First Gear, We’re Alright

Since Tom retired in 2018 we have had many starts and stops on the way to get here.

Retirement for us has been like a standard shift car. Do you remember learning to drive a stick shift car? If you never have you’ve missed a tangible life lesson!

“Sunny”

My first car was a 1973 VW bug. It had only 4 gears, but each one had a purpose. And it took practice using the clutch to make each shift comfortable. How do I know?

When I was first learning to drive my car I was alone practicing starting and stopping in my neighborhood. I was forced to make a stop on a hill, which was fine until a police officer pulled up behind me. Suddenly it mattered how good I was. And I didn’t think I was ready. Actually I wasn’t—I floored the gas pedal and the clutch making an embarrassing jolt forward! Fortunately the officer wasn’t paying me as much attention as I was to him.

Breathe.

Photo credit: CarGurus.com

Tom’s first car was also a standard shift—a 1965 mustang fastback. His engine had a lot more power than my little yellow bug. But our affection for our cars was the same.

He loved racing his high-powered orange sport car. Against his mother’s wishes he raced one last time when he ended up blowing the clutch which caused extensive damage to the floorboard and engine. It was towed to his home where he had to face the wrath of his Mom. His Dad required him to rebuild the car, literally, which took months—he rode the bus to school his senior year of high school. Breathe.

How does this fit with retirement?

When Tom first retired it was in 2012. It was unexpected. It was like driving our cars for the first time—fun, awkward and a realization we weren’t quite ready to do this. So Tom got another job. He worked off and on for the next six years until we finally got the hang of shifting gears.

Breathe.

Anything worth learning is worth doing well. Retirement was filled with many unknowns that we were excited to discover—together.

Just as we were about to hit 4th gear, life got complicated—a very sick granddaughter, a worldwide pandemic, a micro preemie grandson born at 24 weeks and the unexpected death of my healthy 66 yo brother to name a few. We found ourselves having to down shift to first gear, never able to accelerate. It felt as if our engine would never reach full speed.

But we realized this season was purposeful.

Every gear has a purpose, otherwise we could skip from 1st to 4th without incident. We must shift one gear at a time to help the engine reach a higher speed with less strain.

God knows our limits.

He knows how to take us from idling to full-speed. And He is patient. I may think I’m ready for over-drive, but God knows what’s best for us based on the road ahead that we can’t yet see.

Telling these stories of learning to drive stick-shift sounds easy and fun. But living through this time was stressful. And what we’re facing today will one day sound easier. What gets us from this day to that day is one word—trust!

First gear—we’re alright!

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A Time For Everything.

Barefoot Cabin

Nine years ago we were embarking on a new adventure. Our eyes were full of faith as to what God had in store for us. My Mom had just entered eternity. Tom had just retired from owning a business and the options for us seemed endless. God was moving and we were excited. He made it clear He had a place for us in the mountains of NC. We were so excited to see what God had in store.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV

This week we will embark on a new adventure. We are selling Barefoot Cabin because God has let us know it is time. He let us know in the same way He told us it was time to to buy. Did we see it coming? Not really. But when we heard His direction there was no doubt. His timing is perfect.

We have been busy making the necessary repairs and cleaning. Tomorrow the photographer will come and attempt to capture on film what this place has to offer. But…

It won’t capture the moments our grandchildren played in the snow for the first time. It won’t capture our first apple harvest supplying the best NC native apples for pie. It won’t capture the 4th of July parades, the birthday parties, the fireworks on our hill or the kickball challenges. It won’t share the many ladies retreats where dozens of women met one-on-one with God. It won’t tell of the times women cried in the presence of their Savior. It won’t tell of the Marriage Retreat where like-minded marriage bloggers, our Core Team, came to share their vision for what God was calling us all to do with our newly formed Christian Marriage Bloggers Association.

Our lone apple tree bore the sweetest fruit
2016

Missing will be the family gatherings, the “Land Cruises” with dear friends, Tom’s Dad’s 90th birthday celebration, the conversation with a dying friend assuring her of her salvation and watching God release her with peace into His everlasting arms. And the height of it all? Our youngest daughter getting engaged during the hometown 4th of July Parade down Banner Elk’s Main Street.

Our Daughter’s engagement July 4, 2017

The laughter, the tears, the joy shared under the roof of this cabin won’t be listed on the MLS page.

No, all these memories are ours to pack up and take with us. You see a place is only the frame for the life lived inside.

We have lived and glorified God in this place. We have shared with others what God has so richly given to us. This place is not ours, but His! We called it Barefoot Cabin because we brought nothing to this cabin but ourselves. God is the only One who has filled it with lasting fruit.

I have hosted 17 Barefoot Ladies retreats. Over 100 women have met their Savior for a week, listening to what He would say to them. Most times they expected reprimands, but came away hearing only how much they were loved and accepted because of Christ. Ah! That alone is enough fruit to feast on for the rest of my life.

The rock where many met the Lord as their Rock, replacing sorrow for joy. (Photo cred: Joy Subrahmanyan)
👣 Abiding in The Vine September 2014 👣

As I sit here at the table late on the eve of listing this cabin for sale, the only take away is gratefulness. God has been so very good to us. It is time for this place to bless another family. It is time for us to venture on to the next place of ministry for His glory. And it may be time for a good cry, if I’m gut level honest.

The winds are shifting and God is on the move. We must follow where His Holy Spirit leads us knowing that He does more than we could ask or think.

I’m reminded of this song from Mary Poppins…

“Winds in the east, there’s a mist comin’ in

Like something’ is brewin’ and ‘bout to begin.

Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,

But I feel what’s to happen all happened before.”

The walls echo with music sung in praise to God for who He is and what He has done. I closed every retreat with this song by Matt Redman, and it’s fitting for me to end this post in the same way. Stay tuned for what’s to come.

Posted in Barefoot Cabin, Christian Marriage, Priorities, Seasons of Life, Thankfulness | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Farmer’s Market Date Day

Pause and take in the moment

When I sat down to write today’s post, I had no words. My camera lens oftentimes does a better job of telling a story than I do. So today I’m letting these photos speak. I hope you’ll pause for a few moments and let them speak to you as well. Happy Spring!

Peach Galette
Posted in Christian Marriage, Date Night Ideas, Fun Dates, Outdoor Dates, Spring Date Ideas, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Creative Dates for Parents

Photo by John-Mark Smith taken in Ukraine Unsplash.com

We recently read a great post by Dustin with Engaged Marriage blog. He provided a fun idea for parents to help spark creativity in your dates, but also to model what a healthy marriage looks like for them. Let us know if you give this a try. We may try asking our grandkids. Happy dating!

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Favorite Numbers

Laughter does good like a medicine

We want to include you in our recent conversation that made us laugh out loud. How we’ve needed this. To know why the heavy heart—head over to my personal blog, Write From The Heart—to see.

But here was our conversation last night while on the couch:


Me to Tom: Do you know what my two favorite numbers are?
Tom: 7?
Me: Yes, that’s one of them.
Tom: I have never heard you tell me—3?
Me: No. It’s 2! Tom: I have never heard that before!
Me: In 43 years of marriage you didn’t know my favorite numbers? What’s your favorite number?
Tom: In 43 years you don’t know? (He has a point!) 😳
Me: But I told you mine, so you have to tell me!
Tom: My favorite number is 3.14
Me: Pi? You can’t have that as your favorite number, it’s a fraction!
Tom: I can too, cause I love pi (pie) 😂 (He makes another good point).
Me: Aren’t you at least impressed that I know what pi is? Numbers may not be my favorite, but I made straight A’s in geometry. 🥰
🤣🤣

What conversations have made you laugh recently? They can’t be planned, but when they happen, enjoy them with a heart full of gratefulness. God lightens our burdens in practical ways—like sharing favorite numbers.

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Today

Our honeymoon

Today marks 15,695 days I have been a Mrs. Tom’s one and only Mrs. to be exact.

I was 19. Tom was 24. We had our life ahead of us with all its twists, turns and unknowns.

These 2242 weeks later, we can point to many twists, remember several hard turns and have discovered lots of what was unknown in 1979.

I could list specific times our hearts were broken, where we cried so hard we didn’t know if we would ever stop. Times when we hurt each other deeply and had to fall on our knees to God asking for the grace to forgive and move forward together. Times when we laughed so hard at the end of an exhilarating day we didn’t want to close our eyes for fear the moment would fade. Times when we resolved our differences and embraced our similarities and all the while worshiped the God we both knew personally and loved intimately.

Marriage has been the hardest thing we have enjoyed for all of our adult lives.

There is still more ahead of us. God knows every one, including how many days until we breathe our last breath.

516 months into our marriage and we are still getting to know each other in this season of life. Every month has brought new challenges, new opportunities to forgive and ask for forgiveness. New chances to ask good questions to help us grow in our understanding of each other.

These 43 years have been oh so good. And the one thing I remember today is something Tom said to me when we were dating. “We must never forget that underneath us are the everlasting arms of the Lord. He will never let go.”

Today I needed this reminder. Maybe you do as well. With His everlasting, strong arms, we can rest whatever the next days, weeks, months and years hold for us. God knows and that’s all my heart needs to hear.

Happy Anniversary Mr. Walter. I am grateful to be your Mrs.

Posted in anniversaries, Celebrations, Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

364

What is so special about this number? It’s how many days that fall between this Valentine’s Day and next Valentine’s Day.

We have 364 more opportunities to let our spouse know how much they mean to us. In case you’re new to us, we provide lots of creative ideas to help keep the home fires burning. Check out the categories in our menu bar—there are hundreds of ideas.

Of course there won’t be Hallmark card reminders or radio stations announcing special date night specials. There won’t be floral vendors lining the streets selling the sentiments of your heart or grocery stores with romance begging to be purchased. You’ll be on your own, but not alone.

If you are blessed to have a marriage that is thriving you have no limits on how to express your love every day of the year.

If your marriage isn’t thriving, just barely surviving, you can lean in and work on those areas that need attention. We encourage you to seek help because little annoyances will fester and become huge problems if left unchecked.

I’d love to see Valentine’s Day become unnecessary because we have learned how to express our love in practical as well as special ways all through the year!

So what will you do with your 364?

Posted in Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Romance in Marriage, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Vintage Post: A Dozen Valentines Ideas 4U

First posted in 2019

Valentine’s Day. Many people roll their eyes just thinking of it. You may think it is hokey. You may think it is a gimmick instigated by the card and chocolate industries to get you to part with your money. But what if you chose instead to use this holiday to help you express your love to your spouse in a fun and creative way?

Introducing our Top 12 Romantic Valentine Ideas just in time for you to plan this year and make it special.

1. Plan a romantic dinner at home. Do it after the kids are in bed. If your kids are older, set up a nice table in your bedroom if you have the space. This allows you to enjoy a quiet meal together even if everyone is still awake.

2. Watch a romantic concert on TV. One of our all-time favorites is Jim Brickman’s My Romance. I rearranged our living room furniture so that the loveseat was right in front of our TV. It gave the feel of a front row seat at the concert. Find an artist you both enjoy and look for DVD’s of live concerts. It is a great way to spend an evening together at home.

3. If the weather is nice where you live, plan an evening picnic under the stars. This can be just dessert and coffee, or go all out with a full dinner basket.

4. Buy an inexpensive jigsaw puzzle with no more than 100 pieces. On the back of some pieces write numbers that represent certain prizes earned when you find where that piece fits. Ideas include: Do one of your chores for a week, back rub, activity of their choice on next date, make love when, where and how you want, dessert of your choice, etc… Make it more fun by numbering the puzzle pieces that coincide with a list, so you don’t know what you won until the puzzle is finished.

5. Learn something new together using how-to videos on You Tube. Examples: Swing Dancing, Pizza making, Line Dancing, etc. Or watch funny video clips to make each other laugh.

6. Play Win or Dare Putt-Putt.

7. Have a photo shoot together. You can make this silly or sexy. The important thing is to have fun. Gather different outfits and props to use to make it even more creative.

8. Make a playlist of your favorite love songs and slow dance together. Turn the lights down and light a few candles to make it romantic. As a challenge see if you can look each other in the eyes for one entire song as you listen to the words. We did this once to the song, You Must Love Me, by Madonna. It is such a special memory for both of us.

9. Make this day a No Techie Day. Put away your devices and talk. Read aloud to each other from books you both enjoy.

10. Have your own video game tournament. If one of you is better than the other, make a handicap for the stronger player, like using only their weaker hand.

11. Use washable markers to draw tattoos on each other where no one else can see.

12. Buy a bouquet of flowers to give your wife a message using the meanings of flowers as your guide.

We encourage you to make the most of every opportunity you have together. We never know how many memories we will get to make in this life. Let’s not waste a single opportunity to connect and express our love.

Happy Dating!

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This Man

He serves tirelessly. He works hard when someone is depending on him. He is faithful to complete any job well. And He does it with joy.

We have had a hard few seasons back to back. We have lacked time to just be us. We have rubbed each other the wrong way and had to apologize and talk through the challenges. But still we are here. We are us. Something we don’t take for granted anymore.

So many losses. So many heartaches. But God. He helps us take the next step keeping our eyes on Him.

Tonight we celebrate being home together, enjoying a meal hot off the grill. It’s the little routines that bring comfort; more than the elaborate dates planned.

What challenges are you facing? How is your spouse being stretched? What might you do to bring comfort to him/her in this season? Think simple. Think long-standing comforts. Think specifically. Then do it!

We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Let’s not let little struggles cloud up our marriage for days on end. Time is too precious.

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

One Night

Our gorgeous view

Tom and I are away for a 24 hour getaway at the beach.

He got an early check-in which gave us time to rest awhile before dinner. Our meal was at a local favorite called Millie’s, that uses local meats and produce and it was obvious why they have 5 stars with hundreds of reviews. The food was so fresh!

When we returned to our hotel it was chilly and the fire pits were going out by the pool. We couldn’t resist and bundled up with warm clothes, beanies and blankets and snuggled up in the Adirondack chairs to relax. The hotel provided s’mores kits upon check-in that we used and enjoyed on this perfect night under the stars.

I happened to see the half-moon rising around 1 a.m. and then the sun rising over the water at 7:15 a.m. The only word that came to mind was, “faithful”. God faithfully causes both the moon and sun to rise every.single.day, and He has since He first said, “Let there be light!”

Our time is about to come to an end here at the beach, but we have one more stop to anticipate—breakfast! My husband enjoys food, but breakfast out is what we did on the day he proposed to me. So it is always special to us.

We feel as if we’ve been gone much longer than 24 hours. When was the last time you and your spouse enjoyed one night away? you may need it more than you know. It’s worth the effort.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Romance, Romantic Ideas, Romantic Vacation Ideas | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Passport Dinner Dates

Tom and I love to travel, but with the pandemic it has been impossible for most. Especially elective vacation travel.

We shared this date idea in 2009 under our Top 10 Date Night Ideas, but we felt this date needs revisiting and elaborating. You can plan these dates together, take turns planning them, or do them all as a gift for your spouse.

First purchase or make small Passports for both of you. Go to a store that makes Passport Photos and add it to the inside cover of both.

Plan the first country, state or region you would like to visit.

Let’s start with Italy, since Tom’s family is Italian. Actually, they’re from Sicily where we were able to visit in 2007 on our Trip of a Lifetime. Tom said walking the streets of Palermo felt like he was visiting family–it was familiar and comforting even though he had never been.

Next decide on your menu.

Tom and I love to cook and trying new recipes is always fun. He excels in the protein department and I love doing all the rest.We make a good Chef and Sous Chef team. But if you don’t enjoy cooking don’t let this stop you. You can use Uber Eats to order Italian food delivered, or you can go out to dinner, whichever your budget will allow.

The point is to do all you can to enjoy Italy–the sights, the sounds, the aroma and the taste. It’s all part of the experience.

The Sights

Search the web for images of Italy and print them to hang around the room. You can even use some to make a menu depending on how creative you are. Don’t forget to choose an image as a stamp for your passports too. You should also select a travel video of Italy to watch while eating or as the entertainment after you finish dessert. An Andrea Bocelli concert would be memorable! Check out this latest video as Andrea surprises his wife.

The Sounds

Try Italian dinner music on Spotify and see what they play. You may need to search for instrumental to find something not too overpowering for the evening. Italians sing loud–they live life loud too. It’s what makes them so fun to be around. But you may want a more romantic soundtrack so as to not stifle great conversation.

The Aroma

Your menu will take care of this one. Just make sure to fill the air with the aroma of fresh baked garlic bread, whether homemade or store-bought. No meal is complete without lots of garlic and bread to sop up the gravy (as true Italians call sauce).

Finally The Taste

Italy is known for its food, and depending on the region you choose will determine what type you’d like to be the star of your evening. Tom’s favorite dish is Chicken Cacciatore. I got the recipe from a little Italian cookbook his mother gave me when we first got married. It is the only recipe that sounded good to me in the book, and it has been a favorite now for decades. For a fun experience may we invite you to watch our favorite Italian Chef Pasquale as he demonstrates how he makes this dish. “I thinka I’ma gonna haveta try dis.” 🙂

This is one idea among many. Consider a year of Passport Dates–one a month for 2022. You could visit all kinds of places and make so many romantic memories. We’d love to hear where you go!

Posted in Creative Dates, Date Night Ideas, Dating Your Spouse, Dinner Dates | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kindness Check

Recently I was in the Starbucks drive thru waiting for my Christmas latte. Imagine my surprise when I got to the window to hear, “Your drink was paid for by the car in front of you, Merry Christmas!”?

What? I didn’t do anything to deserve such generosity, let alone from a stranger. Yet here I was basking in the glow of this unexpected kindness.

It made me think of how often we consider giving our spouse unexpected kindnesses.

When was the last time you did something to help ease your spouse’s stress—a quick shoulder rub, pouring a favorite drink, baking a treat to fill your home with an aromatic hint? We have the ability no one else has to give kindness when it’s needed most.

Maybe as you read this you’re thinking, “Why should I do that for them? They don’t do it for me! I work as hard…” blah blah blah!

This is where we must check our kindness against the kindness God, in Christ has shown us.

He didn’t wait for us to appeal to Him with kindness. No! He gave us kindness while we were arrogantly throwing stones at His holiness. He looked beyond our behavior to give us what we couldn’t give ourselves—mercy and love!

So, how kind have you been to your spouse lately? Is it an “I’ll be kind to you when you’re kind to me” mentality? Or is it even worse where you’re mudslinging because of past conflicts that have gone unresolved?

I get it! It goes against our nature to be kind in the face of indifference.

But God! When He changes a heart, there is conviction where there used to be a self-justified anger. We can check our kindness against God’s kindness to us, and He fills in the gaps.

So the challenge…look for ways to show unexpected kindness to your sweetie this week. If not you, who will do this? Ask God to help you do this well, for His glory.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8 ESV
Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Craving Intimacy

A new year is upon us. 2022. And we have another opportunity to be intentional in our pursuit of each other and God.

Spiritual intimacy comes easier for some than others.

What you do with the distance matters. You are either drawing closer together each year, or growing farther apart. There is no standing still. To do nothing is to drift apart.

Intimacy requires being intentional at all times.

I remember one time when Tom prayed for me as I was struggling with something, I don’t even remember what now, but I do remember this; hearing Tom’s heart for me as he prayed, I was in tears.

Tom’s intimacy with God in the secret place of his relationship to Him spilled over to me when he opened the curtain of his heart and prayed out loud.

It happened again when I prayed for Tom. He was struggling with an area in his life feeling a bit helpless to change. He didn’t even feel he could pray, so he asked me to. When I finished my heartfelt prayer, the look on his face revealed he had a similar experience. And you know what else? Tom experienced victory on a new level in his fight against sin. It was no longer him fighting but us fighting a common enemy together.

When God made us one flesh, it wasn’t just for physical intimacy. It includes all areas of intimacy—spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical. Each one must be pursued to avoid drift.

So at the start of this new year, why not plan a date night to discuss what intimacies are in need of intention on your part?

Our prayer is that you will have a similar experience—an ever deepening level of understanding your spouse’s heart and love for you.

Once you taste this level of intimacy, you’ll crave it all the more.

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Two Keys for Devotion in Marriage

Devotion. It’s one of the most important aspects of a healthy marriage. But it’s two-fold.

Devotion to God. Tom and I committed our marriage to God—a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. What we promised matters because we said our vows before a HOLY God.

We practice our devotion to God in practical ways; by reading the same Bible reading plan and talking about it; by serving God together in our local church through marriage ministry and attending small group.

Devotion to God matters most, but next is devotion to each other.

Tom matters most to me. My days are marked with thoughts on how to bless and please him. He loves food and I’m not exaggerating. I think there should be 6 Love Languages—the 6th being Food.

Tom loves the planning of food, the smell of food and the enjoyment of food. The good thing is I love to bake and cook. So loving him in this way is enjoyable to me too.

Devotion defined is “love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause.”

2022 is fast approaching. Tom and I have yet to determine what devotional plan we will follow. In 2021 it was The Bible Project 365 devotional on You Version. We thoroughly enjoyed the videos that accompanied the daily readings. And we gleaned much as we talked about what we read.

What does devotion in your marriage look like? This is the foundation of all the intimacies in marriage. Make plans this week to slow down and talk about it. Your marriage success depends on it.

May God richly bless your marriage as you celebrate a Happy New Year with sincere devotion to God and each other.

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

Comfort and Joy

It’s Christmas week and we’ve been more aware in recent years of our need for comfort and joy.

Tom’s stepdad is in the final stages of life with Hospice overseeing his comfort. He has lived a full life and at 94 he is ready to enter into eternal joy.

But not yet. only God knows the days marked out for him.

Tom and I have walked with many family members down this road together. Sometimes it’s me carrying the responsibility and other times it’s has been Tom carrying the weight. But together we provide much needed comfort to each other while walking them down this final road to eternity.

It’s interesting that so many in our family have waited until the holiday season to say their goodbyes. This brings a mixture of emotions; While the world sings, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” We are singing “Swing low, sweet chariot coming forth to carry me [them] home…”

It is hard to watch your spouse struggle with the last goodbyes. So many memories, so many things to be grateful for, so much of life and love shared. But now they are coming to an end, yet without regret.

I have discovered the best way to walk with Tom through this is to listen to his heart and pray for him. He knows the same scriptures I know. He knows the same truths. But this road is personal and unique for everyone who mourns and everyone who dies.

I’m listening to God as I listen to Tom. What Tom needs is what God gives—comfort and joy. I am privileged to walk with both as we say goodbye to his “bonus” dad as we like to call him.

What difficult roads have you and your spouse walked together? Have you sensed God’s comfort and joy? If you haven’t we’d be happy to talk more with you about this life-changing help and hope.

May your Christmas be filled with comfort and joy that comes from God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Immanuel, God with us!

UPDATE: Pops passed from this life last night after our last visit earlier in the evening. It was about the same time I was writing this post. We are grateful and relieved; he is no longer suffering. Thank you for praying for us.

Posted in Caring for Parents, Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Christmas, Death and Grieving, Difficulty, Holidays, Keeping It Real, Seasons of Life | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Physician or Prosecutor?

In one our favorite marriage books, Cherish, Gary Thomas uses a very helpful metaphor in how to help your spouse.

We all have things we do wrong at some point in our relationship whether it is blatant sin against each other or harboring anger and resentment for things said or done. What do healthy marriages do to navigate such rough waters?

Gary compares our response to our spouse in such times to being a physician or a prosecutor.

A physician is there to listen to what the problem is and do all they can to bring you back to health. It may take a long time, but a good physician won’t quit until a resolve is found.

A prosecutor on the other hand, is looking for cracks in your story. Ready to dive in for the kill just to win their case. The end result is condemnation and a broken relationship. Not anything like what we vowed to our spouse, “for better or worse”.

It’s easy to say this when all is well in our world. But when things are already tense, it’s hard to decide to be charitable and not judgmental. This is why we made our vows–to help us stay focused on what we promised, not what we feel.

Christmas is rarely without its conflicts. If you’re in one right now, may we remind you to look for healing and restoration through the conflict. It isn’t a matter of winning, it’s a matter of succeeding together in marriage for God’s glory. Paul tells us to “outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

Easier said than done. But God! He helps us in our weakness and makes us vow keepers! We simply must ask.

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Check Your Headlights

Headlights on cars are important. Without them it’s difficult to see what’s in front of you. Worse, it’s impossible for oncoming traffic to see you.

We have noticed more cars on the road recently without their headlights on after dark. We figure it’s because so many are driving rental cars in our vacation capital of the world, and they don’t realize the auto-on feature isn’t set. This is dangerous!

Communication is a lot like headlights. It helps you share with your spouse where you’re heading, and it helps them see what’s coming towards them. If you are depending on what has always worked in the past to get you through changing seasons you will be like those cars with the auto-on feature disabled.

There can be no communication vacation in marriage, no time-off, no set it and forget it feature.

A healthy marriage needs an air traffic controller. You need communication to relay back and forth how to land a good conversation. Or there will be serious injuries to your relationship.

When was the last time you had a good conversation that wasn’t rushed or interrupted? Maybe it’s time to check your headlights.

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Focus

This has been a challenging season for most marriages. The reasons vary, but the pressure is similar. How can we turn our focus from what troubles us to what blesses us?

Pray. Ask God to give you an idea on how to make your spouse smile today.

One idea I had is to purchase a Christmas ornament that captures how you feel about him/her. Or one that celebrates this past year.

Wrap it up and put it on your spouse’s pillow tonight with an “I love you” note attached.

Life seems so serious. Let’s lighten up our marriages with some unexpected smiles, gifts and laughter.

No one can ease the stress of the day like the one who knows you best and loves you most.

What ideas come to your mind? Let’s start a new focus of blessing and encouragement. Please feel free to comment.

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Christmas, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, Holidays | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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