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.
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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.

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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!

Thanks be to God…My unending gratitude to Jesus…#Christmas Marriage Gratitude Dare

Merry Christmas, Darling!

And you know I would have written sooner, but I’ve been down with a terrible cold and then tried to play catch up with all the Christmas preparations. But I never stopped talking to you in my heart, Jesus, and you know I am so very grateful for you, the relationship we share and for everything you’ve ever done for me and those I love. You are my One of a kind forever Love…

At the beginning of December, I challenged all of us to complete the Christmas Marriage Gratitude Dare for our spouse. A daily listing of our thankfulness each day in December to be presented to our mate on Christmas morning in whatever creative way you chose.

Michael and I loved our gratitude gift to each other so much that he suggested we keep it up, every week, all through the year, as a way to grow in gratitude. And this is itself a gift to God that makes his heart smile.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

So how did you do? And how did your homemade gift from the heart impact your husband? Or wife? I’d love to know so please leave me a comment!

While under the weather the week before Christmas I managed to complete my list for my Michael, but didn’t have the energy to sit at the computer and compose this post to my Jesus. So, while it’s still the Twelve Days of Christmas, here are a few of the countless things I sincerely thank you for — My Father, my Lord Jesus, my Precious Spirit…

  1. You really love me. All the time, no matter what, like no one ever has. And all those years I went searching for love in futile, foolish ways and yet you were always here, tending the home fires, waiting for me.
  2. Forgiveness and you giving me a fresh start, more than once. 
  3. Patience when I forget and choose sin, or have repeated mistakes and gone my own way.
  4. Grace and more grace, abundant grace, always grace.
  5. You are truth.
  6. And always trustworthy.
  7. You are my hiding place.
  8. My strong tower, my refuge.
  9. My ever present help in times of trouble.
  10. You are my BFF and the lover of my soul.
  11. You keep company with me and are always courting me.
  12. You are protection and provision.
  13. You are healing and the Great Physician.
  14. I can always count on you being there for me, holding me, your presence a constant comfort.
  15. While people and things change, you are steady, solid, never shifting, my Rock.
  16. You never leave me, not physically, not emotionally, not nothing. Ever!
  17. You have made me your own, my name tattooed on the palm of your hand.
  18. You love me and will forever, with a love that is older than the stars and reaches further than our ever expanding universe.
  19. You have redeemed me, summoned me by name.
  20. I am precious and honored in your sight. 
  21. I am yours.
  22. And you are mine.
  23. And because I have you I have real life, now and always.
  24. Without fear.
  25. But with peace.
  26. And I love you, my Prince of Peace.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

 

 

Simply Christmas…

A tiny baby. A silent night. A cold, dark cave.

 

Simple.

A new mother wrapping her infant in swaddling clothes and putting him down on clean hay in a feeding trough. She and her husband, barely more than children themselves, gazing in amazement at the miracle that had unfolded into their specific lives by God’s decree. Their baby boy who became a sinless man — the greatest gift EVER!

Profound.

For God Himself came down to live among us. To love us up close. To teach us the way, leading to a beautiful life both here and in eternity.

So hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King. May there be peace in your world as you contemplate Jesus, receive Jesus, follow Jesus.

Amidst the crush of Christmas as many have come to celebrate it — the madness of the mall, excessive spending, church pageants, cocktail parties, caroling, cantatas, cookie swaps, card writing and all the other trappings and traditions that are not in and of themselves bad, but can demand more than they are worth creating pressure-cooker stress — stop for a minute and ask yourself why? 

Why are you doing what you are doing this December?

Then still your frantic heart and reach for the gift that keeps on giving. Read the Christmas storyRead all four gospels like it was the first time. Discover who Jesus really is, how He lived, how we are to live as His followers. Let Him gift you with a revelation of Himself in a new way this Christmas, speaking specifically into your life.

And in opening this precious gift with the eyes and heart of a child, see for the first time what He has longed for you to see all along…

And there’s still time for you and/or your spouse to take the #ChristmasMarriageGratitudeDare. Simple. No expense. Yet a huge return in your spouse’s heart and in your marriage for your invest of time and love. Just. Do. It! 

Musings on the true meaning of Christmas…Plus, are you taking the #ChristmasMarriageGratitudeDare?

Love Angel

Quietly this morning, after prayer and reading in Romans, I recorded blessings in a gratitude journal I began about five years ago.

TREE 2016

A baby Christmas tree for the Baby Jesus.

Cookies

Honey Shortbread cookies sampled while watching Prancer. {A new gluten free tradition for just the two of us.}

Baby Dino

Expectations of a bundle of joy coming in spring. 

North Pole

Delight in watching Michael’s enchantment when he returned home after a few hours to find a Christmas elf had transformed our loft into a tiny bit of the North Pole.

And I couldn’t help but say thank you to Father for how much better I feel now than in past Decembers when I’ve slipped into moaning and groaning about the things I dislike about the season.

Cold. Snow. Dark. Muscles aching more in winter. Being stuck indoors rather than outside. Overwhelming commercialism of this simple, holy season.

And always eating way too much dark chocolate to boost serotonin.

So I asked Him what renders my change of heart ushering in so much more carefree joy.

breaths

Several things — beginning with that moment in June that literally took my breath away. And over the ensuing months, pondering this second chance, probing the dimly lit back corridors of my mind where expectations and resentments haunt if dwelled upon negatively. Plus, choosing to be grateful and find the blessings in everything. And especially the great glad tidings in my family including graduations, a son dating a lovely girl and recently accepted to my alma mater, a son getting engaged and setting the date, and a son and his wife announcing the impending arrival of my first grandbaby!

God showed me my October birthday and how in three short years another decade will turn, urging me to listen more closely than ever to ensure I am where, and doing what, He desires in my small, yet meaningful life. And reminding me that joy is found in Him in the moment at hand, not in some future, far away land or some long ago longing over what’s been lost.

Wouldn’t you agree that it is in the present moment of our lives, fully embraced, that we unwrap the gift?

How we choose to receive or use our moment by moment gifts determines the course of our days, years and decades. For we are not robots and God is not some distant being pushing buttons to make us do this or not do that. He is a good parent who wants us to grow up and be strong so that we fulfill His call on our lives, share with others the blessing that is found in relationship with God through Jesus, and build healthy marriages and loving families — the bedrock of any thriving society.

Freely we choose, rightly or wrongly, reaping appropriate consequences. And God gives us time and space so we can figure things out ourselves if only we stop long enough to exhale, think deeply, and reach for Him through daily practices that build our character, working out our sanctification and transforming our human nature into something divine.

Baby Jesus

As we position ourselves in the Divine, we are capable of responding spontaneously in any given good or bad moment with the heart of God. Not the bits and pieces of our broken, sinful selves. Walking side by side with Him we are gifted with abundant life and freedom through that precious babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, not only at Christmas but every day that we would open and say yes.

GIFT

And speaking of abundant life and counting blessings, are you taking the #ChristmasMarriageGratitudeDare? It’s a sure way to bless your hubby or wife and grow yourself through a practice of obedient thankfulness.

Because Christmas doesn’t come from a store, but a manger, and in giving our hearts gratefully the way God gave His son.

And when we do, we lose our inner grinch and grow our heart and marriage in love three sizes that day…

Sheila Signature Reduced

And if you’re having a hard time with Christmas or your marriage is struggling, click on my image and contact me today for a FREE 20 minute mentoring for women session.

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