When Opposites Don’t Attract

The old adage that opposites attract is often said in regard to marriage, and it is true most times.

Tom and I couldn’t be more opposite in areas that aren’t important, e.g. how we like our eggs, hot beverage of choice in the morning, whether we feel cold or hot, etc. But what if the areas you face are important? Or worse, what if you disagree on what we call Non-negotiables? Is it possible to learn to change at best, or agree to disagree at worst? Yes! But it’s not easy.

We are strong supporters of pre-marital counseling for this reason. When you are dating and all you can see in your future spouse is how perfect they are for you, it’s hard to be objective. Tom and I were that way to a degree. We didn’t have the benefit of pre-marital counseling back in 1979. It wasn’t a thing except for our pastor to ask us if we loved each other and what birth-control we were planning to use. That was it! Much of the conflict we faced in our early years could have been worked out before we were married if we had only had someone to mentor us and ask good questions.

For example, it’s good to know the following before you say “I do”…

  • How many children do you want, if you want them at all?
  • What if we find out we are unable to have children?
  • When children come, how do you see disciplining them as right and necessary?
  • What is your view on money? Are you a saver or a spender? Do you use credit cards or have large debts?
  • What would it take for you to leave the marriage? Is there an unspoken clause that gives you an exit strategy should you need it?
  • What if we disagree on an important decision, how do you see us working it out?
  • How involved are you expecting our in-laws to be in our daily lives?
  • What are your priorities in order of importance?
  • Do you have anything hidden that I should know about? Children? Previous marriage? Sin patterns that could effect our marriage?
  • How do you see us spending our free time? Vacations? Holidays?
  • If you could change one thing about me what would it be?
  • What is one thing you respect about your parent’s marriage?
  • What is one thing you don’t like about your parent’s marriage?

As you can see these are important things to know before making the serious commitment to marry someone.

When we got married I was only 19. Tom was 24. We were in love and so happy together. But I was scared to death because I wasn’t prepared on many levels. These questions would have put important unknowns on the table to make them known and would have set us up with the tools needed to make it through the rapids ahead. I am grateful that our marriage has lasted the test of time, but it wasn’t easy in our early years

I used to think that once we got to the place where we are now in marriage (over 40 years), that it would be smooth waters. Nope! Marriage is hard work just like anything worth doing. As Tom often says, if you quit working on your marriage you’re drifting and without direction. Sooner or later you’ll realize you’ve drifted apart and you don’t know each other anymore.

If you find yourself in this place it’s not too late to pick up the oars and start paddling together in the right direction. Yeah, you might bump into low hanging branches that scratch and hurt. But together you can pull through if you’re willing to make the effort. It will most likely take the help of someone you both know and trust: a pastor, friend or counselor. They know the river of disagreement well, and how quickly it can escalate to white-water rapids without warning.

It’s time to gear up and move forward. Any place worth seeing usually takes hard work to get there. A successful marriage is worth seeing and living. It provides stability in an uncertain world for you, your children and their children.

Date Night Prompt: What areas in our marriage do you see as successful in that we walk in agreement? What about areas of opposition? Let’s talk about how to resolve these issues now before they grow in intensity.

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages, Newlyweds, Troubled Marriage | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

25 of My Favorite Things Date Idea

Favorite things are just that–favorites. And most people will talk for hours about what they love if you can figure out what that is. Your spouse is no exception.

I had the idea to think about my favorite things and have Tom think of his. Then come together and talk about each of our lists. Maybe this would be a fun at-home date idea to try this month. As a twist, see if you can fill out each other’s list for them and see how well you did.

My Favorite Things

  1. Dessert
  2. Vacation destination
  3. Love Song
  4. Movie or TV Series
  5. Quote I say often
  6. Food cuisine e.g. Italian, Asian, French, etc.
  7. Dream car
  8. Car you’ve owned
  9. Bible verse
  10. Hobby
  11. Day Off activity
  12. Scent
  13. Flower
  14. Restaurant
  15. Date Night memory
  16. Vacation memory
  17. Season
  18. Holiday
  19. Thing I do for you
  20. Thing you do for me
  21. Author
  22. Place on earth
  23. Place you’ve yet to visit
  24. Accomplishment
  25. Pet

How did you do? Did you learn something you didn’t know about yourself or your spouse? Did you add any favorites we missed? Let us know and send a photo, if you’d like.

Thinking of favorites is a way to remember how unique each of us are. Those who know us and share memories with us doing our favorite things soon become a favorite themselves.

Posted in Date Night Ideas, Free Dates | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Forced To Embrace Something I Used To Hate

For one who doesn’t like it, I have had a lot of it in my life. I used to literally hate it. What is this thing I disdained so? Change. In all it’s varying forms I resisted change as much as I could.

As a young bride when Tom came home to tell me he had been given a promotion I was elated! That is until he said we would be relocating to a large city in FL, “Where”, I had often said, “I would never live!”

Ten long months we called Miami home, and although I learned to adjust I was never happy. Ten months makes me roll my eyes now at how immature I was. To my 20 year old self 10 months felt like an eternity.

Tom’s next promotion moved us back to Orlando where we bought our first home and started our family. I was born in O-town and live here still; for this I am grateful. I love Orlando, even with all the changes the Mouse has given us, it is still The City Beautiful!

Changes continued by challenging different loves in my life. Our three adult children, one by one moved to different states. I am grateful Tom and I have the freedom to visit them often. But with the pandemic we haven’t seen each other much at all. This makes me unhappy.

Why do I bring this up the first week of 2021?

It is because we have all been forced to embrace change. It is a hard road, but necessary road. Imagine if an unborn baby said it didn’t want the change childbirth would bring? What if they refused to come out, content with life as they knew it in the womb? They’d have no idea what good they were missing, not to mention they wouldn’t survive.

My word for 2020 was contentment, and I didn’t do very well with it.

However, I’m glad God had me focus on it. It helped me be intentional on the important things in life. No pandemic can’t touch the promises we’ve been given in Christ. My eternal future is secure making these temporary difficulties bearable.

If I take my view of change as a new bride and compare it with my view of change today, I am encouraged. I have grown these past 42 years, and it is all because of Christ. He was faithful then, and He’ll be faithful now.

The older I get the more I see change is good. It is everywhere in creation. God calls all things to grow up in Him, and I’m included in this command. I can either embrace the change in faith, or resist it in anger. I’ve tried the latter and believe me it is a very dark place.

My word for 2021 is Behold. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines it: To fix the eyes upon; to see with attention; to observe with care.

I plan to focus daily on beholding God and His goodness in creation. I am filled with anticipation of all He plans to show me this year. If you’d like to follow my journey in beholding, you can see it on our Instagram feed “TheRomanticVineyard” using hashtag #Beholding2021.

In what ways has your marriage experienced change? Have you allowed God to give you His perspective? Have you seen growth as a result? Maybe it’s time to behold the good you’ve been given and give Him thanks!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , | 3 Comments

20 Questions From Last Year Worth Repeating

Photo by Nora Schlesingeron Unsplash

It’s a good habit to pause at the beginning of a new year and reflect on the year before to help you make changes in the year ahead.

We compiled 20 questions last year that are just as applicable to us this year. We pray it helps you as you begin the first steps of 2021.

Plan some undistracted time–no screens, no kids, no chores, no TV–and answer these all important questions. We pray it encourages you.

As you look back on 2020 ask yourself and your spouse the following:

  1. What are the major highlights of the year?
  2. What are your biggest victories? Your biggest disappointments?
  3. What would you do differently if you had the chance?
  4. How has your marriage grown?
  5. What was your favorite date? Favorite dining experience? Favorite movie?
  6. How have you grown in your relationship with the Lord?
  7. What do you wish you could have done, but didn’t?
  8. What are the three most encouraging words someone else said to you?
  9. What are the three most encouraging words I said to you?
  10. What did I do this year that makes you smile every time you think of it?

Now, looking forward to 2021, ask yourself and your spouse the following:

  1. What do you want to continue doing this year that you were doing last year?
  2. What do you want to stop doing this year?
  3. What one word, if any, do you plan to focus on for growth? How can I help you?
  4. What devotional are you planning to do? (We highly recommend choosing from the hundreds available on the YouVersion app)
  5. What is one area you would like to see me improve in this year?
  6. Is there something I have been putting off around the house that you would love to see completed?
  7. What 3 couples can we pursue this year in an effort to encourage them or glean wisdom from them?
  8. What would be the best way to make this happen?
  9. How important are date nights to you? How can we make these a regular part of our year?
  10. What trips would you like to plan for just us or for the family?

May God help you connect the dots of His faithfulness to you and your marriage in 2020. And wherever there is great disappointment, may He fill your heart with faith to believe, to change and grow in 2021.

We pray you have a safe and Happy New Year. 

Posted in Christian Marriage, Holidays, New Year's Eve | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Goodbye 2020 – You Won’t Be Missed, But You’ll Never Be Forgotten

Photo by Lucas Lenzion Unsplash

This year is about to slip away at the stroke of midnight. In one second’s time 2020 will be gone, but it will be a year we will never forget. It will be taught in the history books of our grandchildren’s children. It will be studied to find ways to help us should another pandemic hit out of the blue.

But what have we learned? I know I’ve realized how easy I can become discontent. Ironic that my word for this year was “contentment”. I don’t think I’ve passed this one, but it has helped me understand my love of comfort more than I knew. Every comfort we enjoy has been tested and stretched to it’s breaking point. Even blogging has been difficult for lack of motivation.

So what do I have to share today as we look back on this year? Laughter, but not negating the seriousness of this pandemic. This is the way many first-responders handle the heavy weight they carry as they care for others in crisis. Laughter, they say, makes pain bearable.

I did a search for humorous quotes about 2020…

  • “2020 is a unique Leap Year. It has 29 days in February, 300 days in March, and five years in April.” —Unknown
  • “My life feels like a test I didn’t study for.” —Unknown
  • “First time in history we can save the human race by laying in front of the TV and doing nothing. Let’s not screw this up.” —Unknown
  • “So far, 2020 is like looking both ways before you cross the street then getting hit by an airplane.” —Unknown
  • “Coronavirus has turned us all into dogs: We roam the house looking for food, we’re told ‘no’ if we get too close to strangers, and we get really excited about car rides and walks.” —Unknown
  • “Can we uninstall 2020 and install it again? This version has a virus.” —Unknown
  • “My wife and I play this fun game during quarantine. It’s called, ‘Why are you doing it that way?’ There are no winners.” —Eric Spiegelman
  • “Uh-oh! 2020 is turning 2021 and will now be of legal drinking age.” – Unknown
  • “I survived the great toilet paper scare of 2020!” – Unknown

Finally, plan some time with your sweetie talking about the good that’s happened in 2020.

For us–Our 9th grandchild was born, my Father-in-love moved from CA to FL to be near us, and best of all we still have each other. Even if the pandemic has magnified irritations, at least we have someone with whom to be irritated. Just because we have lots more time, it doesn’t mean we’re using it to the best of our marriage. End this year by being intentional to thank God and each other for the good you both enjoy.

For more ideas on how to celebrate the New Year check out our Romantic New Year’s Ideas by clicking the Only Husbands and Only Wives tab at the top of the page.

Happy New Year!

Posted in Christian Marriage, Holidays, humor, New Year's Eve | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Advent Informs our Marriage with Joy

This post is my heart in black and white. It has been a difficult year and a half in our family. We have faced circumstances that have revealed things in my heart that are hard to bear. My husband has often been perplexed with how to help. Most times he just holds me and listens. Always he prays.

This week my angst came to an ugly head. Tom laid his hands on me and asked God to bring me to a place of peace and joy as only He could. In that moment I felt his unrelenting love and support. It is what God used to allow the light of His love to begin shining in my darkness.

There are so many things God has used to lead me through this valley. Two books I’m reading, one given to me by a friend who was compelled to share it with me: Images of Faith, by Miriam Huffman Rockness, and Pierced and Embraced by Kelli Worrall. I highly recommend them both!

Confession of sin is the doorway to freedom. I know this and have used it in counseling others. But somehow when in my own valley, it is often hard to get there. Too many “what if’s” haunting my path, making me paralyzed to move forward.

But God. He knew this week was my focus on joy.

Our life has not been filled with happiness as of late. But God wanted to fill me with something better that I can stand on—joy in the Him. He took on sin, my sin. My freedom was a joy set before Him allowing Him to endure the Cross of suffering, so I wouldn’t have to.

Circumstances haven’t changed, but my focus has. I will not allow the enemy of my soul to dictate my level of joy. If Jesus endured unimaginable suffering for me, I can follow Him through whatever valley His providence leads because I know He is with me.

I end with two articles by Desiring God Ministries. The first is titled, How Shall We Fight for Joy. In this Mr. Piper simply lays out 15 practical steps on how to get out of the mire of a joyless focus.

The second is titled, Learn the Secret of Gutsy Guilt.

If this season you find yourself in a similar struggle, I’m praying that your marriage will be the catalyst God uses to launch you to a place of truth and joy in the Lord.

The joy of the Lord is my strength—those words have never been more deeply felt.

Merry, Joy-filled Christmas from our home to yours.

Posted in Christian Marriage | 2 Comments

How Advent Informs Our Marriage with Love

If it weren’t for Christ coming to earth as a baby, we wouldn’t be able to express true love to our spouse. He paved the way in the darkness to bring light and love to all who believe in Him.

If you and your spouse walk in the truth of His coming, this is the best of news. You have available to you both the ability to love each other with the same love He has loved us.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

1 John 4:9-11 ESV

The key is to remember this everyday. Especially this year and this season.

Let’s purpose today to choose to love our spouse in practical ways. Find ways to pause in the busyness and reflect on the gift it is to have them by your side. And then tell them!

Our love shines to all who know us. And this glorifies God because apart from Him our love would fall short. This is the best of news!

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How Advent Informs Our Marriage with Peace

Peace. We all long for peace. But peace isn’t what many of us expect. It isn’t silence or a lack of any thing that irritates or troubles us.

This is one of our favorite scenes from the movie, What About Bob? Dr. Leo Marvin is practicing his acceptance speech when he is interrupted. This leads him to lose it–he screams at his son and his patient, Bob….

Peace. We have all craved it in the way Dr. Marvin did here. But peace isn’t a synonym of quiet; No. Peace is having calm in the midst of the struggle, and it is only possible from God who rules over every storm we will face.

It would be nice to have a peace monitor in our home that displays when peace is high or low. We could make adjustments before peace is completely gone! And we could relax a bit when peace is at it’s peak. But alas, there is no such peace monitor.

However, in marriage we have been given the next best thing. Another to come alongside us when we are struggling and remind us of where true and lasting peace is found. It comes from the manger on display in many of our homes. Jesus Christ broke through the barrier that sin (the thief of peace) took from us.

This year is like none other in our family.

Christmas will be spent at home with Tom, my Father-in-love and me. Gifts are not being exchanged by friends, nor are we seeing our kids or grandkids. For me–whose love language is gift-giving and quality time, I am struggling in the peace department. Not to mention the waiting and watching as our youngest grandson spends his first Christmas in NICU. Tom has been my help and support, reminding me of what matters most, as he so often has our entire marriage.

Emotions can’t be trusted. But God can be!

He has provided a peace that surpasses our understanding. It is an unexplainable peace that not only brings rest, but security. I have no fear of where I stand with Him because Christ has bridged the gap that separated us.

Peace is found in Christ alone, and I am grateful to celebrate my 51st birthday as a born-again Christian this month.

What is the peace level in your home? Ask your spouse if you aren’t sure. And if you don’t know Jesus as the friend, brother and Savior that He is, I invite you to ask Him for the only peace that will remain for eternity, peace with God.

Post script: When I read this to Tom, he kissed me and gave me an assignment–to read this post as a devotion everyday between now and Christmas. He is my very own peace monitor. 🙂

Posted in Advent in Marriage, Christian Marriage, Christmas, Difficulty, Encouraging Your Spouse, Holidays | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

How Advent Informs Our Marriage with Hope

We are in the first week of Advent where we are encouraged to focus on the Hope of the Gospel. Jesus was born of a virgin bringing with Him the hope of the world. It is a lasting hope that will not disappoint.

But how does this hope inform our marriage today in 2020?

This year has been filled with temptations for hopelessness. Depression, anxiety and suicide have all increased making Advent season all the more important. If we hope only in hope–a better tomorrow–our hope is empty. Tomorrow has no power in itself to bring us what we crave. This year is proof.

God’s Word reminds us of where lasting hope is found…

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and this hope does not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Not what I expected to hear. Hope comes to us through tribulation and perseverance?

How many of you are experiencing tribulation requiring perseverance? Tom and I certainly are. Many of you have encouraged us with hope to continue as we wait and see what God will do in our newest grandson’s life. Elias Angel was born a micro-preemie at 24 weeks and 5 days on October 14th. We are in love with this little man and cling to hope for his well-being. Thank you for the way you have supported us through prayer, encouragements and donations.

There are many tribulations common to marriage and can happen to any one of us at any time. Tom often says we are only a phone call away from our life being completely different.

8 Tribulations Common in Marriage

  • Finances
  • Relationships with others
  • Lack of Communication
  • Parenting
  • Work Schedules
  • Lack of Time
  • Health Issues
  • Sex

Take time to consider how you’re doing in these eight areas. If any bring a sigh or concern, please don’t be surprised that this is happening to you. Knowing that such trouble is common helps us not make more of the conflict than it needs.

When sin is at the core of our biggest tribulations, as Christians we have a remedy for it; His name is Jesus. We have been forgiven of our sin and can not only receive the forgiveness for our selves, but extend it to our spouse when they have sinned against us. Of course, this only works in marriages where both of you are honestly evaluating the condition of your own heart. If one of you is unwilling to admit sin, or repent when confronted, you need help from a wise and trusted pastor, counselor or friend. Please don’t delay. Unrepentant sin leads to more unnecessary tribulation.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5b ESV

Perseverance through tribulation in marriage proves the character of our relationship.

We know of many couples who have struggled in the area of sexual intimacy in their marriage. Much of it was due to damage done before they were married. Maybe this is your story as well. Sexual abuse is more common than we realize. And the affects this has on the intimacy in the marriage bed can at times seems unsurmountable. But it is not! There is help available which leads to the ability to wait with hope. We can direct you to marriage blogs that began for this reason–to offer hope to marriages struggling to find the open and honest sexual intimacy God intended a husband and wife to experience.

Tom and I struggled in our early years with being honest and open in the areas of sin and temptation. It took years for us to realize what was behind all the heated arguments, silent treatments and distance it created. But God. He was and is faithful to lead us on the road to being fully known and fully loved.

Our proven character is not a reflection on how good our marriage is, as some would say. “Oh, you are lucky. You got a good spouse!” No. Our proven character is a reflection of the effect the Gospel (Jesus coming to earth, living as an example for us, and dying and being raised to new life to rescue us from the bondage to sin) has had on our personal life that influences our married life.

So if you are in a troubled place this Christmas, there is an answer. Pray and persevere as you wait for God to show you what to do or say. And as you faithfully apply this scripture to your marriage, watch and see the character God produces in you as a result.

This is how Advent informs in our marriage this Christmas with Hope.

Posted in Advent in Marriage, Christian Marriage, Christmas, Growing Strong Marriages, Holidays | Tagged , | Leave a comment

When Thanksgiving Isn’t Happy

It happens, and most are more aware after this year’s events, of how life can look completely different than you expected or hoped. Who would have ever anticipated a pandemic that altered normal life for the entire world? It has been challenging to say the least. So how do we celebrate Thanksgiving when it doesn’t seem very happy?

I believe the answer lies in finding joy in the midst of the struggle. Joy is different than happy. Happy is dependent on the circumstances around us. Joy breaks through the sadness to a deeper appreciation to God for what matters.

We are in Oklahoma. This is a state where my mom was born, and where my grandparents helped settle the booming town of Jenks in the early 1900’s. I have relatives who have made our time here not seem so far from home. This is where my mom and I traveled three times over a decade to do research for my book, Through The Eyes Of Grace, based on my grandmother’s life in Oklahoma Territory. It is a memory that brings me joy and sadness; joy in that that we were successful, sadness, since my Mom is no longer here to share in the happiness of what we did together.

I have wanted to travel here with Tom since my book was published to show him all the places I discovered with Mom. Normally it would make me very happy to be here with him, but we are here for an unplanned crisis; Our daughter gave birth to her first baby prematurely. We have a micro-preemie grandson who is making slow progress making happiness elusive.

There are too many variables to be completely happy. But do we have joy? Absolutely! Joy in the life Elias has. Joy in the slow progress he is making (a miracle unfolding). Joy in the fact that we get to spend Thanksgiving with the newest parents in our family. Joy that we have the means to do this.

If I’ve learned anything this past year it’s this: Joy is a decision we must choose in the midst of unhappiness.

When normal is pushed aside either by force or choice, we must rise above the sadness and choose joy.

So this week remember, Thanksgiving isn’t dependent on our circumstances. We can be thankful to God with joy for many things. Let’s take time this year to look for it. It may be hidden under tears.

Have a Thanksgiving with joy from our table to yours.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Holidays, thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Well Seasoned Marriage

I find it interesting that Fall brings me such joy. I’ve heard many others say Fall is their favorite season as well. But when it comes to the seasons of marriage I have to ask myself, do I enjoy the Fall as much as I did the Summer or Spring?

Fall is the time when the growth gained in Summer begins to change. The colors captivate us. I know because I am watching Fall happen day by day from our little house in Tulsa. The trees have not disappointed. I find it ironic that the tree becomes more beautiful as it lets go of what was. The chloroform drains out of the trees revealing the colors that were there all along, just hidden from the bright green of new growth.

In marriage we face the same seasons. Spring is the honeymoon and early years before children. Summer comes and with it the heat of building a career and raising a family. Lots of storms pass through as well. But it is all purposeful. Summer is pushing us to be the best we can be in all areas. But following soon after is the harvest when the fruit will reveal the health of the trees. Fall in all its glory is the best season because of the fruit.

Yet, in the Fall I am more aware that Winter is lurking around the corner. In Florida Winter is quite enjoyable, but for the majority of people, Winter is cold, dark and often cloudy. I would grow stir crazy not seeing the sunshine for weeks and weeks, but it is possible to find joy even in this.

How are you anticipating the next season in your marriage?

Maybe you can’t wait because your current season has left you wanting. Maybe you wish you could turn back the clocks not just an hour, but years. Back to the “good old days”.

What if we were to pause long enough to realize the gift we have in the moment? Life is precious. As we are watching our newest grandson (a micro preemie) face the challenges of life at such a young age, we are more aware than ever to be grateful for the moment right before us.

So today I took another walk down memory lane filled with Fall leaves that echo the memories we’ve made during the Spring and Summer of our marriage. Each leaf tells a story of God’s faithfulness to our us. And when the last leaves fall and winter is well underway, I’m trusting God that each snowflake will tell stories of His faithfulness as well.

What season are you walking through right now? Are you content with where you are? Stop and take photos, remembering what God is doing for His glory. It is all beautiful in its own way, like the seasons of the year. This is what a well seasoned marriage looks like and it is good.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

No Tricks—All Treats This Halloween

Our Temporary Home

I’ve started to write a post several times and my mind goes blank. Life has been unpredictable this year, and it keeps coming at us.

Our youngest daughter gave birth to her first baby at 24 weeks and 5 days on October 14th. Our already challenging schedule quickly shifted gears into turbo drive. We are holding on by the grace of God, and it really is a miracle how well we are doing in the midst of such uncertainty.

Elias Angel

Home. It’s such a comforting word.

Our daughter and son-in-love are amazing. The strength and faith evident does our hearts good as we wait for Baby Elias to keep growing. He weighed 1 lb, 6.6 ounces at birth. As I write this, they are getting to hold him for the first time since he was born. I have not been allowed in the NICU, so I won’t see him or hold him until after he is released to go home. This isn’t a COVID thing, it’s a NICU thing and I understand.

Tom and I drove to Oklahoma to be with our daughter as soon as we heard Elias had been born. They live in Arkansas, but she was airlifted to the closest NICU, which is in Tulsa, which just happens to be the state where my Mom was born nearly a hundred years ago (1922). She would be so happy.

My father-in-love had just moved in with us from California—a huge transition for him after 45 years in the same home.

View from Tom’s Dad’s home in CA

It wasn’t easy leaving him at our home alone, but we had no other choice. Thankfully, he unselfishly insisted on us going—Tom is so much like him.

After being here for two weeks, Tom flew home to take care of some things for his dad and step-dad. He says home is never the same when I’m not there. I felt the same way when he was making frequent trips to CA to finalize his father’s move. And here we are once again, together—but apart.

Home. It’s such a precious word.

It is Halloween. Our other grandchildren are getting dressed in their adorable costumes, but we won’t get to see them in person. I am grateful for technology that lets me enjoy such moments, even if from a distance. I know their homes are abuzz with the shrieks and shrills of giddy excitement.

We have in the costume line-up this year: Minnie Mouse, Uncle Jason (our grandson thinks his Uncle Jason is so cool) complete with tattoo sleeves to match his, a rainbow owl and a unicorn in our daughter’s family.

All that glitter!

Our son’s family is dressing up as glow stick people. I can’t wait to see this one, and we won’t get photos until after dark. But our favorite this year by far has to be the hungry caterpillar costume that the NICU nurses sewed for our youngest grandson. It is a Halloween with no tricks, all treats and I am beyond grateful to God for His kindness to our family.

What does all this have to do with marriage? Everything. Life comes fast and hard, but marriages that weather the hard knocks find a depth of intimacy found in no other way.

Home. It holds our memories and our dreams.

May we never lose sight of either. They are what glorifies God as we live each day side-by-side, or across the miles. It is home where we are united as one.

How are things in your home? Cherish every aspect—the good and the challenging. It is your story that you will tell your children and your grandchildren in the years to come. One day you will be closing the door on your home for the last time, like my father-in-law just did, taking only memories with you. Let’s enjoy all of it, even the not-so-good times, for it is our story alone and it is worth telling.

Posted in Aging, Caring for Parents, Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Grandparenting, Growing Strong Marriages, Halloween, Keeping It Real, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

What Is Your Endurance Level in Marriage?

Photo by Everton Vilaon Unsplash

Life has made it very difficult for me to work out on a consistent basis. I do it just enough to be really sore afterwards–for days. My endurance is lacking. How do I increase my endurance? By doing what I know to do regularly and without cutting corners.

It’s the same in marriage. We are called to endure many difficulties and adjustments in marriage.

  • Change of job/career
  • Return to college
  • Adding a new baby to the family
  • Divorce or death of a friend or family
  • Injuries
  • Prolonged illness
  • Quarantines

Yep, had to add the COVID quarantine to the list. Talk about endurance!

The Bible talks about this in 1 Corinthians 13:7

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (emphasis added)

ESV

We are aware of many marriages struggling in difficult seasons. It puts a strain on us as well because we care deeply for those hurting. But how can we apply endurance to our own marriage?

I believe it is like exercise–do those things that you know will strengthen your marriage, and keep doing them. Even when you don’t “feel” like it.

Try reading a good book on marriage together and discuss it as you go. We love Gary Thomas’ book, Cherish, because it talks about the good of marriage more than how to deal with the problems in marriage. It is positive and uplifting–something we all need right now. This is what we call Intellectual Intimacy, which is helping each other grow in knowledge and truth.

Check in regularly with your spouse to see how they’re doing today. Don’t assume that yesterday’s victories are today’s realities. We are human and we need daily encouragement. This is Emotional Intimacy and helps you grow closer heart to heart.

Build your Spiritual Intimacy by praying and reading your Bible together. We use the You Version app on our phones and choose a devotional to read at the same time. This allows us to have our time alone with the Lord, and then discuss what we are learning. It has been a great way to connect spiritually.

Also don’t neglect gathering together with your church family. Our church has been meeting mostly on-line for months. It is easy to get comfortable with “couch church”, but this is not what God has called us to do. The Bible says to not neglect gathering together “as some are in the habit of doing”. We are just starting back and even with the mandatory masks, it is worth it. God has used these relationships to help us endure some of our most difficult seasons in life. We need each other.

When Physical Intimacy becomes difficult or strained, talk about it. Ignoring each other and pretending all is well is the cowardly way to deal with sexual struggles. Endurance means I will pursue you continually as long as we both shall live. This is the long-range view of marriage and it is what helps us endure any and all hardships that come our way.

Jesus promised us that in this world we would have trouble. But He didn’t stop there. He continued, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world. This is the ultimate reason we endure, because Christ has made a way for us to do so. If He says we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength, I am confident He meant ALL.

In what areas are you finding it hard to endure? Does your spouse know? Do your close friends know? We encourage you to make sure they do. This is how we endure to the end for God’s glory.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Emotional, Intellectual, Intimacy, Physical, Spiritual | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Introducing Simon and Eden

Tom and I have enjoyed the new series on the life and ministry of Jesus titled, The Chosen. If you haven’t seen it yet, we highly recommend it. It’s unlike any production of this nature. It provides insight into the daily lives of those chosen to walk with Christ while He was here. And it is done well.

The following scene is one of our favorites. Simon (later called Peter) is married to Eden. He is in financial trouble, and Eden wants to have her sick mother live with them. Simon says they can’t afford this. Watch what happens…

I love this scene because it shows the struggle all marriages encounter–having a spouse disappoint you or act in a way that is contrary to what you would expect.

How do you deal with similar situations? How does your spouse deal with being confronted when necessary.

Trouble comes to all marriages. We have a choice to make when it comes. We can…

  1. Act in faith when our spouse brings up an area in need of change.
  2. Listen to what our spouse has to say, but ignore their suggestion.
  3. Lie to our spouse and say all is well, when we know it isn’t.

As you can see Simon tried all three, but it took his wife’s loving correction to opt for the first choice.

Marriage is teamwork. We need each other because we don’t think the same. This can be difficult, but it is good. If there is more than one way to solve a problem, Tom and I will most often have differing opinions. This used to drive us crazy. Now it makes us laugh. How can two people be so completely opposite, yet be so good for each other? God uses our differences to make us better. But we have an enemy who tries to use our differences to divide us.

I have learned more patience, since Tom likes to take his time making important decisions. And Tom has learned to be more spontaneous because I love to drop everything and go! We have achieved a healthy balance of both, but it didn’t come without lots of conflict.

What differences do you have in your relationship? Are you open about them? Or do you try to hide them avoiding conflict? Do you feel free to share a different perspective? Or does your spouse put you down for not agreeing with them?

How you answer these questions reveals how well you are working together as a team or against each other in conflict. No marriage has completely arrived. We all have work to do. We pray each year finds you leaning in and growing closer as a couple.

Date Night Prompt: Download The Chosen app on your iPhone or Google Play, and watch this excellent series together. Or better yet, purchase Season One on DVD. It is so good, and it will provide great discussion as you draw closer to Jesus together.

“I was one way and now I’m completely different. And the thing that happened in between … was Him.” – Mary Magdalene, The Chosen episode two

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Conflict | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Vintage Post – Constrained or Compromised?

Originally posted March 2011

Driving down the road they stand as deformed sentinels declaring to everyone, “I was here first!”  Yet progress moves forward without regard for the hows, whys or who’s in the way.  I’m talking about beautiful trees mutilated by the onslaught of power lines going through their branches as pictured here.

Photo Credit: Photo of the Day website

I never understand why they do this.  What’s worse is when small trees are planted below power lines knowing that in only a few short years they will need to be deformed as well.  Why not plan better?  Why not relocate the plantings or rework the power lines?  It seems like someone failed or didn’t understand the growth of the tree, and besides – it’s ugly!

On the contrary there are trees deliberately planted around a wire with the intent of altering it’s shape.  These are beautiful and can cost lots of money.  You’ve seen these as well – topiary trees as pictured below.

Photo: Hito Topiary Nursery

This metaphor is a great example of how we view our boundaries in marriage.  When we say our vows to one another we are making a promise to love them, respect them, be devoted to them and to support them in all seasons of life.  Those who take these vows seriously are like the topiary trees.  They see their vows as healthy constraints to help them as they grow year after year.  They don’t inhibit growth, but direct it in a way that is unique and beautiful.  People are drawn to beautiful topiaries in the same way they are drawn to beautiful marriages.

Now consider the deformed trees hacked away to allow for power lines, these are marriages where no real thought is given to where, how or why they commit.  The point to them is simply, “I’m in the ground aren’t I?  What’s the big deal? We’re married, aren’t we?”

These are the marriages where several years down the road bits and pieces are whittled away allowing outside influences to have their way. No effort is made to save the tree – it’s all about making room for other priorities. Can the tree continue to grow? Certainly, but it won’t grow strong and mature – it can’t; the heart and health of the tree has been compromised.

How is your marriage?  Are you allowing outside influences to have more say in your relationship than they should?  Or are you taking your vows seriously enough to make cuts where needed? These outside influences can be:

  • work
  • friendships
  • in-laws
  • hobbies
  • even church activities or ministry

All of these if given more influence than they deserve can be detrimental to the growth and strength of your marriage.

Take some time today to ponder your own vineyard.  We guarantee it is more enjoyable to visit a garden full of topiary trees than one planted alongside the road with holes and branches missing.

Is your marriage constrained or compromised?

Posted in Christian Marriage, Priorities, Vintage Posts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What’s The Big Deal About Marriage Anyway?

Marriage. It seems to be old-fashioned to many in our culture. Kind of a romantic gesture that is optional for co-habitating couples, but not necessary. I’ve heard some say, “Marriage is just a piece of paper that doesn’t prove anything. Why go to all that trouble if we can live together–it’s the same.

Why do we spend our life encouraging healthy marriages if it’s just an option available for couples to consider?

We can’t speak for anyone else, but we can share why marriage is a big deal to us.

God created the first man and woman. It was in the garden where He said,

“And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:22-25 ESV

Marriage is a miracle where two who were once separated have now become one. And for the marriage to work, this oneness must be cultivated for as long as we live.

Will it be easy? No.

Will it be worth it? Oh, yes!

We have been cultivating our marriage for over forty years now, and it still comes with challenging days. We are often surprised because we don’t see it coming. Something is said and the atmosphere turns dark and foreboding.

It’s in moments like these that we must lean in and talk. Talk, not yell, or grow silent, or fling absolutes such as, “you always” or “you never”! Talking is both of you sharing how you see the conflict and listening to the other’s perspective.

How can it be that two people see things so differently?

It has been this way from the beginning. Note that we have four Gospels to give us four separate accounts of the most significant event of history. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. The very one to whom you are married, as well as yourself.

This is how strong marriages are cultivated; two sinners saying “I do” to each other and to God. He does the impossible by making us one and continues to lead us through every struggle.

Conflict isn’t an indication that your marriage is bad. On the contrary. It is proof that you married a sinner and so did your spouse. There is hope for those who sin—His name is Jesus. He came into the world to save sinners. This is the greatest news the world has known, and the hope for cultivating marriages that last.

Posted in Christian Marriage | 1 Comment

Pandemic Marriage Check Up

Tension. Every marriage faces it. It comes from no where and sometimes settles so thick you could cut it with a knife. Many use words instead, which cuts deeper and always leaves a scar.

Pandemics are like a boiler keeping the tension simmering. If your marriage hasn’t practiced healthy communication before the pandemic, such times will elevate the tension to a full boil. Most likely someone will get burned.

How do we manage marriage tension in the best possible way?

The first step is evaluating where your marriage is right now. Answer the following questions to see if any resonate with how you feel?

  • Do you have any unresolved conflict?
  • Do you avoid “going there” just to keep the peace?
  • Do you feel invisible?
  • Does your spouse miss opportunities to help you when needed?
  • Do you go to separate parts of the house to relax?
  • Do you wish things could be the way they used to be?
  • Have you silently imagined what life would be like apart?

If you answered yes to any of the above, please know that your marriage is in trouble. The pandemic has magnified tension in a way nothing else has. Either you have been forced to be together more than you have in years, or you are both working so hard you haven’t had any time to connect.

What to do to help the home fires burn instead of tension.

  • Plan time to talk about what you’re feeling. If you are afraid it will explode, ask some friends to be there to help you talk openly and honestly.
  • Seek professional marriage help if needed
  • Ask forgiveness when necessary. God gives grace to the humble. This doesn’t mean all the blame is yours, but it is acknowledging your part of the tension.
  • Be a peacemaker, not a peace faker. A peace faker wants peace at any cost and is unwilling to have those difficult conversations. This is like someone ignoring their need for surgery to avoid the pain required. Surgical pain is what is needed to fix that which is broken. Marriage can require surgery in order to heal.
  • Remember why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. Many times when we are upset or hurt, all we can see is what we don’t like and forget what we love about our spouse.
  • Do the things you did at first. Small kindnesses cultivate more kindness in return. Even if you don’t feel it, do it anyway. Our choices lead our emotions, not the other way around. It’s not being hypocritical to do something even if you don’t “feel it”. Our feelings will follow the choices we make.
  • Pray and fast asking God to do the impossible. He is in the restoration business and with Him no marriage is too far for Him to redeem.

It breaks our heart to hear of marriages ending in divorce and children being divided between two households. Let’s be pro-active and work on the tensions this pandemic has revealed. It is much better to have sizzling intimacy than simmering conflict. Wouldn’t you agree?

Posted in Christian Marriage, Conflict, Difficulty, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Unexpected Expectations

Have you ever been caught off guard by unrealistic or unfair expectation of your spouse? Have you ever been surprised that you even had expectations? I have, sadly, and I regret what I put Tom through. Thankfully I have a husband who not only puts up with my struggles, but who honestly wants to grow in his understanding of them.

God bless him!

It is no easy task to understand what causes my ups and downs. In fact, I often don’t understand them either.

My birthday was in July. Tom asked what I would like to do for my birthday. I mentioned a few ideas and he went to work making sure to check them all off his list. Have I mentioned he’s a list maker? I love this about him. Rarely does something go overlooked on his end. He is diligent and faithful and he loves me.

So why did I struggle with my birthday this year? I thought I knew the reason. You see, I love gifts – giving them and receiving them. Tom knows this. But to him an experience counts as a gift even though you can’t gift wrap it. But to have a birthday with no gift from him to actually open felt wrong. I was disappointed at best and hurt at worst. I prayed and asked God to help me not be so sensitive. And then I forgot about it, or so I thought.

Until…

it was Tom’s birthday a month later. I planned to have a couple of friends join us for dinner at our cabin. It was all going well until they had to back out for various, understandable reasons. Then, I had no plans. The day ended up being ok, but lacking my normal all day plans to honor this man I love so much. I didn’t even think about baking him a pie. I had made a special breakfast, but dropped the ball after that. He was perplexed at best and hurt at worst.

Four weeks, two birthdays and we were both struggling to make sense of it all. After bringing this up to some dear friends, they helped me realize that probably what was behind my desire for Tom to do everything possible to give me the best birthday, including a wrapped gift, was my sadness that we could no longer have big family celebrations over birthdays. When they mentioned this, I couldn’t hold back the tears. They were right! I was placing an unknown expectation on Tom to fill the void I was experiencing for the lack of having my family close.

My poor husband. No one can fill that place, only God. He is able to fill the sad and broken places in my idealistic heart. I had a wonderful birthday, and I let my husband down by doing to him the very thing I didn’t want him to do to me.

Marriage is messy. We fail each other. Sometimes it’s me disappointing him and sometimes its the other way around. The important thing is to not stay there. We ask forgiveness. We talk. We ask questions to better understand. And we forget the offense.

This year’s birthdays may not have been the best of the best, but they did teach me an invaluable lesson–watch out for unexpected expectations. It is a demanding taskmaster that wants nothing more than to hold your relationship prisoner, tearing your marriage apart one disappointment at a time.

Thankfully, we have many more celebrations to come, God willing, so we don’t make more of this than it is. It is simply a bump in the road that I will watch out for next time.

Birthdays are a great opportunity to grow in our understanding of each other. I know what my birthday wish will be next year when I blow out my candles–enjoy the day whatever is planned. The gift is found in the giver, not within a disposable box.

Posted in Birthdays, Celebration Dates, Celebrations, Christian Marriage, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

10 Habits of Highly Romantic Couples

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Christian Marriage, Romance in Marriage | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Praying Reveals The Heart

Photo Credit: Joshua Ness on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James 5:16 ESV

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

Recommended Reading: A Praying Life, by Paul Miller

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

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