Archive | September 2012

Lesson #2: Laughter is Good Medicine

If you had asked me before I married what I wanted in a husband, “a good sense of humor” would not have been the first thing that sprang to mind. No, I was looking for a smart, solid Christian who loved kids, wanted a bunch of them, and was open to homeschooling. Being “tall, dark, and handsome” was not essential, but would be a much-appreciated bonus (especially the “tall” part, as I’m 5’11” myself). That I should try to find “an animated storyteller with an infectious laugh” never even occurred to me.

Fortunately, God ignored that oversight and gave me a man who was not only everything I dreamed of, but was witty, playful, and spontaneous, too. My husband knows how to make me laugh! A slight tilt of his head or a knowing wink can instantly bring an amused smile to my face. A cleverly turned phrase or droll observation will get me to giggling. But when Doug tells a story, he uses his whole body to act it out, sending our entire family into hysterics with deep, uproarious laughter that leaves our sides aching afterwards. How dull and dreary my life might have been without all that!

It is with good reason the Bible tells us to “rejoice always.” (1 Thess. 5:16, Phil. 4:4). Science has demonstrated time and again that our attitudes and dispositions have a profound effect upon our immune function. Joyous, mirthful laughter really is good medicine. (see Prov. 17:22) Here are just a few of the many great things a good belly-laugh does for you:

  • Improves Health – laughter boosts your immunity and wards off disease by increasing killer cell activity
  • Brightens Mood – laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals in our brains
  • Relieves Tension – laughter reduces stress, fear, and anxiety while relaxing muscles throughout the body
  • Increases Energy – laughter helps us to recharge and refocus, to work harder and accomplish more
  • Defuses Conflict – laughter keeps disagreements and disputes from becoming dirty or divisive
  • Provides Perspective – laughter makes both minor inconveniences and major adversities more bearable
  • Promotes Humility – the ability and willingness to laugh at oneself is an invaluable character trait

I’m convinced that all the laughing my husband and I have done over the past 25 years has not only helped our bodies stay healthy, but has kept our marriage healthy, as well. We laugh at silly songs and corny poems we’ve been making up since we first met. We laugh at funny movies, like Princess Bride and Dan in Real Life. We laugh about our children’s antics, like the toddler who decided just before party guests arrived to completely re-paper our bathroom in maxi-pads. We laugh over embarrassing mistakes, like the time my husband used his cell phone to video our baby toddling around the bathroom, then showed it to a couple dozen coworkers before realizing he’d inadvertently captured me in the background, sitting on the toilet with my pants around my knees. (At least he hadn’t posted it on YouTube!)

What has gotten the biggest laugh out of you recently? We’d love for you to share it, so the rest of us can laugh along 🙂

Go to LIFE LESSON #3 >>

If you’d like to read further on this fascinating topic, check out the following articles and resources:

Health Benefits of
Humor and Laughter

The Healing Power
of Laughter

Feeling Good
is Good for You

How Laughter

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7 Reasons to Prioritize Sex in Marriage

Here’s a handy chart that details just a few of the myriad benefits available to couples who choose not to neglect marital intimacy. I’ve addressed these remarks to wives because (1) I am writing to women in the spirit of Titus 2:3-5 and (2) when evaluating the importance of sex in marriage, women have historically required a little more convincing then men.

Of course, there are exceptions to almost every rule, so if you’re dealing with a disinterested husband, show this list to him, since rekindling that fire will benefit him as much as it will you.

It should also be noted that when sex is pursued outside the context of marriage, many of these benefits are negated or even reversed. Promiscuity and infidelity increase your susceptibility to disease, cause premature aging, erode trust and stability in marriage, and promote unhealthy attitudes towards sex and marriage in children, to name just a few.

You’ll find details on all the studies cited above (and more!) in my book, LOVE YOUR HUSBAND/ LOVE YOURSELF.

Which of the seven benefits mentioned in this infographic do you find most appealing? Most convicting?

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Lesson #1: Keep Your Eyes on the Ball

Life Lesson #1: Keep Your Eyes on the BallWhen I first got married, I possessed an utter lack of coordination in the area of gross motor skills. I couldn’t catch (or hit) anything to save my life. No matter what was tossed to me — baseballs, car keys, ballpoint pens — I’d fumble and let it fall to the floor.

My father had given up years earlier trying to instill in me any sense of athleticism, but my new husband was not so easily deterred. “Just keep your eyes on the ball, Jennifer. Glue your eyes to the ball!”

It’s a simple concept, I know, but one I’d always managed to struggle with it. Even when I started out with my full attention on the object hurtling toward me, at some crucial point, I’d shift my focus from the thing I was supposed to catch to the hand doing the catching. (Is that a broken nail?) Or to my general appearance. (My shirt’s untucked. Better fix it.) Or to the ground beneath me. (What did I just trip over?) Or to my personal safety. (That thing could hit me in the head!)

Still, my husband was certain that I could master this task in time, provided I received plenty of practice and positive encouragement along the way, which he most willingly and happily gave.

His confidence was not ill-founded. These days, unless the pitch is too fast for my eyes to follow, I can catch almost anything that is thrown to me — even those bits of shrimp the hibachi chef flicks at us whenever we eat Japanese.

Focus. Focus. Focus.

The secret is staying focused. This is true in sports, but even truer in life — as my husband has been so faithful to remind me.

A Christian’s primary goal should be to serve God and share His love with others, but how that purpose gets translated into day-to-day living will look different from one person to the next and from one season to the next, depending on individual giftings, circumstances, and responsibilities.

For me, a devoted wife and homeschooling mama with lots of little ones still in the nest, that day-to-day focus must of necessity be fixed on nurturing my marriage and educating my children. These are tasks that deserve my best effort and demand my full attention.

I cannot afford to fumble things here, when so many futures lay on the line. Giving way to distraction can have devastating consequences. I must sustain my focus. I must take heed. I must prioritize.

But saying that something is a priority and really making it a priority are two vastly different things. Have you ever noticed that? I can say that I want to lose weight, but if I eat like a pig and refuse to exercise, onlookers may accurately deduce that I’m not really serious about doing so. My actions reveal my true priorities.

Prioritizing time with family must be more than a platitude. It is too easy to become distracted, to shift our focus at what may later prove to have been a critical juncture. What we need is a game plan.

Here’s mine:

  • Write down your goals.

    It is impossible to focus on something that is not clearly defined. By taking time to commit your goals, dreams, and aspirations to paper, you can narrow your focus and give attention to the things that are most important to you.

  • Review them regularly.

    Such routine reminders will help you stay on target. Try to break your general goals into smaller, stepwise tasks, then put them on daily, weekly, and/or monthly checklists. This practice will keep your goals in the forefront of your mind.

  • Examine your routines.

    How do you spend your time? Do these activities help or hinder you from achieving your goals? Every six months or so, reevaluate your current schedule and try to minimize your involvement in anything that is not moving you toward your primary focus.

  • Stay fully engaged.

    When you are with your loved ones, be with them. Remain mentally present as well as physically. Power down the laptop, pocket the iPhone and reconnect with real, live people.

  • Don’t rush.

    It takes time to build solid relationships. If you are always in a hurry, it’s never going to happen. Slow down and savor each moment. You have a relatively small window of time in which to impact the lives of those around you or impart to them your blessings, love, knowledge, and values. Don’t squander it.

  • Do things together.

    Rather than pushing your children aside to pursue personal interests, get them involved, too. Cooking, gardening, scrapbooking, exercising — learn to view everything you do in terms of its potential for fellowship and/or discipleship. Get excited about what excites them, as well. As much as possible, when your kids are awake and around, do things that can be shared, and save the other stuff until after they’ve been tucked in for the night. (For me, “other stuff” would include blogging, which explains why my posts are so sporadic.)

These are the things I have made a conscious commitment to do. Sometimes I fall short, but I’m steadily making progress. Little by little. Day by day. I’m becoming less project-oriented and more people-oriented. I’m trying to ignore the many inconsequential things that vy for my attention in order to fix my thoughts on the vitally important.

Because it isn’t enough to suit up to play. It’s not enough to make it onto the field. If I don’t keep my head in the game, it will all be for naught. If I want to win, I must stay focused. I have to pay attention. I’ve got to glue my eyes to the ball.

Won’t you join me? What are your goals? What steps are you taking to reach them?

Go to LIFE LESSON #2 >>