10 Habits of Highly Romantic Couples

Romance is simply thinking of your spouse above all others when it comes to time, attention, generosity and kindness. Your spouse should never feel that they come in second place to your other priorities. Of course there are seasons when it is necessary to do otherwise, but it should be the exception and not the rule.

This got me thinking about what it is romantic couples do on a regular basis that other couples may have neglected in recent years. It is never too late to turn up the romance in your marriage, and here are ten ways to get started.

  1. You keep your appearance up the way your spouse likes it. I know of one couple who have been married 60+ years. She still puts on her makeup, including lipstick, everyday because her husband loves it. That’s romance.
  2. You make it a priority to know what is on your spouse’s schedule and do what you can to help them accomplish it.
  3. You listen when your spouse is telling you about their day. This includes putting down your screens and looking at them.
  4. You plan romantic surprises that they will love, not necessarily what you would want them to do for you. Sometimes we can do things for our spouse in an underhanded way to show them what they’re not doing for us. This is a romance killer—don’t do it!
  5. Let your spouse know that making love is important to you by making the first advance. This can start in the morning and last all day long. Flirting is always practiced by romantic couples.
  6. Plan regular dates where you can connect heart to heart. Go the next step and plan the whole evening ahead of time: babysitter, where to go and what to do.
  7. Pay attention to their off-the-cuff remarks. Often times they will say what they really wish they could do in this way, but they don’t think it’s a priority or affordable. The most romantic memories we share are when we made something happen that the other didn’t think was possible.
  8. Be kind. Open their car door. Rub their shoulders after a hard day. Bake their favorite dessert. Buy them their favorite drink and hand deliver it. Call them and compliment them on something they’ve done recently. Kindness begets kindness. And romance grows strong in the soil of kindness. Be their biggest fan!
  9. Keep your promises. We have heard many women say there is nothing so romantic as a man who washes the dishes. If you said you would do something to help your spouse, make sure you do it and do it well.
  10. Don’t do what you see other couples doing without studying your spouse to see what they want to do. We can miss getting to know our spouse because we make assumptions. Your spouse is unique and so is your marriage. Romance is cultivated when both of you are focused on pleasing each other, not copying what you see or hear other couples are doing.

Being romantic isn’t hard, but it requires being intentional.

Romance Prompt: Find a couple you see who are romantic and ask them over or to go on a double date. Spend time asking them what they’ve done to cultivate romance in their marriage. Commend them for the example they’ve been to you, and then offer to buy their meal, if you’re able. It’s good to encourage couples you see doing things right for it builds humility and gratitude in your own heart, and it edifies them for doing something well.

Gratefulness is the first step towards change. In what ways are you grateful for your spouse?

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Praying Reveals The Heart

Photo Credit: Joshua Ness on Unsplash

I remember a time in our marriage where we rarely prayed aloud together. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to, just that life was often too loud to even think of it. And once we got in the habit it was easy to keep not thinking of it. I say this to our shame. Our need for God every day never changes. This is why He provides new mercies every morning.

One day we were both struggling with some weighty matter. I don’t recall what it was now, but you’ve been there. Feeling backed into a corner and not knowing what to do.

Tom took my hand and said, “Let’s pray.” And he began…

As I listened to his words I was struck with emotion. His heart in prayer was exposed in a way our conversations were never able to reach. He used words and emotions as he cried out to God that I had never heard before. It was a revelation for both of us. We realized our need to pray.

The intimacy reached through prayer together towards God can’t be likened to any other intimacy. It is two hearts connected to the power, love and mercy of God Almighty. When we pray together He hears and He unites our hearts in a beautiful way.

My husband’s relationship with God is different than mine. I have much to learn from him in this regard. And I believe he also learns from me. It’s a give and take of shared connection to our Father.

There was a time when I thought my relationship with God was the way everyone related to God. I soon discovered that God is as unique in relating to each of us as He is unique in creating us. We are individually His—each taking a part that is important and assigned to no one else.

Once we realize this truth, then our main job is to help our spouse be the best they can be in all areas, and especially in the area of relating to God. What a privilege!

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

James 5:16 ESV

Date Night Prompt: Set aside time to pray out loud together. Make a list of the things weighing on both of you and take it to the Lord in prayer. You may even want to record the date you began praying about these particular things and watch how God answers.

Recommended Reading: A Praying Life, by Paul Miller

When was the last time you prayed out loud with your spouse?

Posted in Christian Marriage, Prayer, Spiritual Intimacy | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Make Your Home Welcoming To Others

You can follow our posts on Instagram: @theromanticvineyard

We have all been spending lots of time in our homes lately. It’s easy to neglect things because you no longer see them as visitors do. So this post is an encouragement to look at your home with fresh eyes.

I’m taking part in an Instagram challenge this month sponsored by the Come Home For Comfort blog. You can follow along using hashtag #happyhomemaker2020. Whitney is encouraging us to submit photos of our everyday lives as seen through the lens of our home. I love challenges like these because it gives me fresh eyes to see areas in my home that I love, as well as areas in need of improvement.

When guests arrive to stay in our home we like to think of little things to make them feel welcome. Here are some of the most appreciated things we’ve done shared by our guests.

  • Print a photo of them from one of their social media pages and frame it to display on their nightstand. Hint: If they’ve shared it on social media chances are they love this photo.
  • Write a personalized welcome message on a framed, matted picture in the room.
  • Buy the highest quality bed linens your budget will allow.
  • Make a basket of their favorite snacks and drinks and set up on the dresser of their room. You can even include toiletries they may have forgotten like a toothbrush, tooth paste, shampoo, conditioner or soap.
  • Have comfortable seating areas available for them to use their computers.
  • Leave a basket of fresh fruit and water bottles in the kitchen for them to help themselves in the morning.

I know right now there isn’t much opportunity for hospitality. But this is the perfect time to work on making your home ready for when this pandemic has ended. The Bible says many have entertained angels while unaware. Wow! Just think…Hospitality is a way we can share love with others all with a view of blessing them and building them up.

Lastly, we encourage you to provide a guest book for your visitors to sign. I like to keep the photo I printed of them and place it in the back of our guest book. Over the years our guest book has become a special momento of hospitality shared for the good of others. And you know what? Tom and I have received much more than we have given by opening our home and heart to others.

Date Night Prompt: Talk about the importance of hospitality and how you can make this a part of your life. Reflect on times when you have welcomed others into your home. What did you hear from them that made their stay special? What could you do to make your home more inviting?

Posted in Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Open Nest, Seasons of Life, Showing Honor | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Bookends Of Our Marriage

Bookends. Their sole purpose is to hold up the books standing in-between them. You can have a bookshelf without bookends, but they won’t stand tall. Most likely they will fall over as mine always do.

Bookends come in all sizes and shapes. They make some really clever ones too, such as these I found on Uncommongoods.com Some make you laugh. Some make you think. And many make you marvel at the creativity used in making them.

I have discovered my need to bookend my days since this pandemic began. There are only two things, necessary things, strong enough to support me through the shifting events of each day. 

First, is my relationship with Jesus. He is my focus at the start of each day. I ask myself,  What does His Word say? What is He saying to me through it? And how does He want me to apply it to my current circumstances? These questions help me frame the start of the day with that which provides strength. It’s amazing how one thought of fear and worry can unravel a whole day making it nothing but a pile of messy emotions.  This is why spending time alone with the Lord is necessary. He is my strong support to start my day.

Then, as the day ends and I lay my head on my pillow, I thank God for His countless blessings to me. I try to be as specific as I can before I fall asleep…

  • I’m grateful for the ability to see, hear, smell, feel and taste. What comforts these 5 senses bring to me all throughout the day.
  • I’m grateful for my family and pray specifically for them by name. A tradition my grandmother began.
  • I’m grateful for my home and the comforts it provides.
  • I’m grateful for food on my table to share with those I love.
  • I’m grateful for health.

Being aware of my blessings on a daily basis keeps me from grumbling and complaining about the day’s trouble.

Secondly, is my relationship with my husband. He walks with me through all the high peaks and low valleys life brings my way. He gives me a perspective I wouldn’t have left to myself. He is a thinker, a planner and doesn’t make decisions quickly. This used to drive me crazy because I’m the opposite. I love to throw caution to the wind and just do whatever strikes my fancy. But after all these years of marriage, I have grown to love and depend on Tom’s wisdom. I’m not as quick to jump these days. Usually when I do I regret it. There is wisdom in waiting. He is my strong support to help me make wise decisions.

Add to this, our shared faith in God. This makes our bookends even stronger. 

“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

These are the two bookends that help me stand tall and strong, ready to be used as God chooses. What bookends give you strong support?

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Encouraging Your Spouse | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Looking Outward Together

We spend much of our posts talking about how to make your relationship stronger to last through the years. This requires intentionality in pursuing intimacy with your spouse—spiritual, emotional, physical, as well as cherishing each other. This will make your marriage strong, if done well.

There is another aspect of a healthy marriage and that is looking outward together to the ways in which you can bless others. Today we want to focus on the benefit of extending hospitality.

We have always heard that the true biblical definition of hospitality is “entertaining strangers”. Think of it. Before planes or trains made traveling something done in hours, not days, travelers would often pass through a city late at night in need of a place to rest their horses and find food and a place to sleep. Many families would open their homes in hospitality to these strangers as a way to reach out and help others.

Tom and I love to practice hospitality. We have welcomed people into our homes from all over the world. Some we had never met as they were friends of friends. But by the time they left our home they felt like family.

I remember one couple coming to visit from another country who had never been to Orlando before. It was Monday, our normal date night, so rather than skip it we decided to share a double date and show them some of our sites. We ended the evening on beach chairs overlooking the water. We gave them our list of date night questions and encouraged them to spend some time together talking. They loved it and even mentioned that this was one of the most memorable and romantic times they had spent together in a long time. Our hearts were full.

That’s the thing with hospitality, you put your best efforts forward for the good of another, and end up receiving a double blessing in return.

We are going to continue this topic in posts to follow, but for now we encourage you both to reflect on the ways in which you have benefited from the hospitality of others. Why not take time to thank them again for their kindnesses to you.

Date Night Prompt – Using our date night questions (see tab at top of page), pick one or two to talk about on your next night out together. Find a romantic spot by the water or with a nice view to enjoy undistracted time. Bonus if you don’t look at your phone for the entire time.

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Date Night Ideas, Free Dates, Intimacy | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Five Cooking Dates to Make Your Mouth Water

Tom and I love to cook. We love to cook for each other, and we love to cook together. When we had our kitchen renovated the designer laid out our kitchen to make the best use of space for us to be in the kitchen together. It was the best advice we ever took from them. Our kitchen is a great place for us to spend an evening together.

First, I’ll share a cooking date that didn’t work for us. You’ll need a bit of background to help—we enjoy watching cooking shows. One in particular is Master Chef where Gordon Ramsey and his team challenge home chefs as a culinary artists. The best one wins the title of Master Chef for the year.

There is one challenge he does called Mystery Box. Inside each chef’s mystery box are assorted ingredients each must use to make an inspiring meal. It’s fun to watch their creativity shine.

Now for our unsuccessful date. We made plans to go to the grocery store and buy our own mystery box ingredients to give to each other. The idea, which was a good one, was to each create a dish using the ingredients in our mystery box. The only problem was—we lacked the creativity to do anything with our items. Lol. We bought such weird and unfamiliar items that we ended up donating them to a local food bank and ordered pizza delivery. Failed date, but hilarious memory. If you decide to do this, use more familiar ingredients to make it doable. This is still on the table for us to give it another try.

Now for some fun ways to enjoy time together in the kitchen…

Five Cooking Date Ideas for Two

  • Charcuterie Board with Wine Tasting – Buy four bottles of wine. Two red and two white. Cut up favorite assorted cheese, dried meats, olives, nuts, crackers, and fruit. Set up a card table in an area not normal for meals, play some smooth jazz and enjoy. Put each bottle of wine in a paper bag so you don’t know which is which. Rate your favorite wine by the taste. You may find a new wine you didn’t know you liked best!
  • Make your own pizza from Scratch – Try your hand a tossing your own pizza dough, spreading a favorite marinara sauce on top. Then each make a masterpiece for each other. Don’t forget to play classic Italian Cafe music to set the mood.
  • Low Country Boil – This is one of our favorite meals for the summer. You can make it on your gas grill outside to keep the seafood smell out of the house. Instead of sea weed, we line the bottom of a large pot with spinach. Fill with smoked sausage, halved cobs of corn, shrimp, lobster tail or crab legs and new potatoes. Sprinkle all with Old Bay seasoning for the most authentic taste. Don’t forget to line your table with newspaper. When ready to eat, pour it all out on the table and enjoy.
  • Filet Mignon with Roquefort Port Wine sauce – This is my all-time favorite meal that Tom cooks for me. I found it in my Williams-Sonoma French cookbook. It is so good you don’t need dessert – the sauce is so rich and mount-watering you’ll want to lick the plate. I may or may not have done this. 😉
  • Ice Cream Sandwich competition – Each of you plan to make your own cookies and fill them with the ice cream flavor of your choice. Wrap them in plastic wrap and chill.

All of our recipes and ideas can be found on our Pinterest Board – Date Night Food. We would love to hear about your experience if you try any of these “at home” cooking dates.

Bon Appetit!

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The Annoying Hiccups of Marriage

Photo by Nathan Nicholson Unsplash

In this season of quarantines being relaxed and then restricted again, it can become disconcerting. But let’s remember the one constant in our life…our marriage. Whatever restrictions we face, we are in this together. Hiccups and all!

Two are better than one,

    because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

    one can help the other up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a

Let’s make the most of this time by being even more intentional to deal with conflicts as they arise. The temptation may be great to let our guard down and give in to the words we want to say in the moment. But cherishing our spouse requires a choice to do it differently.

Consider these common moments…

When your spouse misunderstood or didn’t hear what you said….

Rather than react in frustration, kindly explain what you said again.

When your spouse becomes impatient…

Ask them more about why this is bothering them.

When your spouse gets angry…

Rather than defend yourself, ask them to help you understand what upset them.

When your spouse has had a bad day…

Surprise them with something they love at the end of the day.

Recently, Tom and I had another hiccup in our communication. When we tried talking about it, all I could do was cry. I wasn’t upset with him. I was more frustrated that we were having this issue once again. Just like real hiccups; you just want them to go away! Tom patiently reminded me that this is normal in any marriage. We have to expect them, but what we do with them can vary depending on our mindset. I’m grateful we were able to resolve it, which puts us in a much better place to deal with it when it happens next time. Yep! I’m sure there will be another hiccup and the fresh water of communication will once again help us swallow our pride and get rid of them.

Don’t let these little conflicts go unresolved and build up over time. It is not good for either of you personally or for your marriage. We need to do all we can to keep our relationship healthy. There have been too many marriages we have heard of lately (over 20+) years not making it, and it breaks our heart. There is a better way. It isn’t easy, but is certainly worth it!

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Cherishing, Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Making Memories That Last

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been on a retreat with several of my dear friends. I am learning to be present wherever I am, and last week I was present with them and with the Lord who met with us in a special way.

During our time one friend shared a song with us that left most of us in tears. It was meaningful because of the words, but also because she has been widowed for four years. We miss her husband, but find great solace in reminiscing on our times together as couples. This song brings all of this together and reminds us that the memories we make today will last until we take out last breath. Make them count!

I pray it will help you make the most of your memory-making opportunities.

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Emotional, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Love Songs, Music | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Marriage Many Will Never Know

Photo of Keith Urban listening to Kelly Clarkson’s riveting performance of Piece by Piece on American Idol

You may have heard the news about Kelly Clarkson and her husband, Brandon Blackstock, divorcing. She filed for a divorce following the quarantine stating irreconcilable differences. It’s a known fact that celebrities have a harder time keeping the knot tied and this one is surprising and heartbreaking to me.

I’ll never forget hearing her sing her then debut song, Piece by Piece, on American Idol’s finale. She was about 8 months pregnant and couldn’t hide her emotions about the testimony this song portrayed of her life growing up. It was riveting. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience, nor in my living room. I was thrilled for her that she seemed so happy to have found a lifelong love. Until she wasn’t…

Marriage is hard work. And the quarantine magnified this truth. Being together day after day reveals areas in need of attention, and for some it may seem too difficult to climb that mountain. But what if Kelly and Brandon chose to work on their differences instead of abandon their vows? It was said that she wanted more children and he did not. This was a source of great disappointment and grief for Kelly. This is why we encourage engaged couples to have these conversations before marriage. How many children? How will they be disciplined? How will we spend or save our money? Etc…

I’m sad for Kelly and Brandon. And I’m sad for their children who will now divide their time between two households. But I’m mostly sad for the marriage they will never know.

Imagine…

  • …If they had committed to love and cherish each other until death parted them.
  • …If a deeper joy was waiting for them on the other side of this struggle.
  • …If they were able to find a compromise on the issues which separated them.

I believe there are rarely irreconcilable l differences, only one or both spouses not willing to give up their desires for the good of the marriage.

Of course, I’m not talking about abusive relationships; if you find yourself being physically, verbally or emotionally abused please seek safety and counsel. What I am talking primarily about are couples who give up too soon without giving the marriage a chance to grow and mature beyond the “this is what I want out of marriage and if I don’t get it, I’m leaving” stage. We all face that moment when the marriage moves to a deeper level and it isn’t fun, but it is good!

Sadly there are those who miss out on a good marriage they will never know because they quit too early. This is why we do what we do; We want to help marriages make it for a lifetime.

Do you remember a time in your marriage when it went from the honeymoon stage to the life just got serious stage? How did you and your spouse work through those differences? Were you in a better place afterward? We’d love to hear your story…

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Testimonies, Troubled Marriage | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Memories That Make Scents

It has been proven that our sense of smell triggers our memories more so than any other sense. I’m not sure why, but I agree. With one whiff of orange blossoms I am taken back to my grandparent’s orange groves where, as kids, we played hide and go seek among the trees. Such a fun time for me growing up in Central Florida.

This makes me wonder what kinds of memories we are creating for our spouse by the scents made in our home? I know the smell of bread and bagels baking will always remind us of the 10 weeks we have spent in quarantine. Pies evoke memories of birthdays past, since we always have birthday pies in lieu of cakes.

Likewise the savory scent of a roast in oven reminds me of Sunday afternoons at my parent’s home for Sunday dinner. I’m so glad I have her recipe and can enjoy it whenever I want.

Not all scents have to be of edible things; On our first trip to France we toured a French Perfumery where we watched and smelled our way through the process of making different perfumes from a variety of flowers. It was fascinating to watch it all come together. Tom still buys me my favorite perfume from them as it reminds us of one of our favorite vacations. We refer to it as our Trip of a Lifetime.

Tom grew up in upstate New York where the annual Lilac Festival takes place every May. When we bought our cabin in North Carolina we were given a lilac bush. Tom was deeply affected by the kindness of my cousins for such a meaningful housewarming gift.

Other scents that are known to stir up strong recollections of days gone by are: campfires, hamburgers on the grill, sea air, jasmine blooming on a fence, a particular soap, or all kinds of flowers.

Date Night Prompt: What scents are special to your spouse? If you don’t know plan a date night to ask. You may be missing a great opportunity to make your sweetie smile and remember. And don’t neglect to create those new scent-filled memories today to be remembered years from now.

Do you have a favorite scent memory? We’d love to hear about it.

Posted in A Fragrant Aroma, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Making Scents | Tagged | 1 Comment

Five Things To Do When You’re Bothered, Bummed and Blue

On March 17th our lives came to a screeching halt. No more meetings; no more friends gathering; no more church services together; no more date nights to our favorite places; no more life as we had known it. At first the cancelations felt like a relaxing reprieve, like being on vacation when you hadn’t planned it. It felt good to cook, stay in pj’s all day and catch up on favorite shows or movies we had wanted to see. We spent time reading, doing puzzles, gardening and doing some of our very own DRAB date nights. (DRAB stands for “does not require a babysitter).

Then, it got old. I’d wake up in the morning bothered with the thought–here we go again. It was a struggle to think of something to break up the monotony.

The beaches were just starting to open, and we were hopeful to have the chance to soak up some vitamin D. yet the weather kept us inside. It started raining all day everyday for days–making the temptation to be bummed difficult to resist. Living in the Sunshine State we aren’t used to gray skies–unless it’s our afternoon thunderstorm that blows in around 3p, and clears up by 4.

On the heels of the quarantine, our country plummeted into a crisis worse than COVID19; George Floyd was murdered and we all saw it in horror. Our hearts were broken, and our anger stirred. The circumstances that got us here weren’t new, and the weight of it all seemed overwhelming. The need for justice for our black friends was finally being heard. It’s true black lives matter and my heart was broken for the struggle that has been their reality for centuries. Not knowing what to do or say to help made me discouraged and blue.

Maybe you’re on the front lines and you haven’t had a moment to rest. Your circumstances are different, but similar in that you are also longing for it to end.

It seemed insignificant to write about marriage in the midst of it all, but this is what God has called us to do. We aren’t to write only when things are going well and we see our path clearly before us. It’s all the more important to write when we are in the midst of the struggle, trying to figure it out.

I must admit, this post is as much for me as it is for you. I’m not sure where it will end, but I’m trusting God is leading my writing to encourage us all.

So, what DO we do when life is like a replay of the book of Job and we are bothered, bummed and blue? I believe there are five practical things we can do to get us started. This list is just that–a beginning to help us avoid the downward spiral.

  1. Lean in to each other and talk about how you’re feeling. Just because you’re both experiencing the same situation doesn’t mean you’re processing it the same. This is one of the advantages of marriage–having someone to talk with you through difficulty. Most times what comes of it is something you wouldn’t have discovered on your own.
  2. Pray together. God is not surprised by this fiery trial we are facing, nor should we be. He is at work always making a way in the wilderness for those who are His. 1 Peter 4:12, 13 ESV says: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Did you catch that? God wants us to rejoice in the fact that we are suffering. That makes no sense to those who don’t know Him, but to us it is the hope for which we live. His glory is why we rejoice in all things!
  3. Take time to list out the things that are specifically bothering you. Many times just writing them down can help us let go of the burden and give it to God.
  4. Be content with what you’ve been given. There’s that word again, my word for 2020 – Contentment. I looked up the scripture where Paul shared how he had learned the secret of being content in all circumstances. In our current crisis it seems wrong to be content doesn’t it? I don’t want life to be this way. I don’t want to wear face masks when going to the store. I don’t want to read another account of racism and hate. I don’t want life to be like it is. But God is saying to be content. “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” What is that secret? Acknowledging that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.
  5. Ask Christ for strength to face the day. Each morning I wake up realizing my need for Him. I ask Him to help me put on kindness towards my husband primarily and everyone else whom I will meet during the day. Kindness doesn’t come naturally for any of us; at least not the kind we need. The kindness we need is unselfish and imitates Christ’s kindness to us.

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.”

Colossians 3:12-15 ESV

This last scripture is rich with what we need; we need to be clothed with hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. In what ways are you loving your spouse with these qualities? In what ways to you need Christ to help you change?

I don’t know about you, but I feel much better having leaned in to hear God’s heart on all that is weighing on me. He is not surprised that we struggle. After all we are only human. We need Him to lift our gaze to His throne of grace, which will never be exhausted. Even when we’re bothered, bummed and blue.

Date Night Prompt: Plan a quiet evening or afternoon together to talk about these five points. Read them aloud to each other and take time to listen to what your spouse has to say.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, communication, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Fresh Mercy

It’s been a season like no other in our marriage. So many challenges hitting one right after another. We have barely been able to catch our breath. Maybe you are feeling much the same way.

Now that life is starting back up slowly it feels exhausting doing normal things. If we get with friends it takes all the energy we have to engage and fellowship—but it is so good. I’m wondering if we were always this way but had grown used to the exhaustion.

We all need rest, a Sabbath, to pull back and do nothing for a day. I see this now more than ever, and I can actually thank God for the time we had at home for 10 weeks.

In our marriage we have the privilege of helping our spouse embrace regular rest. We know how to help them relax and I’m praying we will all be more intentional to see it happen now.

What are three ways you know your spouse relaxes? What are three ways you relax? Why not do what you can to help them breathe deep and recharge, and enjoy the gift of fresh mercy for today.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse | Tagged | Leave a comment

7 Steps To Communicate Your Love in a Memorable Way

“With every look at you a thousand memories flood my mind.”

Tom said these words recently as I was relaxing, reading a magazine. It made me pause and look him in the eyes. I knew he meant them because of the look on his face. Carefully chosen words have the ability to build intimacy as much as thoughtful acts. But how often to we think long and deeply enough to say such things?

This is why Hallmark has made it’s way into our homes. We are basically paying someone else to say what we haven’t taken the time to say in our own words. Now I’m not against Hallmark by any means. In fact I’ve found many a card that said better what I wanted to say myself. But still…are we short-changing our spouse by not at least making an effort to say what we want to say in our own way of saying it? And think of the personalization missing from a store-bought card. Only you know the things that mean the most to your spouse. I encourage you to take the love letter challenge this month and let your spouse hear your heart by the words you write.

Need help getting started?

I recently read a post by a life coach, Jordan Gray, who gives excellent steps on how to write your own love letter. It’s titled, How To Write A Love Letter That Will Make Them Cry. We are sharing their seven steps below.. Click on his link to read about each step.

  1. Start with why you are writing this love letter.
  2. What do they bring to your life?
  3. Allude to memories that you share.
  4. What do you love about them.
  5. What do they not get told enough by you or others?
  6. The details – While it’s nice to praise the things hidden in plain view, I find that the most memorable moments in love letters come from finding the super specific details that you love about the love letter recipient and letting them be known. Just imagine… your love letter could be the first thing in the recipients entire life that lets them know that they have some specific gift that they bring to another’s life. And every time they notice that detail about themselves, the thought will be linked back to you and your thoughtful letter.
  7. Plans for the future.

Date Night Prompt: Plan a night with little to no distractions, including you screens. Play Favorite Memory Guessing Game – Think of a favorite memory you share. Give your spouse one hint at a time to see if they can guess what you are thinking of. See who can get it right with the least number of hints.

Emotional Intimacy Prompt: Ask your spouse what you’ve done or said recently to make them feel encouraged and special. If they can’t think of anything, plan to do something soon that will encourage them in a way only you can.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Emotional, Encouraging Your Spouse, Intimacy | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

One More “Let’s Be” to Practice

Being present with him is a joy!

I’ve been surprised that I haven’t written more during the quarantine. One would think that a writer writes, and only needs time to do so. And that is true, unless you are practicing this final “let’s be”.

Let’s be present.

In this social media culture even being home 24/7 doesn’t guarantee we’ll be all there. I could easily get lost in my blogging world encouraging marriages all over to do this or that to help their marriages last. But if I’m not tending to my own marriage, eventually I’ll have nothing to offer but a bad example. I pray I’ll never do that. Instead, I’ll let days go by without a post in exchange for a day of golf with Tom, or spending time making an extra special dessert or dinner because food is his love language. You see my absence here usually means I’m present there with Tom.

I rarely go a day without thinking of how to encourage marriages through our blog. But many times my priorities keep me from posting right away. I share this to let you know how important it is to be present mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically with your spouse. Just because we have more time together, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re using this time for our good.

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, imagine what being present can mean?

How has this quarantine helped or hindered you being present with your spouse?

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Perspective in Marriage, Priorities | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

“Let’s Be” These 8 Things Towards Our Spouse

How are you doing in the area of kindness towards your spouse? These have been trying times for everyone and none are affected more by our discontent than our spouse. I have noticed this in my own heart, which has led me to consider how much I need the kindness born by the Spirit of God.

I can choose to be kind in my own strength, but it won’t last when the pressure mounts. The only kindness that lasts is from God. He modeled perfect kindness when He stooped to our level in order to restore us to the Father. His kindness made a way for mercy.

Consider these words written by Paul to the church in Colossae:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14 ESV

This scripture holds enough truth for us to practice for a lifetime. It commands us to put on 8 things in our dealings with others. Let’s consider our spouse and honestly evaluate how we are doing in each area in regards to how we are treating the love of our life.

1. Compassionate Hearts – How do you handle it when your spouse is hurting either physically, emotionally or circumstantially? Are you kind? Or are you tempted to be angry with the inconvenience to your schedule? These are hard questions, but ones we must consider if we are to accurately assess the condition of our heart. Being compassionate is putting ourselves in the place of another and doing whatever we can to help alleviate the suffering.

Let’s be compassionate towards our spouse.

2. Kindness – This is likened to mercy in the Bible. Mercy is God’s willingness to not give us what we deserve. Instead He shows mercy and draws us close to Him. How do we treat our spouse when they’ve wronged us, whether intentional or not? Do we take time to explain our hurt? Or do we lash back because in our eyes they deserve it? Do we draw near to them or push them away?

Let’s be kind towards our spouse.

3. Humility – This isn’t thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. I’m afraid this is one in which I often stumble. I am tempted to think too much of what Tom is or isn’t doing. This is simply pride manifesting itself in my heart, mind and actions. If I catch it I can remember that God gives grace to the humble. I can repent and ask Him to forgive me of my pride. How I need His help to overcome this one. How about you? Do you struggle in this area?

Let’s be humble towards our spouse.

4. Meekness – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines this as mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked. I wish I could say that I excel in meekness, but without the Lord’s help continually I would stumble often in this regard. It seems the older I get the more I struggle too. I’d like to blame it on hormones, but that would be just an excuse. Certainly hormones can effect moods, but the Lord is sovereign over these as well. We must submit ourselves to His rule and reign to grow in this area.

Let’s be meek towards our spouse.

5. Patience – many joke that they would never pray for patience because the Lord would send trying situations to help us learn it the hard way. But God doesn’t treat us this way. He wants us to pursue patience because it is a fruit of His Spirit at work in our hearts. We draw near to Him and He causes the fruit to mature for His glory. Are you finding yourself impatient with your husband/wife? Do you resent having to forgive them again? Repent and ask God to fill you afresh with ahis Holy Spirit.

Let’s be patient towards our spouse.

6. Bearing with one another – Tom and I have been nipping at each other recently and it has caused us both to wonder why. We realized we aren’t bearing with each other. If we misunderstand something we tend to react instead of overlooking it. In fact this was the motivation for finding this scripture and diving into what it means. How are you handling misunderstandings lately. Don’t be surprised if you need to give this area some attention. These days have been trying for everyone. You and your spouse are no exception.

Let’s bear with our spouse.

7. Forgiveness – I love that this one follows all the ones previous. At this point I’m sensing a gratefulness for the forgiveness God has extended to me. With this fresh realization it makes it easier to pursue growth in these areas. Forgiveness opens the door for God’s grace to help me do and be what I couldn’t be in my own strength. God isn’t seeking me to be a perfect spouse. He wants to be all this through me, so He gets the glory and our marriage benefits. It stands as a testimony to what God can do in a marriage surrendered to Him.

Let’s be forgiving towards our spouse.

8. Love – 1 Peter 4:8 says that love covers a multitude of sins. What great news! Marriage is so much more than choosing to love one another. It is this and all the others mentioned above. The best news is love is what binds us together in perfect harmony.

Let’s be loving towards our spouse.

Tom and I enjoy watching The Voice. My favorite part is when they do the knockout rounds and singers are paired together to sing in harmony. One thing you can tell though, is when one sings off key the whole performance suffers. Even if the other singer is on pitch. It is the same in marriage. If you or your spouse stumbles in one or more of these areas, know that your marriage is off key. It needs to be tuned with love by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let Him have His full way with you. Even if your spouse isn’t on board just yet. It is amazing what God can do with one heart who is willing to embrace this kindness that binds together in perfect harmony.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Fruits of the Spirit, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Ten Ways to Not Waste This Time in Marriage

None of us expected this, but here we are. It has been the strangest worldwide event in my lifetime. We have been sheltering in place for a couple of months now, and social distancing whenever we venture out. Always going back and forth with these two questions, Is a mask really necessary? or Will a mask really help? It is a constant conversation in my mind.

This time can have benefits for our marriages if we don’t waste it.

  1. Take note of the ways you get on each other’s nerves. This is an indicator of an area in need of attention. Make time to talk about it when you are undistracted. See if you can come to a place of understanding. Repent of sinful attitudes if needed, and move beyond this speed bump.
  2. Encourage some of your time to pursue hobbies. I love to cook, so this time has been very beneficial for my hobby, and Tom loves to eat. It’s a win win! 🙂
  3. Practice kindness. Choose your words carefully when having a serious discussion. Find ways to say it with a smile–like we used to instruct our children.
  4. Remember to extend grace when your spouse is struggling.
  5. Pray for each other together or apart.
  6. Read aloud to each other. We highly recommend Cherish, by Gary Thomas. Or if you haven’t purchased our book, Cherishing Us, now is a good time to follow our healthy marriage tips each day.
  7. Don’t neglect date night. Order food delivery, or go out to a restaurant that’s opened to support their staff and community. Make love as often as you can.
  8. Limit how much news you watch or listen to. It can become very depressing to constantly fill our minds with the latest controversy surrounding COVID-19
  9. Play worship music and sing along. Let the words fill your heart and mind with God’s peace.
  10. Give each other space–time to be alone and relax.

It is a blessing to have each other to be home with each day. I remind myself often of friends who would love nothing more than to have their spouse with them still. Let’s not prove the old adage true–you never know what you have until it is gone.

We know what a gift it is to be married, the key is to show it in how we live day by day.

How have you made the most of this time at home together?

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict, Difficulty, Encouraging Your Spouse, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Orlando Blessing

The Orlando Eye

I was born and raised in Orlando. I am privileged to still call it home.

When Tom and I were married in 1979 I moved with him to another city in Florida for the first 18 months of our life together. It was during this time that I realized how much I love Orlando – The City Beautiful. I missed it so much. When we moved back in 1980 I’ve never considered living anywhere else. I love my hometown.

Imagine this past Sunday when our church surprised us on our live feed with the following video? 85 churches in the Orlando area were invited to take part in a project called, The Orlando Blessing. It was led by The First Baptist Church of Orlando, which is the church my parents went to when I was born. So many touchstones leading up to this video, that when I saw the production I was moved on many levels. But none more so than realizing this is only a sampling of the churches in our area, and an even tinier snippet of the churches worldwide who could join in this throng. Then, lifting my eyes heavenward to realize that the great cloud of witnesses were joining in as well. This is a powerful glimpse of what I believe Heaven will be like. Come Lord Jesus!

We pray The Orlando Blessing will bless you and your children and their children and their children…

Posted in A Fragrant Aroma, Christian Marriage, Music, Worship | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

“Tap In” with Intention

We are watching a series on Hulu titled, Alone, (on the History channel if you have cable). It’s a reality show that takes it to the next level of all other reality shows. Ten people, trained in survival skills who pass the strenuous audition, are dropped off on a remote island to live for as long as they can endure. The last one standing wins $500K. The difference with this show is there are no film crews. Each participant is given a complete camera set-up in order to document their time alone. They are allowed to “tap out” at anytime they choose; if they don’t feel safe, if they are missing home too much or if they get hurt.

It has been fascinating to watch and listen to them discover more about themselves. Some are hoping to find answers to long-standing questions. Some are running from their past and end up having to face it. Some are there for the endurance. We have watched the first three seasons and it has made our time of sheltering in place seem insignificant compared to what they are facing.

They are each given a satellite radio to call in case of emergency or to say, “I’m ready to tap out.” Once they say those two words, “tap out” their journey is over. They simply wait on the shore for the boat to come pick them up.

In season 3 one guy was ready to leave and used his radio to say, “I’m tapping out!” Once the boat arrived, he explained his reasons. He ended it by saying something that really impacted me…

“I like to think that I’m not ‘tapping out’ from the show, but I’m ‘tapping in’ to my family and what matters most. I’m ready to be home.”

Isn’t that good advice? While we are sheltering in place we could be focusing on the negative aspects of being stuck at home all day every day. Or we can think of it as “tapping in” to our family, new routines, new habits, our health. We have more time to consider these things. Or if you have a house full of children you have time to notice areas of needed attention in their lives. Things we don’t notice when running from appointment to appointment.

I have tapped in to my love for cooking and baking. I can’t remember the last time I made homemade bread without my bread machine. But I did last week and it felt good to get my hands into bread dough again. Tom has been tapping in to caring for our yard and flower garden. It is more beautiful than ever! We have also been reading to each other more, walking daily, exercising and binge watching Alone :-).

I realize that many of you may be more busy now than ever, if you are first responders or are an essential business. Can we just say thank you? While we are waiting, watching and praying, you are going and doing all for our benefit. You are exemplifying the spirit that makes America great, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you!

What can you focus on this week to “tap in” with more intention?

Posted in Boredom, Christian Marriage, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Virtually Impossible to Not Have Fun

We recently had a great family night that helped make the distance between us seem insignificant. We scheduled a Zoom call and then used Jackbox.TV to play party games together. It was so much fun, we thought it would be a good suggestion to share with you.

If you’re like us we are missing interacting face-to-face with our friends. Date nights have continued from home, but we can’t get with our friends.

Until now…

Why not plan a Double Date using Zoom? Spend time catching up with your friends first, then move on to playing some of the games Jack Box offers. The cost for Zoom is around $15 per month; and the cost for a game pack on Jack Box is around $30. (There is their original Jackbox Party Pack on sale for $12.49–see below)

https://www.jackboxgames.com/party-pack/

Think about it–for the price of one date, you can have lots of fun with friends and/or family members. This is a great way to make special memories while we’re all sheltering in place. Hopefully this season will pass soon, but until then let’s be creative with our time.

What are some creative things you’ve done to keep your regular date night alive?

Posted in Date Night Ideas | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Dealing with Conflict in Marriage

This post was originally published on our church’s website. We want to share it here as well.

It is unavoidable in marriage. How we deal with conflict makes all the difference in how healthy and strong our marriage becomes. 

  • There are couples who deal with conflict with shouting matches that could flatten a wheat field. Ken Sande in his book, The Peacemaker, calls these types, “Peace Breakers.”
  • There are couples who deal with it by ignoring it, “Peace Fakers.”
  • There are couples who deal with it by blame-shifting. 
  • There are couples who deal with it by giving the silent treatment to punish the other spouse.

We all have our natural, sin-born tendencies. But how to get beyond these tendencies to a mature response is our goal as Christians.

James 4:1-2a says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have…” 

We often ask couples who are experiencing regular conflict, “What is it you want that you aren’t getting?”

Think of your most recent conflict. With our current Shelter-in-Place ordinance, this may be happening more often than normal. What was the issue? At what point did you feel irritated or angry? Can you identify what it was that you wanted that you weren’t getting? Were you able to talk about it? Did your conversation bring a resolve to the issue or did it make things worse? The best way to know the answer to this last question is if a similar incident happens again. If you refer back to this conflict, you’ll know there is unresolved conflict hiding in your heart. 

It may be that what you are wanting is a legitimate request, e.g. more quality time together vs. quantity time. The key to growing in your ability to deal with conflict is being willing to talk about it. But when you do, there are some important rules to follow.

Five Guidelines in Discussing Heart Issues 

  1. Make sure the time is right to have a good conversation. 
  2. Come with an inquiring mind not an accusing one. “Can we talk about something that is bothering me?”
  3. Lower your voice and speak softly.
  4. Ask questions instead of making blanket statements. “When you said this did you mean it this way?” 
  5. Treat your spouse as a physician would–looking to help heal, and not as a prosecuting attorney–looking to find fault and declare them guilty.  “How can I handle this situation in the future to help you?”

This last one comes from Gary Thomas in his book, Cherish. Such great advice. 

With all of us living 24/7 in such close proximity, facing the biggest challenge in our lifetime, let’s ask God to help us be kind to each other. Let’s ask for wisdom in how to deal with our conflicts so we may grow and mature. And let’s step back and remember what a gift our spouse is to us. It’s easy to forget when all we can see are the ways they are irritating us. 

Purpose to focus on the good and the good may be all you see.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,

    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18 ESV

Links to reference books: 

The Peacemaker

Cherish

Posted in Christian Marriage, Conflict | Tagged , , | 2 Comments