For the husband and wife not wanting to celebrate Valentine’s Day…

Sometimes it takes some time to fully grow into the gift of married love that is a gift from God.

And sometimes it takes time to completely be grateful for the one who completes you.

Because when the dark times come they cloud your heart, raining pain. But those grueling times are growing-up times and you’ll only feel like you’ll break.

You won’t!

If you choose God and hold on tight you’ll grow good and strong and right. But it’s up to you. 

Embers grow cold and all can seem dark and lost yet your hope is in God who is Love and strength to keep loving in the light of His love during the darkest night in the soul of your marriage. So push through as God brings you through the thorns that rip and tear.

But will only tear you apart if you let them!

For time after time Love never fails. Feelings of love fluctuate, but love real and true is a steady choice to act in loving, kind and gentle ways. Giving more than taking. You and your spouse putting each other before self.

And Love saves no matter how many times or how you have failed.

So hold on!

Seasons change. Days fade into night and a honeymoon rising. Hold your breath and wish upon a star and climb a stairway made of moonbeams, transporting each other out of this world on a journey of a thousand mysterious moments.

Two as one in the dance of marriage and love for a lifetime.

And one by one years pass. Babies grow up in the twinkling of an eye. Then grand babies. To a thousand generations. It’s vital you make the right choices now, today, for this present time will affect all the times yet to be.

But in God and with God someday you’ll look back and find yourself and your marriage in a good place. Side by side and smiling. Glad you never gave in or gave up, but instead looked up, and gave up your pride and sin, hurts and fears.

Then in the secret place of a heart carefully kept all through the years, you will know that all the time all you want is each other.

Partners for life. Friends and lovers. Parents and grandparents. Victorious by God’s grace.

Morning and night. Good times and bad. Day in and day out. Time after time.

For as long as you both shall live…

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What to do when you think you don’t like your spouse anymore…First Things First series, Part 4

You’ve hit a bit of a dry, rough patch in your marriage and your reservoir of feel-good-feelings towards your mate has evaporated.

The things he or she does that you once admired or found charming now grate on your very last nerve. And maybe that young woman at work, or that single dad at your child’s school, the one who listens attentively to your every word, smiling warmly, is conjuring up some really good feel-good-feelings.

Beware!

When we choose to succumb to disenchantment with our husband or wife, satan is crouching at the door, ready to unleash a hail storm that will bring down our home and marriage quicker than any wolf can huff and puff.

But God!

Hopefully your house is already built and being maintained on a solid Rock foundation. For if God is for us, who can come against us? Unfortunately, sometimes the enemy against us is…us.

Because sometimes we carry a grudge list.

Wives may nag about what they don’t like; husbands perhaps play the Holy Spirit as they name their wife’s sins one by one. And there is nothing wrong with lovingly, calmly bringing up an issue with your spouse. But present it as a good sandwich and cover it with prayer. And dear readers, if your spouse is sincerely pursuing Christ with you, well, they already know their bad. God is amazingly good at conviction. A steady stream of in-your-face reminders of  sin will only drive a wedge or build a wall, but will never create a bridge between two hearts that deepens love and trust.

So what’s a spouse to do about all those “bad” things their spouse does that has made them feel that they no longer like them?

Since we each can only ever change ourselves, here’s something to try.
{This list idea was inspired by the writing of the late Becky Zerbe and is further elaborated on here.}

>Take a sheet of paper and fold in half.

>On the left list all of your spouse’s most annoying traits. (And I’m sure we’ll have no problem filling up the page with what they do wrong.)

>On the right side of the page list how you typically respond to your spouse’s “bad.” Yep, list the sinful things you say or do in response. The ones, perhaps, that you excuse because he or she made me do it.

>Be honest and be brave. God sees and knows it all. Your spouse’s heart and your’s, too.

>Next, take a pair of scissors and cut the list in half.

>Crumple up and throw your spouse’s list away.

>Take your list and bring each item to God in prayer. One by one, repent for each of your wrong responses and ask God for help in changing you.

