The Comparison Game: A Destructive Pastime

My mom is an amazing cook. Her mom was a good cook, and she carried on the legacy – biscuits and sausage gravy, goulash, morel mushroom bisque, and homemade bread.

I will never forget the Saturday mornings of my childhood. Mom baked bread – loaves and loaves of bread. When she took it out of the oven, we cut up a loaf of warm bread, slathered on the butter and strawberry freezer jam, and then our family of four devoured the entire loaf.

When I entered marriage, I immediately started comparing my wife Laura’s cooking to my mom’s. It was unfair. I compared my mom and Laura in many ways. I tried to get Laura to change the way she did things because I liked the way my mom did them. Then one day Laura “gently” reminded me that I was not married to my mother.

Women are genetically disposed to compare themselves to other women. They do it in their head and no one else knows about it: Am I as pretty as she is? Do I seem as smart as she is? Am I as good of a mother as my friend is? This is how a woman processes whether or not she is “stacking up.” Again, she plays this comparison game in her mind for her own consumption.

However, when a woman’s husband compares her to other women, in any scenario, he does serious damage to her self-worth and subsequently to their marriage.

We live in Alma, Michigan. It is a quintessential small mid-western town with a private liberal arts college. At one time, every day when we drove to work, we had to drive right through the middle of the campus, and every day co-eds were everywhere. I was in my thirties, and I admit that as I drove into town, my head was on a swivel. I was trying to catch a glimpse of some young female.

I will never forget one particularly warm day in June. Many coeds were sunbathing on the lawn of the school’s chapel. The hurt in Laura’s voice cut me to my core when she said, “You know, I’ve given birth to two children, and I’ll never look like that again, so will you please stop gawking!”

What we have to learn is that the spouse God gave us is all we will ever need in our marriage. Satan will try to get us to believe that there is someone better out there. But do not be fooled. We are all fallen creatures who have scars and baggage.

When you grasp the idea that your spouse, given to you by God, is all you ever need, you start looking at that person in an entirely different light. Look for the good and not the bad, the helpful not the hurtful, and your marriage will grow strong.

Remember, Eve never had to hear about Adam’s mom’s cooking. Instead of complaining, celebrate your wife and all the blessings she has brought to your marriage.

Budget is NOT a 4 Letter Word

The freedom of a budget

I (Laura) was not taught how to budget money, and as a result, I used to think budget was a four-letter word. For a while, I cringed every time Jay said it because I knew he was trying to reign in my spending. But now I realize how amazing that word really is. To set a budget is actually freeing.

Laura and I (Jay) were set up on a blind date. Ten days later, I asked her to marry me. Yes, you read that right – ten days after our blind date. We have been married thirty-one years. (And they said it would not last.)

But I (Jay) got quite a surprise about two weeks after I proposed. It was the middle of July, and Laura had secured a job right out of college. It was a good job that paid well. One night after we had eaten dinner at her mom’s house, Laura asked if I would help her balance her checking account. She had had her job, and subsequently her checking account, for six weeks. That night I discovered that Laura had bounced fourteen checks in that short six-week period. It was plain to me that she did not know how money worked.

Setting a budget is especially important for family spending. You and your spouse need to talk about how much to spend on monthly bills, each other, the kids and your extended family. You also need to determine how much “fun” money you may or may not have.

When you set a budget, you free yourself up to buy anything within the budget. It allows you to get creative, and it makes your life as well as your marriage much more fun too. More importantly, a budget will reduce your stress level. What we recommend, and have taught our kids, is quite simple. It is the 10-10-10-70 rule.

  • Ten percent of your income is your giving. This is the first and most important part of your budget. It declares to the world and, more importantly, to the Lord that you recognize He owns everything. You are just His steward.
  • Ten percent goes into long-term savings. We sat down with our stockbroker when Laura and I were twenty-six years old and both working in ministry. We barely had two nickels to rub together, but when our friend showed us the power of compound interest, we started socking away the little we had at the time.
  • Ten percent goes into a rainy-day fund. Things fall apart, but when you have emergency money saved up, that new water heater or that unexpected dental bill will not put you in debt.
  • Seventy percent is what you live on. We can hear the moans already. Yes, that may mean you have to cut out the specialty coffees or go camping instead of to Cancun. But when you live according to these principles, you will find freedom in the long run.

Make an appointment with your spouse. Go to a coffee shop or some other place you both enjoy and set that family budget. You will be amazed by how much stress you will relieve.

Argue Argue Argue!

It feels as if we argue all the time! Help!

There are 3 realities in marriage when it comes to arguing:

Here is the first  reality – you are 2 different people, with 2 differing backgrounds, you will argue. You will have different thoughts and opinions from your spouse. Many couples get way too worried about the fact that they argue with their spouse, just relax…you’re normal.

The second reality is this – You will fight about three things- money, intimacy and families. These three cause stress in a marriage and arguments will ensue!  Add communication differences to the mix and you can be in for a real spat.

The third reality? Worry when you stop arguing! Here’s some great advice from www.smartmarriages.com.

The number one predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict.

What’s sad is the reason couples avoid conflict is because they believe it (conflict) causes divorce.It’s like the cartoon where the couple explains to the marriage counselor, “We never talk anymore. We figured out that’s when we do all our fighting.”

In the beginning, we avoid conflict because we are in love and we believe that “staying in love” is about agreeing, about NOT fighting.

We’re afraid that if we disagree – or fight – we’ll run our marriage off into the ditch. We believe that if we’ve found our soul mate, we’ll agree about most things – and
certainly about the important things.

Later, we avoid conflict because when we finally do try to deal with our differences (talk about them) things get so out of hand and our fights so destructive and upsetting, that we simply shut down. After a few bad blow-ups we become determined to avoid conflict at any cost. And, we start wondering if we married the wrong person. We think to ourselves:”it shouldn’t be this hard. “

Successful couples are those who know how to discuss their differences in ways that actually strengthen their relationship and improve intimacy. Successful couples know how to contain their disagreements – how to keep their disagreements from spilling over and contaminating the rest of their relationship.

While it’s true that we don’t get married to handle conflict, if a couple doesn’t know how – or learn how – to fight or manage their disagreements successfully, they won’t be able to do all the other things they got married to do.

Put another way, it’s hard to take her out to the ball game if you’re not speaking. Couples are often so determined to avoid disagreements that they shut down – quit talking, quit loving.

Couples need to know what the research has found: that every happy, successful couple has approximately ten areas of “incompatibility” or disagreement that they will never resolve.

Successful couples learn how to manage their areas of disagreement and live life “around” them – to love in spite of their differences and to develop understanding and empathy for their partner’s positions.

Arguing is a reality in marriage. Arguing constructively is the real issue. Never name call. Never say something you can’t undo. Never blame each other.

Don’t be afraid of arguing. It is how we know we still care!

4 Reasons to get away just the two of you

When was the last time you and your spouse took the time to get away just the two of you? For some the answer might be “our honeymoon!”

Most couples do not understand the importance of getting away together.  We recommend couples make a plan to get away and get ahead at least two times a year.

Get away once a year get away to “play” together, go do something fun together.  Getting away for some fun will help keep the spark in your marriage and keep the romance alive. Also, get away once a year to “work” on your marriage together. Attending a marriage seminar or workshop will give you the tools you need to make your marriage strong.  And if you pick the right one it’ll be fun to boot!

Over the years we’ve heard all the excuses: it’s too expensive, what do we do with the kids, we like to do different things. These excuses are obstacles easily overcome when you understand the enormous benefits that getting away and getting ahead bring to your relationship.

REST

When I, Jay, was a young boy my father would sit on the floor outside my bedroom door after Sunday Lunch and make me close my eyes until I fell asleep.  I was a hyper kid and I did NOT like to rest. My dad however knew the rest of the family needed a break from ME!

You may plan an action packed fun filled week away, but you’re still getting a “rest” from life and the routine back home.  We’ve been on many vacations where we said near the end of the week…can’t wait to get back home and SLEEP!

RECREATION

Sometimes you can get away just for the day. Last week, we were running an errand and planned to be back home around lunchtime. Instead we decided to make a day of it and ended up having lunch out and doing some shopping for nothing in particular! It was a really great day! Nothing planned just spontaneous.

REJUVENATION

Rejuvenation actually means to make YOUNG again, renewing your love. We all remember how we felt when we were young and in love.  Science tells us that those feeling fade after about 18 months unless we purposefully act to keep the spark alive.

Getting away if even for a day to someplace romantic will spark in you and your spouse a new and rejuvenated love for each other and will make your marriage thrive.

RECONNECTION

Remembering why you fell in love in the first place. Whatever stage of life you are in:

  • Newlyweds that are just starting out
  • Young parents with kids clamoring for every minute
  • Parents of pre-teens and teens that are carting kids in a million different directions
  • Empty-nesters that are now stuck with only each other

Life has a way of disconnecting us as a married couple. Kids, jobs, even ministries can pull us in different directions.

