But I want…I need…You should…

Although my first marriage only lasted 4 ½ years due to the untimely death of my husband, it lasted long enough for me to begin to learn some important life lessons.

JG was a good man.  He worked hard, loved his job, turned his pay over to me and never questioned how I spent it, was home every night by 5:30 (unless he had to pick up equipment for repair from Bakersfield or somewhere far away.)  He thought he was getting a sweet, young woman who would complete his life.  I thought I was getting someone who would fill my insatiable need for reassurance, affection and attention. 

We were both wrong.

He worked all day, six days a week and we spent most of the seventh day at church.  Several times every month I would complain, beg, nag and pout about how little attention I was getting from him.  Why couldn’t he take an occasional day off?  Why didn’t he tell me he loved me more often?  The only relief were our occasional vacations where I got to be with him 24/7.  But for 50 weeks out of 52 I was unhappy and made sure he knew it.

I didn’t like the results.  We were both unhappy most of the time.  Not the marriage either of us had envisioned!

I was finally desperate enough to tell God, “I’ll do anything to make this marriage better.  I’m even willing to change if you’ll just tell me how!” (I’m sure God breathed a sigh of relief!)  There were no lightening bolts or voices out of the heavens, but the first little whisper of an idea came shortly after.  “Instead of complaining about how little time you have together, how about being grateful for any time you DO HAVE?”  Hmmm…

So, every evening when his truck pulled into our driveway, I said a prayer of thanks.  “Thank you that he’s home safely.  Thank you that he comes home faithfully.  Thank you for the next few hours that we have together.”  And then greeted him warmly when he came through the door.

A few weeks later, as he was leaving for work one Saturday morning, he said, “I’m planning on coming home at noon today.  Is there anything you’d like to do?”  Shock.  Wow.  I didn’t even know what to say.  If my memory serves, we had lunch, went for a drive, got an ice cream cone…all without any discord…peacefully, lovingly…time that nurtured my need for his attention.

That lesson…being grateful for what is, rather than unhappy about what isn’t…has continued to be a life-lesson theme for me.  This lesson repeatedly calls me back to what Ekhart Tolle calls “the present moment” in his book, The Power of NowIn this moment I am safe.  In this moment the main bills are paid.  In this moment I have food for myself, my chickens and my dogs.  Living in the moment, and being grateful for what is RIGHT NOW, is a powerful spiritual practice that continues to challenge and enrich my life.

Being grateful for what is good NOW seems to go against our natural inclination to worry about the future, fret about how a bill will be paid, focus on our partner’s failings, create imaginary scenarios in which we fail, or are disappointed.

But the payoff for gratitude is a more peaceful life, more peaceful relationships, a quieter mind, an opening that seems to attract more miracles like JG’s offer to come home at noon, or unexpected income, or help such as the woman who offered to help me transfer groceries from my loaded cart into the trunk of my car this week.  Gratitude seems to grow the good in my life.  Will you take the challenge?

What is true about your life NOW for which you can be grateful?  Are you willing to join me in the discipline of pulling our attention back to RIGHT NOW and being grateful for the good that is ours in this moment?  You have my respect and support if you answer “Yes!” and my compassion and understanding if you refuse…  It’s hard.  It’s not a once and it’s done event.  It is a practice, a journey, a calling that must be answered over and over again, moment by moment.  

All I can add is that the practice of gratitude, although certainly not done perfectly, has brought many more blessings and miracles into my life than I couldn’t have gotten by complaining and nagging!

How Are Your Plans Coming Along?

Is your life looking like the blueprints you had in your mind ten or twenty years ago?  Is your marriage living up to the dreams you had for it?

Or are you suffering with a marriage or relationship that isn’t matching your plans?

“When life doesn’t match your blueprints, you suffer.”  I’m sorry I don’t remember where I picked up this statement, but isn’t it the TRUTH?!

When my body isn’t in the shape I want…When my partner doesn’t act lovingly toward me…When my child doesn’t live up to the potential I see in him or her…When my income isn’t what I’ve dreamed of…When… (fill in the blanks.)

And then perhaps you want to shoot the friend who says, “Everything works out for the best,” Or the spiritual leader who says, “We are providentially given the lessons we need to learn,” or, “Life is a school with lessons custom designed for each of us.”

I’ve had a few lessons that I wouldn’t have wished on my worst enemy, (if I had one!)  There were times when, truthfully, I just wanted my life to be over.  Sometimes THIS life is just too hard…too unbearable.

I’ve been widowed twice.  I’ve had major challenges in relationship to my children and step-children.  I’ve gone through a few seasons of financial strain.  My body has broken down and periodically caused me great pain, both emotionally and physically.  I’m experiencing aging…and facing what might be seen as the final decades of my life.

And yet, every tough season, every lesson learned, has delivered or brought me closer to my childhood dreams of (1) enjoying a loving, peaceful relationship with the love of my life, (2) having five children, (3) participating in loving relationships with each of them, and (4) writing books to help others have loving relationships.  The bonus has been my practice of personally coaching couples and seeing an online course published to help those, and other couples become more loving.

What were your life blueprints?  What areas of your life look like a building plan gone awry?  Who are you blaming for “mistakes” that have brought you a life that is a disaster in some area or another?

If you (or I) are suffering, it is because we long for a perfect construction being built according to our blueprints.  When our life doesn’t match our plans, we suffer.

I have the advantage of looking back and appreciating how perfect the lessons have been that I needed to achieve my childhood dreams.  I still have circumstances I don’t particularly like, but I am not fighting them as desperately as I used to.  So, what am I doing instead?

  1. I express gratitude for every lesson…sometimes through gritted teeth, but GRATITUDE.
  2. I look for and expect to be given teachers, guides, skills that will enable me to move through the suffering to a solution that works for me.
  3. I trust that there is a Guiding Force, the Universe, God who is orchestrating a PLAN that is perfect for me…and supporting me as I do my best to cooperate with my journey.
  4. I celebrate every success: each time that I choose food that is healthy for me, each coaching session where couples are excited about less hurt and more love because of skills I’m teaching them, every loving interaction with a family member or friend, each offer of help or evidence that I am, indeed, being guided.

I can’t help with many things that may be causing you pain, but if your marriage or love relationship isn’t matching your dreams, call me.  I may be able to show you how Jim and I achieved the marriage that matched our blueprints!  We’ll start with a complimentary appointment to see if your needs match my skills…and if they do, we’ll work out a plan to move toward enabling your relationship to come closer to the dream blueprint you had in mind!

https://meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

Love in a Car Wash?

This is a rather long blog that won’t appeal to everyone.  But perhaps there are a few of you who are experiencing difficult circumstances that will be encouraged by vulnerable exposure of my lessons about being loved.

I’ve been so fortunate.  I’ve been married to two very wonderful and very different men.  My first husband was loyal, dependable, generous and faithful, but he very rarely expressed his love for me in words I wanted to hear “I love you” often!  I fretted about this glaring lack in his husband qualities for a few years.  But after trying to change him, I finally became desperate enough to be willing to change myself.  What a concept! One of the first shifts was to ask myself, “How is he communicating his love for me that I’m not hearing or seeing?” 

He had an annoying habit of washing the car on Sunday morning while I was trying to get myself and our two toddlers ready for church.   One Sunday I looked out the kitchen window to see him, again, washing the car.  It suddenly occurred to me that he was proud of his young family and one of the ways he expressed that was by driving to church in a clean, shiny car.  I was flooded with the warm feelings of knowing I was loved.

Recently I’ve been going through a temporary period of financial distress.  It’s surfaced a belief that if God loved me, I would always experience financial abundance…that God should demonstrate his love for me by consistently blessing me with great income.  I’ve been frustrated that my affirmations and efforts have not brought the generous amounts of income as expected.

This week I finally admitted that I’m angry with God.  Why isn’t he doing his job?  Has he forgotten about me and my needs?  Am I doing something wrong?  Maybe he doesn’t love me.

But really, lots has been happening that supports me immeasurably.  I’ve abandoned some of my limiting beliefs…like getting a NSF charge in my bank account makes me a bad person.  It doesn’t.  It means nothing about my character or integrity.  It’s a temporary circumstance that the bank responds to very non-judgmentally with a NSF charge.  Ho Hum…just another customer with not enough funds.

How about the belief that if I’m experiencing difficulty I’m doing something wrong?  What if it doesn’t mean that at all?  What if it only means that I’m on a journey and that this part of the journey is somewhat rocky?

Yesterday while driving I was singing some old hymns…sort of mindlessly letting my thoughts wander.  Suddenly I thought, “What if God is loving me by allowing this season of struggle?  Why should his love for me be judged by the health of my bank account?  What if this time of financial stress is the best expression of being loved by God?”

