An Uncommen Blog

Show Him Some Love: Send Postcards

June6

Sometimes the hardest conversation to start is with the person who means the most to me. When I am in the grocery line, I can carry on mindless small talk conversations with total strangers. But when it feels like the stakes are high, I can invest lots of emotional energy in thinking about building the relationship, but my additional efforts seem to lead to a microscopic result.

In our relationship, my dad was not exactly a phone call talker. He spent lots of time on the phone for his job. So, I guess I can understand why having long heart-to-heart conversations over the phone were difficult for him. I think our average phone call lasted a mere 60 seconds.

Talking in person didn’t always go as well as I would hope, either. When there was a group around, it was hard to feel like we were really in sync. He was the life of the party, with the kind of contagious deep belly laugh that you could hear from two blocks away. Literally. On the other hand, I am a confirmed melancholic, preferring long and deep conversational connection with one or two people at a time.

But when we were alone together, the conversation wasn’t always the easiest either. Over the years, it felt as if we got better at finding streams of conversation that kept us both engaged. But it still felt like a challenge when I was focused on deliberate communication with depth, and he leaned toward light conversation with humor.

This is how I found the value of postcards. When I was a young dad, I experienced a moral bankruptcy and walked out on my wife and two very young children. When I split up the family, we ended up more than 1500 miles away.  Although I was committed to staying in a relationship with my kids, we could only spend time together every few months. And they were too young to engage in much of a conversation over the phone.

One of the books I read about being a dad from a distance recommended doing the postcard thing. They are colorful, easy to carry, easy to send, they don’t create an expectation of long and detailed communication, and they can be collected to serve as a method to connect with the heart over the long term. I tried it.

Whenever I was traveling, I stocked up on postcards from wherever I was. When I saw a series that could be of interest, I bought it: bears, US States, women in science, you name it. I rarely paid more than 50 cents per card, and because I was buying in bulk, I routinely could find them for 20 or 25 cents each. By the time I threw in the stamp, I was always out less than $1 to purchase and send the card. Then it just came down to writing and sending them—once a week, or even more frequently if I was traveling.

How did it go over? I had a few days with the kids when they were six and seven. They brought a lunch box with them that was FILLED with postcards. They told me that was only some of the collection they had saved at home.

Since I had such great success with the kids, I decided to try the same with my dad. Even though we had lived in the same city for the past 18 years, I periodically sent postcards to him.  My efforts intensified as he got closer to the end of his life.

Would you guess that they made a difference? Virtually every week I heard from either my mom or my dad about the postcard I had sent.

If technology has advanced so far these days, why send postcards? With the proliferation of email and the explosion of texting, why take the extra time to purchase, handwrite, find a stamp, and send a message in such an archaic way? In my opinion, each of these so-called barriers only increases the unique value of doing it. In fact, the handwritten aspect could be the most critical factor. Other than face-to-face conversation, I find it to be the most personal form of communication. Whether or not it’s true, it feels closer to the heart than emails or texts.

It’s super easy to get started, and it’s so inexpensive. Next time you see inexpensive postcards for sale, pick up a few. Then get to the Post Office and pre-stamp them. You can even go through and pre-address them all at once. The hard part is done. Then, just put it on your calendar—so you pump it out the same time each week—pop it in the mail, and you are finished.

Tim Truesdale is a son, brother, and father of 4 who is still figuring it out. Want to join him on the journey? Check out his blog entries or subscribe for periodic content like this here. Be sure to check out practical ways to be an honorable father by downloading the UNCOMMEN app at uncommen.org.

honoryourfather

Check out the Honor Your Father campaign for more inspirational stories and ideas on how to honor your dad at honoryourfathertoday.com.

StreamStationThanks

Click to Read

Give Him A Little Grace

June2

We buried my dad last weekend, after a brutal 16-month battle with a rare lung disease. The grinding pace of the fight was excruciating and filled with ups and downs. With each new treatment option, we held our breath and hoped for the best. He even went as far as to pursue a lung transplant.

In the end, my dad was lying there, hooked to a breathing tube and pumped full of morphine, surrounded by the immediate family.  He died of suffocation—as his knotted lungs were unable to push enough oxygen into his system to keep him alive.

From the outside looking in, our family’s relationships looked good as we were growing up—even above normal. We spent time together, he provided every basic need, he loved my mom, and we took long family trips over summers. But over the years, I felt a distance growing between us. Although he listened to me, he seemed to be unable to hear me when I tried to share my heart with him.

He never really had a dad in his life; his natural father was an alcoholic and died when my dad was only 8. When his mom remarried several years later, the relationship with his stepdad was cordial, but not warm or fatherly.

By the time I turned 14 years old, the tension in our home was palpable. As I was maturing into my independence, my body was experiencing more aggressive impulses in response to an underlying, unspoken distancing between us. And that’s when I left home.

First, I spent time on my uncle’s dairy farm. The next stop was a missions project in Europe. I even tried boarding school for a semester. I had “layovers” at home periodically—sometimes for months at a time. However, staying with my dad, I always felt like I was just passing through. At best, I was living as a stranger with a distant relative. This went on for more than 30 years.

Then, in December of last year, I sat with him as the doctor gave him the news: you have 6 to 12 months to live. And that’s when everything changed. If we were going to figure out how to really talk on a heart-to-heart basis; if we were going to get this right, it had to be now. Grow up, or go home.

I wish I could tell you that everything came together, and we magically saw eye to eye. That we instantly came to terms with the distance between us and years of regrets, for both of us, just melted away. We had no such luck.

Instead, I chose to give him a little grace.  DON’T MISS THIS. I didn’t decide to act like the last 30 years were perfect. I didn’t wish away my disappointments. And I didn’t even discuss this with him; we still never really had that kind of relationship.

But what I did ACKNOWLEDGE in my own heart was that he was human, susceptible to mistakes—just like me. I did let him off the hook for the things he missed that I wanted and even needed. In short, I did recognize that he gave me his best.

My dad continued to deteriorate. We learned that what he was experiencing was a mounting sensation of suffocation as his body gave the signals that he was not getting enough oxygen. And simple things became harder for him like driving, walking and even using the bathroom by himself.

In the end, recognizing that he only had a short time left to live turned out to be a gift for me. Although there was no way to go back and rewrite every wrong, I learned to treat my dad for who he was—a generous, creative, and flawed human being.

Towards the end, when it was hard for him to talk, we did a lot of communicating by text. He was struggling with his keyboard skills, as well as everything else by that point.

After he had passed, I went back and took screenshots of some of the more meaningful messages. Here’s a rough translation of one I had received about four weeks before he was gone.

There’s a need to see our Dads through the eyes of mercy, remembering that they are in totally new territory and are scrambling with some major On the Job Training (OTJ) issues. Love Dad.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 2.58.51 PM

Tim Truesdale is a son, brother, and father of 4 who is still figuring it out. Want to join him on the journey? Check out his blog entries or subscribe for periodic content like this here. Be sure to check out practical ways to be an honorable father by downloading the UNCOMMEN app at uncommen.org.

honoryourfather

Check out the Honor Your Father campaign for more inspirational stories and ideas on how to honor your dad at honoryourfathertoday.com.

StreamStationThanks

Click to Read

Calendar Your Companionship

MayWk54

How long has it been since we…”

Has your wife ever started with those words and you knew what was coming next? Just once you you hoped she continued with:

“…invited the guys over for beverages around a bonfire?

“…revisited the idea of converting the basement into a man-cave?

“…checked the budget to see if we could do season tickets this year?

But you know the five words that follow: gone out on a date.

If youre like me you have heard the all too common advice about date night.Pastors preach it from the pulpit. Marriage counselors suggest it from the couch. Even your mom says, If you dont date your wife, someone else will!

Our problem isnt that we dont know what to do, we just get out of the habit and let the urgent box out the necessary.

If you and I dont calendar our companionship, it wont happen. Back in the pre-ankle biter days, Jen and I would spontaneously go out for a weekend trip, or grab lunch, or take a walk in the city. In a typical week with three soccer games, two volleyball practices, music lessons, two day business trip, and church small group, the calendar doesnt have a great amount of white space. If Im depending on spontaneous romance at this stage of life, then Ill continue to hear my wife spontaneously say,

How long has it been since we…”

It doesnt require a Masters in marriage therapy to know that what I put on my calendar usually gets accomplished and my wife feels cherished, pursued, and like a priority when I schedule time with her. And shes not expecting a steak house dinner and spa visit every week either. Ive found she loves it when I escort her to the back deck with a cup of coffee in the morning or glass of wine after the kids are down at night and hear about whats happening in her life.

If I calendar my companionship with Jen, maybe next time I hear her say, How long has it been since we…”

Shell follow it with, “…talked about installing a hot tub and flat screen on the porch?

Bible Reference: Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Written by UNCOMMEN coach, Brian Goins, a somewhat intentional husband, dad, and author of Playing Hurt: A Guya>s Strategy for a Winning Marriage.

Click to Read

Turn Your Spouse’s Criticisms into Clues

Be on Time

What does “around six pm” mean to you?

It’s crystal clear to me. After my dad and I chucked papers at o dark thirty every morning we would eat breakfast, get ready for work and school respectively, then he’d head out the door and tell my mom, “I’ll be home around six.”

At my house, “around six” meant, “sometime between 6 and 6:45 pm.” My dad had this sweet built in 45 minute buffer. Punctuality was in the eye of the beholder.

So when I got married and started my routine I would tell my lovely bride the same thing. And I applied the buffer principle.

I started noticing when I came home my wife didn’t always greet me as congenially as my mom greeted my dad. I just figured she had a bad day. I didn’t really need to ask her what was going on. If you’re like me, you know us husbands have a spidey sense about such matters.

So one day as I was coming home “around six” (translation, about 6:30 pm) and my spidey sense started tingling in the nape of my neck. I thought Jen probably had one of those days so before I got home, I stopped at the grocery story and picked up a few flowers for her.

When I walked in the door and saw my wife’s face I thought, “Yep, thank you spidey sense! She must have had a terrible day.” I flourished the hidden flowers and waited for that frown to turn upside down!

She grabbed the flowers, threw them on the kitchen table, and blurted out, “You don’t get it do you?”

Incredibly offended that Jen treated my pre-packaged $5.00 grocery store flowers with such contempt, I retorted, “I guess I don’t. Enlighten me.”

“Why would I want flowers that are going to die in 15 hours when you could have been home 15 minutes earlier. You said you’d be here at six.”

“Correction. I said, ‘around six.’”

In the next few minutes we had a lively discussion about the interpretation of “around six.” Turns out her dad always said the same thing. Unfortunately for me he had about a 2 minute buffer. He would roll in every day between 5:58 and 6:00 pm.

A few years later I was reading a book by UNCOMMEN coach, Dr. Gary Chapman about The Five Love Languages. In there he gave some uncommon advice that would have saved me months of heartache.

“Turn your spouse’s criticisms into clues about their love language.”

Unfortunately we men have thin skin. When criticisms start flying, we run start hiding from the shrapnel or hurling insults back. We rarely stop and actually listen. The old adage is true, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so we should hear twice as much as we speak.” Next time your spouse hurls criticisms or starts nagging, instead of being quick to anger or shouting back, be quick to listen:
“We never go out anymore!” translates as the love language of time

“Why is it you only buy me gifts on my birthday?” translates as the love language of gifts
“Don’t you see all this work I have to do to keep this house up?” – love language of acts of service

“Why is it you only hold my hand when you want sex?” – love language of physical touch

“Kristin’s husband is always telling her how beautiful she is and how much he loves her.” – love language of words of affirmation.

You probably guessed my wife’s love language: quality time. Now I’m still not the most punctual guy in the world, but I love my wife enough to give her plenty of time to know when “around six” is going to be 6:45.

It took me a while, but I’m starting to speak her language.

Bible Reference: Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

By UNCOMMEN Coach and Sr. Creative Director at FamilyLife, Brian Goins. www.catapultconcepts.org

Click to Read

How to Win Your Wife

MayWk32
Do you remember any books you read from the 5th grade? Maybe it was a Choose Your Own Adventure tale, 101 Ways to Eat Fried Worms, or the one about a Lion, a Witch, and a Wardrobe. The one that immediately comes to my mind?
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. My dad knew my intimate knowledge of Star Wars would only get me so far in life, so he made me read this book with no pictures.

Carnegie, the sensei of sales, said If you want to have friends, and success in life, simply get people talking about their favorite subject – themselves. It’s not bad advice for husbands.

Peter, one of the first followers of Jesus, an accomplished fisherman, writer of Scripture, and married, wrote, “Live with your wives in an understanding way…” We may never completely understand the woman we live with, but this month at UNCOMMEN we are making at attempt to live in an understanding way.
After you’ve been married for a few years it’s easy to move from investigative journalist to anchorman. Anchormen simply report what’s happening during the day, journalists seek to understand the person their interviewing.
When marriage is made up of two anchors, it can weigh your relationship down. You get home, report on your day, and then binge watch Netflix. I’m sure that’s not what you had in mind when you said, “I do.”
Let’s be honest, most of us have about two questions in us after work, “How was your day?” and “What should we eat for dinner?”
So I channeled my inner Carnegie and asked a bunch of women on Facebook how we husbands can be more investigative.
One woman wrote, “I think women crave sincerity and want to go beyond the surface of ‘How was your day?’ Get specific and wait around for the answer.”
You don’t have to be smarter than a 5th grader to win and influence your wife – you just need a few well placed questions.
Bible Reference: Ephesians 4:2-3: “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
By UNCOMMEN Coach and Sr. Creative Director at FamilyLife, Brian Goins. www.catapultconcepts.org
Click to Read

Brew Your Bride

barista

She likes it hot. Her coffee that is. Every morning at 6:30 am, her alarm clock goes off and she hits the snooze button. At 6:33 I attempt to gently shake her out of her stupor with the burring sound of grinding coffee. In just four short minutes, her enthusiasm to get out of bed will grow. It’s how she wakes up, and I love seeing it happen.

Smelling the aroma of the freshly ground beans, monitoring the temperature of the water, getting the press ready, it’s part of my routine now. We like our coffee different than many. We use raw honey for sweetener, no milk or cream, just a really good medium local roast of something complex, nutty and chocolatey. Just writing those words tempts me to go get a third cup for the morning, but I’ll restrain until these words are completely on paper. I often make coffee my reward for completing another task for the day. Yes, I bribe myself with coffee. It works.

Let me tell you what doesn’t work though- bribing my wife with coffee, or any other form of service for that matter. Making her coffee in the mornings is a form of self-service, hardly a form of self-sacrifice, and definitely not a form of selfishness.  Did you catch that? I firmly believe there is a difference between serving selflessly versus serving selfishly. Selfish serving looks for reciprocation for one’s actions. Selfless serving looks for the reward of pleasing another. In other words, a person who gives out of selfish motivation keeps score- I have given, now it’s your turn. Selfless giving looks to bring joy to others, and in doing so, your own joy is increased.

Like a good cup of coffee, this concept is complex. If you just want the benefit of caffeine, any old stank coffee will do. My grandfather was my hero growing up. But he was no aficionado of coffee or romance. He was a Sanka-guy, both literally and figuratively. True marital investment takes time, care, and intentionality. The result is a much better tasting cup of coffee.  But your palette must be trained for it. Let me make this analogy clear, you may not treat your relationship with your spouse like you treat your morning brew, but next time you make a cup, ask yourself how much of the analogy sticks?

Do you treat your spouse like a cup of instant coffee? Hot, ready, lacking depth, just need the benefits fast?

Are you an “a little bit of coffee with your sugar” kind of guy? You don’t really like the full flavor of a deep engaging conversation with your spouse, you like it sugar-coated and masked with artificial flavoring.

Do you treat your coffee better than you treat your spouse? You only use water filtered by reverse-osmosis, you measure your beans to the exact gram and your water to the perfect temperature? You only slightly agitate, you’re patient with the process, because whether you’re into pour over, french-press, cold-brew, or pulling espresso shots, you know there’s something good on the other side. Whatever your brew-type, you have grown to enjoy the process  almost as much as the outcome. Do you put that much care into an 8oz cup that will be consumed in a short period of time, but despise the process of measuring your thoughts and words towards your spouse? If so, you should start drinking lukewarm instant coffee just to know what she feels like.

Maybe coffee isn’t your thing at all. I imagine that if that’s the case, but you’ve read this far, the analogy continues to resonate. Ask yourself, what do you invest much care in that you could and should invest in your spouse in a like-wise manner? 

Bible Reference: Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Written by Dee Lanier.

Click to Read