The Annoying Hiccups of Marriage

Photo by Nathan Nicholson Unsplash

In this season of quarantines being relaxed and then restricted again, it can become disconcerting. But let’s remember the one constant in our life…our marriage. Whatever restrictions we face, we are in this together. Hiccups and all!

Two are better than one,

    because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

    one can help the other up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a

Let’s make the most of this time by being even more intentional to deal with conflicts as they arise. The temptation may be great to let our guard down and give in to the words we want to say in the moment. But cherishing our spouse requires a choice to do it differently.

Consider these common moments…

When your spouse misunderstood or didn’t hear what you said….

Rather than react in frustration, kindly explain what you said again.

When your spouse becomes impatient…

Ask them more about why this is bothering them.

When your spouse gets angry…

Rather than defend yourself, ask them to help you understand what upset them.

When your spouse has had a bad day…

Surprise them with something they love at the end of the day.

Recently, Tom and I had another hiccup in our communication. When we tried talking about it, all I could do was cry. I wasn’t upset with him. I was more frustrated that we were having this issue once again. Just like real hiccups; you just want them to go away! Tom patiently reminded me that this is normal in any marriage. We have to expect them, but what we do with them can vary depending on our mindset. I’m grateful we were able to resolve it, which puts us in a much better place to deal with it when it happens next time. Yep! I’m sure there will be another hiccup and the fresh water of communication will once again help us swallow our pride and get rid of them.

Don’t let these little conflicts go unresolved and build up over time. It is not good for either of you personally or for your marriage. We need to do all we can to keep our relationship healthy. There have been too many marriages we have heard of lately (over 20+) years not making it, and it breaks our heart. There is a better way. It isn’t easy, but is certainly worth it!

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Cherishing, Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Making Memories That Last

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been on a retreat with several of my dear friends. I am learning to be present wherever I am, and last week I was present with them and with the Lord who met with us in a special way.

During our time one friend shared a song with us that left most of us in tears. It was meaningful because of the words, but also because she has been widowed for four years. We miss her husband, but find great solace in reminiscing on our times together as couples. This song brings all of this together and reminds us that the memories we make today will last until we take out last breath. Make them count!

I pray it will help you make the most of your memory-making opportunities.

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Emotional, Growing Strong Marriages, Intimacy, Love Songs, Music | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Marriage Many Will Never Know

Photo of Keith Urban listening to Kelly Clarkson’s riveting performance of Piece by Piece on American Idol

You may have heard the news about Kelly Clarkson and her husband, Brandon Blackstock, divorcing. She filed for a divorce following the quarantine stating irreconcilable differences. It’s a known fact that celebrities have a harder time keeping the knot tied and this one is surprising and heartbreaking to me.

I’ll never forget hearing her sing her then debut song, Piece by Piece, on American Idol’s finale. She was about 8 months pregnant and couldn’t hide her emotions about the testimony this song portrayed of her life growing up. It was riveting. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience, nor in my living room. I was thrilled for her that she seemed so happy to have found a lifelong love. Until she wasn’t…

Marriage is hard work. And the quarantine magnified this truth. Being together day after day reveals areas in need of attention, and for some it may seem too difficult to climb that mountain. But what if Kelly and Brandon chose to work on their differences instead of abandon their vows? It was said that she wanted more children and he did not. This was a source of great disappointment and grief for Kelly. This is why we encourage engaged couples to have these conversations before marriage. How many children? How will they be disciplined? How will we spend or save our money? Etc…

I’m sad for Kelly and Brandon. And I’m sad for their children who will now divide their time between two households. But I’m mostly sad for the marriage they will never know.

Imagine…

  • …If they had committed to love and cherish each other until death parted them.
  • …If a deeper joy was waiting for them on the other side of this struggle.
  • …If they were able to find a compromise on the issues which separated them.

I believe there are rarely irreconcilable l differences, only one or both spouses not willing to give up their desires for the good of the marriage.

Of course, I’m not talking about abusive relationships; if you find yourself being physically, verbally or emotionally abused please seek safety and counsel. What I am talking primarily about are couples who give up too soon without giving the marriage a chance to grow and mature beyond the “this is what I want out of marriage and if I don’t get it, I’m leaving” stage. We all face that moment when the marriage moves to a deeper level and it isn’t fun, but it is good!

Sadly there are those who miss out on a good marriage they will never know because they quit too early. This is why we do what we do; We want to help marriages make it for a lifetime.

Do you remember a time in your marriage when it went from the honeymoon stage to the life just got serious stage? How did you and your spouse work through those differences? Were you in a better place afterward? We’d love to hear your story…

Posted in Christian Marriage, Difficulty, Testimonies, Troubled Marriage | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Memories That Make Scents

It has been proven that our sense of smell triggers our memories more so than any other sense. I’m not sure why, but I agree. With one whiff of orange blossoms I am taken back to my grandparent’s orange groves where, as kids, we played hide and go seek among the trees. Such a fun time for me growing up in Central Florida.

This makes me wonder what kinds of memories we are creating for our spouse by the scents made in our home? I know the smell of bread and bagels baking will always remind us of the 10 weeks we have spent in quarantine. Pies evoke memories of birthdays past, since we always have birthday pies in lieu of cakes.

Likewise the savory scent of a roast in oven reminds me of Sunday afternoons at my parent’s home for Sunday dinner. I’m so glad I have her recipe and can enjoy it whenever I want.

Not all scents have to be of edible things; On our first trip to France we toured a French Perfumery where we watched and smelled our way through the process of making different perfumes from a variety of flowers. It was fascinating to watch it all come together. Tom still buys me my favorite perfume from them as it reminds us of one of our favorite vacations. We refer to it as our Trip of a Lifetime.

Tom grew up in upstate New York where the annual Lilac Festival takes place every May. When we bought our cabin in North Carolina we were given a lilac bush. Tom was deeply affected by the kindness of my cousins for such a meaningful housewarming gift.

Other scents that are known to stir up strong recollections of days gone by are: campfires, hamburgers on the grill, sea air, jasmine blooming on a fence, a particular soap, or all kinds of flowers.

Date Night Prompt: What scents are special to your spouse? If you don’t know plan a date night to ask. You may be missing a great opportunity to make your sweetie smile and remember. And don’t neglect to create those new scent-filled memories today to be remembered years from now.

Do you have a favorite scent memory? We’d love to hear about it.

Posted in A Fragrant Aroma, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Making Scents | Tagged | 1 Comment

Five Things To Do When You’re Bothered, Bummed and Blue

On March 17th our lives came to a screeching halt. No more meetings; no more friends gathering; no more church services together; no more date nights to our favorite places; no more life as we had known it. At first the cancelations felt like a relaxing reprieve, like being on vacation when you hadn’t planned it. It felt good to cook, stay in pj’s all day and catch up on favorite shows or movies we had wanted to see. We spent time reading, doing puzzles, gardening and doing some of our very own DRAB date nights. (DRAB stands for “does not require a babysitter).

Then, it got old. I’d wake up in the morning bothered with the thought–here we go again. It was a struggle to think of something to break up the monotony.

The beaches were just starting to open, and we were hopeful to have the chance to soak up some vitamin D. yet the weather kept us inside. It started raining all day everyday for days–making the temptation to be bummed difficult to resist. Living in the Sunshine State we aren’t used to gray skies–unless it’s our afternoon thunderstorm that blows in around 3p, and clears up by 4.

On the heels of the quarantine, our country plummeted into a crisis worse than COVID19; George Floyd was murdered and we all saw it in horror. Our hearts were broken, and our anger stirred. The circumstances that got us here weren’t new, and the weight of it all seemed overwhelming. The need for justice for our black friends was finally being heard. It’s true black lives matter and my heart was broken for the struggle that has been their reality for centuries. Not knowing what to do or say to help made me discouraged and blue.

Maybe you’re on the front lines and you haven’t had a moment to rest. Your circumstances are different, but similar in that you are also longing for it to end.

It seemed insignificant to write about marriage in the midst of it all, but this is what God has called us to do. We aren’t to write only when things are going well and we see our path clearly before us. It’s all the more important to write when we are in the midst of the struggle, trying to figure it out.

I must admit, this post is as much for me as it is for you. I’m not sure where it will end, but I’m trusting God is leading my writing to encourage us all.

So, what DO we do when life is like a replay of the book of Job and we are bothered, bummed and blue? I believe there are five practical things we can do to get us started. This list is just that–a beginning to help us avoid the downward spiral.

  1. Lean in to each other and talk about how you’re feeling. Just because you’re both experiencing the same situation doesn’t mean you’re processing it the same. This is one of the advantages of marriage–having someone to talk with you through difficulty. Most times what comes of it is something you wouldn’t have discovered on your own.
  2. Pray together. God is not surprised by this fiery trial we are facing, nor should we be. He is at work always making a way in the wilderness for those who are His. 1 Peter 4:12, 13 ESV says: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Did you catch that? God wants us to rejoice in the fact that we are suffering. That makes no sense to those who don’t know Him, but to us it is the hope for which we live. His glory is why we rejoice in all things!
  3. Take time to list out the things that are specifically bothering you. Many times just writing them down can help us let go of the burden and give it to God.
  4. Be content with what you’ve been given. There’s that word again, my word for 2020 – Contentment. I looked up the scripture where Paul shared how he had learned the secret of being content in all circumstances. In our current crisis it seems wrong to be content doesn’t it? I don’t want life to be this way. I don’t want to wear face masks when going to the store. I don’t want to read another account of racism and hate. I don’t want life to be like it is. But God is saying to be content. “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” What is that secret? Acknowledging that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.
  5. Ask Christ for strength to face the day. Each morning I wake up realizing my need for Him. I ask Him to help me put on kindness towards my husband primarily and everyone else whom I will meet during the day. Kindness doesn’t come naturally for any of us; at least not the kind we need. The kindness we need is unselfish and imitates Christ’s kindness to us.

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.”

Colossians 3:12-15 ESV

This last scripture is rich with what we need; we need to be clothed with hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. In what ways are you loving your spouse with these qualities? In what ways to you need Christ to help you change?

I don’t know about you, but I feel much better having leaned in to hear God’s heart on all that is weighing on me. He is not surprised that we struggle. After all we are only human. We need Him to lift our gaze to His throne of grace, which will never be exhausted. Even when we’re bothered, bummed and blue.

Date Night Prompt: Plan a quiet evening or afternoon together to talk about these five points. Read them aloud to each other and take time to listen to what your spouse has to say.

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

Fresh Mercy

It’s been a season like no other in our marriage. So many challenges hitting one right after another. We have barely been able to catch our breath. Maybe you are feeling much the same way.

Now that life is starting back up slowly it feels exhausting doing normal things. If we get with friends it takes all the energy we have to engage and fellowship—but it is so good. I’m wondering if we were always this way but had grown used to the exhaustion.

We all need rest, a Sabbath, to pull back and do nothing for a day. I see this now more than ever, and I can actually thank God for the time we had at home for 10 weeks.

In our marriage we have the privilege of helping our spouse embrace regular rest. We know how to help them relax and I’m praying we will all be more intentional to see it happen now.

What are three ways you know your spouse relaxes? What are three ways you relax? Why not do what you can to help them breathe deep and recharge, and enjoy the gift of fresh mercy for today.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Encouraging Your Spouse | Tagged | Leave a comment

7 Steps To Communicate Your Love in a Memorable Way

“With every look at you a thousand memories flood my mind.”

Tom said these words recently as I was relaxing, reading a magazine. It made me pause and look him in the eyes. I knew he meant them because of the look on his face. Carefully chosen words have the ability to build intimacy as much as thoughtful acts. But how often to we think long and deeply enough to say such things?

This is why Hallmark has made it’s way into our homes. We are basically paying someone else to say what we haven’t taken the time to say in our own words. Now I’m not against Hallmark by any means. In fact I’ve found many a card that said better what I wanted to say myself. But still…are we short-changing our spouse by not at least making an effort to say what we want to say in our own way of saying it? And think of the personalization missing from a store-bought card. Only you know the things that mean the most to your spouse. I encourage you to take the love letter challenge this month and let your spouse hear your heart by the words you write.

Need help getting started?

I recently read a post by a life coach, Jordan Gray, who gives excellent steps on how to write your own love letter. It’s titled, How To Write A Love Letter That Will Make Them Cry. We are sharing their seven steps below.. Click on his link to read about each step.

  1. Start with why you are writing this love letter.
  2. What do they bring to your life?
  3. Allude to memories that you share.
  4. What do you love about them.
  5. What do they not get told enough by you or others?
  6. The details – While it’s nice to praise the things hidden in plain view, I find that the most memorable moments in love letters come from finding the super specific details that you love about the love letter recipient and letting them be known. Just imagine… your love letter could be the first thing in the recipients entire life that lets them know that they have some specific gift that they bring to another’s life. And every time they notice that detail about themselves, the thought will be linked back to you and your thoughtful letter.
  7. Plans for the future.

Date Night Prompt: Plan a night with little to no distractions, including you screens. Play Favorite Memory Guessing Game – Think of a favorite memory you share. Give your spouse one hint at a time to see if they can guess what you are thinking of. See who can get it right with the least number of hints.

Emotional Intimacy Prompt: Ask your spouse what you’ve done or said recently to make them feel encouraged and special. If they can’t think of anything, plan to do something soon that will encourage them in a way only you can.

Posted in Christian Marriage, Emotional, Encouraging Your Spouse, Intimacy | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

One More “Let’s Be” to Practice

Being present with him is a joy!

I’ve been surprised that I haven’t written more during the quarantine. One would think that a writer writes, and only needs time to do so. And that is true, unless you are practicing this final “let’s be”.

Let’s be present.

In this social media culture even being home 24/7 doesn’t guarantee we’ll be all there. I could easily get lost in my blogging world encouraging marriages all over to do this or that to help their marriages last. But if I’m not tending to my own marriage, eventually I’ll have nothing to offer but a bad example. I pray I’ll never do that. Instead, I’ll let days go by without a post in exchange for a day of golf with Tom, or spending time making an extra special dessert or dinner because food is his love language. You see my absence here usually means I’m present there with Tom.

I rarely go a day without thinking of how to encourage marriages through our blog. But many times my priorities keep me from posting right away. I share this to let you know how important it is to be present mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically with your spouse. Just because we have more time together, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re using this time for our good.

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, imagine what being present can mean?

How has this quarantine helped or hindered you being present with your spouse?

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Perspective in Marriage, Priorities | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

“Let’s Be” These 8 Things Towards Our Spouse

How are you doing in the area of kindness towards your spouse? These have been trying times for everyone and none are affected more by our discontent than our spouse. I have noticed this in my own heart, which has led me to consider how much I need the kindness born by the Spirit of God.

I can choose to be kind in my own strength, but it won’t last when the pressure mounts. The only kindness that lasts is from God. He modeled perfect kindness when He stooped to our level in order to restore us to the Father. His kindness made a way for mercy.

Consider these words written by Paul to the church in Colossae:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14 ESV

This scripture holds enough truth for us to practice for a lifetime. It commands us to put on 8 things in our dealings with others. Let’s consider our spouse and honestly evaluate how we are doing in each area in regards to how we are treating the love of our life.

1. Compassionate Hearts – How do you handle it when your spouse is hurting either physically, emotionally or circumstantially? Are you kind? Or are you tempted to be angry with the inconvenience to your schedule? These are hard questions, but ones we must consider if we are to accurately assess the condition of our heart. Being compassionate is putting ourselves in the place of another and doing whatever we can to help alleviate the suffering.

Let’s be compassionate towards our spouse.

2. Kindness – This is likened to mercy in the Bible. Mercy is God’s willingness to not give us what we deserve. Instead He shows mercy and draws us close to Him. How do we treat our spouse when they’ve wronged us, whether intentional or not? Do we take time to explain our hurt? Or do we lash back because in our eyes they deserve it? Do we draw near to them or push them away?

Let’s be kind towards our spouse.

3. Humility – This isn’t thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. I’m afraid this is one in which I often stumble. I am tempted to think too much of what Tom is or isn’t doing. This is simply pride manifesting itself in my heart, mind and actions. If I catch it I can remember that God gives grace to the humble. I can repent and ask Him to forgive me of my pride. How I need His help to overcome this one. How about you? Do you struggle in this area?

Let’s be humble towards our spouse.

4. Meekness – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines this as mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked. I wish I could say that I excel in meekness, but without the Lord’s help continually I would stumble often in this regard. It seems the older I get the more I struggle too. I’d like to blame it on hormones, but that would be just an excuse. Certainly hormones can effect moods, but the Lord is sovereign over these as well. We must submit ourselves to His rule and reign to grow in this area.

Let’s be meek towards our spouse.

5. Patience – many joke that they would never pray for patience because the Lord would send trying situations to help us learn it the hard way. But God doesn’t treat us this way. He wants us to pursue patience because it is a fruit of His Spirit at work in our hearts. We draw near to Him and He causes the fruit to mature for His glory. Are you finding yourself impatient with your husband/wife? Do you resent having to forgive them again? Repent and ask God to fill you afresh with ahis Holy Spirit.

Let’s be patient towards our spouse.

6. Bearing with one another – Tom and I have been nipping at each other recently and it has caused us both to wonder why. We realized we aren’t bearing with each other. If we misunderstand something we tend to react instead of overlooking it. In fact this was the motivation for finding this scripture and diving into what it means. How are you handling misunderstandings lately. Don’t be surprised if you need to give this area some attention. These days have been trying for everyone. You and your spouse are no exception.

Let’s bear with our spouse.

7. Forgiveness – I love that this one follows all the ones previous. At this point I’m sensing a gratefulness for the forgiveness God has extended to me. With this fresh realization it makes it easier to pursue growth in these areas. Forgiveness opens the door for God’s grace to help me do and be what I couldn’t be in my own strength. God isn’t seeking me to be a perfect spouse. He wants to be all this through me, so He gets the glory and our marriage benefits. It stands as a testimony to what God can do in a marriage surrendered to Him.

Let’s be forgiving towards our spouse.

8. Love – 1 Peter 4:8 says that love covers a multitude of sins. What great news! Marriage is so much more than choosing to love one another. It is this and all the others mentioned above. The best news is love is what binds us together in perfect harmony.

Let’s be loving towards our spouse.

Tom and I enjoy watching The Voice. My favorite part is when they do the knockout rounds and singers are paired together to sing in harmony. One thing you can tell though, is when one sings off key the whole performance suffers. Even if the other singer is on pitch. It is the same in marriage. If you or your spouse stumbles in one or more of these areas, know that your marriage is off key. It needs to be tuned with love by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let Him have His full way with you. Even if your spouse isn’t on board just yet. It is amazing what God can do with one heart who is willing to embrace this kindness that binds together in perfect harmony.

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, Fruits of the Spirit, Growing Strong Marriages | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Ten Ways to Not Waste This Time in Marriage

None of us expected this, but here we are. It has been the strangest worldwide event in my lifetime. We have been sheltering in place for a couple of months now, and social distancing whenever we venture out. Always going back and forth with these two questions, Is a mask really necessary? or Will a mask really help? It is a constant conversation in my mind.

This time can have benefits for our marriages if we don’t waste it.

  1. Take note of the ways you get on each other’s nerves. This is an indicator of an area in need of attention. Make time to talk about it when you are undistracted. See if you can come to a place of understanding. Repent of sinful attitudes if needed, and move beyond this speed bump.
  2. Encourage some of your time to pursue hobbies. I love to cook, so this time has been very beneficial for my hobby, and Tom loves to eat. It’s a win win! 🙂
  3. Practice kindness. Choose your words carefully when having a serious discussion. Find ways to say it with a smile–like we used to instruct our children.
  4. Remember to extend grace when your spouse is struggling.
  5. Pray for each other together or apart.
  6. Read aloud to each other. We highly recommend Cherish, by Gary Thomas. Or if you haven’t purchased our book, Cherishing Us, now is a good time to follow our healthy marriage tips each day.
  7. Don’t neglect date night. Order food delivery, or go out to a restaurant that’s opened to support their staff and community. Make love as often as you can.
  8. Limit how much news you watch or listen to. It can become very depressing to constantly fill our minds with the latest controversy surrounding COVID-19
  9. Play worship music and sing along. Let the words fill your heart and mind with God’s peace.
  10. Give each other space–time to be alone and relax.

It is a blessing to have each other to be home with each day. I remind myself often of friends who would love nothing more than to have their spouse with them still. Let’s not prove the old adage true–you never know what you have until it is gone.

We know what a gift it is to be married, the key is to show it in how we live day by day.

How have you made the most of this time at home together?

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict, Difficulty, Encouraging Your Spouse, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

The Orlando Blessing

The Orlando Eye

I was born and raised in Orlando. I am privileged to still call it home.

When Tom and I were married in 1979 I moved with him to another city in Florida for the first 18 months of our life together. It was during this time that I realized how much I love Orlando – The City Beautiful. I missed it so much. When we moved back in 1980 I’ve never considered living anywhere else. I love my hometown.

Imagine this past Sunday when our church surprised us on our live feed with the following video? 85 churches in the Orlando area were invited to take part in a project called, The Orlando Blessing. It was led by The First Baptist Church of Orlando, which is the church my parents went to when I was born. So many touchstones leading up to this video, that when I saw the production I was moved on many levels. But none more so than realizing this is only a sampling of the churches in our area, and an even tinier snippet of the churches worldwide who could join in this throng. Then, lifting my eyes heavenward to realize that the great cloud of witnesses were joining in as well. This is a powerful glimpse of what I believe Heaven will be like. Come Lord Jesus!

We pray The Orlando Blessing will bless you and your children and their children and their children…

Posted in A Fragrant Aroma, Christian Marriage, Music, Worship | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

“Tap In” with Intention

We are watching a series on Hulu titled, Alone, (on the History channel if you have cable). It’s a reality show that takes it to the next level of all other reality shows. Ten people, trained in survival skills who pass the strenuous audition, are dropped off on a remote island to live for as long as they can endure. The last one standing wins $500K. The difference with this show is there are no film crews. Each participant is given a complete camera set-up in order to document their time alone. They are allowed to “tap out” at anytime they choose; if they don’t feel safe, if they are missing home too much or if they get hurt.

It has been fascinating to watch and listen to them discover more about themselves. Some are hoping to find answers to long-standing questions. Some are running from their past and end up having to face it. Some are there for the endurance. We have watched the first three seasons and it has made our time of sheltering in place seem insignificant compared to what they are facing.

They are each given a satellite radio to call in case of emergency or to say, “I’m ready to tap out.” Once they say those two words, “tap out” their journey is over. They simply wait on the shore for the boat to come pick them up.

In season 3 one guy was ready to leave and used his radio to say, “I’m tapping out!” Once the boat arrived, he explained his reasons. He ended it by saying something that really impacted me…

“I like to think that I’m not ‘tapping out’ from the show, but I’m ‘tapping in’ to my family and what matters most. I’m ready to be home.”

Isn’t that good advice? While we are sheltering in place we could be focusing on the negative aspects of being stuck at home all day every day. Or we can think of it as “tapping in” to our family, new routines, new habits, our health. We have more time to consider these things. Or if you have a house full of children you have time to notice areas of needed attention in their lives. Things we don’t notice when running from appointment to appointment.

I have tapped in to my love for cooking and baking. I can’t remember the last time I made homemade bread without my bread machine. But I did last week and it felt good to get my hands into bread dough again. Tom has been tapping in to caring for our yard and flower garden. It is more beautiful than ever! We have also been reading to each other more, walking daily, exercising and binge watching Alone :-).

I realize that many of you may be more busy now than ever, if you are first responders or are an essential business. Can we just say thank you? While we are waiting, watching and praying, you are going and doing all for our benefit. You are exemplifying the spirit that makes America great, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you!

What can you focus on this week to “tap in” with more intention?

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

It’s Virtually Impossible to Not Have Fun

We recently had a great family night that helped make the distance between us seem insignificant. We scheduled a Zoom call and then used Jackbox.TV to play party games together. It was so much fun, we thought it would be a good suggestion to share with you.

If you’re like us we are missing interacting face-to-face with our friends. Date nights have continued from home, but we can’t get with our friends.

Until now…

Why not plan a Double Date using Zoom? Spend time catching up with your friends first, then move on to playing some of the games Jack Box offers. The cost for Zoom is around $15 per month; and the cost for a game pack on Jack Box is around $30. (There is their original Jackbox Party Pack on sale for $12.49–see below)

https://www.jackboxgames.com/party-pack/

Think about it–for the price of one date, you can have lots of fun with friends and/or family members. This is a great way to make special memories while we’re all sheltering in place. Hopefully this season will pass soon, but until then let’s be creative with our time.

What are some creative things you’ve done to keep your regular date night alive?

Posted in Date Night Ideas | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Dealing with Conflict in Marriage

This post was originally published on our church’s website. We want to share it here as well.

It is unavoidable in marriage. How we deal with conflict makes all the difference in how healthy and strong our marriage becomes. 

  • There are couples who deal with conflict with shouting matches that could flatten a wheat field. Ken Sande in his book, The Peacemaker, calls these types, “Peace Breakers.”
  • There are couples who deal with it by ignoring it, “Peace Fakers.”
  • There are couples who deal with it by blame-shifting. 
  • There are couples who deal with it by giving the silent treatment to punish the other spouse.

We all have our natural, sin-born tendencies. But how to get beyond these tendencies to a mature response is our goal as Christians.

James 4:1-2a says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have…” 

We often ask couples who are experiencing regular conflict, “What is it you want that you aren’t getting?”

Think of your most recent conflict. With our current Shelter-in-Place ordinance, this may be happening more often than normal. What was the issue? At what point did you feel irritated or angry? Can you identify what it was that you wanted that you weren’t getting? Were you able to talk about it? Did your conversation bring a resolve to the issue or did it make things worse? The best way to know the answer to this last question is if a similar incident happens again. If you refer back to this conflict, you’ll know there is unresolved conflict hiding in your heart. 

It may be that what you are wanting is a legitimate request, e.g. more quality time together vs. quantity time. The key to growing in your ability to deal with conflict is being willing to talk about it. But when you do, there are some important rules to follow.

Five Guidelines in Discussing Heart Issues 

  1. Make sure the time is right to have a good conversation. 
  2. Come with an inquiring mind not an accusing one. “Can we talk about something that is bothering me?”
  3. Lower your voice and speak softly.
  4. Ask questions instead of making blanket statements. “When you said this did you mean it this way?” 
  5. Treat your spouse as a physician would–looking to help heal, and not as a prosecuting attorney–looking to find fault and declare them guilty.  “How can I handle this situation in the future to help you?”

This last one comes from Gary Thomas in his book, Cherish. Such great advice. 

With all of us living 24/7 in such close proximity, facing the biggest challenge in our lifetime, let’s ask God to help us be kind to each other. Let’s ask for wisdom in how to deal with our conflicts so we may grow and mature. And let’s step back and remember what a gift our spouse is to us. It’s easy to forget when all we can see are the ways they are irritating us. 

Purpose to focus on the good and the good may be all you see.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,

    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18 ESV

Links to reference books: 

The Peacemaker

Cherish

Posted in Christian Marriage, Conflict | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Good Seeds That Yield A Healthy Marriage

Questions, good questions, help a marriage grow strong and mature.
Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

Questions, good questions, help a marriage grow strong and mature.

Think of a good question like a seed. It is sown on the soil of your marriage in the hopes of creating new life. You watch. You listen. You wait for the fruit–an honest answer. Sometimes the answer isn’t what you were expecting to hear like the answer to this age old cliche’ “Do these jeans make me look fat?” Anyone married for any length of time knows this is a slippery slope of a question. It isn’t a good question to begin with so it usually leads no where good.

In a Harvard Business Review article titled, The Surprising Power Of Questions, they share the findings of an extensive study on the power of questions. They discovered people hold back for many reasons, but below is their main conclusion:

“…most people just don’t understand how beneficial good questioning can be. If they did, they would end far fewer sentences with a period—and more with a question mark.”

This is an outstanding conclusion because we can easily begin doing this in our marriage. We may believe we know everything there is to know about our spouse, but we would be wrong. Humans are complicated and diverse. You may know more than anyone else about your spouse’s preferences, history and habits. But only God knows them intimately in every way.

How do we grow in our ability to sow good seeds (questions)? Seeds that will be sure to take root and grow?

  • Ask questions that require an answer other than yes or no. e.g. How was your day? Rather than, Did you have a good day?
  • Ask open ended questions that invite a story. e.g. What happened in your life that made you feel the most proud?
  • Be genuinely interested in the answer given. The best way to show this is by asking more questions to expound on what you’ve heard so far. e.g. What did you do when that happened? Rather than, “Uh-huh”.
  • Listen with your eyes. This has been said so many times, but it can’t be said enough. It makes a huge difference in the depth of your conversation if you give your spouse your undivided attention.
  • Realize that by asking good questions not only do you get to know your spouse better, but they grow in their understanding of themselves too.

This is in no way an exhaustive list on how to have good communication skills, but it’s a healthy start.

Imagine a meadow where good seeds have been sown. In time the maturing trees will begin to grow providing shade for all who come near. This is the benefit of good questions. It helps us grow and mature becoming all we were meant to be.

Many times our worst enemy is lack of time.

We don’t think we have the time to have a long conversation, so we don’t go there. But isn’t our marriage worth the extra effort it takes to lean in and learn. In this season where we are mostly all home with more time than ever, let’s purpose to sow some healthy seeds of communication. Get to know your spouse in a deeper way. Use our Date Night Questions found in our book, Cherishing Us, as a springboard if you don’t know where to start. (The Kindle version is on sale until Friday for only 99 cents) Or you can click our tab above to get started right away.

We have discovered that the more we ask questions, the better we get at asking them.

Date Night Prompt – Plan a night this week to ask each other good questions. After each initial question ask another to go deeper. Do this until there are no more questions to ask. See who can ask the most follow-up questions as a challenge to continue. Do this and you’ll both be winners.

My friend and blogger, Bonnie Anderson at Life on the Lighter Side, also has a book published through our publisher Prevail Press. I share with you her post about the 99 cent sale for all Kindle books purchased before Friday. These are some great book selections for all types of reading. Enjoy!

Posted in Christian Marriage | 1 Comment

Separate Together

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Social Distancing Does Not Apply Inside Your Home

We have had several people ask us about how social distancing applies in marriage. Our answer is–it doesn’t! We share everything as husband and wife–let nothing put asunder.

However, there is one exception; We don’t share our personal relationship with God. That is where we each stand alone. Of course we share what God is showing us, how He is encouraging us, and what we are learning in our study of the Bible. But there must be time for us to separate and seek Him alone.

“I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

C.S. Lewis

There is an intimacy I share with Christ that I share with no one else. And the same goes for Tom. This is where we are separated, but together. My relationship with Jesus enhances my marriage more than anything else.

In this season of being home all the time together, let’s not neglect separating regularly to seek Him. Then when we come back together we can offer our best selves to each other.

What are you doing differently now in seeking the Lord that you weren’t doing before the pandemic hit? We’d love to hear your story.

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

A Day Is Just Another Day Unless We Make It Special

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Now that we are home, all day, every day, it’s easy to lose track of what day it is. For someone who enjoys planning, this is a challenge. I made a decision to add variety to our days by changing up what’s for dinner. I love to cook and Tom loves to eat. We get along quite well this way. 🙂

Walter Weekly Menu:

Sunday – Grill (This is also Tom’s night to cook)

Monday – Date Night (We order from one of our favorite local restaurants to support them through the crisis)

Tuesday – Steak or Seafood (Since this is our one day to go grocery shopping we can buy this fresh, if available)

Wednesday – Chicken

Thursday – Leftovers (We actually eat them now.)

Friday – Wild Card (We can choose whatever sounds good)

Saturday – Italian

Walter Daily Chores:

I have also assigned different things to do each day like when to clean and where, when to write blog posts, when to do the laundry (although there isn’t much these days), and when to weed our garden.

I have found that having something different to do each day helps keep me from becoming bored. And it keeps every day from looking exactly the same.

And there are a variety of fun things we can do too:

  • Put together a puzzle. Spice it up by putting rewards under certain pieces. Whoever finds where that piece fits in the puzzle gets the prize.
  • Play Gin Rummy.
  • Go for daily walks and keep track of how many steps you’re getting in each day.
  • Binge watch your favorite movies like James Bond, Mission Impossible, Star Wars, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings, etc. Or Hallmark movies if you’re so inclined.
  • Set up an air mattress out under the stars and enjoy the…crickets 😉
  • Hide Easter Eggs in the house for your spouse to find. Put one word in each egg and once they find them all, unscramble the message. Make this as hot as you wish.
  • Have a spa night complete with massage, bubble bath and soft music. Don’t forget the candles.

We have also made a Prayer Board that is getting longer each day. Whenever we hear of someone in need of our prayers it helps us to write it down so we are faithful to pray as we said we would. We like to begin each day reading our daily devotional from the You Version app. We are also enjoying Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies, one we highly recommend!

I am reading Jay and Katherine Wolf’s book, Suffer Strong. It has been a timely read for me on many levels. I will share more about it when I’m finished.

Tom is reading Tim Lane and Paul Tripp’s book, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, again. This is one of his favorite books on how to do community. It has been timely for him as well, since we are missing community so much.

I am also involved with helping our neighborhood children (and adults too) have something with which to look forward. We have had events like Chalk The Walk, Peek and Seek Teddy Bear Hunt, and we are planning something really fun for Easter weekend. I can’t share it yet–it’s a secret.

How are you making the best of this time at home? I would love to hear your ideas. Let’s spur each other on as we lean in to our family during this crisis. We pray you will be well through it all.

Blessings.

Posted in Christian Marriage | 1 Comment

Just Another Day Sheltering In Place

At Home mini golf course date.

We are really enjoying our time together at home during this crisis, and we are grateful to be in good health. But four weeks in and we’re having to get creative with our time. So far we have:

  • Walked daily around our block
  • Weeded, fertilized and watered our garden
  • Cooked a lot of meals
  • Baked a lot of treats
  • Ordered take out from some of our favorite locally owned restaurants
  • Read books
  • Hosted our first Zoom Marriage Community Group meeting
  • Played cards
  • Put together a jigsaw puzzle
  • Drawn encouraging chalk drawings on our driveway
  • Hidden teddy bears for our neighbors to spot from the street
  • Prayed. Worshiped and read our Bibles

It has been like a staycation only with the added reminder to care and pray for those on the frontline of this horrible pandemic. 

Monday we tried our hand at mini golf…inside our house. We set  up nine holes using styrofoam cups as our “hole”.  We placed many obstacles in the way to make it even more challenging. But the most difficult part of the course was our unleveled floor. Tom would hit the ball right next to the cup, only to watch it roll and roll and roll faraway from the cup. But don’t feel sorry for him; never feel sorry for Tom when he’s losing. He always makes a comeback and this time was no different. He beat me by one point. ;-/

And here are some photos of our mini golf challenge:

What have you been doing with your time? We’d love to hear.

 

Posted in Christian Marriage, Dating Your Spouse, Difficulty, Keeping It Real | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

How Will We Respond In Crisis? The Choice Is Ours

How will you respond in crisis? The choice is yours. Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash[/caption]

Today is a guest post by Sheri Bybee Mitchell with Good Job, Mama on Facebook. I met her a while ago after she left an excellent, thought-provoking comment on a post. Since she doesn’t have a blog that I can share with you, I asked her to share this excellent post she wrote on Facebook about a crisis she and her family went through a decade ago. What God showed her is applicable to us today. That is if we have ears to hear what God may be saying to us in our current crisis. 

The Choice Is Ours

Anger
Fear
Mistrust
Confusion
Accusation
Chaos
Division
Complaining
Dissension
Selfishness

That is what I see played out day after day on Facebook during this crisis.

What do we NEED in this time?

More…

Compassion
Kindness
Gentleness
Understanding
Humility
Faithfulness
Gratitude
Grace
Hope
Joy
Truth
Mercy
Love

Every situation we face in life reveals our hearts and gives us the opportunity to make a choice. We either go deeper into what has been revealed, becoming entrenched in what has been revealed, or we seek to change and become something better. This current circumstance is no different.

When our family went through homelessness from 2010-2013, that struggle revealed that I had NO trust in the goodness of God, nor in the fact that He knew what He was doing. I was angry, afraid of everything and everyone, ungrateful, self-centered, and willing to cast blame. I wanted to be in control and I wanted my life to be easier.

That crisis in our lives SHOOK me to my very core. It was EXTREMELY difficult and it lasted a LOT longer than I ever thought possible.

And it was good, so good for me.

Being homeless stripped me of any pretense and revealed the truth of my heart. And what was revealed was not good!

In that struggle God revealed the truth of my heart and then He set out to redeem, restore and renew all that He wanted to be in my heart….

Faith
Hope
Joy
Grace
Mercy
Humility
Gratitude
Compassion
Love

Every day, through the many circumstances of life, God continues to show me areas of my heart where I have yet to fully surrender. Areas where I choose fear over faith, control over trust, accusation over understanding, irritation over compassion, anger over love.

Yet, I can also see how much I have grown and changed since those years of homelessness. I can see where I have grown in trusting Him and the goodness of His heart. I can see where I have less fear of people and what they might think of me. And I see where I have grown in the ability to love, which is the mark of those who truly follow Christ.

God continues to use the circumstances of my life to draw me to His side and teach me of His heart.

He continues to be faithful and true, worthy of my trust and my love, for He continues to make me into the woman He created me to be…one who reflects the image of His Son.

Crisis and struggle can cause us to become ugly, angry, fear-filled, hopeless, bitter, selfish people.

Or crisis and struggle can be the scalpel that reveals and removes the ugliness and sin that has taken up residence in our hearts, and allows us to look and act more like Jesus.

Which one will this current crisis be for you?

____________________________

Sheri has been married for 27 years, 20 of which were incredibly difficult. Had four kids in four years, which was chaotic and wonderful, but never easy. Life has included health challenges, family challenges, financial struggles, and relationship struggles. Through it all, God was faithful and good, and He redeemed, restored and renewed health, marriage, family and finances. Sheri is a diehard introvert who enjoys being alone, but God continues to stretch her to share her life with others through social media, magazine articles and, eventually, a book, in order to bring glory to His name and help others in their own journey of life. You can follow her on Good Job, Mama on FaceBook.

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

To Love and Cherish

We were asked to share the following post with our church family. We wanted to share it with you as well…

Most of us included this line in our marriage vows. And if you are like us, you have probably assumed love and cherish are the same. This is not true.

Gary Thomas in his book, Cherish, expounds on this in great detail. We encourage you to read it together as a couple if you haven’t yet.

Today, as we are all spending much more time together as couples, we want to give you something to help strengthen your relationship.

Gary compares the difference between love and cherish as follows:

  • Love thinks about others with selflessness…Cherish thinks about its beloved with praise.
  • Love doesn’t want the worst for someone…Cherish celebrates the best in someone.
  • Love puts up with a lot…Cherish enjoys a lot.
  • Love is about commitment…Cherish is about delight and passion.

He asks the following:

“If you believe your marriage has all but died or even just gotten a little stale, the hope behind learning to cherish each other in marriage is found in this, God is more than capable of teaching us and empowering us to treat and cherish our spouses the way he treats and cherishes us.” page 22

Marriage is hard work. And if you’ve been married longer than a minute, you know this to be true. Your spouse is unlike you, which causes great delight at times and other times great distress. How you handle the differences is what makes your marriage “for better or for worse.”

If you are in a “worse” season of marriage, we have very good news for you. Your best days are just around the corner. We have seen it time and time again. Couples who lean into the winds of adversity and allow God to deal with them as He sees fit, discover God was preparing a sweet blessing for them on the other side.

What does it look like when a couple leans into each other as husband and wife?

They listen to each other’s perspective, pray for God’s wisdom and allow Him to lead them through the storm. They humbly ask forgiveness when sin has been revealed. They ask questions to understand rather than point fingers to condemn. They discover what being cherished looks like to their spouse.

Christian married couples should  acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s involvement in your marriage. What is He wanting to do to strengthen and grow your marriage for His glory? What area is a hot spot? Have you asked His perspective on the struggle?

We encourage you to make the most of the time God has given you to be together in this season.

Plan a regular night each week to talk about these things. Make it your “at-home date night.”Read together, talk openly about your fears, hurts, and discouragements. Celebrate areas where God is giving you faith and hope. Ask what you can do to cherish your spouse during this season of COVID-19.

We are in this together, but no one is as close to you as your spouse. Let’s cultivate our marriage so it will stand this test. Our prayer is that the marriages at Metro will bring great glory to God and be an outstanding example for our children. They are watching and learning by our example.

Posted in Cherishing, Christian Marriage, Difficulty | 1 Comment