Time To Stop Listening, And Start Talking Loud And Clear

The title may seem backwards, but it’s not. I’m not talking about listening to others. I’m talking about how often we listen to our own thoughts and allow them to inform our mood for the day. Instead, we should speak the TRUTH to ourselves and stop listening to the lies the enemy whispers.

I’ve had quite the battle recently on many fronts. I realize this is  because I have stopped speaking the TRUTH to myself. My thoughts when left unchecked never lead to anything uplifting or positive. I end up discouraged, disappointed or worse–angry. None of those are how I want to spend my time, especially if I have it in my ability to thwart it.

How about you? Are you listening more to yourself or speaking the TRUTH to yourself?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8 NIV

It’s time we start talking loud and clear.

———————-

Emotional Intimacy Prompt: What struggles are you having in your thought-life? What TRUTH do you think would help you battle those thoughts?

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Emotional, Intimacy, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Living Our Marriage Backwards

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Our church just finished a series studying the book of Ecclesiastes. It has been a sobering and encouraging endeavor. I have learned much in the process. I am grateful for a church where God’s Word is cherished–all 66 books of the Bible–without exception. Our pastor recommended the book, Living Life Backwards – How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us To Live In Light Of The End, by David Gibson. I find this concept fascinating…

Keeping the end in mind shapes how we live our lives in the here and now. Living life backward means taking the one thing in our future that is certain–death–and letting that inform our journey before we get there. (from back cover)

I heard another say it this way.

Think of what you want your life remembered by at your funeral. Then let your choices today help you get there.

Powerful isn’t it? I have yet to read the book, but I will and I encourage you to consider it too.

In light of this being our church’s focus this summer, imagine my surprise when I heard Josh Groban and Jennifer Nettles duet playing on the radio. It’s been out for awhile, but I hadn’t heard it before. It’s titled, 99 Years Like That. It takes this idea of living life backwards and applies it to marriage.

Josh shares on You Tube that he wrote this song thinking of his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

No matter where you are in your marriage today, how do you hope it will end? What choices can you make today to help you both reach your goal? It’s being intentional every day we have together. This may sound exhausting. Anything worth doing is worth giving it our all. Isn’t our marriage worth that? I imagine your vows, like ours, included something to that effect. How easily we forget what we hoped for at the beginning. I pray this song will reignite a commitment to do the work to help us all end well. But more than this, may it infuse a fresh joy in the love we have been given, and may we celebrate it in the everyday moments by the way we treat each other.

99 Years Like That

(begin the video below and read the lyrics as Josh and Jennifer sing)

Boy meets girl and the world stops turning
She makes him forget all the rules he was learning
They give a toast to the ones who never stop hoping
With not much to lean and eyes wide open
And they look up high and wonder what the future’s gonna hold
Will we look back down on 99 years of a wonderful life?
Where we laughed till we cried and
our love grew stronger with every fight
There’ll be a thousand moments for you to say “I told you”
And a million more for us to say “I love you”
So let’s look forward to you and I looking back
At 99 years like that, at 99 years like that
They build a house of love in the face of worry
But life has a way of rewriting the story
There were times when it looked like nothing could save them
And there were times when it looked like nothing could break them
They keep promising each other what the future’s gonna hold
Will we look back down on 99 years of a wonderful life?
Where we laughed and we cried and
our love grew stronger with every fight
There’ll be a thousand moments for you to say “I told you”
And a million more for us to say “I love you”
So let’s look forward to you and I looking back
To 99 years
Of nothing unspoken
Live every day hoping
That when we feel broken
Our scars make us golden
Still choose you and I
Will we look back down on 99 years of a wonderful life?
Where we laughed till we cried and
our love was stronger with every fight
There’ll be a thousand moments for you to say “I told you”
And a million more for us to say “I love you”
So let’s look forward to you and I looking back
At 99 years like that
Oh, at 99 years like that
At 99 years like that

 

Posted in anniversaries, Celebrations, Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Priorities | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Five Friday Favorites – Lovin’ Summer Dates

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Weddings on Unsplash

“Summer lovin’ had me a blast

Summer lovin’ went by so fast.”

These are paraphrased lyrics from a popular song in the musical, Grease. And it’s the inspiration for today’s Friday Favorites.

The lazy days of Summer go by fast, which makes it all the more important to be intentional in having a blast together before the routine of Fall kicks in.

Today we share five favorite Lovin’ Summer Dates:

1. Sunrise – Get up early and watch the sunrise. If you’re able to afterward, go out to breakfast or make your favorite meal at home.

2. On the water – whether it’s floating on a raft down a river, body surfing on the ocean, renting a boat or floating in a swimming pool. Enjoy a date on the water. Pack a lunch, some drinks and make a memory together.

3. Walk-in’ in the rain – we have lots of afternoon storms that blow through. Take a walk under an umbrella, or leave the umbrella home and get soaked together. Hint: Make sure there is no lightning in the area.

Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

4. Make a low-country shrimp boil and dine outside at sunset.

5. Romantic Bucket List – Spend an evening making a list of your dream summer vacations. Watch travel videos of your top three. As a bonus plan a meal around your top favorite.

Photo by Glenn Parsens Peters on Unsplash

Posted in Christian Marriage, Date Night Ideas, Growing Strong Marriages, Romance in Marriage, romantic date nights, Summer Date Ideas | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Best Thing You Can Do To Make Your Marriage Better Right Now

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

How is your marriage? Are you experiencing what we call a high-high? Or a low-low? Maybe you find your marriage somewhere in between. Wherever your marriage currently lies, the best thing you can do has nothing to do with the WE of your relationship. It has everything to do with the ME of your relationship.

Tom and I are uniquely different. We approach most things from an opposite perspective. There was a season when I craved for Tom to do things my way. I believed the lie that this was what our marriage needed. Because I was so focused on this desire, I missed what God wanted most for our marriage. He wanted me to pursue being the best ME I could be and leave Tom’s growth to Him.

Isn’t that the tactic of the enemy? To get us focused on the wrong target, shooting our marriage in the foot while trying to learn to walk together? Instead I need to work on improving my step and trust God for helping my spouse work on his.

We have discovered in meeting with couples that doing this one thing is the best thing you can do for your marriage. It is the little everyday choices we make regarding our attitude, our thoughts, and our actions that help our marriage more than anything. It gets me and my desires out of the way, and allows God to have His way in both me and my husband.

What is one area you are wanting your spouse to grow and change? Do you believe God is able to finish the work He has begun without your intervention? What is one area where you feel God’s conviction in your own life? Are you listening to His instruction or trying to divert the attention from your heart to your spouse’s heart?

Consider this couple…

Robert and Joan were a couple in need of help. As we met with them it was obvious that Robert believed the lie that the trouble in their marriage stemmed from Joan. He wouldn’t consider any advice which required him to address his own heart. As mentors, our hands were tied. Did Joan have issues? Absolutely. But so did Robert. A healthy marriage requires both husband and wife to go after their own heart and allow God to have full access to their motives, their choices and their cravings. Since he wouldn’t do this, the marriage failed. It was a sad situation that broke our hearts.

If we could sit down and have an honest discussion about the current condition of your marriage, would you be willing to address the best thing to make your marriage better right now? We pray your answer is “yes” in working on the ME in your relationship. Then sit back and watch what God does!

NOTE: If addictions, abuse or adultery are a part of your current marriage struggle, or if you are unequally yoked to an unbeliever, the answer for a better marriage involves more than just your willingness to deal with your own heart. It will require more help than I can address here. We encourage you both to seek out a marriage counselor who can help you get through this adversity together. In this case it requires you to take on a WE mentality to help your spouse become a better ME.

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

Five Friday Favorites – Difficult Topics in Marriage

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

So often in marriage the way the enemy works against us it to make us uncomfortable talking about important topics. The only way to counter this attack is to do the difficult thing and talk about them. We are privileged to be part of founding the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association. We worked with five other marriage bloggers who we have included in the following list. They have done some of the hard work for you in writing about these difficult subjects. We pray their words will help you find your words to discuss these things, if needed, in your marriage.

1. A Wife’s Cycle

It’s That Time Of Month – Kate Aldrich with One Flesh Marriage, shares her perspective on this topic.

3 Reasons You Need To Befriend Your Wife’s Cycle – Brad Aldrich, Kate’s husband, shares his thoughts on Kate’s post.

2. Sexual Pleasure

Pleasure And Fun Rolled Into One – Scott Means with Heaven Made Marriage, shares the importance of not only discussing what pleasures you together as husband and wife, but he also offers some excellent resources to help you get started.

3. Sexual Confidence

You Build Sexual Confidence, You Aren’t Born With It – Julie Sibert with Intimacy in Marriage, discusses the importance confidence plays in our sexual intimacy. If you or your spouse struggles in this area we encourage you to start the conversation by reading her post together.

4. Forgiveness, Giving and Receiving

Forgiving Brings Freedom – Paul Byerly with The Generous Husband, discusses the importance of understanding what forgiveness is and how to extend it to our spouse. If you are carrying past hurts in your heart toward your spouse, please make the time to discuss this. Ignoring the offense won’t make it go away.

Forgiveness – Lori Byerly with The Generous Wife, discusses what unforgiveness is like and how it puts a death grip on the one who has offended you.

5. Disagreements

Politics, Disagreements and Relational Damage – Chris Taylor with The Forgiven Wife, discusses what it is like facing disagreements in marriage. This post is about politics as an example (she and her husband don’t agree politically), but the overarching theme of the post is how to handle disagreements in an agreeable manner. If you struggle with regular disagreements that never seem to be resolved, please read this and begin the hard work of talking about it.

____________________________

That’s it for this week. If you have other difficult topics in your marriage that you would like us to address on The Romantic Vineyard, please submit your request to our email address. You will remain anonymous should we decide to write about your topic.

Have a romantic weekend with the love of your life!

Posted in Blog Love, communication, Conflict, Difficulty, Forgiveness, Growing Strong Marriages, Keeping It Real, Sexual Intimacy, Troubled Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Giving God Full Creative Access

It takes a trained eye to see the beauty in what looks like a mess.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash (markings added)

Imagine an artist gifted in painting realism who has an accident in the studio. Paint is splashed all over the canvas ruining the piece as they had planned. But is it ruined or just different? Abstract paintings are as beautiful as realistic ones, but it takes a trained eye to see the beauty in what looks like a mess.

This is how life is for someone who craves control. I know because I am that person. I have lived with a false sense of control for most of my life. When it works life goes well. But when my plan is interrupted or changed altogether I am tempted to despair. I say tempted because in those moments I have a choice to make–give into it or embrace the change.

In the past decade God has been slowly helping me loosen my grip of control over my plans for His plans. Life doesn’t look anything like I thought it would, but it is good–so good!

We need planners in order for things to get done. But we also need those who color outside of the lines so to speak, and dare to venture into the dream of what could be? Having one of each in a marriage can be its greatest asset or greatest demise.

It can be a demise if you,

1. Constantly judge your spouse’s ideas as wrong.

2. Cling to what you want. After all only what you want will satisfy.

3. Pull away from God and/or your spouse because they aren’t giving you what you want.

4. Choose to live in the past of what was and miss the beauty of what is.

It can be an asset if you,

1. Think the best of your spouse and see their opinion as valid.

2. Hold your plans and ideas loosely making room for change.

3. Draw near to God knowing that He sees the big picture our limited view often misses.

4. Choose to embrace what you have today and leave the past and future in God’s hands. He will paint a masterpiece that glorifies Him, not me. And isn’t that our desire?

The key in a healthy marriage is to appreciate the differences you encounter.

Pray about them; Talk about them; Really discuss them to discover how the other thinks. Then make plans using the best of both perspectives. This is what great marriages use to build a strong foundation. But the most important key is submitting your plans to God. Let Him lead you and trust His will in the process. His calling on each of us is most likely more than we could ever hope for or imagine. Do you believe it?

“God is using all of your experiences, both good and bad, to develop your character to match your calling.” 
 Lysa TerKeurst, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God: Experiencing Life in Extraordinary Ways

If God created the entire universe, imagine the masterpiece He is painting in your life and marriage. With all its mistakes and failures He is accomplishing His work in you, if you will give Him full creative access.

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages, Perspective in Marriage, Temptation, Wisdom in Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Need For Fresh Air

Whenever we come to our mountain cabin the first thing we notice is the fresh air. It is sweet and promotes a sense of peace.

Whenever we come to our mountain cabin the first thing we notice is the fresh air. It is sweet and promotes a sense of peace. Add to it a newly mowed landscape and the air is intoxicating. We all need fresh air. Taking time to pull away from the dust of life and enjoy God’s creation is the best remedy for renewal.

This past week you may have noticed silence from our blog. This was because, in honor of my upcoming 60th birthday, Tom sent me away to our cabin for a week with some of my oldest friends who have contributed much to my growth as a friend, wife, mother and woman of God. We laughed, cried and talked about the past, present and future. Some have faced hardship I’ve yet to experience. Hearing their heartache and how God is helping them stay the course encourages me that whatever may come, God will be there to hold me up and lead me forward. Worship informed our hearts of the Truth God supplies. He will help us sing Songs In The Night as Matt Redman has so beautifully written.

We enjoyed the fresh air, fellowship and worship. As we sat on the porch, we found ourselves refreshed not only with the company, but with the atmosphere the fresh air created.

It’s the same in marriage. We need to pull away and breathe fresh air into our relationship from time to time. It takes intentionality in order to discover what it is that helps us both feel refreshed and renewed.

How do you know when fresh air is lacking?

  1. Everything has a staleness to it. Your schedule, your conversation, your thoughts, your prayers.
  2. What normally comes easily seems strained. It may be talking about the schedule, finances, parenting or finding time to enjoy sexual intimacy.
  3. You notice what is wrong with your spouse more than what they are doing right.
  4. Temptations are stronger to pull away from each other rather than leaning in.
  5. A growing discontent with life in general.

These are just a few indicators that you need to pause and breathe some fresh air into your marriage. Some people ignore these indicators and try instead to produce artificial remedies. This is like spraying your home with Febreeze and thinking you’ve fixed the smell. All you have done is cover-up what is obviously needing attention.

Don’t fake fresh air. The only one you hurt is yourself.

Instead set aside time to pull away together and talk about those things bothering you. This needs to be a planned time–not spontaneous, to guarantee you are both ready to engage in the conversation. If you have the means for a getaway this is even better, but not necessary. We all require fresh air to grow strong marriages.

The good news is God has promised to supply everything we need…

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:3-11 ESV (emphasis mine)

We pray God will help you breathe deeply of the grace He has supplied and that your marriage will be refreshed in His strength for His glory.

Posted in Barefoot Cabin, Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, communication, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Five Friday Favorites – Firsts

This week we celebrated the 41st anniversary of our first date. While out to dinner tonight I told Tom if there was any day I could watch as it happened, I would love to see our first date. What did we talk about? Did I talk too much? Probably, and I imagine I giggled a lot because that’s what I do when I’m nervous. Tom took me to the nicest French restaurant in Orlando. Yeah he knows how to do a first date well. I was smitten!

Today also happens to be the first day of Summer, another annual favorite of mine.

That leaves me with three more favorite firsts to share…

Our first wedding anniversary. We spent our’s in the Florida Keys. We lived in Miami at the time, so the Keys were an easy drive and so worth it. We were right on the water and enjoyed fishing and snorkeling.

Our first child. There is nothing quite like seeing a baby born that you know is the fruit of your love. I was the youngest in my family so I had not been around babies at all. It was quite the learning curve for me as a young mom at 22. Our birth announcements said, “Thank you, Lord, for giving our love life.” And now he is 37 years old and we couldn’t love him more.

Our first grandchild. We practically have two first born since Bristol and Norah were born 41 hours apart. And they have filled our lives with much joy for 12 years. Six more have come along after them and our Papa and Nana hearts are full.

Firsts are special because they are just that–firsts.

What are some of your favorite firsts?

Posted in Christian Marriage, Five Friday Favorites, Grandparenting, Growing Strong Marriages, Newlyweds, Parenting, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Gordon Ramsay, Pebble Beach and Songland

We recently had a spontaneous date night. We picked a table where one TV was facing us. Low and behold the PGA tournament in Pebble Beach, CA was showing. We were thrilled. We opted out of paying for cable television a while ago, and one of the down-sides to it is not being able to watch some of our favorites. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the second day of golf on this beautiful course. It is located on the coast of California with cliffs and surf on the edge of many holes. Tom had an opportunity to play Pebble Beach years ago and regrets that he declined. We did visit the infamous 18th hole and enjoyed a drink while watching the golfers finish their round.

This got us thinking about how much we enjoy certain types of programs: Golf tournaments, Cooking shows and restaurant takeovers by Gordon Ramsey, Music competitions – we love The Voice and the new show Songland for aspiring song writers. These are all a great way for us to enjoy relaxing together.

We also find it interesting that we not only enjoy watching these types of shows, but we enjoy doing them–cooking is one of our favorite things to do together. We also enjoy eating out at new restaurants. We love playing golf whenever we are able and the weather cooperates. We love music and used to be involved on the worship team of our church.

Common interests are a great way to connect and have fun.

But what if you don’t have any common interests? I didn’t start loving golf until we had been married 25 years. I took lessons because I wanted to play well enough for Tom to not mind me joining him for a round. Who knew that I would love it as much as he does? I’m so glad I tried it. Now it is a fun date for us to enjoy together.

I encourage you to consider what you could do to enter each other’s world a bit. Is your spouse a NFL fanatic? Learn the rules of the game. Study the stories of their favorite players so you are able to contribute to the conversation intelligently. Then, sit back and enjoy watching a game together.

Does your spouse have a favorite author? Read one of the books so you can talk about it together. You may discover you enjoy it as much as they do.

Of course not all activities have to be shared. Tom will never get my love of writing, but he does enjoy helping me make time for it. When I’m finished he offers to read what I write. Actually that’s even better because he has become the one who’s encouragement and edits mean the most to me.

I will never understand Tom’s love of managing and crunching numbers. He serves on the Financial Committee at our church and it is my joy to see him use his wisdom and encouragement in such a practical way for the benefit of our church. I make it easy for him to go when called upon.

I must tell you we haven’t always been this easy to get along with. 😉 There were many times in our early years that I resented his absence because it made my life inconvenient. I was more focused on how his choices impacted me than focusing on helping him do something he enjoys. It’s all in our perspective.

  1. What is one way you and your spouse can begin to enjoy doing a favorite activity together?
  2. How can you make time for your spouse to do something they enjoy on a regular basis?

These are some good questions to consider on your next date night. Maybe your answer will be dropped right in front of you, like the golf channel was on our last date.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Date Night Ideas, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Friday Favorites – Father’s Day

Father's Day is a day set aside to honor the men who have made a difference in our lives.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

This Sunday is the day we set aside to honor Dads. It used to be that “Father Knows Best”, and he was respected and honored by his family as a result. Today it is much more common to belittle them, to make them feel degraded and stupid. I want to set aside time today to honor the two men who have influenced us the most – my father and father-in-love.

My Dad passed away in 2004, only 4 weeks after his 81st birthday. I miss him so much. If he were here these are the things I would tell him I appreciated most about him.

  1. His love for family – My dad was a romantic at heart. I think I am a lot like him. 🙂 He loved bear hugs and time with all of us. He loved our times spent around the piano most. My sister would play as we would sing. The Holy City was his all-time favorite song. I share it with you here as sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and full orchestra.
  2. His love for people – He was a pharmacist and owned the neighborhood drug store down the street from our home. It had a soda fountain and lunch counter with some of the best food you can imagine. My favorite was the hamburgers and fries.  His customers felt loved and understood, and they would often call him first for advice when needed.
  3. His work ethic – My dad worked 6 days a week for as long as I can remember, and he rarely took time off for vacation. Yet I never heard him complain. This was his job, but it was more than that. It was his passion. He loved working hard to help the customers who called him, “Doc Gray”.
  4. His love for God and the church – Even though my dad worked 6 days each week, Sundays were always for church and choir practice. He loved to sing, serve as a deacon and be there as often as he could. Church was family to us, and I have benefitted much from his faithfulness in this regard. He was the one who walked me down the aisle when I gave my heart to Jesus in 1969. This December will be 50 years since I became a Christian, and my love for God has only grown stronger and more precious to me since then.
  5. His love of Florida and its beaches – Every year we would spend at least a long weekend at the beach. My dad loved the Sunshine State, even though he was born and raised in Rhode Island. He would come home every night after work and spend it by our pool until dinner was ready. Being outside was his breath of fresh air, literally. It kept him grounded after being indoors 60+ hours every week.

My Father-in-love is a great man. I didn’t meet him until I picked him up at the airport 5 days before our wedding. I was so scared to meet him alone. It was decided we would play racquetball together that day. What an ice-breaker that was, and I have loved him like a Father ever since. Following are the things Tom loves and appreciates most about his dad.

  1. Strong work ethic – Dad worked hard at the same job for the same company for his entire career. He was faithful to his work and committed to excellence. He was well-liked and respected by all his colleagues. At the same time, he served for twenty years in the Army Reserves, spending one weekend a month away from home as well as two weeks every Summer.
  2. Patience – Many times I would get in trouble, but rather than rail me for my wrong doing, he would patiently explain to me how what I had done hurt him and Mom. I heard his soft answers loud and clear and he made me want to do better next time.
  3. Love of the outdoors – From an early age I was in Boy Scouts, and my dad would go with me on camping trips. We went fishing with his dad and camping with my scout troop. It was a highlight for both of us when we went on two separate fishing trips to Alaska together. When I was older our favorite outdoor activity turned to…
  4. Golf – We both share a love for the game. Dad in his retirement volunteered as the Marshall for his golf course. He organized charity events and tournaments through the years. His love for the game led to a love for volunteering for the benefit of others.
  5. Great storyteller – My Dad can tell a story and he is good at it. He remembers details that most would soon forget. His love for people is evident in the way he notices them, talks to them and enjoys being with them. He has many friends wherever he goes. None so capture his heart though, than his family. He loves us dearly and stays connected even though we have always lived on opposite sides of the country.

What about your Dad? The Bible calls us to honor our father and mother – this is the first commandment with a promise. What a privilege it is to not only honor my Mom and Dad but to help my husband honor his. 

Have a blessed and memorable Father’s Day. One day, like me, the photos you have taken will be precious memories of the time you used to have together. Make the most of today!

Posted in Caring for Parents, Christian Marriage, Five Friday Favorites, In-Laws, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Pause and Consider

Photo by Umit Bulut on Unsplash

We all have one, at least one, but we may not realize it because of our lack of pausing and considering it. I’m talking about an area of strength in your marriage. Oftentimes we focus on what is lacking and miss what is strong. This is not only discouraging, but a neglect of giving thanks to God for what He has done.

Gary Thomas, in his book Cherish, tells the story of a woman who was married to a very accomplished man. He was used to hearing accolades from coaches, teachers, parents, and fans. But at home he more often heard, “boo!”

His wife explained her husband was so successful she didn’t realize he needed her encouragement more than all others. She went on to say that he had set the bar so high of what a good husband looks like, she took all of his strengths for granted. (Chapter 10 – Your Unique Spouse)

Pause and Consider.

Have you become so accustomed to the things your spouse does well that they are no longer noticed?

May I encourage us all to take time today and look at our spouse from a fresh perspective. Ask God to illuminate their strengths to you, and then purpose to commend your spouse specifically and sincerely.

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Some areas to consider:

  • Financial matters
  • Hospitality
  • Generosity
  • Communication
  • Service to others
  • Handy with repairs and maintenance
  • Sense of humor
  • Kindness to strangers
  • Physically strong and fit
  • Parenting with gentleness
  • Teaching others
  • Discipleship
  • Artistic skills
  • Musically gifted

May we all pause and consider our spouse with fresh eyes today. And may we be reminded of why we fell in love with them in the first place. This is a great way we can begin cherishing our spouse for who they are. Gary Thomas says, “Cherish is the one word that changes everything.” Try it and see for yourself.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, Showing Honor | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Five Friday Favorites – Ways To Fight Fear

It has been a difficult month so far. Lots of circumstances that can tempt me to fear and I must fight for faith and peace. Have you ever been in a similar season? Bad news seems to be like one unwelcome intruder after another knocking on your door? Yesterday alone we received news of three heartbreaking situations that required immediate action, prayer and support.

Photo by Katerina Kerdi on Unsplash

It has been a difficult month so far. Lots of circumstances that can tempt me to fear and I must fight for faith and peace. Have you ever been in a similar season? Bad news seems to be like one unwelcome intruder after another knocking on your door? Yesterday alone we received news of three heartbreaking situations that required immediate action, prayer and support.

Not exactly how my Friday Favorites posts begin, but this is real life. Tom often says,

“We are all a phone call or text away from our lives changing, sometimes forever.”

Which leads to my favorites list this week…

Five Favorite Ways To Fight Fear

1. Cry Out To God In Prayer (Lament) – to lament is to show a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. The Psalms are full of examples on how to do this. I have found that lamenting to God always leads me to my next favorite…

2. Worship – We are blessed with many great songwriters who, like David, pour out their hearts to God and beautiful songs are created in the process for our benefit. A new artist who is also a friend has released her first song titled, Hold On – by Alli Myers. You can download it on iTunes and be encouraged. Another song that God led me to this morning is, You Never Let Go, by Matt Redman.

3. Read the Bible “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” – Romans 10:17 ESV. The opposite of fear is not doubt as some imagine. It is FAITH. And faith is my word for 2019. It also helps to remember to put on the whole armor of God in order to fight this enemy. Our sword is the Word, which when heard builds up our faith. Faith is our shield of protection against the enemy’s attack. We need both to fight well. Tom and I enjoy reading daily devotions on the You Version app. We highly recommend doing the same one together so you can talk about what God is showing you.

4. Phone A Friend(s) – There are times when I have no words or energy to fight on my own. This is when it helps to have friends that will 1. remind you of the Truth, 2. hold you up in prayer, and 3. provide encouragement to endure the suffering. I have even set up text groups to send out an SOS for prayer support when needed.

5. Find A Sermon Or Book To Help – A few of my favorites are:

Just writing this post has encouraged my heart and reminded me of the rich resources I have to help me not stay discouraged. I do have a prayer request though, if you are so inclined. Would you pray with us for healing for someone dear to us. I can’t share specifics–God knows the details–but as many as we can have joining with us in prayer the better. Grateful for your love and support.

Have a romantic and faith-filled weekend!

 

 

 

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Death and Grieving, Difficulty, Five Friday Favorites | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Stop Chasing Squirrels

I love watching Tom do those things for which he is passionate, like lead our marriage community group. When someone asks him about their marriage he lights up and never fails to offer wise, biblically-based counsel. And the older he gets the richer his wealth of knowledge and experience becomes. I love this about him.

Living with him means our marriage is under constant growth and examination by not just him, but both of us. It is the attention to detail that comes with anyone devoted to something. Currently we are working on communicating more attentively. I’ll share something with him and rather than comment on what I said he’ll disregard it completely and talk about something else. We call it, “Squirrel!”

It isn’t intentional on his part, just a bad habit. Tom sincerely apologizes saying he doesn’t want to do that to me, but he still does from time to time. Later that same day, I did the same thing to him. It goes both ways, and we are working diligently to change this in our marriage.

If your spouse is devoted to something, you know what I mean about the time and attention they give it. There is the constant talk about what’s new and coming soon. The next competition or the next conference. It may be a favorite author or artist announcing a new work. Whatever it is your spouse takes interest in, don’t dismiss it. Take delight in their enjoyment of it. Ask them questions and do your part to make them better at doing it.

Healthy marriages excel at fanning the flames of your spouse’s passions, not quenching them by chasing squirrels.

Whether it’s a sport, craft, activity or subject matter, get to know this side of your spouse and watch them light up with passion. After all, we vowed to help our spouse become the best version of themselves. This is a great place to begin.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, communication, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Vintage Post – Five Sense Romance

I have shared this on our Only Wives section of the blog, but today I share it with you as part of our Five Friday Favorites series.

These are five ways to romance your spouse using our five senses as your guide. NOTE: These are just Ideas to get you started thinking of what ways you could stimulate your spouse’s senses. Have fun!

Five Sense Romance – Use the five senses to communicate your love and care for your husband: 

Smell – If you know your husband is having a rough day, have something wonderful baking or cooking as he walks in from work.  The smell will draw his heart as a reminder of why he loves home, and it will communicate your love to him without words.  

Hear– Listen to things your husband says under his breath like, “I’m thirsty”, or “I need to take care of such and such”.  Make this your first priority so that your husband will be amazed at how you knew exactly what he was wanting or needing to do.  

Touch – Reach out and take his arm or hold his hand no matter where you are.  This communicates not only to him that you love him, but it’s also a demonstration to the world that you belong to one another.  

Taste – Make it a regular habit to surprise your husband with his favorites (ice cream or coffee after dinner, a cold drink waiting for him when he goes to the bedroom to change after work).  

See – Look for any and every opportunity to encourage him when he does something romantic for you that is unexpected.  Often times our husbands do little things for us, that we don’t even notice because we’re distracted. 

Posted in Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, romancing your husband, romancing your spouse, romancing your wife, Romantic Ideas | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

First Steps Toward Change

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. It is a familiar quote and one repeated often. But the fact that is familiar doesn’t mean we are practicing Mr. Franklin’s advice.

When we were young and told to clean our rooms, putting this chore off had consequences. Not only did we have a messy room, but we had to face the punishment handed out by our parents. We disappointed them more than we realized. Sadly, many of us didn’t get it until we had children of our own.

In marriage it is much the same way, but differing in who it is we are disappointing. If our spouse has asked us to do something and we are regularly putting it off, what does that say about our commitment to the marriage?

Procrastination is selfish and goes against all that marriage is supposed to be.

If procrastination is selfish, then faithfulness in doing what you say you’ll do is the opposite. It communicates how important our spouse and their requests are to us. It could be as small as taking vitamins or making the bed everyday, or as big as fixing that dripping faucet.

Is there is something you have been putting off? Odds are good that if there is you know exactly what it is. Your lack isn’t due to forgetfulness. It is something that obviously isn’t important to you. Can I encourage you with a gentle nudge to grow up in this area? Don’t play into the scheme of the enemy by disappointing your spouse day after day.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” it says in Proverbs.

It is one thing to fail in doing what we were supposed to do as children; it is expected to some degree. After all, they are children. But as adults let’s put away childish ways and be faithful in the little things (and big things) in our marriage and in our home. It matters more than we know, and the consequences have lasting effects.

What is one thing can you do today to take that first step towards change?

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Conflict | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Five Friday Favorites – Florida, The Sunshine State

I am a native Floridian and I love it here. Even with all the changes in traffic, population, congestion, and humidity, Florida is home. Tom and I have the privilege of traveling quite a bit. With him officially retired we are now “free to move about the country” as he likes to say. We especially love road trips together. But there is something that happens in my heart whenever we cross the state-line back into Florida. It’s as if the sun shines brighter for me here.

This brings me to this week’s Friday Favorites post – the five top things I love most about Florida, and a date idea to go along with it.

1. Sunrise and Sunset – We are able to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, and then drive across the state to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. We call this date our Sunrise Sunset Date and it is one of my favorites.

2. Afternoon Thunderstorms – In Orlando during the Summer I look forward to our afternoon thunderstorms. It provides relief from the heat and it demonstrates God’s faithfulness and power to all who notice. These storms form when the sea breezes from the east coast hit the gulf breezes from the west coast, and it’s usually around Orlando in the late afternoon. The powerful display is fun to watch. I love the big skies over Florida and the ability to watch storms roll in from a distance.

3. Familiarity – Having lived here all my life, I know where everything is. I love this aspect of living life in my hometown. History is a precious thing and living where most of mine has happened is comforting to me.

4. Outdoor life – Boating, camping, hiking, fishing, surfing, kayaking. These are all fun ways to enjoy Florida. But one of my favorites in the cooler months is to sit outside around an open fire pit. We have one in our backyard, and there are fire rings you can reserve on the beaches in Volusia County (New Smyrna Beach) to enjoy one surf side.

5. Restaurants and Entertainment – We are blessed to have the world literally in our backyard. We can eat any type cuisine we desire, and with my Yelp app we can find the best of the bunch. Orlando is growing leaps and bounds. It truly is The City Beautiful. Check out our Romantic Orlando Guide for when you are planning to visit.

What do you love most about your state? We invite you to brag about it in the comments.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Date Night Ideas, Dating Your Spouse, Five Friday Favorites, Orlando Date Ideas, Summer Date Ideas, Summer Sizzlin' Dates | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vintage Post – The Verbs Of Your Marriage

(Originally posted on August 21, 2014)

I love words and how they have power to help us understand our marriage. Most of us don’t give much thought to the words we use and why. But we should. Words reveal. Words have power. Words linger in the air of your relationship long after they’ve been spoken. And they can cause more damage than we know, and more health than we realize.

It matters what we say and how we say it.

I remember when I was homeschooling our children we were using an English curriculum that required my kids to diagram sentences starting in 3rd grade. This was something I never had to do, and it fascinated me. It proved there was structure to something for which I had never given much thought. Wow. I see now how foolish I was to never give thought to the words that came out of my mouth.

fool‘s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul. Proverbs 18:7 ESV

Sentence structure may be boring to you, but taking a closer look at the words that come out of our mouth will help us discover if we’re being wise or foolish in our communication with our spouse. Most of you reading this post are familiar with the following verses:

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.  James 3: 2 – 5 ESV

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!

Can you imagine there being a fire in your home and you doing nothing to extinguish the flames? Worse, can you imagine if you were the one to start the fire in the first place? It would be scandalous, yet when we choose “fighting words” we are doing this very thing.

I recently read a post about the Verbs Of Your Life on a Pastor’s Heart blog, and it got me thinking…What verbs are active in your marriage right now.

Verbs are action words. They reveal what we’re currently doing. By making a list of our verbs it will help us see if we’re being positive or negative towards our spouse, our marriage, and ultimately our life.

Here is a short list of some verbs that could reveal hot spots in your marriage:

  • yells
  • ignores
  • disregards
  • embarrasses
  • humiliates
  • assaults
  • cringes

On the other hand your list may include verbs that reveal what you’re doing right:

  • gives
  • honors
  • respects
  • romances
  • loves
  • cherishes
  • serves

Our words matter.

Practical Application: We encourage you to plan a night where you and your spouse can take some time and discuss the verbs in your marriage right now. Be honest. Honesty is like a fire extinguisher on the hot spots of your marriage, IF you’re saying those words with love and tender-care. Being honest just to dump on your spouse is not loving, and it lacks care. It’s much easier to do as the song says and “say what you need to say,” without considering how you should say it. 

Here’s a quick tip: Share your heart with your spouse in the way you would want them to share with you.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 ESV

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Vintage Posts | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fine Line Between “We” and “Me”

It has happened more times than I can count since Tom and I have been married. We hear of another couple ending their marriage and it breaks our heart. Not only for the failure to keep their covenant before God and family, but for the children who will bear the effects for the rest of their lives.

Divorce hurts! And no matter what you may have heard, the hurt never goes away.

I understand how couples get there. There is a fine line between “we” and “me”. When we start processing our marriage through the “me” lens, everything is skewed. What should be resolved together turns the other away and seeks a solution alone, many times without the other knowing.

This is why we are passionate about encouraging strong marriages. You may or may not realize how close you are walking this fine line between “we” and “me.” It usually begins with a question in your heart as to the motive of your spouse. You make assumptions based on what you can see and what you can hear. But what is missing is most important of all–What are they thinking? The only one who knows this answer is God and your spouse. Don’t assume you know the answer – ASK!

If the questions are allowed to continue, what usually follows is disdain. Everything your spouse says and does is judged by how you are viewing them, not on how they truly are. Pay attention to your thoughts toward your spouse. Are they uplifting? Encouraging? Filled with love and admiration? If not, then know you have work to do.

When we look at our spouse we should see them and love them for who they are, not who we want them to be. Of course, we want to encourage our spouse to grow and mature in their faith and life, but how we see them today is a compass for the direction we’re heading.

A healthy marriage sees what’s lacking in our spouse and takes it upon ourselves to encourage them and help them be the best they can be.

A borderline marriage sees what’s lacking in our spouse and grumbles and complains. Maybe this isn’t done out loud, but that makes no difference. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Take these thoughts captive and remember what character qualities caused you to fall in love with them in the first place. No spouse is perfect, nor will they ever be! Knowing this helps us accept them where they are. Our privilege is to help them become even more than what they could be on their own. This is the beauty of marriage. I’m a better “me” because of “we”. I am sure it’s the same for all who practice this.

How is it in your marriage? Are you in a healthy place or walking the fine line between “we” and “me”. Let us help by encouraging you to deal with this now before you find yourself calling your friends and family to tell them your marriage is over.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, Troubled Marriage | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Five Friday Favorites – Keeping It Real

Normally these posts are lighthearted. We share with you some of our favorite moments or things we love. But today my heart is heavy for those facing extremely challenging circumstances–terminal illness, job loss, rebellious children, chronic pain. All of these seasons are difficult to walk through even in a strong marriage. But all of us have faced them.

Today we want to share with you our Five Most Challenging Times not in any particular order.

1. Miscarriage – Our first pregnancy was exciting. So exciting we told the world as soon as we found out. I was only 6 weeks into the pregnancy when I miscarried. We were out of town on business and I had to call Tom out of his meeting to come get me. It was terrifying for us to walk through such loss. But God showed us how deep our love was for each other. We learned more about ourselves in that season, and we were sobered about how fragile life is. We realized that not all dreams become realities. I was hit hard with the question, “Will I be able to have children?” And the haunting fear that came with it. God taught us how His Word informs our heartache and that is where hope is found in great loss.

2. Moving to a new city – Tom lived 2.5 hours away from me while we dated. After we were married I move away from my family and the only city I had ever known to live with my new husband. No job. No friends. No church family and no history. I felt disconnected because I was. Add to that the fact that Tom worked 70 – 80 hours a week. I was alone and lonely most of the time. I learned that anytime someone relocates to a new city it takes about 2 years to feel like it is home. Fortunately we didn’t have that long to adjust. Tom was transferred to another new city. It wasn’t until we had been married a year and a half that we moved back to my hometown. We have called Orlando home ever since.

3. Realizing your spouse isn’t perfect. It was not long after our wedding vows were shared that we realized how imperfect we were. Face it. There is no perfect spouse. Only Christ is perfect, and He is the only One who can help us continue to love and cherish each other through all the imperfections and sinful patterns. And it didn’t happen immediately. We have to continually choose to be honest, transparent and forgiving as Christ has forgiven us.

4. Job loss and financial tensions – Through the many struggles we have faced of this nature we discovered where we were putting our trust. Looking back now we can see that God was helping us to trust Him with uncertainties. He has faithfully provided for us even when we didn’t know how or where the provision would come. I wish that I had time to tell you how God provided us with the most beautiful Christmas tree we have ever had the year when we barely had money to buy our children gifts. Or when God supplied us with the money needed to buy the company where Tom had worked for 16 years. He also freed Tom from his work responsibilities right before my Mom passed away making him available to walk me through one of the most difficult times in my life.

5. Parenting at all stages. From bringing them home from the hospital to sending them off to their first day of school. Letting them go happens in stages and each one was difficult for me. I must admit that having my grown children move far away has been the most challenging for me. I hear young moms constantly say how they can’t believe how fast their little ones are growing. We had children with the goal to raise them to be responsible adults didn’t we? But many of us, if we’re honest enjoy the responsibility of having someone depend on us. It can leave us feeling empty and useless when this season ends. I loved seeing my children find the love of their life, get married and start a family. The hardest part for me was watching them each move to different states. This wasn’t what I had expected for this season of my life. I love being a Nana to my 8 grandchildren and not being involved in their daily life is sad for me. But God is teaching me how to trust Him in this season as He has in every other season. Tom and I have grown closer together as well. We love being empty-nesters.

That’s it for this list. Of course there are many more challenging times in all marriages, but these are the ones that stand out to me.

What have been challenging times for you in your marriage?

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Five Friday Favorites, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

In Case Of Emergency

We have all had it happen at some point in our marriage. Life is going along as expected and then it happens.

Photo by Youssef Naddam on Unsplash

We have all had it occur at some point in our marriage. Life is going along as expected and then it happens. You receive a phone call, a knock on the door or you hear a your child crying. You are immediately thrown into a crisis. You don’t know how long the crisis will last, but you do know that life will not be normal for a while.

My husband almost became an Eagle Scout – two badges shy of completing it. He regrets to this day not finishing, but in my mind he has all the benefits of this honor. I am blessed to be the recipient of his skill.

In a crisis he shines best. He says the most important thing in any emergency is not to panic. In my mind that’s easier said than done. However, being married to Tom has helped me grow in this area.

I remember a time when Tom was the one in crisis. He was the sickest I have ever known him to be and it made him delirious. I didn’t know the cause of his lethargy and I was afraid. I panicked!

A few days later when he saw his doctor we discovered it was a medicine dosing imbalance. He had made it through the worst of it and never was in danger of dying as I had feared. I told him how I had failed in handling the crisis. I even said I didn’t have the grace to walk through it (which is a contradiction to the promise God has given us in His Word.)

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 ESV

I was greatly troubled by my lack. He responded by saying, “You didn’t have the grace because there was no need. You had fear and God doesn’t give grace for fear. He calls us to repent of it.”

He was right. His words were like a soothing salve on my fearful heart. I had misapplied scripture and thought it had left me wanting. This was not true, and I was relieved.

Emergencies are a fact of life.

If you haven’t had one yet, you will. Talk about how you would handle different scenarios like fires, accidents, gas leaks or injuries. And here is a helpful tip for those of you who have a smart phone: There is a button at the bottom of your lock screen that says “emergency”. I thought that button automatically called 911 when pressed, but it doesn’t. It pulls up a list of your emergency contacts that you set up in advance. EMTs can access this information without unlocking your phone. We also have each other’s phone number listed under ICE in our contacts. It stands for “In Case of Emergency”. For more information on how to set up your smart phone click here.

In case of emergency the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared”, is good advice no matter how old you are.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments