Now Is The Time

Our Valentine Dinner

Valentine’s Day has passed, so the time has come to share what you did to enter our Romance Your Valentine Contest.

First I must confess that this year was difficult. You see our anniversary is 10 days after Valentine’s Day, so I plan that day and Tom plans our anniversary. Normally this is a lot of fun for me. But this year has been oh so difficult. As you know our granddaughter has been fighting PANDAS and it takes much of our time, prayers and emotional energy. When it was time to think of romancing Tom, my mind was blank. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what to do much less how to pull it off.

Finally, I asked God to help me and He gave me the idea to have a night of remembering. I made the meal we had on our first date (Veal Oscar); We played Romantic Scrabble; I shared a scrapbook I made for Tom over 20 years ago, and more that I choose not to share. 😉

Not all plans are easy to come by, but all are worth the effort. We may not feel like doing it because of outside stressors, but this is when we choose to do it over what we feel or don’t feel. Our Valentine’s evening was one of my favorite ever.

Now it’s your turn to tell us about yours.

Send us an email to theromanticvineyard@gmail.com explaining how you romanced your Valentine. We will choose the best story, solely at our discretion, announcing the winner on Friday, February 21st. That gives you 4 days to submit your entry.

Bonus points if…

  • You share our contest on any social media outlet (let us know in your entry letter)
  • You send a romantic photo of you both on Valentine’s Day
  • You visit our Wives or Husbands Only page and mention one idea you really love

Entries will be judged on creativity, romantic element, and style of writing.

Now for the Prize:

$25 gift card to your favorite restaurant and/or coffee shop

A signed copy of our book,  Cherishing Us–365 Tips for a Healthy Marriage

Send your entries now! ❤️

Posted in Christian Marriage, Contests, Romancing Your Valentine 2020 | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Valentine’s Day Attitude Of A Healthy Marriage

On Valentine's Day try changing your expectations and see how much more you enjoy the day.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Rather than talk about the romance of it all, Gary Thomas shares how to adjust our attitude so we’re not disappointed when our spouse doesn’t do or say something we were hoping they would. He calls it having a Monk’s Marriage attitude…

Isn’t it true that many marital arguments result from disappointment with our spouses? We want them to be something or do something or catch something and they aren’t or they don’t, and we feel sorry for ourselves. We really do want them to love us like God loves us. We expect them to just know when we’ve had a hard day; to know that we’re lying when we say, “Don’t worry. It’s no big deal. I don’t need anything special”; to know that we need them to be strong or soft, to yield or to hold firm, just because that’s what we need them to do. If they truly loved us, they would know, right?

Be honest: Don’t you think or feel that way sometimes?

And you do recognize that’s an impossible burden for a human spouse right?

But what if I sought a “monk’s marriage”? What if I decided that I would depend on God alone, expecting nothing from my spouse but depending entirely on God for all my needs, including emotional and relational needs?

Then instead of resenting what my spouse doesn’t do, I’ll be overwhelmed (in a good way) by every little thing she does do. I’ll be filled with gratitude instead of resentment.

Isn’t the opposite exactly what happens in marriage? When you’re dating someone and he does something nice for you, you think: How wonderful! If you marry him and he doesn’t reach a certain threshold of gift giving, you think: This is all he got me? Seriously?

That’s why I want a “monk’s marriage,” the benefits of being married to a godly woman, but with a monk’s attitude, expecting nothing, depending on God, and so being genuinely grateful for whatever my spouse chooses to bless me with.

* Do you see your attitude as filled with gratitude, or filled with resentment? How would having a “monk’s marriage” improve your relationship with your spouse?

As this day unfolds let’s set aside our expectations and enjoy our spouse for who they are, not what they do.

_________________

Don’t forget about our Romance Your Valentine Contest! For all the info click here!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, Holidays, Valentine's Day | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Physical Intimacy: One Word That Can Change Your Sex Life

Is it possible that one word can hold the power to change your sex life? We believe so. This word not only can change your sex life for the better, but how you see your marriage as a whole. What is this magic word?

Actually it’s not magic at all. It comes from God’s Word.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Hebrews 13:4 ESV

Honor. It is a word used to show the highest respect and regard. In relation to marriage specifically it means to give our marriage the highest respect and regard it above all other relationships. The question to ask is do we?

Do we honor our spouse by doing what we said we would do? Or have we grown comfortable and apathetic towards each other?

For some couples the topic of sexual intimacy is a hot button that once pushed ignites all kinds of conflict. Over time they just don’t go there anymore. Intimacy occurs only when one finally gives in to the request.

It grieves us to hear it. The one part of marriage that is supposed to provide the deepest level of connection cause the biggest chasm.

We understand. It takes a willingness to be known and a desire to understand each other. It also requires an intentional commitment to get to there. And if one spouse is carrying secret hurts, shame or guilt it complicates matters further. Add to it the inability to communicate why there is a struggle in the first place and you’ve set the stage for failure.

We encourage you to examine your own heart, instead of judging your spouse. See if you are honoring your spouse in the way you think of them, pray for them and encourage them.

Posted in Christian Marriage | 1 Comment

Decluttering Discovery

Memories made as husband and wife are worth remembering.

As we’ve mentioned we are decluttering our house. Every closet, every drawer, every cabinet is being organized and it feels amazing. If clutter were measured in pounds I think we’ve lost at least 100 pounds. Yes!

I must tell you, we made a discovery in our pantry that brought a smile to our faces.

Years ago, actually when we first got married, I collected match books from any restaurant or hotel we visited. I would put the date inside the book and what we were celebrating as a way to document the event. Imagine my delight when I found my collection buried in the back of our pantry behind some hardly used appliances?

