Try Something New For A Change

Photo from Ollie Gabriel’s music video, Something New

It’s been two weeks since my last post, and I’m still struggling to get well. Since I don’t want to leave you hanging, I figured a quick update would be good.

Being home for what seems like forever, I have been binge watching lots of shows on TV. My new favorite is Songland on NBC.  The premise of the show is for four song writers to pitch their original song to a panel of three producers and one famous artist. After hearing all the songs in their rough cut form, the artist chooses their three favorites to go forward by working with one of the producers. The producer’s job is then to help the song writer make it the best fit for the artist.

Finally, the finished songs are performed once again in front of the artist who chooses the one they want to record. The best part in my opinion is that the song is available  immediately at the end of the show for purchase or to stream on Spotify.

The only drawback is when the song you love isn’t chosen. This happened to me last week; John Legend didn’t pick my favorite by Ollie Gabriel titled, Something New. You can imagine how thrilled I was to see it had been released by Ollie himself on You Tube.

Ollie shared that the inspiration for the song was his grandparents lifelong love and commitment to each other. He said his generation had forgotten how beautiful it is when a couple chooses to stay together for a lifetime. He encourages his listeners:

“Try, try, try something new for a change.

Try, try, try, bring back that old thing again, something new.

Bring back that old kind of lovin’, the kind that don’t leave, that don’t bend, that don’t break.”

YES!

Life passes too fast. We must purpose to make the most of every chance we have to slow down and embrace the moment. Why not pause and invite your spouse to slow dance with you. See if this song doesn’t follow you as it has me for the last week.

 

Posted in Aging, Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, In Sickness, Love Songs, Music, Romantic Ideas, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When Your Spouse is Sick and Tired

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

We have all been there. Schedules have to be adjusted and plans canceled. It’s never fun when sickness hits your spouse. How prepared are you to love and cherish your spouse when they get sick and tired?

I am posting today from our bed and it’s 3:45 in the afternoon. Not where I like to be this time of day, but it’s a must for me. I have been fighting this thing for over a month now and doctor’s orders are for me to lay low for the next three weeks. What?! I don’t have time to be sick and tired. But.I.am.

Tom has been great to help me by doing things around the house. I love that about him. He is a servant at heart in all seasons.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because I am taking a break from the blog for the next couple of weeks. Our kids and grandkids will be visiting and I want to spend my limited energy on them.

We are getting a great response to our survey. If you haven’t taken it yet, won’t you please do so? We want to provide helpful posts relevant to current areas of need. This will also help us know what topics to focus on once I’m better. You can find the survey by going to the post right before this one.

We are grateful for each of you and the way you continually encourage us in our ministry. Enjoy the final days of Summer.

Blessings,

Debi

Posted in Christian Marriage, In Sickness, Keeping It Real, Seasons of Life | Tagged , | 9 Comments

What Are Your Top Two?

Talking to others about your current struggles is what all marriages need.

Photo by Taylor Hernandez on Unsplash

We all have areas in our marriage that are in need of attention. What we do with these areas is the defining difference between a healthy marriage and an unhealthy marriage. Having a church community of friends who know and love us has helped us make it thus far. And we are doing our part to give away to younger couples what we have so generously received.

What does caring for other marriages look like for us?

  1. We have regular meetings in our home throughout the year encouraging couples in all stages of their marriage.
  2. Whenever we get with a married couple this question is asked, “How are you doing in your marriage?”
  3. After we ask the above question, we listen and ask more questions to understand their struggle. The conversation ends up being encouraging for all of us as we are reminded of the importance of marriage from God’s perspective.
  4. We read marriage books. We recommend them and we often give them away.
  5. We read other marriage blogs and look for ways to encourage their marriages as well. No marriage is exempt from needing encouragement and help.
  6. We realize we aren’t experts, but we care. Surrendering this to God allows us to be used as He desires, whenever and wherever He chooses.

We would love to be able to sit with you and your spouse to ask you how you are doing in your marriage? Since this isn’t possible, we did the next best thing; We have created a poll to find out your current struggles in marriage. Won’t you take a couple of minutes and answer the question honestly.

Our desire is for The Romantic Vineyard to be a place of hope and help in your relationship. Your answers will help us to that end as we will spend the rest of this month addressing the top two areas. So…

What are your top two?

 
Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

From Darkness To Light – Take Our Marriage Poll

Bringing light to the dark places of your marriage in need of change.

Photo by Jarrod Reed on Unsplash

Light. It has a way of providing direction when we need it most. Have you ever experienced total darkness? The kind where you can’t see your hand in front of your face? I have and it can be paralyzing.

We visited Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee years ago and I will never forget being in the back of the cave. They provided benches for us to sit on while they turned off all the lights. With one flick of the switch we were in total darkness. I didn’t like it and was relieved when the light returned.

Difficulty in marriage can feel like this. We get stuck in the dark and aren’t sure how to find our way out into the light of understanding. If left alone it can drive you crazy and make you feel alone even if you aren’t.

With a new month we would like to devote time addressing areas in your marriage in need of help. We have created the following poll to allow you to anonymously share your honest answers.

While we are not professional marriage counselors, we care deeply about marriages. We want yours to succeed. And we want to know the topics which are of most importance to you and your spouse right now. We will take the top answers and spend time this month discussing them at length. We will share what some of our favorite pastors and authors have to say on the topic, as well as things we have learned ourselves. We pray this series will prove to be helpful and allow the light to shine brightly again in your relationship.

Thank you for taking the time to do this, and please, feel free to share this post with your married friends.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Emotional, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Sexual Intimacy, Troubled Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Five Friday Favorites – Retired Life

Tom retired a year ago, after what I like to call three soft-landings. It was strange for him to switch from a “work to save for retirement” mentality to a “let’s live on what we’ve saved for retirement” mindset. I get it. Such a paradigm shift for those who have spent their entire lives working. He enjoyed his career, but he has learned to embrace retirement. It has become my favorite season so far!

Which leads me to this week’s Friday Favorites List:

What We Love About Retired Life:

  1. Slow Mornings – We have a slow morning routine. We have our quiet time separately, but together. We talk about what the Lord impressed on us during our time, which we never were able to do while he was working. After this we fix breakfast–either he will cook or I do, whoever is in the mood. Or sometimes we cook together.
  2. Free To Move About The Country, (As Tom likes to say) – Since all of our married kids and our 8 grandchildren live in three different states, it’s nice to pick-up and go when we can. This year has been a bit challenging as Tom is helping his Dad care for his ailing Stepmom. They live in CA. I am grateful Tom has had the means as well as the time to go and help him. We look forward to a long-awaited vacation this Fall in Montana. Someplace we have never been.
  3. Dates Anytime We Want – Our weekly dates nights have been on Monday nights most of our marriage. Now we can call any day a date. We have, and we will! 🙂
  4. Household Responsibilities – There are parts of housekeeping that I have never enjoyed. Mopping is my least favorite, and cleaning the shower is right up there with it. It just so happens that Tom enjoys these chores and doesn’t mind doing them. Yay! That’s a win-win for both of us. It gives me more time to write for me and bake for him.
  5. Ministry – More often then not we are able to say yes to ministry opportunities. We host a Marriage Community Group in our home in 6 month intervals. It has been a dream come true for both of us. Our next group begins on Sunday night where we will take 8 couples through Gary Thomas’ excellent series on, Cherish, the one word that changes everything.

Retirement comes with adjusting to a new norm. If you know this going in, it won’t surprise you like it did us. We have finally found our stride , and we are sprinting to the finish line in the grace God supplies.

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Intimacy Prompt: Talk about what your retirement will look like based on the choices you are making today. It will be here sooner than you know. Those who plan for the future aren’t surprised by the shift in seasons.

Helpful Tip: Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else by saving, so that one day you can give like no one else when retired.”

Posted in Aging, Caring for Parents, Christian Marriage, Five Friday Favorites, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Open Nest, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Our Emotional Roller Coaster

I hate roller coasters. They throw off your equilibrium and make you have to regain footing once you're back on solid ground. Not to mention the unexpected twists, turns and drops along the way. I'd rather not take part, thank you very much.  This past week has been an emotional roller coaster for me. All the above applies.  But unlike choosing to buy a ticket to ride or not, I found myself on this one unaware until the first drop. 

I hate roller coasters. They throw off your equilibrium and make you have to regain footing once you’re back on solid ground. Not to mention the unexpected twists, turns and drops along the way. I’d rather not take part, thank you very much.

This past week has been an emotional roller coaster for me. All the above applies.  But unlike choosing to buy a ticket to ride or not, I found myself on this one unaware until the first drop.

We don’t have to tell you that we are passionate about seeing marriages thrive for the glory of God. And when we hear of marriages ending, it is heart wrenching for all those affected by it.

This past week alone we have received…

…SAD NEWS

  • We learned about a marriage of 20 years with a huge influence that is ending in divorce. While we don’t know all the reasons for the decision, we know that divorce is painful.
  • We followed the updates of a dear friend who is watching his wife of 30 years lose her battle against cancer. He and their children are all by her side as they say their final goodbyes. (Update: She entered Heaven’s gate before this post was finished.)
  • Tom traveled to CA to help his Dad care for his Stepmom who is suffering from complications after breaking her hip in April. This is his 3rd trip in four months.

…GOOD NEWS

  • We attended the celebration of a dear friend who at 60 years of age has found the love of her life.
  • We read a FB message from dear friends in Ukraine who’s daughter got married yesterday. It is the first of their four children to tie the knot and what a celebration!

I believe the good news sprinkled into such a heartbreaking week is God’s grace extended to us.

Tom knew of my struggle and felt bad that he was so far away. I was fighting sickness, feeling sad, and physically weak. Being alone with my thoughts can often be a temptation to fear and anxiety, so Tom wanted to help in some way. I mentioned that I really wanted a hamburger but didn’t think I could drive to get one. The next thing I knew the doorbell rang with an Uber Eats delivery from Backyard Burger for me! It made my day!

Having a spouse who knows you well and cares for you in ways no one else can is a gift. This is why we are passionate to help marriages stay the course. It’s not so much the big moments in your lives as it is the tiny mundane moments that reveal the depth of your love and commitment to each other.

Are you in a rough place in your relationship? Do all you can to work on it. Ignoring it will not make it go away. It will only fester and cause more pain. Every marriage has them. A healthy marriage uses adversity as a spring board to a better place of intimacy and understanding. Who knows? We may get to the place where the roller coaster is actually fun when we face it together.

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Intimacy Prompt: Pay attention to little requests your spouse makes. Then do all you can to see it happens. Such acts of service will help cultivate a healthy marriage.

Helpful Tip: What works for us may not be what will work for your marriage. Remember just as our gifts vary in the church, so too our strengths and weaknesses vary from marriage to marriage.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”

– 1 Corinthians 12:14-18 ESV

 

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Caring for Parents, Christian Marriage, Death and Grieving, Difficulty, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, In Sickness, Keeping It Real, Seasons of Life | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Vintage Post – Rainy Date Ideas

11 Rainy Date Ideas

Photo by Thomas Grams on Unsplash

Since we are having so much rain on the east coast this summer, I figured it’s a good time to inspire some creative date nights. The following was originally posted on May 28, 2009.

The rainy season is upon us, and this can put a real damper on a planned date (pun intended).  So, why not plan a date with the rain in mind?  Here are some great ideas to do when it’s raining!

  1. Using a large umbrella, go for a walk around a local park or lake in the rain.  Feeling adventurous?  Forget the umbrella!
  2. Ten Dollar Mall Challenge – Take the money you would have spent going to dinner or a movie and divide it equally between yourselves.  Go to the nearest mall and split up purposing to find the best deal with your ten dollar bill.  As an added challenge – the purchase has to be something your spouse would enjoy.  Plan to meet at a certain mall location for ice cream to reveal your purchase.  For extra fun, decide ahead of time what the winner will receive!
  3. Go to the library or bookstore and look for books on topics you both enjoy.  If you like to travel, spend the time looking at places you’d love to visit.
  4. Go bowling.  This is a great way to have fun, but still have time to talk.  Plus you can’t beat bowling alley hamburgers and fries – simply the best!
  5. Go to a local pool hall.  This is a great sport that anyone can play – and it’s fun to flirt with your spouse around the dimly lit table.
  6. Personal photo shoot – put the kids to bed early and have fun taking pictures of each other in different outfits and poses; the sillier the clothes the better.  Once finished take time to edit your pictures and make a personal album that’s sure to make you smile on rainy days.
  7. Take your favorite board game, cards or a puzzle to either a coffee shop or bookstore, and spend the evening together.  Sit close to a window so you can enjoy the rain from your cozy seat inside.
  8. Take a drive to the beach or lake and enjoy watching the rain from your car.  Put on some romantic music and pack some favorite snacks.  You can even purpose to listen to a specific artist, or make your own CD of songs about rain!
  9. Read a book to each other by candle light.  This is especially romantic if it’s lightning outside.
  10. Play Flashlight tag.  This one is simple and is played at home.  Turn off all the lights and search for each other using only a flashlight.  You can make up your own rules as well as who wins what when found.
  11. Watch a classic movie like “Singing In The Rain”.

What are your rainy date ideas?  We would love to add yours to the list – simply scroll down to leave your comments!  

Posted in Date Night Ideas, Dating Your Spouse, Rainy Day Dates, romantic date nights, Romantic Ideas | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Not This Time

Change. We change clothes daily. We change our schedules to meet demands. We change our attitudes when it’s hurting others. Change can be easy if it’s something we want to do. But not all change is easy.

I have found changing routines takes the most effort for me. If we have had a bad habit it takes commitment to change our normal. If we have ignored things, it is difficult to make ourselves see the need, much less resolve to do it. But…

Change is necessary for growth.

In marriage we have a benefit that those who live alone don’t. We have someone to help us see what we don’t see. And they encourage us to change those things we may not ever notice left to ourselves.

Today I’m thinking in very practical terms. We have lived in our home for going on 27 years. It isn’t a visibly cluttered home, but the need is there. Drawers that haven’t seen the light of day in years contain things we no longer need. Closets that once held our children’s clothes are now stacked with boxes of all kinds of things.

I am a sentimentalist. I can attach meaning to almost anything and find it difficult to get rid of things. I can’t tell you how many times my hand has hovered over a trash can not sure if I could throw something away–forever!

This is where I must once again talk to myself instead of listen to myself. I can make all kinds of excuses. My resolve must be to change how I’ve always been to embrace a new, less-cluttered home.

Change comes at a cost.

I must give my full commitment to embrace the change or it won’t last. It will become another resolution tossed on the floor of forgotten convictions. May it not be so this time!

What changes are you needing to make in your life? Your marriage? Your home? Set the stage for change by opening the curtain and letting others see your struggle.

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Intimacy Prompt: Ask your spouse in what ways they see a need for change in your life, their life or in your marriage? You may want to give them time to think about this before discussing it on your next date night.

Helpful Tip: Make a list of changes needed. Give yourself a reasonable deadline to finish. Plan a reward for completing your task.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:11 ESV

Posted in Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, Open Nest, Priorities | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Friday Favorites – Turning 60, Off To A Good Start

On Wednesday I awoke with the realization that time passes so quickly. How did I get to 60? I don’t feel 60 most days, but recently I feel older than that. I have been fighting an ongoing health issue–not serious, but certainly annoying. On top of this, my favorite thing to do for birthdays is to gather as a family and celebrate. But with our kids all living out-of-state, those days are pretty much over. We get together when we can, but it rarely happens on specific days, like birthdays. Normally I am fine with it, but this year was a bigger struggle. It led me to pray and seek God leading up to my BIG day. I somewhat dreaded it.

Why am I telling you all about this? I am sharing this because this is real life. We all face huge disappointments and discouragement. This post is not about me as much as it is about Tom and how he managed to give me the best birthday in the midst of my emotional and physical struggle.

Here is my list commending Tom for his care and love for me.

1. Gift – He gave me a nice tri-pod for my new camera to aid in capturing great photos. This is my newest hobby and one I am enjoying more than I ever thought I would.

2. Shopping – I had mentioned in sharing my heart-ache with him how I missed going shopping with my Mom. We would go to the mall and walk around and look, talk, have lunch and just enjoy being out together. When we got to the store he kept following close behind me. He even said, “I want to be like your friends so just enjoy yourself.” So sweet, but I told him my friends don’t follow close behind me like a puppy dog. They go looking at things themselves. We laughed realizing there are limits to his ability to fill the gap of shopping with my Mom or girlfriends. And I’m ok with that for sure!

3. Lunch – Tom had arranged for us to have lunch at a really nice restaurant in the mall. He had called ahead telling them it was my birthday. It was like when we were first dating and he had thought out what we would do and where we would eat. I loved it! Our white-linen table was decorated with rose petals and confetti and included a hand-written birthday card from our server. It was a special time together–and the food was amazing! 🙂

4. Dinner – Tom heard me say a while back that I was wanting crab legs again like we had on vacation on Pawley’s Island. He dropped me off at Starbucks to get my birthday treat while he “ran an errand”. That errand was to pick up the crab legs to make at home for dinner. He had invited another couple over to eat with us who also love crab legs.

5. Out for the evening – I love to go to this place in town called “M” Bar. It is owned by a man who owns dozens of classic British sports cars. He has them on display inside this warehouse that he has turned into a place to gather. There are free video games, pinball machines and lots of cozy spots to sit and enjoy with others. I was surprised when another couple showed up to join us. We relaxed, laughed and celebrated together.

I had a wonderful birthday. Tom listened to my heart and did all he could to give me the gift of presence. And he sprinkled it in with things I love to do. I didn’t think once about my disappointments or struggles–such a gift to be able to help me do that!

I think my 60’s are off to a good start.

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Emotional Intimacy Prompt: What can you do today to alleviate the stress, disappointment or struggles your spouse is facing? Listen to them and take notes. Hints are often given as passing comments.

Posted in Celebrations, Christian Marriage, Emotional, Encouraging Your Spouse, Five Friday Favorites, Intimacy, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Time To Stop Listening, And Start Talking Loud And Clear

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

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

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

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

It’s time we start talking loud and clear.

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

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

Living Our Marriage Backwards

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

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

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

I heard another say it this way.

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

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

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

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

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

99 Years Like That

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

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

 

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

Five Friday Favorites – Lovin’ Summer Dates

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Weddings on Unsplash

“Summer lovin’ had me a blast

Summer lovin’ went by so fast.”

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

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

Today we share five favorite Lovin’ Summer Dates:

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

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

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

Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

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

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

Photo by Glenn Parsens Peters on Unsplash

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

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

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

Consider this couple…

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

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

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

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

Five Friday Favorites – Difficult Topics in Marriage

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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

1. A Wife’s Cycle

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

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

2. Sexual Pleasure

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

3. Sexual Confidence

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

4. Forgiveness, Giving and Receiving

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

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

5. Disagreements

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

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

Have a romantic weekend with the love of your life!

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

Giving God Full Creative Access

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

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash (markings added)

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

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

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

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

It can be a demise if you,

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

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

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

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

It can be an asset if you,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Need For Fresh Air

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

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

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

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

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

How do you know when fresh air is lacking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Friday Favorites – Firsts

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

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

That leaves me with three more favorite firsts to share…

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

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

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

Firsts are special because they are just that–firsts.

What are some of your favorite firsts?

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

Gordon Ramsay, Pebble Beach and Songland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Friday Favorites – Father’s Day

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

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pause and Consider

Photo by Umit Bulut on Unsplash

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

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

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

Pause and Consider.

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

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

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

Some areas to consider:

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

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

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