Electronics Addiction: Another Leading Cause of “Busyness”

Dear Lindsey,

It is astounding that the same tools that multiply efficiency of time can steal it in equal magnitude.  I would say that life would be better if electricity were never used, but wouldn’t that make me a hypocrite as I type on my word-processor and you read on your computer?

Kevin DeYoung, in his book,  Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, lists several diagnoses causing busyness:

  • Trying to look good, instead of actually doing good. (and its close cousins: pride, Unknownpeople pleasing and perfectionism),
  • Trying to do more than what God expects me to do.
  • Not setting priorities…even in serving others.
  • “Kinderarchy”:  Freaking out about my kids.
  • Being addicted to technology.
  • Not resting enough.

Electronics Addiction

My last letter talked about overparenting and freaking out about my kids, but this one is more about freaking out over me….being addicted to technology.

Yes, I could say that the kids are the ones with the electronics problem. I took six teenagers for ten hours in a car last month, and I think I could count on my fingers the number of words they said to each other….with their mouths, anyway. It seems we are raising a silent generation – as their thumbs type the words (even while sitting next to each other in a car!) that we once verbalized.  I find it ironic though, that every time I want to say, “Put the phone down,” (which is an acceptable request in our house – any time) I have to stop myself from using my own phone first.

gadget-addictionDo I really think I am so “needed” that I cannot go a few hours without seeing if someone needs me on my phone? Do I think my children cannot survive minutes of my errand-running without having me on an electronic leash, able to be tugged at their beck and call?

Gone are the neighborly days in which I grew up, since neighbors are not as “used.”  When my brother, Tim, hit a baseball in the backyard that rearranged my brother Mike’s nose to be firmly planted into his eye, the neighbor (“my second mother,” we called her) came running with a role of paper towels before the injured one had even stopped running (and screaming). Those kind of neighborly bonding moments are gone! Why is it that broken noses in backyard baseball seem so much healthier than Snap Chat, video games and DISH? 🙂

When email first began its trend, I remember putting a tag at the end of my emails, “I check email on Friday afternoons only, so please be patient in awaiting a reply.”

WHAT?!

How did that ever work? Now, it seems perfectly legitimate for a coach to email a change in my kids’ 5:30 practice at 4:30!  Everyone assumes you are on the leash!  I had fourteen emails today, regarding soccer alone. Heaven forbid my family’s biannual dentist appointments come around, because – since I am the secretary and personal chauffeur of my four children – I get ten emails (two per child, and myself) reminding me, outside of the five identical texts and five automated phone calls… all to tell me about one appointment I had already put into my calendar six months prior – when the appointment was booked.  You’d think they are afraid that my family is so “busy,” we will forget the appointment!  And sometimes, we do.

Unknown-2My brain has become so accustomed to the fast pace of multi-tasking, that I can hardly sit for sixty seconds at a red light, without habitually grabbing my phone to check the few buzzes I missed since the last light. I mean, really: if I accidentally leave the house without my phone, I am shocked at how many times I reach for it (and notice only because it is not there). The old days of talking to the lady behind me in line have diminished into a world of looking at the top of her head, while she does the Smart Phone Slouch, as if sending approval for me to assume the same stance.

It has been proven that endorphins are released and produce a “high” when the phone buzzes or computer indicates, “You’ve got mail!”  It makes a subliminal desire for the same high if we go minutes without getting it.  (That must be why I miss my phone if I am without it for a nano-second.)

Last week, a baby whined in her car seat in a waiting room images-2where I sat. The mom typed away on her phone to who-knows-who while the little cry got a little more forceful.  I chuckled to myself, while I checked my own phone to see if my father in Colorado had taken his turn on Words with Friends. It is striking how a phone can eliminate the 1600 miles between my father and me… and yet distance the mom from her baby in the same room!

“We are now more wired than ever. Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that half of the study participants reported checking their email once an hour, while some individuals check up to 30 to 40 times an hour. An AOL study revealed that 59 percent of [some] users check every single time an email arrives and 83 percent check email every day on vacation.” (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/when-technology-addiction-takes-over-your-life)

It’s no wonder I feel so BUSY!

I would like to say I am going to commit to go back in time, and start square dancing in the barn with neighbors! Haha! I would first have to buy a barn and introduce myself to my neighbors – who might run from me if I were talking about square dancing!

Really, my goal is to utilize electronics to run life, not let electronics’ use run my life.

I want to keep electronics as tools I control – not the other way around, despite how difficult that is to actually live.

Unknown-3Maybe people who have the “phone basket” by the front door have good family dinners? Maybe those people who take forever to get back to me on email or text are actually living with the people in their house, and I should applaud it? Maybe it’s ok if my kid doesn’t have his own email to check at age seven?  After all, once the message-checking begins, it doesn’t end…forever!

“I had to apologize to God today, because I turned on my phone before reading my Bible,” a friend sharpened me as iron sharpens iron when she made this passing statement. How many times have quiet times, exercise, or my kids’ smiles been missed when I thought I needed to check “just one more thing” online?  I lightly enjoy Twitter and Facebook: I love hearing who had a baby, finding a tribute in memory of my friend, Jackie Lewis,  or seeing how many “liked” or “re-tweeted” my son’s April Fool’s joke on me. But the hourglass doesn’t stop dropping sand when I get distracted looking at the other threads completely unrelated to the priorities for my day!

images-3My husband has (brilliantly I might add) limited electronics’ use by our kids. It is easier to say “no” when they are four, than to try and backtrack on use when they are fourteen. If Google and Facebook limit the youngest age to be thirteen, it should at least flag more-conservative-than-the-Internet parents that maybe we should wait at least that long for them to get accounts.  (Besides, what is being taught when even parents use a fake birthdate to get their kid “around” the age rules?)  Really, our kids will have their own electronic leashes soon enough.  There is no right-of-passage back into childhood, so it is probably wise if parents choose to protect it.  Kids have the rest of their lives to live with the “electronic leash,” so there’s no harm in having “tween” years without its yoke!

We are affecting the next generation.

My 13-yr-old and I were discussing “maturity” and what it means, as I look for more symptoms of it in him. At one point, he answered, “It seems that ‘maturity’ means you check your phone more, and are more involved with emails.” He was serious in his observation of those “mature” older brothers and friends around him.

My daughter recently wrote an article for a magazine she created. Her random “creative writing,” had a point that was clear, especially since she (at age ten) is only on the outside of the electronic world, looking in.  Although I cannot say everyone can logistically apply her “one month” program, I thought it a fitting way to end this letter. (See her article, “Family Fun” below.)

Electronically your friend,

Terri

Romans 12:2:And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Related Articles

Family Fun

By Christine Brady

“Uh…a duck?” said Nate. The whole family laughed. Trivial Pursuit always had us giggling at the funny questions…and answers. Our family takes one month away from phones, iPods and computers. No e-mailing, texting or calling people…just family time. Nowadays, families need more time together…electronics are drawing them apart.

People who are always texting and e-mailing never really stop to look around them- to stare at the pretty clouds or to listen to the birds chirp sweetly.  My older brother got a FaceBook account and for a while, even he was distracted from the beautiful weather! Without phones and iPods, you would really appreciate the world around you.

Family time is very important. We learn to laugh, have fun, and we can forget bad things.  I think our family is the happiest of all when they take a month away from phones, iPods, computers and video games. For instance once I had a HORRIBLE ear infection that lasted from March to July.  July was our Un-plugged month, and I got distracted from my ear infection. Instead of hurting, my ear infection DISAPPEARED!!!! Family time is definitely important.

Families need more time together, and happier memories to look back at. I am encouraging YOU to take a month off electronics, as a test and see what happens. Do you want YOUR family laughing together? Simply take out electronics for a while! Trivial Pursuit is on its way…and so is lot of family fun!

A Disease Called Busyness

Dear Lindsey,

Having lunch with my 13-yr-old last week, I asked him a question of where he wanted to be in five years. What kind of person was he aiming to become?  Did he have goals for himself?

His answer surprised me, since he said that he wanted to be more like his older brother:

“Everyone likes Casey.  My [12-yr-old] friend, Zarec, said it best: ‘The reason Casey is so much fun is because he seems like he is really having fun when he is with you!’ Most teenagers aren’t like that. I guess I want people to feel that fun from me.”

He wasn’t envying his brother, but admiring a trait he’d like to emulate. I like it when my kids think. I don’t know if he realized that his thinking convicted me, but I realized how “not fun” I live some days of my life.

The culprit?

A Disease called Busyness.

I think it is amusing when I ask my kids a question like, “How many times have you flossed this week?” and my eight-year-old will say, “I haven’t had time.”

Haha!! If you don’t have time when you are eight?…

Don’t we each feel that way though – whatever we are doing seems important enough to feel BUSY?

As an engineer (before motherhood), I

  • drove 50 miles each way to work
  • worked in three plant locations involving travel
  • volunteered at church directing the children’s choir
  • sang in the adult choir, and filled in as accompanist at times
  • taught piano lessons on the side
  • picked up kids who needed a ride to church
  • played on a softball team 30 minutes from my house (part way to work)
  • played in a county band
  • made meals from scratch
  • worked out every day
  • flossed my teeth 🙂
  • stayed involved in elections, attended weddings and baby showers, traveled to out-of-state family, practiced instruments and other things that happened on a non-daily routine

I am sure you could make this list for yourself.

“It is not enough to be industrious, so too are the ants,” said Henry David Thoreau, “but what are you industrious about?”

For me, I have LOVED to be busy my whole life.   In highschool, my mother would continuously say (to my back as I was leaving the house), “You are burning the candle at both ends; it cannot last!”

I wore it like a badge.

My highschool yearbook looked like I was trying to be Jan Brady (or was it Marsha?) with all of my activities: Shakespeare Club, high school musical, jazz band, church plays, babysitting, softball teams, marching band, (county, district and state bands), Science Fair competitions, indoor drumline, National Honor Society, nursing home visitation, and winter ski club.

I could have sung the Veggie Tales song to any friend who asked for time, “I’m busy busy! Frightfully busy! You’ve no idea what I’ve got to do!”

But there are so many pitfalls to busyness!  A book, Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung inspired the following:

Pitfalls of BusynessPitfall3

  1. Makes us lose sight of direction.
  2. Robs our happiness.
  3. Masks our growing further from whom we were meant to be.

1.  Busyness makes us lose sight of  the direction we intended.

I like to list those activities of my engineering days, because it is clearly eclectic, and pointless for where I am today.  What was my goal?  We have twenty-four hours in our checking account to spend, 365 days a year. We cannot add to that number in any way. My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Romberger, taught me a valuable lesson on busyness, when she had us actually keep an account ledger of our time. We took a lined piece of paper, and labeled each line with fifteen-minute intervals of time. Then for one week, we were supposed to stop every fifteen minutes and write down what we were doing. I remember being shocked – even at that young age – of things which I had no intention of doing that took my time! (Maybe I should do this today? I cannot figure out what happened to my 11am to 2pm yesterday!!!) If we could look back at our account ledger for the last six months of time, we would likely be able to predict where we will be in five years!  Our hourly account ledger tells where we are headed. Does it have the direction we intended? It is “what we are industrious about” that matters.

2.  Busyness robs our happiness.

OffCliffRecently I had a day when I got miserably tired. You know the kind? Once my daughter, exhausted and teary at age seven said, “I am so tired, my heart has been at the edge of a cliff, and it just went over. Wah hah hah”– That kind of tired.

.

.

When my heart, “went over the edge,” I analyzed the day I had had:

  • I had gotten up early for a good workout and Bible time,
  • Then went to have coffee with a friend in need, arriving a little late.
  • I came home shortly and did some homeschooling work with the kids, then let them work on their own assignments while I
  • Volunteered playing piano at the high school where my oldest son attends.
  • I came home and paid the cleaning lady quickly before leaving in a hurry,
  • To drive my daughter to homeschool youth theatre practice, while eating lunch out of my lap.
  • I volunteered with music for that group for 2 hours
  • I came home in time to say hello to my teens before dropping them at the soccer carpool.
  • Making the family dinner took a little longer than expected, so I didn’t get to sit down.
  • I ate dinner from my lap while driving to an evening orchestra practice at church which I had been looking forward to.
  • I came home and the younger kids wanted me to read to them before bed, but
    • It was late
      • And I was tired.
        • Chris wanted to tell me about his ideas, and spend quality husband/wife time, but my body had had it!

I felt like saying, “Do you know the kind of day I have had?!!!”

Then I actually thought about the kind of day I had had:

  • I had started with exercise and quiet time in prayer.
  • I had spent time with my kids.
  • I had given of my time and talents in volunteer work.
  • I had played in an orchestra at church – a kind of worship for me, cleansing of my soul, once a week when my schedule allows.
  • I had eaten healthy – even from my lap – since I had prepared the meals.

That day would have been called “rest” back in my engineering days (and most of my “normal days” now), but clearly, the happiness had been robbed.

I ended too tired to read to my kids.

Volunteering had become a chore when it affected my meals!

Any of these events taken separately would have been a blessing, but all together, they were a strain.

A thief came in to rob my happiness through the door of my calendar.

The sad part is that most people have busyness robbing their happiness and they do not recognize the cause, only its effect.

3.  Busyness masks our decay.  

If we are not growing right, we are growing wrong!! There is no staying the same.

Growth in a specific direction takes specific intent for growth.   Growth in a bad direction takes no work at all.

If I want to be a healthy weight, it takes massive intent and work.

If I want to gain weight, it’s a piece of cake! (Pun intended! 🙂 )

Growing in a right direction requires tending to the calendar, not just riding along in an “unattended car”Keeping ourselves busy disguises itself as productivity, when in actuality it is often masking decay.

I believe this decay due to busyness is very evident in marriages:

Nobody plans for a marriage to decline to a status of “acquaintance management,” but lack of HappyCakeplanning is the root of the rot.   Personal busyness usually does not involve the spouse…who frankly has his/her own reason to be busy, leading him/her in different directions.  Our busyness often is exclusive of those who are closest to us, leaving what matters most in our hearts, out of our mind while we RUSH – often trying to serve the very ones we ignore. While we think we are working to get things done, things are becoming undone within us…as individuals and in our relationships.

Rest is not the antithesis of productivity.

“Tending” to our growth, personally or professionally, means we know when we need rest, too.  Rest can actually halt the decay cycle.  My husband wrote a whole book on the importance of rest! (Maybe I should rest from writing and read it again!  He says, “Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.” A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation.)  Rest allows time to think. Unscheduled time allows planning for the future.

If we have every minute filled with who we are, it will be difficult to find time to become who we are meant to be!

Leave space!!  Just because there is a blank in the calendar does not mean it needs to be filled!  (Okay, I am screaming, “Preach it, sister!” to myself in my head – because I am SO preaching to myself. I suppose I better close this letter before my “self” starts answering.)

One last note: According to author Bryan Caplan, secondhand stress is a leading complaint among kids.  In an “Ask the Children” survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than 1000 kids in grades 3-12, asking, “If you were granted one wish to change the way that your mother’s/father’s work affects your life, what would that wish be?”  Who could have guessed the kids’ answer would have involved their parents’ attitude?! When asked to “grade” their parents for “appreciating me for who I am, “ or “making me feel loved,” or even, “attending important events in my life,” the parents scored well. But “controlling his/her temper when I do something that makes him/her angry” got the worst marks on the parents’ report card! They feel our stress!

Okay, I do not remember that lady interviewing my kids, but wow! She might have been here. It’s not that I “blow up” at my kids. I have even worked on many systems to avoid the repetitive nagging. But, I often wonder if my kids are going to say my most commonly said word was, “hurry!”

I don’t want them to remember me as the “hurry!” mom. I want them to feel the fun I have with them.  I want them to remember me as the mom who loves them and who loves Jesus, and who stresses only in things eternal. I think my infliction with the Disease called Busyness may be masking my most important message…to my kids, to my husband and to myself.

To be continued,

Terri

Suggested Reading

Related Posts

Letters to Lindsey is now available in book form.  61pdoweizhL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Why is There a Dead Bird on the Air Hockey Table?

Dear Lindsey,

I got off to a start this morning. My oldest drove himself to school. The next three kids and I loaded into the car before Chris was even downstairs for breakfast. Off to the appointments we headed when I got a text from Chris that changed my day:

“Why is there a dead bird on the air hockey table?”photo_2

Stopped at a red light, I read the text aloud to the kids in the car, sure that my backseat held the culprits.

“[silence]”

Suddenly, the 13-yr-old in the front seat was stifling giggles that refused their restraint and started sneaking through his pursed lips in bursts.

Shocked, and trying to be strict, I subdued the humor of the text – but my own choked laughter (holding up my cup to hide my smile) led to the coffee-down-the-wrong-pipe-choke, so I prayed the light would stay red for a while as I tried to get oxygen.

That’s when the back seat spoke with remorse:

“We felt bad it died yesterday in the back yard, and we were going to bury it…”

“…But the dog was going to eat it…”

“… we couldn’t find the shovel…”

“…then Nate asked if I would throw football…”

“…and I didn’t want to have a funeral without people…”

“…and then we left for evening church in a hurry…”

At eight and ten-years-old, their voices are undistinguishable, so I couldn’t tell which Dead Birdone was talking when (and I was seriously just trying to breathe again), but I got the gist of their story. I only wish that Chris had not been the first to find the carcass: a messy house drives him crazy! Although I can’t think of too many people that are happy when they find a dead bird on the air hockey table.

Irresponsible!

They are not getting this “pick up after yourself” thing that I have been teaching since before they were born!

Oh my…I cannot put into words to even speak to these two right now. They know what they did was wrong!

That’s when my thoughts of frustration were interrupted by a protective (or perspective) mechanism:

  • Thank You, God, that we found the dead bird on the air hockey table today, and not next week when guests are here.
  • Thank You, God, that my kids have good hearts that had compassion for Your creation. (I am glad they were not ruined by my roadkilling a few years ago.)
  • Thank You for a 13-yr-old who was mature enough to see it wasn’t a life-threatening, eternal consequences moment (but that he stifled his laughter until the lesson was taught).
  • Thank You that they put the thing in the bug cage, so at least if it had bugs on it, they were contained in the cage…and I hope that means they didn’t actually touch the dead bird.
  • Thank You for creating the birds that we could fall in love with, even when we don’t know them.
  • Thank You that I didn’t choke to death. (And thank You that the choking reminded me to say thank You that I don’t have a brain tumor…as it always reminds me now.)
  • Thank You that my children will never bring a dead bird in the house again. (I believe.)
  • Thank You that I have children.
  • Thank You for the dead bird on the air hockey table that reminded me of so much for which I can be thankful.

I think it’s ironic… I was trying not to get too bent out of shape, so I made a list in my mind of what to be thankful for (my normal redirection mechanism), and I ended up being thankful for the exact thing I was trying to reframe: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

When Bad Things Happen

I think the point here is that this mechanism is applicable to bigger issues than dead birds on the air hockey table. When I go through bad times (This began during my years of massive headaches while I had young toddlers!), I have a protective mechanism of listing things (at least three each time!) for which I am thankful. It is ironic to me the number of times when I am listing thankfulness to distract me from a problem – and give me perspective – that the list goes all the way back to thanking God for the exact problem with which I started: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

I suppose one of these days, I will be able to skip the “Why?…” part and get to the “Thank You, God for even this,” faster.

A friend, Jane Zempel, spoke at my church recently about “contentment.” She told a story of figuring out what one thing is so bad in life that you would want God to change. What one thing would you get rid of? If you were granted only one thing about yourself you could change, what would it be?

“Now thank God for that one thing,” she said.  “It’s amazing how when I did this, I had to force the words ‘thank You,’ but once they were said, enough times, I realized I could believe it.”

She went on to say that when we believe that God is sovereign over all, we can say thank You for even the things we don’t want, because we recognize God has a plan in even them.

When her son came home from school in tears (again) at age twelve, being teased as a “retard” for having Down Syndrome, she taught him this lesson of saying, “thank You,” even for Down Syndrome, because God had a purpose in his life. She saw that purpose thirty years later when her son told a doctor what a “blessing” Down Syndrome was to him…and it changed the doctor!

When things are rough….

When we can’t change it all…

or when we can’t change even one thing…

Let us give thanks.

Make the list now. To what do we owe God “Thank You”?

What if you woke up today with only the things for which you said thank You yesterday?” – Peter Bonner

I am thankful for you!

In love,

Terri Brady

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1Thes 5:18

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  1Tim 6:6

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Phil 1:3

Related Posts

Unattended Vehicles

Para español, haga clic aquí (coming soon)

Dear Lindsey,

As we neared the fair grounds, the houses on the side streets had lawns decorated with parked cars. Big signs that said, “$10 parking” adorned their mailboxes at the road.

“Mom! Can we buy a house here? What a business asset the front yard would be!” Christine (age ten) said.  I can’t remember how I responded, but she concluded, “But I would only charge $9.”

Such an entrepreneurial-kid! (Thanks to Robert Kiyosaki’s books.)

The NC State Fair has become a family tradition that began two years ago: It was then that our newly arrived 10-week-old puppy was too new to be left at home, so she rode along.  Her presence only increased the excitement in the car (which didn’t need more excitement!) on our debut to the event. The State Fair, advertised to us for its deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies, (as if they needed hot oil to add to that “nutrition”!) with rides (which didn’t pass the two engineer-parents’ safety factor), stilt-walkers, Blue Grass bands, and the like, was sure to be a fun family day. Our children floated in excitement, while we tried to contain them in the Ford Expedition for the thirty-minute ride to the state capital’s fair grounds. My husband Chris opted for the N.C. State University football stadium parking lot with shuttles, instead of someone’s front lawn.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of cars were neatly arranged in diagonal rows. A yellow-vested worker guided us to the next relatively empty section, where Chris took the liberty of choosing a spot further away from all of the opening car doors.   Our truck’s doors opened like an explosion, opposite of the slow speed by which our children (and dog) unloaded. Chris came to my side of the car, barking out the normal arrival parental questions: “What’s taking so long to get out?!” “Why would you take your shoes off for such a short ride?” “Did you even bring shoes?”

Chris was bent over helping the youngest (age six at the time) tie his shoes, when suddenly the tone and urgency in his voice changed.

“HEEEYYY!” he yelled at a Toyota Corolla that slowly went by, barely missing Chris’s foot!

That’s when he and I noticed there was no driver in the car!

Some people, who were assumedly already riding the shuttle to the fair, had walked away, leaving their car in neutral.  The car was left on its own, silently drifting through a parking lot of families, heading for sure disaster. It was going slowly enough that Chris grabbed the door of the driver’s side, only to discover it was locked. Emergency mode was striking my heart as I tossed the puppy back into the truck and told the kids to sit tight. I ran alongside the passenger door of the runaway, realizing it too was locked. Our comfortable jog was becoming more of a sprint as the car, going slightly downhill, gained speed. Realizing there was no way to stop the car, (My heart is racing at the memory, just typing this.) Chris began focusing on trying to save the people in its path. “UNATTENDED CAR!” he yelled from his jog. Somehow I felt the need to translate the words for the average fair go-er, and I began yelling from my side, “HEEEYYYY! GET OUT OF THE WAY! THIS CAR HAS NO DRIVER! THIS CAR CAN’T STOP! GET OUT OF THE WAY!”

(Yes. My poor husband has taken much heat in our humor-filled family for his best-selling-author-ish choice of words, “unattended car!” since we were in a parking lot…full of “unattended cars.” But, I digress…)

A family, standing outside of their Jeep Cherokee (probably asking their kids where their shoes were), jumped out of the way before the silent killer passed. Fortunately, there were not many people in the path of the car, since it entered the parking section that had been filled hours earlier. We ran beside the car, yelling and working up a sweat, as it coasted to its final destination – crashing into a Honda Accord whose owners would be in for a not-so-fair ending to their day at the fair. Unattended Vehicles will be Towed at Owners Expense Sign-228x228

Unattended Lives

Driving away and laughing that day, thankful to have avoided what could have been a serious situation, I wondered how many times my life has been like the unattended Toyota Corolla. I have strolled through days (or years!) in neutral, allowing the grade of incline of my surroundings to determine my speed and destination.

  • The time at a job I just kept doing, afraid to change anything…
  • The times I was in a crowd of ladies, and I just kept listening, avoiding disagreement…
  • The times I allowed smoke from a conflict to be seen in the distance, without checking on the source of the fire…
  • The time I was done with college and said, “Yay! Now I never have to read another book!”

When we look around, “unattended lives” abound:

  • People who worship their dog or TV, rather than learning how to get along with others.  (Even the bumper stickers quip, “The more I know people, the more I like my dog.”)
  • Families who have never made an effort to keep a budget call out “unfair!” at anyone who has money.
  • Millions who stopped their learning once the government stopped requiring it (when they turned 16) and still get to vote.
  • Married people who think that because they wear a ring, they deserve loyalty from their spouse, so they no longer strive to please the one they married.

IMG_0431It makes me sad to see their vehicles plodding along, doomed to crash.  Unfortunately, innocent bystanders will have to deal with the ramifications of the crashes due to those “unattended lives.”

.

Attending to Life

How do we get life out of neutral?

Learning a little Latin and Greek with my homeschoolers has brought word meanings to mind: some for real, and some I just totally make up. (smile!) However, I did learn somewhere in there that “a” is put at the beginning of words to mean “opposite of.” So therefore, “attending to” would mean the opposite of “tending to.” In other words, the only way to make our lives go in the opposite direction of their fleshly tendencies (sin, laziness, etc.) is to attend to them.

An “attended life” is one in which someone…well…has the car in gear!

Someone who:

  • Determines a direction in which to aim, and then runs toward it. (Run the race set before us, to obtain the prize in Christ Jesus! Heb 12:1 )
  • Reads the right books, listens to audios and associates with people who are directionally correct.  (And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. – Heb 10:25)
  • Understands that education is a lifetime adventure. As Orrin Woodward says, “Education is a lifetime assignment. It expires when we do.” https://twitter.com/Orrin_Woodward

Don’t get me wrong; life has many crashes, that are “accidents,” too. I would be wrong to say all bad outcomes are because we let go of the wheel. We cannot control negative outcomes, only our efforts toward positive ones.  As my father always taught me, “Do your best; angels can do no more.”  Too often, I have looked at the smoke rising from a crashed day in my life and thought, “I could have avoided that.”

Press On

I suppose in order to drive, we must press on the pedal. 🙂

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” – Phil 3:12

“An unattended car may be dangerous, but an unattended life can be tragic.” – Chris Brady. https://twitter.com/RascalTweets

To paraphrase Ann Graham Lotz, “It’s painful to watch a Christian who has a saved soul, but is living a wasted, [unattended] life.”

Press on [the pedal], my dear friend!

Terri Brady

Related Posts

The Book is Here!

Introducing: Letters to Lindsey in book form!

61pdoweizhL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Thanks to my husband’s initiative and his incredible, creative team; thanks to you who requested it; and thanks to the late Russ Mack who persistently encouraged it: Letters to Lindsey (the book) is available! With a foreword by Laurie Woodward and introduction by my best-selling husband Chris, let the stories begin! The chronicled journeys through infertility and the brain tumor survival,  tea parties and fishing trips, along with enflamed underwear (size 4T) on a chandelier are all decorated with my kids’ cute quotes in Post-It note form.  It’s a short read, a long read or anything in-between. So curl up with a blanket in front of the fire, make some fresh popcorn and hot chocolate, (or just go to the beach!) and relish some quiet reading time as you laugh with me, cry with me, and grow with me!

Enjoy!

-Terri Brady

image copy

image

Readers (you!) in line for book-signing in Milwaukee, WI.

Finding a Character to Marry, Part Three

Previous Posts on this topic:

Dear Lindsey,

There was a story of a guy and girl who were newlyweds and went to the bedroomimages-2 the night of the wedding.  She sat down on the bed and removed her heels and nylons.  Opening a drawer, she put in her glasses.  She then continued and took off her eyelashes, putting them in the drawer. She took off some special padding, a hairpiece, and a girdle and put them in the drawer too. Her Invisalign, her Spanx, and other paraphernalia filled the drawer. The man looked, stunned at what was left of who he thought he had married and said, “Maybe I should just make love to that drawer!”

My single girlfriend, be the REAL YOU, and your man will love YOU after you are married. Be sure that your real beauty cannot be taken off, or put into a drawer. Make your real beauty shine. (1Pet 3:3)

Summary of FInding a Character to Marry:

–                Be God crazy. (Part Zero)

–                Be someone with character of Christ, worthy of being married. (Part One)

–                Be the best YOU you can be and the right spouse will find you at the right time, just as God intended all along.  (Part Two)

Questions some may be asking:

Q:  WHAT IF I am already married, and now reading these articles, I feel like I have made a mistake in the spouse I chose. (This is my least favorite question to answer here.)

A:  The Bible is very clear: Do not divorce because your spouse does not follow Christ:

1Co 7:12-13 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.

Yet, we can trust that God has a plan for every day (even the ones that don’t make sense to us)!  Trust in Him and not your understanding, and He will direct even you. (Prov. 3: 5-6) You never know what the Lord will do with your marriage – and your unbelieving spouse – through your testimony of peace and loyalty in Christ. They may be won over, without words, by the purity and reverence of your life.  (1 Peter 3:1-6)

Q:  WHY would you write to singles, when you are so “happily married after twenty years”?

A:  Honestly, I feel for singles today! When I struggled with the pain of infertility, I remember feeling like singleness had so much in common with it – waiting while others around me seemed to have what I wanted, and wondering why God didn’t want that for me. In addition for singles, the pull against the Word of God and His direction is so evident in the media today, and therefore it is probably evident in the lives of many singles across the country. I want to put my arms around you and tell you that you are not alone. You CAN glorify God as a single. There is more to life than volleyball and beer, so don’t feel like you have to succumb to that in order to find your future spouse. God DOES have a plan. Do the right thing, and don’t act out of fear that it won’t happen unless you…do the wrong thing, quickly. There are other singles reading this right now who wish they could find YOU. Be ready!  What if you took advantage of being single while you can? Read good books for becoming all God meant for you to be? Dived into serving others who are in need, before your family needs you full-time? Worshipped with no time-limit of hungry kids to feed?

Then one day, right in the middle of finding joy in being single, your spouse will come into your life, carrying you to the next season. It is amazing how the Lord works; believe it!

Q:  So WHAT IF the last decade of my life has been spent with no evidence of the character of Christ?

A:  Jesus knows. Repent, (Ask Him for forgiveness and correct your ways) and surrender your life to Him by praying. Romans 12:1 says you can. He WILL forgive!

Q:  WHAT IF all that purity stuff is too late for me?

A:  Start anew. Ephesians 4:22 says, “Move out.” According to the Bible, it is never too late! We can repent, be forgiven to the point of “white as snow” again. (Isaiah 1:18)  All have sinned. (Romans 3:23) Your sin, in God’s eyes, will not be considered worse than anyone else’s (even your mother’s! 🙂 ). (James 2:10) “Secondary abstinence” is probably more difficult, but oh how it must please the Lord to see your new commitment to Him. Find a local church for support in your new life.

Q:  WHAT IF my parents would prefer I “court” instead of “date”?

A:  Praise God you have parents who care so much! Honor them, and be blessed!

Q:  WHAT IF I am not sure of God’s will for dating, courting, marriage, singleness, my life in general?!

Welcome to the world of “faith not sight”! (2Cor 5:7) To quote the book, Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung, (which I highly recommend you read!):

“We must denounce our sinful desire to know the future and to be in control. We are not gods. We walk by faith, not by sight. We risk, because God does not risk.” (p. 48)

“We should spend more time trying to figure out how to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God as instructed in Micah 6:8 as a [single] and less time worrying about whether God wants us to be [married].” (p. 45)

“The better way is the biblical way: Seek first the kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we are going.” (p.26)

HERE’S OUR STORY:

Chris and I met in a college class, “Real Time Computing in the Laboratory.” Oh the geeky life I led!

At the end of graduation, it was as though everyone (including myself) was expecting me to have a ring, but Chris was clearly not ready. He often talked about taking a year off of work to thrive at being single. He wanted to travel the world before the world was depending on him, so to speak.

I understood; he has always been a Rascal (the appropriate title for a book he wrote).

I waited.

I knew how badly I wanted it, because my night-time dreams involved him poppingimages-1 the question:  One night in my sleep, Chris proposed to me using a plastic “mood” ring. In the dream, when I hesitated in shock over the type of ring, he quickly switched to another…and another…and another. “You don’t like it? Do you like this one better?” he said, nervously showing me another ring of many colors out of his pocket. In his typical fashion (even in my dream), he had me laughing out loud, and telling him, “I love it,” with every one, but when he took out the sixth one (a pearl – Finally! One color!) I yanked it from him and said, “It’s perfect!”

When we had parted after graduation, my job offer was in Dayton, Ohio, four hours from Chris in Michigan, but soon after I was transferred to Fredericksburg, VA:  twelve long hours of driving from the boy of my dreams. Five months out of college, and I was antsy. I felt like guys in the apartment complex were interested in going out, and I was always staying home alone, while my heart was in Michigan.  I was tired of waiting for Chris to decide whether I was the one. I was tired of not allowing myself into the social life of young-twenties, since I was serious about the Michigan boy.  I was beginning to wonder if I had an idol of my heart in Chris that was actually taking me away from Christ. I wanted to be married that badly.

I could stand it no longer. I was resolved to break off the dating relationship. We had plans to meet for an October weekend in Pittsburgh, our college town and basically the half-way point between Michigan and Virginia. A fall sinus infection was threatening to steal my weekend, but I tried to think clearly despite the medicine. As I drove the six hours, I cried and put words together to cut our strings and let Chris go.  I surrendered to God’s plan, since it clearly wasn’t for us to be married, or Chris certainly would have asked by now. I got a peace about being single. I dreamed of youth groups I would help; children to whom I would be a “Big Sister.” I surrendered my marriage dream to God’s timing.

I arrived at the designated meeting place, and saw his white S-10 pickup, with the red striped sticker down the side. My pulse quickened! As he got out of his truck, his smiling eyes seemed to scream across the parking lot to my own. I should have known the depth of those dimples was foreshadowing the ones I see in my own kids today. His joy in seeing me melted my heart into a formation that has not left. There was NO WAY I was breaking up with that man that weekend, but I had agreed to be surrendered to God’s timing.  I was at peace with singleness*.

We spent the day throwing football at Schenley Park, a favorite place of ours near our Alma Mater, Carnegie Mellon.  The next night, we took the incline – a trolley car that rides a track up the side of Mt. Washington for a glorious overlook of the city of Pittsburgh – where it had all begun on one of our first dates, two years prior.  When we departed the train, Chris grabbed my hand and seemed to race to the top of the mountain to the overlook platform. Unfortunately, my sinus infection had taken any oxygen that was left after the altitude had had its share.

“All I want is Nyquil and a pillow!” I famously said as he hurried me along, not seeming to care.

We stood out on the cantilever deck with the $0.25 binocular views, and he put his arm around me, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a ring box.

My heart skipped. NOW? Had I thought about this? SERIOUSLY? He’s going to propose?  Right after I was going to give it up?! Was I SURE what I was going to say? Was I READY? Did God give me THIS so soon after I had surrendered it?

He opened the box, and my heart stopped beating when he revealed a costume jewelry piece, similar to the mood ring toy I had seen in my dream (which I had previously shared with Chris).

“Haha! You thought I was going to ask you something, didn’t you?!” He laughed.

I fought myself to force a laugh, but this was not funny.

I turned my head toward the city lights as the crisp October air chapped my face.

Would he ever understand? This isn’t a humorous time of my life. I am serious and he is not. But I am content to wait. “Really, God, I will wait contently” I silently prayed.

“So you want the real one?” he said to my back as he reached into his pocket and revealed another case. This one looked like a crystal cube, in much contrast to its black plastic predecessor.

He got down on one knee, and my emotional roller coaster began the click-click climbing back to the top.

“Terri Estes, I love you with all my heart.”

(Cue the tears.)

“I know I said I wanted to travel the world before I settled down; but then I realized, I really would rather do that WITH you.  I want to spend our lives together. Will you marry me?”

(I said, “yes.”)

images

How will you know it’s the right one?

When you love something, let it go (to God).  If it comes back to you, (meets you in Pittsburgh and proposes like your dream), it’s yours (and His will) and if it doesn’t, it never was. (smile)

In God’s timing.

According to His plan.

Delight yourself in Him, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4)

In love,

Terri

In all things, at all ages, single or married, we can give thanks and delight ourselves in Him and indeed be blessed. (Ps 37:4)

Recommended Reading:

Previous Posts on this topic:

Finding a Character to Marry, Part Two

How to Find a Spouse

Dear Lindsey,

In the previous two Letters, Part Zero and Part One, we have been discussing “How to find a spouse,” featuring advice from Pastor Stephen Davey.  If Dr. Stephen Davey had a list of things to DO, then Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a former radio talk show host who often took calls from listeners expressing their dating woes, had a unique list of Don’ts in her book, Top Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess up Their Lives. Using brash terms like stupid, 51Xwh+JmslL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_“Dr. Laura” holds nothing back as she allows single women to learn from the mistakes of others. Although my milder personality would probably choose a softer term, I kept the word stupid in this Letter, as I summarized her list.  For the most part, her book says that finding your identity in someone else (and I would add: someone other than Christ) puts your happiness in someone else’s control, and never ends well.

Dr. Laura’s Ten Stupid Things:

Stupid Attachment 

If you feel like a spouse is the answer to all of your woes, you are heading for disappointment.  Overly-attaching yourself to someone is often the number one reason that someone wants to become unattached! Fast!

images-8When my daughter Christine was 2-yrs-old, my little butterfly loved attention of her three buffalo brothers. Once while buckled into her car seat in the third row of our Ford Excursion, she asked Casey (then age 9) to sit next to her. He said he wanted to sit one row forward, so he could more easily exit when we arrived at his practice. She broke into tears and wailed to me, hoping my ears in the front seat would recognize her desperation two rows behind me.  “Mooooooommmmy!!!! Casey won’t make me happpppyyyyyy!” she sobbed.

Let’s all have a moment of prayer for Christine’s future husband.

OK.

Seriously, attaching our happiness to anyone else is a perfect recipe for perfect unhappiness. Become the best unattached YOU, [bringing glory to God]. Have dreams; forge a purpose; have an identity; make a commitment to things outside of yourself. You can only become the best spouse by becoming the best YOU first.

This principle doesn’t end once a woman puts on a ring.  (Read “The Needy Queen” in a previous letter, The Bad Queens for how “attachment” looks within marriage.) Becoming the best YOU, aligned with Christ, will make you a better wife, because that is the One with Whom your husband should be aligning as well.  (2 Cor 6:14 says that believers in Christ should only be yoked with believers in Christ.)

 

Stupid Courtship

If you are dating a jerk, now’s the time to leave him. In Dr. Laura’s words, “You don’t have to settle; you can SELECT!” (Emphasis mine)

You are worth it!

When I was in high school, I had a suitor, who quickly became a stalker with a side of creepy when I didn’t share his admiration in reverse. What began as love notes and personally recorded songs sent through the mail, quickly became threatening phone calls and eventually mystery hang-ups. (Before the inventionimages-6 of caller ID, he would call my house, ask for me, and then hang up as soon as I got to the phone.)  Once I cracked the case of the mystery phone-hang-up artist, my older brother called the guy and told him the familiar poem of the 70’s: “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn’t come back to you, it never was.” Except, my big brother, … in my defense, … being the sweet, protective big brother he is, …said in a threatening tone, “If you love something, let it go. If she comes back to you, she’s yours. If she doesn’t, and you call again, I will hunt you down and rip you apart with my bare hands.”  The suitor never called me again.

I think “stupid courtship” is coming back to someone when you shouldn’t.

 

Stupid Devotion

This one seems so simple:  if a situation is self-defeating, then leave it.  When you have a dream, a defined purpose and a calling, and your significant other is defeating that, it is probably defeating “the you” that God meant you to be. 

 Don’t be devoted to self-defeat.

A true future spouse will be devoted to that which you are devoted, so be sure your devotions are worthy of …um…devotion.

Bryan Heath has a song that says, “I am not my family tree.” You have incredible, God-given value, and nobody –particularly a future spouse – should be trying to convince you otherwise.  Your past (or your family’s past) does not have to determine your future; Dr. Laura says it this way: “History is not destiny.” Your choice in a spouse matters.

 

Stupid Passion

Things happening in the premarital bedroom (or backseat of a car) are not love.   How do I know? Ask any man who has ever paid for “passion”. Why would someone pay for it? Because it feels physically good – not because it increases a relationship with the one he paid.

OK, some will argue it is not all lust, some is expressing love; but it is all against God’s Law. To really spell L-O-V-E, let him show you he loves you enough to preserve you for the wedding night. Show him you love him enough to treat his body as a beautiful temple deserving respect. Express love to each other by waiting.

In this day, movies and daytime television advertise premarital activity as not only acceptable, but expected.  I saw one recently that said, “Wait until the third date.”  The “third date”???!!!!!

images-1

“They” say it is respectable if you wait to go to bed together on the THIRD DATE?!!!!

I hope you didn’t just argue, “Oh good, I’m not THAT bad; I wait until the fifth.”

.

The Bible says differently. It clearly says, “Wait until the wedding night.”

How is that possible in this day and age? While the world says, “No way!” God says, “You can do anything through Christ who gives you strength.” (Phil 4:13)

Stay strong, and your marriage will be too!

 

Stupid Cohabitation (Living Together Without Marriage)

images-4

Statistics show that unmarried couples living together ARE NOT LIKELY to stay together once they are married.  Wow. THAT is worthy of repeating:

Statistics show that unmarried couples living together ARE NOT LIKELY to stay together once they are married.

 So if this letter is How to Find a Spouse, then statistically, STAY IN SEPARATE RESIDENCES. 

This mistake is related to all of the mistakes listed above:

  • Stupid Attachment (You will lose yourself when living with him);
  • Stupid Courtship and Stupid Devotion (You are less likely to do the right thing if it is breaking up, if you are sharing a residence with him.);
  • Stupid Passion (How do you stop from eating the chocolate cake if you see it out all the time?)

Living together is tempting when it “makes sense” financially. It’s ironic to me that people, even Christians, will make this argument. Yet, they would never rob a bank, even though that might make sense for their “financial benefit” – because they recognize that stealing is wrong according to God’s law.

So is sleeping together before marriage! Ugh!

Living together makes it easy for someone to become dependent on someone else.

Living together, statistically doesn’t lead to a good marriage.

If someone doesn’t want to continue dating unless they can “take the car on a test drive,” then go ahead and lose the relationship. It is likely that you would have lost it for other reasons anyway even if you had slept with him, but then you would have been the used car, and you are worth more than that.

 

Stupid Expectations

If someone is a controlling person, you can expect him or her to continue to be controlling.   A wedding ring doesn’t change someone’s personality, so your expectations for after marriage should be about the same as who he/she was before marriage.

I remember dating someone who gave me my every wish. What Terri wanted, Terri got. It was heavenly…for a while. Then it went from heavenly to heavy.  The pressure of being the rudder of “our” ship was too much, although I didn’t recognize the problem at the time.

Later, when dating Chris, things were quite different. He was attending graduate school on a full fellowship with a monthly stipend, and I was living on Ramen Noodles and cold Spaghettios. I felt like he was rich!  Our date night was my “princess” night!

Then one day Chris pointed out the bill. Really? My date showed me the bill and questioned why it was so high?! At first, I was embarrassed for him that he would be such a slave to money. (Oh, the irony of my blindness is killing me here – but I will share anyway.) He went on to say that he loved our time together, but wondered if we could do it without the appetizers, specialty coffees and desserts sometime?

images-9

Some who have heard my husband speak on leadership have said he can punch you across the face, and somehow make you laugh and follow his way. I think that night I got “punched.”  Inside, I was embarrassed that I had been a burden on his budget. But be still, butterflies of my soul! I fell madly in love with the man who would be so strong as to control the rudder of our ship. His courage to stand up to me (on something with which I could only agree!) made a pattern for much resolution in our marriage.  Oh how I pity the woman who has no rudder speaking truth to her.

 

Stupid Child Conception

images-7“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!” I sang hundreds of times in the jump rope game of my youth. The song’s principles are not always the case these days.

Somewhere around the age of six, I remember visiting a family friend in the hospital. By chance, we ran into one of my father’s other friends from work, whose teenage daughter had just given birth. In my youthful state, I stared at the young girl and innocently asked my dad, “Where’s the baby’s daddy?”

He looked down with sad eyes and said, “There is no dad.”

In my little mind that day, I had decided that God had made a mistake. I feared for my 6-yr-old-self, (checking my belly to make sure it wasn’t growing) worried that the mistake could happen to me too.  Obviously time and education wiped the cover of innocence from my eyes and I eventually figured out the truth of who was making the mistakes.

The term, “baby daddy,” of the 2000’s was coined because of so many conceptions out of wedlock. (Or would those be misconceptions?)  Careless women and men, who don’t pay attention to some of Dr. Laura’s other listed “mistakes”, will end up in this situation.  Unfortunately, or ridiculously, some women will become pregnant out of wedlock ON PURPOSE trying to get a marriage commitment. Entrapping a daddy, thinking this will change him is as bad as it gets; it’s like risking the life of a child for your own selfish desires to be married.  It only multiplies the number of unhappy people in the house.

Be responsible.

 

Stupid Subjugation, Stupid Helplessness and Stupid Forgiving

Some direct quotes from Dr. Laura’s book on these last three “mistakes”:

“If your someone abuses you, it’s over.images-5

It is the saddest thing when someone won’t stop trying to get love from someone who is abusive and offensive to him/her.  Some women will use the “any dad will do” excuse to stay with bad men in bad situations. A NO dad home is better than an abusive dad home.”

Be strong and courageous, for the Lord thy God is with you. (Josh 1:9)

Until we “part” again (in Part Three),

Terri

Related Articles:

Recommended Reading:

Finding a Character to Marry (How to Find a Spouse)

Note: This is a re-post of Part I on the subject, “How to Find a Spouse“. Since the topic was visited yesterday, with “Part Zero,” the article below is being republished for the purpose of sequentiality.

Dear Lindsey,

Chris and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary in May!  Yes, I got married when I was 10!

Chris and I attending a wedding

I thought it would be fun to write a note about “how to find a spouse,” but when I told Chris, he said, “How can you write about that subject, when there is only one as perfect as I am, and you already got me?!” Ha! Yes I do!

Truth be told, Chris was not the first man to propose to me. When I was a young intern at General Motors, every day when I returned from work to my 2nd floor apartment in Sandusky, OH, a man was waiting in the parking lot. He would watch for my car, and then follow me to my place, shouting to my back, “Will you marry me? Please?!”

Having had a previous run-in with a stalker, I was always cautious when I lived alone. I added locks to keep even the landlord from being able to enter without my permission when I was home. In the balcony’s sliding glass door track, I put a long, 1-inch-diamter metal dowel that would prevent the door from sliding if the lock gave way.

When home after work one day, I put on my bathing suit and headed through that sliding glass door to my deck for some sun. I stepped out onto my balcony and slid the door closed behind me. Unfortunately, the rod slid down into the track as I pulled the door shut, locking me out onto my own deck. I stood out there in a bathing suit that was reserved for privacy of a 2nd floor fenced balcony and wondered who would hear my voice from my perch.  I scanned the area, and the only person within earshot was the man who wished to be my fiancé! I decided I would die of starvation on that deck before I would ever climb down in front of him, or ask him for help.

Haha!

Had I climbed down from there, maybe that would have been one way to gain a spouse. But that is not the way I am advocating in this Letter.

How to Find a Spouse

Tony Robbins suggests that you don’t marry someone until you know how he or she will react when: angry, sick, tired or wet. So I suppose you could ask your perspective spouse on a date to get something to eat, then drive around lost, delaying the meal, almost wrecking and drop him/her off in a big puddle in front of a sprinkler system to see the reaction. If you survive the night, you have found a fiancé! Luckily Chris didn’t choose that route.

When I searched online for “how to find a spouse,” there were many answers – which provided mere entertainment for me. Wikipedia, which is a website of “majority of opinions,” provided solutions, some of which were:

–       Make a list of at least 15 things you want, physical features, etc. Then determine which ones you are willing to give up as less important and compromise.

–       “If you cannot picture self with this person and being happy with them for 30/40 years, then they are not the right person for you. Take marriage seriously to avoid divorce.”

–       “Go over your list and see what a person would see in you. If you want to marry someone with money, a rich person with any sense won’t take up with someone who is overly motivated by wealth; therefore, get your finances in order so that you aren’t desperate, can show that you know how to deal with money, and won’t be disappointed (at least not financially) by a prenuptial agreement.”

–       Watch out. Probably not a good spouse if they have one of these red flags: 1. Can’t get their driver’s license, 2. Can’t hold a professional job. 3. Didn’t complete their college degree.

Or my favorite funny WIKI answer:

–       “You don’t have to jump into bed with everyone you date to know if they are compatible.”

(WOW, I’m glad someone shared that!)

Further search online revealed an actual mathematical calculation for how to find a spouse.

Calculus Horribilus

In an article entitled, “How to Find a Spouse: A Problem in Discrete Mathematics with an Assist from Calculus,” Dan Teague states:

If there are N candidates, how can you maximize the probability that you select your best match?

Strategy: Date k people without making a selection. Then, select the first person judged to be better than any of the first k.

We want to find the value of k (relative to N) that gives us the greatest probability of selecting from the best spouse for among the N potential choices.

…The probability of success settles down as k increases to approximately 0.368 as well. Using this process, we find that we can be successful in selecting the best from a group of N by letting approximately 37% of the available positions go by then selecting the first choice better than any seen before about 37% of the time. And this is true no matter how large N is! This is a strikingly high probability. Using this process, you can select the best out of 5000 almost 37% of the time, by letting the first 1839 go by and then selecting the first choice better than any of those 1839.

So, in essence, date 1,839 people, and break up with them. Then choose the next one you like better than the first 1,839 and you may have found your spouse.  This article also suggests to students that marrying your high school sweetheart is not a particularly good strategy, so don’t get too serious too soon. “Go out with a number of people to see whom you like and who likes you. Then make your choice.”

Wow! I guess Chris and I REALLY beat the odds, because he was a number less than 1,839!

Ruth BookPastor Stephen Davey has different (and more helpful!) advice for looking for a spouse. In Chapter 7 of his book,  Ruth (when Fairytales Come True), he says that there are no Bible verses that tell how to find a mate or biblically fall in love. I personally saw some methods in the Bible though: like God making a mate for a guy (Adam) out of one of his ribs (Genesis 2:22). Or having your dad send one of his servants to find you a mate working at the well (Genesis 24). Or maybe this one: work seven years to earn the right to marry your mate’s older sister, then work another seven years to earn the right to marry the one you really wanted (Genesis 29)!

OK, I jest. I am not suggesting those methods, but they seem easier than some of the methods I have heard people share!

Twenty-five percent of couples today meet online. Out of those, it is estimated 90% are lying about something on their profile.  Guys tend to lie about income or current marital status (ouch!), while ladies are more likely to gloss over their physical attributes or their age, according to Davey’s book.

Many singles are trying to speed the process by developing more than one online relationship at a time!

So really, what is more godly: using an online dating service or your dad sending his servant to the nearest well to see if there are any chicks hanging out there? My answer: both are allowed by God…IF you do the right thing, and do not act in fear. (Lying, for example, is acting in fear –  doing the wrong thing for fear the right thing will take too long).  However, as Davey rightly cautions: wherever the meeting, online or at the well, it should be for introduction purposes only.

He continues by saying that the search for a mate shouldn’t be so much about looking for someone compatible – someone like you – as it should be about looking for someone with character – someone like Christ.   “Looking” for a spouse and “waiting” for a spouse are two different actions. If you feel led to “wait” instead of “look,” then by all means wait! God has a plan for the character you will marry!  The following still applies:

Davey has a “checklist of character traits,” that I thought worthy of sharing here. After all, I think this should trump WIKI’s opinion!  This list is not only that which you would be seeking in a future spouse, but also one you should strive to emulate while you are waiting.

As John Maxwell says, we attract that which we are.

Checklist of Character Traits:

Spirituality :

  • If looking for a Christian mate, your search should begin with looking for conversion. Is their Christianity a secret? If they treat Christ dishonorably, they are more likely to do the same to you.
  • Is it a secret?
    • Does your prospective spouse talk about God?
    • Does he/she want to please Him?
    • Does he/she encourage you to follow His ways?
    • Have you ever seen his/her Bible?
    •  A common love for the Lord can erase all other compatibility issues.
  • Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

Humility

  • “I can’t believe you chose me!” should be his/her attitude.
    • Even after twenty years of marriage, I still feel this attitude from my husband, Chris…and I really can’t believe he chose ME!
  • While a common love for the Lord can erase compatibility issues, a common love for SELF will destroy any relationship.

Priority

  • What matters most to him/her?
  • What does he value most in you – and is it something that you value as well?
    • If Chris had told me it was
      • my potential salary
      • my body
      • my hair
      • my common love for football and ability to throw it
    • I would have realized it was TEMPORARY admiration
  • What your perspective spouse values most will be what he/she values in you and even your kids after marriage, so his/her priorities MATTER.
  • Priorities matter when judging character

Honesty

  • Has your perspective mate been truthful about things, even if it has the potential of ruining the party?
    • Former relationships?
  • Have you seen him/her tell “little white lies?” without guilt?
    • Calling in sick for work
    • Fudging numbers to the landlord
  • No matter how it seems different, if you are the witness to lies, you are likely to be on the other side of a lie one day.
  • If you want an honest spouse, then honesty will be displayed before marriage.
  • If you want honest children one day, then marry an honest spouse.
  • I guess the only real candidates for your spouse should be those who are “candid dates.”
  • (OH, By the way, I did NOT get married when I was 10. I just felt I needed to clarify that lie right now. 🙂 )

Accountability

  • To whom does your perspective mate submit?
    • His drinking buddies?
    • Her girlfriends?
    • You?
      • If your only accountability is each other, you will be like a ship floating at sea with no rudder. You will be lost.
  • Is it the Word of God?
  • You are accountable too!
    • “Become someone who is willing to stay single, rather than disobey the Word of God, and you are worthy of being married. Find someone who is willing to stay single, rather than disobey the Word and they will be worthy of being your spouse.”
  • If that individual does not honor the Word of God, you have no evidence that they will lead an honorable life.

Purity

  • Purity is more than just “not going all the way.”
    • What movies do you watch? Together and alone?
    • What conversations do you have? in texting?
    • You will know it is pure, when you could invite Jesus to sit down next to you and watch or read it.
      • Because He does.

Generosity

  • If you find someone who is stingy and selfish, do not think that he or she will become generous once you are married.
  • Does he think of others?
  • Is she serving and caring?
  • How does he treat his mother?
  • Are there causes on her heart outside of her hair salon?

“This is the kind of person to find…to become…to keep.” – Stephen Davey

Watch for “Finding a Character to Marry (How to Find a Spouse), Part 2” in another Letter to Lindsey soon.

God bless,

Terri Brady

P.S. I was able to shimmy the door on the balcony open, raising the dowel rod and allowing me back into my apartment without summoning a future fiancé or starving to death. I guess my blocked entry was not as break-in-proof as I had thought. 🙂

Related Posts:

Recommended Reading:

Finding the Character to Marry – Part Zero

Dear Lindsey,

In Finding the Character to Marry (How to Find a Spouse), I featured advice from Stephen Davey about

“How to Find a Spouse.”

I later realized that I should have preceded that Letter with some important information, so I decided to have a “Part Zero” to the topic by stealing your dream of getting married.

Unknown

I guess it is not “stealing” it if you already recognize to Whom our dreams belong.  Let me explain: Any time we have a dream that is ahead of wanting God’s will for our lives, it is not our dream to have.  Waiting for God to answer prayers for our future, while He waits for us to submit to His will, is us screaming “My will!” through tears, while He gently answers, “My will be done.” Being single and wanting desperately to be married is a struggle that seems so parallel to my own struggle with infertility. When we can get to the point of “Thy will, not my will be done,” we can become someone worthy of being married in His perfect timing, IF marriage is indeed His will.

A couple of verses come to mind:

Psalm 37:4 says,

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

As a single woman, I would have read that as, “Once I delight myself in God, He will give me a husband! and a family! –yay!”

As my Christian walk has matured, I have come to realize that once I delight myself in the Lord, all other dreams pale, and I am clay to be molded by the Potter’s hands, ready to serve in His capacity wherever that may be.

Be God-crazy, not boy-crazy

Before I talk more about “Finding a Spouse,” I cannot leave the subject behind that it is always possible that God has more of a plan for even you – as a single. Amy Carmichael would not have made the impact on the world, had she been boy-crazy instead of God-crazy. Katie Davis would not be currently making the impact on hundreds of orphans’ lives in Uganda if she had ignored her calling and stayed in the states for her American suburbia marriage dream instead. Corrie Ten Boom, as a married woman, would not have still lived with her father to make the impact on the Jews she was hiding during World War II, and the massive impact she would have on the world with her testimony of love beyond the concentration camp.  Her story of forgiving her captors and situation – even that which killed her father and sister – is a story of forgiving as Christ forgave, which I will never forget.

The unmarried Apostle Paul has this advice (in 1 Corinthians 7:34-35): 

 An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

Of course, with all that said, it is still possible that as you grow more God-crazy, God might be preparing just the right spouse for you, simultaneously!

In essence, whether single or married, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you more delight than you can imagine in anything else.” He has a plan!

Recognizing “Part Zero” of this letter (above) makes the need for “Part II” of this letter even less important. However given the current state of the dating scene in America, I feel compelled to go forward…in the next letter.

Have a blessed and “delightful” day,

Terri

Related Posts

Recommended Reading:

The Ring

Dear Lindsey,

(Español: El Anillo)

My mother handed me the ring with a deep grin that punctuated the significance of the gift.ring  It was a tiny ring, just right for my 7-yr-old finger. “This is a REAL diamond,” she said, handing me the tiny fraction of a karat in a size 4 band.  She explained that she had bought the ring before I was born and saved it for when I was old enough to wear it.  I could hardly believe she would allow me to hold it – much less have it in MY size! I thanked her and felt that special warmth in my heart my tomboyish buffalo skin normally tried to repel. I headed out to play.

“Tether ball” was a favorite sport of mine. The two-person game involved standing on either side of a pole that had one ball tethered to it from the top. One would hit the ball clockwise, while his opponent tried to hit it counterclockwise with greater force. As the opponents smacked the ball, it gained potential for more height.  My trick was to hit it with strength at the angle to send it just out of my opponent’s reach, elliptically landing back within my reach so I could send it in the same pattern again the next time around. The game increased speed as the tether shortened, wrapping around the pole, until the tether was tightened to the last inch, proclaiming the winner.

It was at the end of such a game in the neighbors’ backyard when I realized that the ring I had possessed for less than 24 hours was gone. I searched below the pole, combing the grass with my fingers to no avail.

grassHeart-broken, and mad at myself, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I should have been “a good little girl” playing with dolls or makeup like other girls instead – then I would not have lost the ring.  I sinfully didn’t tell my mother about the loss, because I figured it would take her a few weeks to notice, and that would sound better than, “I lost it in the first 24 hours.”

Besides,” I thought, “I didn’t want that ring anyway. Who wants something that doesn’t even stay on during tether-ball?!”

It was my nature: when I felt defeated, I would convince myself that whatever I didn’t get (or couldn’t keep) was something I didn’t want anyway. It was easier than admitting I needed to change.

Anniversary Gift

On our tenth wedding anniversary, Chris decided to get me a ring. The buffalo in me liked the idea of a simple anniversary band, with no “annoying stones” to get snagged on my pockets when they warmed my hands. Chris had a different idea.

The solitaire was a diamond to be admired by any passerby. The round cut magnified the colors that only God could place in such a gorgeous gem. Its clarity drew in light, seemingly multiplying it in the reflection with a disco-ball effect on the ceiling of the store, to my embarrassment. “We’ll take it!” Chris said, while I shied away, telling him “no way!” But inside, I felt pretty just being treated as pretty.

The store sized it to fit my finger like a glove, although any glove worth working would not fit on this ring without getting caught.  Chris glowed with pride as we traveled to the resort where we were staying that night. We had a beautiful evening celebrating our first decade together, and I wore my ring with pride, almost wanting to point it out to strangers, as I did my engagement ring the night he popped the question in Pittsburgh, PA a decade prior.

I felt loved.

The next morning, I rose early and headed outside to enjoy the sunrise for my quiet time with God.  As I recorded the previous evening’s shopping and date in the journal of my mind, a feeling of sadness surrounded me. I felt like a phony. “I don’t even LIKE rings. I forget to put on jewelry that I already have! I am not pretty enough to have people looking at my hands. My nails are chipped; my hands are rough, because I don’t know how to ‘act like a lady.’  I cannot fake this. I am not the jewelry-kind-of-girl. Did he forget who I am? Where I have been? I am not worthy of its cost, much less its beauty!”

As I continued trying to read my Bible, the self-degrading thoughts continued. I started planning how to return the ring, and how I would tell Chris. Tears trickled down my cheeks, thinking about how we would owe the store for the custom sizing, even if they gave us our money back. Regret overcame me as I realized I had worn it the night before as a phony – mesmerized by its sparkle, as if that fit me.  The conflict was still vibrant in my heart when Chris awoke and came outside to where I was sitting.

“Are you wearing the ring?!” he excitedly asked as he approached, looking for my hand.

I wiped my eyes and confessed my thoughts to him. “I cannot own a ring like this. I am not meant to wear something so valuable. We need to get it back to the store. Today. We can see if they will give us all our money back, even if we have to pay for the sizing. I’m sorry.  I have never had such a tremendous case of buyer’s remorse.”

He stared at me dumbfounded for a split second, then kneeled down on one knee, cupped my face in his hands and said firmly, “We will not take the ring back. You cannot have buyer’s remorse, because you did not buy the ring; I did. It is my gift to you; now stop insulting me.”

He kissed me, as if it were the first time our lips had met.

The tears disappeared from my face.  My quickened heart rate sent a cleansing blood through my body.  A peace came over me as I realized he loved me so deeply to look beyond what I saw in myself. He didn’t give me the ring because of who I was, but because of who he is.

Hating Myself

As I recall that story, another story comes to mind: the one where I say, “I hate myself! Why can’t I be like others? I keep doing wrong. I can’t change. I will never get better. I am worthless!!”

And God gently answers, “I created you. Stop insulting Me.  I knitted you to be an original.  Your hands are My design. I know the depth of your heart, the chasm of your sins and I sent my Son, Jesus Christ, to take it all. I have a purpose for every strength you have, and for every failure it took to gain that strength. I have a purpose for EVERY weakness you possess, since My strength is made perfect in your weakness. You can’t change, but I can change you. My purposes are greater than your vision.  I created you just the way I intended. I bought you for the price of my Son, and I have no remorse. Now stop insulting Me.”

The Gift of Forever

Girlfriend, that eternal salvation is a gift that was bought before you were born to fit you God wants usprecisely. It is ironic that we cannot have the peace of His gift pumping into our veins until we have the remorse over our sins cleansing the path.  No one can comb through the grass to find His gift, and none of us deserves its worth. It is ours because of Who He is, not who we are. He loves us so deeply to look beyond what we see in ourselves.  It is amazing that just when we say, “I have such remorse!” He answers, “You can’t; I’m the One who bought you!”

I hope you feel loved, because you are.

I guess I am not a buffalo, or a butterfly or even a buffafly after all. I am a new creature in Christ, and I want His glory to reflect from my life like a disco ball!

In Christ,

Terri

God knitted you before you were born. Ps 139:13

His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  2 Cor 12:9

I am a new creature in Christ. 2 Cor 5:17

Salvation is a gift from God, because of who He is, not who we are. Eph 2:8-9

Confess your sins (with remorse) and you will be forgiven. 1 John 1:9

The gift of forever: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)