Can You Trust Me Here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you trust Me here?

photo credit: Photo by Jessica Alves on Unsplash

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Keeping It Real | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Test Your Marriage

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

Tom uses an illustration that is so helpful…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Photo by Sophie Dupau on Unsplash

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Being Honest

For communication to work well in marriage it requires a commitment to honesty. But not just dumping honest words in your spouse’s lap; that’s not kind nor smart.

Many misinterpret the scripture, “speaking the truth in love” to mean saying whatever you want to say under the guise, “I’m just being honest!”

No, that is just being selfish and inconsiderate.

Honesty is like attending a play. You set a a specific time to show up and both of you are ready to engage in what is said. You listen for the dialogue and follow the plot line. You grow in your knowledge, care and concern for the characters and what happens next. You’re fully engaged all the way to the final act. You may have missed how it would be resolved. You may have thought the hero was the villain or vice versa. But the end of the play is usually very satisfying. Whether you figured out how it would end or not.

In our marriage conflicts, there will be honest words that are hard to hear. There will be honest words that fall gently like a soft rain. Honesty is beautiful when done right. And it is satisfying when you both stay engaged until the end is clear.

Honesty requires something else to work as well…

Courage. I can remember many times in our marriage when there was something weighing heavy on my heart about something Tom said or did. I had been mulling it over and it wasn’t going away. The more I thought the more distraught I became. Yet I was reluctant to tell him. I didn’t want him to be upset with me. And I had false belief that saying nothing would guarantee peace. It doesn’t work that way.

Then my thoughts would be interrupted with Tom’s predictable question, “Are you okay?”

I had a choice to make; Lie or put on courage in order to answer him honestly without an attitude, and without assumptions that how I see the situation is correct. Remember we’re on the same team reading from the same script. God is the author and director of our marriage. We must listen to Him and follow His lead.

The Bible assures us He will never leave us or forsake us. He is the author and finisher of our faith, and oftentimes faith requires us to do hard things, like being honest.

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It’s Not too Late…

You’ve heard us mention the Married Christian Sex conference that’s coming up starting October 2nd.

Why Is This Good For Your Marriage?

1. The conference will be online, so you and your spouse can stream each session over the next year at your convenience.

2. With each registration you get a FREE hard cover copy of Gary Thomas’ and Debra Fileta’s upcoming book: Married Sex: A Christian Couple’s Guide To Reimagining Your Love Life.

3. This is a great deal and will be a HUGE help to your marriage. Maybe in ways you didn’t know needed IMPROVEMENT. Our Pastor has said often, “You’ll never know what you missed!” And he’s right!

Some topics that will be covered at the conference include:

  • I Want You to Want Me: A New Understanding of Sexual Desire in Marriage — Michael Sytsma, Ph.D. and Shaunti Feldhahn
  • Why God Says Sex Is Good — Christine Caine
  • How Sexual Past Impacts a Good Sex Life — John and Lisa Bevere
  • Signs Your SEX Problem Might Actually Be a RELATIONSHIP Problem — Debra Fileta
  • The Five Senses of Sex — Gary Thomas
  • A LIFETIME of Awesome Sex — Dr. Kim Kimberling
  • How to Keep Your Sex Life Alive When You Have Young Kids — With Cait & Cole Zick
  • How Porn Affects Sex — Dave and Ashley Willis
  • Hidden Triggers — Natasha and Jamal Miller
  • Dealing with a High Desire/Low Desire Marriage — with Dr. Corey Allen
  • How to WOW your husband & How to WOW your wife — with Ruth Buezis
  • AND SO MANY MORE!

The Early Bird Price ends September 5th, so don’t forget. REGISTER NOW!

Your marriage will thank you.

After the 5th the #marriedsexconference price goes up to $89. Still a great value that also includes a free hard copy of Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta’s new book, Married Sex: A Christian Couple’s Guide To Reimagining Your Love Life.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Physical, Sexual Intimacy, Troubled Marriage | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Drifting or Sailing?

Never underestimate the value of time together alone. It is needed for your marriage to keep from drifting.

The danger with drift is that you don’t know it’s happening until you’re way off course. If you don’t have goals set for your marriage then you don’t even have a course to reveal the drift—even worse!

Some goals to consider for your marriage:

  • Stay current with each other’s lives—challenges and victories.
  • Deal with conflict honestly as it happens. And don’t stop communicating about it until there is no longer any hard feelings. (Hint on how to know—you are able and willing to kiss and makeup!)
  • Be intentional in growing together in your relationship with Jesus and with others whom you both enjoy.
  • Avoid too much time away pursuing your own hobbies. And when you do give each other this time, enter into each other’s joy at what they did.
  • Plan nights away together to cultivate intimacy.
  • Deal with any frustrations. Frustration is anger on a simmer, and it will eventually blow up. Overlooking an offense is good and biblical, but if after a few hours the hurt is still there, you aren’t overlooking—you’re simmering. Put out the fire before you both get burned.
  • Say I love you frequently and sincerely.
  • Kiss often
  • Don’t neglect skin-to-skin contact. This is where the cuddle hormone kicks in and cements your emotional and physical intimacy.
  • Don’t stop asking good questions. Oftentimes we assume we know all there is to know about our spouse. This never happens, we just lose interest. Build your friendship daily.
  • Talk about the memories you’ve made together.
  • Talk about your dreams for the future
  • Each day you are writing your love story. Make it one you both want to be remembered for by your children and grandchildren.
  • Laugh everyday.

