Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mood swings, slides, and other rides

When I'm moody, my family knows it because I withdraw. I want quiet, and lots of it. And if I can't get it, I become tense and irritable on top of the moodiness. When our kids were younger, they knew that when Mom got quiet, it was a quiet storm. They also learned early on not to push my "red buttons" when I was like this, because it could set off my early-B.T.N. (Bed Time Now) system and I would suddenly start ordering everyone into their pajamas and off to bed, regardless of the sunshine beaming through the windows. Wise children, these Taylors. They knew how not to activate the early-B.T.N. system simply by giving me a wide berth and lots of dead air when it was needed.

It's a part of human nature to experience mood swings. As one writer put it, some people even experience "the whole mood playground," not just the swings! 

This article is not designed to be medical advice. We're looking at this from a generalized perspective. If you have been downhearted for months or longer, you have more going on than just mood swings, and should be examined by someone who is qualified to assist you. This article is for women who have dealt with waves of emotions that have tossed them about. If you recognize any of the following "swings" from the "mood playground," this blog's for you:
  • Feeling like you could scream
  • Fighting back tears and losing the battle
  • Having to run out of a room to compose yourself
  • Raising your voice to make a point
  • Chewing someone out and then feeling sorry about it
  • Wishing people would just leave you alone
  • Feeling like "people are against you"
 There are other symptoms that we could list, but this is a general start. The main thing that we want to address is that while mood swings are real, they are not permanent. We can learn, by the power of the Holy Spirit, how to "rule over our own spirits," which includes our emotions and yes, our moods.

Here are some tips for weathering emotional storms:
1. Figure out what's really bothering you. Sometimes we're raging around the problem rather than getting to the bottom of it. Failure to be honest about the real problem is like eating carrots when you really want chocolate cake; you're not going to be satisfied. "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom." (Psa. 51:6) God knows what's really bothering us. Ask Him for help in getting to the heart of the matter. 

And guess what? It may be something as simple as this: YOU were wrong and you need to ask for forgiveness, but haven't done it. When we're wrong and we won't admit it, we have to deal with the guilt, which can manifest itself in a floating sort of moodiness. Say these seven wonderful words as soon as possible: "I was wrong. Will you forgive me?" These are seven words that can help promote healing, and your mood will lighten when you've taken care of this important task.

2. Are you tired? Get some rest! "But I'm so busy!" Yes, and I'm so busy that the workers at airport security know me by name and comment on my outfits. Busy is an "operating system" that I've come to accept, but when I try to skimp on my rest, I end up emotionally raw, hypersensitive and not good for much of anything. At times like these, a report card would say this: "Does not work well with others."

The disciples who walked with Jesus were busy, and they didn't have a fraction of our conveniences to help them. Jesus told them to "rest a while," and He took them to a solitary place to make sure that it would happen. "And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat." (Mark 6:31) The solution to moodiness due to exhaustion is rest. As I heard one speaker say, "Come apart and rest or you'll come apart."

3. Steer clear of people who are wearing "poison" stickers on their foreheads. "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul." (Prov. 22:24-25) The word "furious" in verse 24 refers to a person who is "poison"! And to paraphrase the verse, "If you hang around grumps, you'll master the art of grumpiness." Reexamine some of your close friendships, and put a little distance in the ones where a friend is indulging in a routinely-volatile temper. The same rule applies to negative, critical people. We can run into mood problems of our own without anyone provoking us.

4. And this last thought is the most important one: Stop running through life "on empty." Too many women are trying to drive their lives with their spiritual gas tanks on the fumes of last Sunday's sermon! It is a fact that the preaching will fortify you, but it doesn't count as your personal time in God's Word. Life is hard enough without going through it on a self-inflicted spiritual starvation diet. Look at what Job said in the midst of his anguish: "Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food." (Job 23:12) If you have been trying to get by on just little bits of the Word, you're setting yourself up for mood swings, because your attitude will be impacted by your circumstances rather than by God's principles.

 Ultimately, we all have to get to the point where we are allowing the Holy Spirit to so fill us that we are able, by His power, to rule over our own spirits. This phrase is found in Proverbs 25:28: "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls." We have breakdowns when our spiritual walls are broken down! A vital and key principle is missing if you've never learned how to have dominion over your own mind. We are rational beings who are capable of being very irrational, which is why we need God's help to direct and control our emotions, including our moods.

When we yield our moods to God, He is able to deliver us even from ourselves! As we deepen our walk with the Lord, he strengthens our ability to "rule" over our emotions and increases our stability. We end up in the position of predominance over our radical mood swings by tapping into the source of our strength: God Himself. He lives in us. Why don't we call on Him more often to direct and control us? When we humble ourselves and really admit that we need God's help, we're in the perfect position to receive His aid.

You want a free attitude adjustment? It's available daily in God's Word. Stop allowing yourself to take "time off" from Scripture when it's your "necessary food." Keep your heart and mind filled with Scripture and you'll be amazed and relieved at what it does for your mood. Let's stop torturing our family and friends with the rides on our mood playground.  It's past time to get off the mood swings.

"A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident." (Prov. 14:16)

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dumb things I did as a newlywed

It's great to have a wonderful marriage, but most marriages are not wonderful all day, every day. In fact, a lot of us have experienced some rough waters along the way. People who see "The Taylors" at this stage could falsely assume that we've always had it so good. Not so. We've had to work hard at learning how to love each other and care for each other as God designed it. After all, marriage is really two selfish people saying "I do" without having a clue! Today I'm sharing some of the dumb things that I did as a newlywed. People may learn from success, but failure is educational, too. Grab a beverage and settle into a comfy chair before reading this "NOT TO DO" list:

Jumbo Dumbo #1: I complained about my husband's schedule.
Ah, the early days, when we had dual incomes and no kids. I hardly noticed my husband's schedule, as we were both gone all day. I was so busy with my job of selling cars; I just looked forward to coming home and making dinner or making reservations! Maybe you're wondering about that job description: selling cars? Well, we didn't have enough money to buy a second car, so I went and applied for a job at the local car dealership and they hired this friendly girl on the spot! I was a top saleswoman, and a demo car came with the deal! I liked the job so much that when my husband was transferred from Illinois to Minnesota, I went to work for another car dealership right away. And then one day, I felt sick to my stomach...

A positive pregnancy test led to a dinner discussion: "Francie, only one of us is going to work after we have children. I want you at home." Woo Hoo! I thought he was giving me time off for good behavior! And then we had Austen, followed two years later by Hillary; and 13 months later by Collin. The highlight of my day was folding pastel-colored miniature undershirts. Norman was entering the peak phase of his career, which meant longer hours, travel, and less family time. 

I became Mrs. Grumpalot.

"You're hardly ever home, and I'm with the kids all day and doing laundry and cleaning up after them and wahh wahh wahhhhhh." Norman got tired of my complaining, so he made this memorable threat: "I could quit my job and take another one where I'd be home more and we could lower our standard of living, OR you could be content and we could work with things as they are."

I had that coming to me. We were already living modestly, but I wanted to have more of my husband's time when he simply couldn't give it. Why do we focus on what we don't have rather than being thankful for all that we do have? It's a character flaw. "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." (Phil. 2:4) I needed to see this from Norman's side, too. He was working as hard as he could to provide for his family on one income. I learned that day to drop the subject and never to bring it up again. Moral of Jumbo Dumbo #1: Don't count what's missing; count your blessings.

Jumbo Dumbo #2: I fussed at my husband about trivial matters.
What do I mean by "trivial matters"? I'll demonstrate by asking you this question: Should a man have to take off his shoes when he comes in the house (his house)? I wish I could hear your responses, because I know there would be some screaming YES out there. And maybe even a few crying "Death to the infidel if he doesn't"! It's really crazy how territorial we can become about our homes. I had to learn this: If Norman H. Taylor wants to walk leaves, motor oil, Minnesota-snow and anything else into this house, so be it. I have provided a perfect place for grimy shoes, but I'm not my husband's mom, so if he chooses to bypass it and leave size-12 foot prints announcing his arrival,!

What?! But what about the carpet? Well guess what I did? I complained one too many times about the carpet stains, and that earned me the Christmas gift I'll never forget. When I first saw the great big box taking up the living room, I imagined that it had something spectacular in it! As I removed the roll of wrapping paper that it took to cover this mega-package, I realized that I was receiving a rebuke, wrapped with love, of course: It was a deluxe (gargantuan) carpet cleaning machine. It screamed, "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Naggy!" "It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house." (Prov. 25:24) I have since learned that true reverence and respect for my husband includes leaving him and his shoes alone, among other things. Moral of Jumbo Dumbo #2: Nagging is disrespectful and it could earn you a prize you don't want. (Carpet cleaner for sale: Cheap!)

Jumbo Dumbo #3: I came into marriage expecting him to make my life complete.
I blame the wedding traditions for helping so many of us to get this backwards. The bridal shower is about the bride, the gift registry is often decided by the bride, the colors for the home are usually determined by the bride, the plans for the wedding are made almost entirely by the bride (and don't try that token "I asked him for his opinion" stuff)! If you married a man that helped plan most of your wedding, join the 0.0000000003% of the population who did the same.

Even the clothing for the wedding day is all about the bride. The groom may get to select his preference in a tuxedo, if he's granted permission or if his bride is too busy dress-shopping to care! But often, even his suit for the big day has been selected by the bride! And let's not forget the wedding gown: no other garment gets so much attention to be worn for so little time. Is it any wonder that we come into the marriage singing "Me Me Me ME Me Me Me"? And yet the Lord said early in Scripture that woman was made for man, not the other way around. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (Gen. 2:18) It took some time, but I finally learned that I am here to make Norman's world go round. As God increased my understanding of this important role, He also increased my love for my beloved. Just think: the man that you've married was once a tiny baby long ago, and now you get to care for him as an adult. Moral of Jumbo Dumbo #3: Drop the wedding mentality at the door. The marriage is about the couple.

Jumbo Dumbo #4: I gave my husband the silent treatment.
Now this was really dumb, but I'm just delivering as promised. Norman and I would have a disagreement over something, and I would be miffed, I mean cooking with all four burners lock-jaw miffed. I know better now, but in our early years, silence was meant to be a punishment for whatever I perceived to be a transgression. What it really came down to was this: he didn't see something my way. "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him." (Prov. 18:17)  Arguments are often a matter of not seeing eye to eye, but failure to communicate doesn't improve the situation; it just forces you to take the long way to a solution.

What women need to know is this: the silent treatment is a rotten form of communication. It's also worth mentioning that if a man has a choice between a woman harping at him and a woman not speaking to him, he'll choose the silent model every time. But eventually, couples have to talk things out, so I had to learn how to answer Norman when he would ask, "Sweetheart, what's wrong?" I had to grow up past the old answer of "nothing" and carefully tell the truth. Now when my Norman asks "Honey, what's bothering you," I answer him, being mindful to state the problem rather than accusing him of being the problem. Conflict resolution is part of married life. The longer you're married, the more conflicts you'll need to learn to resolve without resorting to punishment tactics.

I've given up the silent treatment, but I'm still careful with how I file my complaints: "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." (Prov. 15:4) When a man doesn't feel like you're attacking him, he doesn't have to put up his defense shields! The "soft answer" works! Moral of Jumbo Dumbo #4: Don't employ failed methods; use methods that work.

There's not enough space for me to list the rest of my transgressions, but I think you get the picture. As the Lord continues to polish off my rough edges (even after 30 years), I work hard to make my husband's life better than it was before he added me to his world. It's not unusual to make more than a few unwise mistakes in the early years, but as we grow in the Lord, we should also improve at being married. If someone were to ask your husband about you, would he say that God did him a favor by bringing you into his life? 

I saw something on the carpet on my way to the kitchen for a glass of water. It was fresh mud mixed with garden mulch in size 12. If that isn't love...

"Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord." (Prov. 18:22)


Saturday, March 17, 2012

An adulteress is without natural affection

Have you ever wondered how a woman could breakup someone's marriage and still sleep at night? The answers are found throughout Scripture, but a total absence of human decency is a major component. As the "last days" are vividly described in II Timothy chapter three, we see a particular description in verse three that is a characteristic of the adulteress: "Without natural affection..." (2 Tim. 3:3a) Not all women would be categorized as such, since there are some who "wander" into an adulterous situation without evil intentions in advance. Women who are genuinely repentant and who turn away swiftly from the sin of infidelity are demonstrating that their hearts have not turned to stone. Those who are without natural affection are hard-hearted, and that's who we're referring to in this article.

When you add up all the other perils described in II Tim. 3:1-5, it's easy to see how and why we are facing an epidemic increase in adultery today. These are "perilous times" because people are sinfully perilous! If you are expecting an adulteress to feel even remotely sorry for you as she lures your husband away from you and your family, you're expectations are noble but mistaken. Since the adulteress is without natural affection, you are not in her thoughts. It's all about her.

Here are just five of the common devices of an adulterous woman (there are more, but we have space limitations):

1. FLATTERY: Since the adulteress uses flattery as her main power tool (if you guessed it was her body, that's a secondary tool), we need to be mindful of women who seem to be too dependent upon our husbands, especially those who give abundant praise and admiration. "With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him." (Prov. 7:21) Once and a while, a sincere compliment is normal and is not out of line. Continual flattery from another woman crosses over into the "vitamin P zone" and no woman but the wife should enter that zone. That's our very personal zone where we build up our own husbands with the "vitamin" of PRAISE. The key is to be on guard for the repeat offender. The harlot in Prov. 7 didn't use just a little flattery; she used "much fair speech" plus flattery.

2. FLESH: If the adulteress is physically attractive, she will use her body as "bait" to lure men. This is the woman who likes to "make an entrance" by arriving late to functions (including church!) and then taking the long way to her seat, so that she can be admired and observed. Men are urgently warned to "Lust not after her beauty in thine heart: neither let her take thee with her eyelids." (Prov. 6:25) Wise men know not to satisfy this kind of woman with attention; men who are "void of understanding" not only look longingly, but they may even entertain fantasies about having such a woman. Notice the wisdom of Job: "I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid.?" (Job 31:1) I'll leave it to my husband to talk to men about the immense danger of going down such a path. As for us as wives, we need to employ alertness and keep this kind of woman away from all the men in our family (even our young adult sons).

3. FLIRT: The adulteress is an experienced "hunter." This reminds me of my fishing technique: to attract the attention of the largemouth bass, I wiggle the tip of my rod just a little, to make the bait dance in the water. The adulteress wiggles her bait, too! "For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life." (Prov. 6:26) This woman is flirtatious, and she is on the lookout for a man who appears to respond favorably to her attempts at seduction. "Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee." (Prov. 7:15) Notice that she is brazenly candid about her intentions. Flirting with men is not at all out of line for the adulteress. It's just part of the hunt.

4. FOR SALE: The adulteress knows how to use clothing to send signals. "And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart." (Prov. 7:10) Both then and now, there is a uniform that says "body for sale." When a woman lacks understanding about biblical modesty, we must be on guard against her potentially hazardous behavior. If her clothing is inappropriate, her behavior may match it. This is also a good reason to teach our daughters about the effect of sensual clothing on men. Garments that are tight or otherwise revealing send signals that are designed to provoke a response. Let's be honest.

5. FAKE: While she may have you guessing at first, the adulteress eventually makes her motives clear. "Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves." (Prov. 7:18) At this point, if a man has lowered his guard, he is headed for destruction: "He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life." (Prov. 7:22-23) When boundaries are repeatedly crossed, it's just a matter of time before two people who don't belong together convince themselves that they are made for each other.

This is just a snapshot of the maneuvers of an adulteress. Scripture has much more for you to study in Proverbs chapters 5, 6, and 7, in addition to other references. As society continues to decline in their regard for marriage and the family, we are going to have to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Pray for the Lord to protect your marriage from this predator, and be alert to her tactics.

"Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness." (Prov. 30:20)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Is your lifestyle hindering your soul winning?

A man with a head of silvery-white hair named Mr. Owens led me to Christ during a job interview back in 1977. As he shared the Gospel with me in a way I'd never heard before, my heart opened to receive the Living Water of the Word of God. My soul cried "Yes" and my mouth did, too! This was the giant missing piece in the puzzle of my life. My first encounter with a soul winner was in that office, and I've been a debtor ever since. Mr. Owens was always on the lookout for someone to talk to about Christ. He had a boldness that was gentle and yet almost urgent. And most of all, his walk matched his talk. He was real.

Not long after trusting Christ, I was taught that my life now belonged to God, and that my lifestyle would be viewed by others as a "billboard" for Christianity. "What? Know ye not that your  body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (I Cor. 6:19) Whoa. I didn't like hearing that! Couldn't I just be quietly saved and live my life any way I wanted? I decided to give that a try. Secret Agent Christian: Saved, but living like I was still unsaved.

Complete and utter failure doesn't even begin to describe it.

After a few years of spinning my spiritual tires like a car backed into a Minnesota snow bank, I finally understood that God was serious about His ownership of my life, and that I could either live obediently for Him with joy, or unhappily and randomly for myself. As my mistakes piled up like cordwood, I also noticed that I was not doing such a good job at being a "billboard," either. It was time to abandon my double-agent lifestyle. When we are saved but living like we're still unsaved, it mocks the enormous sacrifice that Christ made for us on the cross and hinders our testimony.

A common error that people make when they're living by their own rules is to try to find someone else to blame for the messy outcome. When we know what's right but we actively choose to do wrong, the only one to blame is the person that we see in the mirror. "We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them." (Isa. 59:11-12) When we're living off course by choice, we're not always willing to admit it. Pride keeps us trapped in broken ways.

It was time for a change. I wasn't a raging rebel outwardly, but I wasn't living like I truly valued what Christ had done for me, either. My life need an overhaul, and as I confessed my sins, the Lord taught me through His Word to repent and forsake those things that were holding me back from being Christ-like, let alone being a soul winner. The song, "I Surrender All" wasn't just the signal for the end of a sermon anymore. It was my theme song.

As I studied God's Word daily, He continued to transform me by the renewing of my mind. My life began to line up with Scripture, which then strengthened my testimony. Now it was time to learn how to go soul winning. After all, why squirm through the sermon when I could go and do what was being preached? One Sunday years ago, after hearing yet another convicting sermon about soul winning, I went forward during the invitation. The Pastor's wife at the time, Mrs. Ellie Johnson, came and knelt beside me. "Do you need someone to pray with you?" she asked. I was so grateful for her presence, because I wanted to make myself accountable to someone for the decision that I was about to make.

"Yes, I'd like to pray about becoming a soul winner," I told her in my newborn innocence.

"Francie, you don't need to pray about it. Just do it." By this point, I was already familiar with Matt. 28:19-20. The "Go ye, therefore" was clear to me, but I had somehow mistakenly viewed it as optional! Mrs. Johnson  invited me to the next soul winning meeting, and then we prayed for the Lord to bless as I learned how to lead others to Christ. The Lord took it from there, firmly anchoring this important aspect of Christian living in my soul.

It was awkward at first, but I started sharing the Gospel with anyone who was willing to listen. Some of my best soul winning memories have been made at the kitchen tables of Moms from our bus ministry. It thrills me to sit in their "kitchen classrooms" with the Bible as our Textbook, studying the evidence of God's great love for us and helping these dear Moms to receive the free gift as I had done so long ago.

Is your lifestyle hindering your soul winning? If so, it's time to make adjustments. Here's a great prayer: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psa. 139:22-23) Ask the Lord to show you what needs to change, and then yield whatever He touches. If we want to lead others to the well of Living Water, it helps if we are examples of how His transforming power really works.

"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." (Psa. 51:12-13)

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Little pieces of broken glass, part two

When I woke up in the recovery room, I saw my Norman's face. He smiled at me and said, "Hello there, beautiful." Now I know for sure that I wasn't looking beautiful. I was drugged, wrapped in a hospital gown in a weird shade of purple (not my color), and I had a poufy cap on my head, totally ruining the hair I bothered to fix for this adventure. Why does a woman do her hair and makeup if she's going to be admitted to the hospital (maybe you don't)?  I gave Norman a groggy smile as I snuggled into my pillow for another round of sleep. I was still in "La-La Land." Anesthesia lasts a long time in my pokey body, so it took a bit of goading to get me to wake up and get dressed so that we could leave the hospital.

"The surgeon said he removed three small pieces of glass from your heel," Norman told me with a little more volume in his voice than usual. Three pieces of glass? That got my attention, because I only remembered stepping on one sharp object, but it must have broken into pieces as it went into my foot. No wonder it kept jabbing me as I walked; I had a trio of glass pieces relocating themselves with each footfall! What started  out as a small poke (I thought) ended up requiring surgery and stitches. A little thing became a big thing.

How many times have we allowed a little thing to become a big thing between us and someone else? I know I've sure been guilty of this. I cringe now at the memories of times when I allowed some minor event to become a major tidal wave in my life, only to feel like a total fool later as the Lord revealed to me how small the matter really was in His sight. "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him." (Prov. 18:17) We may seem like we've got a really good reason to be aggravated with someone, but when it's put under the magnifying glass of God's Word, there are always flaws in our thinking, because we have imperfect, self-centered eyesight. 

I wonder if we would be more careful with people if we knew their "expiration date." I can vividly remember walking in on an adult mother and daughter as they were working together in our church kitchen years ago. They were laughing and talking as they prepared food for a fellowship. Days later, the mother died suddenly. It was an enormous shock! She looked so healthy and vibrant that day in the kitchen! No one would have ever suspected that she was only hours away from her last day on this side of heaven. "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow: for what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14) It's so easy to take people for granted, saying things or doing things that are painful and then expecting them to just "deal with it" because we're having a bad day. If you're not going love people today, exactly what day are you waiting for?

Once the surgeon removed the glass from my foot, the healing process could begin. Until that glass was out, I was forced to limp while trying to cope with the sharp pain. Is someone limping through life because you're hurting them? Did you cut someone with your words or pierce them with your actions? Are you shunning someone right now because you're making them sweat for displeasing you? It pays to check our attitudes regularly for signs of harmful selfishness. We shouldn't make people feel like they're walking barefoot on broken glass.

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." (I John 4:11)

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Do You Know What You Have?

Someone out there may be struggling with this holiday called Valentine's Day, and I can relate.  This is my third Valentine's...