Open Your Heart to Understand

Open Your Heart to Understand

Open your heart. Peel away the barriers.

Reach out to hold your spouse’s hand… and listen.

Listen without an agenda.

open your heart

Sometimes we’re too busy with our lives, and we forget to spend time


with our spouse, with our children, and our beloved friends,

listening without agenda and an open heart.

Take action now to open your heart.

Don’t let another day go by without spending time to open your heart to those you love.

If you’re far away from each other, don’t let that stop you – arrange a time to video-chat.

Look at your calendar.

Does your calendar reflect how much you value

your spouse, your children, your parents, your beloved friends and family?

We’re not talking about duties like chauffering the kids to a game or a lesson…  or attending the “usual” Sunday-after-church-dinner at your parent’s house. Sure, you might be looking forward to the Super-bowl party on Sunday (so are we), but that event won’t provide a time to open your heart, and listen without an agenda.

We’re busy.

But busyness is not providing opportunities to become closer to each other.

If asked, or if loved one comes with a problem or concern,

we might throw out a few words of advice…

Advice = head  (not heart)

Do you really want to help?

Do you really want

this hurt, this concern, this dilemna, this fear, this soul-crushing weight

to be lifted from the person you love?


Do your actions truly demonstrate you want your spouse, children or beloved family and friends to feel heard, understood and encouraged? 

open your heart to lisen and understand

It might feel odd – or awkward to open your heart.

Maybe listening without an agenda isn’t something you’ve done very often.

Would it feel odd to simply listen – without interjecting or contributing – when your spouse speaks?

Might you feel as though you’re not doing your “job” if you aren’t providing a solution, or an opinion?

Perhaps you could try something new?

Your challenge this weekend:

Arrange a time to be alone together.

(Somewhere without a television and leave your phones elsewhere.)

Hold your spouse’s hand.

Listen to her/him without an agenda,

with full attention, and no words.

Open your heart to understand.

open your heart

Don’t know where to start a deeper conversation? If you’re at a loss, try concepts from reading these posts from Christian Marriage Bloggers: 

“How could we look around for more options?” 

“There’s always more pie” from Lori at The Generous Wife.

“How could we foster more gratitude in our marriage?”

Practical ways to practice gratitude and become closer by Bonny at Oysterbed7

“Where have you noticed God show up in our messes?”

Where the Holy Spirit Resides by Chris at the Forgiven Wife

Start the conversation – then LISTEN with an open heart.


When You Both Need to be Pampered – 11 Self-Care Dates

When You Both Need to be Pampered – 11 Self-Care Dates

What happens when you both need to be pampered and could use a little self-care?

A husband and wife are not always strong and resilient at the same time. But what happens when you both need a little “pick-me-up”? Well, do it together: unwind, dream, be decadent, create, indulge, relax, connect!

Design the fun of self-care as a double blessing!

11 date night ideas that won’t need much moola. You both need to be pampered and that can happen at home or out!

11 self-care dates when you both need to be pampered

Self-care dates at home – when you both need to be pampered:

Inexpensive dates designed for after the kids are in bed! (or at the grandparents!)

1 – One word – two options: Bubbles.

Have a bath together, and add some bubbles to soak away your cares. Or buy a few bottles of bubbles at the dollar store to “decorate” each other. Close the door to your bedroom after the kids are asleep and the less you wear, the more fun it is….

2 – Dance. Unwind.

Create a YouTube playlist of the songs that were popular when you were dating. Have them playing on your computer or TV. Then dance together – fast and slow. The music and movement will cheer your souls and release all the tension. No need to sensor your moves – nobody is watching.

3 – If we had a million dollars… Dream.

Give each other the “dream date” you’d have if money (and time) were not an issue. How? Collaborate to find photos online and print out a picture itinery of where you’d go, and what you’d do… It’s about dreaming as you relax at home.

4 – Words that make you smile… or blush. 

Pull out the scrabble board and use the letters free-form. Lay out the letters for both of you to use at will, and take turns creating a scrabble board filled with ideas that will make your spouse smile, and/or suggest an activity to make him/her blush. Perhaps you’ll start in the livingroom…

5 – Close your eyes and listen. Unwind.

Gather all your CDs and spend an evening lying around – just listening with your eyes closed. Talk about the memories your favorite songs bring into your mind. If lying around sounds too boring, then use the kid’s crayons and/or paints to make a shared piece of art-work on a huge piece of paper. Hey- it might turn out better if you closed your eyes even while painting/coloring! 😉

6 – Decorate a Cake. Decadence.

And then eat it too! Make it. Bake it. Decorate it. And yes. Eat the whole thing. Feed each other bite after bite till it’s gone. Get creative with the frosting if you’re alone at home.

when you both need to be pampered 11 selfcare dates

Get Out! Self-care dates to get out of a rut. 

Outside your home. Without children. More inexpensive dates – but ones that’ll push you to get out of your comfort zone. A change can be as good as a rest when you both need a bit of self-care.

7 – Rhyme. Or not. Create.

Go to the library for inspiration, then retreat to a coffee shop.  Try your hand at writing a limerick to make each other giggle and gaffaw or bring each other to tears at the beauty of the haiku poems you craft. Commemorate your efforts by buying a frame and hanging your masterpieces on your bathroom wall.

8 – Chocolate. Indulge.

Visit a shop where they make chocolates by hand. There’ll be a spot closer than you’d imagine – google it! . Take a drive (even if it’s more than an hour – listen to favorite songs or a podcast as you drive) and when you get there, carefully look at every creation. Enjoy the smell of the shop. Anticipate which chocolate would be your spouse’s favorite and have him/her do the same. Are you right? Then buy two chocolates. One for her. One for him. Savor them. Slowly. Drive home.

9 – Get in hot water. Relax.

Does your area have any natural hot springs? Do a bit of research – how far would you need to drive? If that’s not available, then inquire at your local YMCA, health club or even hotels in the area. Find a spot with a hot tub. Enjoy it together.

10 – Progressive dinner date. Feel special.

Go to five different restaurants to make a full dinner and share each item.

  • At the first share an appetizer.
  • When seated at the second eatery, ask for two spoons and enjoy a cup of soup.
  • Move to the third restaurant to munch on a salad – feed each other if you’re feelin’ it!
  • Choose the fourth restaurant for something exotic: quail, or bison, or alligator.
  • And at the last restaurant enjoy a decadent dessert. For this last stop you really need to take turns to feed each other bite after bite. 😉

This doesn’t have to be too expensive. Choose your restaurants wisely, and have a little extra fun by deciding before you go that you can only have foods that begin with certain letters, or only found on trees, or foods that are a particular color. Your servers won’t know why you’re sniggering as you choose your items!

11 – Reach Out. Connect.

Make a list of all the friends you haven’t seen in the last year. Go to a card store, and buy humorous cards to send to at least five people on your list. Head to a coffee shop and as you write out the cards, reminisce with your spouse about all the fun you enjoyed with each individual. Add a note to the card about what you remembered, and suggest getting together soon. Buy some stamps and mail those cards!

Pampering – do it together and double your self care.

Be generous with each other. If you feel like you need to be pampered, then share with your spouse! Make it a habit to do kind things for each other. Date night is a perfect time to be pampered.

11 self-care dates when you both need to be pampered

Be generous with each other when you both need to be pampered

Unique Gifts for Uncommon People

Unique Gifts for Uncommon People

Unique. That’s a word which describes all of us, right? Your husband is unique. Your wife is unique. Each of your children and grandchildren are unique also, I’m sure! Nobody is the same – not even twins.

So what works to encourage one person may not work for another. I’m guessing what encourages your spouse may not encourage you. (That’s true for Robert and me too!)

What one couple determines as a meaning filled life, won’t be the same as another couple. If you dig deeply, every couple will have unique goals for their life, even if on the outside it might look the same. We’re all uncommon in comparison to the other.

There’s nothing common about any of us.

With Christmas around the corner, I am searching for unique gifts for the special people in my life. I start with Rob, of course. And because we’re living a very minimalistic life in our little house-on-wheels, whenever something comes into the space, another item needs to leave.

So whatever we gift each other needs to have both form and function – and, of course, it needs to fit our lifestyle on-the-road! (Even though we’re pretty tethered to North Carolina because of the grandboy…)

I needed to find unique gifts which would have meaning for the two of us – be resilient for travel – and meet both form and function. Guess what? Something caught my eye on this Twitter post from Lindsay Rutland

uncommon goods tweet from lindsay rutland

Do you see it? The cheese platter in the shape of the USA? I went over to and found it listed on their unique gifts for Christmas list. Yup. It’s unique. Just like Rob and me. It fits our lifestyle, because cheese and nibbles are a favorite lunch, and the form – it’s a piece of slate you can write on – is so cool! I ordered one. (I have to admit, that I have another couple in mind that I think this would fit as a gift also.)

Then I had a lovely adventure!