Pray for agape, patience, maturity, wisdom, and acceptance of your spouse. Take them as they are, trusting that God makes each of us better as we choose to submit to His ways not to our spouse’s insisting or moaning. We all want and need to know that we are loved and valued just as we are, warts and all.

And marriage is a promise to take each other, and keep each other — forsaking all others — for better and for worse.

Not a single one of us is perfect — only One. And your spouse is not your child nor your student. Your spouse, your beloved one flesh other, is your partner for life, neither greater nor less than you.

Fellow heirs of the grace of life. 1 Peter 3:7

And your spouse is not, nor ever will be, your clone. His or her unique personality, with its various strengths and weaknesses — all those imperfections that make you unhappy and prompt you to complain — are the perfect fit for you, chisels that God uses to smooth out and soften your stony heart.

So start working on you and see what happens. 

Forget about that feeling that you don’t like your spouse. Feelings come and go. Feelings change as our hearts, thoughts and actions change. So think the most excellent thoughts about your spouse and start gifting them with your acts of love. 

And then focus on what God doesn’t like in you and concentrate on fixing that…

Please come back for future posts in the First Things First series with practical helps for deepening discipleship and by extension improving your marriage. So you don’t miss out, subscribe now by clicking on the box.

First Things First series, Part 1

Part 2 — Annual Marriage Checkup 

Part 3 — God Changes Marriages as He Changes Hearts

And for a free 20 minute mentoring session to kick start your new year, click on the image below.

And please share this post via your social media circles by clicking the More button below. Thanks!

 

God changes your marriage as He changes your heart…First Things First, Part 3

While it’s yet dark I throw back the covers, sit in silence for a few moments letting the new day sink in. Hush of pre-dawn hours and His ever-nearness enveloping me like a warm shawl on a cold morning. My mind stilled, my heart reaches heavenward. This time is just for me and Him.

And my Michael, he’s got his own personal meeting going on with the Lord.

Daily we choose to enter the secret place before entering our day and it sets the tone for the hours that follow, impacting decision-making, our willingness to obey, stress levels, and by extension, our marriage. So we guard our time with Him.

When you or I neglect our time with God we make it easier for the enemy to sneak past our boundaries, wrecking havoc and harm, crushing in ways small and big — sometimes severely damaging marriages, with families breaking and how the babies cry.

But we are smarter than that because we are Daddy’s devoted daughters and Father’s faithful sons, aren’t we?

We hear His voice — when we are listening. We learn from the Bible (especially the words and life and Christ) — when we read it. We grow closer to God through prayer — when we make the effort. Choices. And in these things, and as we practice other spiritual disciplines, we are victorious when the challenges of life and marriage overwhelm.

So how’s your love affair with God these days?

Do you know Him? Really? Or do you wear the mask and go through the motions? Something to seriously consider regardless of how life and marriage are currently faring.

And an absolute necessity if your marriage is a mess today — with gaping chasms of pain, fear, sin, hurt and loss from the uglies satan uses to destroy us — all the weaknesses we yield to, the wounds from childhood, the hardness of heart. Your union seems doomed and you’re thinking about throwing in the towel: I’m done, I’m calling a lawyer, or one of satan’s favorite lines: I’m not in love with him/her anymore.

You may think that packing your bags, divorcing your spouse, and moving on is all it will take to make your heart happy. Wrong! You will still be there. With all your own inner stuff that needs healing. Not to mention the terrible fall-out that follows divorce — emotional, physical and financial devastation. And your babies wailing even 20 years later.

For divorce doesn’t just split a couple apart it wrecks families, destroying the stability and security every child needs. Little boys and girls, and even bigger ones, want mommy and daddy together, loving each other for a lifetime. Role models for the next generation. Every successful marriage making society stronger. And if you’re thinking that a new marriage with someone else will magically be all better, please think again.

And don’t give up before turning to God who is the repairer of the breech, the salvation of our souls and the mender of marriages.

But it needs to begin with you, the plank in your eye. Focusing on your spouse’s faults is God’s business. Of course he or she needs to change too, but only God can do it. And I doubt He looks at our bad as much as we do. He sees us as He intends us to be. Made right as we become like His son.

The journey of discipleship begins with your choice — not just to believe in Jesus — but to be like Jesus. Moment by moment with every choice made in line with God’s will. And when both husband and wife commit to follow God like this, as true disciples, hearts and marriages change for the better.

Because God really loves you and me.

He thinks about us all. the. time. Knowing all the good and the bad and loving us still. And He always will. God’s no runner when things get down and dirty. He rolls up His sleeves, lifts us out of our slime, and kisses our sins away.

So what do you say we love Father back like never before?

Spending more real time with Him, not just showing up at small group. Knowing Him, not just knowing about Him. Believing Him like your life depends on it. Doing and saying what He does no matter how much your soul screams in opposition.

Discipleship, it’s not just getting saved, it’s coming and following each day, all the way.

And it’s hard when we first turn whole heartedly to God. Discipleship takes you to the edge of yourself and as you peer into your abyss beware the unpleasantness. Yet don’t hide from God or wallow in recrimination and guilt. If you are sorry, truly, then you are forgiven. And God is ready to move you forward. You don’t need to constantly replay mistakes. Choose not to think on them, just like God says He does. Forgetting.

Is right this minute the time to stop whatever your doing?

And open your heart. Bend your knee. Ask for help. Choose to cling. With baby steps preceding leaps of faith, you’ll learn Him and live Him and fall madly in love with Him.

Just like He desires.

A thousand times each day your choices transform your character. Over time right God-choices change your life and marriage, His promised abundance reaped in unimaginable ways.

And God never makes an empty promise…

Please come back for future posts in the First Things First series with practical helps for deepening discipleship and by extension improving your marriage. So you don’t miss out, subscribe now by clicking on the box.

First Things First series, Part 1

Part 2 — Annual Marriage Checkup

And for a free 20 minute mentoring session to kick start your new year, click on the image below.

And please share this post via your social media circles by clicking the More button below. Thanks!

An annual marriage check-up is a great start to the rest of your lives together…First Things First series, part 2

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time when we put our lives under the microscope in an effort to make them better.

Once all the sugar-coated consumption has ceased many people evaluate the state of their health, resolving to lose weight, join a gym or eat better. Some focus on finances as they dodge credit card companies after spending more than was wise, resolving to put a budget in place and practice frugality. Others may direct their attention to their dreams, what they hope to accomplish in the next 12 months. Many worthwhile elements in life get evaluated as we hang up those clean-canvas calendars.

But most importantly the dawn of 2017 is a great time for taking stock of your marriage.

Evaluating where your relationship with your spouse stands at present in several key areas. Getting an idea of the overall scope of your union in order to see where you may need improvement. For if you don’t know where you are how will you know where you need to go?

On on unusually warm January day in the Hudson Valley, my Michael and I seized the opportunity to be outdoors for a long walk and talk. The objective: our annual marriage check-up. Ascertaining where our marriage stands in this first month of the new year, making sure we’re on the same page, hearing each other’s hearts and responding appropriately. Making sure our union is honoring God. As we walked, we took turns answering a series of questions. The uninterrupted time of exercise, sunshine and fresh air lent clarity and serenity to our conversation.

I expanded the list of questions we used to make it more comprehensive for marriages with children at home, in addition to empty nesters like us. Since it takes time to thoughtfully respond, you may decide to break the list into two sessions. We encourage you to use these questions, or others that uniquely pertain to you and your spouse. Make an appointment with each other for at least an hour of us alone time. Pray for God’s guidance and grace. And then ask away. If weather where you reside permits, being outdoors while you discuss your marriage can bring God’s presence even closer. Or maybe you’ll choose a quiet cafe or even your home after the littles are off to dream land.

No matter where you meet, God, the author of marriage beginning with Adam and Eve, will hold your hands and your hearts as you invest time into your most precious earthly relationship — your one flesh covenant of companionship. And for couples with children at home, taking time away from the demands of careers, kids, bills, chores, etc., is time well spent for the VERY BEST GIFT you give your babies are two parents who love and respect each other for as long as you both shall live.

A happy marriage translates into a happy, healthy family.

So here are some questions to consider…

On a one to ten scale — how happy are you in your marriage?

What’s good about it?

What’s not good?

Where do you need improvement?

How would you rank your emotional intimacy? 

Trust levels? 

Forgiveness?

Your friendship with your spouse?

How happy are you with your communication? Amount? Frequency? Content — logistics vs. depth and meaning?

How happy are you with your sex life?

How’s your joint spiritual life? Are you growing closer to God and each other spiritually through obedience to Him?

Are you guarding the sanctity and purity of your marriage vows?

What’s the state of your personal relationship with God? Are you spending one-on-one time with the One who loves you best of all?

How are you doing with conflict resolution? How do you avoid the edge before falling into an argument? 

How are you handling finances? 

Are you keeping work/career in balance with your home life?

What are your fears?

Are your experiencing chore wars?

In dealing with your children are you presenting a united front?

What about how you use your free time? Entertainment? Hobbies?

Are you dating each other regularly?

Are you serving others together?

Is your relationship fun?

Or are you feeling bored? Is so, why? 

What are the top three areas you would like to see improve in your marriage in 2017?

Where do you see your marriage a year from now?

Do you have a marital vision?

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave to your children?

Please return for the First Things First series with practical helps for deepening discipleship and by extension improving your marriage.
So you don’t miss out on a single post, subscribe now by clicking on the box.

First Things First series, Part 1

And for a free 20 minute mentoring session to kick start your new year, click on the image below.

And please share this post via your social media circles by clicking the More button below. Thanks!

If you want a better marriage in the New Year resolve to do First Things First…Part One in a series

Would you agree that many of us who claim the name Christian often leave for last a foundation of first things first?

We get saved, join a church or bible study, start serving. Outwardly we assume the Christian mantle yet behind closed doors our lives and marriages lack peace and joy or maybe are complete mayhem, and we wonder why we repeat dysfunctional cycles.

We know something is wrong and we say we want to change, but our human tendency towards pleasing the self or being impatient and lazy makes us crave the easy way, the short cut. We long for instant improvement but aren’t willing to invest more than the minimum in time and effort. We seek the secret formula or a surfeit of self-help tips. But to arrive where God would have us go requires a long obedience beginning with a foundation of first things first.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. John 1:1-4

We need to understand that God loves us and longs for us. For you! And He invites us to know Him so intimately that we really will be changed, not just outwardly, but deep in the darkened chambers of our broken hearts. He calls us to come and be with Him so that we can be the man or woman — the husband or wife — that not only looks like Him, but is like Him. Behind closed doors!

God desires for us to grow up, to go way beyond repeating rote words of some sinner’s prayer, and follow His Way. It takes a moment to make a decision for Christ, but a lifetime of surrender and sacrifice to become a true disciple.

And discipleship, which makes Father’s heart smile, is the antidote to divorce when both husband and wife commit to becoming Little Christs — truly, really, deeply. For when we train ourselves up in a spirit of discipline and follow the commands of Christ day in and day out we will change over time and our marriages will get better and our babies who are always watching, listening and catching every good and bad thing that mom and dad toss their way, will grow up happier and more whole. Good seeds yielding good crops.

So with the year a clean slate, a fresh start, are you willing to commit to working towards true change in your heart and home? Will you leave behind your childish things in order to go on to full maturity? To please God more and ultimately reap the blessings of living life His way as a son or daughter disciple of God?

He has such good plans for us, desires to give us good gifts, if only we will believe God and trust that Father knows best…

Please stay tuned for the First Things First series with practical helps for deepening discipleship and by extension improving your marriage.
So you don’t miss out on a single post, subscribe now by clicking on the box.

And for a free 20 minute mentoring session to kick start your new year, click on the image below.

And please share this post via your social media circles. Thanks!