So, I am no longer judging myself as “bad, wrong, irresponsible” for being occasionally overdrawn in my bank account.  I no longer choose to believe that I’ve done or am doing anything “wrong” that has resulted in “punishment.”

My fears of financial ruin, or being unloved, or bad, or not working hard enough have been replaced by a sense of curiosity:  I wonder what purpose is being worked out during this uncomfortable season?  I wonder what solutions will evolve from this experience? I wonder where the money will come from to finance my next Costco run?  Ten years from now, I wonder how I will evaluate this time…what will I see and appreciate that I can’t see now?

Yet, like recognizing my husband’s washing the car as an act of love, the abundance I desire is being heaped on me in ways other than a wealth of cash:  A gift of a new (working!) printer, clients volunteering to do video testimonials for my website,  a “chance” meeting that is resulting in free, thorough tutoring about Facebook advertising strategies, the gift of a gas gift card, a doctor who’s willing to hold my check in order to treat the pinched nerve in my back immediately, a dear friend/therapist who is not keeping track of her hours of support of me.

Every time I step into my home, or walk through the yard, or notice a bird bathing in my birdbath, I feel wealthy.  Neither I nor my animals have gone hungry.  All the vital bills have been paid.  The bills that can wait, are waiting without burdening myself with shame or self-judgment.

So, my prayers have changed.  In addition to praying for increased income and the wisdom to spot opportunities, I am also praying, “God, thank you for this time.  I don’t particularly like it, but I trust that even this is an expression of your love for me.  I’m not mad anymore.  I trust you and trust the process that is being worked out in my life.  Someday I will understand and appreciate every day of this season and every lesson learned.”

Meanwhile I am experiencing more peace than I would ever have thought possible.  And, in the quietness, find myself finely attuned to receive guidance as it comes to me.  Not perfectly.  Not every minute of every day.  But most of the time.  And for that, I am humbly grateful!

Need to talk?  Let’s get together! 

A Quick Fix for Relationship Blahs!

Is life beginning to seem like an unending list of obligations?  Is your relationship somewhere on the to-do list?  When the primary relationship of your life begins to feel like an obligation, or a habit, you may get forgetful…forgetting why you love this person…forgetting that you have fun together…forgetting what it’s like to just be with your best friend.

Valentine’s Day comes only once a year.  It may be nice to get roses or chocolates or a romantic card, but your relationship can’t survive on a once per year gesture!

There’s an easy fix.  Begin courting each other again!

But, first, there’s one must-have rule.  When you go out for relaxation and fun, you must not bring up a problem that needs resolving.  If you do, your fun date will immediately be something neither of you want to repeat…defeating the purpose.    Issues that need discussing must be scheduled for a different, separate time.  And then keep that date!

Problem solving dates and Fun dates both need regular but separate commitments from both of you!  (I’ll share how to have a problem-solving date in a future blog.)

So, here’s some great date ideas straight out of my marriage to Jim.  (We enjoyed a loving, fun relationship until his passing a few years ago.  We had regular problem-solving dates as needed to keep our accounts with each other clear so that our fun dates were really FUN!)

Being financially stressed is no excuse to skip fun dates! When you’re under financial or any other kind of ongoing stress, you need the relief of breaks to leave the stress behind and just enjoy each other.   $25 can create a great date.   Look for two-for-one coupons for a meal.  It could be breakfast at a diner, or a spaghetti or burger dinner. Add a matinee movie and you’ve got a great 3-4 hour escape to remember that you’re a team and, together, you will eventually pull out of the financial pits.

Do you enjoy table games?  Take one of your grocery totes and fill it with games that can be played by two persons.  Gin rummy, tile rummy, Yahtzee, a travel sized game of Scrabble, etc.  Throw in an old tablecloth to cover the picnic table at your local park.  On rainy days, game tables can be found in a mall food court or your local library.

One of our favorites was a Mystery Date.  We each kept a file on the other where we collected newspaper clippings or ads about places we thought the other would enjoy.  One time, Jim let me know that our next date was a surprise.  He told me to wear casual clothes, but to take a dressy outfit to change into.  We drove to an ocean side restaurant where we enjoyed breakfast on their deck.  Then he took me to a quilting store with instructions to take my time.  (He relaxed in the car with a newspaper and crossword puzzle book.)  We wandered around a huge outdoor food court in West Hollywood choosing diverse, unusual food items for lunch, ducked into rest rooms at a coffee shop to change into dressier clothes and ended the day at a live performance in Hollywood.

Regular dates were once per week.  These Mystery Dates happened perhaps every four-six months.  They were very special occasions!  The things chosen to do were not nearly as important as the effort and planning that went into delivering the day as a love-gift.

Now that Jim has passed on, these memories are a few of my favorites!

Can you imagine how loved your partner will feel after having an entire day planned around his or her interests?  Are you ready to start collecting ideas for a Mystery Date?

Regular dates restore the love balance to a relationship that may be dragging from too much responsibility.  Regular dates cure or prevent the blahs.  Mystery Dates infuse a giant dose of loving directly into your partner’s heart.  So, get your calendars out and plan a date!

Nancy Landrum has been teaching relationship skills to couples for more than 25 years.  Her signature book, How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage is full of practical strategies to create and sustain a loving, lasting relationship.  Click Here to Order

If you’d like a phone call from Nancy, click here to schedule it on her calendar:  https://meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

The Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #3

Never Enough? or Abundance?

This is Week #3 of my Radical Gratitude Challenge.  We’re going to talk about how easy it is to think in terms of “never enough!”

He doesn’t love me enough!  She isn’t fun enough! We don’t go out enough!  There’s never enough money! There’s not enough time!  We don’t make love often enough!  Not enough…not enough…not enough…

Years ago, after our marriage was solid, but our finances were not, I found myself making out deposit slips while thinking, “This isn’t enough!”  That sentence became like a hamster wheel going ’round and ’round in my mind.

I knew enough about how our thoughts often create our reality, that, one day, when I consciously caught the unconscious refrain in my head, I decided to change my mantra.  Whenever I thought about our financial condition, and particularly when I was filling out a deposit slip, I began saying, “Thank you for this $300.  I so appreciate this $150!”  My goal was to become more aware of the abundance we enjoyed, with or without an overflowing bank account.

I splurged on a 79c package of sweet pea seeds and planted them along a 30 foot length of fence in our backyard.  Within weeks, the prolific vines were much taller than the fence and producing thousands of pink, purple, white, maroon, and lavender flowers…filling the air with their sweet scent.

What a perfect metaphor for abundance!  While I was thanking God for every little check that cleared the bank, I expressed gratitude for the rich color of our green grass, for the joyfulness of my dog playing fetch, for the solid screen of gorgeous color from the sweet peas.

It wasn’t long before I noticed that every month, each bill was paid on time. Slowly we were climbing out of the financial hole we’d been in.

There is ZERO doubt in my mind that the reason was because we began feeling grateful and rich, long before there was any evidence of prosperity in our bank account.

Download your free worksheet for attracting abundance with gratitude!

Financial stress is one of the top reasons cited for marital discord.  What if you, with or without your partner’s participation, began to practice gratitude?  What if you began to be open to seeing abundance in your lives, rather than lack. What happy surprises might find their way into  your open hearts?  Are you willing to apply this Radical Gratitude Challenge to your finances?  I dare you!  Please report in via the Facebook Page or comment below!

 

The Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #2

The Art of Expressing Gratitude

This is Week #2 in my Radical Gratitude Challenge.  Last week I challenged you to express gratitude to your partner.  And, if necessary, work at it, dig around a little, but find things for which you can express appreciation face to face.  Thinking it in your head, doesn’t count.

But there’s an art to effectively expressing appreciation.  Throwing out a general, “Thanks for marrying me” doesn’t cut it.  In order to reach your partner’s heart, the words must describe a specific act, or habit, or character quality.

Like this: “This morning when you went out of your way to kiss me before leaving, I felt so loved!”  Or, “I saw how you handled the situation with our daughter.  You were so kind!”  Or, “Today I was thinking about how lucky I am that I can always count on you to come home after work each day.  Not every woman can say that!” Or, “Thank you for cleaning up after dinner last night.  That was a special gift to me!

My late husband Jim would sometimes put in a very long day.  He loved it when I met him at the front door with a hug, and said, “Thank you for working so hard for us today!”

If Jim saw me at my sewing machine, he would grin and say, “There you go! Making something cute again!”  And my heart would glow.

So in addition to being very intentional about expressing gratitude and appreciation this week, deliver the words about something specific in order to make the most impact in your relationship!

Download your free guide to the Art of Expressing Gratitude.

How’s it going?  Are you finding this Radical Gratitude Challenge a challenge?  Please share what has happened when you gave your partner a compliment. What happens inside of you?  What was your partner’s response?  Share with me on my Facebook Page or in the comments below!

The Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #1

We are six weeks away from our Thanksgiving holiday.  These six weeks could change your life and your marriage forever!  But first a little history…

Every school play reenacts the first harvest celebration in 1621.  More than 200 years later, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be a holiday. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set the date by signing a bill in 1941. It declared Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year.

Most major religions encourage a spiritual practice of gratitude.  One of the first verses I learned from the Bible was, “In everything give thanks.” (Ephesians 5:20.)  I confess that there have been times when I’ve asked, “Everything, God?  Really? Everything?”

During a particularly challenging time in my life, I began practicing gratitude as a spiritual commitment.  Being thankful for everything really did transform my attitude, and eventually the circumstances.

When new challenges come, the habit of being thankful (sometimes through gritted teeth!) reminds me that I don’t yet know the end of the story.  Circumstances change.  And they’re more apt to change in my favor if I keep my heart open by practicing gratitude.  Fear and discontent close my heart and my circumstances to happy surprises.

In this post and in the next five weeks, I’m issuing a challenge.  Each week I’ll be challenging you to focus on one area of your life where it may be hard to be grateful.

Are you up for it?  What have you got to lose?

Since I am a relationship coach, my first challenge to you is to be grateful for your partnerDECIDE that you will spend the next week looking for qualities, actions, and gestures for which you can express gratitude…not just in your heart, but face to face!

Examples:  “Thank you for being so consistent about helping out with the kids’ bedtime.”  Or, “I appreciate that you let me know that you might be home late.”  Or, “I love that you are so conscientious about getting our bills paid on time.”

Now these may not fit.  But you get what I mean.  Work this! Dig if you have to!  But find things you appreciate about your spouse!

Because….whatever we focus on, increases.  When you only deliver complaints, pretty soon, all you see are things you want to change.  When you focus on things for which you can genuinely be thankful, the irritations shrink as they are more than balanced out by things that are good.

Are you ready to try Radical Gratitude?  I challenge you to say, “Thank you for…” or “I appreciate….”  or “I’m grateful for…” whenever your mind starts to dwell on a problem or dissatisfaction with your partner.  Each week I invite you to share what this Radical Gratitude Challenge has done for your heart and your relationship.  And I’ll share my experiences with you!  If you are accepting this challenge, leave a comment below.

Go Deeper with Radical Gratitude with this Free Download

Differences Can Be Scary

My late husband Jim’s father was a gifted mechanic.  All of his life he worked as a machinist.   He could fix anything with a motor or wheels.  Jim inherited his father’s work ethic and values, but was lost when it came to fixing his scooter or knowing what to do with a broken lawn mower.  His dad couldn’t hide his disappointment, and sometimes even anger, over Jim’s lack of instinct about mechanical things.

Jim began his singing career at the age of five by singing to the chickens. It wasn’t until high school, however, that his amazing voice began to be noticed in a big way. He was one of the first in his family to graduate from college, even getting a Masters Degree in Voice and Church Music. His father didn’t come to his Masters Recital, an event that filled the huge college auditorium.  He eventually recorded seven gospel albums featuring his gorgeous baritone voice.

In contrast, a story in the September 2013 Guideposts magazine tells about TV’s Mike Rowe and his relationship with his grandfather.  His grandfather could build anything…anything!  Whenever young Mike tried to help him, he’d muff the job.  Once at the height of discouragement, Mike said, “I can’t do anything right!”

His grandfather said, “God gave me a toolbox, Mike.  He gave you one too.  But he didn’t give us the same one.  You understand?”

Mike didn’t understand that day, but over time gained appreciation for the tools he had: a great voice (he sang professionally for several years) and a natural way of smiling and talking with folks.  He eventually designed and hosted a show called *Somebody’s Gotta Do It”–short profiles of people who do the tough jobs…like his grandfather.  Eventually that led to Discovery Channel’s *Dirty Jobs.

Near the end of Jim’s father’s life, he apologized.  He admitted, “I was wrong. I’m sorry I didn’t support your gifts.”  It meant a lot for Jim to hear that apology, but not as much as it would have meant to get his dad’s interest and pride all the years that went before.

Is there someone near you who’s gifts need encouragement?  Might you possibly be blind to her gifts because they are different than yours?

*Free Download: Giving and Receiving Appreciation