Q: I love being a mom -- usually. But sometimes I get discouraged in the middle of all the diapers and toddler messes and wonder if anything I do now will really matter when my little ones are all grown up.
Jim: Let me ask this: If someone called you a "ditch digger," how would you react? Before you answer, let me tell you a story.
There's an ancient tale about an army who found themselves without water in the middle of the desert. They were promised divine intervention, but to receive it, their faith had to be tested. They were told the rain would come, if they first dug ditches to hold it all. Believing you'll see rain when you're baking in the sun under a cloudless sky can be tough.
Maybe you can relate. After all, it's the same challenge facing the mothers of young children. Raising kids to have character is a lot of work, and the payoff isn't always immediately obvious. Moms pour their energy into feeding and bath times, dealing with never-ending piles of laundry and breaking up sibling squabbles. At the end of the day, many mothers wonder if they've made a difference in their kids' lives at all.
So I hope you'll take heart. The investment of time and energy you're putting into your children will pay off one day. You're showing your kids they're loved and cared for, and day by day you're giving them the tools they need to thrive.
So keep at it. The rains of maturity and character will come. For now, you're digging the ditches those precious children will need to hold it all.
For encouragement and parenting tips, see FocusOnThefamily.com.
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Q: I struggle sometimes with how different my wife and I are. Don't get me wrong; we love each other. It's just that the longer we're married, the more we see that we're not like each other. What can we do?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Your marriage is made up of both strengths and growth areas, especially because of the personality differences you each bring to the union. Notice that I call them "growth areas," because that's just what they are -- not weaknesses, but opportunities for growth.
Typically, as humans we tend to focus on what we lack versus what we already have. Even in our marriage relationships, we tend to focus on what's not going right instead of what is. The strongest marriages that stand the test of time are often made up of partners who focus on their strengths.
So what are the strengths in your marriage? Another way to ask this is to consider, "What do we do well as a couple?" Are you great financial planners? Do both of you play musical instruments? Perhaps you enjoy taking walks, going hiking or playing sports together. Do you excel at remodeling an older home, together making all the decisions about fixtures, floor plan, landscaping, and tile? Figure out what you can do as a team that makes you both feel energized and maximizes your giftedness as a couple -- and then do more of it!
Think about the last time you really laughed together, had fun together and enjoyed each other. When was the last time you went on a date? What were you doing?
Your marriage is a unique combination of strengths and growth areas. Embrace both, but always focus on your strengths! Your differences -- personality, gender and otherwise -- can bring a beautiful balance in your relationship. As you understand yourself better, and also seek to understand who your spouse has been uniquely created to be, you can learn to deal with differences. For helpful resources, including a free relationship assessment, see focusonthefamily.com/marriage.