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Those Pesky Idiosyncracies

27 May

It’s been said that married men should forget their mistakes. There’s no sense in two people remembering the same thing.

It’s also been said that marriage is a relationship where one person is always right … and the other is the husband.

Those jokes are funny, but not too kind to the menfolk!

Unfortunately, marriage is a sea of challenges that requires graceful navigation!

I was recently encouraged by a book about this complicated relationship. Elaine W. Miller wrote We All Married Idiots, a book that examines three things we will never change about our marriages, and then she offers ten things we can all work on to improve the husband-wife relationship. (1)

In one chapter, Elaine talks about learning to live with each other’s idiosyncrasies.

“Since living with idiosyncrasies is a part of marriage,” she wrote, “You might as well treasure those peculiar habits. One day you might miss them. I know I did.”

Elaine’s husband Dan was a tapper. He tapped on things. “I think in his mind the whole world is his trumpet as his fingers play a perpetual tune,” she said. “He taps the table when he eats, the steering wheel when he drives, the newspaper when he reads, the pulpit when he preaches, and my shoulders when he puts his arms around me.”

The tapping got hard to take. “If I let it,” Elaine said, “his tapping gets on my nerves. Many times I have said in an irritated voice, ‘Would you please stop tapping!’

“However,” she added, “when he was hospitalized and I was uncertain if he would live through the night, those words weren’t on my lips. I stared at his silent fingers, held his motionless hands, and pleaded, ‘Please, God, let me feel his fingers tapping.’

“Funny how our perspective on idiosyncrasies changes under different circumstances,” she said. “Many will admit the very thing that bugs them is what first enticed them to their beloved, and what they will miss the most when their loved one is gone.”

I remember reading about a woman who hated her husband’s snoring. She complained and poked him through the night. But after the man died, she told a friend she’d “give anything to hear that man snore again!”

Those pesky idiosyncrasies are simply more proof that we are all unique, and the truth is, every marriage has them. It is our attitude that makes the difference. Elaine explains that love is kind (according to 1 Corinthians 13:4). And what does that look like? “Being kind to your mate means overlooking those oddities that sometimes drive you crazy. The next time your love does the idiotic, remember this ~ you married an idiot and so did your spouse.” (2)

Elaine points out that the words “idiosyncrasy” and “idiot” both come from the same Greek root word (idio) meaning “common man.” In other words, we all do things that are a bit eccentric or peculiar from time to time.

As I thought about this, I realized how many times simple kindness and grace ~ and especially loving words ~ have acted like soothing oil in my own marriage. (Sometimes I can’t believe that my husband has put up with me this long!)

Rather than focusing on each other’s quirks, we’ve chosen to concentrate on what is good, pure, lovely, etc. (see Philippians 4:8). Some of those pesky idiosyncrasies remain, but they aren’t “issues” anymore. We’ve learned to love and accept each other and try to see each other through the eyes of the Redeemer we both love.

When I stop to think that God created me with unique idiosyncrasies ~ and He loves me ~ it encourages me to share the same kind of love with others, especially my spouse.

How about you? When you think about your spouse (or if you’re not married, a boss or a parent or someone else you have a relationship with on a regular basis), is there something that the person does that really bugs you? Could love, acceptance, patience and mega doses of grace ease your frustration?

(1) Elaine W. Miller, We All Married Idiots (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 2012), p. 7.

(2) ibid, p. 7.

Elaine Miller is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and has authored two other books, Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Moms and Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Wives.

Be Patient with the ‘Old Folks’

12 Sep

I read, the other day, “You know you’re getting older when all the names in your Little Black Book end with MD.”

This post is for our older readers … or younger readers who have older friends and family. (There now, that should cover all of us!)

A little old lady seated herself right behind the bus driver. Every ten minutes or so she’d pipe up, “Have we Signs to Senior Centerreached Oriskany Falls yet, Sonny?”

“No, lady, not yet. I’ll let you know,” he replied, time after time. The hours passed, and the old woman kept asking for Oriskany Falls. Finally the little town came into view. Sighing with relief, the driver slammed on the brakes, pulled over, and called out, “This is where you get out, lady.”

“Is this Oriskany Falls?”

“YES!” he bellowed. “Get out!”

“Oh, I’m going all the way to Albany, Sonny,” she explained sweetly. “It’s just that my daughter told me that when we got this far, I should take my blood pressure pill.” (1)

That bus driver probably needed to take one, too!

Now that I am past 50 (and I won’t tell you how far), I’m beginning to realize that there are times my responses wear a little thin with the younger generation. I’ve often thought, “Hey … have a little patience!”

But then I remember that there were times as a youngster that I wasn’t all that patient with my elders.

Patience is a virtue, and it’s also valuable if we’re going to keep up effective communication with the older generation. In our culture, which is basically selfish and focuses on instant gratification, we have forgotten how to wait for precious things. This is especially true in our responses toward the elderly.

We need to keep these thoughts in mind:

  1. Age and illness brings decline in physical abilities, and this can affect a person’s hearing. The hearing in my left ear is already affected. I keep asking my husband, “What did you say?” I have to turn the television up or it sounds muffled. So when you’re talking to an older person, speak clearly and perhaps just a tad slower. It helps to face the person, too, so they see your lips moving.
  2. Be patient if a person doesn’t recognize you right away. Vision distortion or loss may frustrate an elderly person, and there’s no need to make the person feel worse.
  3. It’s not just the eyes and ears; sometimes an older person’s voice gets weaker. If they never enunciated well in the first place, now their voice may be even harder to understand.
  4. Memory loss ~ especially short-term memory loss ~ is to be expected to some degree as our friends and family grow older. Again, be patient.
  5. Don’t expect an older person to have your energy level. The Psalmist acknowledged that strength would wane (Psalm 71:9) Not every older person is weak. Some people have stronger stamina (I’m thinking that my friend Pam Farrel will probably be vigorous until she’s 100!) But be patient when a person gets tired. Keep visits short, unless the person sincerely encourages you to stay longer.

Beyond these areas for patience, think of ways to be kind to the elderly. For example:

Think of practical ways to share “things” with them that they need (especially widows, James 1:27), taking care not to offend their need for as much independence as possible. (For a note of discernment: 1 Timothy 5:3-4; 5:16)

Include them in some of your events, even if you have to adjust activities a bit to help them participate.

Older Woman_smilingHonor them ~ especially your “father and mother,” as the Bible says (Ephesians 6:2). Respect for elders pleases the Lord (Leviticus 19:32). Respect their values, even if you don’t agree with them. (see 1 Timothy 5:1a)

Allow them to share their thoughts and feelings, and the experiences of their lives. (This does not mean that Wise old black manyou need to encourage any attitudes of bitterness, anger, etc. Help them see a biblical perspective, if possible.) Allow them to reminisce, and affirm their value as a person.

Learn from their wisdom and knowledge.  There are rich rewards for those who wait patiently for older people to share what they have learned (Job 12:12). Ladies, older women can mentor you (Titus 2:3-5)  in ways you might not imagine.

Give them freedom to grieve over losses ~ deaths of loved ones and friends, loss of independence, losses in health and financial status, etc. At the same time, encourage them with the truth of scripture. (Note: if the grieving turns to social withdrawal, deep depression, or other harmful emotions, help the older person seek counseling or medical advice, if it is Grandma writingappropriate for you to do so.)

Help them see how they can declare God’s power to “the next generation” (Psalm 71:18). Suggest ways they can still be involved in Kingdom work.

Can you think of other ways to show kindness and patience toward those who are older than you? Do all you can to keep these relationships and communication strong.

Remember … someday (if not already) you will be one of the “Old Folks,” too!


Patience Listens

26 Jan

“Henry and his wife live in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Last week while listening to the radio, they heard the announcer say, “We are going to have 12 inches to 18 inches of snow today. You must park your car on the even numbered side of the street, so the snow plow can get through.”

Henry’s wife went out and moved her car.

A few days later while they were eating breakfast, the radio announcer said, “We are expecting 16 inches to 20 inches of snow today. You must park your car on the odd numbered side of the street, so the snow plow can get through.”

Henry’s wife went out and moved her car again.

The next week, they were having breakfast again when the radio announcer said, “We are expecting 18 to 24 inches of snow today. You must park…” ~ and then the electric power went out.

Henry’s wife was very upset, and with a worried look on her face she said, “Honey, I don’t know what to do. Which side of the street do I need to park on so the plow can get through?”

With great love and patience, Henry said, “Honey, why don’t you just leave it in the garage this time?” *

Love Listens pillowHas your spouse ever been that patient with one of your blunders? (Or was the patient one you?)

Patience is one of the characteristics of love (see I Corinthians 13:4a). For me (Dawn) as a married woman, “patience” includes my hubby Bob’s willingness to listen to me. Pam and her husband Bill understand this, too.

In their book, Marriage in the Whirlwind, the Farrels tell about a marriage discovery that included both patience and listening. Bill, a one-task-at-a-time fixer, struggled with Pam’s seemingly endless stream of ideas. “She pumps out ideas like sunshine,” Bill said, and she “uses new ideas to relieve stress.” But as Bill listened to her overwhelming list of ideas, Continue reading

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