I Am Not Just a Christian Wife. I Am a Christian.

Why the church culture often gets a woman's role wrong--and what we should do about it.

I see it all the time: I’ll write a thoughtful, long post on how a woman should deal with sin in her family, and a commenter will say nothing except to quote 1 Peter 3:1-6 on how a woman should win her husband “without words”.

Or, to paraphrase, “Ladies, please shut up.”

There’s also a new book out that says that God created women to reflect the church, while men reflect Jesus. True Womanhood, apparently, is not being made fully in the image of God (read a great review of the book here).

Oh, friends, my heart hurts when I read things like these. My heart grieves that so much of the church is missing the transformational message of the gospel: that God loves ALL of us, and wants ALL of us to look more and more like Him. That God wants a close, intimate relationship with everybody–and that that relationship matters more than form or gender or church. God wants holiness and righteousness and transformed lives, not an empty, legalistic shell.

In our Christian culture today there is so much false teaching about womanhood.

Much of it is a backlash against the all-too-real negative effects of Third Wave Feminism, which has taught that marriage is just a lifestyle choice, and a ridiculous one at that; that women are better than men; or that the genders are interchangeable.

But that backlash is not a proper reflection of how Jesus feels about women, either.Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by Accident And so today I’d like to share some truths that too often get missed when we’re talking about women. Many of these are in my upcoming book, Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (out in August; you can pre-order it now!), but I thought these were too important to wait until then.

Friends: God so loves you. He cares for you as an individual. And His desire is for transformation and redemption.

And so here are 10 truths which I pledge as a woman, created fully to reflect Christ, and created with the intent purpose of being transformed to look more and more like Him:

1. My primary identity is in Christ.

He is my Saviour. I am made in the image of God; I am not made in the image of my husband.

2. I will not encourage young women to take their primary identities as being wives.

We are first made in Christ’s image; if a young woman does not marry, she is no less of a person. If a woman has an unfaithful husband, she is no less of a person. Our value is in our Redeemer.

3. I want to see everyone around me look more and more like Christ (Romans 8:29).

This is also God’s plan for their lives. Therefore, I will not listen to messages which tell me that because I’m a woman, I should not speak up about sin. Jesus graciously forgave, but He always dealt with the sin. This is meant to be my model as well. I want to be a spouse, not an enabler.

I understand that this means that I am to act in such a way that brings people closer to Christ, not that pushes them away from God by encouraging unChristlike behaviour. Therefore, if my husband wants something that would go against what Jesus wants for us, I will say no.

4. I will be good. I will not be nice.

Jesus was not always nice; but He was always good. He always acted in such a way as to point people to God, even if it made people uncomfortable. And He is our model. I will be good, even if it occasionally means going against my husband (1 Samuel 25; Acts 5).

At the same time, being good also means reflecting Christ, which means that I must do all of this with the same mind and attitude that Christ had: humility (Philippians 2). I recognize that I am also a sinner saved by grace, and I may not be right either. So I will strive to always go before God first, to always deal with my own issues first, and to invite wise women around me to hold me accountable. I will not presume that I always know what’s right, nor will I try to control or manipulate. I will simply, in the spirit of gentleness, stand up for truth as I ask God to reveal it to me.

5. Loving my husband means wanting what is best for him.

I will learn his love language. I will shower him with encouragement and praise and admiration. I will think of his needs first. I will pray for him daily. I will be his biggest cheerleader!

But my prayer for him is for his best; it is not that he be happy. My goal is to encourage him as he pursues Christ, not placate him or cover for him if he moves away from Christ. If I prop him up as he becomes an alcoholic, or a porn addict, or a gambler (or other such things), I’m not really loving him.

True godly submission means I submit myself to my husband’s welfare, not necessarily my husband’s will. (click to tweet)

True Godly Submission

6. I will be a peace-MAKER, not a peace-KEEPER.

Peacekeepers value lack of conflict over truth; peacemakers know there is no real peace absent truth. And Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

7. I believe that I am responsible before God to work out my own salvation and my own relationship with Him.

God gave me a brain and an individual conscience, and that means that I can’t rely on others to make my faith (Philippians 2:12-13). I am allowed to question my husband’s interpretation of Scripture. I am allowed to question my pastor’s interpretation of Scripture. God wants me to be like the Bereans: to take everything I hear and compare it to what I know from Scripture to see if it is true (Acts 17:11).

8. I fully accept my responsibility to build a strong marriage–as far as it depends on me.

A strong community is built on strong families. But that also means that the Christian community has a stake in our marriages. Therefore, I will find godly mentors. I will join together with other Christians. When needed, I will seek out help and advice about my marriage BEFORE it gets to a crisis point. I will seek out Jesus’ strength and guidance for how to build my marriage up and how to love my husband the best I can.

9. However, if my church tells me that I am to follow my husband into ungodly behaviour, I will not listen.

If my church says that I am to do nothing about something which is seriously jeopardizing our family and his soul (such as porn use, gambling, refusal to work, sexual abuse of our children, etc.), I will seek out a new body of believers that has a complete picture of the gospel’s transformational power in our lives. If necessary, I will even contact civil authorities.

10. I believe that God cares more about the people in a marriage than He does about that marriage.

(Or, as Gary Thomas recently put it, God cares about the people not the shell).

Here’s what it comes down to: Jesus wants people transformed. When we hold to a rigid view of gender roles and marriage, we prevent transformation; we don’t encourage it. Instead of asking people to look Christlike, we simply ask them to follow rigid rules. We’ve replaced the heart of the gospel with a new kind of legalism that traps people in an immature faith.

It’s time for it to stop.

And so I hope that all women (and men) reading this can endorse this, and share it on Facebook and Pinterest and social media. Let’s get this conversation going!

I’d like to end with some very wise words about this issue from Gary Thomas about how God feels about His precious children:

If a marriage “shell” is used to allow real people to be abused and hurt, God may well take it down. Keep in mind, in the first century, Jewish women weren’t allowed to divorce their husbands. Jesus fought divorce to protect women who could be easily discarded with little prospects. His comments on divorce were to protect women, not to keep them in a harmful situation. He was caring for real people more than he was idolizing a “shell.”

Haven’t we turned this around a little? When a man preys on his wife and children, refusing to repent, almost laughing that they can’t escape his abuse because he has not been sexually unfaithful and won’t abandon them so any divorce would be “unbiblical,” and then he’s supported by well-meaning Christians who essentially say “the shell of marriage matters more than the woman and children inside the shell,” I think we’ve lost the heart of God.

 Let’s all get back to the heart of God.

Wifey Wednesday: Rewiring Your Brain after a Porn Addiction

Rewiring your brain after a porn addiction: learning how to reboot the arousal process.
Is it possible to rewire your brain–to get back to normal sexual arousal–after a porn addiction?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the link below.

Today I want to tackle an all-too-common problem. Here’s an email that a young man sent me after reading my post on the top 10 effects of porn:

I think it’s likely I’m suffering from a porn addiction. It started off when I was 12 due to classmates and my desires would get worse through the years due to things getting boring. I was wondering wether you have any tips applying to an 18 year old college guy on how to re-rewire myself to feel normal arousal patterns again and start having normal relationships?

So many things to deal with here! Our letter writer isn’t married, but it’s still an important question. So I’m going to answer his question, and then give some specific advice to porn users who are married. Since 30% of porn users are female, I’m not just addressing this to guys, either. So let’s dive in.

First: Two Things to Understand About a Porn Addiction

Most people get started with porn early.

This young man was shown porn by classmates when he was 12–and that started an addiction to internet pornography.

This is NORMAL. Most porn users report something similar. Women: if you’re married to a guy who uses porn, please understand that he’s likely been battling this since before he even knew you. I know it hurts; I really do. But fight the porn WITH him; try not to fight him. Here’s a post that explains what to do when you discover your husband uses porn.

And please–protect your sons and daughters! Get something like Covenant Eyes installed on your computer and devices when your kids are young, so they can’t seek out porn without you knowing. It’s important to stop it before the addiction cements.

Porn Changes the Sexual Arousal Process

We’re created so that as we become emotionally intimate with someone, desire kicks in. Desire is supposed to flow out of relationship (and, of course, out of physical attraction). But it’s built on attraction and it’s focused on one person.

Porn directs the arousal process internally. It’s not about a person; it’s about your own sexual gratification regardless of relationship. And because porn is usually accompanied by masturbation (and thus sexual release), your hormones cement this. Now you get aroused by the porn rather than a person, and it becomes more and more difficult to get aroused by a person.

Here’s a free ebook from Covenant Eyes that explains what porn does to the brain:

Second: How to Reverse the Process

Pray a Ton

Willpower alone cannot help you quit porn. Only God can truly transform your heart.

So pray constantly. Don’t always pray about the porn, either; just keep a running conversation with God going all day. Tell Him what you’re doing. Talk to Him about decisions you have to make. Practice riding in the car without the radio on so that you can talk to God. The more you talk to God, the more you think about God, and the more God can start to work on your heart, even without you realizing it.

Look for the Root of Porn

Why do you turn to porn? When do you turn to porn?

If you can answer those two questions you’re a lot further ahead at quitting.

Most people turn to porn for one of two reasons: they’re stressed or they’re bored. When someone feels stressed, especially if you feel as if your choices are limited, people aren’t listening to you, or you’re failing at what you’ve set your mind to, porn can be intoxicating. Porn is all about satisfying you. It makes you feel like a king. It gets rid of those feelings of inadequacy.

But it’s all fake.

If you can instead name your issue: “I feel out of control”, “I feel inadequate”, “I feel like a failure”, and then you try to deal with that issue instead, you’ll be so much further ahead. And if you can understand the role that porn plays in your life, then it’s easier to leave it behind.

Find Something to Replace Porn with

I tried to quit Diet Pepsi many times–I knew the aspartame was bad for me. But it only stuck when I decided beforehand what I was going to replace the Diet Pepsi with, and filled my house with it (I chose looseleaf teas).

You won’t be able to fully quit porn until you figure out what you’re going to replace it with. If you’ve been using porn when you’re bored, then you need something else right at hand for you to grab when you’re bored. Maybe it’s a gripping novel. Maybe it’s a friend you call. Maybe it’s an exercise bike. But decide beforehand that when you get the urge to watch porn, you will turn to X instead.

Realize You Likely Will Relapse

Not everyone does; but many people quit successfully for a few weeks or months, but then during a particularly stressful period they go on a binge again.

Rather than berating yourself and feeling like a total loser, “turn a bad day into good data.” Analyze this particular relapse. What happened? Did you let yourself get bored? Did you not have anything to replace porn with handy? Had you just had a fight with your girlfriend/wife? If you can figure out what was different about this incident, you can prevent it happening again.

Flee from Everything that Reels You In to Porn

You’ll be battling not just the pull towards porn, but also the pull to objectify the opposite sex. If something else pulls you in the same direction–say, watching Game of Thrones or reading a magazine or going to a bar–then stop that, too. It isn’t about porn per se; it’s about the whole way you think about sex and relationships. It’s better to detoxify all at once then to just get rid of one part of the equation.

Third: Special Ideas for Married Readers

Make intimacy sexy again!

But how is that possible? You have to retrain your brain to feel aroused not by an image but by your spouse.

And you can do that by increasing the intimacy and vulnerability in your marriage.

I’ve written a longer post about rebuilding your sex life after a porn addiction, but here a few quick thoughts:

1. Pray together a ton–and even pray naked!

It’s very vulnerable to go before God together. Experience that kind of intimacy. Just revel in it.

2. Talk again

Most spouses of porn addicts will say that they could never put their finger on what it was, but they never felt like they truly “knew” their spouse while that spouse was using porn.

That’s because porn stops intimacy of all kinds. In many marriages, the couple doesn’t really share on an emotionally intimate level either. Porn trains you to think of your spouse as an object, as a means to an end, rather than a living, breathing person.

So start talking again and really getting to know each other. Get some conversation starters and use them every night. Go for a walk after dinner. Get to know each other!

3. Practice holding and touching each other while naked–without anything else

Hold off on intercourse. Just take turns touching each other. Let yourself feel your spouse touching you. Don’t try to rush it (porn users have a difficult time being “in the moment” because the focus is on the end result).

4. Learn how to be a good lover

Porn users tend to be self-focused during sex because they’ve trained themselves that sexy is about what happens to you, not what you do for others.

Take a few weeks where the goal of the sexual encounter is to make your spouse hit the moon. You can do this any way you want–you don’t even need intercourse (especially if you’re having issues with performance due to porn use). Watch the effect you can have on your spouse. Learn how much fun foreplay can be.

5. Schedule sex

If you’re going to get good at something you need to practice! I know many couples where the husband (or wife) has successfully quit porn, but they’ve also quit sex entirely because they never figured out how to make sex work any other way.

It’s going to take time and patience and lots of practice. Don’t flee from sex. Don’t be afraid that you’ll fail. It’s okay to finish other ways. But make sure that at least twice a week you’re connecting and trying. You’ll find that the more you get intimate, the more your body will start to respond. You’re reawakening real desire, and that’s a good thing. Scheduling sex may feel fake–but it’s actually a good habit when you’re trying to reawaken real desire.

31 Days to Great SexIf you’re having a hard time with this one, my book, 31 Days to Great Sex, is filled with ideas and conversation starters that let you start slow and build up to a great sex life–maybe even for the first time in your marriage! Check it out.

Rewiring your sexual response will take time. You have to quit entirely; you have to be so vigilant in what you think about; you have to do things that feel unnatural (learning to talk again; learning proper foreplay).

It isn’t easy.

But it is so healing. And God is in the transformation and healing business! He wants to help you–but you have to decide to be part of the solution, too. Fight hard. It’s really worth it!

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have a marriage post to share with us? Leave the URL of your post in the Linky below. And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts, too!



Why We Shouldn’t Bad Mouth our Husbands

Today’s guest post is from Wanjiru Kihusa, a marriage blogger from Kenya, who is sharing about resisting the urge to badmouth your husband–while there will be opportunities to do so, have a plan beforehand.

Resist the Urge to Bad Mouth Your Husband
Why you should never speak ill of your husband

Two months ago I was in the salon getting my hair braided. I always carry a novel with me because it keeps me busy for the several hours I have to be seated. The fact that it also distracts me from the pain and discomfort is an added advantage. This day I was reading Tis by Frank Mc Court a really awesome memoir. There were about three ladies braiding and chatting away and I was doing a great job ignoring them until one of them said “these men, what do they usually want? You feed them, look after the kids, and they still cheat. I honestly don’t know what do with mine,”

I was puzzled. Who says that about their man in public? I was waiting for the other ladies to quickly change the subject because of the discomfort they felt at their colleague’s outburst. But instead they went on to share very intimate details of how their men were bad husbands and horrible fathers. I was horrified. So I politely told them “I am uncomfortable hearing all these things you guys are saying. Could you please change the subject?” You should have seen them stare at me in shock. The only thing that saved me from being told off was that I was the customer, and they needed to get paid.

This is not the first time this has happened to me in a hair salon. Whenever I express my displeasure at listening to their stories, I always get odd glances. These women expect me to agree with them in solidarity and probably even share my disappointments about my husband. It is an appalling habit that I detest, and as a wife, I want to tell you why you should never bad mouth your husband to anyone.

Don’t speak ill of your husband to your family

My sister once shared with me advice a married friend gave her; if your husband ever does anything wrong (and he will) never tell anyone in your family. They reason for this is that if you ever tell your family bad stuff about him, they will never look at him the same way. It could even be something as major as cheating but please don’t. Here’s the thing, even if you forgive him and go back to loving him, your family will always see him as a bad guy. Why? Because they love you and want the best for you. Reason number two is your family is not going to be objective and show you where you may have gone wrong. To them you will always be their “nice little girl” and he will now be the “bastard who broke our little girl’s heart.”

Don’t speak ill about you husband to male friends – and don’t entertain men talking ill about their spouses either.

This is not only wrong but also dangerous. Having a male friend who you tell about your husband’s shortcomings is a disaster waiting to happen. One of these days in a weak moment when your husband has angered you and your friend offers you a shoulder to lean, the friend zone line will get blurry and one of you will cross it. And that, my dear, is how affairs start.

Don’t speak ill about you husband to strangers

Don’t talk about him in the salon and in other women gatherings. The girls might even contribute their part but you will come off as petty and completely lacking discretion. These people will not offer you any help on how to fix your marriage, they will just get fodder for gossip.

So, who do you talk to?

With all these people who not to talk to, who should you share with what you are going through? Since we all need someone to talk to, here are a few guidelines on who would be best to talk to.:

  • A close girlfriend who is also married – a lady who has a solid marriage
  • She should be sober minded – sharing your marriage should not be gossip, the encounter should be helpful. Get someone who offers you a listening ear but also give good advice; not afraid to call you out when something is your fault.
  • A friend who will pray for and with you – you need someone who when she says she’ll pray for you, she does.
  • She should be able to keep a secret – majority of the things you share will be so personal it would kill you if you had them somewhere else.

I have an amazing lady who has been both a mentor and a friend. I met her when my husband and I started dating. We needed a mentor couple to walk with us and even after we got married they have been really helpful. We picked them because they have a solid marriage and values we deemed very important. This lady is kind and very helpful and is not afraid to tell me when I’m wrong. Whenever I need advice on a marriage or faith issue I can always trust her to help.

You, too, need a friend like that. Someone sober, caring and kind; and discreet too. This kind of friendship does not happen overnight but is something we constantly work on. However, even with such a great friend, use wisdom to know how much details to give.

There will many times your husband will offend you and make you angry. Because he is human, he will constantly fall short of your expectations and will not handle issues you raise as fast as you wish he would. There will also be equally many opportunities for you to talk to ill of him to someone. Resist the urge to bad mouth him to anyone.

meWanjiru Kihusa is a Christian family blogger. She speaks and writes on marriage and relationships matters. A mother to one (in heaven), Wanjiru also speaks about miscarriages and grief caused by loss. She looks to encourage young people by giving sober and correct information about marriage and relationships. Find her at her blog Wanjiru Kihusa, or at her beautiful sister site, Family Lounge. (I had fun poking around her sites to see the things that Kenyan women are talking about! Cool.)

Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet

Do We Waste Too Much Time?

Are video games a waste of time? What about Netflix? Facebook? Pinterest?

On Mondays I usually post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood today (perhaps it’s because I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, while I’m away from my girls on a speaking trip, and I’m a little bit restless), and I have some things I’d like to share.

On Saturday I posted this on Facebook:

Now THIS is an awesome story: I’m staying at my assistant Holly’s house in Colorado while I speak this week, and her 17-year-old son just sold his Xbox. He went on a men’s retreat last weekend and heard about how many young husbands wreck their marriages because they always use video games. So he thought that before it became an addiction that wrecked his future marriage he’d get rid of it!

Quite a few people liked that status, but I had a lot of comments to the effect of, “there’s nothing wrong with video games.” Or perhaps, “maybe he should have tried moderation first.” And I do understand.

I think we all have certain bents towards different time wasters: video games, Netflix, Pinterest, whatever it may be. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Aren’t we all entitled to some downtime?

And in general I’d say yes.

But that’s not the whole picture, and so I’d like to tell you a bit of my story.

Let’s start back in 1996, when Rebecca (my oldest) was a year old. I used to leave the TV on during the day all the time just to have some noise in the apartment. I watched soap operas from 1-4 every afternoon, because I was tired. I wanted an escape. It was hard work being alone with my baby all the time. My husband worked about 100 hours a week in his residency program in pediatrics, and I was often lonely. I found myself falling into television more and more.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThen one day I picked up Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a garage sale, and I read it. And it changed my life.

Specifically, it was his discussion of Beginning with the End in Mind and Putting First Things First. In other words, know where you’re heading, and then make sure you do the things that are necessary to get you there–before you do anything else.

He used a graphic to illustrate what he was talking about, and I’m going to recreate it with my own embellishment and commentary.

Divide your life into four quadrants based on whether or not the things you are doing are important or urgent. When you do that, you get something that looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: Stephen Covey's 4 Quadrants

Everything that we do can be divided into those 4 quadrants. And when we do that, it looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: How to figure out what to spend time on

Let’s dissect this a bit.

Things that are Important AND Urgent Demand Your Attention–Rightly

That’s when you go into labour. When a child is in a pageant. When your mother is diagnosed with cancer. These are life events that basically have nothing to do with how you behave–they just happen.

But then there are crises which sometimes ARE avoidable–but when they crop up, we have to address them. We discover an affair. A teenager runs away. We suffer a nervous breakdown (sometimes this is purely chemical; other times it’s because we’ve let ourselves get too stressed.) We totter on bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s even little things, like running out of clean dishes or clean underwear because we haven’t done any housework. These are the fires in our lives that have to be put out.

Things That Are Important But Not Urgent DON’T Demand Our Attention–and that’s a problem.

No one is going to make you do them. They’re the date nights with your spouse, your time alone with God, your time alone with yourself (if that’s what you need to rejuvenate). It’s your time with a special mentor friend who points you to God. It’s reading to your children. It’s keeping the home organized. It’s spending time together as a family.

We all need these things–but it’s far too easy to neglect them because nothing is forcing us to do them, and there are rarely immediate negative consequences for leaving them undone. The consequences come later.

Things that Are Urgent But Aren’t Important–But we do them anyway.

You’re having a deep conversation with your teenager and the phone rings. What do you do? Chances are you answer the phone. But what was more important?

You’re out to dinner with your spouse and your phone dings with a new text. Do you ignore it or do you check it?

Your friend, who has been in constant crisis for the last two years because she overspends, drinks too much, and keeps dating jerks, calls you when you’re on your way out the door to a volunteer activity, in tears. Do you listen or do you tell her you need to go?

Things That Are Not Urgent and Not Important–that have no redeeming value.

This is where many of us spend most of our time. I’m not saying all hobbies or all movies fall into this category. Some hobbies do rejuvenate, like productive hobbies like cooking, or knitting, or woodworking. Some movies bond you as a family. Sometimes getting on Facebook helps you keep in contact with your nieces and nephews. But how often do you spend an evening watching TV or getting on social media or playing video games, and you feel even more tired than before?

Here’s the truth that Stephen Covey wants us to understand: when you spend time in Quadrant 2, doing things that are important, you have fewer fires in your life that you have to put out. But when you spend most of your time in Quadrants 3 and 4, you’re going to end up with more crises. And you’re going to feel more dissatisfied.

Dont Waste Time: How wasting time leads to more crises in our lives

Why do we spend so much time on time wasters?

I think we do it because we want an escape. We lead lives that are exhausting, that aren’t always fulfilling, and we want a chance to forget.

But if your basic problem is that your life isn’t that fulfilling, because you’re chronically lonely, or you feel as if you’re not doing what you’re called to do, or your relationships aren’t on track, then wasting time won’t fix the problem. It will only make your problem worse. And a spiral will begin, where your reality deteriorates, and so you want to escape even more.

After reading Covey’s book I quit TV cold turkey.

I just stopped. I didn’t want to waste my life. And what I found is that for the first time in years I was bored. And energetic! And so I started something new: I started magazine writing. I researched how to get published, and by 1999 I was well on my way. In 2003 I had my first book published. My eighth will be coming out in August. And you know the rest of the story.

I firmly believe that I would never have begun writing if I had kept watching TV.

And that’s why, when people say, “there’s nothing wrong with video games”, I have to take a pause. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s that too much of it may be stopping you from doing what is best.

Hebrews 12:1-2a says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

To Love, Honor and VacuumI explained this concept in my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but here’s what really hit me back in 1996: there are things that are holding us back from God that aren’t necessarily sin. Sure, we have to throw aside the sin, but there are also things that aren’t sin that hinder us. We’re to get rid of those, too.

My life is better because I gave up TV then, and I believe that 17-year-old boy’s life will be better because he got rid of video games, too.

Does this mean I can never waste time?

No, of course not. My husband and I do watch Netflix today–but we’re trying to put limits on it so that we also take time to play games together or listen to talks or books on tape while we’re doing our separate hobbies together. We don’t want to waste whole nights.

Every now and then we have to re-evaluate because we slip into patterns. In 2008 I had to quit reading political blogs because I was wasting time and getting my blood pressure up in the process. After I quit reading other blogs, I started writing this one. Again, I found that I actually had time I didn’t know I had!

And now we’re re-evaluating our Netflix time and trying to find a new balance. We have to be vigilant.

I want to live a life where I can feel like I’ve accomplished something. I want to feel well rested, healthy, and organized. I want to have close relationships with my children and my husband. I want to feel as if I’m contributing. I want to feel as if I’m leaving a legacy.

And I can’t do any of those things if I waste most of my time on entertainment.

Dayspring Purpose Mug

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re struggling with feeling productive, or with finding meaning in your life, or with being chronically dissatisfied. But if you are, can I suggest that you take a look at these quadrants, and ask yourself: where am I spending my time?

And then ask: where should I be spending my time? Where do I want to be spending my time? And then try to put first things first.

Let me know: have you ever had to quit a time waster? Or do you think I’m totally off base? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

5 Ways to Pray for Your Husband

 Today, please welcome Jared Brock, writer of A Year of Living Prayerfully, a humorous travel memoir about prayer.  Jared is sharing five great ways to pray for your husband.

Pray for Your Husband

The email read as follows: “Hey Jared, can you write an article called ‘5 Ways to Pray for Your Husband?’”

I thought about it for a moment, then laughed out loud. How was I supposed to know five ways to pray for a husband? I’ve never been married to a dude.

Yep, I’m that slow.

It eventually dawned on me that I’d been given a wonderful opportunity. The opportunity to answer an entirely different question:

“What are five ways that my wife can pray for me?”

That I can do.

1. People

Ladies, I’ll be honest: we boys don’t play well with others.

There’s a reason why most of our fathers are lone rangers, who don’t have any close male friends. It’s hard to be open, honest, and understanding.

Pray that we’d find ways to cultivate and maintain a ‘band of brothers,’ a group of godly men with whom we can share life. This will massively impact our entire existence, and it’ll overflow into our ability to be a good husband and father.

2. Purity

If you ever meet a man that says he doesn’t struggle with lust, just run. It really is ‘every man’s battle.’

We love our spouses – deeply – and it’s that bond of love that keeps most of us ‘walking the line.’ But your prayers are what keep us pursuing an even higher standard. The sin nature is strong, and we need the spiritual support to purpose that intimate oneness that God invites us into, together.

3. Pride

It’s not that we’re right every time, but it’s really close. Our opinion is the most accurate, our political position is the right one, our belief system is the most true. It’s ugly, really. I don’t know where our deep need to always be right comes from, but it’s certainly anti-Jesus.

Pray that we’d allow the Holy Spirit to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, that we’d care more about ‘His kingdom come’ than ‘our will be done.’

4. Passion

Guys get loud when they watch NFL or UFC, but have you ever seen that happen during a Sunday church service? We’re dying here.

Pray that churches would find ways to reach men. Pray that godly grizzlies would seek us out and mentor us. Pray that churches would get creative with adding movement and action to the standard contemplative rhythms of the modern meeting.

5. Purpose

There’s a reason why so many guys play video games – we’re looking for a mission. For the most part, our 9-5 is killing us. We crave meaning and purpose, more than you can imagine. But we’re stuck.

Pray that we’d have the energy, endurance, creativity, and will to fight for our dreams and passions. Pray that we’ll enter the fullness of our calling – to do all that we were created to do, and be all that we were created to be.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other things you could pray about for us, that don’t start with the letter P, but we’ll save them for another day.

Oh, and one more thing that us guys usually aren’t very good at doing..

Thanks for praying for us.

Don’t just read this list! Save it so you can use it. Pin it or share it on Facebook!

5 Quick Ways to Pray for Your Husband

Jared BrockJared is the author of A Year of Living Prayerfully, a humorous travel memoir about prayer. He is the cofounder of Hope for the Sold, an abolitionist charity that fights human trafficking one word at a time. and he has written for Huffington Post, Esquire, Converge, and Relevant. Jared is happily married to his best friend, Michelle, whom he first kissed in the seventh grade.

Permission to Not Be a Perfect Mother

Have you ever noticed that what’s held up as the “ideal” within the Christian world is always that which is at the extreme–and very legalistic?

Those who are “holiest” are those who have the strictest interpretation of things. And somehow then it becomes incumbent on other Christians to never present an alternative view.

You're allowed to be yourself! Think freedom as a mom

I’ve talked about this in the past with regards to dating. My mom was a teenager in the 1950s and 1960s when it was NORMAL to date a whole bunch of people–even in her conservative Mennonite town. The thought of saving kissing until the wedding wasn’t even really talked about.

Today the most “Christian” thing is not to date–but to court. And not to kiss until the wedding. To emulate the Duggars (though they were not the first to do this).

I am absolutely NOT saying that there is anything wrong with this model. I know so many who have followed it and are in wonderful marriages. I do believe, though, that it is entirely up to you–it’s between you and God. I don’t think that it makes you more of a Christian to save your kiss to your wedding–though I do believe that some couples really benefit from this. I also believe some couples benefit by NOT saving it.

But here’s what happens: once this idea enters the consciousness, then people stop talking about any other model of dating because they don’t want to seem less Christian. So all of a sudden it seems like EVERYBODY is courting/saving kissing, and then it’s easy to feel inferior.

In truth, a very small minority does.

We see this in other areas as well. A good Christian watches absolutely no media unless it’s Christian media. A good Christian doesn’t listen to the radio. A good mom doesn’t go on Facebook during the day. A good mom doesn’t let her kids eat Kraft Dinner. Ever. A good mom doesn’t use birth control. And so on. And so on.

And blogs start talking about these things, and then writers are afraid to be real and Instagram their true pictures of “what I fed my kids for breakfast” (which in my case, all too often involved chocolate cake. They saw me eating it, after all; it only seemed fair to share).

What if you’re allowed to be you?

What if you don’t have to live up to some rules and follow some pattern of parenting to the letter? What if you’re allowed to make your own way?

Wouldn’t that be FREEDOM?

The Steady Mom's Freedom Guide: Joyful Motherhood on Your Own TermsI want to tell you today about the Steady Mom’s Freedom Guide.

Sometimes when we hear about homemaking advice, we think it’s all going to be of the don’t-ever-feed-your-kids-crap-get-perfectly-organized-so-you’re-absolutely-perfect variety. And, of course, the author’s version of perfect is stifling.

What if you’re not like that?

Jamie Martin gets that. In her book, Jamie admits that she lets her kids watch a bit of TV. She doesn’t focus on discipline–she tries to distract her kids and interact with them first, to avert the need to discipline in the first place. She sometimes doesn’t get the housework done, and she doesn’t get through her to-do list.

She concludes like this:

Maybe children aren’t meant to be solved like mathematical equations. Maybe, just maybe, the life of a human being, the life of a family, can’t be encapsulated in a bullet-point list of how-to’s.

And that’s why I’m done.

Done with theories, formulas, and labels. Utterly, completely, lavishly dependent on grace.

Labels hurt us and our children, even if never spoken aloud. We limit their future, their genius by projecting limiting thoughts and ideas over them.

I’m giving up all of it. It adds nothing to our family, but takes plenty away.
Today and forever, I paste these labels over me and my family, over you and yours: Mother
Child
Grace
Love
Enough.

I think that’s beautiful!

And I want to assure you that THIS freedom is what I want for you in your home–with homemaking, with parenting, with marriage.

It isn’t about living up to someone else’s ideal (even MINE! :) ). It’s about figuring out who you are, and who your husband is, and who God made your kids to be, and listening to advice, and then tailoring it to meet your own family. You don’t have to look like anyone else. There is no “one way” to be a perfect Christian mom. There are thousands. Millions. And they all involve just listening to God.

Take just one example. I’m a big believer that kids should not sleep in their parents’ beds. You will never have as good a sex life with your kids in bed with you as you would without your kids there, even if you get creative. And since sex is so key to keeping a marriage together, and since it’s such a challenge when the kids are little, I think teaching the kids to sleep on their own is a great service to them and to the parents.

I absolutely believe this.

But you know what? You don’t have to do what I say. I hope you listen to my reasons and think about it and pray about it. But it is YOUR family. And you and your husband have the right to make that decision together. I am not God to you.

And that’s how so much advice is set up: like there is one perfect way to be a Proverbs 31 woman.

There isn’t.

 

You don't have to be someone else--you're the one made to mother your kids. Great resources from the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle!

So rest easy, and go love your children!

 

When Faith is Hard: Believing God Wants the Best for You

Believing God wants the best for you
It’s that secret fear that lurks in our hearts–that many of us carry around with us.

That fear that even though we have may have smiles on our faces in church, and we may say, “God bless you!” when someone sneezes, and sign off all of our emails with “Blessings!”, deep inside, we wonder if God really does want to bless us.

What if blessings are for everyone else, and for us–God’s just chosen to use  us to go through suffering? That somehow He is hurting us deliberately?

I’ve walked through that. When you pour your heart and soul into a project, and give it years of your life, and you just don’t see any fruit. And someone else comes up alongside you and tries something similar, and they take off right away! And you think: Did I even hear God right? Does God even want me to succeed?

Or when all of your friends around you are getting married, and you’re still single, and you know you’re supposed to say, “God, you’re enough, and I’m so excited to learn what you have for me during this season of your life.” But you’re not excited. You’re sad. And you’re lonely. And you’re scared.

Or when your marriage starts to go sour, and you can’t figure out why God isn’t blessing you when you did everything right. You believed in Him. You went to church. You sang hymns at your wedding. And now your husband is distant, and you’re afraid to check his phone because of what you might find.

Does God hear? Does God care?

I think most of us go through this far more than we care to admit. And here’s a problem: We don’t talk about it enough. I’ve been in so many churches where the sermons never get to the meaty issues we’re dealing with. They talk about Bible stories but never apply it to anything modern we might be walking through. They stress salvation–which is great–but leave out anything beyond that. If every message ends up being a salvation message, what do we do if we’re already saved, but we’re lonely, scared, and defeated?

To tell you the truth, I battle with discouragement a lot, and it’s tiring to always hear that God loves you. I know that–but my deeper heart cry is, “but does God want good for me here?” I’m willing to serve even if He doesn’t–He’s God, and that’s His prerogative–but sometimes I just want to know.

Trust without Borders
I read a beautiful ebook devotional recently, called Trust Without Borders, that dealt with this reality we all fight with periodically. Here’s just an excerpt from an early entry:

William reasoned, “I think I’m one of those that have to be slaughtered for someone else to be saved. You know, like in the book of Job, all his children were killed for Job to see and know God better. God’s going to do what God wants to do and I’m one not intended for His blessing.”

He stops for a bit, then continues. “I’m okay with it if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

My heart is shattered and I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “I’m not one of the elect,” he concludes.

Steve chimes in. “I feel the same way. What if I’m an Esau? You know the part that says, ‘Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated’?”

We sit there sort of stunned. Jackson, my husband, turns to me because he knows me. He asks, “Do you want to share anything?”

Yes, I do want to say something. It’s burning within me. It’s so close to my heart, my breathing shallows and my pulse pounds and oh, I get this.

“There’s a reason he asked if I want to say something,” I begin, trying to catch my breath. “It’s because he knows I’ve struggled with the same things.”

Do you ever wonder that? If you’re someone who has to be slaughtered so someone else can be blessed?

I’ve thought that about my son who passed away. God has used Christopher’s story so much, and it’s a key part even of my Girl Talk presentation I give about sex and marriage–but there’s a pain every time I tell his story. It’s not just because I miss him; it’s because I wonder: am I using his memory? Did God just bring Christopher to touch others? Did his life matter? And it’s tough. It’s really tough.

And too often we run away from those questions, because we’re afraid that if we actually start asking them, we won’t like what we find. And this whole tower of faith that we’ve built will come crashing down.

So we ignore it, push it down, paste those smiles on–until something happens and we break in two.

You can’t sustain a faith that can’t sustain questions.

You can't sustain a faith that can't sustain questions.

God is big enough to handle your questions. He’s big enough to even handle your anger! I think He’d rather hear your anger than have you stuff it down, offering prayers that aren’t heartfelt. God wants authenticity, even if authenticity is messy.

And so today I invite you to take a journey with Arabah Joy called Trust Without Borders. I’ve been a Christian a long time, and I’ve taught many of the concepts she discusses in her devotional, but nonetheless, God still brought me to tears several times reading it.

Here’s just one more excerpt:

I had downloaded content from the internet, blessed gift, my cord of connection to the outside world. Derwin Gray was sharing his testimony, but it was God who had a message for me. The words that came from Derwin’s mouth pierced such that they lodged in my memory. Any momma realizes how significant that is for the mommy brain who’d just put the cheese in her purse instead of in the fridge. And Derwin Gray, on that stifling hot night a world away, said, “A false god is never satisfied.”

Six simple words had never rocked my world before like these words did. Piercing, shaking me up, turning me inside-out to expose what I already suspected: the god I worshiped, the one I thought was God Almighty, may not be the One True God. Just like the disciples walked with Jesus but didn’t know Him. Just how God’s people in Isaiah didn’t know their Redeemer. Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t really know God either.

Can we be Christ followers but not God knowers?

Like Philip, I knew what every other Christ follower knows about God. I could quote verse after verse and understood Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God. But in the gut, the soul, despite all my knowledge, I didn’t understand the heart of God. I didn’t trust His intentions. When the winds blew (and they did) and the earth shook (and it did), I wasn’t so sure God would come through for me.

I think a lot of us are the walking wounded. We want to love God, but we don’t really know Him.

We can’t trust–or our trust only goes so far. We trust that God will do what’s good for God. We don’t trust that He’ll do what’s good for us.

If you’re there today, I hear you. I have been there too. I’ve been there at 2:30 a.m. in a hospital waiting room when they brought the body of my son out to me. I’ve been there on a sunny May day when my one true love left me before my wedding. I’ve been there in the middle of the night when two newlyweds just could not figure out how to get past the hurt feelings. I’ve been there when one of your children starts questioning some of the things you did a a parent.

And it hurts. And it’s hard.

And that’s okay–because it’s also real. And we should never run away from what is real. Give it to God instead, even if it’s scary.

If you’re floundering, please read this devotional, and pray over it. It’s filled with stories that bring the message home, and it’s an easy read. But it’s a deep read. And it will change  your life.

8 Prayers For Protection Over Your Marriage

Today author Jennifer White shares with us how to pray prayers for protection over our marriages!

8 Prayers for Protection Over Your Marriage
I said “I DO” in 1991 with a deep love, a sense of adventure, and joy that I had been chosen. Three years later, I said “I don’t” and “I won’t.” I was so shocked that life could be so hard and hurt so badly only three years into marriage.

Three years after the divorce, I vowed to be Mrs. David White for the rest of my life. We have been married sixteen years. But five years in, I was drowning in the same deep waters that had led me to end my first marriage. Pride and fear were suffocating me. I couldn’t see how this could ever be okay for either of us.

Exposed

“Help me Jesus” was the cry of my heart.

With that simple prayer I drew near to God and in turn, He ran to me with more help than I knew I needed. He gave me Beth Moore Bible studies, Joyce Meyer on a daily basis, and a great counselor. These women taught me how the Bible could affect the intimate details of my life.

I had read about God’s power and Satan’s fury, but I had not expected either of them to jump off of the pages of the Bible and into my life. I made it through three decades of sermons and ministry before “the battle is the Lord’s” became “God will fight your battles if you let Him, Jennifer.” (2 Chronicles 20:15b)

What a revelation! I had been completely unaware of the spiritual battle targeting my mind and my marriage. While it looked like I had a husband vs. wife problem, the real battle was exposed. God united me to Himself and to my husband. His archenemy was offering to divide us.

My life was in Christ, but I was vulnerable. I had not taken God’s Word seriously. My disregard for His way and His truth opened the door to Satan’s plan for my life.

Flaming Darts

…hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.
Ephesians 6:16 NLT

Involuntary thoughts of hurting myself and other people haunted me for several years. I didn’t act on them but they made me feel crazy. I assumed it was stress related. Eventually, I decided that God could use a divorced preacher’s wife much more than an insane one. Yes, I divorced a pastor. So.very.sad.

Similar thoughts erupted in my second marriage. Thankfully God rescued me with the news that those thoughts were actually the flaming arrows mentioned in Ephesians 6. My counselor recognized the attack.

The enemy used the feeling of being crazy as a strategic strike in my life. But he didn’t stop there. He also whispered discouragement and fear using the sound of my own voice. He nurtured in me a deep fear of confrontation. He also used the sound of a disapproving parent’s voice to encourage me to disapprove of my husband.

Shielded by Faith

The last ten years of my marriage have been the most exciting and rewarding years of my life. Studying the Word of life armed me with knowledge of who God is and what He can do. God had been developing my faith in Him and that has changed everything!

And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
I John 5:4 ESV

When a thought appears in my head, I have to be ready to evaluate it. I question whose character lines up with that thought. Is it God’s or Satan’s? Does God’s Word say that I should think this way? If not, then I need to reject it because it is intended to destroy me.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10 ESV

Knowing God’s truth has literally freed me from the grip of the enemy of my soul and marriage. It continues to be my best defense.

Every Wife Needs a Sword

“To think God’s thoughts requires much prayer. If you do not pray much, you are not thinking God’s thoughts. If you do not read your Bible much and often and reverently, you are not thinking God’s thoughts….” A.W. Tozer

Years before this breakthrough, counselors who were Christians listened well. They helped me see the problem. But I remained unchanged. I was powerless to fix me and my marriage. They were too.

But Jesus sent His word and healed me (Psalm 107:20). I started walking in victory when I was counseled according to God’s Word.

I had no idea how powerful God’s Word could be. Today I see it as the supernatural antibiotic for the wounded heart and infected mind. That is exactly what it has been and continues to be for me.

Wounded women are frequently bitter, jealous, fearful, resentful, prideful, and/or contentious. These are symptoms of a mind infected by those flaming darts. Pride, fear and resentment monopolized my heart.

I learned to deploy God’s word as a sword against the very strong holds sin had on my mind. I was introduced to praying God’s Word and Germaine Copeland’s Prayers that Avail Much. Here is one of the Scriptural prayers she offers:

In the name of Jesus, I loose my mind from wrong thought patterns. I tear down strongholds that have protected bad perceptions about myself. I submit to You, Father, and resist fear, discouragement, self-pity, and depression. I will not give place to the devil by harboring resentment and holding onto anger. I surround myself with songs and shouts of deliverance from depression, and I will continue to be an overcomer by the word of my testimony and the blood of the Lamb.

I read this prayer and others aloud day and night. I read them in parking lots while I waited for someone. I read them on the treadmill. As I proclaimed God’s truth and promises, I felt stronger mentally and emotionally. I found myself making decisions based on the truth instead of the lies I once believed.

I firmly believe that the Sword of the Spirit slices through the slimy tentacles of sin. Praying according to God’s Word is the antibiotic my soul desperately needs. It also how I resist the devil so he will flee from me (James 4:8).

Are you praying God’s Word over your marriage?

Marriage Armor

There were too many years of heartache in my life before I realized that I needed God and His Word to defend me against the father of lies. What if I had begun praying God’s Word before my first marriage? Our marriage could have been a beautiful reflection of Jesus, our Bridegroom, loving and serving His Bride.

What if every bride armed her marriage with God’s Word?

Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God's Armor After the Wedding DressAs a veteran of one failed marriage and one rescued by the Savior, I am sharing my experience in Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress. It’s packed with Bible teaching and prayer prompts for many of the issues every couple faces.

Prayers for New Brides is designed to help wives show up, surrender and salute the almighty God who is able to defend their marriage. It is a faith building resource to help brides avoid getting destroyed by the flaming arrows. It is for every wife who longs to see God do more in her marriage.

Swing Your Sword

We can’t let the evil one lull us into a false sense of security. We need to arm our marriages with the same discipline a solider employs in preparing for battle.

Here are seven simple prayer prompts to help you arm your marriage today with God’s transforming Word.

1. Generous and merciful God, give me a hunger and thirst for righteousness so that I can live satisfied by You. I don’t want to demand more from my husband than he is supposed to provide. Matthew 5:6

2. Teach me to hear your voice so I can follow You all the days of my life and marriage. John 10:27

3. Wonderful Counselor, make me wise to the enemy’s divisive and destructive schemes. Isaiah 9:6, James 1:5, 2 Corinthians 10:5

4. Fill me with Your wisdom so I can excel as ______’s wife. Ephesians 1:17

5. Grant me a humble heart. Help me relinquish a false sense of control. I want to live a praying life. Matthew 7:7 and Proverbs 16:18

6. Mighty God, strengthen me to stand under Your authority every day in every way. Please forgive me for the ways I have dismissed Your perfect leadership. Ephesians 6:10, 11, 13, 14

7. Jesus, pour Your faith into me so that I can deflect the flaming arrows the enemy sends my way. Use me as a warrior of Your word in our marriage. Hebrews 12:2, Ephesians 6:17

8. Father, help me see my husband through Your eyes. I want to honor and cherish Him. I want to focus his value and avoid the temptation to disregard his unique contributions to our marriage.

Did you know to pray these things for yourself when you were a new bride?

Are you aware of the spiritual battle behind the scenes of your marriage?

Today I am offering Chapter 15 of Prayers for New Brides – Seeing Your Spouse through God’s Eyes as a free download. It is one of the most important lesson I’ve learned as David’s wife. Click here to get your copy.

Jennifer White, prayers for protectionJennifer O. White is the author of Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress and Marriage Armor for the #PrayingBride. Jennifer is a natural encourager who offers hope from the truths from God’s Word at her blog, Prayerfully Speaking. With every blog post, Jennifer is exalts the one true God who can empower us to do more than we can ask or imagine.

Wifey Wednesday: What My Two Year Old Taught Me About Marriage

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today, while I’m touring Arizona with my Girl Talk, speaking to several MOPS groups and in several churches, I thought I’d run this awesome post by Elizabeth Laing Thompson about what her two-year-old taught her about marriage–and priorities.

What My Two Year Old Taught Me About Marriage
My kids blew past me toward the door, an early-morning tornado of jackets, back packs, and lunch boxes.

“Come on,” called Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, jiggling his keys. “We’re going to be late!”

“Wait! I want kisses!” I said. “That means you! And you! And you!” My three older kids clattered back into the kitchen, planted kisses on my cheeks, and then rushed to follow my husband out to the van.

When the door slammed shut behind them, my two-year-old looked at me in horror. “Mama kiss Dada!” she said.

I blinked at her for a moment, not understanding. I heard the sound of the van pulling out of the driveway.

“Mama kiss Dada!” she insisted, her voice becoming frantic. She tried to pull me toward the door.

Then I realized: She was right. I hadn’t kissed my husband.

I chuckled, trying to justify myself. “You’re right, but Daddy is coming right back, so that’s why I didn’t kiss him.” Even to my own ears, the words fell limp, a lame excuse.

Little Miss stared me down, authoritative even in her bare feet and plaid nightie. I was not off the hook. “Mama kiss Dada.

I felt a blush creeping across my cheeks. “You’re right,” I said. “I should have kissed Daddy. I’m sorry.”

Little Miss seemed to accept this. We went back to our oatmeal.

Ten minutes later, the door banged open again. My husband was home.

Before he’d even rounded the corner, Little Miss rounded on me. “Mama kiss Dada! Mama kiss Dada!”

Laughing, I stood up. “Okay, okay, you’re right! I’ll kiss him!” I walked over to my husband and planted one, two, three firm kisses on his lips. He kissed me back with a baffled half-smile.

I turned back to my daughter, who stood watching us. Weighing me. “There. Are you happy now? Mama loves Dada, see?” When she still seemed unconvinced, I wrapped my arms around him and snuggled into his chest.

She smiled her approval and toddled off to find her toys.

That day, she reminded me of several truths I had forgotten, lessons I’ll carry with me always.

The secret most kids won’t tell you

Our children have a secret, and it’s this: Kids love it when their parents are in love. Older kids and teens may pretend to be embarrassed by our kisses, but secretly, they love it. It makes them feel safe. Happy. Like they are a part of something special.

When my brother was young, he invited a neighborhood friend over. My parents walked in the room and gave each other a little kiss, and the neighbor boy said, “Ew! Your parents kissed! My parents never kiss!” My brother grinned and bragged, “Well, my parents kiss all the time!” My parents’ affection was a source of confidence and security for him—and for all the kids in our family. I want to give my own children that same gift, that same confidence, through my marriage.

Keeping the home fires burning

But let’s be honest: It’s all too easy, once kids come along, to neglect our spouse. To forget about even the simple things that keep us connected and close. We don’t do it on purpose, of course, but once a baby enters our world, our first and best cuddles and snuggles and kisses start going to the baby. When we walk into a room, our eyes slide right past our husband, hungry for another drooly “Mommy-Is-My-Whole-World” smile from our chubby-cheeked cherub.

And at first, our husband doesn’t mind. For a season, he’ll gladly serve as our Baby Gear Sherpa, the carrier of car seats and diaper bags and Pack-n-Plays. For a time, he’s happy to take a back seat while we figure out the whole new-baby thing . . . but before long—sooner than we think—he needs the front seat again. He needs and deserves our deliberate attention, our devoted affection—not just the leftovers. Not just the afterthoughts. Song of Songs 8:6 describes a passionate romance so beautifully: “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Every fire needs fuel to keep burning. If it runs out of fuel, even the strongest of blazes will die down to ember and ash. We have to keep stoking the fire of our marriage—nurturing it, coaxing it back to life when it ebbs, feeding it fresh fuel.

I get it: This is easy to write about, and not so easy to do. (Believe me, I know! As a survivor of four new-baby-adjustment periods, I totally get it!) So please don’t read this and feel guilty . . . just stay open to trying some new strategies.

Song of Songs 86 Quote-Pin
Four simple ways to stoke the marital flame, even with little ones in the house

Here are four simple tricks to help you connect with your spouse, even on busy days with babies and young children underfoot:

Remember simple acts of daily physical affection.

Don’t underestimate the power of hugs and kisses keep you connected and close.

Use timers to set aside “Mommy-and-Daddy” time.

Tell the kids you need a few minutes to talk uninterrupted, and set a timer. The kids can’t come back into the room with you until the timer goes off.

Build sacred Mommy-Daddy time into your schedule at a set time each day, so your children get used to it.

They know, “This fifteen minutes always belongs to Mommy and Daddy, not to me.” You could try early-morning coffee together, before work and school. If mornings are too hectic, try setting aside a time slot right after work, or after dinner. (When your kids get older, let them clean the dinner dishes while Mom and Dad catch up on the day!)

Buy yourself an extra half-hour in the evenings.

How? Put kids to bed early with a book and a flashlight. They’ll think it’s a treat to read in bed—it’s kind of like they’re getting away with something—and you can start some early couch-cuddling before you turn into a pumpkin.

Strategies like this are especially helpful for the time of life when you have small kids in the house. But this isn’t just a new-baby issue. The older my children get, the more I realize that this is an ongoing struggle. Older kids mean a busy life and crazy schedule packed with homework, sports, friends, and activities. We all have to re-learn how to put our marriage first in the preschool years, the elementary years, the preteen years, the teenage years, the empty-nester years. At every stage, it takes a conscious effort to give our marriage the attention it deserves—to give our husbands the attention they deserve.

Last week, my wise two-year-old saw what I didn’t see. My husband comes first, not last. No matter how late we are or how busy life is, everybody deserves a good-morning kiss . . . and every kiss counts.

Click here to sign up to receive Elizabeth Laing Thompson’s monthly LizzyLife newsletter! Each newsletter includes practical and humorous parenting tips on living life and building family God’s way. As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a FREE download of seven two-minute “breakfast-table” devotions to do with children.

E ThompsonElizabeth Laing Thompson writes wholesome novels for teens, and books for women about building family God’s way. She is the author of several books, including a Bible-based parenting book for young mothers, The Tender Years: Parenting Preschoolers. Elizabeth blogs about the perils and joys of laundry slaying, tantrum taming, and giggle collecting on her author site, http://lizzylife.com. Wife to Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome, and mother to four crazy kids, Elizabeth is always tired, but it’s mostly the good kind.

 

WWbutton175Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up below by putting the URL of a MARRIAGE post into the linky. And be sure to link back here so other people can read all these great marriage articles! It’s a great way to build traffic for your blog, and I often highlight some posts on Facebook and Twitter, so link up below!

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When the Way We Talk About Submission Turns People Off of Christ

Be careful how you comment! Sometimes we don't realize how too radical a view of submission can turn people away from Christ

On Mondays I always like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, and I have a quite a backlog of questions I’m getting ready to answer!

But today I thought it was important to share instead a Reader Observation and a plea for help from the vast majority of you who read this blog. I’ll get to that observation and that plea in a minute, but first, a little bit of background:

How asking for help from my husband made our marriage so much better!
Last month I published a guest post from Kate Tunstall, where she explained how after her first baby came she and her husband started to grow apart. And she grew more and more resentful about him not wanting to care for the baby until she sat down and talked to him, and realized they both were partially at fault.

They both opened up to each other, learned some new things about each other (and themselves), and sorted things out.

And it was all was because she chose to talk about it rather than keep stewing. Had she kept stewing, she wouldn’t have realized that much of their problem was due to misunderstandings. It was only in talking and creating vulnerability and openness again that they came to a solution.

I thought it was a great story that illustrated a point I’ve been trying to make on this blog a lot lately. Sometimes you have to ask your husband for help. You can’t expect your husband to know what you’re thinking unless you tell him. And in most cases, we may look for a “magic bullet” that will fix the problem, but ultimately we have to do the hard and sometimes awkward work of talking about it.

It so happens that Kate doesn’t identify herself as an evangelical Christian (though I will not presume to say what faith she does or does not have beyond that). But her post was right on about marriage and I published it.

The comments on that post, though, quickly veered in a really dangerous and counterproductive direction.

The first few comments are great; then they get weird. One woman wrote that this woman was wrong for expecting her husband to care for the baby; she used a rather derogatory and critical tone toward the guest poster, which other commenters (and I) tried to correct. Then someone else joined the fray and said this:

This post defies Scripture, as well as 1850 years of church teaching. Jesus did not tell us that communication was the most important thing, rather repentance and obedience.

I then commented that just because the church and our culture have sanctioned something does not automatically make it right–look at slavery, after all! (I brought up slavery because I thought NO ONE could defend slavery).

The commenter then defended slavery. And then I deleted the theological arguments they left about why slavery was justified, and banned that commenter.

Seriously, can you imagine what defending slavery in public does to the name of Christ?

I think it’s perfectly valid to wrestle in a seminary with the question, “does the fact that God let the Israelites own slaves in the Old Testament mean that God permits all kinds of slavery? Was slavery just for a time?” But to debate this in public is beyond the pale (and by the way, I still don’t believe God ever really blessed the institution of slavery).

Kate actually wrote a follow-up post on her experience guest posting on a Christian blog, and here’s some of what she said:

It is the year 2015. I was of the impression that the developed world had come a long way, even if only in the last thirty or so years. Whereas it was once acceptable, expected even, that there were gender-specific roles, I thought this narrow-mindedness had all but ended. (Having said that, men and women have different strengths, and I completely advocate the right to state such a fact without the fear of being labelled sexist. It is simple good sense.)

Do you see how sad that is? She was under the impression that the world had come a long way–and we’ve now made her think that the evangelical community is narrow-minded (even though it was a minority of the commenters).

She then says:

I was dismayed to learn that having made huge efforts, at personal cost, to ensure my husband’s needs are met (frequenting the gym regularly and never having to get up to our daughter during the night, for example), there has still been a suggestion that I expect too much of him [by wanting him to interact with our daughter]. I cannot understand or agree with this view – to me it is either antiquated chauvinism in a non-religious context, or, as Sheila discusses, misinterpretation in religion.

Sometimes we leave comments on blogs because we like debate, but we forget that people who do not share our faith will be reading them.

Be careful what you say and how you word things. You are not just debating with the author of a post; you are debating with everyone who will read this post and the comments. People who are searching are on this blog. People who are struggling with God are on this blog. We have a responsibility to the weaker brother.

And I get about 10,000 visits a day from search engines–most of whom arrive here because they use a search term that relates to a crisis in their marriage. And most do not know God. Please assume that when you are commenting here, you are not just talking to Christians. You are talking to moms and wives and even some husbands who are hurting, and who are genuinely searching for help.

One other important thing:

Sometimes our interpretation of Scripture, quite frankly, means that many non-Christian marriages are healthier than many Christian marriages.

Kate’s marriage seems very healthy–or at least her conflict resolution model is. And studies consistently show that children who interact with both parents are emotionally healthier than children who only interact with the mother. A father’s hands-on role is best.

The fact that some commenters were arguing that a husband shouldn’t be expected to interact with the children shows that many non-Christian families are psychologically healthier, which is scary.

Unfortunately, it’s not all that surprising. If you subscribe to the interpretation of Scripture where a wife can never point out where her husband may be in error (even though being a suitable helpmeet obviously equipped us for this role), or that a wife should not express an opinion or call her husband out on sin (seriously, read the comments on this one), or that it is not a wife’s place to draw boundaries and say, “I will not tolerate you treating me in an abusive or demeaning way“, then I doubt that marriage is going to be very healthy.

And some teaching in the church I believe is downright dangerous, like that from Debi Pearl about how when a wife is abused it’s because we’ve provoked our husbands, or that the way to deal with any marriage problem (even severe sin) is to “win him without words”. This leaves far too many families in desperate straits, unable to deal with real abuse, or unable to confront sin and urge their spouses on towards godliness.

So here’s what I would ask:

1. Remember you are God’s ambassadors.

If you have an opinion which would make the majority of the public cringe and question whether or not God is really loving, then ask yourself, “Is it really important that I express it here?”, or, at least, “how can I phrase this so that I’m saying it lovingly?” Obviously we will all hold opinions that are counter-cultural; that’s what being a Christian is. But there is no need to be ungracious or to throw anything in someone else’s face. Instead, we are to relate to them in as many ways as we can so as to not make offense unnecessarily.

Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22:

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

2. EVERYONE: Please, please, please publicly correct those who give God a bad name.

If you see a comment on this (or any other site) that you think gives God a bad name, then leave a comment to say that that person is wrong, or that most Christians, in your opinion, do not share that point of view.

I’m saying this one to the vast majority of you who are silent, or who may comment but don’t want to touch the inflammatory ones with a ten foot pole. Even a simple, “I think that is the wrong interpretation of Scripture, and want to point out that you hold a minority view” would be awesome!

Right now the off-base comments seem more important than they really are, because 95% of people never comment. Can you imagine how powerful it would be if every time someone said something really inflammatory, a bunch of people said, “I don’t think that’s an accurate view of Scripture”?

3. Think about giving Kate some Encouragement

Her post where she talks about her experience on this blog is right here. If some of you want to go over and give her some encouragement, that would be great!

I, in turn, will:

1. Delete comments whose only purpose seems to be to be inflammatory.

2. Delete comments that may be well-reasoned, but that are so offensive and wrong that I think God will be maligned. (like the pro-slavery ones).

3. Allow comments through that are well-reasoned, even if I think they are wrong, if they don’t cross a threshold. And then I will try to correct them as often as possible.

4. Delete comments where the commenter is insulting another commenter, or making assumptions about other commenters that really aren’t warranted or that are too judgmental.

And I really will try to get to my backlog of Reader Questions too!

I was thinking yesterday in our wonderful Easter service, where I saw my “adopted” niece get baptized, that God is about grace and changing lives and Jesus so wants to bring the world to Himself.

I want this blog to be a part of that. But sometimes I worry that we do the opposite, when I let certain things through.

I do want to allow discussion, but I am really far more concerned about the impression we’re giving those who don’t know Christ than I am about fostering free flowing debate.

I still will always let things through that are respectful, even if I don’t always agree (as long as they’re not totally beyond the pale), but I’d just ask that all of us participate in policing this community and making it a safe place for those who aren’t yet Christians to visit and to learn from.

May we never inadvertently turn off, or turn away, a seeker.

Thanks, everybody! And let me know what you think of my comment policy.

[UPDATE: You guys are awesome! Thanks for all your helpful comments over on Kate’s blog! ]

[UPDATE 2: OH MY GOODNESS! One of the commenters I kept deleting just posted this comment over on Kate’s blog (she hasn’t approved it yet; she sent it to me first). Okay, people, this just proves that some of you don’t get it. How in the world does posting this comment on her blog further the cause of Christ?

Oh, and by the way, when I speak about what we need to do to make our marriages better by drawing boundaries, that doesn’t mean we’re ordering our husbands around. That means that we say, “you are free to choose to do that, but I will not stay here/listen to you/etc. etc. if you sin in that way in front of me.” That is perfectly legitimate and perfectly in line with the gospel, and I’m sorry people think that women should allow men to treat them disprespectfully or destructively–or even worse that God sanctions this.

Here’s the comment:

First, I want to state that we were 2/3rds of the commentors you are referencing. Second, we want to apolagize to you in the way it came across. Our differences are with Sheila and not with you. If you are not a christian and are not teaching God’s Word then we have no problem at all with what you shared. However, please understand that is not the way it was presented at a website (Sheila’s) which is about teaching how marriage should take place in a christian marriage.

As christians we have no problem with a wife asking a husband for help and we certianly think a father should be deeply involved in raising his children. We do not beleive though that God’s Word teaches a wife has the authority to tell her husband how their marriage and parenting is going to play out. Share her hopes and feelings, most certianly. Ask for help, definetly. But not tell him or order him. It goes against scripture.

So please understand our disagreement was not with you but with Sheila whose teaching deals almost exclusively anymore with teaching wives to take the authority position in their marriages and not teaching wives the scripture that pertains to them in the Bible while yet holding husbands to the teaching that pertains to them. In other words, everyday Sheila tries to What I find unacceptable is when a difference in values, and thus opinion, gives rise to anybody forcing their own beliefs upon somebody else. There is no justification for that. Or in other words she forces values and opinions on christian men/husbands through her teaching- using God’s Word as her weapon but only applying it to men.

In other words you stepped into a long running battle that unfortunately is filled with hard feelings on both sides. We are sorry you got stuck in the middle and it would have been handled much differently had we known that you were not a christian.

I know this is not a flattering comment in regards to Sheila but I ask you to do two things before you make judgement.

Review her last year (or three years of posts). Do a count on how many address women treating their husbands better or addressing what we as christians would call women’s own sins? Now count how many are addressing men’s sins. You’ll find that somewhere around 80-90% address men’s sins and yet she is speaking to women everyday. The basic theme of her blog is not how to be a better wife or even how to have a better marriage, it is simply about taking control of your husband. If that is not the case, why the vast difference in the number of posts? Are men worse then women? Are men causing more marriage problems than women?

We do not expect someone who does not share our faith to agree with what the Bible says but even people who do not share the same beliefs can agree that the only person you can change is yourself. If you are speaking to the same group everyday, why are you constantly teaching about the sins of the other?

Respectfully and wishing you & your husband the best.

And now a word to that commenter who really doesn’t get it. If you continue to try to get a non-Christian involved in a disagreement between Christians, and continue to try to post things that defame Christ, even though I have told you not to, I WILL publish your email address. This is ridiculous. Please understand: YOU ARE GOD’S AMBASSADOR. How in the world did you think that this comment furthered the cause of Christ?

[UPDATE 3]: Just thought of something even more ironic–and kinda funny!

Okay, so that commenter who is obviously more concerned with winning an argument with me than with portraying Christ in a positive light has a beef with me: I have been teaching on this blog about how women can confront their husbands when their husbands are in sin, instead of teaching women to serve their husbands.

Emotionally Destructive Marriages: 10 Truths about marriages characterized by emotional abuse
I don’t actually believe that my posts are skewed if you count them up at all, but it is true that I’ve been hammering the point about Emotionally Destructive marriages recently–and about calling your husbands out on sin. There are two main reasons for this: one is because I can see the Google searches that lead people to this page, and so, so many of them have to do with wives whose husbands use porn.

But the second is because people like this commenter keep commenting–and they scare me! Are there really that many people out there who believe that women should not confront their husbands in sin? If that’s true, then I have a lot more teaching to do! Ironically, if these commenters would stop leaving such incendiary comments about a woman’s role, I could move on to other things. But the fact that they keep popping up here shows me that there is still much teaching to do in the church about appropriate relationships. And that’s why I chose Leslie Vernick’s book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage to look at in our reading challenge last month–because what these people are advocating are essentially the blueprints for an emotionally destructive marriage. And the more I hear from them, the more I have to talk about it!