There is the matchbook from the Don Cesar Hotel. We stayed there in June of 1979 to celebrate the one year anniversary of our first date. There’s one from Maison et Jardin, the French restaurant that Tom took me to on that first date. So many memories appropriately remembered with matches–used to ignite a fire.

“Keep the fire lit in your marriage, and your life will be filled with warmth.” – Fawn Weaver

This was a inexpensive way to commemorate our celebrations.

Have you ever considered doing something similar? Unfortunately, matchbooks are a thing of the past. But you could collect business cards or take photos. Just be sure to bring them and keep them in a scrapbook with the date and occasion.

Everyday you are writing your story. How much of it is forgotten unless we take the time to record it in some way.

Emotional Intimacy Prompt: Ask your spouse, “What is one thing we have done in the past that still brings you joy when you think of it?” “What is another way we can create joy-filled memories for the future?”

Date Night Idea: What did you do on your first date? Why not recreate it in some way? If your first date wasn’t that memorable, pick one that was.

Father,

Thank you for the years of memories You’ve given us. We pray that our marriage has brought you much joy. Would you help us make wise decisions each day that reveal the priority marriage is above all else? It is for You and Your glory that we ask these things.

In Jesus’ precious name,

Amen

——-

Don’t forget about our Romance Your Valentine Contest! For all the info click here!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Emotional, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Romance in Marriage, Romantic Ideas | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Physical Intimacy – Let No One Put Asunder

We are one flesh. It takes intentionality on both spouses to make a marriage succeed.

Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

We recently shared a video on our Facebook page that stirred an interesting conversation. We wanted to continue it here.

First, click over to our Facebook page and scroll down to the video titled, If Your Relationship Has Changed. 

While the main message of the video is to continue learning to love the person your spouse has become through the various seasons of marriage, there is an underlying message we don’t necessarily agree with. One of our readers posted an excellent comment and she has given us permission to share it with you.

“…this video left me feeling sad, not hopeful. It, somehow, felt incomplete. I know that it is a video and can only cover so much in a short amount of time, but it seemed to me to stop short of truly giving both partners in a relationship the opportunity to express their frustrations honestly and then work TOGETHER to make the relationship work for the both of them in a more satisfactory manner. I know that wasn’t the point of this particular video. To me, a more honest, encouraging, hopeful scenario would go a bit further and have the husband share with his wife how he is feeling, as well, and then have them each ask the other how they might help one another alleviate some of their stress in order to make the relationship more meaningful and fulfilling for the both of them. I guess I felt as if this video gave the impression that how a man is feeling or what he is needing isn’t as valid or important as how the wife is feeling or what she is doing. And, after being married for 27 years, I have learned the importance of both partners listening to one another and then seeking ways in which to make things work better…for both of them.” – Sheri Bybee Mitchell

Sheri shares on her Facebook page that it takes “Couple Intentionality” to make a marriage work. One sided marriages will work for a while, but sooner or later the strong partner will grow weary. If the other spouse isn’t willing to move with intentionality toward their spouse the marriage will either die, or grow more distant.

Take a moment and think about your spouse’s current struggles. Since this is our series on Physical Intimacy, how have these stressors effected your sex life? What are you doing to help your spouse through the trouble?

When it comes to marital discord I can only change myself. If I place all the blame on my husband, then there is no hope because I can’t change him.

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” – 1 Peter 3:1-2 ESV (emphasis added)

God’s Word says our husbands can be won over without us nagging or complaining, if we see to it that we are honoring the Lord with our words and deeds. It’s for Him that we seek to make our marriage the best it can be.

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” – 1 Peter 3:7 ESV (emphasis added)

Husbands, it is your responsibility to have an understanding heart toward your wife. If she is stressed with all the responsibilities of work, home and family, to the point where your sexual intimacy is suffering, ask yourself,”What can I do to help alleviate some of the stress?”

If you are spending more time looking back to what used to be than looking forward to what can be, may I encourage you to take this seriously? Ignoring the tension won’t make it go away. Tell your spouse you want to talk and be honest in a loving way. Express your desire to see the marriage be all God intended it to be. You may need to ask help from a pastor or counselor. Your marriage is worth it!

Coasting is always going downhill. Maybe it’s time to put on the brakes and get out of the car to talk. Once you’ve listened and heard each other’s perspective, only then can you have the ability to turn the car around. I can tell you, the view at the top of the hill is worth the effort.

Indicators you may be coasting in your physical intimacy:

  • You make excuses as to why you don’t want to make love.
  • You no longer ask because you don’t want to be rejected again.
  • Your spouse rolls their eyes at you often.
  • You can’t remember the last time you made love.
  • There is an unexplainable distance between us.
  • My wife is too tired for me.
  • My husband is too busy for me.
  • My wife loves the children more than me. They are her world!
  • My husband loves his job/hobbies more than me. It’s all he talks about.

If you can relate to any of these indicators, please know you need help. Our sexual connection is the only thing that differentiates the marriage relationship from all others. We can have great conversation with friends, but no one but our spouse can meet this God-given desire in us.

We are one flesh. Let no one put us asunder. 

 

 

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Intimacy, Physical | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

To Do Or Not Do, That’s The Question

Romance Your Valentine Contest

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

This Saturday is February 1st. It’s hard to believe we are already one month in to the New Year. And we are fast approaching one of my favorite holidays–Valentine’s Day. I love this day because our tradition is for me to plan our day. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am the creative one in our marriage. I love to think of fresh, new ways to show my love to Tom. I also enjoy helping others do the same for their spouse.

The question to answer first is, are you willing to make this Valentine’s Day special, or would you rather not bother? I get it if this isn’t your thing. But what if it’s your spouse’s thing and they have continually deferred to your wishes in this regard. Why not really surprise them and do something unexpected?

We have revamped our Husbands Only and Wives Only romantic ideas for Valentine’s Day. I encourage you to click over and see if there isn’t something you could pull off this year.

As an incentive we are holding a contest–Romance Your Valentine contest

After Valentine’s Day send us an email (theromanticvineyard@gmail.com) explaining how you Romanced your Valentine. We will choose the best story, solely at our discretion,  announcing the winner on Friday, February 21st. That gives you a week to submit your entry.

Bonus points if…

  • You share our contest on any social media outlet (let us know in your entry letter)
  • You send a romantic photo of you both on Valentine’s Day
  • You visit our Wives or Husbands Only page and mention one idea you really love

Entries will be judged on creativity, romantic element, and style of writing.

Now for the Prize:

$25 gift card to your favorite restaurant and/or coffee shop

A signed copy of our book,  Cherishing Us–365 Tips for a Healthy Marriage

We can’t wait to see what you come up with this Valentine’s Day. Now you’ve got me thinking…

Posted in Cherishing, Contests, Holidays, romancing your spouse, Romancing Your Valentine 2020, Romantic Ideas, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Five Friday Favorites – Savory Soup Recipes From Our Kitchen To Yours

Five Soup Recipes to warm your soul

Tom and I enjoy cooking. We are often in the kitchen making something for us both to enjoy. We also love having friends over with whom to share our culinary creations. It’s a fun hobby.

As we’ve shared before, we have been busy decluttering our home. This week our focus has been on the kitchen. It’s amazing how many gadgets and appliances we have. It’s obvious this is something we enjoy. But I’m proud that we’ve been able to purge the things we don’t use and reorganize in more convenient places the things we do. It makes me want to reward our efforts by cooking something delicious!

It’s soup season and nothing warms the soul more than a delicious soup on a cold, winter day.

My daughter and I started a food blog a while ago, and it is where we have posted many of our family’s favorite recipes, that is until Pinterest came along. But we still use our old blog as a reference.

Today I’m sharing with you five of our favorite soup recipes from our Food Brag Blog. Make plans to cook them soon. They will fill your home with savory aromas and draw your family to the table. Make the most of these precious days.

It’s true — The days are long, but the years are short.

First

Ribollita - Italian Vegetable Soup recipe

Ribollita – Italian Vegetable Soup

Second

Lemon Chicken Orzo soup recipe

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Third

Hearty Bean and Barley soup recipe

Hearty Bean and Barley Soup

Fourth

Miso Healing Bowl soup recipe

Miso Healing Bowl Soup

Fifth

Best Ever Chicken Noodle Soup recipe

Best Ever Chicken Noodle Soup

“Soup is a lot like family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.” – Marge Kennedy

Date Night Prompt: While enjoying your soup, work on a jigsaw puzzle together while listening to your favorite music.

 

Posted in Date Night Ideas, Dinner Dates, Five Friday Favorites, Winter Date Ideas | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Twisted Words

Twisted Words often cause unnecessary arguments in marriage.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Have you ever said something to your spouse and the reaction they gave was unexpected? You realize that they didn’t hear what you said in the way you meant them too. A miscommunication is hanging in the air and you have a choice to make. EITHER snap back and let the conflict escalate, OR take a deep breath and ask them what they heard you say. We call this “Twisted Words”.

Some conflicts can’t be avoided and must be discussed at length in order to discover what caused the rift in your relationship. What I’ve described above, however, can be avoided. But how?

First of all, it takes a resolve to not follow your instincts. 

Instinct means an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior. If this happens regularly in your home, are you willing to commit to change your pattern of behavior? Maybe you’re thinking your spouse does this all the time and won’t change. But doesn’t someone have to go first? Why not be the mature one and take the steps needed for change? Purpose to pay attention the next time this happens and not follow your instincts. Instead, pray for God to help you with step two.

Secondly, it takes patience.

I heard someone recently say, “God doesn’t give you patience, He teaches it.” People often joke that they’ll never ask God to give them patience because of what usually follows — an opportunity to practice it. But don’t we want to grow in our interactions with our spouse? What if we were to stay the same year after year? Sadly, we don’t stay the same. We are either moving forward or drifting backward. The choice lies at our disposal. We need patience in order to help each other stop doing an old, sinful practice and begin doing it with kindness and love.

Finally, it takes humility.

Humility is the opposite of pride, and pride is what keeps us from admitting wrongs. If your spouse reacts to something you’ve said, humble yourself and apologize when needed.  Or patiently ask what they heard you say. It helps to talk about doing this before your next “Twisted Word” opportunity arises. This way you can help each other grow and change.

A good way to see how you’re doing in the area of humility is to consider when was the last time you sincerely apologized to your spouse for something you said or did that hurt them? Asking forgiveness is an often neglected key in letting go of an offense. Don’t skip the opportunity to humble yourself in this way. Why? Because God promises to give grace to the humble…

“Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for…

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”  – 1 Peter 5:5

We must remember that marriages are being attacked from all sides. We have an enemy that wants nothing more than to see our marriage fail. He devises schemes in order to cause conflicts between us, and can even twist the words we say as they come out of our mouth. Your spouse isn’t your enemy. You are on the same team. Make an effort to get past the instinct of miscommunication for the good of your marriage and the glory of God. He will help you. All we must do is humbly ask.

Date Night Prompt: To help you use words to draw closer together, play a game of Romantic Scrabble. These words will help you focus on the good you’ve built together in your years as husband and wife. Instead of focusing on the words that would twist and pull you apart.

Dear Father,

Thank you for the way you lead us into deeper understanding in our marriage. Would You help us change our behavior?  We need your help to patiently practice understanding and believing the best of our spouse. We don’t want to let twisted words have an influence in our relationship.

We know You hear us when we pray and that You desire us to grow closer together and to You. We trust that You will do this for Your great glory.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

 

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Do You Connect In This Way?

How well do you understand your spouse's job? Their job matters and here's why.

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

How well do you understand what your spouse does at their job day in and day out?

Today is Monday, the start of another work week. Your spouse most likely spends the majority of the work week doing their job well. And you do the same. The question is do you talk about this significant part of your day together to the point where you reach understanding?

If you are a stay-at-home parent, you most likely share your the ups and downs of your day without thought. Because you both have a vested interest in the results of your time and energy.

If you or your spouse or both of you work outside of the home, letting each other see in to your world is valuable. Here’s why…

  1. It helps you connect on an intellectual level.
  2. It helps you appreciate what your spouse is good at doing.
  3. It helps your spouse be able to download the struggles of a demanding job with someone who cares.
  4. It helps you both draw closer to each other in an understanding way.
  5. You know when your spouse is struggling and how to pray for them specifically.
  6. It helps to have someone else  to carry the burden.
  7. This is intimacy on an intellectual level and acts as a buffer from seeking this support from someone else who cares. like a co-worker of the opposite sex.
  8. It expresses care for your spouse in a way they may not expect.

We all need to know that what we do matters. Intellectual intimacy is a great way to show our spouse that we really do care.

Intellectual Intimacy Prompt: We encourage you to make it habit to ask your spouse about their day? And once you do, make sure you listen well. If you don’t understand something ask them to explain it in a way you can.

Date Night Idea: This one isn’t really a date idea, but rather a surprise you can do for your spouse. Go to their place of employment right before they get off for the day. Put their favorite cold drink, snack and a note in their car telling them to enjoy their drive home. Set the radio to their favorite music as well.

Father,

Thank you of the way our spouse is willing to work everyday for the good of our family. I pray for them this week that you will help them increase in their productivity. Give them favor at work and let their hard work be recognized. Help me to recognize their hard work as well. I may not understand everything they do, but give me the desire to learn and grow in this way so that I can be the encourager they need this week.

I ask these things for the good of our marriage, in Jesus’ name,

Amen!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, Intellectual, Intimacy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Physical Intimacy – Do You Dare?

Physical Intimacy can be a challenge in all marriages. Are you willing to get the help needed? Just ask!

Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash

In all our years of mentoring marriages we’ve discovered personally how difficult it is for most couples to talk about sexual intimacy. This complicates an already tender topic in many ways.

Imagine you’ve taken a new job, an entry-level position with great benefits. There is only one restriction–you’re not allowed to ask questions or discuss your position with others. You must glean from what you hear, read or see around you. A major problem is that many around you aren’t on your side, so their view can’t be trusted. Fear sets in not knowing who you can trust and if you’ll even be able to keep this job.

This is how we often treat our sexual relationship in marriage. We say, “I Do”, and all of a sudden what was not allowed is now allowed and you’re left to figure it out together. This is fun at first because it’s new and your love has yet to meet obstacles. But they will come! How do I say this with such confidence? It is because we are human and we are each unique.

No two people see eye-to-eye on everything, much less an area which requires such vulnerability like sexual intimacy.

This is one of the benefits of having a marriage blog. It provides a way for couples to get information to help them grow in this area by asking questions and seeking help. We welcome your questions, and if you’d prefer to stay anonymous, which we totally understand, just send us a private email. Then we can address your question to the best of our ability in a future post, or refer you to the answer from one of our friends in the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association.

The important thing is to get the help and training you need to succeed in your relationship. We would do the same for our job, how much more should we pursue excellence in our marriage–including the marriage bed. The question is, “Do You Dare?”

Physical Intimacy Prompt: What is one area that you have chosen not to discuss because it is too heated of a topic? Spend some time praying about it and ask God to lead you to the solution needed in order to move forward. Anything worth doing usually comes with its struggles. But what waits on the other side of the difficulty is worth it. If you’ve tried and still no resolve, then take it to the next level–invite someone you trust to help you.

Date Night Idea: What is one way you can express your affection for your spouse this week? Think of something that would make them smile and/or say “Wow!” As an added bonus, make it a surprise to bless them.

Father,

Thank you for the way You are leading us in this area of our marriage. Would you help us to find resolve in our physical intimacy for Your glory? We have tried in our own strength and still find it difficult. We need You. Give us wisdom in this regard and help us to increase in our love and affection towards each other. We ask these things in the precious name of Jesus.

Amen!

Posted in Conflict, Intimacy, Physical | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Physical Intimacy – This Is US

Physical Intimacy: This Is Us

Happy New Year!

We are finally ready to resume our Physical Intimacy series, and I’m really excited to share today’s post with you.

Have you ever had something on your heart to write about or study, and then discover someone else who did the exact same thing saving you from having to research it yourself? Well, this is what has happened and I am thrilled! Not because I didn’t have to do the work, but because my friend, J, from Hot, Holy and Humorous is such a quality blogger. I know you will be blessed as I was in reading her post.

In a recent counseling session the topic came up of the importance of the “Us” mentality. I had a passing thought that it’s curious U.S. also stands for United States. What is the United State of your marriage? Are you all in as a team or still defending your position as “Me”?

Following is the beginning of J’s excellent post. You’ll have to click over to finish, and I pray you will invest the time to do so. When you’re finished, click back here and let’s talk about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Resolution Week: Not “You” or “Me” But “Us”

It’s resolution week on Hot, Holy & Humorous! Meaning I’ve been covering goals we should make in 2020—for ourselves, our marriages, and our sex lives. Today, let’s talk about a common pitfall we want to avoid going forward.

A Personal Story

My husband has been rearranging in the kitchen lately. For years, I’ve been the one mostly deciding where and how things belong in our drawers and cabinets. If someone in the family didn’t follow my plan, no worries—I was the one home far more than they were, so I’d just fix the error while they were gone and move on.

Cue a change in my husband’s employment, and now he’s home a lot and moving things around. Of course I’ve handled this all beautifully…

Okay, FINE. I’ve huffed, eye-rolled, and lodged several complaints about the equilibrium of my kitchen being upended!

Spock has his reasons for wanting the changes, and now he was finally around enough to make those changes happen. Meanwhile, I have my reasons for wanting things to stay the same, and I’d already established a system! At some point, it seemed to come down to a silent battle over how a particular set of glasses would be placed in the cabinet. He’d put a glass away and change their positioning to his way (“the wrong way”), and later I’d see them and change them all back to my way (“the right way”).

Yeah, because that’s not causing any tension in our marriage. #sarcasm

But a day or two ago, I was staring at that cabinet of glasses and thinking: I should just let him have his way. Wouldn’t that be the nice thing to do? Then I had an even better thought: What if there’s some way to address each of our reasonable concerns about these glasses with an entirely different approach?

Turns out, there is. I mentioned my idea to my husband, we talked about that alternative, and it will be implemented.

Choosing Win/Win

Before you go thinking I have no business ever writing about marriage because I nearly declared World War III over the storage of drinking glasses, the actual amount of time and emotion expended on our kitchen issue was probably mere minutes. And hey, we did resolve it!

I’m only telling this story to illustrate a pitfall we often have in marriage. A husband and wife engage in back-and-forth debate, argument, or even stalemate when the resolution doesn’t have to be you or me—it could be us.

Too often in #marriage, a husband and wife engage in back-and-forth debate, argument, or even stalemate when the resolution doesn’t have to be YOU or ME—it could be US. @hotholyhumorous CLICK TO TWEETIn his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey labels this principle “Think Win/Win.” He talks about how Lose/Win or Win/Lose outcomes are appropriate at times:

If you value a relationship and the issue isn’t really that important, you may want to go for Lose/Win in some circumstances to genuinely affirm the other person. “What I want isn’t as important to me as my relationship with you. Let’s do it your way this time.” …

There are circumstances in which you would want to Win, and you wouldn’t be highly concerned with the relationship of that win to others. If your child’s life were in danger, for example, you might be peripherally concerned about other people and circumstances. But saving that life would be supremely important.

Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

But in most situations, Lose/Win or Win/Lose creates more conflict or feelings of resentment or trust issues in a relationship. It’s much better to look for a Win/Win.

While Covey’s book is aimed at business leaders, he notes how much more important this principle is in marriage: “‘Who’s winning in our marriage?’ is a ridiculous question. If both people aren’t winning, both are losing.”

“‘Who’s winning in our #marriage?’ is a ridiculous question. If both people aren’t winning, both are losing.” ~ Stephen R. Covey (via @hotholyhumorous) CLICK TO TWEET

Who’s Winning in Your Marriage?

My father used to tell the joke that married couples promise to become one—and then spent the rest of their marriage figuring out which one to become. That joke’s funny because of how ridiculous it sounds. And yet, how often do a spouse’s actions convey that’s what they secretly believe?

In the realm of sexual intimacy, spouses can end up playing tug-of-war over frequency, repertoire, etc. The mindset becomes “if you get what you want, I don’t get what I want. But if I get what I want, you don’t get what you want.” If those are the only two options, one spouse will become the Win/Lose mate and the other will be the Lose/Win mate. But then nobody’s really winning.

If you’re always or often winning your way, or if you’re always or often giving in, you’re likely losing the intimacy of marriage. Much better for both of you to get a win.

Continue reading…

Posted in Blog Love, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Physical | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

27 Years And Still Hiding The Weight Of It All

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

We have lived in our home for over 27 years. We have some wonderful memories and some we would rather forget. But all of it is proof that we have lived our life here in this place we call home. In nearly three decades time we have:

  • Raised three children, and homeschooled them for most of their primary education
  • Helped them through college and/or continuing education
  • Helped all three of them pack up their rooms, get married and eventually move out of state
  • Welcomed eight grandchildren into our home, baked with them in the kitchen, colored and read books to them in our window seat and had fun times in our pool
  • Sold the business that enabled us to buy this home
  • Welcomed Tom home full-time after his retirement
  • Written and published two books
  • Hosted many small groups through our church, including our most recent marriage community groups

Precious memories have taken place in this home, and something else thats not so precious–lots of clutter.

It seems with each passing season a new layer of stuff manages to hide in the nooks and crannies of our home. There are drawers that haven’t seen the light of day in years, and it’s time to call – “All ye, all ye in free!” In other words let’s take time to find what’s hiding and do something with it, like: keep, donate, trash or sell it. There’s only one problem. It takes time and resolve to  make it happen.

How do you make yourself do something you haven’t wanted to do in years?

Tom and I have found that giving ourselves an incentive helps. This time we planned the garage sale before we even started cleaning. A good motivation to start, but we can easily postpone or cancel the sale. (See? I know how to get out of something I don’t really want to do.) But so far this has been working. At least it was until I got sick. Ugh! It never fails to hit when we are finally building some momentum. But we are determined to get through this project, sick or not. It is weighing heavy on us and it needs to be done.

My word for 2020 is CONTENTMENT. It’s not so much being content with what I have–I’ve proven I’m content with the stuff I have, seeing how I’ve held onto it for so many years.

My issue is I need to be content with letting things go.

I hate letting go of something I might need later, like an almost empty spool of ribbon. To make this problem worse, I usually find a use for it at some point years down the road. My organizing friends tell me, “If you throw it out and need it years from now, buy the $2 spool of ribbon again! You will have saved yourself the clutter for all those years.” I get it. It makes perfect sense. However, I still hesitate when I hold my hand over the garbage can. It surprises me how difficult this is to do.

My Mom grew up in the depression years so I inherited this struggle from her honestly and for good reason. Thankfully, I haven’t resorted to saving butter wrappers in the freezer to use to coat my baking pans. (Yes, my Mom did that). But it is time for us to scale down and organize. I don’t think we have to worry about a full blown depression anytime soon, unless we never get this home organized–then we might all be depressed in our old age.

When was the last time you cleaned out what’s been hiding in your home? Maybe our post will encourage you to make some incentives to get it done like us in 2020. We’ll keep you updated as to how it goes.

P.S. This post inspired me to organize my blogging space right away. Following are the before and after photos of my desk. Yay, me! Tom will be so happy! I feel ten pounds lighter–in clutter weight that is! It was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and it took only 15 minutes. If only we could lose body weight that easily. That’s another goal for another season. For now I’m pleased with myself.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Keeping It Real, Priorities | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Twenty Questions to Ring in 2020

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

For the past four years I have chosen one word to focus on in the New Year in lieu of a list of resolutions. This past year my word was faith, and did God ever teach me what faith looks like through all sorts of mountains and valleys. I held on to Him in faith through some of the darkest places I’ve ever had to walk. It has been a year of growth and deeper understanding of my own heart, but more importantly I have grown in my knowledge and understanding of God and His Word.

Many of us don’t pay much attention to the passing of time.

Days pass into weeks that become months and in no time another year is here. It wasn’t until we had children that I realized how fast time passes. We must be intentional in order to connect the dots of God’s faithfulness in our lives and marriage. If we aren’t we miss so much.

I mentioned in our last post how Tom and I went on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (#LAWD) on Christmas morning. While driving 10 mph for over 2 hours could be boring to many people, I have found that when I intentionally take in all that is around me, I see what I didn’t see before; The sights, the sounds and the scents of nature. At first glance I may notice only marsh grass and gravel roads, but when the camera lens zooms in it takes my breath away. I am aware of the detail I could have easily missed. (What do you see in the picture below at first glance? Take another look.)

Photo Credit: Shelby Ullery Earle 2019

God impressed on  me that it is the same in my relationship with Him. I could miss so much of His character on display all around me, e.g. His faithfulness, His kindness, His provision, His miracles, His comfort and His sovereignty. He is everywhere all the time, yet He gives thought to me…to you. And when we notice His hand at work it builds our faith.

“Be still and know that I am God,” has a new application for me having driven the #LAWD

We’ve compiled a list of questions to help you evaluate the past and prepare for the future. Plan some undistracted time–no screens, no kids, no chores, no TV–and answer these all important questions. We pray it gives you clarity, like 20/20 vision, in the process.

As you look back on 2019 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 2020, 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 2019. And wherever there is great disappointment, may He fill your heart with faith to believe, to change and grow in 2020.

We pray you have a safe and Happy New Year. 

 

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Date Night Ideas, Growing Strong Marriages, New Year's Eve, Winter Date Ideas | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

It’s A Wonderful, Wild Life (Drive, that is!)

Tom and I woke to an empty home yesterday for the first time in 38 years–when we first became parents. But we weren’t alone. God met us in special ways throughout the days leading up to Christmas. Our kids kept us included in their festivities, for which we are grateful. The love we share is evident whether together or apart and that in itself is a gift.

Plans were made to do something different this Christmas morning. We decided to take a drive, and not just any drive.

Not far from our home is the third largest lake in Florida, Lake Apopka. It used to be surrounded on the North side by muck farms. This rich soil produced some of the best sweet corn in Florida, but the run-off nearly killed the lake.

In an effort to save the lake, our state began a major restoration project over 30 years ago. In 1996 they bought the land on the North shore and turn it into a wildlife preserve and wetlands park. It’s purpose is to help filter the lake water and return it to the lake cleaner. This isn’t the type of park with playgrounds and picnic tables. This is a park for the wildlife to thrive, and thrive they do! Visitors come only to observe, photograph and appreciate the beauty found there. I am thrilled to say the benefit to the lake is already being seen.

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive meanders through the wetlands for 11 miles. The road is one-way only with a 10 mph speed limit. It takes about two hours to complete unless you stop more along the way. The gravel road leads along the lake shore and between swamp grasses and by an old pump house. Hidden in the brush you can see water fowl and other birds of all kinds, as well as amphibians, reptiles, otters and bobcats too. It is a delight to capture on camera what you see.

Yesterday was our fourth visit and it didn’t disappoint. We spotted 42 gators, and those are just the ones we saw.

Marriage is all about making adjustments according to the need. This year I needed to do something different on Christmas morning, and The Wild Life Drive was a wonderful gift.

Here are a few photos from our day…

Posted in Christian Marriage, Christmas, Date Night Ideas, Free Dates, Holidays, Orlando Date Ideas, Outdoor Dates | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Physical Intimacy – Unwrap Yourself

One of the best gifts you can give your spouse is yourself.

As Gary Thomas says often, “Your wife is your Eve–the only woman in the world created by God for you. In the same way, your husband is your Adam–the only man in the world created by God for you.”

Imagine receiving a gift this Christmas from someone who keeps putting you off when you ask to open it. They keep saying, “Not yet,” or “Not today.” Pretty soon you would grow weary of asking. What was meant to bless you ends up doing the opposite.

Many treat their spouse this way when it comes to sex in marriage.

If you say no more often than you say yes to Physical intimacy it may be time to ask yourself why? Don’t let months or years go by hiding behind your no.

I remembering hearing of one wife who was inspired by God to begin saying yes to her husband whenever he was desiring her. Her motivation was to say YES to SEX to BLESS him. I was inspired by her heart. The unexpected blessing was that this attitude spilled over into all areas of their marriage.

Of course this can go both ways. Not all husbands have the stronger sex drive.

There are couples who find it difficult to relate to marriage material for this reason; The husband relates to what is shared toward the women and the wife relates to what is shared toward the men. This can be embarrassing in itself, and cause them to hide their struggles. If this is your situation, you are welcome to send us your questions for help and hope.

What if this Christmas you were to give your spouse the gift of yourself? And when they ask to unwrap you they hear an enthusiastic YES!

I have a sense this would be their favorite gift!

For more ways to bless your spouse for Christmas, see our Romantic Christmas Ideas under the Only Husbands or Only Wives tab at the top of the blog.

May this final week before Christmas be filled with anticipation of the blessing Christ is to us in our marriage.

Resources to help you further from Marriage Bloggers we know and trust:

5 Things To Guard Against As A Wife With A High Sex Drive

How Libido Works, For Women That Is

Why She Has A Lower Sex Drive

Posted in Christian Marriage, Christmas, Holidays, Intimacy, Physical, Sexual Intimacy | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Merry Christmas!

We wanted to take a moment to wish you and your spouse a Merry Christmas. May you find moments in the midst of the busyness to cherish each other in special ways.

Be present where you are, and savor the memories being made.

From our H ❤️ M E to yours!

Posted in Christian Marriage | Tagged | 2 Comments

‘‘Tis The Season” Means More To Us This Year

This has become a God-ordained season of reflection. A time to pause and remember all that has transpired in our family at Christmastime through the years.

I remember many hardships and sorrows as well as joys and laughter that have occurred throughout my life. And this year particularly the Lord has led Tom and me to slow down and allow Him to share with us His heart.

As with any time we pause and think, there is always the temptation to despair over what was or what never happened that you prayed would happen. Oftentimes we avoid thinking about such things for it leads to discouragement and drawing attention to our hopes that have been deferred.

But not this year.

We have a renewed faith and trust in God who is the author of all our days. There is a purpose to each victory and joy, which we would all readily agree. But there is also a purpose in the heartaches. God is allowing us to take part in His joy and suffering. It’s true! Jesus willingly suffered for our salvation so that we could lean into Him when we suffer.

This month I’m celebrating 50 years as a Christian. Five decades since I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to go forward while our church choir was singing, Just As I Am. Fifty years of knowing God and learning how much He loves me. My relationship with Him has grown sweeter and stronger each year because of His faithfulness to complete the work He has for me. And my heart nearly explodes with gratefulness as I reflect on all He has done.

I can’t say that I know the reason for all we’ve experienced this year. But I do know the One who does. And my faith is stronger because of His nearness to me in my brokenness.

The point of this post is to remind you of this Truth: God is near to the broken-hearted. The babe born in Bethlehem came to rescue us from a world of sin. He is able to save to the uttermost those who are His.

We hope this week you’ll find time to reflect on all that God has done in your life–the things you understand and the things you’re still waiting to understand.

Maybe this Season will mean more to you as well.

Spiritual Intimacy Prompt: Reflect together on all God has done this year in your life and marriage. Discuss how this has helped you trust God more or less. Then spend time praying about it.

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

Physical Intimacy – Now That’s A Great Question

How often should sexual intimacy happen in a healthy marriage?

I emphasize healthy marriage because troubled marriages have to fix the areas in need of attention before they hope to see improvement in the bedroom. Of course there are exceptions. The couple who married simply based on physical attraction and a shared heightened libido may enjoy the physical act of sex together, but it won’t be intimate.

How often should we have sex as husband and wife?

1. It will change depending on life’s demands. When the schedule is full, you may both be too tired to have sex. But here’s the thing; Even though you’re both exhausted, the desire to have sex is still there.

2. Regularly is the best answer to this question. And that may vary from our marriage to yours. It should always be on your mind and should always be anticipated. Tom and I often say it’s not good to use absolutes like always or never. But when it comes to physical intimacy it should be absolute. No one else can satisfy your spouse in the way you can. And no one can satisfy you either. We talked about this in our first post in this series–it’s a privilege.

3. If you are being compelled or coerced to have sex, and everything in you doesn’t want to, please talk about it.

Communication is the key to moving from where your intimacy is right now, to where it needs to go.

Why are you hesitant?

  • Is it lack of desire?
  • Is it unforgiveness about something your spouse did or didn’t do?
  • Is it pain experienced during intercourse?
  • Is it selfishness on your part? Or demands from your spouse to do something you are not comfortable doing?
  • Have you never experienced orgasm? If so, you don’t know what you’re missing. We encourage you to talk to someone to help you learn how to help your spouse experience this gift from God. We have seen the light come on in a relationship once a husband realized what it took to help his wife climax.

We have counseled couples regarding all of the above, and the path to a healthy sex life is possible. But you have to see the importance that physical intimacy plays in marriage first.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – NIV

At it’s basic interpretation sexual intimacy is an obligation. To refuse sex is to go against what God has ordained for a healthy marriage. It’s that important!

However, Dr. Leman in his book, Sheet Music, balances this scripture with another scripture that helps us put this all in its proper place biblically:

“…one of the all-time great biblical lines is ‘Love…does not demand its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Just as Paul tells us we have sexual obligations within marriage, in the same book he insists that love does not demand its own way. In short, you don’t force, ever.” – page 48

Did you get that? Sexual intimacy is a shared gift between a husband and wife who love each other without holding back.

Dr. Leman continues, “If you really love your spouse and he or she, to put it bluntly, really wants your body, you’re being selfish if you withhold it. That’s not to say we’re never selfish, because all of us are from time to time, but you can’t make a marriage grow from a selfish attitude for a long period of time. Eventually your selfishness will kill it. (page 49)

One thing we have learned in 40+ years of marriage, is that there is never a rote answer to this question. Each marriage is unique. Each spouse has unique challenges when it comes to intimacy of any kind. Physical intimacy reaches beyond all barriers and requires a vulnerability, honesty and trust like nothing else in marriage.

Don’t allow weeks to pass without engaging in this gift from God. If you are going many weeks or months with no thought about having sex, please seek counsel from a trusted friend, pastor or counselor. You don’t know what your marriage is missing!

“How often can we have sex?” Now that’s a great question! 😉

Recommended Resource available on Amazon

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Physical, Sexual Intimacy | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Road Trip Romance

Tom and I find ourselves on the road a lot these days. We are heading home today after two weeks visiting our kids and some friends. 2500 miles accumulated on the odometer and hours of time to talk.

We’ve discovered this is a great time to catch up with each other. Questions are a great way to get deeper conversation started.

Questions to ask:

  1. What are you looking forward to in the weeks and months ahead?
  2. What is currently weighing you down?
  3. How am I doing in encouraging you in the struggle?
  4. What is a dream you hope to see come true?
  5. What can we do to help it happen?

A new exercise we tried this trip was Word Association. I started by saying a word, and Tom said the first word that came to his mind. I responded with the word I thought of and so on. It made us laugh. It surprised us at how different we think even in small ways like this.

Another fun game is to start with the letter “A” and share a special memory that begins with that letter. You can play this one in the car with your kids too. It’s amazing to remember the history you share.

We also caught up on our daily Bible reading. After being with family for a week we had both fallen behind, so I read our devotions aloud. We were able to talk about it.

We listened to our church’s message, which helps us stay plugged in to what God’s doing back home in our church life.

I take lots of photos – the photo at the top was this morning’s sunrise. It was breathtaking!

We plan to stop today at a rest area for a picnic lunch. Another way to make the travel time romantic and special. And I’ll probably take more photos.

Road trips are a great opportunity to connect heart to heart.

Grateful for the journey!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Emotional, Encouraging Your Spouse, Intimacy, Romance in Marriage, Romantic Ideas, Romantic Vacation Ideas | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Physical Intimacy – Three Aspects of a Healthy Sex Life

Three of the most important aspects of a healthy physical relationship is a willingness to be vulnerable, honest and trustworthy with each other.

* Vulnerable

Dr. Leman says, “Most men don’t realize, psychologically, how vulnerable a naked woman can feel. The very act of sex is one in which she is inviting someone else into her body. You can’t get any more intimate than that.” page 58

Husbands, have you considered how your wife willingly opens her body up to embrace you wholeheartedly in sexual intercourse? Even if she struggles with how she looks or how she thinks you see her, it’s important to give her grace. Let her know that she is the only woman who satisfies you the way she does. You can’t say these words enough. I’ll repeat that again, You can’t say these words enough.

* Honest

Our society bombards women with images of the perfect body type. None of us measure up to this unrealistic Barbie doll image. If your husband struggles with pornography at any level, this will effect your self-image. Men often argue that seeing another woman has no bearing on how he sees his wife. Women struggle to believe this is true, because we tend to compare ourselves with other women from the time we are old enough to to notice the differences. And we always find ourselves wanting, unless we have a husband who tells us sincerely and often that we are beautiful.

Wives, when your husband compliments you your only response should be, “Thank you!” To argue or disregard his words is like throwing cold water on your marriage. You’re basically saying he is lying. Don’t do it! We must believe them when they say they love our body as it is.

* Trustworthy

Sex is a learned art. It takes practice. It takes time. It takes lots of communication. We have found that often it is more difficult talking about physical intimacy than taking part in the act. Just because you have sex regularly doesn’t mean you are communicating honestly and openly.

The best way to know is to ask. When was the last time you asked your spouse how they see your physical relationship? Are they satisfied or left wanting? Are they struggling in regards to what you do or don’t do in the bedroom? Don’t ask this question unless you really want to know. Healthy marriages are willing to ask such questions in order to do something to make it better. These are the marriages that continue to grow through the years.

But here’s the thing: Guard your spouse’s answers as if your life depended on it. Nothing will break trust more in your marriage than her hearing you share with someone else about these conversations. This is private, and private means for no one else to hear or know what was shared.

This goes for the wives as well. Many women love to bash their husbands when with their girlfriends. May I encourage you to keep your husband’s reputation in high regard? Every marriage has their issues. But airing them is a practice that will tear down the trust between you.

“The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” – Proverbs 14:1 ESV

Physical Intimacy Prompt:

Plan some time to ask each other the following questions:

1. How would you rate our current level of physical intimacy? Extremely satisfied, somewhat satisfied, neither satisfied or dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, extremely dissatisfied? Talk about why you both feel this way.

2. If you knew I wouldn’t react, is there anything you would like to tell me about our physical intimacy?

3. What changes would you like to see and why?

4. Do you think I am trustworthy? Why or Why not?

5. Have I ever said anything to cause you to question my trustworthiness?

Physical Intimacy Prayer:

Father, Thank you for creating us male and female. Thank you for helping us take our physical intimacy to the next level. Would you help us be vulnerable, honest and trustworthy with each other? We know that a healthy marriage is a growing marriage. We need you to bring us to a healthy place. We are grateful you don’t leave us on our own to figure this out, but you provide the help and hope we need.

Help me be honest in my answers above. Help me be the spouse my Husband/Wife needs me to be. May our relationship bring you great glory as we walk this path of physical intimacy.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Physical Intimacy Scripture:

“My beloved speaks and says to me: Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away…” – Song of Solomon 2:10 ESV

Posted in communication, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Physical | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments