Passport Dinner Dates

Tom and I love to travel, but with the pandemic it has been impossible for most. Especially elective vacation travel.

We shared this date idea in 2009 under our Top 10 Date Night Ideas, but we felt this date needs revisiting and elaborating. You can plan these dates together, take turns planning them, or do them all as a gift for your spouse.

First purchase or make small Passports for both of you. Go to a store that makes Passport Photos and add it to the inside cover of both.

Plan the first country, state or region you would like to visit.

Let’s start with Italy, since Tom’s family is Italian. Actually, they’re from Sicily where we were able to visit in 2007 on our Trip of a Lifetime. Tom said walking the streets of Palermo felt like he was visiting family–it was familiar and comforting even though he had never been.

Next decide on your menu.

Tom and I love to cook and trying new recipes is always fun. He excels in the protein department and I love doing all the rest.We make a good Chef and Sous Chef team. But if you don’t enjoy cooking don’t let this stop you. You can use Uber Eats to order Italian food delivered, or you can go out to dinner, whichever your budget will allow.

The point is to do all you can to enjoy Italy–the sights, the sounds, the aroma and the taste. It’s all part of the experience.

The Sights

Search the web for images of Italy and print them to hang around the room. You can even use some to make a menu depending on how creative you are. Don’t forget to choose an image as a stamp for your passports too. You should also select a travel video of Italy to watch while eating or as the entertainment after you finish dessert. An Andrea Bocelli concert would be memorable! Check out this latest video as Andrea surprises his wife.

The Sounds

Try Italian dinner music on Spotify and see what they play. You may need to search for instrumental to find something not too overpowering for the evening. Italians sing loud–they live life loud too. It’s what makes them so fun to be around. But you may want a more romantic soundtrack so as to not stifle great conversation.

The Aroma

Your menu will take care of this one. Just make sure to fill the air with the aroma of fresh baked garlic bread, whether homemade or store-bought. No meal is complete without lots of garlic and bread to sop up the gravy (as true Italians call sauce).

Finally The Taste

Italy is known for its food, and depending on the region you choose will determine what type you’d like to be the star of your evening. Tom’s favorite dish is Chicken Cacciatore. I got the recipe from a little Italian cookbook his mother gave me when we first got married. It is the only recipe that sounded good to me in the book, and it has been a favorite now for decades. For a fun experience may we invite you to watch our favorite Italian Chef Pasquale as he demonstrates how he makes this dish. “I thinka I’ma gonna haveta try dis.” 🙂

This is one idea among many. Consider a year of Passport Dates–one a month for 2022. You could visit all kinds of places and make so many romantic memories. We’d love to hear where you go!

Posted in Creative Dates, Date Night Ideas, Dating Your Spouse, Dinner Dates | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kindness Check

Recently I was in the Starbucks drive thru waiting for my Christmas latte. Imagine my surprise when I got to the window to hear, “Your drink was paid for by the car in front of you, Merry Christmas!”?

What? I didn’t do anything to deserve such generosity, let alone from a stranger. Yet here I was basking in the glow of this unexpected kindness.

It made me think of how often we consider giving our spouse unexpected kindnesses.

When was the last time you did something to help ease your spouse’s stress—a quick shoulder rub, pouring a favorite drink, baking a treat to fill your home with an aromatic hint? We have the ability no one else has to give kindness when it’s needed most.

Maybe as you read this you’re thinking, “Why should I do that for them? They don’t do it for me! I work as hard…” blah blah blah!

This is where we must check our kindness against the kindness God, in Christ has shown us.

He didn’t wait for us to appeal to Him with kindness. No! He gave us kindness while we were arrogantly throwing stones at His holiness. He looked beyond our behavior to give us what we couldn’t give ourselves—mercy and love!

So, how kind have you been to your spouse lately? Is it an “I’ll be kind to you when you’re kind to me” mentality? Or is it even worse where you’re mudslinging because of past conflicts that have gone unresolved?

I get it! It goes against our nature to be kind in the face of indifference.

But God! When He changes a heart, there is conviction where there used to be a self-justified anger. We can check our kindness against God’s kindness to us, and He fills in the gaps.

So the challenge…look for ways to show unexpected kindness to your sweetie this week. If not you, who will do this? Ask God to help you do this well, for His glory.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8 ESV
Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Craving Intimacy

A new year is upon us. 2022. And we have another opportunity to be intentional in our pursuit of each other and God.

Spiritual intimacy comes easier for some than others.

What you do with the distance matters. You are either drawing closer together each year, or growing farther apart. There is no standing still. To do nothing is to drift apart.

Intimacy requires being intentional at all times.

I remember one time when Tom prayed for me as I was struggling with something, I don’t even remember what now, but I do remember this; hearing Tom’s heart for me as he prayed, I was in tears.

Tom’s intimacy with God in the secret place of his relationship to Him spilled over to me when he opened the curtain of his heart and prayed out loud.

It happened again when I prayed for Tom. He was struggling with an area in his life feeling a bit helpless to change. He didn’t even feel he could pray, so he asked me to. When I finished my heartfelt prayer, the look on his face revealed he had a similar experience. And you know what else? Tom experienced victory on a new level in his fight against sin. It was no longer him fighting but us fighting a common enemy together.

When God made us one flesh, it wasn’t just for physical intimacy. It includes all areas of intimacy—spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical. Each one must be pursued to avoid drift.

So at the start of this new year, why not plan a date night to discuss what intimacies are in need of intention on your part?

Our prayer is that you will have a similar experience—an ever deepening level of understanding your spouse’s heart and love for you.

Once you taste this level of intimacy, you’ll crave it all the more.

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Two Keys for Devotion in Marriage

Devotion. It’s one of the most important aspects of a healthy marriage. But it’s two-fold.

Devotion to God. Tom and I committed our marriage to God—a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. What we promised matters because we said our vows before a HOLY God.

We practice our devotion to God in practical ways; by reading the same Bible reading plan and talking about it; by serving God together in our local church through marriage ministry and attending small group.

Devotion to God matters most, but next is devotion to each other.

Tom matters most to me. My days are marked with thoughts on how to bless and please him. He loves food and I’m not exaggerating. I think there should be 6 Love Languages—the 6th being Food.

Tom loves the planning of food, the smell of food and the enjoyment of food. The good thing is I love to bake and cook. So loving him in this way is enjoyable to me too.

Devotion defined is “love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause.”

2022 is fast approaching. Tom and I have yet to determine what devotional plan we will follow. In 2021 it was The Bible Project 365 devotional on You Version. We thoroughly enjoyed the videos that accompanied the daily readings. And we gleaned much as we talked about what we read.

What does devotion in your marriage look like? This is the foundation of all the intimacies in marriage. Make plans this week to slow down and talk about it. Your marriage success depends on it.

May God richly bless your marriage as you celebrate a Happy New Year with sincere devotion to God and each other.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Purpose | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Comfort and Joy

It’s Christmas week and we’ve been more aware in recent years of our need for comfort and joy.

Tom’s stepdad is in the final stages of life with Hospice overseeing his comfort. He has lived a full life and at 94 he is ready to enter into eternal joy.

But not yet. only God knows the days marked out for him.

Tom and I have walked with many family members down this road together. Sometimes it’s me carrying the responsibility and other times it’s has been Tom carrying the weight. But together we provide much needed comfort to each other while walking them down this final road to eternity.

It’s interesting that so many in our family have waited until the holiday season to say their goodbyes. This brings a mixture of emotions; While the world sings, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” We are singing “Swing low, sweet chariot coming forth to carry me [them] home…”

It is hard to watch your spouse struggle with the last goodbyes. So many memories, so many things to be grateful for, so much of life and love shared. But now they are coming to an end, yet without regret.

I have discovered the best way to walk with Tom through this is to listen to his heart and pray for him. He knows the same scriptures I know. He knows the same truths. But this road is personal and unique for everyone who mourns and everyone who dies.

I’m listening to God as I listen to Tom. What Tom needs is what God gives—comfort and joy. I am privileged to walk with both as we say goodbye to his “bonus” dad as we like to call him.

What difficult roads have you and your spouse walked together? Have you sensed God’s comfort and joy? If you haven’t we’d be happy to talk more with you about this life-changing help and hope.

May your Christmas be filled with comfort and joy that comes from God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Immanuel, God with us!

UPDATE: Pops passed from this life last night after our last visit earlier in the evening. It was about the same time I was writing this post. We are grateful and relieved; he is no longer suffering. Thank you for praying for us.

Posted in Caring for Parents, Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Christmas, Death and Grieving, Difficulty, Holidays, Keeping It Real, Seasons of Life | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Physician or Prosecutor?

In one our favorite marriage books, Cherish, Gary Thomas uses a very helpful metaphor in how to help your spouse.

We all have things we do wrong at some point in our relationship whether it is blatant sin against each other or harboring anger and resentment for things said or done. What do healthy marriages do to navigate such rough waters?

Gary compares our response to our spouse in such times to being a physician or a prosecutor.

A physician is there to listen to what the problem is and do all they can to bring you back to health. It may take a long time, but a good physician won’t quit until a resolve is found.

A prosecutor on the other hand, is looking for cracks in your story. Ready to dive in for the kill just to win their case. The end result is condemnation and a broken relationship. Not anything like what we vowed to our spouse, “for better or worse”.

It’s easy to say this when all is well in our world. But when things are already tense, it’s hard to decide to be charitable and not judgmental. This is why we made our vows–to help us stay focused on what we promised, not what we feel.

Christmas is rarely without its conflicts. If you’re in one right now, may we remind you to look for healing and restoration through the conflict. It isn’t a matter of winning, it’s a matter of succeeding together in marriage for God’s glory. Paul tells us to “outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

Easier said than done. But God! He helps us in our weakness and makes us vow keepers! We simply must ask.

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Check Your Headlights

Headlights on cars are important. Without them it’s difficult to see what’s in front of you. Worse, it’s impossible for oncoming traffic to see you.

We have noticed more cars on the road recently without their headlights on after dark. We figure it’s because so many are driving rental cars in our vacation capital of the world, and they don’t realize the auto-on feature isn’t set. This is dangerous!

Communication is a lot like headlights. It helps you share with your spouse where you’re heading, and it helps them see what’s coming towards them. If you are depending on what has always worked in the past to get you through changing seasons you will be like those cars with the auto-on feature disabled.

There can be no communication vacation in marriage, no time-off, no set it and forget it feature.

A healthy marriage needs an air traffic controller. You need communication to relay back and forth how to land a good conversation. Or there will be serious injuries to your relationship.

When was the last time you had a good conversation that wasn’t rushed or interrupted? Maybe it’s time to check your headlights.

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Focus

This has been a challenging season for most marriages. The reasons vary, but the pressure is similar. How can we turn our focus from what troubles us to what blesses us?

Pray. Ask God to give you an idea on how to make your spouse smile today.

One idea I had is to purchase a Christmas ornament that captures how you feel about him/her. Or one that celebrates this past year.

Wrap it up and put it on your spouse’s pillow tonight with an “I love you” note attached.

Life seems so serious. Let’s lighten up our marriages with some unexpected smiles, gifts and laughter.

No one can ease the stress of the day like the one who knows you best and loves you most.

What ideas come to your mind? Let’s start a new focus of blessing and encouragement. Please feel free to comment.

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Christmas, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, Holidays | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Building Spiritual Intimacy

Tom and I are in route to GA for Thanksgiving. The temps are dropping drastically and the trees are showing off their Fall wardrobe. It is another road trip for us where we can catch up on life.

We love road trips. While Tom drives I read aloud to him. Doing so slows us down and gives us interesting things about which to talk.

This time we are reading some of our favorite websites like Desiring God ministries and Together For The Gospel. We love enriching our relationship with each other by enriching and encouraging each other in our personal relationship with God.

Spiritual Intimacy doesn’t just happen. It is a slow growing seed that must be cultivated regularly in order for intimacy to occur.

What is Spiritual Intimacy? Our pastor defines intimacy as “in to me see”. It’s an invitation for your spouse to know you and how you relate to God through Jesus. Many of us aren’t comfortable with this kind of transparency with God, let alone our spouse.

Why is that? I believe it’s because we have an enemy who knows that where two are gathered together in Christ’s name He is there with them, listening and guiding. He will do all he can to smokescreen our attempts at this kind of intimacy.

As husband and wife what we need most is that which is hardest to practice. E.g. Praying together and having regular devotional time together.

This week of Thanksgiving we want to share something simple Tom has done in our family for years. Maybe you do something similar. He searches for something meaningful to read to our family before we eat. This helps us pause and focus on our “why” of Thanksgiving. It can be a prayer, an article, a poem or a passage of Scripture.

When I hear what Tom shares each year I realize just how much I love his heart for God. And this spills over into how he loves me and all who know him.

Life is going forward fast, but in slow motion. Why not plan to slow down and make this Thanksgiving one you’ll both cherish.

Happy Thanksgiving from our table to yours!

Posted in Celebrations, Christian Marriage, Holidays, Intimacy, Spiritual, thanksgiving | Tagged , | Leave a comment

When The Roses Are Wilted And The Wine Is Flat

Most of you know how much we have been through the past few years. It has seemed that one crisis after another has continued since the beginning os 2019. Throw a pandemic in the middle of it all and it’s just been difficult.

Yet I am an eternal optimist. I see the sunny side of the situation–usually. But this season has taken me to a depth of struggle that this “optimistic Debi” has never known. I have found myself not knowing who I am or even remembering how I would normally respond to situations. I have even tuned people out while they are talking with me. I hope they didn’t notice, because that just isn’t who I am, or was, or whatever…

My point in this post is to bring you in to the raw reality of married life. It’s not always wine and roses. Tom and I were talking yesterday about how long it has been since we’ve had a date.

What? You ask. How can this be? (insert Jim Gaffigan”s creepy alter ego questioning his words).

Yes, we have real struggles in this arena too. Not struggles in wanting to have a date, but struggles in making it happen. Of course we’ve gone out to dinner together, but we are in survival mode, not leaning in to enjoy you more mode.

Here’s the thing, it’s the wine and roses season we’ve practiced that has laid a strong foundation in our marriage of friendship and commitment. This has help us get through seasons (including this one we’re in now) where the roses are wilted and the wine is flat. Even the Bible speaks of where we are to focus in such seasons…

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakuk 3:17-19 ESV

Are you facing a similar season? God is our strength and He alone can help us keep plodding forward, even when all we want to do is…nothing.

The time for red roses and good wine may return, but even if it doesn’t our hope isn’t in date nights to make our marriage work. Our hope is in God, the Lord, who alone is our strength for a healthy marriage. It’s all by Him and for Him that we were married in the first place. We never want to communicate that the health of a marriage is dependent on regular date nights. The purpose of date nights is to help us connect in the busyness of life. When life knocks us both down, we must draw closer while on the ground to pray. Then, when we are both able to get back up, God will help us tread the high places again.

Photo by Johanna Huber on Unsplash

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Dating Your Spouse, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages, Keeping It Real, Seasons of Life | Leave a comment

Do You Feel Understood?

How well do you understand your spouse?

When they experience loss or disappointment, are you surprised at their expression or lack of expression?

We tend to judge our spouse based on how we would respond thinking we’re being helpful. We may even try to manipulate them to be more like us.

Why? Is it right to help our spouse in the way we would want to be helped? Or is it better to find out what is helpful to them?

The only way to know is to talk about a “what if” situation and hear their heart on the matter.

Ask: What if you were to wake up and discover you’d lost you job (or any other major loss), what would be the most difficult thing for you in that moment?

  • Fear of financial impact
  • Loss of relationships with coworkers
  • Loss of prestige that came with the job
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Anger over how it happened
  • Loss of your dreams

Some might say it is morbid to talk about such things. But I believe it helps us to learn how to come alongside our spouse and be their best support in times of hardship.

God has given us a release valve through our tears.

Some are comfortable letting them flow and some resist it. Some are good at allowing their spouse to ugly cry while they hold them. While others can’t stand to see such uncontrolled emotion.

All of these things are unique to each couple. You can’t read a book or ask a counselor what will work best in your marriage. You must get to know your unique spouse and this takes being intentional.

The Bible exhorts husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way. Wives, do you feel understood by your man in how you deal with difficulty? Husbands, do you feel safe enough with your wife to share your fears and disappointments?

This is the place where marriages take root and begin to flourish. It happens one heart-disclosing conversation at a time.

When was the last time you both connected on this level?

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, communication, Emotional, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

It’s About Time

We all have the same amount everyday. 24 hours, 1440 minutes and two people to focus on each day. It is a gift!

Marriage is unlike any other relationship.

We are committed to pursuing each other. Whether you and your spouse have been doing this lately doesn’t matter. We always have tomorrow to start new. This weekend we add an hour as we “Fall backward”. Why not surprise your spouse with an hour of something that would surprise and bless them.

Here are some ideas…

  • Personal massage on a part of their body in most need of attention 🥰
  • Dancing to your favorite album. One of our favorites is Carol King’s Tapestry 💃🕺
  • Draw a hot bath for your spouse with a favorite beverage. Add soft music and yourself to surprise and bless them 🛁
  • Play a card game you used to play when you were dating ♠️♥️♣️♦️
  • Play Romantic Scrabble—link is in our search window.
  • Take a sunset walk or bike ride. 🌅
  • Pray
  • Read book about marriage—we recommend Married Sex by Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta

Make a special invitation to let your spouse know of this special gift of time. The anticipation of blessings to come will be as valuable as the extra hour itself!

Time—it’s yours to spend how you like, but all it takes is being intentional about the things that matter most to both of you. The time to start is NOW!

“All we have to do is decide what to do with the time given to us.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

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Crossing the Line of Acceptance

  • I know which side he sleeps on when he first goes to sleep.
  • I know his favorite snacks
  • I know how to make him smile when he doesn’t feel like it.
  • I know his story–every detail of how he came to know Jesus.
  • I know his quirks that no one else notices.
  • I know when he is struggling even when smiling.
  • I know…

…so many more things that are for me to know alone.

It is one of the best things about being married; knowing and being known. And even better still is when you reach a place of understanding and acceptance.

I admit, in our early years I tried to change the things about Tom that I didn’t like. Habits and little idiosyncrasies that I didn’t know about him before we were married. But 42 years in and I’m seeing more now than ever that these things are what make Tom who he is. It makes him special especially to me. They are the very things I would miss about him if he were suddenly gone.

He knows me in the same way. Although I think I notice more details about him than he does about me. Once again, the editor in me notices everything–not so good when you’re reading your spouse. (See my previous post about To Cherish or Admonish?)

All this is to say, I want to love Tom for who he is, not who I want him to be. I want to be loved in the same way. No one enjoys having a spouse who points out everything that needs to change. God doesn’t even treat us this way–He is patient and understanding and brings about change perfectly in His time and in His way.

What about you? Do you struggle with little things about your spouse? Or have you come to accept them and love everything about them–the things worked out and the things still a work in progress?There is a joy to be found in marriage when we cross this line of acceptance.

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Sweet and Savory Fondues for Two

To start off plan an evening where you can both be involved with the preparations. The aroma of these delicious recipes will certainly get your appetite going, and when you finally sit down to a candle-lit fondue, all your senses will be on board for this delectable date. What’s so fun about fondue is the ability to feed each other while having a casual conversation. Fondues are about slowing down and enjoying every single bite!

Cheddar and Apple Cider Fondue (Savory)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ozs. Fresh Apple Cider
  • 3/4 c. vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 ozs. Gruyere Cheese
  • 8 ozs. Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 3 T. Corn Starch
  • 1/8 t. Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt, dash
  • 1 T. Bourbon, Whiskey or Apple Jack, opt.

Fondue Dippers:

Chicken, Apple Sausage, Chorizo, Mini Hot Dogs, Baguette slices, Roasted Shallots, Roasted Mushrooms, small fingerling potatoes, pretzels

Directions:

Heat cider, broth, Worcestershire, and garlic in a medium pot over medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Toss the cheeses together in a medium bowl. Sift the corn starch over the cheese, and toss to coat lightly.

Using a wooden spoon, sprinkle some cheese mixture into the warm liquid and continue to stir in small amounts of cheese until it is all incorporated and the fondue is smooth and melted, about 15 minutes. Stir in cayenne, salt and Bourbon, if using.

Transfer to a fondue pot or double boiler and serve with desired dippers.

Yield: 3 cups (Recipe source that I tweaked from the Food Network)

Caramel Fondue With Fall Fruit (Sweet)

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Splash vanilla extract
  • 3 apples cut into slices
  • 3 pears cut into slices
  • 1 banana, cut into slices, if desired
  • 1 lemon

Directions:

  • Juice lemon over cut apples to prevent browning.
  • Melt first 5 ingredients in a saucepan. Boil for approximately 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in cream and vanilla.
  • Place sauce in bowl or fondue set. Serve immediately with freshly cut fruit.

This post was originally posted in 2012. We felt it was worth revisiting. Bon appetite!

Photo by angela pham on Unsplash; Photo by sheri silver on Unsplash; Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Posted in Date Night Ideas, Dinner Dates, Fall Date Ideas, Halloween, Vintage Posts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

To Cherish or Admonish?

You’ve probably had it happen in your marriage too. Your spouse is telling a familiar story to some friends and they get a detail wrong. How could they not remember how it happened? Admonishment is my knee-jerk reaction in such scenarios.

“It wasn’t in February. Don’t you remember it was when the leaves were falling? It was definitely October!”

I’ve often said something similar to Tom. Obviously, he doesn’t or he would have said it the way I remember it. The hardest thing for me to do is to let it go and not correct him.

Why is it so difficult for me? Or maybe for you too?

As we get older the details of the things we remember are precious to us. So precious that it bothers many of us if they are not recalled in the same way you or I remember.

I’m trying to be more aware of when this happens, so I can choose to cherish Tom by letting him tell the story the way he recalls. Most times the details of the story don’t really matter that much, unless you’re an editor at heart like me. Then things are meant to be corrected. Except I love Tom. I should prefer him over being right on a detail that doesn’t matter.

It’s time to silence the editor within and give voice to our spouse. Anytime we have a choice to make to have our way or give way to our spouse, let’s choose the latter. They and our marriages are worth it.

 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” 

Romans 12:10 ESV

Cherishing is so much better than admonishing.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Your Story Is Your History

Barefoot Cabin in Banner Elk, NC

Sitting on our porch at Barefoot Cabin I had the thought—how many days have we shared since we were married? One of the best parts of Google is being able to find the answer quickly to such random questions.

We were married on February 24, 1979. That’s a total of 15,571 days!

There is much history made each and every day. I have kept a journal since 1989–ten years after our story began. But many memories are recalled because I took the time to write them down. Many more are forgotten, but I know I can find them by flipping through my journals.

It’s fun to challenge your spouse with questions about your history. You can do this in a trivia format or with word association. see if your memories are the same. Many times they will differ—Tom will remember something I forgot and vice versa.

Many couples make choices to end their marriage due to incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, or a lost conviction that marriage vows matter before God.

What they fail to realize is the history that is lost in the process. This is why we do what we do.

Has our marriage always been great? No. Has it always been easy? Not by a long shot. But we have stayed consistent in one thing—in our commitment to make it work no matter how difficult. Why? Because we realize our vows were made before God, and a triple braided cord isn’t easily broken.

Start this week with gratefulness for the history you and your spouse share.

Make plans to play the word association game by picking words that represent something you both experienced. See if this doesn’t elevate your awareness of the gift it is to share history—it’s your story!

How many days have you been married? Let us celebrate with you by sharing your number in the comments.

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Date Night Ideas, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

That’s A Good Question

As I’m writing this post, the leaves are falling at my feet with cool temperatures and sunny skies. It is a perfect picture of a crisp, fall day in the mountains. But the scenery doesn’t matter when it comes to having a good and meaningful conversation. That’s the blessing of marriage. Any time is the right time if you’re both wanting to learn and grow.

Remember when you were first married, the excitement, the joy, the realization that your life would always be lived out together? I love the memories Tom and I have made with each passing year. Not all of them are happy times remembered, but difficult times that helped transform how we related to each other. We were changed for the good of our marriage. Even the most painful memories taught us hard, but good things.

Maybe you’re in the doldrums waiting for something to spark the same intimacy you once had. Maybe you’re in a season of seeing your dreams fall apart. Or maybe you just haven’t given your marriage much thought because of your busy schedules.

Questions are always a good way to help us through these seasons.

Our pastor and his wife recently celebrated their anniversary. He shared with our church a question they discussed while away. It is so good I wrote it down. I encourage you to set aside a night next week to sit together and answer this question yourselves.

What in your marriage is the same as it was when you got married? What is different?

Such a good question that can lead to all kinds of special memories and blessings. Or it may reveal areas that neither of you realized needed attention.

Good questions are like Fall leaves. They cause us to slow down and take in the beauty there is in our history. Or they may reveal the things of which we need to let go.

Either way we must see this as a way forward, setting our eyes on the good that will come.

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Food, Film and Fun Scavenger Hunt

I don’t know about you, but Tom and I are ready to start doing things with other couples. We have done a few dinner dates, but nothing really organized or planned. I saw recently where a friend posted about a youth activity at her church. It was a family scavenger hunt with challenges to either do something or collect items using their smart phone to take photos or videos.

This got me thinking of the possibilities to do this with a few other couples. How fun to throw a little competition into your next get together.

First, head out to the location where the couples are to do the challenge. e.g. a local park, town square, or neighborhood.

Second, use this one to make up your own criteria for the hunt.

Third, whichever couple decides to host this event, would be the ones who would have the photos texted to them.

Finally, I would suggest that one of the stops be for each couple to buy an appetizer at a restaurant or grocery store to bring at the end. Once all the couples arrive, plan to

1. heat up the appetizers, if necessary.

2. Watch each team’s photos of their hunt,

3. Laugh and share stories of their experiences.

This will allow you all to finish the night with food, film and fun, and to make memories you’ll talk about in the future.

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

Posted in Christian Marriage, Creative Dates, Date Night Ideas, Fall Date Ideas | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Can You Trust Me Here?

We had only been married a few months when I became very sick, requiring surgery. The look in Tom’s eyes revealed his concern, but even more revealing was his deep love for me. I saw mirrored in him the love of my Father for me asking…

Can you trust Me here?

After three years of marriage we faced some serious “getting to know you” conflicts. It was hard realizing the picture perfect, fairytale ideal I had of marriage wasn’t going to play out that way. I realized I had to do hard things in marriage–repent and forgive. This wasn’t a one time occurrence but an on-going lifestyle all healthy marriages must embrace. My Father asked…

Can you trust Me here?

The test was positive and we were elated to be expecting our first baby. We announced it to the world that our baby would be joining our family in December. However, just a few days later we miscarried our precious bundle of joy. It hit me hard and all the fearful questions poured in–Why me? Will I ever be able to have a baby? Is this my future, to be childless? My Father answered…

Can you trust Me here?

Our next-door neighbor’s husband died in their home after a long illness. We were the first ones she called over to hold her hand while she said good-bye to the love of her life. We loved them so much and to watch her say her goodbye to him touched a depth in our heart we had yet to experience. Death was real and so was the love forged through a lifelong marriage. How will we handle such heartache when it’s our turn to part? My Father simply said…

Can you trust Me here?

We had decided to move to a neighborhood closer to our friends. We found a home we loved and put ours up for sale. It sold right away, and so did the home that we wanted to buy. We missed it by 24 hours. We had six weeks to closing and had to find a place for us and our three children, but there was nothing available that would work for our family. We waited and waited. Four weeks passed and still no home. Would we live in an apartment for a year? And God said…

Can you trust Me here?

My husband’s work was increasingly stressful. Then his boss’s wife (who also worked at the office) was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She would leave her job as Office Manager immediately leaving Tom to cover for her. Add to this, his boss was unable to drive and could no longer come into the office. Tom was responsible to cover for both of them. Neither of us could imagine how he could continue working like this and keep our personal lives going. My Father understood and asked…

Can you trust Me here?

All of these situations I have shared above with you have resolutions that would astound you. But in the moment we had a choice to make. Would we trust God or be filled with fear? This post is serving to remind me that life has a constant stream of challenges and difficulties, heartbreaks and brokenness, uncertain outcomes and limited options. But through them all God promises to never leave us or forsake us. At least for those of us who believe in Him and call Him, Father.

Every day we have a choice to make–to believe and trust Him, or to doubt and fear what will happen.

I may do this great with my current struggle and still fail miserably with the next. Trust is a growing process, much like climbing a ladder. The first step may come easy, but the next may be more challenging. And the higher we climb the more there seems to be at risk for falling. But we must remember Who is holding us as we climb; It’s not our grip on the ladder, but His grip on us as we take each step. His hand may be unseen, but like the wind, you know He’s there.

We may be farther up the ladder than you, and it could seem like we’ve had it easy. But I’m here to testify that every wrung on our ladder tells a story of God’s faithfulness to us through many “dangers, toils and snares”. And this gives us faith to share our struggles with you. If it helps you take the next step trusting God, then it is worth it to us.

Tom and I talk often about what is weighing on our mind and heart. It’s a big part of marriage asking each other this question, “Can we trust God in the here and now about the things that are not yet?”

We have faced many heartbreaking challenges in our 43 years together. These are just a few. But through each and every one, God has shown us He is faithful. Even when the answer is “NO” when we wanted and prayed for a “YES”. He repeats the question…

Can you trust Me here?

photo credit: Photo by Jessica Alves on Unsplash

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Keeping It Real | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Test Your Marriage

Have you ever noticed that if something is bothering you in your marriage it’s all you can think about or see?

Tom uses an illustration that is so helpful…

Take a credit card and hold it in your hand. Stretch out your arm straight in front of you. Notice how you can see the card and everything else in your periphery. It’s there, but not all you see. Now take the same credit card and hold it close in front of your nose. Notice how there isn’t much else you can see except this giant credit card. This is how an issue becomes the longer it goes unaddressed. It becomes all you can see.

Now the question must be asked. When thinking of your relationship what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it a positive or a negative? If it’s a negative, have you talked to your spouse about it? If you haven’t, then make plans asap to do so. If you have and still haven’t come to a resolve, it’s not going to go away. It will grow bigger in your eyes the longer it remains.

Seek help, either in person or through resources that you trust–like blogs, podcasts or books.

Too many marriages ignore the issues or are unable to resolve them and give up. Don’t be surprised that there are unresolved problems–this is the reality all marriages face. What makes the difference between a marriage that’s growing closer or drifting apart is how you deal together with the issues that seek to separate you.

Is it easy? No. Nothing worth doing well is ever easy. It takes a commitment to stay the course no matter how challenging it becomes.

Is it worth it? Yes! Tom and I just celebrated the 43rd anniversary of when he proposed to me.

We were just talking about how on that day we had no idea of all that lay ahead of us. We have faced hardships from without and conflict from within, and all of them could have been the end of our marriage. But because we stayed intent on working out our struggles, not running away from them, we are in a place in our marriage that takes our breath away. Marriage is hard, but marriage is good.

Take the marriage test and find out where you need to study more. We’re here for you if you need help.

Photo Credit: Photo by Sophie Dupau on Unsplash

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