The following post is one that I had intended to post last Wednesday, before I realized it was the Greatest Hits edition of Works For Me Wednesday. I used it as a regular post instead, and I did link to it during last week's WFMW post, but I've decided to go ahead and post it again, because it's something that has changed my life. It's long, but it's worth it. I enjoy hearing when my readers like something, because it helps me know what topics you are most interested in. So if you like it, please leave a comment. Enjoy!
Are you going through a depression, and feel like you are in a dark place in your life? Are you realizing that your marriage isn't nearly as happy as you thought it was? Does it seem like you have lost your joy in life? Do you see your life as a mess, when you know that you have many things to be thankful for? Then read on my friends, if you have the courage.
As a young woman I worked as a waitress, and I've often said there was one reason I really enjoyed it. You had to smile all the time. At least if you wanted good tips! No matter how my day went, I was forced to put on a smile and be sweet to people, pretending I was happy. And after a while, I WAS happy. You can't smile for an hour straight and not become a little happier--not unless you are bound and determined to STAY miserable!
Now I know what you're thinking: "If she tells me to just smile, I'm going to smack her!" Okay, fair enough. I'd probably have thought the same thing a week ago. And it's not quite that simple.
I've been reading two books this week: Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin, and Created to Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl. While I don't agree with some of their religious views (I do not believe in divorcing ever, for any reason...if my husband was a truly horrible man, I might have to live apart from him for my own safety, but that ring would stay on my finger, regardless of his actions) their perspective on how men tick and how to be a good wife is right on target.
I realize that over the years of my marriage I have become a very unhappy, unlovable person. The fact that my husband not only has stayed with me, but also has done everything in his power to try to make me happy despite my depressingly negative attitude is a testament to his character. Any lesser man would have begun to avoid me long ago. While I have always tried to treat him with respect and love (something that is a lost art among many women today) I was so unhappy with myself that it is a miracle that he could spend any time around me at all. I was impatient and too often angry with my children, and even the smallest task seemed overwhelmingly burdensome to me.
Then three days ago my husband and I had a conversation that made me finally realize that he was not as happy as I thought he was. He loved me and of course had no desire to leave me but my constant bad mood was dragging him down and he didn't know how much more he could take. My attitude was rubbing off on him, and not in a good way. He was very kind in the way he put it, but I was so hurt and in complete shock. I didn't realize how bad I had become. After pondering all night what he said and what it really meant, I came to the realization that I had to do something right away before things got worse.
The first day was difficult. I got up, showered, and dressed nice. I put on makeup and did my hair, something I usually only do when going out. Often, when I did fix up just for him, if he forgot to compliment me I would become depressed, put my hair back in a ponytail and feel sorry for myself. Why bother making an effort to change, I asked myself, if he doesn't notice? But this time I would not let myself do that, no matter what.
I read Fascinating Womanhood, and while working around the house,
listened to Created To Be His Help Meet on my iPod. I tried to stay in
a pleasant mood, to be sweet towards my children, and staying happy no
matter what. It was incredibly hard. All I managed to do was to not
cry (although a few tears may have slipped out on brief occasions), to
not yell (okay, I caught myself just in time once or twice) and to
flash a very tight smile (maybe more like an uncomfortable grimace) a
few times. As pathetic as my attempts were, they were very noticeable
to my husband, who told me later that night how much it was
appreciated, and how nice I looked that day. I had even come to bed
looking nice and wearing perfume, and he was very happy. We talked a
long time, and we felt much closer.
usual I couldn't sleep that night. I stayed up til dawn, listening to
CTBHHM and taking notes on Biblical quotes and anything I felt I most
needed to work on. That's when it really hit me. Debi Pearl
emphasized over and over how important it was to be joyful, to have a
merry heart, and a cheerful countenance. To smile! I can't
tell you how often my husband has told me that he just wants to see me
be happy, and how beautiful I look when I smile. Well then, I
determined, I am going to smile. I am going to laugh. I am going to
be joyful and merry if it kills me!
And at first it felt like it nearly did. The day started out with a few more tight grimaces, and a few fake sounding (to me) laughs. I took every opportunity to try and laugh at my children's antics and my husband's jokes. I praised my children more than usual, and spent time teaching them to do work around the house (high time for that, too, I've been too lazy and impatient to do much of that up til now). We had fun. My husband seemed to develop a sparkle in his eye. We didn't snap at each other at all (a frequent occurrence each weekend, until now). By nightfall, I was actually enjoying myself. I was happy! I also spent the day putting other tips from FW and CTBHHM into action.
I was not only genuinely laughing, but giggling at most of what my husband said. We talked that night, and he told me how beautiful I looked all day, and that this was the woman he'd fallen in love with, and he missed her. I can't believe how easy it has become to be happy. Not that it's never a struggle, but it is far easier than I would have thought. I didn't need herbs, prescription drugs, a therapist, or more sympathy from my husband. I just needed to force myself to smile and laugh.
I look back now at the road I was on, and shudder to think where it may have led. I am as happy now as I was on my honeymoon. Happier. My husband is in love with me again. I know he always loved me, but he is now in love with me once again. Before he would give me affection, but more out of obligation or an effort of will to show me he loved me, or to make me feel better. Now it is spontaneous, and non-stop! I will not go back to the way I was before. Who was that horrible woman? Certainly not anyone I would want to be around. Definitely not someone I want to be.
Looking back, I know now that I had lost my joy. I had forgotten how to laugh. I never looked for a reason to smile. When I smiled, it was for strangers in a store. As soon as I got home, I allowed myself to become discontent again. I am a very blessed woman, but even this knowledge wasn't enough to make me pull myself out of it. Realizing my devoted husband was not happy was the absolute lowest point for me. Or at least, I didn't want it to get any lower! Through God's grace, angelic intervention, and some effort on my part, I have found my joy again.
So my friends, just "fake it til you make it" and paste a smile on your face, even if it feels like it will kill you. A smile never killed anyone, but it has melted the heart of many a man!
I have learned to much from those two books, and I may write a more in depth review or do some chapter studies in the future, if time allows. For now, here are a few Biblical quotes as well as some notes/quotes from CTBHHM that I felt particularly helpful. Imagine: if only one tip from these books helped me this much, how incredible my marriage will continue to be as I incorporate the rest! If your marriage is deeper in turmoil, it may take a lot more effort and time for things to turn around, but if you earnestly put the teachings of these two books into practice, it is almost certain that you will succeed.
You can get Created to Be His Help Meet here and Fascinating Womanhood here or at any bookstore. There is also a novel available to read online for free that is a fictional account of a woman on the verge of divorce who goes to a Fascinating Womanhood class and turns her life around. It includes the main points of the FW book, plus true success stories from letters in the files of Helen Andelin. I highly recommend getting the actual book Fascinating Womanhood because it is much more in depth and explains the whys and hows better, but for a preview of its principals and for those who can't afford to buy it right away, check out the novel, Secrets of Fascinating Womanhood.
Note: I have put Biblical quotes in italics, direct CTBHHM quotes in quotations, and my comments in parentheses. Everything else are general notes from CTBHHM. I know this post is long but I wanted it in one piece for easy linking and/or copying. It is worth it. Enjoy!
A diligent woman is a crown to her husband: and she that doth things worthy of confusion, is a rottenness in his bones. 5 Proverbs 12:4 (This is a very sobering thought, and very true if we women open our minds and allow ourselves to be humble enough to admit it)
And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself. 19 Genesis 2:18,20
2 Esdras 8:10 for the joy of the Lord is our strength.
12 The fear of the Lord shall delight the heart, and shall give joy, and gladness, and length of days.
A joyful mind maketh age flourishing: a sorrowful spirit drieth up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 (Being happy keeps you young.)
Proverbs 15:13 A glad heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by grief of mind the spirit is cast down. (I think the reverse is true too...a cheerful countenance can make a glad heart.)
Psalms 106:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifice of praise: and declare his works with joy.
Traits of a good help meet--virtue, graciousness, wisdom, prudence, goodness
A good help meet has a passion for service...first husband, then children, then church/society.
A good help meet, in her readiness to please, looks around and sees what her husband would want to have done, and does it...she would not use lame excuses to avoid doing them.
"Is your husband still married to the same sweet little thing you were when you were courting? Or a long faced sickly complainer? Love is like a flower, it grows only with sunshine.
Has your lover seen your sunshine lately? Is he still your lover?
What would HE say?" (Remember that song that goes "ain't no sunshine
when she's gone"? Would your husband say "ain't no sunshine when she's
here"? Be honest!)
"Does your husband see you as a happy thankful woman? Does he smile when he sees you, amused at the cheerful grin on your face, and the delightful things you do and say, even the dumb ones? Learn to charm him with your mischievous, only-for-him giggle. Everyone is drawn to a smile, who and what you are is reflected in your face."
Men are highly attracted to smiles.
The most effective beauty aid is free--a joyful smile.
"Being pitiful, hurt, discouraged, and sickly is one side of a bad marriage coin. Men are repulsed by women who project this image. A man's spirit like a woman is rejecting and manipulating him when a woman reacts with a broken spirit."
"God's will is for a wife to have a merry heart, a cheerful countenance, and a glow that will refresh the most tired and stressed husband on the planet. Bubbling cheer goes a long way to maintain or even restore a marriage. Make a decision right now to break the poor me habit, today put it down as sin and rebellion, and tomorrow wake up with joy in your heart and home."
Establish a new habit. Ask yourself, what can I do today to make him smile?
Do a study on the word Joy in the Bible. Memorize your favorite verses on joy.
"Every morning, let the first thing your husband sees on your face be a gentle smile even if your eyes are closed. Any time your eyes meet or your hands touch, let it be a reminder to smile and offer a word of gladness. "
"When you eat, always show thanksgiving by means of a smile and a joyful spirit.
During the day, sing and dance and laugh with joy as you work around the house.
Your children will be delighted as you dance around the house with a broom or mop, and this lighthearted mood (visible joy is the only joy children understand) will be an encouragement to your children. The lightness in your soul will help put you in a good frame of mind for when your husband comes home."
If you have reason to be hurt or discouraged, and yet you sing with thanksgiving, this is a true sacrifice of worship to God.
Think of other times during the day you can establish a habit of praise and thanksgiving, by showing joy. Write them down, think of yourself doing them, and practice doing them all day long.
A wise woman sets a joyful mood in her home. Through laughter, music and happy times she creates a positive attitude in her children. She knows that a lighthearted home relieves her husband of stress.
psalm 99:2 Sing joyfully to God, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness. Come in before his presence with exceeding great joy.
Be happy with what you have, do not spend your time thinking of all the things you want or even need that you don't have. Mentioning to your husband the things you want but can't have or can't afford, or complaining about the things that you do have, is insulting to him. It is as if you are telling him he is not a good provider.
Phil 4:11 I speak not as it were for want. For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content therewith.
Heb 13:5 Let your manners be without covetousness, contented with such things as you have; for he hath said: I will not leave thee, neither will I forsake thee.
1 Tim 7 For we brought nothing into this world: and certainly we can carry nothing out. 8 But having food, and wherewith to be covered, with these we are content.
10 For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows.
"Discontentment is not a product of circumstances, it is a state of the soul."
It is wrong to think that everything will be better if only...(the family moves, has more money, etc.).
"Thankful people have a view of life that begins deep in their souls, and outside circumstances can't mar their joy. To them life is a continual dream come true, a continual feast."
Joy begins with thankfulness.
It is amazing how your mouth controls your soul...you can smile, and say thank you, and your spirit is directed into gratitude, with joy following. Thankfulness is how you think. Joy is the abundance it produces.
Psalm 126:3 Behold the inheritance of the Lord are children: the reward, the fruit of the womb. 4 As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken. 5 Blessed is the man that hath filled the desire with them; he shall not be confounded when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.
1 Peter 3:1 In like manner also let wives be subject to their husbands: that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversation of the wives. 2 Considering your chaste conversation with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: 4 But the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God.
Update: I've found it challenging staying positive all week, but even when I'm only partly successful, it makes a big difference in my marriage, my family, and my whole outlook on life. It truly Works for Me!