We just had a week away in the state where Tom grew up. Seeing his face light up as he remembered things long forgotten was wonderful. Upstate New York (The Finger Lakes region) is gorgeous. It took us a few days to shed the emotions from all we’ve faced the last couple of years. And I don’t think we’ve fully done that. But! We did get to the place where we recognized us!

Remember the scene in Hook where Peter Pan returned to Never Never Land as a grown man? The Lost Boys and Tinkerbell didn’t recognize him. He had changed so much from all life had taken him through he no longer looked familiar. Until one boy took off his glasses and stretched his skin smooth. His face lit up as he said, “There you are, Peter!” What a moment when reconnection happens and they face their enemy united as one!

Our marriage has an enemy and what he loves to do most is separate and divide us. Don’t give him that chance! We must be intentional.

This one week helped us find “us”again and it has been better than we could have hoped. We are back on board sailing towards our future for as long as God gives us life.

We pray the same for all who read this post!

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

Is It Safe To Be Real?

I was the youngest of three growing up in the 60’s. Our lively conversations at the table were often filled with laughter and teasing. But because I was 5 and 6 years younger than my brother and sister (respectively), I was usually not given much room to talk or ask questions. If I did squeeze in a question it was most likely met with sarcasm and/or teasing. I learned to not ask questions at the table in order to avoid the embarrassment of being mocked. Of course, I knew the teasing was in fun, but this habit built in me a fear of not being taken seriously and an insatiable desire to be heard

Fast forward to our marriage.

I was only 19 when we were married, barely old enough to understand myself much less how to relate to another person. But I didn’t know this. I went into marriage confident that we could do this because we loved each other. We did and do, but communication is more than how we feel. It’s learning to understand why we feel. I regularly felt afraid to share my true feelings because this fear of being rejected had been firmly established in my heart. Yet, I didn’t realize this until we had an argument. I didn’t feel heard or taken seriously. When I told Tom through my tears how I felt, he insisted that was the last thing on his mind. He was innocent in the matter, and I had reacted because of a fear from my past.

It took awhile for us to realize this and when we did, our intimacy deepened and became much sweeter. I felt understood and cared for. This is why communication is so vital to a healthy marriage. Many arguments aren’t what you think they’re about when it first begins. Many couples start a fight by putting up a smoke screen to deflect from the real reason they’re struggling, testing the air to see if it’s safe to be real.

It amazes me that this feeling still pops up every now and then, when it feels like Tom isn’t listening to me, or he misunderstood me, or he laughs at something I say. Really? I know Tom loves me. I know that he wants to listen to what is on my heart. I know he is interested in my thoughts.

But still…I can struggle.

The struggle isn’t between Tom and me. It is between me and my past. I have to resist the temptation to react in the way that seems natural and fight to believe the best of my husband. All the time!

It makes me wonder how much of marital conflict isn’t about the marriage at all, but how the voices of our past are influencing our gut reactions. Once the light of this reality is flipped on in your marriage, everything changes. Talking about it to your spouse helps them understand you on a deeper level. You can then fight this tendency together.

Communication is the soil in which marriages either grow stronger, become root bound, or at the very worst–die.

I think we do well to ask some questions of ourselves to see if our struggles in communicating have nothing to do with we, but me.

  1. How easy is it for you to open up about something that is currently bothering you?
  2. Are you tempted to keep it to yourself until you come up with a reasonable solution?
  3. When it comes to conflict are you more likely to flee, fight or freeze?
  4. Does your spouse know how you would answer #3?
  5. If you want to flee, fight or freeze, why? Ask God and your spouse help you discover the answer.

Maybe you don’t struggle in this way but your spouse does. We encourage you to plan some time where you can focus and ask your spouse the above questions. Playing offense goes a long way in helping your marriage win. And we want to win for God’s glory.

Reminder: Married Sex Conference Earlybird price before September 1st of $69. Click here for more information.

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Great Married Christian Sex Takes Effort.

This title alone may have caught your interest because once you’re married it is assumed you’ll have great sex. But sadly for many couples they struggle in their sex life from day one. It can become an increasing source of contention between a husband and wife. And finding help—good help—can be difficult and embarrassing.

This is why we are so very excited about an upcoming conference available online.

Gary Thomas, the author of Sacred Marriage and Cherish to name a few, has written a soon-to-be-released book with licensed counselor, Debra Fileta, titled Married Sex.

Gary mentions in his blog that when he told someone the title of his newest book, he replied, “Married sex? Isn’t that an oxymoron?” Sad, but for many people this is true. All the more reason for the church to address this topic in a straight forward, biblical and informative manner.

A great sex life isn’t just something you find, it’s something you make. But many Christian couples are feeling stuck in this very intimate and important area of their relationship, not sure where to turn for help or who to ask for advice. Other Christian couples have deeply enjoyable and passionate times of intimacy, but are always up for encouragement and advice as to how to keep making this wonderful part of marriage even better.

From Gary Thomas

For only $69 (before Sept. 1st) you and your spouse can “attend” this conference, online at your pace beginning October 2nd. After Sept. 1st the price is $89.

Affiliate link

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Keeping It Real, Physical, Sexual Intimacy | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Long-Overdue and Necessary Adjustment To Our Blog

Over the last two years there has been a melding of our personal lives and our mission to support, encourage and build healthy marriages. It has happened so rapidly in close succession that we hadn’t realized it until now. Many of you have come alongside us and prayed for our family. Thank you! We have benefited from your kindness to us. But we realize that you follow The Romantic Vineyard to find help and hope for your own marriage. You don’t necessarily need to hear about our family’s struggles, unless it directly influences your marriage either by example, encouragement or principle.

We are making changes. I have a blog devoted to family and my writing projects. You can find it at debigraywalter.com. If you have benefited from our personal story I encourage to switch over there and sign up to receive new posts via e-mail. But if you really need and want marriage help, we are promising to keep our focus here on this alone.

We believe it will help you and us to redefine our mission statement at The Romantic Vineyard.

Mission Statement of The Romantic Vineyard.

We promise:

  • To encourage healthy marriages using the Bible as our foundation.
  • To share examples from our own marriage to help, equip and encourage others in their marriage
  • To share romantic ideas to keep the home fires burning toward each other
  • To provide date night ideas to help couples stay connected through all seasons of life
  • To share examples of other healthy marriages as we hear of them either through direct interviews, songs or testimonies.
  • To keep our posts positive and encouraging
  • To adhere to the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association’s (CMBA) mission statement
  • To honestly reply to any and all questions shared through comments on our blog.
  • To pray for all the marriages represented in our community

It is our desire to continue sharing help and hope for marriages in this challenging world. After 42.5 years of marriage we can stand and say it is worth the hard work building a strong marriage.

Thank you for being the best on-line community ever. We pray your marriage will continue to grow and prosper for God’s glory in these difficult days.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages, Purpose | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Out of the Dark, Into His Glorious Light

Two weeks ago today, my brother went to be with the Lord. I have struggled to write this until now. And now is the time to put in words what has happened in my broken heart.

At the same time we received the news from the doctors that my brother’s lungs were not able to heal from the damage Covid caused, the 2020 Summer Olympics were beginning in Tokyo delayed a year ago by the same virus that ravished my brother’s lungs. Lifelong dreams were coming to fruition for the athletes,  as my brother’s lifetime goal was being realized to be called home.  Some of the athletes would receive the accolades of men receiving a medal of distinction, whether gold, silver or bronze. They would be forever commemorated as an Olympian medalist.

My brother at the same time was receiving accolades from the One who created him 66 years ago. In that time He met Jesus. He surrendered his life to Him. He followed Him. He told others about Him. He left a trail of testimony of God’s goodness, God’s kindness, God’s mercy to those who would accept Jesus as their Savior. His Celebration of Life was one testimony after another of how Billy gave his life to Jesus and encouraged others to do the same. Like the Olympians on parade, my brother’s life was being celebrated, but instead of a flag, a cross.

His passing happened so fast I was left reeling at the reality of life without him. My brother has been there for me my entire life. But most recently, after all I have been through with my granddaughter in 2019 and my grandson in 2020, he cried with me over my fears and my exhaustion. He volunteered to do all he could to help us through this dark valley. He comforted me with his love and hugs as only a brother can do. He was there for me…

Until he wasn’t.

In his wake we are still in shock. But he is receiving the reward of a lifetime—one for a life well-lived for God’s glory. The very best of medals that won’t fade with time.

A week or so after He entered eternity, I prayed and asked God to help me. I needed His perspective on all we were facing. But He seemed silent. I say often, “God is always speaking, we’re just not always listening.” In this case He seemed silent to me. I was asking, but hearing nothing. Yet in a strange way, my faith was still strengthened. In His silence I could sense His tender grip holding the pieces of my broken heart together until I was ready to hear from Him.

Ready? Are you ever ready to hear God’s purposes in a reality you would have never chosen to walk through?

I wasn’t sure I was. This is why He didn’t tell me what or when it was coming; He just showed up. In my dreams no less, where I couldn’t argue or shut Him down. All I could do was listen.

I had taken something to help me sleep, so there was no waking through the night. I am a vivid dreamer (as was my brother which is one of the ways we were alike), and God chose this night to speak one thing to me over and over, no matter how the dreams changed.

I kept hearing, “Read Ezekiel 3.23” 

When I finally woke up I grabbed my Bible and read these words, starting with verse 22:

22 Then the Lord took hold of me and said, “Get up and go out into the valley, and I will speak to you there.” 23 So I got up and went, and there I saw the glory of the Lord, just as I had seen in my first vision by the Kebar River. And I fell face down on the ground.”

I couldn’t wait to spend time alone with the Lord. He was calling me to come to the valley, but I didn’t know how to get there. He reminded me that I have been living in the Valley of the Shadow of death for two years. I didn’t have to go anywhere, just sit, pray and listen.

So that is what I did.

Two hours later the pain in my heart no longer ached with sadness. Now I was aching to see Him, the Savior of my broken heart. He met me in ways that only I could appreciate. He is personal like that. One important thing He impressed on my heart is that Covid didn’t steal my brother from our family. No! God called him home, which is the desire of all who know and love Him. He is receiving the Crown of Life promised to those who endure to the end. My brother faithfully loved Jesus and shared his love for Him with everyone who came into his life. 

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 ESV

My time ended by listening to a song by Shane & Shane titled, “Though You Slay Me,” featuring John Piper. If you haven’t heard it yet, I encourage you to set aside some time and let God minister to your soul. 

There is no god like our God. 

He is intimately acquainted with me. He knows me better than I know myself or my husband who is closer to me than any other person. And the best news? He loves me—not because of anything I have done, but because His son, Jesus Christ, called me by name. 

My Niece-in-law said it well, “To know my brother was to love him and if He knew you he loved you.” I love this, and it can also be said of Jesus’ relationship to His children. To know Him is to love Him and be loved by Him.

 I invite you to know Jesus. 

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37 ESV

If you find your heart beating fast with the idea that your life can change forever, out of the dark valley, out of the misery you’ve endured thus far; it may be Jesus is calling you to respond to His invitation to love Him and be loved by Him. He is closer than you know and would love to embrace your broken heart as He did mine. 

I will never be the same! And my closing ceremony won’t be a display of fireworks over the stadium in Tokyo. My closing ceremony will culminate when it’s my turn to hear, “Enter into the joy of your Lord!” 

Posted in Christian Marriage | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Caring For A Broken Heart

My brother went to be with Jesus last week. In just five short weeks he went from being a healthy husband, father, Papa and brother to fighting for his life against Covid. Many of you have prayed with us for God to heal him. God answered our prayers by giving him the ultimate healing, but we are still numb, not sure what happened.

My heart is broken. Seeing my sister-in-law and her children and grandchildren grapple with their new life without him is painful. There is nothing we can do or say to make it better. The only way through this is moving forward, one painful step at a time.

I am grateful we have no regrets other than no more time together in this life.

– They were married 42 years like us.

– They got married 5 weeks after us.

– We had children together and…

– We lived in the same area for all but 15 months of our married lives.

Tom loved my brother as his own. Being strong for me is more challenging when we’re both grieving. But he has certainly been my rock. Most of the time he has simply held me and let me cry.

Billy was a great brother, and we are grateful we will be together again one day. But he leaves behind a big hole.

We have no guarantees how many years we’ll share before “death do us part.” But we can be there for each other through all life sends our way; whether it’s sickness, health, richer, poorer, better times or worse times. Give your spouse the space, love and support they need when struggling. If not you, then who? It’s the reason we made vows to begin with, and it’s how we are called to care for a broken heart.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Death and Grieving, Difficulty, Encouraging Your Spouse, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Not Enough Suitcases

Today’s guest post is from my friend and fellow blogger, Julie Sibert, who blogs regularly about marriage and intimacy on her site at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com.

A friend and I recently went on a long hot walk around a lake, meandering about the ups and downs and in-betweens in our respective lives.

Not surprisingly, we emotionally arrived at what we already knew. Marriage is hard and parenting is hard, at least some of the time. Life is hard, at least some of the time. Relationships are complicated, except when they aren’t. But often they are complicated.

We spend a lifetime reconciling joy, love, friendship, heartache, tragedy, frustration, confusion and disappointment. We unpack it and repack it; rearrange it and set some of it aside—only to circle back around and question if we picked a suitcase big enough.

My suitcase never seems to be big enough. Just when I think I have found my footing and figured out how to revel in joy and face heartache, something new saunters on to the scene, catches me off guard and compels me to feel even deeper.

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for that.

As you look back over your life, do you see all the moments where the Lord was calling you to feel even deeper? 

When I was in college, a friend of mine was facing an unplanned pregnancy. I was with her when she gave birth (on her 20th birthday, nonetheless) and held her during the heartachein the days and months after she gave her daughter up for adoption. We were a couple of 20-somethings without a lot of adulting on our watch. But there we were—feeling deeply, experiencing joy and loss and the tender beginnings of anenduring friendship.

Years later, that same friend would stand in a cemetery as her husband was laid to rest after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 36. My friend was 35 and had four young children.

So much adulting. So few suitcases.

Another one of my friends has a daughter who has struggled on and off with drugs and mental illness. Another friend lost her 20-year-old son in a car accident. Countless other loved ones have shouldered illnesses, accidents, and so many unfathomable losses. I have waded through my own waves of mess and misery; found myself on the floor, completely spent.

2020 about did me in, as I cared for my elderly mother-in-law and simultaneously tried to help my brother as he spiraled into depression, addiction and homelessness. He died December 13, 2020. My mother-in-law died January 14, 2021.

More suitcases. More packing and unpacking.

As you look back over your life, do you see all the moments where the Lord was calling you to feel even deeper?

Of course, the suitcases don’t just hold the heartache, but also all the good moments. We do a lot of adulting in that space, too. The sound of someone’s sweet voice, a hug from someone who means it, birthday celebrations, Saturday morning pancakes, an unexpected encouraging text, conversations over coffee, and unforgettable road trips. What can possibly be said about the encounters that seem ordinary but are anything but ordinary?

So many people and moments have wrecked my heart in the very best way.

For those of us who are married, we do so much of this living while navigating life with our spouse. Marriage for me (and probably just about everyone) has been a mix of blessing, bewilderment and burden. I have experienced indescribablecomfort, passion and friendship with this man.

But we also have disappointed each other. We have at times let each other down. We have misunderstood each other. And forgiven each other. And remembered our covenant. Fell in love and out of love and back in love.

So much adulting. So many suitcases.

I don’t know what anguish and agony you might be facing now—or what joy and peace and gratitude may be spilling out of your heart. But as you look at your life, do you see all the moments where the Lord is calling you to feel even deeper?

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for that.

Julie Sibert is an author, speaker, blogger and advocate for healthy sexual intimacy in marriage. You can find her at her website www.intimacyinmarriage.com. When she’s not writing and speaking on sex in marriage, she’s enjoying her husband and sons, deep conversation, a wide array of music and a ridiculous number of books.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages, Guest Post, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Know Your Spouse’s Touchstones?

Touchstones are the parts of books, movies, poems, artwork or even songs that touch our heart in specific and meaningful ways. It’s usually the part that either takes your breath away or brings tears to your eyes. And it’s often the part you never forget!

Think of favorite movie quotes or favorite songs. What is it about them that grab your attention? It most likely resonates with something you’ve experienced or longed for in your own life.

Some of my touchstones are found in these movies: You’ve Got Mail and Family Man

You’ve Got Mail takes me back to life as a child. My dad owned his own store, a pharmacy not a bookstore. But there are many more parts of the movie that resonate with my own story.

Family Man will always make me cry.

We went on a date night to see this movie right when we were debating whether or not to move or add on to our home.

I have always loved this home, and Tom was ready for a change. We were struggling to agree on which was the best decision for our family. When this part of the movie played on the big screen, I lost it!

Maybe I was being naive, but I believed that we would grow old together in this house,
that we’d spend holidays here and have our grandchildren come visit us here.
I had this image of us all gray and wrinkly,
and me, working in the garden, and you repainting the deck.
But things change.
If you need this, Jack, if you really need this,
I will take these kids from a life they love, 
and I’ll take myself from the only home we’ve ever shared together,
and I’ll move wherever you need to go.
I’ll do that because I love you.
I love you, and that’s more important to me than our address.
I choose us.”

Needless to say, we added on to our home. It’s been 29 years this Fall. We have welcomed our 9 grandkids here and have become gray and wrinkly too. It was prophetic in a sense.

Touchstones are like that. We never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

What are your spouse’s touchstones? Maybe it’s a car they had, or a special meal. It can be anything that triggers a special moment to them. I challenge you to give it some thought and plan to “wow” your spouse with a special memory. And if you think about it, share it with us in the comments. We all need to be touched in this touchless season of covid.

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, romancing your spouse, Romantic Ideas | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

We Need This For Our Marriage To Grow

We all have one, but how we share it with others either builds up or tears down marriage. What is it?

A story.

We love to get to know new couples and hear of their journey from their beginning to the present. Sometimes it’s brief and predictable, but more times than not it’s long and complicated. It takes time to get to know someone on this level, but it’s worth it.

For those who know Jesus the story has even more depth. Full of lessons learned and character forged for one purpose, to become more like Christ for God‘s glory.

It is helpful to remember not only do we belong to each other, but we are His. our love is triple braided cord that isn’t easily broken, as Ecclesiastes 4:12 says.

But we can live our lives frayed if we don’t allow the hard times to mold and shape us.

We have had our share of hardship these past 2 years. Many of which you all have heard of and prayed about with us. Thank you doesn’t begin to express our gratitude.

This is our story and it is still being written one painful stroke at a time. We don’t know where it will all go, but we do know the ending. This is what gives us hope.

What part of your story is being written today? Is it a good part where you can’t wait to see what happens next? Or is it so painful you’d rather not read the next line?

Know that in either scenario you are being guided by a loving Heavenly Father, the Author and Perfecter of your faith. When He is finished we will gasp at the amazing story He has completed. And as we share it with others we are amazed at how He brought us through.

Likewise, when couples openly share with us the details of their story—the good and the bad—we learn from what they’ve experienced and our friendship deepens.

Who are you currently getting to know on this level? We encourage you to seek couples—those older than you and younger, as well as those in your current season. We can learn so much by reading the stories of others. This is where lasting friendships are forged and marriages are built to endure no matter the circumstances.

We need friends for our marriage to grow!

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How Do You Like Your Eggs?

Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

My Father-in-law is living with us and I recently asked if he liked eggs. He told a story of how he used to make fried eggs for his wife who passed away last year. It brought a smile to his face just recounting how he used to take care of her. Even though her last few years were difficult physically, he loved her. He expressed his love in unselfish acts of service that brought joy not only to her, but to him as well.

What things are you doing today that you’ll remember fondly in the years to come?

We just arrived at our cabin a few days ago. This is the first time we’ve been back since last August. Many of you may have seen my Instagram post about the surprise Tom had for me. He hired our lawn company a couple of months ago to start planting flowers and evergreens everywhere! He surprised me so much so that all I could do was cry at the sight of it. I cried more because of the thoughtful planning Tom did to pull this off. He loves me and these flowers will always stand as a testimony of his commitment to us.

I recently read about flowers in that they are beautiful, but temporary. Even the Bible says they are here one day and gone the next. But its important to know that their purpose outlives them; when they are in full bloom they provide nectar and pollen to help other plants become fruitful and multiply.

The true ideal flower is the one that uses its gifts as a means to an end; the brightness and sweetness are not for its own glory; they are but to attract the bees and butterflies that will fertilize and make it fruitful. All may go when the work is done—‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” –

Miriam Huffman Rockness, Images of Faith pg 140

Flowers give beauty and benefit putting forth their best self for the good of others. I was happy to see bumble bees and hummingbirds already receiving good from my newly planted flower garden.

We would do well in our marriages to learn from the flowers of the field.

In what ways do you put forth your best self in order to bless your spouse? In what way has your spouse done this for you? Spend some time recounting the good together. Why not plan a surprise for your spouse that will bless them at the thought of what you did. These are the things we’ll remember fondly in the years to come. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate either; it can be as simple as a healthy breakfast. How do you like your eggs?

Posted in Birthdays, Cherishing, Christian Marriage, romancing your spouse | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Curiosity Kills Assumptions

Photo by Elisabeth Wales on Unsplash

I’ve been thinking about the importance of curiosity in marriage. Curiosity is what keeps us inquiring about something. When we’re curious we want to know more and don’t assume we’ve discovered all there is to know. Curiosity kills such assumptions.

In marriage curiosity has a huge impact on the continued growth of a relationship.

I’m curious to know why my husband does what he does in the way he does it. Many times I discover he has a very good reason for the systems he has in place. Sometimes he hasn’t given it much thought. But being curious reveals things I don’t know about him.

A child is naturally curious. It teaches them how to talk, walk and explore the world around them. It is a healthy aspect of childhood. A child who is prevented from following their curiosities will be stunted in their growth and knowledge, and feel unloved.

To be curious means to have an active desire to learn or know.

Did you catch that? An ACTIVE desire to learn more about our spouse. Most couples begin with lots of curiosity. We can’t get enough of each other and when we are together we talk incessantly. Once married and the burden of careers and parenting take over, we forget to make this a priority. We no longer seek to know more. Life is too busy to be curious.

How do we maintain this curiosity in marriage? I believe it begins with listening well to our spouse. Most times it’s a spontaneous conversation about something they did, read or heard. You may or may not be ready for this conversation, but there it is. You have a choice to make–put the phone or whatever you’re doing aside and listen.

  • Find out what has excited your spouse enough to tell you what they’re thinking.
  • Ask more questions.
  • Realize that your questions may help them understand themselves more too
  • Don’t assume they’re telling you the whole story at first.
  • See this experience as a curiosity worth the detour, rather than an interruption from your own schedule

Doing this will benefit your marriage in ways that may surprise you.

Our spouse should be our highest priority, even over the kids. One day our children will grow up and move away to live their own lives. You don’t want to realize how much your spouse has changed because you failed to be curious about the changes as they were happening. We all change through the years. What we once loved may no longer be our favorite.

A friend recently shared that when they were first married she loved yellow tulips. But she didn’t like how quickly they faded. She no longer enjoyed them because their beauty didn’t last long enough to make it worth the money. She never thought of telling her husband this fact. So he continued to buy her yellow tulips for her in a way to bless her, but it was no longer a blessing. Her preference had changed as we all do over time.

Photo by Denis Lesak on Unsplash

Do you know how your spouse is changing? Being curious will help you stay current with all of the changes.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

– Walt Disney

Look back on your marriage 5, 10 or 15 years ago. What were you like then? How much have you grown and changed? Imagine the next 10 years. Where do you want your marriage to be? Let curiosity be the fuel that gets you there.

(Resource for this post used from an article on Huffington Post by Dr. Harville Hendrix & Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt)

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, communication | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

4 Tips To Avoid This Frustration

Date nights can be a source of great frustration. So much so that you’d rather avoid them altogether. I get it! For some, date nights are a regular trigger for disagreement and misunderstanding. Why is that?

Why is it that dates are anticipated and valued before marriage, and often become this tense issue years into marriage?

After decades of practicing regular date nights and hearing from many couples why they would rather avoid them, we want to address the reasons that may be the cause.

Here are 4 tips to consider:

Tip One – If your budget is tight, the last thing you in which you can indulge is unnecessary expenses like eating out. But dates are even more needed when money is tight. This is why we have spent years developing our list of date ideas that don’t require a babysitter. We call them “D.R.A.B.” for short. But they are anything BUT drab. Of course, some of these ideas may or may not be for you. The fun part is thinking outside of the box of a traditional date and have fun. Even if your idea flops these dates can often be the ones that make you laugh the most.

Tip Two – Plan ahead. Nothing sparks an argument like getting in the car and asking this question, “So where do you want to go?” Honestly, I love it when Tom plans our entire date and I don’t have to think about a thing. When you still have young children at home it’s even better if the husband arranges the babysitter. Of course, there are times when the husband needs this added measure of planning ahead as well. It’s all about what is currently needed to offer help and encouragement to each other.

Tip Three – One spouse thinks dates are unnecessary, while one wants the special time together. This is more common than I realized. Some people get hung up on the term “Date” thinking its hokey. I am very creative when it come to date ideas, and I admit some of them can be hokey. But Tom has always been a good sport and willing to try my ideas just because he likes to cater to my whims. I know some husbands and/or wives can dig their heels in and refuse to play along. This is when you must study your spouse more to know how to enjoy time together on their terms. If the phrase “date night” is a turn-off for your spouse, call it something else. The point is to make time to make time together as a couple. This is the friendship side of your relationship that holds all the other sides together. Do something you both enjoy on a regular basis and watch how it supports you both when things are hard.

Tip Four – Neither of you like to go out, but both of you would rather do your own thing. Of course we all need our alone time, or time together with a friend. But if this supersedes your relationship and time cultivating your marriage, you have more trouble than planning a perfect date night. It’s time to ask hard questions and the sooner the better. We call this a drifting marriage, and drifting is going no where fast. One day you’ll be so far apart in your relationship that you may even opt to call it quits. Please don’t let this happen. Your differences are meant to help each other become better than you would be on your own. For example, Tom is a scheduler and I’m more spontaneous. This has caused many a struggle in our marriage. As we have come to know each other more, Tom has become much more spontaneous and I have learned to plan things quite well. We are a better “we” than “me”.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all perfect date. It’s about finding what builds the friendship side of your marriage and doing those things on a regular basis. This is purposeful, prevents drift and most of all makes memories that last a lifetime.

Posted in Boredom, Christian Marriage, D.R.A.B., Date Night Ideas | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Are You An Irrigator Or An Irritator?

We just had our irrigation system’s annual inspection. Not all areas were working well; some sprinkler heads were broken; some were spraying in the wrong direction and some didn’t have enough water pressure because of leaking pipes. Our friend, who owns an irrigation business went to work and repaired all that was required. Now our lawn is ready to take on the heat of Summer and our garden seems to be smiling.

Having a well-watered lawn in Florida is required in order for the grass to grow. Those who don’t have a built in system, must work hard to move sprinklers and hoses around to make sure every inch of the lawn is covered. It is an exhausting process that usually doesn’t produce the results desired. While it can be an expensive process to install a good irrigation system, the results are a compelling reason to make the investment.

Irrigation is not a new thing. In fact the Egyptians mastered this technique using the River Nile to water their fields. They learned how to manage the annual flooding of the river to their advantage, and the results provided food for the entire region. It didn’t always work as planned, but for the most part it was successful.

You may be wondering what this has to do with marriage.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV

While this verse isn’t talking about irrigation, there is a similar principal here. Christ loved us so much that He was willing to pour His life out as a ransom for us, His Bride. Husbands are likewise called to emulate Christ by loving their wives in the same way. Like the water that is poured out on a parched field providing refreshing water, so too should a husband love his wife in such a way that he refreshes and strengthens her.

This is also sound advice for how a wife should treat her husband. Our words are like water–they can either scorch or refresh our spouse. We would do well to consider this fact.

A well-irrigated lawn is a beautiful metaphor for a healthy marriage. When done right everyone notices.

An irritator is one who won’t stop doing something that is annoying to others. Think siblings who like to tease to the point of angry outbursts. It is not a fun way for anyone to live, except maybe the irritator who finds enjoyment in making their siblings cry.

“A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;”

Proverbs 27:15 NIV

Ouch! That is quite an irritation, isn’t it? I know King Solomon is saying this about a quarrelsome wife, but in reality both husbands and wives are capable of being an irritator. It can be intentional or not. It may be a bad habit honed over years or it could be the result of an unresolved conflict.

If you are the type to push confrontation aside because you don’t like how it makes you feel, you may be a strong candidate as an irritator. Maybe your spouse asks you to do something, but because of your silent anger you procrastinate. This becomes an irritation to your spouse and they don’t even know why it’s happening. False assumptions can be made and the tensions mount from there. It’s better to deal head on with conflict when it happens. This is why the Bible says to not let the sun go down on your anger. If you do the conflict will only fester and infection is likely to follow.

How can we go from being an irritator to an irrigator? (The answer sounds simple, but I know from experience that it isn’t!) Keep the lines of communication open–this allows the conversation to flow. Will it be easy–no! Will it be worth it–yes!

Like our friend who repaired our irrigation system. He was willing to get on his hands and knees to dig up sprinkler heads covered with grass. He was hot and dirty when he finished, but the reward came knowing everything was as it should be.

It takes humility to go from being an irritator to an irrigator. One must be willing to bend the knee to do what’s needed to make things right. Once you can talk completely and openly, then hurts and offenses that have been buried can be found and repaired.

Conflicts will come. It is as predictable as the River Nile flooding. Making the most of the conflicts by learning and growing in understanding each other will be like a well-watered field, beneficial for all!

Are you willing to be an irrigator?

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Six Kisses That Promote Marital Success

Ah! Kissing!! It is what makes a relationship special. When Tom kissed me for the first time I don’t remember much else but this one fact–he loved me! We reserve kisses for those whom we love the most, and this is how it should be. There are different types of kisses for different occasions.

Hollywood has made some memorable scenes involving the kiss.

  • Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in “It’s A Wonderful Life”
  • Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in “Gone With The Wind”
  • Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in “From Here To Eternity”
  • Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca”

Six of the best kinds of kisses to help your marriage grow in intimacy:

The Greeting Kiss – When your spouse walks in the door and you make it a priority to welcome them home with a kiss, you are saying volumes to them and to your children. This kiss means I am happiest when you are home with me.

The Apology Kiss – One of the hardest kisses to give when there is still conflict swirling in the air. But did you know that making a decision to apologize and kiss your spouse makes it difficult to stay angry. Kissing is a laying down of offenses and welcoming your spouse back into your good graces. This is humility on display and the good soil in which intimacy grows.

The Celebration Kiss – Think New Year’s Eve or Birthdays. Whenever something wonderful happens you want to grab your spouse and kiss them with all your might. And if for some reason they aren’t with you on those special occasions, the void is felt. A kiss represents your oneness. Most couples when witnessing a bride and groom seal their vows with a kiss, remember their first married kiss as well. They sit and little closer and snuggle at the memory.

The Sympathetic Kiss – When life hits you hard, sometimes there are no words to express your feelings. A kiss with tears speaks volumes of how much you care. This type of kiss is a gift to the one hurting and makes your spouse feel supported and understood.

The Lingering Kiss – I love to give Tom an unexpected, lingering kiss. The kind that that tells him I want him and still find him handsome and desirable. This works well on busy days when you both have a lot happening. Taking a minute to remind them through a kiss how much they mean to you, goes a long way in motivating the rest of the day.

The Goodnight Kiss – At day’s end, your spouse is the last one you see before falling asleep. Sealing the day with a kiss says I’m glad to be doing this life with you, for you make it worth the effort. A kiss before sleep also informs your dreams of who has your heart whether you’re awake or asleep.

How well do you and your spouse kiss? Take the kissing challenge during the next week and pay attention to how well you kiss. Better yet, don’t tell your spouse. Just let them be the recipient of your affection and watch the effect it has on them.

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine;”

Song of Solomon 1:2 ESV
Posted in Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Romance, Romantic Ideas | Tagged , | 1 Comment

When Comfortable Isn’t Good

We are talking about painting the inside of our home. It has been years since we last did it–11 to be exact–and it is time. But considering the colors we want, it will most likely lead to changing furniture, wall decor, rugs, carpet and a slew of other things I’m probably not thinking of yet. It makes me want to say, “Eh, never mind.” Why is that? I know I will love the results, but is it worth all the work needed to do it right? Like most things the answer is YES.

Our home is comfortable. It fits us. But change is good in that helps us reevaluate systems that worked when our kids lived here, but don’t work as well now. Taking a fresh look at our space gives us a new perspective on how we live. It may feel strange at first but it will become our new normal.

We are in a new community group reading through Gary Thomas’ book, Cherish. This is at least the 10th time we’ve done this, and each time we are inspired ourselves and also by the couples who get it! However, there are usually those who have struggled in their marriage for years–maybe 11 or more–and the question they ask is, “Is it worth it? Or will I be disappointed once again?” I get it. When years of bad habits have developed it can actually become comfortable in an odd sort of way; like our old lumpy sofa. It fits us even though others who come and sit don’t have the same impression–literally.

A husband who has never offered to be involved in the relationship suddenly starts asking questions, make suggestions and want to change. The wife can take offense that he has come out of his corner and actually has opinions about things. She has said for years that she wants him to do this but once he actually does? It messes with her comfort zone.

A wife who has been indifferent and disconnected to her husband on all levels suddenly realizes her err and repents. Now she wants to be with her man, yet he pulls away because she’s too close. He has become comfortable with the wrongs suffered over the years. He is used to the distance.

These are both very common scenarios. It requires a fresh look at where you started to accurately assess your commitment to each other and to God.

In redoing our home, we take it down to the bare bones. This helps us see the possibilities and build fresh on the foundation that was laid at the beginning.

Our vows are like the bones of a home; they are what hold the marriage together when we don’t feel like it. And we should take them seriously. We said them before family and friends, but most of all God. He sealed our love and He alone can heal our hurts and failures. But we must be willing to do the work. He may lead us to the changes needed and provide help from those who can encourage us, but the day to day choices to lean in and fight for our marriage, rather than pull away and flee are ours alone.

Sadly many couples sell out and move on rather than rolling up their sleeves and doing the all that is necessary to restore what the enemy has tried to steal, kill and destroy. Being comfortable isn’t always good.

Chip and Joanna Gaines have built an entire empire around fixing up old homes and restoring them to new life. Is your marriage a fixer upper? If it is, Demo Day can be one of the most exciting days because it removes what no longer works and replaces it with what does. We can think of it as hard work, or jump in and make it fun as Chip does so well. The choice is yours.

Photo by Riley Pitzen on Unsplash

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

The Fog Has Purpose

Imagine my disappointment when we arrived at Zion National Park to cold, foggy weather. Based on my last post I was hoping the views would be not only visible but breathtaking too.

I had no idea of what was coming!

The fog ended up being exactly what was needed to provide the right lighting to see the depth and breadth of the enormous mountain cliffs. We watched the shifting clouds with the ever-present, yet not always seen, sun peeking through pointing out vistas we might have missed.

This fog was a highlight of our day. As we climbed higher the fog turned to snow. It painted a Winter Wonderland that was gorgeous.

When I apply this to my longing for the fog to lift in my life, I see that there are things—important things—beautiful things—God wants me to see in this season. The fog is a way for me to slow down and notice what’s in front of me.

Even though the air is thinner at such a high altitude, I’m learning to breathe slowly and purposefully. I never know when the next view will take my breath away. I want to be ready.

As I was finishing this post, I wanted a verse to express how I feel. The following is the one God led me to…it made me cry tears of joy. Oh how He loves us!

“…to comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭61:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Perspective in Marriage, Travel, Vacations | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments