Pruning A Marriage Is Hard Work

It is Spring in FL and everything in our garden needs pruning, weeding, mulching, fertilizing and/or repotting. It can be overwhelming when looked at as a whole. But Tom and I have found that focusing on one thing and completing it well gives us motivation to do the next thing and so on. All this work makes us tired, but the joy that comes from the final result is worth it.

Marriages face seasons as well.

When Spring arrives it follows the dormant season of winter. We have all been in a worldwide dormant season brought on by the cold winter drought of–COVID-19. Unlike the rhythm of the yearly seasons, this one took us all by surprise and made us take cover in our home together. Many were not prepared to be isolated for so long.

Some couples made the most of it and discovered they are still not only best friends, but madly in love. Some found areas in need of attention in their relationship leaving them discouraged. Still others found the marriage too broken to repair and are calling it quits. This group is the one that causes us the most sadness.

But today we want to focus on those who realize how much work needs to be done.

It is common for couples to avoid difficulty. We think we can get to it “another time”, but the right time never seems to come. What starts out as days becomes months, even years. Until neither of you know what the real issues are which caused the trouble in the first place.

Our advice to ourselves and to you who may find yourself in this place is to begin doing the hard work of pruning back the overgrowth of self-indulgence. Not doing what you want to do for the purpose of doing what you need to do.

Pruning – We have a gorgeous bougainvillea in our backyard that has overtaken its space. We gave it a hard pruning about two months ago and the plant actually looked relieved of the weight. When we returned from our daughter’s home after 6.5 weeks, we found branches growing where we had had removed them. Some may conclude this is a sign of health. We knew that it was a sign more pruning was needed.

We have also been pruning things in our marriage. Communication that has been allowed to flow freely without restraint adds a heaviness to our conversations. So we are working together talking about hard things, repenting and asking each other for forgiveness. Words spoken cannot be taken back, but they can be removed from future conversations. That’s an important part of repentance–if it’s genuine, change follows. However, it won’t fix it permanently; like our bougainvillea we have to keep an eye out for unwanted growth in this area.

Weeding – Many weeds are beautiful. We recently took a walk with our son’s children around their neighbor hood. Our youngest granddaughter was in awe of the clover and dandelions. She even exclaimed, “When I grow up and have a yard, I want all dandelions. They are my favorite!”

Weeds rob the plant of nutrients it needs to grow. What things have you allowed in your life that hinder the health of your marriage? They can appear or even be good, like dandelions, but in the end if not controlled, they’ll take over and spoil your relationship. Possible weeds to consider: hobbies, time spent on screens of any kind, friends and extended family, or work projects.

Of course I’m not saying these are bad for your marriage. Only if they are given priority over time spent loving and cherishing your spouse.

Mulch is used in the garden to help control weeds. Think of this as quality time together. If Tom and I are connected on all levels—spiritually, emotionally and physically, it is much easier to make room for other hobbies and relationships. The marriage won’t be starving for attention, but can reach out to bless and enjoy others.

Fertilizer enriches the soil of the plant. In marriage this is simply investing in your relationship through learning, growing, talking and being willing to see and hear your spouse’s perspective. Finding and committing to a Bible-teaching church that supports healthy marriages and family, is the best investment you can make in your future. Fertilizer has a lasting effect in the days, months and years to come. So does our spiritual foundation. It matters for a lifetime.

The next time you’re pruning in your yard, consider the health of your marriage with every cut. Allow God to speak to you what’s needed in this season of life and talk to your spouse about what you hear.

There is a greater beauty to behold for those who are willing to get their hands dirty and do the work. Joy awaits you!

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict, Growing Strong Marriages, Priorities | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

42

February 24, 1979

42 is a significant number in more ways than I realized. In fact, there is a website that shares a list of 42 ways the number 42 is significant. Ten of the ones that stood out to me are listed below.

1. It is the first number retired from a sports figure. It was Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

2. Although I don’t agree, it is said to be ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything in The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, by Douglas Adam’s.

3. Wolves and most adult dogs have 42 teeth.

4. There are 42 dots on one pair of dice.

5. Alice In Wonderland contains exactly 42 illustrations and makes many references to this number throughout the book, by Lewis Caroll

6. The Gutenberg Bible has 42 lines on each page.

7. The three top selling albums of all time each have a running time of 42 minutes. Michael Jackson‘s Thriller. Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, and Back in Black by AC/DC.

8. 42nd Street holds some of the most iconic buildings in NYC: The Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal and Times Square to name a few.

9. Elvis Presley was 42 when he passed away.

10. There are 42 territories in the board game Risk. The map is set up as it was during Napoleon‘s time.

Photo by Hasbroo

All these are quite impressive. But none mean more to us than this day 42 years ago.

On this date Tom and I said our vows before family and friends and most importantly before God. He has been the glue to hold us together when neither of us could see the way out of difficult seasons. He has been our constant and sure hope!

42 years and it seems as if we’ve just begun.

We often joke that we have each been married to five different people (all the same person). That’s because as time passes we have changed. As we do we have had to relearn how to love and support the person we’ve each become.

Sadly, many couples check out without discovering what life will look like married to this new person. I am grateful that from the beginning we both decided divorce would never be an option. Little did we know how this commitment would help us persevere through challenges where many couples would quit.

Has it been easy? No! Has it been worth it? A million times yes! No one shares history with me like Tom. No one knows me like Tom. And no one would ever love me as well as he has loved me. It is a miracle—taking two and making them one flesh. We agree with God in saying, “It is very good!”

42 years. This is absolutely my favorite year of marriage. Each year is a testimony of the faithfulness of God to help two imperfect people keep their vows to each other.

Don’t marvel at us; marvel at Him!

We were married on the 24th. Tom was 24 and together we’ve made it 42 years. We have three children, three amazing spouses to our children who have become like children to us. They have blessed us with nine incredible grandchildren. I think it’s time for us to celebrate!

Our family

I love you Mr. Walter. You have made life this side of heaven better than I could have ever imagined. Happy Anniversary to us.

Posted in anniversaries, Celebrations, Christian Marriage | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

“You’re All The Woman I’ll Ever Need”

We were young and had two, (soon-to-be) three small children. Our church was young as well. We had left a large mega church in order to plant, with our young couples’ pastor, a church to discover New Testament reality. We didn’t know what it would look like, but we were excited to find out.

The year was 1985.

Tom was asked to lead a small group from the start. On Sunday morning after the service, each small group leader would set up a table with sign-up information to join their group.

The first couple to approach us was what we thought, an “older” couple. Lester and Dolores lived in our area and wanted to come to our group. They were one of many, but soon we would discover they were one-of-a-kind.

Lester and Dolores had the gift of hospitality. The rest of our group consisted of young, eager parents wanting to serve the Lord. What we lacked in wisdom, we excelled in enthusiasm.

Our first group dinner was Chinese themed. Poor Lester and Dolores. When they saw that some couples idea of bringing a dish was a pint of stir-fried rice to feed 12, they realized they needed to step in.

Our next dinner was held at their home where they served us the entire meal. They made so much food we had leftovers, and not only that…Dolores decorated the tables to go with the theme of the night, e.g fish fry, Italian, potato, or Christmas. it was always amazing. I’ll have to post about those nights later. We felt welcomed, spoiled and satisfied. But what we didn’t realize was how they were redefining for us what hospitality looked like.

I share this story with you because this dear couple is finally reunited in Heaven.

Lester died 16 years ago after an unsuccessful surgery that took his life too soon. Dolores was never the same without him. They were in love and loved life together. She lived like an amputee after his death, for part of her heart had been cut away and she hurt, understandably so.

Years later she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and moved close to one of their four children in a memory care facility. We lost touch with her from that point on…that is until today. We heard that Dolores died early this morning the day after Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day. They knew how to bring out the best of any holiday, and this one was no exception.

Our group was invited to their home for a romantic dinner. Lester had given all the husbands a Valentine card unbeknownst to the wives. It was the same on the outside and blank on the inside. They were instructed to write their wife a love letter, omitting pet names or anything that would give away who had written it, but to make it romantic and sincere.

The guys had no idea what Lester had planned. The wives knew nothing of it. But after dinner we were about to find out. They gathered us together in their family room.

Lester read each Valentine love letter one at a time. The wives had to guess which one was written by their husband. It may sound easy, but it wasn’t.

One Valentine stood out to all of us. It was signed, “Honey, you’re all the woman I’ll ever need!” So romantic. Every wife wanted it to be from their husband, but there was only one wife to be so honored—Dolores.

Although they were the oldest couple in our small group, their love was fresh and worth emulating.

It was fitting that Dolores died the day following Valentine’s Day. It was time for them to be reunited with each other as they worship the truest love of their lives, Christ Jesus.

We are grateful for their example that has left an indelible mark on all that we do. It makes us wonder what example we’re setting for those watching us. Not to bring us glory, but to draw others to True Love, to the One who never fails to exhibit real and lasting love—for eternity!

Thank you Lester and Dolores. We will see you again. Until then, enjoy your long-awaited reunion.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Death and Grieving, Growing Strong Marriages, Holidays, Love Stories, romancing your spouse, Seasons of Life, Showing Honor, Testimonies, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Creativity Wins This Valentine’s Day

As most of you know, Tom (Papa) and I (Nana) are in Arkansas helping our daughter and son-in-love with their first baby who was born at 24 weeks and 5 days in October. They came home after being 2 hours away in Tulsa, OK, for 115 days. It is a privilege to be able to help them.

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. I haven’t been out of the house since Tuesday. And that was to take Elias to his doctor appointment. I told Tom not to buy me a card this year since I didn’t have a chance to buy him one.

Well, what I didn’t know is that Tom had already bought me a card. So what did he do? He went to the store and picked out a card he thought I’d pick for him. He nailed it! And not only that, but he signed it as I would have if I had bought it.

The best gift? He made me laugh loud and hard. It was such a thoughtful and well timed gift.

Sometimes circumstances don’t lend themselves to romance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be thoughtful and kind to each other.

I am grateful for my husband. We have walked together through some difficult times these past few years, but two things are constant—his love for me and God’s faithfulness to us.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Make it memorable and creative. ❤️

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Holidays, humor, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Beauty To Behold

Rose garden before.

It’s the time of year in Florida where we have to prune, trim and weed our yard. Spring comes before the calendar says it’s so, and Saturday was the right time for us to get to work. We enjoy yard work in the cool weather. And it always pays off come Summer.

The biggest task is hard pruning my rose garden.

They have thorns as long as finger nails and have to be cut back to a third of their size; It’s no easy task. However, the right tools makes it much easier.

My daughter bought me the most amazing rose garden gloves for my birthday last year that are made of thick leather and cover all the way to my elbows. This is the first year I didn’t get a single thorn prick or scratch. It is nothing short of amazing! I have rose thorns embedded in my fingers from years past, so this was a blessing I didn’t know I was missing.

This made me wonder what having the right tools for our marriage could mean.

  • Maybe less pain and more progress?
  • More willingness to do the work with faster results?
  • Cleaner cuts that promote new growth, instead of careless cuts that bring more problems?

This pandemic has brought isolation in ways many of us have never experienced.

It can cause already difficult areas in our marriage to become unbearable, like old overgrowth after a long, dormant winter. It screams for pruning. It’s noticeable and more difficult to ignore. But be careful; there are deep wounds the thorns of unresolved conflict can inflict on a weakened marriage.

Wearing gloves” in marriage is likened to admitting you need help.

It takes humility to let your needs be known. God has ordained it this way. We aren’t meant to live in isolation. We need each other to help us learn and grow.

Marriages face many challenges. Some are unique to your relationship. Some are common to most. Take time and consider who are those in your life available to help you in your time of need? Who has a marriage you admire? What authors have written books that discuss the very challenges you face? What marriage blogs discuss practicals on how to prune in the right way leading to new growth? Or consider talking with your pastor or a marriage counselor if more one on one help is required.

Pruning and weeding is never easy. Once you start it always looks worse before it gets better. Lots of dirt and cuts, but if done right with the proper tools it won’t leave you or your spouse with unsightly scars. The best part? The hope for a healthier, stronger marriage as Summer approaches—a beauty to behold!

Rose garden after

We are happy to offer suggestions on what resources could help you in your current struggles. Just ask, either in the comments or by emailing us.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Conflict, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Finding Your Place

Latest Painted Rock I found at LAWD

We have a place here in Florida that has become one of our favorite places to go. Especially during the pandemic. It is a place that helps redirect our focus, and it has worked for us time and time again.

Lake Apopka is a working restoration project of one of the largest fresh water lakes in Florida. For decades Lake Apopka was bordered by muck farms that produced the best sweet corn ever tasted. However, the fertilizer used on these farms cause an overgrowth of algae in the lake and nearly killed it. What used to be a first-class bass fishing lake, has become the state’s most polluted lake.

Florida has made plans to restore this nearly 31,000 acre lake, but it will take years. One of the ways they are helping people become aware of their efforts is a free park with trails for biking, hiking and driving. The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD as it is called) is filled with birds, reptiles, fish and fauna of all kinds. We love taking the 2 hour drive as often as we can to take photos of God’s incredible creation.

I asked Tom recently if he minded driving all the time while I photographed. His response was simply, “I love watching you love the drive.”

An added bonus is many artists have taken to the drive to bless others in their own way; they paint rocks and hide them for us to find. It adds an element of anticipation and joy to the whole experience.

Following are photos from our most recent visit. I hope they help you pause and take a moment to enjoy God’s creation too.

Florida Gator reflecting on the day
Beautiful wild flowers dot the drive
Blue-winged Teal
Anhinga in flight
Immature Little Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle

What things have you done recently for your spouse because you know it makes them happy? With the weight of current events pressing heavily on all of us, it is nice to know we can still find joy in slowing down and blessing our spouse in meaningful ways.

Posted in Date Night Ideas, Free Dates, Local Gems, Orlando Date Ideas, Outdoor Dates, Romantic Orlando | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Keeping This One Thing Will Strengthen Your Marriage

Conscience. It’s how God helps us grow in our relationship with Him and with others. Children usually have very tender conscience, and will quickly confess when their conscience is telling them they have done something wrong.

Our conscience is for our protection. If we ignore it enough it will cease to be heard. In order for our conscience to stay healthy we must listen to it and act when we know we should.

Those who choose to ignore their conscience move from conscience to guilt.

Those who are guilty, hide. Take Adam and Eve for instance; as soon as they sinned against God they hid themselves from Him. Rather than listen to their conscience and tell God what they had done. They became guilty and afraid and rightly so.

Take this same thought and apply it to your marriage.

If we have done something we know will hurt our spouse, we have two choices. 1. Listen to our conscience and talk to them about it or, 2. Decide we can handle it on our own and keep it a secret. Even if you have every intention of never doing this again, keeping it a secret almost guarantees that you will do it again given the right opportunity.

Why is confession so important?

“If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

If we humble ourselves before God it will be easier to do the same with our spouse. Humility is the soil where all the other virtues grow. Cultivate this and you will make room to grow in all other areas. Pride hides, humility confesses.

We can make it easier on our spouse to be honest with us in several ways.

  • Talk about this issue before there is a reason talk about it.
  • Commit to each other that you will be open and honest, even when it is uncomfortable to do so.
  • Don’t react when they are telling you something they did or didn’t do. Listen first.
  • Assure your spouse that divorce isn’t an option.
  • Ask questions to find out more information. Oftentimes the one confessing is testing the waters to see how you will handle it. If it doesn’t seem safe, they won’t confess everything.
  • Pray with and for your spouse.
  • You are your spouse’s best friend, or should be. Treat your spouse like you would treat a close friend.

Personal Testimony

I know early in our marriage when we faced our first conflict requiring confession and repentance, that initial confession was the hardest. Once confession began, the words poured out like a waterfall. What felt releasing to one, felt like a smack in the face to the other. The one who sinned had finally regained a clean conscience, and the weight of it all released them from guilt.

The other however, had no idea this was coming. The weight of what they were hearing was incapacitating. By the grace of God we weren’t alone in this moment; The Holy Spirit walked us carefully through it and helped us learn, grow and change.

I’d like to say this was the only time it happened, but that wouldn’t be honest. We had just learned how to go forward in our marriage with a clear conscience, as long as we both guarded it for the good of the other.

The result? We became more accountable to each other. kept no secrets from each other e..g. private chats, phone numbers, activities, habits or contacts. This is still true to this day. We share passwords on all our devices. We can pick up each other’s phone at any time and not be offended that they’re looking. And we can talk about anything with which we are struggling.

It hasn’t gotten any easier. Sin never cooperates with the conscience for it knows that it must stay in the dark to survive. Our conscience is a gift from God, like a light showing the way out of darkness. The question to answer is, Who are you going to listen to?

Conversation Prompt: Plan an evening to talk about the condition of your consciences. It may be the best and most important conversation you’ll have for the future health of your relationship.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Repentance, Testimonies, The Gospel & Marriage | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Dormant Season

We have a huge, very healthy bougainvillea in our backyard. It is so large it is pushing our new fence and making it difficult to walk by it without getting scratched by it’s enormous thorns. We needed to prune it, but were afraid it wasn’t the right time.

Our winters in FL are mild. Bougainvilleas are tropical plants and don’t fare well in cold weather. We looked up the right time to prune, and we were happy to hear it is in early Spring when the plant is dormant. (Yes, January in FL can be like early Spring in the North. This is why we live here!)

Dormancy is a time in a plant’s lifespan where the roots grow deeper and the visible parts of the plant can look dead or dying. But for those of us who understand the seasons of a plant’s life, we know it’s just that—a season.

I have been telling Tom we needed a project, since our days look much the same week to week. This bougainvillea was just what we had been looking for that we could do together with satisfying results.

He did the trimming and I eyed the branches that needed to go. It took several days because we had to cut all the branches up small in order to put them in garbage cans for our yard waste collection day. Since we only have 5 cans for this purpose, it took us a total of 10 full cans of thorny trimmings by the time we were finished.

I believe this worldwide pandemic has put many marriages in a “dormant season” of sorts.

We can’t go and do like we used to, and when we do get out we have to don masks. I find myself preferring to stay home most of the time, which is not like the normal me at all! We sit, think and talk a lot, and we watch more television too. Many times our frustrations over it all comes out in how we speak to each other. And this requires us to talk more and apologize a lot.

Add to all this couples who are juggling work, homeschooling children and keeping the family healthy and busy, and these tensions can seem insurmountable. Like the branches of the bougainvillea there are thorns to watch out for where we will, at times, get hurt. Words can stab us and unspoken words can cut deep. The wounds caused by overgrown conflicts can seem too deep to heal. Is it worth the pain or should we just cut it down? Sadly, we have heard of many marriages breaking up in this season.

When we pause and consider the purpose of the dormant season, we realize God is at work doing a good thing in our marriage if we let Him. He is allowing us time to grow in our understanding of each other. He is helping our roots grow deeper as we seek the hidden springs of wisdom, which provides much needed nourishment and strength.

Our finished project—Ready for Spring

The beauty of a healthy marriage, like a healthy plant, is worth the risks. God created both for His glory.

Let’s make the most of this pause, this dormant time, and cultivate our marriages. The beauty of the new growth and blooms to come will be worth it.

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict, Growing Strong Marriages, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Growth Through Heartache

I referred to it in our last post. Today I want to share the story that took our marriage from the honeymoon stage to the next level of intimacy–growth through heartache.

Tom and I wanted children. We had decided on two in our pre-marriage talks–a boy first, then a girl. It was a dream that I had held for as long as I could remember. I was thrilled when Tom and I decided to start trying for our first baby.

It’s an often-shared joke of how we had decided to wait two years to have a family. In my mind that meant getting pregnant at 1 years and 2 months so we would have our first baby by our second anniversary. In Tom’s mind that meant we would start trying after our second anniversary. It was a difficult time in our young marriage. But we finally agreed on our second anniversary.

When we found out I was pregnant we couldn’t keep our news to ourselves; We announced it to everyone–even the UPS delivery guy, we called Boots. He was happy that we were so happy. That is, until we weren’t.

Tom had a meeting in Tampa for his job at Gordon’s Jewelers where he was asked to speak. Being only 6 weeks pregnant, I went with him to enjoy time by the pool. His meeting was at another hotel. He didn’t tell me where it was, only the name of it. I don’t recall why we didn’t stay in the same hotel, but it made what was about to happen the biggest challenge of our lives.

Tom left early. I slept in. When I awoke I was bleeding heavily. I was in shock! I called my obstetrician and the nurse’s voice became sympathetic. I knew that voice and it wasn’t encouraging. I was scared and alone. She told me to get to a hospital as soon as possible.

I cried and prayed. This couldn’t be happening, not here–not now! But it was and I didn’t know what to do.

We didn’t have cell phones or even beepers for that matter. I looked up all the numbers for the hotel chain Tom had mentioned and called each one to see if there was a conference taking place for Gordon’s. I found it and asked them to tell my husband he needed to call me right away. It was an emergency.

What I didn’t know is he was just walking up to the podium to speak when he got my message. I can only imagine that moment and the panic that ensued for him. He called me right away, and hearing his voice brought me to tears. He said he’d be right there, but didn’t say he would call an ambulance.

I heard the sirens, but being in a big city I had no idea they were for me.

A few minutes later a team of EMTs entered my room with a gurney ready to deliver a baby. When they saw me and that I wasn’t full term, their countenance changed. It was the same sympathetic look with which the nurse had spoken to me earlier. This kind EMT knelt next to my bed and explained that I would have to go to the ER where they could examine me.

Heartbroken and afraid, we drove to the hospital.

I’d love to say I found the same sympathy at the hospital, but I didn’t. In order to see if I was still pregnant they ordered a urine test–the only way to determine pregnancy at the time. It took 4 hours for results. The worst part? They didn’t allow Tom to come back with me, so I was alone for that time, crying and afraid of the news I would hear.

The ER nurse I likened to an army sergeant- harsh and impatient for anyone with signs of weakness. I’m not exaggerating. She told me in her matter-of-fact tone, “You’re having a miscarriage, and there is no way to save the baby. I happens all the time.”

Again, I’m alone. Tom doesn’t know what’s happening. After the four hours I was told they messed the test up and would have to do another one. At this point Tom had had it, and called our doctor in Orlando to see if it would be safe for me to drive the two hours home. He said yes, but for me to lay down in the car.

He demanded the ER dismiss me. They resisted his request and said if we left the hospital insurance wouldn’t pay the bill–we would be responsible. At this point Tom didn’t care, he just wanted me out of there. I felt rescued and relieved to be going home. Still no answers as we drove home in silence.

I did lose the baby. We had to tell all our family and friends the news. I was haunted by the what-ifs that lead to worry and fear. It was a hard season for us.

Upon returning to work, I couldn’t talk about it and told everyone I was fine. I asked my coworkers to tell our customers to not say anything about what had happened. I needed to move forward without crumbling every time someone asked, “How are you doing?”

Three months later is when we took our first planned vacation together to California. It was what we needed to heal and try again. God used this heartache to knit our hearts closer than we ever imagined. Tom had cared for me at my weakest, even when his heart was breaking too.

I realized then what lasting love looks like. It wasn’t a fairy tale about which I had always dreamed, but it was our story being written through all we would face together as husband and wife.

What heartaches did you experience in your early years of marriage? If we look back at them now we can see more clearly what God was doing for good in the midst of the heartache.

Photo Credits: Photos by Andreas Haslinger, Paul Earle on Unsplash

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages, Newlyweds, Parenting, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

California Dreamin’ On Such A Winter’s Day

We had only been married a couple of years when we decided to take a trip across the country to visit Tom’s parents. I was a Florida girl, born and raised, and had heard about California my whole life, but had never been. I had watched all the Gidget movies growing up and knew all about the great waves drawing surfers from all parts of the world. I also knew all the Beach Boys hits by heart and would swoon over lifeguards and the whole beach vibe as a teenaged girl.

But I was now married and all of 22 years old. What would California be like for me at this time in my life? I was soon to find out.

We…

  • Sailed on Tom’s uncle’s boat under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
  • Spent a day in Yosemite National Park – just enough to realize how big God is.
  • Experienced our first earthquake (although I slept through it!)
  • Toured Universal Studios Hollywood and walked the sidewalk in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
  • Went to Del Coronado where I realized how cold the Pacific Ocean really is. There would be no bikinis worn in that cold water–wet suits would be necessary if you were to avoid hyperthermia.
  • Visited the San Diego Zoo and Tijuana, Mexico.

We were only there two weeks, but we literally saw it all. I realized what a blessing it was to have married a man who loved to travel and visit new places as much as I did. That was almost 40 years ago, but the the memories are as fresh today as they were then.

The best part of this trip? It was planned three months after losing our first baby to miscarriage. We needed time away to help us think about other things, and California Dreaming fit the bill. What we didn’t know was that we would conceive our first-born son while there. It’s ironic that he has loved California his whole life as well–including being an avid fan of the San Diego Chargers, that is until they moved to LA. A sad day in our family.

Today we played a game introduced to us while on our trip in 1981–Rummikub. Not only is this the game we played, it is also the exact game pieces we learned to play on this trip decades ago. Tom’s dad recently moved in with us from San Diego and while helping him clean out his home of 45 years, I found this gem! I hadn’t thought of it in years, but today it all came back.

What things did you do in your early years of marriage that you haven’t thought of in years? Spend time reminiscing and realize how much history you share together. It is our memories that make our marriage unique. No one else shares your stories. You don’t even have to talk about the details. Often it’s a knowing look that brings much of what you experienced together back to life.

For us California dreaming on this winter’s day brought an afternoon challenge of Rummikub. Who won? Well–I’m not saying. I was always told it isn’t nice to brag.

Posted in Travel, Vacations | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

When Opposites Don’t Attract

The old adage that opposites attract is often said in regard to marriage, and it is true most times.

Tom and I couldn’t be more opposite in areas that aren’t important, e.g. how we like our eggs, hot beverage of choice in the morning, whether we feel cold or hot, etc. But what if the areas you face are important? Or worse, what if you disagree on what we call Non-negotiables? Is it possible to learn to change at best, or agree to disagree at worst? Yes! But it’s not easy.

We are strong supporters of pre-marital counseling for this reason. When you are dating and all you can see in your future spouse is how perfect they are for you, it’s hard to be objective. Tom and I were that way to a degree. We didn’t have the benefit of pre-marital counseling back in 1979. It wasn’t a thing except for our pastor to ask us if we loved each other and what birth-control we were planning to use. That was it! Much of the conflict we faced in our early years could have been worked out before we were married if we had only had someone to mentor us and ask good questions.

For example, it’s good to know the following before you say “I do”…

  • How many children do you want, if you want them at all?
  • What if we find out we are unable to have children?
  • When children come, how do you see disciplining them as right and necessary?
  • What is your view on money? Are you a saver or a spender? Do you use credit cards or have large debts?
  • What would it take for you to leave the marriage? Is there an unspoken clause that gives you an exit strategy should you need it?
  • What if we disagree on an important decision, how do you see us working it out?
  • How involved are you expecting our in-laws to be in our daily lives?
  • What are your priorities in order of importance?
  • Do you have anything hidden that I should know about? Children? Previous marriage? Sin patterns that could effect our marriage?
  • How do you see us spending our free time? Vacations? Holidays?
  • If you could change one thing about me what would it be?
  • What is one thing you respect about your parent’s marriage?
  • What is one thing you don’t like about your parent’s marriage?

As you can see these are important things to know before making the serious commitment to marry someone.

When we got married I was only 19. Tom was 24. We were in love and so happy together. But I was scared to death because I wasn’t prepared on many levels. These questions would have put important unknowns on the table to make them known and would have set us up with the tools needed to make it through the rapids ahead. I am grateful that our marriage has lasted the test of time, but it wasn’t easy in our early years

I used to think that once we got to the place where we are now in marriage (over 40 years), that it would be smooth waters. Nope! Marriage is hard work just like anything worth doing. As Tom often says, if you quit working on your marriage you’re drifting and without direction. Sooner or later you’ll realize you’ve drifted apart and you don’t know each other anymore.

If you find yourself in this place it’s not too late to pick up the oars and start paddling together in the right direction. Yeah, you might bump into low hanging branches that scratch and hurt. But together you can pull through if you’re willing to make the effort. It will most likely take the help of someone you both know and trust: a pastor, friend or counselor. They know the river of disagreement well, and how quickly it can escalate to white-water rapids without warning.

It’s time to gear up and move forward. Any place worth seeing usually takes hard work to get there. A successful marriage is worth seeing and living. It provides stability in an uncertain world for you, your children and their children.

Date Night Prompt: What areas in our marriage do you see as successful in that we walk in agreement? What about areas of opposition? Let’s talk about how to resolve these issues now before they grow in intensity.

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages, Newlyweds, Troubled Marriage | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

25 of My Favorite Things Date Idea

Favorite things are just that–favorites. And most people will talk for hours about what they love if you can figure out what that is. Your spouse is no exception.

I had the idea to think about my favorite things and have Tom think of his. Then come together and talk about each of our lists. Maybe this would be a fun at-home date idea to try this month. As a twist, see if you can fill out each other’s list for them and see how well you did.

My Favorite Things

  1. Dessert
  2. Vacation destination
  3. Love Song
  4. Movie or TV Series
  5. Quote I say often
  6. Food cuisine e.g. Italian, Asian, French, etc.
  7. Dream car
  8. Car you’ve owned
  9. Bible verse
  10. Hobby
  11. Day Off activity
  12. Scent
  13. Flower
  14. Restaurant
  15. Date Night memory
  16. Vacation memory
  17. Season
  18. Holiday
  19. Thing I do for you
  20. Thing you do for me
  21. Author
  22. Place on earth
  23. Place you’ve yet to visit
  24. Accomplishment
  25. Pet

How did you do? Did you learn something you didn’t know about yourself or your spouse? Did you add any favorites we missed? Let us know and send a photo, if you’d like.

Thinking of favorites is a way to remember how unique each of us are. Those who know us and share memories with us doing our favorite things soon become a favorite themselves.

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Forced To Embrace Something I Used To Hate

For one who doesn’t like it, I have had a lot of it in my life. I used to literally hate it. What is this thing I disdained so? Change. In all it’s varying forms I resisted change as much as I could.

As a young bride when Tom came home to tell me he had been given a promotion I was elated! That is until he said we would be relocating to a large city in FL, “Where”, I had often said, “I would never live!”

Ten long months we called Miami home, and although I learned to adjust I was never happy. Ten months makes me roll my eyes now at how immature I was. To my 20 year old self 10 months felt like an eternity.

Tom’s next promotion moved us back to Orlando where we bought our first home and started our family. I was born in O-town and live here still; for this I am grateful. I love Orlando, even with all the changes the Mouse has given us, it is still The City Beautiful!

Changes continued by challenging different loves in my life. Our three adult children, one by one moved to different states. I am grateful Tom and I have the freedom to visit them often. But with the pandemic we haven’t seen each other much at all. This makes me unhappy.

Why do I bring this up the first week of 2021?

It is because we have all been forced to embrace change. It is a hard road, but necessary road. Imagine if an unborn baby said it didn’t want the change childbirth would bring? What if they refused to come out, content with life as they knew it in the womb? They’d have no idea what good they were missing, not to mention they wouldn’t survive.

My word for 2020 was contentment, and I didn’t do very well with it.

However, I’m glad God had me focus on it. It helped me be intentional on the important things in life. No pandemic can’t touch the promises we’ve been given in Christ. My eternal future is secure making these temporary difficulties bearable.

If I take my view of change as a new bride and compare it with my view of change today, I am encouraged. I have grown these past 42 years, and it is all because of Christ. He was faithful then, and He’ll be faithful now.

The older I get the more I see change is good. It is everywhere in creation. God calls all things to grow up in Him, and I’m included in this command. I can either embrace the change in faith, or resist it in anger. I’ve tried the latter and believe me it is a very dark place.

My word for 2021 is Behold. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines it: To fix the eyes upon; to see with attention; to observe with care.

I plan to focus daily on beholding God and His goodness in creation. I am filled with anticipation of all He plans to show me this year. If you’d like to follow my journey in beholding, you can see it on our Instagram feed “TheRomanticVineyard” using hashtag #Beholding2021.

In what ways has your marriage experienced change? Have you allowed God to give you His perspective? Have you seen growth as a result? Maybe it’s time to behold the good you’ve been given and give Him thanks!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , | 3 Comments

20 Questions From Last Year Worth Repeating

Photo by Nora Schlesingeron Unsplash

It’s a good habit to pause at the beginning of a new year and reflect on the year before to help you make changes in the year ahead.

We compiled 20 questions last year that are just as applicable to us this year. We pray it helps you as you begin the first steps of 2021.

Plan some undistracted time–no screens, no kids, no chores, no TV–and answer these all important questions. We pray it encourages you.

As you look back on 2020 ask yourself and your spouse the following:

  1. What are the major highlights of the year?
  2. What are your biggest victories? Your biggest disappointments?
  3. What would you do differently if you had the chance?
  4. How has your marriage grown?
  5. What was your favorite date? Favorite dining experience? Favorite movie?
  6. How have you grown in your relationship with the Lord?
  7. What do you wish you could have done, but didn’t?
  8. What are the three most encouraging words someone else said to you?
  9. What are the three most encouraging words I said to you?
  10. What did I do this year that makes you smile every time you think of it?

Now, looking forward to 2021, ask yourself and your spouse the following:

  1. What do you want to continue doing this year that you were doing last year?
  2. What do you want to stop doing this year?
  3. What one word, if any, do you plan to focus on for growth? How can I help you?
  4. What devotional are you planning to do? (We highly recommend choosing from the hundreds available on the YouVersion app)
  5. What is one area you would like to see me improve in this year?
  6. Is there something I have been putting off around the house that you would love to see completed?
  7. What 3 couples can we pursue this year in an effort to encourage them or glean wisdom from them?
  8. What would be the best way to make this happen?
  9. How important are date nights to you? How can we make these a regular part of our year?
  10. What trips would you like to plan for just us or for the family?

May God help you connect the dots of His faithfulness to you and your marriage in 2020. And wherever there is great disappointment, may He fill your heart with faith to believe, to change and grow in 2021.

We pray you have a safe and Happy New Year. 

Posted in Christian Marriage, Holidays, New Year's Eve | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Goodbye 2020 – You Won’t Be Missed, But You’ll Never Be Forgotten

Photo by Lucas Lenzion Unsplash

This year is about to slip away at the stroke of midnight. In one second’s time 2020 will be gone, but it will be a year we will never forget. It will be taught in the history books of our grandchildren’s children. It will be studied to find ways to help us should another pandemic hit out of the blue.

But what have we learned? I know I’ve realized how easy I can become discontent. Ironic that my word for this year was “contentment”. I don’t think I’ve passed this one, but it has helped me understand my love of comfort more than I knew. Every comfort we enjoy has been tested and stretched to it’s breaking point. Even blogging has been difficult for lack of motivation.

So what do I have to share today as we look back on this year? Laughter, but not negating the seriousness of this pandemic. This is the way many first-responders handle the heavy weight they carry as they care for others in crisis. Laughter, they say, makes pain bearable.

I did a search for humorous quotes about 2020…

  • “2020 is a unique Leap Year. It has 29 days in February, 300 days in March, and five years in April.” —Unknown
  • “My life feels like a test I didn’t study for.” —Unknown
  • “First time in history we can save the human race by laying in front of the TV and doing nothing. Let’s not screw this up.” —Unknown
  • “So far, 2020 is like looking both ways before you cross the street then getting hit by an airplane.” —Unknown
  • “Coronavirus has turned us all into dogs: We roam the house looking for food, we’re told ‘no’ if we get too close to strangers, and we get really excited about car rides and walks.” —Unknown
  • “Can we uninstall 2020 and install it again? This version has a virus.” —Unknown
  • “My wife and I play this fun game during quarantine. It’s called, ‘Why are you doing it that way?’ There are no winners.” —Eric Spiegelman
  • “Uh-oh! 2020 is turning 2021 and will now be of legal drinking age.” – Unknown
  • “I survived the great toilet paper scare of 2020!” – Unknown

Finally, plan some time with your sweetie talking about the good that’s happened in 2020.

For us–Our 9th grandchild was born, my Father-in-love moved from CA to FL to be near us, and best of all we still have each other. Even if the pandemic has magnified irritations, at least we have someone with whom to be irritated. Just because we have lots more time, it doesn’t mean we’re using it to the best of our marriage. End this year by being intentional to thank God and each other for the good you both enjoy.

For more ideas on how to celebrate the New Year check out our Romantic New Year’s Ideas by clicking the Only Husbands and Only Wives tab at the top of the page.

Happy New Year!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Holidays, humor, New Year's Eve | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Advent Informs our Marriage with Joy

This post is my heart in black and white. It has been a difficult year and a half in our family. We have faced circumstances that have revealed things in my heart that are hard to bear. My husband has often been perplexed with how to help. Most times he just holds me and listens. Always he prays.

This week my angst came to an ugly head. Tom laid his hands on me and asked God to bring me to a place of peace and joy as only He could. In that moment I felt his unrelenting love and support. It is what God used to allow the light of His love to begin shining in my darkness.

There are so many things God has used to lead me through this valley. Two books I’m reading, one given to me by a friend who was compelled to share it with me: Images of Faith, by Miriam Huffman Rockness, and Pierced and Embraced by Kelli Worrall. I highly recommend them both!

Confession of sin is the doorway to freedom. I know this and have used it in counseling others. But somehow when in my own valley, it is often hard to get there. Too many “what if’s” haunting my path, making me paralyzed to move forward.

But God. He knew this week was my focus on joy.

Our life has not been filled with happiness as of late. But God wanted to fill me with something better that I can stand on—joy in the Him. He took on sin, my sin. My freedom was a joy set before Him allowing Him to endure the Cross of suffering, so I wouldn’t have to.

Circumstances haven’t changed, but my focus has. I will not allow the enemy of my soul to dictate my level of joy. If Jesus endured unimaginable suffering for me, I can follow Him through whatever valley His providence leads because I know He is with me.

I end with two articles by Desiring God Ministries. The first is titled, How Shall We Fight for Joy. In this Mr. Piper simply lays out 15 practical steps on how to get out of the mire of a joyless focus.

The second is titled, Learn the Secret of Gutsy Guilt.

If this season you find yourself in a similar struggle, I’m praying that your marriage will be the catalyst God uses to launch you to a place of truth and joy in the Lord.

The joy of the Lord is my strength—those words have never been more deeply felt.

Merry, Joy-filled Christmas from our home to yours.

Posted in Christian Marriage | 2 Comments

How Advent Informs Our Marriage with Love

If it weren’t for Christ coming to earth as a baby, we wouldn’t be able to express true love to our spouse. He paved the way in the darkness to bring light and love to all who believe in Him.

If you and your spouse walk in the truth of His coming, this is the best of news. You have available to you both the ability to love each other with the same love He has loved us.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

1 John 4:9-11 ESV

The key is to remember this everyday. Especially this year and this season.

Let’s purpose today to choose to love our spouse in practical ways. Find ways to pause in the busyness and reflect on the gift it is to have them by your side. And then tell them!

Our love shines to all who know us. And this glorifies God because apart from Him our love would fall short. This is the best of news!

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How Advent Informs Our Marriage with Peace

Peace. We all long for peace. But peace isn’t what many of us expect. It isn’t silence or a lack of any thing that irritates or troubles us.

This is one of our favorite scenes from the movie, What About Bob? Dr. Leo Marvin is practicing his acceptance speech when he is interrupted. This leads him to lose it–he screams at his son and his patient, Bob….

Peace. We have all craved it in the way Dr. Marvin did here. But peace isn’t a synonym of quiet; No. Peace is having calm in the midst of the struggle, and it is only possible from God who rules over every storm we will face.

It would be nice to have a peace monitor in our home that displays when peace is high or low. We could make adjustments before peace is completely gone! And we could relax a bit when peace is at it’s peak. But alas, there is no such peace monitor.

However, in marriage we have been given the next best thing. Another to come alongside us when we are struggling and remind us of where true and lasting peace is found. It comes from the manger on display in many of our homes. Jesus Christ broke through the barrier that sin (the thief of peace) took from us.

This year is like none other in our family.

Christmas will be spent at home with Tom, my Father-in-love and me. Gifts are not being exchanged by friends, nor are we seeing our kids or grandkids. For me–whose love language is gift-giving and quality time, I am struggling in the peace department. Not to mention the waiting and watching as our youngest grandson spends his first Christmas in NICU. Tom has been my help and support, reminding me of what matters most, as he so often has our entire marriage.

Emotions can’t be trusted. But God can be!

He has provided a peace that surpasses our understanding. It is an unexplainable peace that not only brings rest, but security. I have no fear of where I stand with Him because Christ has bridged the gap that separated us.

Peace is found in Christ alone, and I am grateful to celebrate my 51st birthday as a born-again Christian this month.

What is the peace level in your home? Ask your spouse if you aren’t sure. And if you don’t know Jesus as the friend, brother and Savior that He is, I invite you to ask Him for the only peace that will remain for eternity, peace with God.

Post script: When I read this to Tom, he kissed me and gave me an assignment–to read this post as a devotion everyday between now and Christmas. He is my very own peace monitor. 🙂

Posted in Advent in Marriage, Christian Marriage, Christmas, Difficulty, Encouraging Your Spouse, Holidays | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

How Advent Informs Our Marriage with Hope

We are in the first week of Advent where we are encouraged to focus on the Hope of the Gospel. Jesus was born of a virgin bringing with Him the hope of the world. It is a lasting hope that will not disappoint.

But how does this hope inform our marriage today in 2020?

This year has been filled with temptations for hopelessness. Depression, anxiety and suicide have all increased making Advent season all the more important. If we hope only in hope–a better tomorrow–our hope is empty. Tomorrow has no power in itself to bring us what we crave. This year is proof.

God’s Word reminds us of where lasting hope is found…

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and this hope does not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Not what I expected to hear. Hope comes to us through tribulation and perseverance?

How many of you are experiencing tribulation requiring perseverance? Tom and I certainly are. Many of you have encouraged us with hope to continue as we wait and see what God will do in our newest grandson’s life. Elias Angel was born a micro-preemie at 24 weeks and 5 days on October 14th. We are in love with this little man and cling to hope for his well-being. Thank you for the way you have supported us through prayer, encouragements and donations.

There are many tribulations common to marriage and can happen to any one of us at any time. Tom often says we are only a phone call away from our life being completely different.

8 Tribulations Common in Marriage

  • Finances
  • Relationships with others
  • Lack of Communication
  • Parenting
  • Work Schedules
  • Lack of Time
  • Health Issues
  • Sex

Take time to consider how you’re doing in these eight areas. If any bring a sigh or concern, please don’t be surprised that this is happening to you. Knowing that such trouble is common helps us not make more of the conflict than it needs.

When sin is at the core of our biggest tribulations, as Christians we have a remedy for it; His name is Jesus. We have been forgiven of our sin and can not only receive the forgiveness for our selves, but extend it to our spouse when they have sinned against us. Of course, this only works in marriages where both of you are honestly evaluating the condition of your own heart. If one of you is unwilling to admit sin, or repent when confronted, you need help from a wise and trusted pastor, counselor or friend. Please don’t delay. Unrepentant sin leads to more unnecessary tribulation.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5b ESV

Perseverance through tribulation in marriage proves the character of our relationship.

We know of many couples who have struggled in the area of sexual intimacy in their marriage. Much of it was due to damage done before they were married. Maybe this is your story as well. Sexual abuse is more common than we realize. And the affects this has on the intimacy in the marriage bed can at times seems unsurmountable. But it is not! There is help available which leads to the ability to wait with hope. We can direct you to marriage blogs that began for this reason–to offer hope to marriages struggling to find the open and honest sexual intimacy God intended a husband and wife to experience.

Tom and I struggled in our early years with being honest and open in the areas of sin and temptation. It took years for us to realize what was behind all the heated arguments, silent treatments and distance it created. But God. He was and is faithful to lead us on the road to being fully known and fully loved.

Our proven character is not a reflection on how good our marriage is, as some would say. “Oh, you are lucky. You got a good spouse!” No. Our proven character is a reflection of the effect the Gospel (Jesus coming to earth, living as an example for us, and dying and being raised to new life to rescue us from the bondage to sin) has had on our personal life that influences our married life.

So if you are in a troubled place this Christmas, there is an answer. Pray and persevere as you wait for God to show you what to do or say. And as you faithfully apply this scripture to your marriage, watch and see the character God produces in you as a result.

This is how Advent informs in our marriage this Christmas with Hope.

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When Thanksgiving Isn’t Happy

It happens, and most are more aware after this year’s events, of how life can look completely different than you expected or hoped. Who would have ever anticipated a pandemic that altered normal life for the entire world? It has been challenging to say the least. So how do we celebrate Thanksgiving when it doesn’t seem very happy?

I believe the answer lies in finding joy in the midst of the struggle. Joy is different than happy. Happy is dependent on the circumstances around us. Joy breaks through the sadness to a deeper appreciation to God for what matters.

We are in Oklahoma. This is a state where my mom was born, and where my grandparents helped settle the booming town of Jenks in the early 1900’s. I have relatives who have made our time here not seem so far from home. This is where my mom and I traveled three times over a decade to do research for my book, Through The Eyes Of Grace, based on my grandmother’s life in Oklahoma Territory. It is a memory that brings me joy and sadness; joy in that that we were successful, sadness, since my Mom is no longer here to share in the happiness of what we did together.

I have wanted to travel here with Tom since my book was published to show him all the places I discovered with Mom. Normally it would make me very happy to be here with him, but we are here for an unplanned crisis; Our daughter gave birth to her first baby prematurely. We have a micro-preemie grandson who is making slow progress making happiness elusive.

There are too many variables to be completely happy. But do we have joy? Absolutely! Joy in the life Elias has. Joy in the slow progress he is making (a miracle unfolding). Joy in the fact that we get to spend Thanksgiving with the newest parents in our family. Joy that we have the means to do this.

If I’ve learned anything this past year it’s this: Joy is a decision we must choose in the midst of unhappiness.

When normal is pushed aside either by force or choice, we must rise above the sadness and choose joy.

So this week remember, Thanksgiving isn’t dependent on our circumstances. We can be thankful to God with joy for many things. Let’s take time this year to look for it. It may be hidden under tears.

Have a Thanksgiving with joy from our table to yours.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Holidays, thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments