations struggle in a constant state of mismanagement and overwhelm. Broken marriages divide families and erode trust. Even churches crumble under the weight of selfish disagreements leading to division and strife.

Unity Takes Hard Work.

Feelings often encourage one direction while unity requires another. The choice between self and others continually drives a wedge into any efforts toward unity.

Often, people attempt to avoid disagreement and struggle in an attempt to create unity, failing to realize that unity exists as individuals work through disagreement and struggle. In other words, we find unity as we persevere through differences in opinion and preference and instead work toward peace as we focus on a singular goal. Refusing to quit in the struggle usually leads to great gains in unity.

The Bible teaches on unity more than on Heaven or Hell perhaps because while Satan may not be able to steal our salvation, he can undermine our effectiveness through disunity. He knows that the church and God’s people need unity in order to accomplish the goal of spreading the Gospel. He also knows that unity flourishes as we obey the command to love God and others, and getting our focus on our own desires keeps us from taking the path of love that leads to unity.

Basic Truths About Unity

Let’s look at some basic truths about unity found in Scripture in an effort to realize the significance of the stability unity brings to God’s people, benefits that flow well beyond the body of Christ.

  1. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17). In fact, His last prayer before taking the road to the cross focused on unity among God’s people. He knew that Christians united under God could accomplish much for the Kingdom than individuals operating on individual agendas.
  2. Unity is a command (Ephesians 4:3). A church filled with believers focused on leading Holy-Spirit led lives leads to a unified body bound by peace. Peace and unity together create a strand not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
  3. Unity brings God’s blessings (Psalm 133). Harmony among God’s people refreshes the body of Christ. The pleasant and precious nature of unity spreads and soothes even into areas where chaos reigns.
  4. Unity is a powerful witness (John 13). Simply put, unity and peace make Christianity – following Jesus – attractive to the world. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.
  5. Unity meets deep, emotional needs (Philippians 2:1-2). Encouragement. Comfort. Fellowship. Tenderness. Sympathy. Where these flow, unity and love exist in abundance.
  6. Unity comes through the spiritual growth of individuals (Colossians 2:2). Encouragement and strong ties of love come through confidence in the Gospel. That confidence results when individuals focus on knowing Christ.
  7. God gives us what we need for unity (Romans 15:1-6). Through God’s gifts of patience and encouragement for the purpose of preferring others, individuals adopt the attitude of Christ as a lifestyle, and unity naturally results.
  8. Unity is the strength (essence) of a healthy church (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12; Galatians 3:28). A unified church recognizes the need for every individual to do his/her part, each playing an integral role in the unified body of Christ.
  9. Love results in unity (Colossians 3:14). In fact, love exists as the most important piece of “clothing” a Christian wears because of its role in creating unity.
  10. We must guard unity (Ephesians 4:3; Philippians 2:1-5; 1 Peter 3:8-9). Guarding requires deliberate attention, which means intentionally focusing on the elements that create and sustain unity.

Unity requires a lot of consistent hard work (Psalm 34). Doing nothing to promote unity means allowing it to evaporate and become all but invisible as the gaping wounds in individual lives, in families, in churches, and in countries fester and reach epidemic and infectious proportions.

On Thursday, we’ll look at our individual responsibility for the creation, growth and sustained existence of unity. Get ready… eliminating severe infection often requires pain and sacrifice.

DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts about unity?

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

Thinking on Words

A friend recently said she planned on “wafing” at work the next day. At first, her word left me floundering to understand her meaning. But when I thought more about my friend and her approach to work, I somehow knew what she meant. The relationship created the meaning necessary to understand her words.

My friend also said that putting the word in quotes made it okay to use even though it is not a word. If that’s the case, then a lot of words need quotation marks.

Our conversation got me thinking about how people in general use words, both intentionally and unintentionally, how we create the meaning of the words we use, both real and made up, as well as the impact of relationship on the meaning of our words.

So, strap in, hold on, and journey into my thought process on the topic of words.

Words

Did you realize“unforgiveness” isn’t really a word? Not in my dictionary, anyway. “Impactful” isn’t either. Kind of disappointed since I use those words often.

Technically, adding “un” before “forgiveness” means taking back or undoing forgiveness. A very “churchy” (yes, another non-word) word, the assumed meaning of “unforgiveness” involves not forgiving or refusing to forgive, not so much an undoing of forgiveness given because of it not actually being given in the first place.

Impactful,”used to portray major impact or effect, is actually in some “online” dictionaries, but it’s not an official word according to Dictionary.com. And anyway, why not just use influential or effective? Unfortunately, I’ve used “impactful” so much over the years that I naturally think of it when describing something with great impact.

How many other words do I use frequently that don’t actually exist?

Words4

People constantly make up words. Some eventually become official words. (I’m still not over “ain’t” officially becoming a word.) Don’t we have enough words? Are we just too lazy to learn the ones we already have, so we make up new ones instead? Isn’t that kind of like being unable to find that thing you know you have somewhere, so you buy a new one instead of taking the time and making the effort to look for it?

Marketers, Tweeters (technically a real word) and “Facebookers” make up words all the time. Where do you think the Word of the Year “selfie” came from? (In case you’re wondering, second place went to “twerking.” Sorry, Miley!)

Ginormous” and “bestie” were also spawned “online” with “selfie.” The word “ginormous” combines gigantic and enormous, related synonymously, so why not just use one of the legitimate words? Can something truly be so gigantic and enormous that it needs both words to be described? Once something reaches enormous, does it need to be more? Or, is this simply our human tendency to add dramatic flare to everything?

Maybe my obsessive need to eliminate the little squiggly line under words creates an over-sensitivity to word choice. Or maybe my frustration over increasing laziness with the words we speak, over taking the time to communicate clearly and accurately, creates a need to consider the details of the words I use and the intentions behind them.

Words5

Take a minute to think about the words you use. Actually, think about how much you actually think about your words. Or, do you just let the words come forth without giving them much thought?

Scripture says a lot about using care with our words, and taking the time to consider these instructions strengthens character and relationships by bringing greater awareness to the fact that the words we speak – as well as how, when & why we speak them – reflect the atmosphere of the inner self with striking accuracy.

In January, we will look at how what we say, the way we say it and when we say it holds tremendous impact. In addition, we’ll look at how who says something matters along with the impact of the amount of words we speak (how much we say or don’t say). Finally, we’ll also look at the value of controlling our words along with ideas on how to incorporate this aspect of self control into the details of our lives.

DISCUSS: Take me on a journey into your thoughts on the use of words. Tell me what you think a detailed focus on this topic should include.

How to… Live an 80/20 Life, Part 1

If 20 years of marriage taught me nothing else, it showed me that people view and handle stress uniquely. My husband and I sit on opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to how we handle stress. Simply put, he can handle a lot more than me. About 10 years into our marriage, I finally became okay with sitting and reading while he worked around the house. I realized that we were both dealing with the stress in our lives, just in very different ways.

Managing busyness also looks very different from one person to the next. My husband takes a “handle it as it comes” approach, while I tend to limit how much comes at me in the first place. While I can see how he handles stress and busyness, I don’t really understand it. I have come to accept it simply because it works well for him.

Over the past 2 ½ years, learning to better mitigate the stress in my life and to keep busyness in balance has brought what a friend of mine called “a peace” about me. And I feel more peaceful too. With that being said, the following two approaches largely shape how busyness and stress stay minimal and margin stays optimal in my life.

Schedule Only 80% of My Calendar

This leaves a 20% margin for surprises that pop up and for extra opportunities to minister. I’m not naturally spontaneous, but this 20% at least gives spontaneity (often initiated by my husband) a good chance for success upon occasion.

Mostly, though, the 20% is for the down time that my laid back personality needs. Some days and even weeks go over 80%, but that’s okay when I have margin in sight. I make sure it’s always in sight too. Yes, this means saying “no” to some good people and activities. But, I have found that saying “no” actually allows me to more fully say “yes.”

Say Only 20% of What I’m Thinking

As an introvert, there’s a lot going on in my head. My husband loves me, but he doesn’t want to hear it all. (He actually gets more than 20% anyway.) No one but God wants to hear it all, and saying too much detracts from listening, which is more important anyway.

This 80/20 “rule” also keeps sarcasm at bay, which also comes a bit too naturally for me. Not only that, but my melancholy personality also gravitates toward the negative initially. So keeping those thoughts to myself really does benefit everyone.

My point in saying this really goes toward balance. Keeping much of my thoughts to myself brings more value to what I do say. I feel like it also shows more value for what others have to say. At least that is my intention. To me, that helps bring balance to my relationships.

You Decide!

These two 80/20 “rules” do not exist like rigid accounting principles. They simply provide guidance and help keep life simple. After crashing 2 ½ years ago, I was forced to rethink my approach to balance. These two rules are the result.

If one take-away exists from this post, let it be the importance of managing overload and maintaining balance. Overload happens when you do nothing to stop it, while balance and simplicity must be deliberately and uniquely pursued.  Decide now which state of mind will get the victory in your life.

Next week’s “How to…Live an 80/20 Life, Part 2” will discuss some specific tactics for living an 80/20 life.

DISCUSSION: What approach do you take to achieve and maintain balance & simplicity in your life?

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

Related Reading: 

Essential Elements of Vision Therapy

Many optometrists do not recognize when someone needs vision therapy. In fact, a person with vision problems can pass an eye exam with flying colors. This was the case with my son. I sensed we were missing something in his learning plan, but that something remained allusive until one of his teachers suggested I check into vision therapy.

Elements in vision therapy include the following:

  1. Comprehensive Vision Exam/Consultation: Before a patient begins vision therapy, an assessment by a qualified doctor takes place. This includes diagnostic evaluations identifying strengths and weaknesses with regard to visual coordination and information processing skills.
  2. Patient Conference with the Doctor: After the assessments, a doctor specializing in vision-related problems reviews and interprets the results. When vision therapy is recommended, a treatment plan is created with goals and expectations outlined. The patient must then decide whether or not to begin therapy.
  3. Weekly Therapy: Therapy sessions at the doctor’s office vary depending on each individual’s needs. Some patients have in-office therapy twice a week, while others have it once a month. Patients also often have tasks to complete at home to enhance the in-office therapy. The specific type and frequency of therapy depends largely upon an individual’s unique vision therapy needs.

This process works well within our spiritual lives too, if we’re open to it. This same sort of process can lead us to a place of preventing vision-related spiritual problems – such as double-mindedness, lack of or wrong focus, and absence of alertness or paying attention – that can plague our spiritual lives. After asking the question, Do you Need Vision Therapy, proceed to implementing the necessary elements.

Elements in spiritual vision therapy include the following:

  1. The Basics: Serving as an eye exam or vision evaluation for our spiritual lives, make sure the basics of regular fellowship, daily Bible study and prayer create the core of your spiritual vision health. (Colossians 4:2, 3; Acts 2:42) All other elements will be fruitless without these basics. Stopping regular practice of any of these habits leads to blurred spiritual vision.
  2. Consultation: A seasoned saint can provide the essential observations needed to make adjustments in one’s spiritual progress. Seasoned simply means more spiritually experienced and victorious in a particular area and maybe in general. In addition, regular accountability can help us see what we are blind to about ourselves. Talking out problems is often all that’s needed to find a solution. (Galatians 6:1, 2)
  3. Expert Advice: This can come through pastoral counseling, professional Christian counseling and Christian books. Some struggles simply need the experienced vision of a pastor or Christian counselor. Regularly reading good Christian books also provides expert advice that can be preventative as well as problem-specific.
  4. Practice: Vision therapy practice includes “homework” that produces daily application for growth. Spiritually, this means not just taking in the Word and hearing from God, but also “going into all the world” and practicing what God plants inside of you. (Mark 16:15)
  5. Continual reassessment: Realizing The Danger of Routine and Habit in Our Prayer Lives proves the need for continual reassessment in the life of a Christian. Just as someone receiving vision therapy will be reassessed by the doctor several times during and after therapy, Christians too much assess their habits and routines. Really, every area could benefit from regular, personal assessment in general. Check with the Holy Spirit daily in prayer and make a deliberate point of consistent personal assessment.

One final connection between vision therapy for the eyes and spiritual vision therapy lies with the power of choice. In either case, the “patient” must make the decision about whether or not to begin the recommended therapy. Just like the eye doctor makes the vision therapy plan very clear, God makes the plan of action very clear for clearing up and even preventing spiritual vision problems. With both, commitment and then follow through are necessary for improved vision.

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

How to… Not Need a Vacation After Your Vacation

The view from the balcony in St. Maarten.

Learning how to Plan for a Family Vacation Without Going Crazy, to Enjoy Traveling, and to Enjoy Family Vacations & Come Back Closer Than Ever all go a long way in making sure your next family vacation is the best vacation you’ve ever had. One theme that hopefully stands out in this series is making sure the time spent away is relaxing for everyone. Without that element, all the planning along with the best activities and locations will fail to produce a vacation that truly energizes and revives. If you come back from a vacation needing to recover from your vacation, did you really take a vacation more than in name only?

First, let’s take a look at WHY actually relaxing on vacations is so essential. Health Finds, a blog site providing News and Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle, provides some startling information about the benefits of vacations in the article Why Vacations Are So Important.

“A study published in the year 2000 in the medical journal Psychosomatic Medicine has shown that taking regular vacations is associated with a longer, healthier life. Vacations, along with sleep, exercise, and other leisure time activities, appear to be restorative and protective against the ill effects of psychological stress. Over 12,000 men enrolled in a heart health study were followed over nine years. The men who took vacations in most years were 20 percent less likely to die of any cause than those who forewent regular vacations. The vacationers were also 30 percent less likely to die of heart disease.”

Clearly, vacations are essential for a person’s physical health, but they also can provide tremendous mental benefit. In fact, in Why your brain needs vacation on CNN Health, Elizabeth Landau provides the following reasons for taking a vacation.

  • Visiting an unfamiliar environment can help give a new perspective on everyday life.
  • Traveling abroad helps with creativity through experiencing new cultures.
  • Vacations allow for the opportunity to be mindful, which involves seeing new things and breaking mindless routines
  • Mindful vacations can result in an “epiphany” and be a catalyst for permanent change.

So, to put special emphasis on the idea of truly relaxing while on vacation, the following tips are offered.

On the balcony with my e-book in St. Maarten.

  1. Schedule down time. So often, people schedule activity upon activity when on vacation resulting in fatigue that needs recovery time when they get home. Instead, schedule time to relax. Personally, my family and I schedule as much if not more time to relax than we do actual activities.
  2. Truly be on vacation. Simply put, don’t work. Turn off electronics, especially ones that relate to work, and leave projects at home. Shutting out work takes a deliberate decision. It will not happen otherwise.
  3. Clean your house. I hate the thought of returning to a messy house. So, my boys know that preparing for vacation includes cleaning the house. Knowing my house is clean allows me to relax more than I would otherwise.
  4. Get lots of R&R. Give yourself permission to rest and relax. For me and my oldest, that means reading a lot. My youngest son and my husband enjoy sports. For all of us, that means movies and games together. We also just sit and talk quite a bit, on the balcony if possible.
  5. Forget your routine. Allow yourself to sleep later and stay up later if you want. Give yourself permission to have an extra cup of coffee instead of heading out the door earlier. Eat lunch at 3pm if you want. Changing your routine is immensely relaxing and often enlightening.

Vacations provide a terrific setting for extra bonding with the family, for exploring new cultures and for learning history. Above all, they can be the perfect setting for true relaxation that does not come with everyday life for most people. Sure, relaxing looks different for every person, but everyone does need to schedule time to relax. For many, it just won’t happen otherwise.

Sunday Reflections – The Danger of Routine & Habit in Our Prayer Lives

Our prayers can be hindered for a variety of reasons including Satan messing with them (Daniel 10:1-13), our own sin, selfishness and pride (James 4:1-3), a struggling or broken home life (1 Peter 3:7) and our unwillingness to forgive others (Mark 11:25).

As I checked my life in each of these areas and as I assessed the status of my prayer life, the Holy Spirit brought to mind an area in which my prayer life lingers dangerously close to only being lip service. For this reason, considering the danger of routine & habit needed to happen in order for renewal and growth to take place.

Honesty & Sincerity

Routines and habits allow us to stay in shape and to be healthy. They help us maintain balanced budgets and they keep our relationships healthy. The danger comes when routines and habits are accompanied by a lukewarm and indifferent heart. To phrase it another way, routines can lead to feelings of only “going through the motions.” Consider Isaiah 29:13, 14.

Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men with be concealed.”

In other words, the people were going through religious motions and neglecting giving God their honest and sincere love and devotion. They claimed to be close to God, but they lived disobedient lives. When our routines and habits create a prayer life of going through motions but lacking emotion, we start down a slippery path that can lead to outright disobedience. The result, as verse 14 says, is judgment from God and removal of wisdom and discernment.

Stuck in a Rut

Routines and habits provide a great foundationfor many areas of our lives, including our prayer lives. Having routines and habits within our prayer lives not only helps us remember to pray but also provides consistency with which we ask for God’s help, guidance and protection in our lives. When kids are young, teaching them the habit of daily prayer at bedtime and mealtimes is essential to their spiritual growth. But just like I can drive to places I’ve been numerous times and not remember the drive, so to can I go through my prayer time and fail to connect with the One to whom I am praying. If routine and habit are ALL that we do and we refuse to ever venture outside of them, we then allow them to limit rather than strengthen us.

Renew and Refresh

Using routines and habits to provide a base is sound practice. However, if you feel like you are “stuck in a rut,” consider that perhaps your routines and habits need renewed and refreshed. Doing so can often bring a much needed perspective change and renewed enthusiasm.

First, pray in faith (Mark 11:24), in fellowship with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26) and in accordance with God’s will (1 John 5:14-15). Second, break up the routine. For me, this means praying more out loud instead of only journal praying. It means spending more time in silence on my knees than drinking coffee comfortably in a chair. It also means praying in the spirit more. Third, keep what works. Spending a ½ hour each morning praying backed up with time in the word works well for me. Then, throughout the day, I include additional time in the word (such as when I’m eating lunch) as well as silent time in God’s presence (sitting on the deck/porch or taking a walk).

Conclusion

No, by the grace of God, I’m not to the point that Isaiah describes. Deliberate and intentional assessment of one’s prayer life can prevent this extreme state, and doing so is a lot easier when the rut is only a light footpath rather than a deep chasm.

DISCUSSION: Are you stuck in a rut with your prayer life? What habits do you need to keep, and what changes do you need to make? Is your flesh resisting change like mine is?

Note: Inspired by the June 3, 2012 sermon by Pastor Steve Miller of New Hope Assembly of God.

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

Recommendations & Guest Posts

The purpose of this blog is to help Christians struggle to victory and age gracefully while living deliberate, determined & balanced lives that make the most of every opportunity. Within that goal come the goals of pursuing simplicity while remaining curious and unique at the same time. For more on the drive behind Struggle to Victory, please visit the Why? and About pages.

With that purpose and those goals in mind, I would like to announce that Thursdays will now feature either a guest post or a recommendation post. (Note that recommendation posts were previously on Tuesdays.) Anyone who would like to guest post on Struggle to Victory should read the Why? and About pages before expressing that interest. Guests posts published on this site must fit within the purpose and goals expressed on those pages. While I am under no obligation to publish any submitted guest posts, I will give everyone prayerful consideration. To put it even more bluntly, the Holy Spirit decides what is published on this blog, not me.

Suggestions and ideas for recommendations are also welcome and also must fit within the purposes and goals express on the Why? and About pages. See the following recommendations previously published on Struggle to Victory as examples.

This new and exciting change to Struggle to Victory is meant to enhance your experience with this blog as well as to give you additional resources to help you make the most of every opportunity in your life.

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

How to… Enjoy Family Vacation & Come Back Closer Than Ever

As soon, and often before, our family vacations are over, our boys usually are planning our next vacation. Even at 11 and 13, they prefer being with their parents on vacation than at home with their friends. Not sure if that’s normal or not, but I love it. We work very hard as a family to make sure our times away strengthen and bond us, and the following tips are the building blocks of how we structure our vacations for this purpose. These points also help make vacations relaxing, which for me, needs to happen in order for the bonding to happen too.

  1. Know everyone’s priority. Depending on how long you will be on vacation, have each person prioritize activities. Then, do your best to make sure at least one of the tope items on every person’s list gets done. (Keep in mind that having several options is important.) We often spend time prior to leaving on vacation researching options while we plan our vacation as well as most of the first day of vacation deciding activities.
  2. Look at free/ low cost options. We love to visit state parks, national monuments and other free/low cost activities when on vacation. This gets us outside more and allows us to learn about the area we are visiting. On our last vacation, we spent a day hiking in a state park, visiting the fish hatchery and touring the DNR facility. These were all free activities and a lot of fun. Don’t forget to check out the local coupons for tourists too to help keep costs down.
  3. Immerse in local culture. We enjoy reading about the culture of our destination and then visiting some of the places we read about. We learn a lot about history and have fun quizzing each other on it. Local culture activities not only are usually the least expensive but are also often free.
  4. Have a flexible budget. My husband sets a budget for us and then monitors it as we plan activities. Utilizing the coupons that most destinations offer for tourists helps a lot in sticking to our budget. We also can enjoy activities without feeling guilty and wondering how we’ll pay for the vacation after it’s over.
  5. Schedule down time. My ideal vacation involves lots of reading and coffee time. Down time for reading and relaxing is my top priority on vacation, and my family knows this. They’ve also come to enjoy these times for themselves as well. We schedule plenty of time to rest, so the times spent out and about can be more enjoyable (i.e. no sore feet for me). We take movies to watch and games to play as a family for our down time, which usually makes up half of our vacation time.
  6. Avoid time. While I don’t wear a watch as a general rule, my husband also ditches his on vacation. Our oldest son enjoys being our “time keeper,” so we always know we can ask him if needed. Most of the time, though, we avoid worrying about the time. Having a week where time doesn’t matter is very refreshing. We eat when we’re hungry and sleep when we’re tired.
  7. Consider a kitchen. We stay in a time-share condominium on most vacations. Having a kitchen is a huge money saver, and it helps avoid unwanted weight gain that often comes with vacation. Many hotels have rooms with kitchens or kitchenettes, and they are well worth the extra money.

I know I don’t have all the answers when it comes to vacations, and know everyone’s situation is unique. But, I do know that what I have suggested here as well as in the rest of the series has made family vacations into great bonding times as well as low stress times for my family. All I can do is offer what works for me, and I pray that it stimulates you to explore what works for you to have vacations that draws you closer together as a family. Being deliberate about the structure of your vacation really will you to grow closer together as a family and to truly relax at the same time.

DISCUSSION: What are your suggestions for enjoying vacation and growing closer as a family?

Resources:

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

Happy Anniversary!

This past Tuesday, my husband and I celebrated 19 years of marriage. (Our wedding anniversary also marks 25 years of officially being a couple.) Tomorrow marks the 6-month anniversary of Struggle to Victory. As I thought about these two anniversaries, I realized how many of the same principles that made my marriage successful will also make my blog successful as well.

  1. Consistency. Consistently forgiving, striving to meet each other’s needs and making God the focal point of our marriage. Choosing to focus consistently on these and other areas creates a strong marriage. When I started blogging, I remember the experts recommending posting consistently. Consistency creates a sense of reliability and trust, elements essential for any relationship, whether face-to-face or virtual.
  2. Commitment. No matter what, my husband and I remain committed to each other. This held true when we struggled through my chronic depression, the colic of our first child, and the journey that comes with adopting an older child. Never give up! Commitment to blogging also means not giving up. I have read more than once that many bloggers give up just before they would have hit the success for which they have been working. Simply never giving up helps ensure success in a marriage as well as in blogging.
  3. Courage. In marriage, courage comes into play with trusting your spouse. This is built and grows over time, and having the courage to keep working toward trust (both giving and receiving) goes a long way in strengthening a marriage. Courage with blogging involves putting your thoughts and ideas on the internet for all to see. It also means risking controversy and offense. Without courage, can one truly be a successful blogger that connects with readers?
  4. Connection. Connecting on a regular basis provides the glue that allows consistency, commitment and courage to truly create a strong marriage. My husband and I make a point to connect every night after the kids are in bed. (We explained to our now teenage son that this was why we insisted on an earlier bedtime than most of his friends, and he now cheerfully goes up to his room at the designated time). We also take a weekend trip together quarterly. This is the minimum, and usually we connect more than that. Connection is also essential in blogging. Connect with readers. Connect with other bloggers. Use the various avenues of comment streams and social networking to connect with others. Connection is the glue to any long-term relationship.
  5. Communication. Certainly a part of connection, communication also involves making sure goals and objectives line up as much as possible. This can mean coordinating weekly activities or focusing on larger goals such as reducing debt or making a large purchase. Communicating needs, wants, desires, etc. and being honest when doing so creates a culture of growth in a marriage. Communication for a blog means creating clear content that shows understanding of reader’s needs, wants and desires. Communication of any sort requires deliberate and intentional focus on a consistent basis.

Following in the steps of other godly marriages, my husband and I employ the above elements to make our marriage healthy and strong. Following in the steps of successful bloggers does the same for my blog. When I first began blogging, two resources provided the bulk of the information I needed. Ghostwriter Dad and ProBlogger got me started with the tips mentioned in this post as well as many others tips and ideas. I recommend them highly as resources for any blogger.

My marriage is by far more successful than my blog, and I hope it always remains as such. Yet, I know that if I employ the same principles in blogging as my husband and I do in our marriage, Struggle to Victory will be close to its 19th Anniversary when my husband and I celebrate our 39th Anniversary.

How to… Enjoy Travelling

Airport security. Traffic. Hungry children. Bored children. Hungry and bored spouse. General all around stupidity and rudeness. All of these factors can play into a miserable trip, whether flying or driving. In the past two years, realizing I can prevent much of this type of frustration has made traveling not only bearable but actually enjoyable to the point that I look forward to it just as much (well almost anyway) as the actual vacation itself.

Unfortunately, that realization came after 18 years of dreading travel time. (I’m sure many other people figure it out a lot sooner.) Combined with what I discovered about How to… Plan for a Vacation without Going Crazy, the following 5 tips truly make the actual travel time a positive contribution to the vacation experience as a whole.

  1. Take snacks and activities. Hunger and boredom usually lead to poor choices, and I’m not just talking about behavior of children. Carry-on bags should hold everyone’s favorite snacks as well as activities for those who don’t sleep while traveling (like me and my kids… my husband can sleep anywhere, anytime.) Don’t be that person whose kids are unruly on the airplane simple because they are bored and hungry. For car travel, keep snacks within arm’s reach and have lots of activities, perhaps even planning them out for every state entered or miles driven.
  2. Keep hydrated. Almost put this with #1 but really felt like staying hydrated needed emphasis all its own. Ask my kids, “What’s the first thing you do if you have a headache or start feeling off or grumpy all of a sudden?”” They’ll tell you, “Drink water.” Staying hydrated prevents a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms and just makes everyone much more pleasant. When traveling, never be without water nearby to sip from regularly.
  3. Keep other travelers’ in mind. This especially comes into play with airplane travel. People will seem rude (yes, that means you too), and people will do stupid things (yes, you too) like have too big or too many carry ones and get a little to “cozy” at times. In addition to these 5 tips (and the others many of you are going to leave in the comments), two words will make airplane travel bearable and, dare I say, even pleasant. Ready, here they are: Patience and flexibility.
  4. Utilize electronics but don’t depend on them. We take a DVD player and movies when we travel, but we don’t use them constantly. We also take phones and iPods that really get used very little because of the other activities (travel games, books with fun questions, reading to each other, etc.) that take up a lot of our travel time. Electronics bring a much-needed break on especially long trips, but the certainly don’t provide a large percentage of our entertainment. We’ve found too many other enjoyable activities to pass the time.
  5. Focus on bonding. When our focus for travel switched from getting from point A to point B to connecting as a couple and as a family, traveling became enjoyable. This is why we keep electronics to a minimum and choose travel activities we can do together. This is why we surprise each other with favorite snacks and why we try to learn as much as possible about the places we see. Find ways to bond as a family when you travel, and you’ll look forward to and truly enjoy every second you are together.

Employing the above tips really makes travelling fun for me and my family. Not only that, but because we focus on bonding and connecting with each other, travelling with my family has become a part of the vacation itself and not just a means to an end.

I’m sure there are a ton more tips that I did not think of or have the time to cover, such as those found in How To Reduce the Stress of Traveling by Elizabeth Scott, M.S.. What suggestions and tips do you have for enjoyable travel to and from your vacation destination?

DISCUSSION: How can traveling be a time to “make the most of every opportunity” to strengthen relationships?