Building Spiritual Intimacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving from our table to yours!

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

When The Roses Are Wilted And The Wine Is Flat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakuk 3:17-19 ESV

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

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

Photo by Johanna Huber on Unsplash

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

Do You Feel Understood?

How well do you understand your spouse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God has given us a release valve through our tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s About Time

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

Marriage is unlike any other relationship.

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

Here are some ideas…

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

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

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

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

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Crossing the Line of Acceptance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

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

Sweet and Savory Fondues for Two

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

Cheddar and Apple Cider Fondue (Savory)

Ingredients:

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

Fondue Dippers:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

Caramel Fondue With Fall Fruit (Sweet)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

To Cherish or Admonish?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 12:10 ESV

Cherishing is so much better than admonishing.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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

Your Story Is Your History

Barefoot Cabin in Banner Elk, NC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s A Good Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Anniversaries, Christian Marriage, communication, Date Night Ideas | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Food, Film and Fun Scavenger Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. heat up the appetizers, if necessary.

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

3. Laugh and share stories of their experiences.

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

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

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

Can You Trust Me Here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

Can you trust Me here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you trust Me here?

photo credit: Photo by Jessica Alves on Unsplash

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

Test Your Marriage

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

Tom uses an illustration that is so helpful…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Photo by Sophie Dupau on Unsplash

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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.

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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