I did a bit of digging to find out more about UncommonGoods. I always do that. It’s part of our Value of Discovery – maybe you’re also insatiably curious like I am? Here are a few facts about this unique company:

  • As an independently-owned business, they have the freedom to support causes which impact the world in a positive way. With every purchase we make, they donate $1. If you’re interested in the non-profits they support, take a look at the list at Better to Give. As you might imagine, the literacy non-profit was my choice!
  • The company began when the founder visited a Smithsonian Museum craft show and was captivated by the variety of unique handmade goods and the talented people behind them. That’s where the vision began… I can SO relate. The idea just caught my imagination! Read more about their story – they’ve had some bumps along the way like every entrepreneurial venture. I wonder if he’s married? Did his spouse encourage his vision? Hmmm. More research, huh?

I was smitten and reached out to connect! 🙂  You understand, don’t you? When you find a new source that you feel an affinity for, you just want to share… right? The folks at UncommonGoods responded. They so kindly and generously gifted me a few more items on the specially curated gift lists for men and Christmas items for womenThey sent me a big box and it was just like… Christmas! 😉  (And my original purchased slate cheese board arrived the same day.)

Uncommon Gifts for Unique People

Who is on your list to give gifts to? My list includes our adult children, and grandboy – and finding special things for them meets my heart’s desire.

Want to see which items I chose to review (with my children and husbands and wives in mind)? It’s OK to tell our daughter, ’cause I roped her in to take some photos. She has a photography site – but it’s for people, not products. Don’t mention anything to our son and daughter-in-love though… OK? 😉

slate cheese boards Uncommon Goods

Slate State Boards

These are the State slate cheese boards that first caught my eye – you can order them in the shape of any US State, or of the entire USA. Can you identify the State shape of the top board?

They’re uniquely crafted by Steven Chavez and Justin English from Colorado.

Which States do you and your spouse have special memories from? Were your children born in different States? What about trips… Serve some goodies on your next date night, and talk about those memories. 

placemats-uncommon-goodsChalkboard Placemats 

These chalkboard placemats caught my attention, because you could write all kinds of interesting notes or questions. Of course, there’s the obvious if you’re having a dinner party and want to display different buffet items with their ingredients – but what about with your spouse or children?

In one of the reviews of this item a lady said, “I love these placemats! What a fun way to write a daily personal message to each member in my family. My kids are seniors in high school. My only regret is that I didn’t discover these darling placemats when my kids were 3!!!!!!”  

Do a special date night and incorporate questions for each other. Here’s a Pinterest board with lots of question options.

One caveat: Be sure to use regular chalk to write your notes on these placemats – we tried using the soapstone “chalk” meant for the slate cheese boards and it didn’t work so well.  My mistake.

Game of Phone Uncommon Goods

Game of Phones

This card game made our daughter’s eyes light up! She always has her phone in her hands – so I thought… why not make it a positive! She and her friends are going to have a blast with this “Game of Phones”.  It has players using their smart phones to take photos, find stuff on Pinterest, send texts, etc.

unique game of phones

Do you and your spouse keep your smartphones in your hand? Maybe this game will make them into a positive experience on a date night! There are other unique games available that I’ve never seen before – like “Rememory” and “Music IQ” for music lovers and moreLots of ideas for unique date-nights in 2017!

 Sword Campfire Roasters

Csword roaster UncommonGoodsan you see the sword campfire roaster? (Yeah – it’s resting on our son’s backyard firepit, with his dog investigating what I’m doing. This item came separately from the others in a long box. (Although the handle does detach.)sword-roaster-handle-uncommongoods

Zacharay Neff from Utah makes these (there are two to choose from – a marshmallow sword and a hotdog roaster). He makes these cool items in his family’s metal shop!

ASL blocks

 American Sign Language Blocks

Of course, these blocks are for the grandboy. We’re teaching him American Sign Language, so these will support his learning.

Maybe these blocks won’t be for Christmas… our grandboy, Theo is turning ONE in just 10 days…

the grandboy is almost one

But think about this language… Imagine if you and your spouse could use ASL to sign to each other… what would you say? From across the room you could tell your spouse you love him/her!  You could make eye contact in a crowded room and have a private conversation… Can you sign?

So many unique gift options for your spouse…

The website, is like a treasure chest of uniquely perfect gifts for everybody on your list. Check it out!



Belonging – Enrich Your Marriage

Belonging – Enrich Your Marriage

Do you feel like you belong in your marriage?

Exploring the Value of Belonging will enrich your relationship as husband and wife…

The initial declaration of love to your spouse is easy. It’s deciding to love, over the entire span of your lives together which truly makes the Value of Belonging a special part of your relationship.

Belonging: happiness felt in a secure relationship; acceptable; rightly classified.

The value of belonging. Telling someone you love her – or him – is easy. It’s much more difficult to demonstrate that love – over and over – year after year. Now, that’s special.

The ability to be real with each other, to let the cracks and imperfections become visible, is part of the Value of Belonging. It begins with each of you knowing you can share every part of yourself – and there will be acceptance. Regardless.

Then the Value of Belonging in your marriage grows. It grows till this person by your side becomes your first and last choice. This person with whom you share your life, is your favorite.

You're my favorite person in the whole world.

You’re my favorite person in the whole world.

It’s not about thinking the same. That’s impossible. We are each unique. The Value of Belonging has its strength in knowing the other person will not always believe what you believe, or think the way you think… and that’s OK.  It’s fine to disagree. Regardless of your differences, there’s acceptance. You belong together.

Three Ways to Foster the Value of Belonging

Three Ways to Foster the Value of Belonging

Celebrate your differences.  Introvert/Extrovert…  Listener/Talker… Night Owl/Early Riser… Regardless of your differences, you can see the good in your spouse’s leaning toward what’s opposite to you and unique to her/him. The differences enhance your life, and you can explain why. Take a look at the 5 suggestions at the end of this post from the archive on Uniqueness.

Practice dating each other. Spending dedicated time together will grow your Value of Belonging. What’s important about dating?  Read this post on 16 reasons date night is imperative. Dating allows you time to meet, face to face, and grow emotionally. That’s a huge part of the Value of Belonging.

Talk to each other – talk till you understand. Most people assume that being married will naturally translate to talking with each other. That’s not necessarily true… In our time traveling, Robert and I are together 24/7 – but we can still miss out on understanding each other. (Here’s an example from our travels in this post.) Conversations with each other will clarify issues, and enhance the Value of Belonging in your marriage. Here’s a funny story about a farmer who went to an attorney – it’ll make the point and give you a chuckle


How many people feel lonely – even surrounded by other humans?  Don’t let that loneliness enter your marriage. It’s possible to introduce the Value of Belonging into your marriage, regardless how many years you’ve been married. It just takes some adjustments.

The adjustments begin with loving your spouse. (Don’t roll your eyes.) Want to know the secret to a long lasting marriage? We have some ideas from couples married more than 50 years in this post. Don’t procrastinate because you’re afraid to fail, or you don’t know where to start, or you’re feeling resentful or just too tired…  (Move past procrastination to a great marriage!)

Use the Value of Belonging to enrich your marriage – maybe you’re already there… maybe you have a bit of a way to go toward feeling like you both belong in your marriage. It’s never too late to foster the Value of Belonging. Begin today.

the value of belonging

B is for Belonging – 27 values in 27 days for husbands and wives leading meaninful lives. In Robert’s work, he’s defined 400+ values. I’m doing an Instagram challenge – and decided to use values to highlight how husbands and wives can enrich their marriages… I’ve decided to use BELONGING as the “B” value word for today. (You can find the other values beginning with “B”, which can be ascribed to marriage, below.)

  • Balance – a state of equilibrium; poise; equality of distribution
  • Belonging – happiness felt in a secure relationship; acceptable; rightly classified
  • Benevolence  – disposition to do good; charitable; generous in providing aid to others
  • Bliss – a state of extreme happiness
  • Bravery – courage; fearlessness; audacity
  • Buoyancy  – irrepressibility; ability to float; cheerfulness that bubbles to the surface

Read all the A to Z posts in this series!

27 Values to Enrich your Marriage - 27 values for your marriage

 the value of appreciation

Managing Your Spouse’s Mood

Managing Your Spouse’s Mood

Managing Your Spouse’s Mood. — Sounds like a title from an avant-garde off-off-Broadway independent play, doesn’t it? It would be a tragedy, I’m sure. Everyone would die at the end. And it would not be a romantic Romeo/Juliet-esque finale either…

Are you responsible for you spouse’s mood?

No. You’re not responsible for your spouse’s mood. It’s theirs. They own it. You cannot change your spouse’s mood. Only they can.


It’s possible to take a part in managing your spouse’s mood.

It’s about encouragment.

With a self-less love for your spouse, you can step up to manage life in a way that will make a difference for your spouse – thereby impacting their mood. And impacting their ability to change their own mood.  Yes. It’s possible. Not easy – but it’s possible to take an active role in managing your spouse’s mood.

How do I know this?  I take full repsonsiblity for my mood, but Rob can have an impact in managing it. He helps by encouraging me.

Managing Your Spouse's Mood hearing when that mood is slipping

Hearing when that mood is slipping…

bunnies managing your spouse's moodA few weeks ago we were driving together to our small group’s evening meeting. It was the first time we were together for the day, and Robert was telling me about his day. He’d been gazing out our RV’s window and noticed how beautifully the birds, bunnies and squirels interact. He spoke of how wonderful God made his creatures and how they easily share the resources. (Cue the melodious flute music here… )  

I responded, half under my breath, “Yeah. And they share the ticks and fleas too.”  

Scr-a-aa-aa-tch!  (That’s the sound of a needle on a record player skidding across the record.)

Robert turned to give me an incredulous look. Sarcasm isn’t my usual response, so he heard something “off” in my mood. The drive continued, and I commented on a group of guys doing yard work.  I wondered what they were planning on cutting down with their chainsaws…  Again, Robert looked surprised, as he responded that they weren’t carrying chainsaws, they were holding leaf blowers.  Leaf Blowers….  or … Chainsaws.  Hmmm.

If your spouse is grappling with their mood, chances are you’ll hear it in their conversation. Conversation choice can be an early warning siren – if you pay attention, you’ll get some clues.

Some people are naturally sarcastic, and they quip back and forth with their spouse. Sarcasm might be a sign of a great mood for someone else – It isn’t for me.

If you know your spouse – if you’re a student of your spouse – you’ll know what their good moods and dark moods look, feel and sound like.*

Another reason to be a student of your spouse, is to know what will encourage her/him – and to use that knowledge to encourage your spouse to grab hold of their own mood.

Encourage Your Spouse

Encouragement is made up of five ingredients: hope, faith, love and prayer and action. Sometimes they’re all mushed up together when helping managing your spouse’s mood…

managing your spouse's mood hope faith love prayer action encouragement

  • Hope:  remind your spouse that it’s not always going to feel like this, that they’ve had good times, and great blessings in the past. Assure her/him that their mood will improve. Talk about specific good times. Talk about upcoming things you’re looking forward to.
  • Faith: use your faith in God as a way to build up your spouse’s belief in the goodness of God. Our God is a God of HOPE. This isn’t about quoting scripture (althought it could be), rather it’s your outlook on how God is in control and loves your spouse.
  • Love: use your love – without prerequisites or requirements, to encourage and act in loving ways.
  • Prayer:  pray for your spouse. This is a big deal.  Your prayers will make a difference! Go to war and fight for your spouse within your prayer life.
  • Action:  take action to make a difference in your spouse’s life – to manage life in a way that will impact your spouse for their good.

Action. Taking Action… what if you don’t “feel” like taking loving action to encourage your spouse and help them manage their mood?

Taking Action without Feeling It First

Sometimes you need to act in a loving manner – before you feel loving.

A more marriage friendly way of putting “fake it till you make it” is  “Faith it until you make it. — Act the way you should and have faith that God will bless it.”  (Thanks Bonny.)

Here’s one example of having a loving feeling after taking action: After I asked our son and daughter-in-love to read the 101 phrases to encourage your spouse on camera, Alisane reported with surprise, that she felt an overwhelming and positive loving feeling toward Alex, even though those phrases were scripted, and they we giggling (off camera of course) over some of the corny statements.

The feeling came after the action.

And then I watched this video about a photographer who asks strangers to pose as though they are couples, friends or family:

“I felt like I cared for her…”

That’s the statement from one young man, posed with an older woman – both are strangers to each other. (At minute 1:50 in the video).

I wonder what would happen if a photographer would spend a few hours “posing” a husband and wife for photographs. If the photographer talked about holding each other’s hands, and how precious it is to clasp hands with the one we love…

managing your spouse's mood - hold hands - it is wonderful to connect in a loving way

and if that photographer posed the couple with their arms around each other and talked about an embrace being love in action…

Embracing Love in Action Managing your spouse's mood

and if that photographer posed the couple gazing deeply into each other’s eyes with a smile…

If that couple spent an hour or more “posing” in loving ways… would that change a mood? Or help in managing your spouse’s mood?

What do you think?

Are you a photogapher? Have you had any experience “posing” couples? (chime in- comment with thoughts)

It would be interesting to try, wouldn’t it? Just as an experiment in managing your spouse’s mood…

Hmmmm…. anyone want to take some photos of Rob and me? 🙂 

Managing Your Spouse's Mood - Taking action without feeling it first - being a student of your spouse - Encourage Your Spouse

** NOTE:  Talking about moods is not the same as dealing with a serious mood disorder and/or depression. Yes. That’s a huge difference. If your spouse has been diagnosed with depression or a mood disorder, then you’ll need to surround yourself with resources and help. Rob and I recommend NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). If you live in the United States, check to see if there’s a chapter near you, and take advantage of their spousal support groups.