We need to find time; a day, an evening, a weekend, or an entire week – to reconnect with our spouse. Disconnect from the daily obligations and reconnect with each other!

So get out your calendar and make a plan to get away and get ahead!

What’s your Word for the year?

Words have power.  Words can uplift or tear apart.  Words can encourage or destroy.  Even Scripture tells us the power of The Word, where in John we read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

Our friends Bill and Pam Farrel, authors of the best selling book Men Are Like Waffles And Women Are Like Spaghetti, encourage couples to find a word for the year. A word for themselves as an individual and a word for the two of them as a couple!

Praying and thinking about a word for the year will help you prioritize your life and marriage.  A word for the year will give you focus on what God is doing in your life and marriage. And finally a word for the year will inspire you to a deeper relationship with God and each other.

So, what is your word for the year? What word encourages you? What word do you need to live out this year?

For me, Laura, my word is CONTENT!

  • “I want” is my middle name and I need to be content and grateful for all with which I have been blessed.
  • Jay and I are now “empty nesters” and I need to be content that my children are right where the Lord wants them.
  • I need to be content with the person God has made me and not compare myself to other women.

For me, Jay, my word is HEALTH.  I want to be healthy in all aspects of my life.

  • I turn double nickels in 2016 and as a result I want to focus on my physical health.
  • Laura and I are “empty nesters” and I want to focus on our marital health.
  • And as always I want to maintain a healthy walk with Christ.

Our marriage word for the year? COURAGE. We want a marriage that is courageous.

  • Courage to work on our own issues and challenges.
  • Courage to encourage others to Celebrate their marriage.
  • Courage to fight for God’s plan for marriage between one man and one woman.

For some of you, a word will quickly pop into your head because the Lord has been placing it on your heart for some time now.  For others it might take a few days or even weeks of thinking and praying on what your word might be.  Take the time and make the effort to come up with a word for the year and watch God move in you and in your marriage!

Here are just a few ways to keep that word in front of you all year long. Print out the word using large letters on fun paper and stick in on your refrigerator. Write it in lipstick on your bathroom mirror.  Or make it your screen saver on your computer.

As a couple what is a word that can give you and your spouse purpose this year?

The Best Christmas Gift EVER!

I (Laura) LOVE Christmas.  And by love I mean there is no other time of the year that even comes close. I was born in December, got married in December. God moved me from Atlanta, GA to Michigan so I could have “White Christmases”. For me December is one big festive party.
We have many Christmas traditions in our family like:

  • Putting up the decorations on the day after Thanksgiving — no black Friday sales for me.
  • Cheese Grits and Sausage Biscuits and Gravy on Christmas morning.
  • Favorite Christmas albums from artists like Relient K, Peder Eide, Chicago to name a few.
  • And of course GIFTS  I love to give them and I love to receive them.

One of my love languages is gifts and over the years Jay has done a very good job of surprising me, making me cry, and of course one year giving me the BEST Christmas gift ever!
It was early in our marriage, we were both working for Youth for Christ, had very little money and even less time.  I was serving both on a local level with the organization, coaching cheerleading at Alma High School, running a grief recovery group for students who had suffered the loss of a family member and was the National Jr High ministry director for Youth for Christ USA. Jay was the Central Michigan Youth for Christ Executive Director as well as a popular youth camp speaker at the time.  Needless to say we were busy and broke!
Two weeks before Christmas Jay announced he had my gift and it was in my stocking.  True confessions, I’m a “peeker”.  My stocking looked empty and when I looked in all I could see was an envelope.  Immediately I thought my goofball husband had made a bunch of “love coupons” you know for hugs, back rubs and foot rubs.  Honestly, I was hugely disappointed.
On Christmas morning I put on a smile and dutifully opened the envelope.  To my surprise it was the BEST gift EVER!
A little more background:

  1. My Tuesday’s each week were a nightmare.  I started at 6am with the Grief Group and ended about 9pm after cheerleading practice. Usually there was no time for lunch and a small window for dinner.
  2. I love a clean house.  I DESPISE cleaning bathrooms.

When I opened the envelope it was a “love coupon” which read:

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_tagline_box backgroundcolor=”” shadow=”yes” shadowopacity=”0.7″ border=”1px” bordercolor=”” highlightposition=”top” content_alignment=”center” link=”” linktarget=”_self” modal=”” button_size=”” button_shape=”” button_type=”” buttoncolor=”” button=”” title=”For the next YEAR” description=”I, Jay Laffoon will cook dinner every Tuesday night” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””]and clean the bathrooms once a week.
Merry Christmas! [/fusion_tagline_box]

What made this the BEST Christmas gift ever?  Jay thought of me.  He looked and my life and the challenges I had and decided to sacrifice his time and energy to meet my needs.
Jay’s gift was a perfect reflection of God’s greatest gift ever, Jesus the reason for the season! God looked down on His creation and saw our need for a Savior so he gave us the gift ofJesus.
As you prepare your heart this Advent season, look at the loved ones in your life and meet a need.  It may not be bathrooms or cooking dinner but whatever it is they will feel loved and cherished because you thought of them!  Merry Christmas!![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Real living is THANKSliving

How many times a day should we THANK the Lord?

24? Once for every hour?

How about over 20,000? Because that’s how many breath’s the average adult human takes in a day.

What about 100,000 or 35 Million? No, that’s not your lottery winnings, it’s how many times your heart beats in a day or a year!

Ok, these numbers seem unattainable, so what?

Being thankful isn’t something we do, it’s something we ARE.

Phil 4:6 says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

So how do we go about “THANKSliving”?

It starts at HOME.

HONOR

Exodus 20:12 is the first commandment with a promise: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

The habit of Honor goes beyond just your father and mother. Every human is made in God’s image and deserves to be shown honor. Especially your spouse.

When we honor our spouse, we are thanking the Lord for the tremendous gift He has given us. A number of years ago I (Jay) was challenged by a good friend to start opening the car door for Laura as a way to honor her as my wife. Laura kisses me very time she brings me a cup of coffee. Simple ways to show our thanks through honor.

OBSERVE

I (Laura) was having lunch with a bunch of my girlfriends nearly 20 years ago. When I came home, Jay asked what we talked about. After I shared the details of our lunch conversation he said, “Did you notice anything disturbing about your conversation?” “Everything you just shared was you ladies complaining about your husbands. I know these guys and they’re all good guys, why not share what you love about us?”

Do you know why butterfly hunters find butterflies? And no – it’s not because they’re nerds! It’s because they look for them. When you intentionally look for the good qualities in your spouse (male and female), we offer a word of thanksgiving to the Lord.

MENTION

It’s not only important to observe the great gift the Lord has given you in your spouse but to mention it publicly. Laura is a great cook, my waistline is a testimony to that fact. At a church potluck years ago Laura brought frittatas. I (Jay) overheard a group of people asking “Who was the gourmet chef that brought the delicacy?”  I proudly announced, “Laura!” Later, she asked if I really thought she was a gourmet? When I said “YES!” it put a smile on her face and 5lbs on my belly!

Thank the Lord publicly for the gifts you see in your spouse.

EXALT

Now before you think we’re being sacrilegious let us share the definition:

“Exalt, to raise in rank, to elevate.”

We believe faith is worked out first in the home with our spouse. In order to do that we must exalt our marriage to our number one priority behind our relationship with the Lord. We must “forsake all others” including our boss, our friends, our children – ouch!

Real Living IS THANKSliving … and it starts when we place the highest priority on the gift of marriage.

Your Marriage As a Fortress in a Uncertain World

We live in uncertain times.  As Christ followers we must understand this is part of God’s plan. As Dr. Gregory Thornbury, President of The King’s College in New York City put it:

“We don’t live in a post Christian America. We don’t live in a post post Christian  America. We live in a post reality America. What does this mean? Essentially there are no longer any universally accepted values, standards or morals. In our culture a person’s perception is their truth.”

So how do we navigate the uncertainty of these present times?  By understanding the beautiful gift God has given you in your spouse.  Then by utilizing these four pillars upon which to build your marital FORT!

FAITH

Scripture is clear 1 John 4:19 says “We love because he first loved us”. We believe the first and foremost place we live out our faith is in our marriage. So let’s paraphrase that Scripture just a bit “We love (insert spouse’s name) because he first loved us”. When we exercise our faith by unconditionally loving our spouse, our faith grows.  With that growing faith comes a peace and security this world cannot take away.

OBSESSION

We live in a country of obsessed people. Obsession by definition means: the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea,image, desire. We’ve all struggled with an obsession from time to time.  In our marriage Laura struggled with an obsession to shop and Jay to lower his golf handicap.  Both of these obsessions lead to difficulties in our marriage.

Using the definition above we can show that the Bible encourages obsession. Phil. 4:8 states: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Again, our role in marriage is to obsess about what is true, noble,right, pure, lovely and admirable in our spouse.  When we do?  We give our spouse courage to face the challenges of the day!

REST

Don’t slow down, instead STOP! Be still and rest.  One of the enemy’s greatest weapons is busyness.  For most of us our human nature “likes” to be busy. When we are we don’t have to think about our problems or our shortcomings or our issues.  Busyness only makes our problems, shortcomings and issues worse.

If our Creator found it necessary to rest, and we are made in His image then it is imperative that we make time to rest.  A Sabbath moment or two each day to exhale and breathe in His presence.  A Sabbath day a week to hit the “reset” button.  And a Sabbath getaway at least once a year to focus on each other and your marriage.

TRUST

Trust is the glue of life.  It holds all relationships together, especially marriage.  And YES trust can be cracked, splintered and broken in marriage.  But here is what we know, when we practice “I Do” daily we build trust (even trust that has been broken) so wake up every morning knowing you have a new opportunity to say “I Do” all over again!

In these uncertain times these four pillars will help you and your spouse build a fortress together!

Jay & Laura Laffoon

Creating a Family Mission Statement

If you aim at nothing you’re sure to hit it every time.  The same can be true in marriage.  Look back over your years of marriage and allow your story to help you mold your future.  Here’s how it worked for us.

Year seven of wedded bliss found us going in 100 different directions! We were both in full-time ministry together, yet we felt as if we were never on the same page. Jay did his thing, and Laura did her’s. We came to the conclusion that we needed to figure out where we were headed as a couple, rather than individuals, or we were headed for a collision course that might be irreparable.

Enter Family Mission Statement.

Through a series of readings, and experimenting with different systems, we came up with a process of developing our own family mission statement.  We took 6 weeks to discover our core values, what was important to us as individuals as well as a couple. These values were any person, belief, or thing that we deemed important to us. After we accumulated these values by writing them down, we then filtered through them to decide our top five values.

The next step was to decide of those five what was the ONE that was most important above all the others. Then we wrote down our family mission statement using the ONE as our central core value and the other four as our means to accomplish the ONE. Our Laffoon Family Mission statement is as follows: “ To encourage others to become like Christ through stimulating experiences, healthy lifestyles, and loving relationships.”  ( This process can be found in detail in our book, “Make Love Everyday” )

Our mission statement became the filter through which we made every decision.

We had found that Laura liked to be involved in every good committee or organization that came along, and Jay just liked saying no to everything! As a result of our mission statement, we now had a filter for which Laura used to say no to those good things in order to say yes to the opportunities that were the  best use of her time, and for Jay to say yes to those opportunities that came along that fit the mission statement, and needed his involvement.

Developing a Family Mission Statement allowed us to be on the same page in our marriage.

We now knew where we were headed as a couple. We no longer felt as if we were going in 100 different directions. We were headed in the ONE direction that God had mapped out for us. Each of us as individuals have been uniquely gifted by God. When we marry, He brings those individuals together with all their unique gifts and abilities and designs a marriage that will accomplish something unique for His kingdom. Developing our Family Mission Statement allowed us to discover what that was for us.

It doesn’t matter if you have been married 7 weeks, 7 years or 70 years, developing a Family Mission Statement gives you clear direction for your marriage. Marriage is a journey and where your journey has taken you and your spouse thus far can give you the foundation you need to accomplish what God has designed your marriage to accomplish for His kingdom!

 

Legalization of Gay Marriage

We have to write this. We fight for marriages, including our own, everyday. However, our take on this ruling might not be what you think.
Here are some of our observations about the legalization of gay marriage:
  • God was not surprised by this ruling; grieved yes, surprised no. His plan for marriage has been under attack since Adam and Eve.
  • We are not surprised by this ruling. If you have lived in this country for more than 20 years you should not be surprised either. As Dr. Gregory Thornbury put it, ” We don’t live in a post Christian America. We don’t live in a post post Christian  America. We live in a post reality America.” What does this mean? Essentially there are no values, standards or morals. In our culture a person’s perception is their truth.

If the United States Government is the supreme authority in your life then Friday, June 26th, when gay marriage was legalized, everything changed for you. But if the God of the Bible is your supreme authority, then nothing changed.

Where do we go from here?

First of all love those who are different than you. This is Christ’s first command to love one another. We have both friends and family who are openly gay. We can’t change them but we can and do love them. This struggle is not against the people with whom we disagree but rather with spiritual forces and principalities we cannot see.

Judge not lest ye be judged. We join the apostle Paul in noting that we are the greatest of sinners. Only by God’s grace and mercy do we live.

If you want to fight for the sanctity of marriage, start by fighting for your own marriage. Romance your spouse. Make your spouse a priority. Surround yourself with others who are fighting for their marriage. Learn what makes a great marriage. When we do this we show the world a better way.
Make the world scream, ” I want what they’ve got”.