Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Perfectionism


“Perfectionist” is not a stereotype that I would label myself, however, there are occasions where I can be pretty insistent that I must get everything perfect. One of those is blogging. I feel like my posts always have to be insightful, profound, and thought-provoking. This is why I have a difficult time sticking with it, and writing a post can be an agonizingly long and painful process. I am working on that and trying to be less insistent that everything be absolutely perfect before I can write or post, but it is a struggle.
Another area in which I tend to have issues with perfectionism is in being a wife.
I love being married. I love being a wife. I love the privileges and responsibilities that come along with that. Nevertheless, I can tend to have too great an emphasis on perfection in that role.

·         Communication: If I have something to say to my husband, I must say it over in my head ten times minimum. I need to know exactly what the point I am trying to get across is and how to best say that so that he will understand where I am coming from. I must not sound like I am accusing him of anything or like I do not appreciate all he does.

·         Clothes: I need to wear clothes that my husband likes. I can never wear anything that does not look good on me or that does not look especially put-together (i.e., no jeans and scoop-neck shirts). This even carries over in to sleepwear—I have cried on occasion when I cannot find some pajamas that I look good in.

·         Housework: It is getting better, but housework is one area that has caused me a lot of stress. When the house is messy, I will quite often have a bit of a break down because I feel like I am failing as a wife. The house must always be clean. Dinner must always be ready on time. Everything  must be organized and in its proper spot.

My tendency towards perfectionism in these areas relating to being a wife (and others), causes me stress and can sometimes make me overwhelmed with my responsibilities.

·         I feel like I cannot properly say what I want to say, so I simply remain quiet. My husband never finds out what was on my mind, I remain frustrated with the situation, or give up, and we do not get a chance to grow in our communication skills.

·         I spend way too much time getting dressed, when I could be doing other things (causing more stress for perfectionism #3), and focus a surplus of time on appearance. This generally causes me to feel like my husband only cares what I look like, and I sometimes even convince myself that he will not love me if I do not look attractive because of what I am wearing.

·         When I get discouraged with how messy the house is, it unmotivates me from any cleaning or straightening up. I feel like I will never get done with everything, so I give up and do not even try. This makes me feel even more like a failure, which sucks the energy right out of me, and causes a vicious cycle of imperfection, feeling like a failure, being overwhelmed, and being unmotivated to do anything.

Obviously this perfectionism is not beneficial to me in any way. My husband does not expect me to be perfect, and often reminds me that it is perfectly alright that the house is somewhat messy, or that I wore a t-shirt and sweatpants to bed. God does not even expect me to be perfect—Jesus is my perfection; I cannot attain it on my own. Instead of trying to be perfect, I need to get my focus off of myself and my inadequacies, and instead keep my eyes on Jesus, the perfecter of my faith.
Grace is a lesson that I am still learning.
“Perfection is not a prerequisite for being used of God. Faithfulness and obedience, albeit imperfect, are what God asks of us.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

Date Ideas

On Saturday, my husband and I had part of the day off, so we spent it together. I still had some produce to buy, and he had a few business-things to take care of, and we did not have much money to spend, but we still had a blast! I thought I would share some of the things that we did to perhaps inspire you with ways that you can go on “dates” and still be productive as well.

The first thing that we did was get some of my husband’s sound equipment ready and loaded up in his truck for a dance he was DJing that evening. Granted, not everyone’s husband is a sound engineer, but the basic idea is tagging along when possible. I went over to his warehouse with him and helped him get things together. Even though it was not just “hanging out,” it was still fun to be together and get the chance to help him out.

After getting his sound equipment dropped off, my husband and I headed over to the farmer’s market. The farmer’s market is, in my opinion, one of the very best multitasking dates ever for a few different reasons. 1) You can buy stuff, and it is all budgeted for under “groceries” rather than “dates,” which means that you get to go on a date at the farmer’s market, and still have date money later in the week. 2) They have samples! 3) You get to buy fresh, local produce and spend time with your man at the same time. 4) If you have extra grocery money after buying everything, you can buy something frivolous and delicious (my husband and I had a bit of extra money, so we bought a loaf of asiago sourdough artisan bread. Yum!)

Eating lunch at home is always a nice, inexpensive thing to do together, and lucky for us, it was a nice day, so we were able to eat outside on the patio. Iced tea, warm sun, and great company made for a very enjoyable lunch, even if it was just bean and cheese nachos.

Our afternoon was off for the most part, so we started out by going to our city’s earth day celebration. Live music, free admission, lots of booths advertising random things, and more samples! City events are great options for free or inexpensive fun.

Great Harvest was not far, so we stopped there to check and see if they had any good day-old bread. (I buy their day old bread because it is fresh, healthy, and 50% off, less expensive than the bread we had been buying at the store.) They did not have any bread that I wanted to buy, however, they still gave us free slices of bread! (Can you tell that I like free food?) Sitting outside in the sun with a fresh slice of free bread, chatting with your husband, is a great way to spend an hour or two.

When we finally went back home, we felt like being productive. My husband is in the process of getting the garage organized so that he can work on projects there. I needed to clean the kitchen because it was a mess and was stressing me out. Therefore, he worked on the garage while I cleaned the kitchen. Because the kitchen has a door to the garage, we left it open, turned on some music and worked “together,” meaning, in the same vicinity. Even though we were not side-by-side or even in the same room, it was fun to be working at the same time, listening to the same music, and occasionally conversing.

There was a bit more to our day (such as work, and hanging out with my husband at the dance he was DJing after I got off work), but I think that is sufficient to be shared right now. I hope that you were inspired to come up with creative ways to spend time with your husband!

Do you and your husband have a creative, inexpensive, or multitasking date that you enjoy doing together? Please share in the comments!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Finances, Pride, and Respect

I have always heard that finances are one of the major points of disagreement and argument among married couples. Never, however, did I think that my husband and I would have disagreements about finances. I am very good at managing money! I do not spend in excess. Not to mention, I have been obsessed with budgeting and other finance-related subjects since I found a "how to get out of debt" book on my parents' shelf at the age of twelve. I am very smart with my money, therefore, there should not be any reason for it to become a source of contention, right?

Wrong. Apparently there is more to finances than living within your means and being adept at budgeting and such. It is not a lack of knowledge or ability to manage money that causes conflict about finances between me and my husband.

I have been managing the money for most of the time we have been married. We have had our share of conflict, the obvious cause of which has been partially due to the fact that we have been quite tight on money through winter, and had close to no money after bills each paycheck.  As the provider, this lack of finances stressed my husband out because he felt like he was not providing for me well enough if we did not have enough money to go out to eat, fill the tanks of both cars, or do something fun such as going to a movie.

His frustration caused me to feel stressed, however, because I did not want him to feel that way, so I tried to budget in such a way that he would not notice that we were short on money. As a result, I skipped the savings and cut corners on groceries in order to free up some extra cash for fuel and fun. This kind of worked, but it caused me to feel even more frustrated when he said something indicating that he was frustrated with our money situation, because I felt unappreciated. I was putting aside what I would like to do with our money and he was still not happy with me...or so it seemed to me.

As a result of my husband's frustration at our lack of money (not intentionally aimed at me in any way), and my frustration at his frustration when I was giving him money to spend, plus the fact that I was not able to put money in savings (none of which I communicated to him), almost anytime we would discuss finances, it would be somewhat tense.

Most of our conflict could have been avoided if we had simply been communicating about finances. If we were to go over the budget together so that he could see how much money we had, and we could discuss together the best use of that. I was somewhat reluctant to do this partially because I did not want him interfering with where the money was going. If he had a different opinion of where the money should go, I did not to have to listen to his opinion and argue about why I was right. He did not want to talk about the budget because of the conflict that came up each time we did. Since the finances were doing alright, he was willing to let me do them and not bring it up (even though he was not entirely happy with not being in the loop), because he wanted to avoid conflict.

As I was reading my Bible this morning (currently through Ephesians), I came across the passage about submitting one to another, and also about wives submitting to their husbands. The devotional I was reading encouraged that I identify areas where I was not submitting or respecting my husband. First thing that came to mind? Finances. I was not necessarily a submission issue, but more of a respect issue. I was being prideful and disrespectful at the same time by thinking that I was better at managing finances than my husband, and did not want to hear his concerns or requests. I was not really listening to his concerns--I discounted them in my mind before he ever brought anything up. That is prideful, disrespectful, and not loving. Conviction.

Today is budgeting day. And today, we are going to do things different. We are going to talk about the finances, where the money is going, and what is important to each of us. I will be open-minded to his suggestions and concerns. When it is feasible to take action on his suggestions and concerns, I will go for it. When I disagree, I will respectfully explain why it is that I disagree and we can dialogue about it. If I continue to disagree, but he still wants to go forward, I will submit.

Such is my determination, but only God can bring that to life.

Lord, help me to be loving, humble, and respectful to my husband in this area of finances. Especially as we go over the budget today, help me to not write off his ideas before he speaks, but to listen with an open mind and not insist on my own way.

"Do nothing out of rivalry or conciet, but in humility consider others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Philippians 2:3-4

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Discouragement


I have been rather absent from my blog for the past few weeks. I have no good excuse, no traumatic event that might make up for it. The reason simply is that I was discouraged. I was discouraged that my blog was not good enough, not like so-and-so's, too personal, and people would not want to read it. Honestly, the biggest thing for me was that I did not feel like my husband liked it. Not much else really truly mattered to me, just what he thought. So when I felt like I was writing my heart out and he seemed to be only giving me pointers for making it better, I assumed that he hated it and I should just quit. So I did for a time.

We talked about it, and it turns out that he does not in fact hate my blog, and had not realized that I was feeling that way. It seems that things usually go like that. I am not confident in how I look, so when he fails to give me a compliment, I immediately assume that he thinks I look bad and become discouraged and mope-y. I am insecure about my personality, so when he either mentions that someone else has a great personality or gives me some friendly advice on how to be more friendly or outgoing, I tell myself that he would rather be married to a better conversationalist, and get angry at him, while feeling like a failure because “I am not good enough.” My thoughts, however, are rarely accurate, especially when I am trying to determine what he is thinking.

Sometimes it just does not cross his mind that he should compliment me on something. It does not mean that he does not think I look nice. Sometimes {often} people are more outgoing than me, better at conversation, or more friendly, but just because my husband mentions that someone is good at conversing while talking with me does not mean that he would rather have married someone stronger in that area. In fact, I rarely talked when we were together in the first three or four months of our relationship and it has not been until almost half a year after we got married that I finally began to talk and joke like I normally would with my family or close friends. So, he knew exactly what he was getting into and certainly could have not asked me to marry him if he wanted someone different. My husband loves me just as I am and when he gives me advice on improving something, it does not mean that he despises me for it; it simply means that he desires to see me grow. He loves me just the same.

And so, with the encouraging realization that my husband does not hate my blog, and the fact that it really does not matter what others think if it is something that God has called me to do, I will continue to write. As one of my pastors said in a sermon not long ago, “If God has called you to do something, do not let anyone tell you that you are unqualified.” …including yourself, I would add.

While I am not at the point of saying that I know for certain that God has called me to write a blog, I would not want to miss out on an opportunity that he has given me, because of my fear. Following Jonathan’s example in 1 Samuel 14, I will go forward on a perhaps. When Jonathan said, “Perhaps the Lord will work for us,” and took a step in that direction, God blessed his faith. He and his armor-bearer killed twenty Philistines, God sent an earthquake, and the rest of the Philistines were thrown into panic. It did not happen because Jonathan was an amazing warrior (even amazing warriors cannot single-handedly cause an entire army to freak out). It was because he was willing to take a step and God blessed him through it. Jonathan had to step out on a maybe for the Lord to work through him. And I will do the same. Perhaps the Lord is in it, but I will never find out unless I step out.