Where Will This Trail Lead?

Summer. The time when many of us plan family vacations to see places we’ve not seen before. I know some friends who have made it their goal to visit every National Park in America, and so far they’ve made it to many.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of our nation’s historic hiking trails that were established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 as a way to follow the paths of our ancestors. From the California Gold Rush days of the 1800’s, to the Lewis and Clark trail to discover a path to the Pacific Ocean, to the path of freedom Martin Luther King, Jr. forged in the 60’s; all are meant to help us recount, retrace and reflect on how far we’ve come as a nation.

I love such history for it allows us to remember the faithfulness of God in all sorts of circumstances. Being able to walk the steps of those who have gone before us is a privilege we should not take lightly. Each step was marked by sacrifice and a willingness to face danger and hardship for the good of those following behind.

We are marking a similar trail of our own. It’s a marriage trail, and it too, is marked by sacrifice and a willingness to keep our vows when the feelings wane.

We take each step in faith believing that God is leading us in our one-flesh nature to become more like His Son. Jesus Christ. It is a path to freedom, like Dr. King forged, but not from persecution; it is from the obligation to serve and exalt self above others. It is a trail that we hope those coming behind us will follow and enjoy.

My grandparents on both sides made it to their Golden Anniversary, as did my parents. My sister and her husband are only 5 years from this milestone, and my brother and his wife were married in 1979 like us. Our 40th anniversaries are next year.

I know much of our family’s history and record some of it in my book, Through The Eyes Of Grace. What I don’t know is how much of their commitment to their marriage vows has shaped my own conviction to keep ours.

We may not all write a book or keep journals chronicling our journey as husband and wife, but we do leave markers along the way. I’ll delve more into this idea in my next post.

Until then, “Happy trails to you” as my Dad would often sing.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Seasons of Life, Wisdom in Marriage | Tagged , , ,

The Gate of Sexual Intimacy

Fences provide needed protection and privacy. They act as a deterrent to would-be burglars, and provide privacy to our property.

After Hurricane Irma last fall, our 15 year old wooden fence was in serious need of replacement. We are grateful our insurance company covered the cost allowing us to have a new one installed last month, and we love it! We hadn’t realized how much privacy we had lost by our dilapidated fence. We have a gate that works well now too. It stays shut when it’s supposed to and opens easily when unlocked.

Gates are meant to work. When they don’t it’s not only a deterrent to the bad, but also the good.

There is a similar application to a gate found in all marriages–the gate to sexual intimacy. This gate leads to the private backyard of the marital union where only the husband and wife can see and enjoy. It is good when it works well, but sadly many marriages suffer from over-zealous gatekeepers.

You may have heard the term “gatekeeping” in regard to sexual intimacy in marriage. It is when one spouse chooses when the gate of sexual intimacy is opened for the other. It can be earned as a reward for proper behavior or closed and locked as a punishment. In either case, gatekeeping is wrong. We do not have the right to dictate to our spouse when they are or are not given access to sexual intimacy.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says,

3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.
4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.
5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

We have found gatekeeping is often the result of a deeper problem.

We want to introduce you to Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife blog. She honestly shares her journey from being a gatekeeper to being an available and loving wife to her husband. She shares how bringing shame and secrets into the marriage kept her from being open and vulnerable with her husband to the detriment of their relationship.

I was wrong to dismiss the importance of sexual intimacy in our marriage. Once I realized that we were having problems and that sex had become a source of tension, I should have pursued healing. Instead, I let the hurt fester for far too long.

Although my journey began as an effort to do something for my husband, it became a transformation for me. I have grown in my relationship with God as well as my relationship with my husband. I’ve learned to embrace my sexuality, too–and not just for my husband’s sake.

We encourage you to visit her blog and hear more of her story. It will inspire you as it has countless others. (If you are in an abusive marriage, this scripture in no way implies you are to endure such suffering. Seek counsel for the health of your marriage and your safety!)

Then, there are wives who find themselves as sexual gatekeepers when they said they would never do that. This brings added guilt and shame to the issue. J, with Hot, Holy and Humorous blog shares a very helpful post from a reader’s question.

I Want To Stop Gatekeeping, But How?

If you are in this place, it can feel like you’ll never change, or you may not want to change. I appeal to both; God is in the business of making possible what is impossible in our own strength. Seek Him, and ask Him to lead you.

If you would like further help, please comment or email us. There is a way out, and sometimes all it takes is admitting there is a problem and asking God to help you change.

“The mandrakes give off a fragrance, And at our gates are pleasant fruits, All manner, new and old, Which I have laid up for you, my beloved.”   – Song of Songs 7:13 NKJV



Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Sexual Intimacy, Troubled Marriage | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Local Date Night Gems – Datin’ At The Crepevine

All photos by Bonnie Anderson

Today’s post is by a close friend and fellow blogger, Bonnie Anderson. We were talking recently about a great place she and her husband discovered that I had never been to. I asked if she would share her experience with you in our Local Gems series. You can follow her blog at Life on the Lighter Side where she’ll help you find humor in everyday moments. She’s also recently published a book, Always Look For The Magic, available in Kindle form for FREE through today.

I typically don’t blog about food unless it’s M&Ms. I also am not the person you go to for date night advice. But today, for one post only, I’m both of those things. This is evidence that my friend and fellow blogger, Debi Walter, is rubbing off on me. I have often asked her for date night ideas or even asked her to have us over for dinner as she is an excellent cook. That said, while I’m waiting for Debi to invite us over again, I am going to share a great Orlando area date night destination with you.

A few years ago, my husband Bob and I traveled to Paris. It was everything I hoped it would be and more! The city of lights really delivers. One of my favorite days was when we went to the Eiffel Tower and stopped at a street vendor for crepes. Magnifique! I can close my eyes and still taste the creamy Nutella and banana wrapped in a sumptuous crepe. It was all the better as we sat on a bench along the Seine and watched the Eiffel Tower shimmer with light.

I have tried to recreate this at home, but I don’t need to trouble myself any longer.

We have discovered The Crepevine right here in Altamonte Springs, Florida (just outside of Orlando).

Bob and I happened in for breakfast last month as we celebrated my birthday by eating out as much as humanly possible. Saturday morning as we headed to a usual place, my eye caught a glimpse of their sign and we diverted our path to try something different.

The atmosphere is minimalistic – very clean lines and nothing fancy. They don’t have an Eiffel Tower or even an Arc de Triomphe, but they have crepes. Yes, they have crepes.

Bob ordered an egg breakfast crepe that was delicious. The crepe was perfectly thin, but it held together well. The portion was large.

I almost ordered something similar until I noticed the sweet crepes. I closed my eyes and clicked my heels together repeating three times, “Be a crepe like in Paris,” and it worked. I was transported to France. It was just like being in Paris (minus the Eiffel Tower). These people know how to make a crepe, and they are very friendly, too.

I hope you’ll give it a try sometime soon. If it’s on a Saturday, you can look for me and Bob savoring our crepes in the corner booth, unless it’s a cool day, then we’ll have to eat alfresco, just like in Paris. (They also have a children’s menu.)

The Crepevine is located at 249 West SR 436 in Altamonte Springs, Florida, in the IDC Plaza. You can find them on the web at www.thecrepevine.com.

Bon Appetit!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Date Night Ideas, Daytime Dates, Local Date Night Gems, Local Gems, Orlando Date Ideas, Romantic Orlando | Tagged , , , , ,

Is Your View Of Marriage Too Small?

If you are a parent you know the challenge it is getting your child to see the big picture of why they do things.

I remember asking my children to pick up their room cluttered with every toy from their closet, only to return an hour later to see it pretty much in the same disarray. When challenged on their disobedience they would defend themselves saying, “What? I picked up the Legos!” They missed the big picture of the need at hand.

We can do this in Marriage. What is the big picture of our relationship?

As Christians it is to glorify Christ and treat our spouse with regard to His standard, not ours. This is a high calling that requires not only our full attention, but also our full participation. It doesn’t take just an hour a day, but a lifetime commitment!

Tim Challies has an excellent article titled, Forget About Marriage For A Minute, I highly recommend to help you focus on what’s of most importance. He says…

We crave love and long to both extend and receive it. It is the subject of our favorite films, the theme of our treasured poems, the thrill of our happy hearts. Yet for all the love we see and experience, there is one much greater than them all. While we find it in a passage of the Bible that describes the relationship of a husband and wife, it points us to a love that is even deeper, even greater, and even more thrilling. Ephesians 5 tells a husband he must love his wife as Jesus Christ loves his church. So let’s forget about marriage for a minute and reflect simply on how we are loved by our great Savior. (Continue reading)

  • How often do we forget how we are loved by our Savior?
  • How often do we focus on the day to day needs of our spouse and family -those things that come easy to us-yet miss growing in our willingness to put our desires and agendas aside for theirs.
  • How often do we neglect what’s needful to do only what we feel like doing?

I’m not talking about a one-sided giving here. If one spouse is demanding and the other giving under coercion, this is not as God intended. It is selfish, lustful and full of abuse. I recommend another great article by Darcy Strickland with CCEF. She also covers this aspect of missing the bigger picture in Marriage well. It is titled, Sexual Abuse In Marriage, and is part one of a three part series. She shares…

God created marriage to be something beautiful and sacrificial in which the hearts and bodies of a man and woman are united as one. Sex is supposed to be a culmination of this emotional and spiritual relationship expressing unity, peace, and love (Gen. 2:24; Prov. 5:18-19; Song. 7:6-12). Given this foundation, the possibility that marriage could be a place where sexual abuse or violence occurs is almost unthinkable. But sadly, it does happen—and with surprising frequency.

How is your big picture view? Are you Cherishing your husband/wife with the love you’ve received from Christ? Or have you been concentrating on Legos alone missing what’s needed most? Or worse, have you been deceived into thinking marriage is all about your needs and desires to the neglect of giving your spouse what they need and desire as Christ has freely given to you?

No one can make your marriage better but you and your spouse. And it gets better as we allow the Gospel to effect change in our own heart for His glory, one mess at a time.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Sexual Intimacy, The Gospel & Marriage | Tagged , , , , ,

Vintage Post – Sizzlin’ Summer Dates

Originally posted June 16, 2010

When the heat is on, our dates can be challenging.  We love spending time outdoors, but when the mercury climbs over 90 degrees it certainly puts a damper on those plans.  This is why we’ve come up with a list of Summer

Sizzlin’ Date Ideas:

1.  Squirt Gun Challenge. Make two T-Shirts using fabric markers or paints that have several circles with different point values.  Stand outside, 10 ft. apart and each take turns shooting at the others targets.  Keep score…and who knows the loser just might be the winner!  We guarantee the husbands will have more fun seeing where they hit or miss!  This is a cool game that adds heat of a different kind!

2.  Take a cold shower together.

3.  Go out for Ice Cream or share a Banana Split. Check out The Glass Knife in Winter Park. They are introducing a new Doughnutt Banana Split today in honor of National Donut Day–perfect for a sweet date.

4.  Visit a water park together for the afternoon or entire day! Or have a water balloon fight.

5.  Watch a Winter Movie like:  Dr. Zhivago, White Christmas, Happy Feet, Cool Runnings. (Can you think of others to add to the list?  Let us know by commenting!)

6.  Go to the beach and build a sand castle together. Afterward jump in the water with your knight in shining armor!  Land locked?  Go to the nearest lake or springs!   If you can’t make it to the waterfront, HERE are directions for making a sand castle at home you can keep.

7.  Take a walk in the rain with an umbrella.

8.  Pack a cold picnic. Think of cold salads, fruit, and desserts – even drinks that are sure to cool you off.  As an added refreshment – pack a hand towel in ice water.  Take it out and wrap it around your spouse’s neck.

9.  Rooftop Date. Have you ever viewed the sky from the top of your roof?  Why not plan an evening, literally “Under The Stars”.  To introduce your date idea, send your spouse this You Tube video of Carole King’s, Up On The Roof.

10.  Go Skinny Dipping. We realize this can only happen in a place where you feel safe, but with a little planning you could make this happen.  It’s a sure way to cool off and heat up at the same time!  The best kind of Summer Sizzlin’ Date!


Posted in Christian Marriage | 2 Comments

Stay Cool This Summer With These 7 Hot Date Ideas

Ah, Summer.

The time to venture outside into the sunshine and warmth of longer days. Unless…

…you live in Florida.

Summer here is humid…

                                        sticky and…


The only way to enjoy this season is on or in the water. Thankfully we have air conditioning which makes the scorching heat bearable.

All the great ideas found in Summer magazines don’t really work for us. We have to adapt to our environment and make the best of it.

When it’s too hot outside try these cool dates:

  1. Indoor Picnic – Set up your blanket and picnic basket on your living room floor. Prepare a gourmet lunch or your favorite sandwiches and settle down together for an indoor memory. Put on a Netflix documentary about a desired travel destination and enjoy your relaxing time together dreaming of the cooler weather.
  2. Boat, Canoe or Kayak Rentals
  3. Take Paddle Board or Surfing lessons
  4. Go fishing
  5. Play the tourist and visit a local museum or art gallery.
  6. Visit a Hotel Spas for an afternoon at the pool. If the budget allows throw in a couples massage.
  7. Try our Mall 10-5-1 Date. This is one of my favorites on a hot or rainy day.

The important thing to remember is our marriages are priority no matter the weather conditions.

If we’re not careful our good intentions can take a back seat to convenience.

Don’t let this happen by planning ahead. Your marriage is worth it!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Date Night Ideas, Summer Date Ideas | Tagged ,

2018 Date Night Challenge – The Letter “L”

Our date began with a delicious LOBSTER dinner that Tom grilled for us. I normally prefer crab legs to lobster, but this 1.5 lb. lobster tail was cooked to perfection.

Next, we set up our LIVING room for a night of dance LESSONS. Having been to many weddings where we basically rocked our way across the dance floor, it was fun to LEARN some new steps to try the next time we have the chance to put on our dancing shoes.

We finished the evening watching reruns of Whose LINE Is It, which provided some much needed LAUGHTER.

What would be your perfect “L” Date Night?

Posted in 2018 Date Night Challenge, Christian Marriage, D.R.A.B., Date Night Ideas, Dating Your Spouse | Tagged , , , ,

What Is THE MOST Important Aspect of a Healthy Marriage?

Do you know what the most important aspect of a healthy marriage is? We believe it’s communication. Learn how to talk, listen and respond in a God-glorifying way and your marriage is sure to not only survive, but thrive.

We often say that communication is the soil in which all the other intimacies grow: spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical.

How well do you communicate? What does good communication require?

1. It requires listening to understand.

If you regularly disagree over insignificant matters it may be that you are not really listening to each other. Listening takes discipline to stop what you’re doing and pay attention to your spouse. Looking at your smart phone while your spouse is talking is not listening with the intent of understanding what they are saying.

2. It requires trust.

Hearing what your spouse is saying and understanding their reason for saying it requires a level of trust and confidence that many marriages lack. If you tend to judge and evaluate the reason your spouse said what they said there may be distrust of their motives lurking in your communication. Gary Thomas calls this tendency being a prosecuting attorney who is looking for what our spouse has done wrong and charges them as guilty, rather than the physician who is there to heal and help your spouse be the best they can be.

3. It requires time.

Good communication doesn’t happened as we are passing each other on the way to our different obligations. It happens when we purpose to slow down taking the time to ask good questions to fully hear what our spouse is saying.

4. It requires vulnerability.

Being vulnerable with your spouse often takes years of cultivating the other aspects of healthy communication first. I’ll never forget the time God asked me to share some very heart-disclosing struggles I was having with Tom. I hesitated because I thought he would laugh at me, because he is unlike me in this area. However, I discovered the exact opposite; he listened, cared for me and helped me push through the struggle. Could it be that our enemy knows this and will do all he can to prevent us from being vulnerable in our communication?

This list is not exhaustive by any means. What keys have you found helpful in promoting healthy communication in your marriage?

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

Love Showed Me Who I Am, by Heather Aznaran

Today is the final post in my Mother’s Day Gift series. Meet Heather, our youngest and the one who recently got married to the love of her life, Matt Aznaran. She may be small in stature, but not in strength as you will hear. They will celebrate their “5th month” anniversary on June 6th. They live in Centerton, Arkansas.

I sat there blank, trying to find the words. How can someone who has made a skill of talking be so speechless? I mean, I was a hairstylist for over 8 years, if anyone knows how to talk it’s a hairstylist. We come up with something to talk about out of nothing for hours every day, but I was stumped. 

Days went by, because one thing I do not like doing is making statements about which I don’t know much. You may be wondering what in the world am I talking about? I am talking about the day my Mom asked me to write an article on marriage for her Mother’s Day gift this year.

I have only been married for four months. Who am I to talk about marriage? I’m a newlywed. Then, it happened early one morning–I was startled awake. The words started to flow and I knew what I would write. I pulled out my tablet, and began…

Let me start off by saying I don’t expect you to read anything profound in this article. My hope is that it will remind you of when you were first married having similar eureka moments.

Getting married at 31 meant I had a lot of time to think about what marriage would be like. 

I used to think I had to make myself into a slave to be a good wife. I thought being a good wife was to die to self so much you became like a robot sent to serve your husband’s every whim. 

I was losing myself trying to prepare for my husband. At times, I could not even tell you my dreams or opinions because I was so focused on what I thought my future husband would want me to be that I lost sight of them. I was silencing a part of me that God created unique and lost myself in the process. 

I was a self-proclaimed, weak woman, until God placed my amazing husband in my life. He would not let me stay this way. He saw through the lies I had believed for years. He saw strength in this small woman, and continued to remind me of it. I now know that dying to selfishness and serving your husband does not mean becoming a slave.

His love showed me who I am and who I could be. 

The right man will:

  • bring out your strengths
  • help you become a better person
  • help you know your identity 
  • encourage you to have an opinion. 
  • help you feel safe to be vulnerable 
  • help you be one-hundred percent yourself. 

The love and support I have in Matt is the most surprising thing I have discovered about marriage. Some describe marriage as being “locked down,” but I feel free!

Like I said before, I am a noob. I have a lot to learn about marriage. But now I see marriage isn’t only about discovering your spouse, it’s also about discovering yourself. I am blessed I found a man who is incredibly strong; who wants me to be strong too. I stand up for myself more than ever before. It is confirmation my husband a gift from God to me.

Marriage is about sanctification (becoming more like Christ). And being with the right man encourages you to change for the right reasons. I know our journey will not always be easy, but the strength and courage I have now is something that will help us both. God sent me an angel to show me the strength which I have had all along. I can no longer be silent because I have so much God wants me to say, give and become. 

I am free to have a voice. 

I am free to handle the hardships that come my way. 

Thanks to God and my husband, I am free and stronger than ever!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. This gift you asked me to give has helped me so much. I am proud to be your daughter. Thank you for being an example of a strong woman. I love you!

Forever your daughter, Heather Aznaran

Posted in Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse, Growing Strong Marriages, Leadership, Roles In Marriage, Testimonies, The Gospel & Marriage | Tagged , , , ,

Silence Is Not Strength, by Tracy Lytle

Today I am pleased to share with you our next post in my Mother’s Day Gift series. Tracy is our second born and first daughter. She has been married to Seth, for 13 years celebrating on May 27th. They have four children and live in Marietta, GA.

When my mom asked me to write this post for her Mother’s Day gift, I agreed, but I was hesitant. I questioned what I had to offer her readers. I thought about it for awhile, struggled for direction and then forgot about it, until now. I enjoy writing, but only when I feel inspired to write or find a topic that really holds my interest.

She wanted me to write on marriage. She did not give me direction, just whatever my heart wanted to write. Writing about marriage should be easy; I certainly have been married long enough to offer something, right? I still kept feeling inadequate.

Then God spoke to me and said, stop doubting my grace unfolding in your life and marriage and write your story, the story of my faithfulness to you.

I have been married for almost thirteen years the end of this month. Twelve of the almost thirteen years I have struggled with autoimmune diseases, at least four have been diagnosed. These have come with days of excruciating pain, nights filled with doubt, times where my husband and I felt distant and I questioned why he ever wanted to marry me? Yes, he promised to love me in sickness and health…but did he REALLY know what that would entail?

He did not know, but did it matter? No, because just as God was writing my story and bringing me through some deep dark days to refine and strengthen me… he was also writing my husband’s story on how to walk in love with someone through pain and suffering. He brought us together. He knew it was best for us to get married young, to have children early in marriage because I would eventually end up needing a hysterectomy. He has known all along.

Satan also has had a plan all along and that is to steal, kill and destroy.

What better place to start than a wife and mom who is in constant pain, but silent about her suffering. I was young, looked “healthy” to the outside world, but on the inside I was being torn apart.

Not only by my daily pain, but by Satan’s attacks. No one could tell I was hurting, I looked normal, so being the tough person I am (or prideful, however you want to see it) I would push through the pain and put on a smile most days. This was a breeding place for the lies of the enemy. Because I was a fighter and chose to not share about how I was really feeling, the enemy had a perfect foothold on me.

Silence is not strength.

There were times in our marriage where I could not keep silent or hide how I was really feeling any longer; I would explode into a blubbering mess of emotions. This usually left my husband feeling confused and hurt.

It was not until I learned how to voice my suffering that God began His work in me and in our marriage.

I thought keeping silent about my struggles was helping my husband, but in fact it was doing the opposite. Suffering not only brings us closer to Jesus, it brings us closer in our relationships, if we allow it.

The more I began to open up to my husband and others that I was struggling, the more I felt God’s grace wash over me and give me a supernatural peace through some of the hardest days.

Voicing my hurt brought myself lower and my need for Jesus higher.

All these years I thought keeping silent was being strong and if I voiced my suffering I was being selfish. But, in reality keeping silent was making me weaker and the enemy stronger. He wants us to be silent, he does not like it when we open up and become vulnerable because that is when God steps in and give us His strength, His grace.

Opening up also made my husband feel needed. I did not realize that when I was toughing it up and not sharing I was also pushing him away. He wants to be able to hold me when I am hurting, to pray for me when I need healing, that is him being Christ to me and laying down his life to serve me. That is his God given role and I was withholding that from him.

I have not figured it all out, my initial reaction is to still not want to share what all God has brought me through, to discount the miracles I have seen in my own life. It is hard for me not to compare my situation with worse situations of which I have heard, wondering how God can use my story to encourage others. But I have also learned that keeping silent gives no power to God’s grace and faithfulness in my life and marriage so I will write!

2 Corinthians 12:9 sums it all up perfectly,

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages, In Sickness, Seasons of Life, Testimonies | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Where Do You Lean? by Jason Walter

We begin my Mother’s Day Gift series by introducing you to our firstborn, Jason. He and his wife, Ashley, will celebrate their 12th anniversary on June 3rd. They have four children and live in Tennessee.


I was reading in the Bible the other day, and if you haven’t checked it out recently, I really recommend it. You might think you know what the Bible says already (like I did), and while it hasn’t changed too much in the last 1,600 years, it has this funny way of revealing new things to you in different seasons of life.

Anyway, so I was reading in Proverbs 3, because it was May 3 and I heard somewhere that’s what you’re supposed to do. I came upon verse 5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” which most everyone has probably heard before. But I don’t know if I ever paid attention to the second part of that same verse: “and lean not on your own understanding.”

Our modern world tends to lean a lot on its own understanding.

I know I do. And how could we not? A quick Google search, and the answer to any question is right in front of us. We have access to more information than anyone at any point of history ever. And what do we have to show for it? We’re stressed and worried out of our minds!

Now, acquiring knowledge is certainly important.

We should all be constantly learning and growing. Notice the verse doesn’t say to avoid or run from understanding. Just don’t lean on your own understanding of everything. What’s the difference? Well for me personally, not needing to lean on my own understanding is a relief! I don’t have everything figured out, and that’s okay.

For example, I don’t feel old or mature enough to have kids of my own, but somehow my wife and I have four of them. Four!

Some days I still think, man, we need to ask an adult about this particular situation. Then I realize we are the adults. When did this happen? I’m still not sure.

Not leaning on my own understanding, and instead putting that trust in the Lord, means that I am continually reminding myself that He is in control. When I’m anxious about a situation, He is in control. When my kids aren’t in control, He is in control. Even if I don’t remember that He’s in control, He is still in control.

I can do my best and let God take care of the results and the future, and that’s all He asks of me. What good news that is! Our kids might turn out okay after all.

I should see if the Bible has anything to say about parenting.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Guest Post, Parenting, Seasons of Life, Slices | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Happy Mother’s Day To Me, You’ll See…

Sunday is Mother’s Day. A day we set aside in America to honor our moms.

I have been blessed with three children who are all grown and married. It amazes me to realize how much God has provided for Tom and me in all the different seasons of our marriage. This is why we are committed to point others to His faithfulness no matter how long it has been since they said “I do”.

Our youngest daughter got married in January and was also the last one to move away. (They each live in different states!)

Photography by Sierra Blanco

When I realized we wouldn’t be celebrating this holiday together, it tempts me to be sad and even worse, overly emotional!

Rather than feel sorry for myself, I made a request. I asked our son and two daughters to consider writing a post for The Romantic Vineyard about marriage in lieu of a gift. I often joke how I love words and this gift of words from their heart would be the best ever.  I asked them to pray and see what God would give them to share. I must say they have exceeded my expectations and you will be blessed. I know I am, and I tell them every chance I get.

So come back Monday as we begin this series. We hope it will encourage you not only in your marriage, but also in realizing the impact you are making on your children and their future.

God is good and His ways are not our ways. Let this truth inform your thoughts this weekend.

Posted in Christian Marriage | 3 Comments

Wordless Wednesday

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2018 Date Night Challenge – The Letter “K”


The first time we went kayaking was through Groupon where we got half-price tickets to a Full-Moon Paddle on Lake Maitland. It was a great experience. We discovered that we love this sport, even more than canoeing. Kayaks are easier to maneuver.

I planned for us to go to New Smyrna Beach and kayak on the Inter-Coastal Waterway from J.B.’s Fish Camp. The bonus is this time of year the manatees like to gather at a cove only a 15 minutes paddle away.

Here are some more photos of our day. I wish I could have shared with you the videos of the manatees. They swam right next to our kayak. Called “Gentle Giants,” they swim slowly in the shallow waters because they, like whales and porpoises, need air to survive.

I also told Tom it was to be our intention to say “K” to whatever we asked of each other all day, sort of like, “As you wish”, from the Princess Bride.

He failed to say “K” when I suggested Karaoke. I guess I found his limit! 😂

It was a fun date and one I’m sure we’ll do again!



Posted in 2018 Date Night Challenge, Alphabet Dates, Christian Marriage, Date Night Ideas, Outdoor Dates | Tagged , , ,

Happy Hour

Ask Pastor John

  • Is Oral Sex Okay? – John Piper answers this common question for married couples wanting to know.

Gary Thomas

Intimacy In Marriage

Posted in Aging, Blog Love, Happy Hour, Keeping It Real, Seasons of Life, Sexual Intimacy | Tagged , , ,

Vintage Post – Meet The Gardners

(originally posted on April 23, 2013)IMG_0718

Have you ever heard your spouse talk about someone over and over, but never had the chance to meet them? Someone they had met before you were together? You’ve heard so much about them that it’s almost like you know them, even though you’ve never seen them in person?

Last weekend I had the privilege to finally meet Mr. and Mrs. Gardner.

They had a huge impact on Tom when he was first saved for they modeled the kind of marital love that birthed in Tom a desire for the same when he found a wife (me) :-). We have mentioned them before as the couple who never went to bed without the other. If one wasn’t tired, they laid in bed and read so the other could sleep. How sweet is that?

What a privilege it was to sit at the lunch table with them and hear my husband thank them for the lessons their love taught him. Tears welled up in all of our eyes because we knew this was a moment that glorified God for the faithfulness they had demonstrated to each other and to the vows they said on their wedding day. Certainly they have weathered the storms brought on by decades of doing life together, and have come out on the other side all the better for the struggles.

Their greatest trial was when continents separated them while he served in Vietnam.

They shared with us how they kept their love alive during this dark season of their marriage. They sent recorded messages to each other every week and wrote letters every day. One time his letters stopped coming and Mrs. Gardner was distraught not knowing what had happened to him. She called The Red Cross, but they knew nothing. She waited for weeks until she finally received a letter from another soldier telling her that her husband had undergone emergency surgery in a M.A.S.H. unit to remove a kidney stone. She was relieved at the news, but wished they had told her sooner.

When we asked them the secret to their lasting love, they both acknowledged their love for God and their commitment to follow His will for their lives no matter how difficult.

We walked around their beautiful home as they told us stories about the garden they had so carefully created.


Mrs. Gardner took her trowel as we talked, and went to work digging up bulbs and plants to give us to plant in our own garden. She picked as many weeds as she did plants, which is one of the reasons her plants thrive. She not only cares for the soil, but she also pulls up anything that doesn’t belong knowing it will take the nutrients the flowers need to bloom and grow.

What a great metaphor for how to cultivate a romantic vineyard.


It was obvious they do this all the time. I guess sharing the abundance from what they’ve sown through the years both in their garden and in their marriage comes as easy as breathing.

Sadly, Mr. Gardner was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness, but his eyes still twinkle when he talks about his bride. What a marriage they have built, what a love they enjoy, what a privilege to have finally met them. They will celebrate 63 years together in June, and we thank God for the visible demonstration of a marriage that wasn’t easy, but stayed the course for God’s glory. We will gladly plant the flowers they gave us this past weekend, but what we really pray is that what their example has sown in our marriage will bear the kind of fruit that we can share with others in the same way.

Their daughter, Pam, pulling our wagon full of plants.

Tell us, who in your marriage has inspired you? Who has helped you cultivate your own marriage garden for God’s glory? Have you had the chance to thank them in person?

Post update: Mr. Gardner took his last breath in this life and first breath in eternity in 2014. They shared nearly 64 years of marriage to the glory of God.

Posted in Aging, Christian Marriage, Death and Grieving, Growing Strong Marriages, Seasons of Life | Tagged

2018 Date Night Challenge – “J” Date

This date has made the letter “J” my favorite so far in our Date Night Challenge.

Tom knows how much I love music. When it’s performed LIVE, of high quality, and the genre I love (JAZZ), it doesn’t get much better. He outdid himself in planning this date for me.

We had recently heard about Jazz Tastings, a restaurant offering a tapas-style menu and live music every night. We had tried it once before, but were not impressed and didn’t stay to give them a fair shot. However, when it was highly recommended by some friends whose opinion we value, Tom was convinced to give them another chance and make this our “J” date.

When we arrived there were only a handful of people in the small venue. The house band was setting up and the owner, Rory Far greeted us with a welcoming smile as well as a menu.

We started with an appetizer of cheese, olives, bruschetta and dried meats.

Next we enjoy a delicious flat bread.

We took our time with each dish wanting the evening to last.

When the music began we knew we were in for a treat. They are known as the Jazz Tastings House Quartet, but on this night there were only three. The lead guitarist is also a doctor who happened to be on call and couldn’t play. But you would never have known they were missing their lead by the way the entertained us with their skills and passion for music.

They introduced themselves, sharing interesting facts about their history and experience. We loved the nicknames and funny stories they shared; it made us feel as if we were a part of their family.

Meet Ezra Henry, aka “EH”, who has played for many celebrities including a famous talk show host who requests him for private events she and Stedman host. 🙂

This is Larry McRae, aka “Boom Boom”. He was privileged to play for our late President Ronald Reagan at the White House. He comes from Philadelphia and has played with such stars as Roberta Flack. He told us that he discovered there is a video of him playing at the Reagan Library in CA. When his dad heard of it, he couldn’t have been more proud of his boy!

Finally, Mark Falcheck, aka “MF” which means My Friend. 🙂 He is a Berkley graduate and they lovingly call him the magician because of what he can do with the keyboard.

They asked if we wanted classic jazz, smooth jazz, pop music or a mixture. We opted for the latter wanting to hear the full range of what they could do. It was amazing!

Some of my favorites were:

  • L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole. My dad and I used to sing this song together around our piano. I’ve always loved it!
  • Route 66
  • And others of which I don’t recall the titles.

We ended the night with one of their many desserts–Pecan Bread Pudding. Yeah, it was a sweet ending to a great evening. One I hope we’ll repeat again and soon.

Here is a sampling of the music offered at Jazz Tastings…Enjoy!


Posted in 2018 Date Night Challenge, Alphabet Dates, Artsy Dates, Date Night Ideas | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Hour

It’s time for some of our favorite blog posts from the past week. Take some time a read these excellent posts. Your marriage will thank you!

Gary Thomas

Hot, Holy and Humorous

  • How To Celebrate An Anniversary – J and Spock are celebrating 25 years of marriage in one of our favorite cities–Chicago! Happy Silver anniversary you two. May the next 25 be better than you hope.

Intimacy In Marriage

  • Sex Isn’t Everything in Marriage, But… – “What is your normal? Is it nurtured sexual intimacy or is that the exception? Sit with that question a moment. I offer it as a kind nudge, although I recognize you may hear it as an all-out assault on your status quo.” – Julie from this excellent post.
Posted in Blog Love, Christian Marriage, Happy Hour, Sexual Intimacy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Consider This…

Photo by Gabriel Laroche on Unsplash

We have a neighbor whose husband passed away a couple of weeks ago.

Several of us who live in the neighborhood went over to share our condolences and bring a gift of remembrance to her. It was a sweet time of hearing her memories of life with her husband of 60+ years. He didn’t want a funeral, but requested a family reunion instead. So her children and grandchildren gathered together with her over the past two weeks to reminisce and take care of the tedious business required when someone dies. Her son is still there with her for the coming week, and her daughter will return when he leaves. We joked that this is why we have children, to care for us in our old age.

The truth of that statement hung in the air long after the laughter died down.

Tom and I left with a fresh realization that this will be our story in our next season of life. It is always a sobering thought that brings with it questions…

  • Who will be left behind?
  • How will we handle the parting?
  • Will our children be near to help with the many details?
  • What will it be like to live alone after being married for decades?

Many of us don’t like to consider these somber questions, but we do well to take thought of it.

A.W. Tozer said, “Let no one apologize for the powerful emphasis Christianity lays upon the doctrine of the world to come. Right there lies its immense superiority to everything else within the whole sphere of human thought or experience. When Christ arose from death and ascended into heaven, He established three important facts, namely that this world has been condemned to ultimate dissolution, that the human spirit persists beyond the grave and that there is indeed a world to come. We do well to think of the long tomorrow.”

Thinking of the long tomorrow helps us make wise decisions in our personal relationship with Christ and in our marriage. Our choices matter today, tomorrow and most importantly for eternity!

Have you spent time talking with your spouse about the long tomorrow?


Posted in Aging, Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Death and Grieving, Perspective in Marriage, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Wordless Wednesday

Posted in Christian Marriage, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged ,