The Answer to the ICK–When Grumpiness Lurks

Grumpy Mom

Ever come to the end of a day and wonder, “how did I get so grumpy”?

Today’s guest post is from Meredith Carr from Oceans Deep. She writes great stuff about seeing God in the midst of life with little ones! And today she’s going to give us an answer to the “ick”–that grumpiness we all feel sometimes.

Recently, my husband and I had a “mountaintop” kind of weekend, where we were alive and vibrant with stimulating spiritual conversation. It was the type of moment you wish could carry on in perpetuity! And, for this tired stay-at-home mama, such refreshing fellowship with other adults was a very welcomed reprieve from the difficult “conversations” with my toddlers and the constant Sesame Street soundtrack playing in my mind. So on Monday morning, I was on guard after such a great weekend, certain that the enemy would be on high alert to steal my joy, kill my hope, and destroy my vision.

Yup. Mission accomplished.

Girlfriend, it was a day.

Kids crying. Kids whining. Kids fighting. There was no shortage of spit up and messy meals and poo. I got poo on my shirt and didn’t even change it, because I was just that—I don’t know—worn out, I suppose. The thought of making one more trip up those stairs simply didn’t seem worth it. So I wiped it as best I could and went on.

I was half way through my Costco shopping trip before I caught a glimpse of the Greek yogurt finger-painting on my new Capri pants, the creative work of my 1-year-old daughter. No wonder I got so many interesting looks!

The day went from bad to worse as the impact of my 2-year-old’s refusal to nap blossomed into a full-on tantrum meltdown of epic proportions. To top it all off, on Monday evenings my husband attends a men’s group—so he basically drops in long enough to eat the dinner I’ve miraculously managed to prepare in between refereeing “toy gate,” then swoops out to enjoy calm, mature adult conversation, conveniently missing the bedtime shenanigans.


I’m dismayed and discouraged by the chaotic state of my house, but more so by the messy state of my heart.

I feel an edge of bitterness, resentment, and under-appreciation; basically, the makings of a legit pity party. How is it that the pity party mentality is so unattractive in others, yet so appealing when it comes to ourselves?

I’m trying to fight it. Trying to fight the emotion, the lies, the pride, and the frustration. It’s what I call collectively “The Ick.” Ick is a very (non)scientific term that includes any and all emotion, feeling, juju, etc., which leaves us feeling grumpy, disconnected, and distanced from our Heavenly Father. When it hits, I feel as though I’ve taken a wrong turn and slipped right down the rabbit hole, and I’m powerless to shake free from the dark cloud swirling above my head.

I can’t stand this feeling and the way it permeates every aspect of my day, turning my joy into emptiness.

The juxtaposition of my weekend and weekday has me screaming inside, what is the solution? What is the answer to The Ick? I long to steer my heart back on track after it’s taken this kind of downturn, or avoid it altogether!

Can you relate? If so, here are some tools God is teaching me to implement whenever I feel The Ick coming on:

Put yourself in time out.

Metaphorically speaking, that is! Isn’t it staggering what parenthood teaches us about ourselves and about God? Seemingly every week I’m learning something new, having some fresh “aha” moment on account of my little ones. In my experience, “time out” has just as much relevance for adults as it does for recalcitrant toddlers. I’m forming the habit of putting myself into time out whenever I find my heart being drug away from steadiness and sanity because of The Ick. But rather than sulking in the pack-and-play, I take this time out sitting humbly and desperately at the feet of Jesus.

Psalm 142:1-2 says,

I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before Him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble. (NIV).

The idea of “pouring out my complaint” always sounded good on paper, but it felt a bit silly in practice . . . with people starving to death and war tearing lives and bodies apart, does God really have time for the things shaking up my spirit? Again, parenthood provides wisdom: have you ever once looked at your hurting child and thought, there are so many bigger problems in the world right now, I simply don’t have time to deal with your problem? Of course not!

And the same is true of our Heavenly Father. I’ve been awestruck at the peace I’ve gained by running to Him and telling Him all the things—big and small—that hurt my heart and threaten to take my joy. Steal away for a few minutes anywhere you can—the closet, the bathroom, the stairwell at work—and air you grievances to your Heavenly Father. He cares, and He alone can provide the peace you really need!

Sometimes you have to put yourself in time out--even as a mom!

Put yourself in God’s Word.

Probably the best way I’ve found to shake off The Ick is by immersing myself in God’s word. I used to think this had to be a long, drawn-out, monk-like process of sitting quietly for a significant period of time. Well, who besides monks has time for that?

And the great news is, a large block of time isn’t necessary. Sometimes I’m up early enough that I can spend longer in His Word, and I’m thankful for those times. But, taking even 10-15 minutes to read Scripture can make all the difference. I feel tongue-tied trying to explain the innate, surprising power of Scripture to change a hardened heart, but therein lies the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit: the words of the Bible are not like any other words on this planet.

Hebrews 4:12 says,

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (NIV, emphasis added).

When we read God’s word, our mere mortal beings collide with the spirit world. We can’t help but be changed by such an encounter. In my experience, even reading “dry” Old Testament passages sends the joy of the Holy Spirit bubbling up to the surface. The Bible is God’s love letter to us, and we will feel that love when reading it.

If you’re new or newer to Bible reading, or short on time, the Psalms are a great place to find encouragement. In them, I often discover a reflection of my own troubled spirit. How encouraging to know that even King David—the man after God’s own heart—cried out,

To you I call, O LORD my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me . . . Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. (Psalm 28:1a, 2 NIV).

I prefer diving into God’s word first thing in the morning, but let’s be honest—that isn’t always possible with little ones underfoot!

For the first several months of her life, my daughter decided it would be fun wake up and get her day going at 5 am. In that season, my quiet times looked a little different, and I learned the value of finding time whenever and wherever you can.

One option that works well for me is right after breakfast, when my kiddos are nice and full. I’ll pull out that “special” toy—you know, the one that seems to occupy them like no other. For us, it’s usually the massive bag of blocks. When I hear all those blocks hit the floor, I know I’ll have the next 15 minutes or so of uninterrupted reading time.

Another option is to read while your children nap. Even if your children no longer necessarily sleep during the day, you could institute an in-room “quiet rest time” for them—and you’ll both reap the benefits!

Finally, spending time in the Word just before bed is a great option in the busy season of mothering babies and toddlers.

Oftentimes, this is the only moment of quiet my home sees all day. And when I’m feeling beat up by a particularly challenging day, my soul finds much welcomed refreshment by digging into God’s Word.

However you find the time, let Scripture wash over you, and be amazed at what God can do!

Snatching Time with God: 9 Ways to carve out time for God in your day.

Have trouble finding time to read Scripture? I’ve got a post on 9 ways to snatch time with God during the day right here!

Stop, drop, and give thanks.

The transformative power of giving thanks never ceases to amaze me. As Ann Voskamp describes in “One Thousand Gifts,” we need to spend time cultivating a “language of thanksgiving.” As sinful, fallen beings, our default setting is not one of gratitude, but rather of the “why me?” and “this isn’t fair!” kind. Through a deliberate, concerted effort to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV), we can begin to learn the new language of thankfulness, and to see God’s good hand in everything that touches our lives.

When I’m caught in the clutches of The Ick, the last thing I want to do is name off things for which I’m thankful. I mean, the last. Recently, my sweet husband Aaron innocently asked me to name something positive in my day. It was his good-natured attempt at pulling me out of my funk, yet in the moment, this request incensed me! I can laugh about it now, because when I stopped and thought about the day and actually named something out loud, I felt my frigid heart begin to melt. And in my experience, the hardest part is taking the first step—once I name a gift, then two, then three, the gratitude ball begins rolling. It’s like finding your glasses after they’ve been knocked off your face. You can finally see again.

I hope these tools will prove useful for you the next time The Ick strikes. I’m finding this process incredibly simple, yet deceptively difficult. But practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. And in the daily grind of life, I’m certain there will be no shortage of opportunities!

Our FamilyMeredith Carr is a “Georgia peach”, but these days she calls Northern California my home. She’s a wife, a mother, a recovering attorney, and above all, a follower of Jesus.

She’s also a writer, and she blogs at Oceans Deep, where she pursues the passion she’s had for the written world since childhood. Visit her there!


Top 10 Ways to Help Your Husband End His Porn Addiction

Top 10 Ways to Help Your Husband Defeat a Porn Addiction--fight WITH him, not AGAINST him!

Can a wife actually help her husband end a porn addiction?

Porn is the number one problem that women write in to me about, so I thought I’d spend three days talking about different aspects of it.

Thanks for all your comments yesterday on when to invite your husband back into your bed–sorry I didn’t join in the discussion! Another twelve hour day in our RV. And today we’ll be HOME! So as I’m wrapping up my first RV speaking trip, I’ve invited Robi Smith from the blog Hopeful Wife Today to share 10 steps with us for Top 10 Tuesday about how to help your hubby end his porn habit.

Many marriages are ending due to the effects of pornography. The marriages that are staying together after a pornography addiction are spending years to heal and rebuild trust. Husbands are being trapped in this powerful temptation. Many men see no way out of porn. Many women are hopeless to even try to help their husbands.

Certainly the husband must be the one who is willing to change. He must have the desire to quit viewing porn. However, most Christian men do not want to look at porn. In fact, they are desperate to quit! But they find themselves in an impossible cycle that is just too hard to stop. That’s why wives are in a unique position to help their husbands end a porn addiction.

I went through this cycle with my husband. He spent all his teenage years, young adult years, and married years addicted to pornography. For ten years I did not know he even had a problem with lust. It was that hidden. When I finally discovered his struggle, he felt free. He thought finally, after all this time, someone can know! Someone can actually help me beat this!

So here are the top 10 ways to help your husband end a porn addiction:

1. Confront him about his porn addiction

Porn addicts thrive on secrecy. Porn users typically cover their tracks by deleting history and viewing only when they think they will not get caught. If someone actually knew what they were doing, most of them wouldn’t do it at all. There is so much shame involved in this sin. That is why if you know your husband has been watching porn, you must tell him.

2. Daily Prayer and Bible Reading

The most important thing that helped my husband overcome lust was a daily prayer and Bible reading time. Not only did this help my husband, but it also helped me to heal and our marriage to be restored. This was a time that we set aside to specifically pray over our marriage. Moreover, we prayed for my husband’s struggle with lust. We found specific Bible verses that he could read and pray over in order to defeat lust. He calls this putting on the armor of God. He prays for God to protect his eyes and his body throughout the day. He does this every single day.

3. Use Internet Filtering to Avoid Porn

Internet filtering is so important to have on any computer and on his phone. We use Covenant Eyes because it has worked wonderfully. I knew that I could not have peace in my home unless I knew that the access to pornography was blocked. This also helped my husband so much with temptation. He knew it wasn’t even an option. Many people say that you can get around computer filters. This is probably true to some degree. However, you have to really try to get around Covenant Eyes. For my husband, he greatly wanted to quit watching porn, so he never put in all the extra effort to pass filters. He felt so relieved to know that someone would find out what he was doing on the internet.

Find out more about Covenant Eyes, or download some of their free ebooks on the effects of porn and how to quit, here.

4. Be Honest and Open to Each Other About Your Struggles

This was the most difficult area for my marriage when my husband was recovering from porn addiction. Porn watchers are usually secretive, deceptive, and keep their emotions closed. My husband had never been open to anyone in his life– ever. God has led me to urge my husband to tell me anything even if it really hurts. My husband doesn’t want to share things with me that will bother me. But honesty is so important in marriage. I am not talking about every lustful thought. I am talking about important things that happen in his day to day life that he should share with me. It might be about his struggle with lust. It could be an inappropriate conversation someone had with him. Sometimes it is when he feels like a failure at work or at home. This area will greatly help your husband overcome watching porn. He needs to be able to release his stress and have emotional intimacy with his wife.

5. Set Aside a Time to Talk about His Day

Before I found out he was watching porn, my husband very rarely shared his day with me. He most often said, “I don’t want to talk about my day, I’d rather hear about yours.” That was fine with me. But, I realized he never wanted to talk because he kept his emotions so closed from me. Now, we talk each night for about 15 minutes about our days. He tells me all about the events of his day. I tell him about my day. Additionally, we tell each other our “highs” and lows”. This is the best time for him to relieve any stress that is building up.

6. Find him Accountability

Many people will argue that a wife should never be an accountability partner. We feel differently in our marriage. I do agree that some things are too harsh for a wife to hear. That is true. No husband should be telling his wife random lustful thoughts he struggles with. My husband brings his thoughts before God and prays all day to “flee” from lustful thoughts. But, with other things, I am a part of my husband’s accountability. First, I needed to be a part of this. There was so much lying and deception in our marriage that I wanted to know when something came up. My husband agreed with this because it has helped us to rebuild trust so immensely. He tells me things in his life that are a temptation. He tells me where and when he struggles the most. This is something that he will always share with me.

7. Keep Your Reaction Godly

Hearing about a husband’s problem with lust hurts deeply in a wife’s heart. I can still feel the deep, overwhelming pain from when I found out my husband watched pornography. However, when I am listening to God, I know that I want to help my husband. I want our marriage to grow. I want to be in love with him. Therefore, to help him overcome porn, I have to have godly reactions to what he tells me. When he shares something about his past or his struggle with me and I react in anger, it closes him up more again. And I do not want that. Now, when he tells me something that is making him struggle with temptation I try to follow God. I pray with him. I ask him what he’s doing about it. Each time that I choose this reaction I am helping my husband. I know that this is not the easy or natural response. It takes practice. It takes drawing close to God. I have failed at this many times. But, God is helping me grow in this area.

8. Draw Close to God

This means for you, as the wife, to draw close to God. Knowing that your husband had an addiction to pornography is very devastating. We need to spend time with God to overcome this hurt. We can pour out all of our feelings to God. We also can pray for our husbands. We can cover them in prayer all day.

9. Trust him again by Trusting in God

My husband’s deepest regret is that he lost all of my trust. It has been over three years since I found out about my husband. There are still situations that I do not trust him in. There are things that I do not want him to do because I think “what if.” I can set boundaries in my marriage. These are normal, healthy boundaries for someone that is overcoming temptation to porn. However, I cannot keep my husband sheltered in a world where he cannot be a part of daily life. He has to go to work each day, the store, the gym, etc. He has to use the computer for many work related things. He even has to use computers at work that are not filtered at all. This can be very scary as a wife. I can let doubt control my life. But I choose to trust my husband by trusting in God.

I tell God that I don’t completely trust my husband yet. He lied to me for many years and betrayed me terribly. But, I do trust You God. So, I pray if there is something You want me to know that my husband does not tell me, please bring it to light. I can tell you that anything that has ever happened that my husband was too scared to tell me, God put it in my heart. God was the one who originally led me find out about the pornography. God will not let me down now. It might not be immediately, but He will show me. Knowing this has helped my husband want to be a good man.

10. Give Him a Second Chance After the Porn

Even after we make this decision, we have to carry it through with our actions. If your husband had a problem with pornography and he is truly repentant to you, what is stopping you from giving him a second chance? Is it fear, anger, or a desire for revenge? I have felt each one of those. But, in the end, they left me feeling dead. I could only choose God’s way. I looked at what Jesus did on the cross for us. I deeply studied the Gospels and read the words that Jesus spoke to sinners. His whole message to us is about redemption, restoration, and forgiveness. How could I claim to love God and not forgive my husband?

It may be the most difficult thing you ever have to do. But, God will bless you. He will take your marriage that was so broken and messed up and he will make it beautiful. He can only do this if you give your husband that second chance. And when you do that, you will be helping your husband in more ways than you will ever know.

Let me know in the comments: Have you ever struggled with rebuilding trust or with ending a porn addiction? How did you do it?

Robi blogs at Hopeful Wife Today, a site dedicated to bringing hope and healing to hurting wives dealing with their husband’s pornography use and unfaithfulness.

When Christians Make It Sound Like Sex is Only “For Him”

God Made Sex to Be Mutual--it's not just for him!Did God make sex primarily for husbands? Are wives supposed to be quasi-sexual slaves?

I’d say, “absolutely not, that’s absurd!” But this week that view crept up again.

When You Hate Your Breasts Being Touched--or something else being touched--and it's hurting your marriageI wrote a post on Monday about what to do if there’s one part of your body that your husband likes sexually that you just can’t stand him touching. Perhaps you have pain, or flashbacks from abuse, or something else that makes it creepy. I talked about finding compromise while working on the root issue. If anything, I thought I’d get some grief from people saying, “If there’s something she doesn’t like, he has to live with it.” And I did get a bit of that.

But the commenters who said, “the husband has authority over her body, so she has no right to deny him that” really surprised me I let a few of those comments through; several men left incredibly disgusting ones, while still claiming to be Christian, and I deleted those ones.

It’s similar to the comments I got in this series of posts about how it’s okay for a woman to say, “I need to wait 6 weeks after childbirth”, or “not during my period.” I had several men saying the waiting six weeks wasn’t justified because it wasn’t “by mutual consent”.

This astounds me. I thought that we were beyond that. But because we obviously aren’t, I want to address this view today. I know that this is a fringe view, and that 95% of you reading this would find it abhorrent. But the underlying philosophy behind it–that women were created primarily to serve men–is still prevalent, and it needs to be debunked.

So let’s jump in.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentMy critique here is from both Thought #5–I’m not in competition with my husband; we’re aiming for oneness instead–and Thought #8–Making love is not the same thing as having sex–from my new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage.

No passage is as absolutely clear about the mutuality aspect of sex than 1 Corinthians 7.

My commenters used it to say, “she has to do everything he wants, regardless of her feelings,” but a clear reading of the passage shows that this is not what Paul meant.

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Look how many times “mutual” is mentioned or implied. Every privilege given to men is also given to women. Sex is about “us”, not him or her.

In fact, it is the WIFE’S sexual concerns that are mentioned first. “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife” is the starting point of this passage.

And if the wife has authority over the husband’s body, that means that she can also ask him not to use it in a way that denigrates her.

Nevertheless, some people insist on reading this to mean that women can never say no to anything a husband wants. I even read a post written by a man recently arguing that there is no such thing as marital rape, because of the husband’s authority over the wife’s body.

So what does this idea do–this idea that sex is primarily for him? Let’s look at it together.

It Denigrates Women

If you believe that a wife should give a husband sexually whatever he wants whenever he wants, even if it causes the wife trauma of some sort, then you are saying:

His momentary pleasure is more important than her psychological, sexual, or emotional pain.

Do you know what that reminds me of? Rap music. Have you ever listened to it or read some of the lyrics? Rap music celebrates men using women as they want for their own pleasure, without regard for the woman’s well-being.

We have a serious problem if we are using Scripture to encourage people to view women the way that the rap industry sees women.

It Denigrates Marriage

What I was arguing in the article was this:

Both spouses have legitimate needs. So let’s see how she can find ways to meet his needs as much as she can, while she also maintains some boundaries for her own emotional health and works on her issues.

Let’s have the wife giving to the husband, and the husband giving to the wife, and let’s have them working towards real intimacy and health.

And then the commenters said, “no, she has to give to the husband, period.”

I was arguing for mutuality; they were saying that only she has to give.

One of the basic misunderstandings we have here, I believe, is mistaking the means for the ends.

What is it that Jesus prayed for for his followers? “That they may be one.” (John 17:21). Or what about 1 Corinthians 1:10, that we be “perfectly united in mind and thought”, or 2 Corinthians 3:11, that we be of “one mind”? And when we marry, we become “one flesh”. Oneness is God’s plan for us.

And how do we get there? We serve each other. We submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)–women to their husbands, while husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church.

The goal is oneness; the means are serving, submitting, and loving.

Some people read these “means” as very hierarchical. The woman is to do what the man says. Oneness is no longer the goal; having the husband calling the shots while the wife obeys becomes the goal. And this makes marriage into a hierarchical relationship, rather than an intimate, loving partnership where both support each other.

I deal with this line of thinking quite a bit on this blog, but especially in Thought #5 of 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. You can also read more about what submission means and what submission doesn’t mean

It Denigrates Sex

One of the big critiques I make of our culture is that it makes sex into something which is only physical. Sex was supposed to unite us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It is not only a physical experience, and in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex I show how sex is really a spiritual experience, too.

However, if you believe that women should give men what they want sexually, with no regards to themselves, then you make the same mistake the world does. You cheapen sex, making it only physical.

And if you are of the mindset that women were created to serve men (as Debi Pearl argues in Created to Be His Helpmeet, for instance), then it’s easy to make this leap that sexually women were created to serve men, too.

For emotional and spiritual intimacy during sex there has to be mutuality. Sure, sometimes we can have sex just for him–there’s nothing wrong with a quickie, of course! But on the whole, sex should reflect a deeply loving relationship. If sex for you, though, means doing something that you hate, then sex can’t be loving. Sex is only one-way giving. That’s not mutual. That’s servicing someone. And now sex is only physical once again. You’ve wrecked the whole point of sex, which is a deep “knowing” of each other. You can’t get to that level if she’s in pain, if she’s scared, if she’s having flashbacks–and then add to all that, if he doesn’t care.

It Diminishes the Reality of Emotional and Psychological Pain

I sometimes think that these commenters don’t understand that people honestly can experience trauma and pain. People who believe as these commenters do see Christianity as harsh rules: you have to do this or else. Emotional trauma is irrelevant. It’s not important what you feel. What’s important is that you do what God tells you!

But that’s not the picture the Bible gives us. Read the book of Psalms sometime; David was in complete emotional anguish writing most of it. Jeremiah went through bouts of depression; so did Jonah and Elijah. And God never once said, “stop your complaining and just do what I said!” Instead, he gently talked to these prophets and comforted them and showed them who He was and that He cared.

God cares about your emotional and psychological pain.

And He doesn’t want you to go through that pain. He wants to heal it. And healing can’t be done by forcing it. I shared this quotation from the Eldredges on Facebook this week which sums this up perfectly:

Allow room for emotional healing.

Sexual trauma works like this: we are at our most vulnerable sexually, because during sex we completely bare ourselves, physically and emotionally. When there’s trauma, then, it sears us. And if you pressure her to do things that are difficult, you cement in her mind that sex is a negative, horrible experience. If a woman has vaginismus  pain during sex), for instance, and you tell her she has no right to refuse, and she has to “let him” have intercourse several times a week (or everyday), and the whole time she is crying, then she is associating pain, degradation, and fear with sex. Not only is it just physical pain; it’s also a ton of emotional pain as well. That makes healing so that she can enjoy sex and live life abundantly even harder.

Sex is Supposed to Be For Both of You!

Let’s do a thought experiment. Picture a little girl growing up in a family where she’s often dismissed and forgotten. She has an uncle who is drunk a lot who likes to feel up under her shirt. She squirms and tries to get away but she can’t.

When she’s 15, and he’s totally drunk one night, he forces her to perform oral sex on him.

She leaves home shortly thereafter, pulls her life together, and gets married.

Now, when her husband touches her breasts, she’s taken back to that drunken uncle. She feels panicky. She squirms. What she wants, more than anything, is to bolt from the room.

Now picture Jesus standing there.

I don’t like asking the question What Would Jesus Do very often because I think it’s become trite. But sometimes we need to, because we debate theology and interpretation of Scripture so much that we forget about the person of Jesus Christ with whom we actually have a relationship.

So picture that Jesus. Would He say to that panicky woman, “Your husband has authority over your body. You need to repent of withholding, and you need to gladly let him delight in your breasts from now on, whenever your husband wants.”

Or would He say, “I am so heartbroken that someone stole the beauty of sex from you. But I created marriage so that you can understand real intimacy again. Right now, let’s learn to give to each other and love each other as best you can, while you work on healing from this trauma. Because what I want for you, my child, is an abundant life and freedom, and that can come when you run to me.”

Quite frankly, anyone who thinks Jesus would say the first simply does not serve the same Jesus that I do.


Why is He Stressing About THAT? Bearing Each Other’s Burdens

Bearing each other's burdens: Because we all obsess over different things! #marriagetipDoes your husband obsess over things you think are silly? Does he think you worry about nothing?

Maybe it’s time to bear with each other!

And today, on Wifey Wednesday, guest poster Sarah Ball is going to do just that! Sarah writes the awesome blog Virtuous Woman Exposed, and she’s helping me today as I can’t write a post since I’m in an RV driving to Winnipeg!

Here’s Sarah:

What keeps you up at night? Well, besides bad Chinese food, a new season of Nashville, and sounds of your naughty garbage digging puppy dealing with the bad Chinese food. The one thing that keeps me tossing and turning at night are my kids–specifically their hearts.

My husband on the other hand, can saw logs faster than a caffeinated beaver, even after a stressful kid day. What keeps him up at night are our bills, rising gas prices and school fees.

If he shares these stresses with me, my response is usually “it will be fine it’s only money, it will all work out.” I rarely lose sleep over finances.

If I share my “they’re all going to need therapy!” woes with him, he gives me a less than concerned, “they’re fine, this is normal kid stuff.”

Often these sleep-robbing stresses will be our main points of arguments.

I need him to spend more quality time with his boys, and he needs me to stop ‘browsing’ Amazon. It can also be the root of our judgments and criticism towards one another. “Why are you always so hard on your son?” or “Do you seriously need another pair of shoes?”

The point is, sometimes our conflict is really about the burdens we feel and each carry, and our lack of empathy.

Burdens are those worries, and heavy feelings of responsibility that weigh us down. Usually a burden is met with intense anxiety, and a need to control the particular burden. Our greatest burdens are usually what we measure success and failure by. For example, if my children are happy and behaving well, then I feel amazing as a mother. If the bills are paid and there is enough money for brand named Kraft Dinner then my husband is strutting around like a Canadian Curling Club Champion.

Its okay for couples to have separate burdens. Not much would get accomplished as a family if both parents were rocking in the fetal position over a bad report card. However, our separate burdens in marriage can either drive us apart or bring us closer together.

So how do we allow burdens to strengthen our marriage and not divide it?

1. Understand which burdens your spouse carries the most. What do they complain about the most, what affects their self esteem the most? What do they criticize you about the most?

2. Acknowledge to your spouse that you know they carry the weight of this certain burden, and thank them for carrying it.

3. Ask what you can do to relieve the burden for them. God says we are to carry one another’s burdens and this includes our spouses. Take an interest in their burdens, by asking them how it’s going and if there is anything you can do to help alleviate it.

4. Don’t take their burden lightly. In the future, don’t say things like – “It’s not that big of a deal,” because it is to them. Just like your burdens are to you. Try to hear them out.

5. In conflict, try to recognize if it’s their burden that is igniting the fight, or even if it’s your own burden that has you on the attack. Recognizing that it’s the burden talking can help bring some perspective and empathy into the argument. “Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side.” ~ Zig Ziglar


6. Pray for one another’s burdens. Pray for your spouse that they will have strength and wisdom over the heavy responsibilities they carry. Also pray that God would show you how to help.

A marriage that shares burdens together is a marriage that deepens and lasts.

Sarah BallSarah Ball is the blogger behind Virtuous Woman Exposed, a columnist, freelance writer and mother of 5 children ages 4-15 and she’s exhausted just writing that. Her passion is to see women set free from shame, fear and bondage. She wants you to know that you can hold your head up high knowing they you are a precious daughter of God.  You can visit her blog at and you can follow her on FACEBOOK & TWITTER

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have a marriage post to share with us? Just link up the URL of that post in the linky below! And then be sure to link back here so others can read these great posts. It’s a great way to get traffic for your blog!

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Are You Robbing From Your Teen? Why Chores Matter!

Teenagers and Chores: If your kids don't work, you're robbing growth opportunities from them.

Teenagers should do chores!

Putting teenagers and chores in the same sentence doesn’t sound like a revolutionary thing, but in many families you would think that it was. Too few kids help out around the house–and too few even know how to! Today Joanne Kraft, author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids, issues a call to arms for all parents: let’s equip our kids–and that means requiring some work out of them!

Here’s Joanne:

What does the average week look like in your home? Do you make all the meals, do the laundry, clean the house with little help from your teenager? If this sounds like you, you might just be robbing your teenager.

The definition for the penal code of robbery is: To take something by force or fear. When we steal hardworking opportunities from our kids because {force} we can do it better or we’re {fear} afraid they can’t handle it, we rob from them.

I worked for years as a 911 dispatcher and I received more calls from parents of teenagers robbing from their kids than I care to recount. They spent their parenting years doing everything in their power to make their child’s life fairy-tale perfect and problem free. They now had teenagers who were disrespectful, lazy, and borderline narcissistic– Because they were allowed to be.

When the world revolves around your kid--they'll act like it!

When I do for my teenager what he can do for himself I allow my teen to stay a child. Here’s the good news: there’s a magic remedy for their success and it’s called good old fashioned hard work.

How to Grow Your Teen Into a Hardworking Adult:

  • Don’t pay for a cell phone. A smartphone isn’t a need, it’s a want. Put that money towards their college savings, instead. Or, better yet, let them get a job and pay for a cell phone themselves.
  • Turn off the TV/Video Games/iPads. Entertainment only after responsibilities. Is homework done? Is the house a mess? If it is, hand them a broom. They’re a part of the family. A family is a team. There’s no reason they can’t get in the game and do a big chunk of the chores.
  • Schoolwork isn’t a forever excuse. I can’t say, “I have a 40hr a week job, so I can’t be a mom this afternoon.” Begin training your teens now because life won’t care if they’re in graduate school or married. They need to be able to work hard no matter what is going on around them.
  • Driving isn’t a right it’s a privilege. Just because a teenager is old enough to drive the family car doesn’t mean they get dibs on it. Let them get a job and start saving for one. Our daughter, Grace, has been saving for a car since she was 13. She’s now 16 and almost all her babysitting money has gone into her future car account. She now has over $2500.00. She is just tickled she’s been able to do this. I could buy her a car but I won’t. Why rob her of this joy? She will appreciate her future first car so much more.

A few weeks ago, one of my girlfriends’ sent her seventeen year old son to stay with our family for a week. We had a blast. We showed him all around Nashville and took him out for BBQ. We treated him to dinner and a Civil War tour. Each morning after breakfast I gathered my two teenagers and wrote down a list of house chores and tore off a piece of the list for each…Nathaniel, too.

Teenagers and Chores and Part-Time Jobs

“You’re a part of the family this week, Nathaniel, so here you go.” I smiled and handed him his own chore list. I cranked up some tunes and the kids and I got to work. They had the lion’s share of chores but still laughed and sang along to the music while they swept, vacuumed, cleaned dishes and dusted. I told them, “Give me an hour of your time and I’ll give you the rest of the day.” Nathaniel still wants to come back and stay with us again.

Scripture one mom hangs in her kitchen: If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Give your teenager a job. Allow him or her to feel good about themselves. Too often, I hear mom’s say, “If he gets a job I’m the one who will have to take him to work.” Let him get a job that’s a bike ride away! Or, drive him to work for a little while. Weren’t you the one who drove him to baseball or football practice three times a week? So, why are you holding back from helping him get to work now? Other moms say, “She will have all her life to work. I want her to enjoy her school break or summer off.” I like to answer this with my own question: Why hold your teenager back from adult success?

A study released last year by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program said finding a job when you’re older is harder if you haven’t worked during your teenage years.

In addition, “research shows those who work in high school have wages 10 to 15 percent higher when they graduate from college,” said Ishwar Khatiwada, a co-author of the study and an associate director of research at Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.

As a mom, each time I steal a hard work opportunity to grow my child into an adult I rob character-building moments.

Parents agree that their ultimate goal is to raise independent, hardworking, God honoring adults, yet still we continue to rob opportunities from our teens to grow them into these types of adults.

Don't rob your teen of opportunities to grow!

Mom, stop robbing from your teenager.

Stop making excuses for doing things they can do. It’s not mean to make your teenager do chores. It’s not mean to stop paying for his wants and to say no to designer jeans or video games and smartphones. It’s not mean to make her do her own laundry, or to put her to work around the house before she spends the day with friends or plops in front of the TV…it’s not mean at all.

Have you been robbing your teen? What do you think about teenagers and chores? Let us know in the comments–and tell us about your own experiences working when you were a teen, too!

joannekraftJoanne Kraft is a mom of four and the author of Just Too Busy—Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical and her recent bookThe Mean Mom's Guide to Raising Great Kids_medium_image_attachmentThe Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. She’s a favorite speaker at women’s conferences and has been a guest on Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and CBN.

Her articles have appeared in ParentLife, Today’s Christian Woman, In Touch, Thriving Family, P31 Woman and more. Joanne and her husband, Paul, recently moved their family from California to Tennessee and happily traded soy milk and arugula for sweet tea and biscuits.

Download your FREE Mean Mom Bill of Rights at

Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Grumpy As a Family

Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Such a Grumpy Family

Is your family grumpy too much?

Today Liz Millay from Simple Life Messy Life joins us to give us 10 ways to stop feeling like a grumpy family–and start feeling like a happy family again, even in the midst of school!

School has begun once again and whether your kids are hopping on the big yellow bus or sitting down for math lessons at the kitchen table, one thing is for sure – gone are the lazy days of summer. Life is about to get busy!

I know for our family, when our schedules are full and we aren’t able to spend as much time together, we start to feel disconnected. We are more liable to get cranky at each other and we start to feel just plain “off.”

So, how do you stay connected as a family when your days are filled with activities taking you every which way?

If you don’t want to be a grumpy family, you have to be intentional.

Don’t get me wrong, being intentional about connecting as a family isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated either!

Here are ten simple ways to stay connected as a family. Don’t go crazy trying to do all ten (that wouldn’t be very simple after all!), but pick a few and find what works for you!

1. Have at least one night a week where everyone is home

Especially as your kids get older, it is really easy to have somewhere to be every night of the week. And while some seasons of life will be busier than others by necessity, try to keep at least one night a week where everyone is home together.

On these nights the pace of life can slow down a little. Family members can play, talk, and just spend time together unhurried. These times of rest are so important.

2. Cook a meal together

One of the simplest ways to find time to connect as a family is to combine it with something you already have to do anyway. Since you have to eat, why not have a night when the family makes dinner together?

You could try spitting the meal responsibilities (boys make the main dish, girls make the sides), do a little Chopped Challenge, or tackle a new recipe together. Even the littlest helpers can get involved!

3. Eat dinner around the table

Even if you aren’t able to cook the meal together, there are so many benefits to eating together! You can read more about the benefits of the family dinner table here, but just some of them are: less tension in the house, more talking among family members, and healthier eating all around.

For extra fun or a special evening, put out a table cloth and light a candle (even if you’re just eating pizza!). Put away the phones and make dinnertime a relaxing part of the evening.

4. Turn off the electronics

Speaking of putting away your phones, try putting some limits on all electronic devices. The TV, phone, iPad – being connected to them makes it really hard to be connected to each other!

This past year for Lent, one of the things we decided to do was to not turn the TV on until after our son went to bed. It was such a simple thing, but you wouldn’t imagine the different it made in the atmosphere of our family. You can read more about our experience here.

5. Go for a walk 

Another thing we did along with our no TV rule was to go for a walk almost every evening. Now, you might not be able to go for a family walk every evening, but I highly recommend doing it when you can!

It could be as simple as a quick walk around the block or a bigger adventure such as going on a hike at a nearby trail. Either way, there is something about the fresh air and getting your blood pumping that puts everyone in a good mood. Getting out of the house and away from distractions is also a great time to chat and catch up on life.

6. Play a game

Another fun way to spend some time together as a family is to play a game. This could be a card or board game (we like to play Uno with our three year old!) or something more active like shooting baskets or playing catch. You could even play video games together if that’s more your style! It doesn’t matter as much what the activity is, but that you are doing it side-by-side, connecting with each other and building memories.

7. Exercise together 

Getting in some exercise is something that most people have on their to-do list. One way to increase the odds of it actually happening (and have more fun doing it) is to get the whole family to join in!

My husband and I have been trying to do a short yoga video every night and often our three year old son joins in. It makes it a little more crazy – but also a lot more fun! Plus, he gets to see us exercising and we get to build a healthy habit as a family.

8. Sneak in some end of the night pillow talk

Pillow talk isn’t just for husbands and wives! That quiet moment, with a dim room all snuggled in bed is a great time to connect with your kids. Ask them about their favorite part of the day, read a book, or just get in some extra hugs and kisses.

9. Family devotional 

Sometimes it is easy to think of physical, social, and mental ways to connect, but forget that it is important to connect on a spiritual level too. A family devotional time doesn’t have to be complicated either. You can pair it with dinner or sneak it in at bed time, or even do it at breakfast if you are one of those crazy morning people!

If you need some ideas for family devotions try reading through a book of the Bible (or a story Bible for the little ones) and signing a favorite worship song. There are also lots of great devotional books out there to choose from!

If you have toddlers, try checking out my Play Through The Bible series!

10. Pray 

This goes along with having a family devotional time, but it is so important that I thought it deserved its own separate point! Definitely include prayer both during your devotional time and throughout your day as a family. But, even on top of that, don’t forget to pray for your family.

Pray for your family members individually, and also pray for your family as a whole. Pray for relationships among each other, for your marriage, for siblings, and for the love of Christ to shine in through your family.

Looking for more simple and fun ideas of activities to do together as a family? I have a FREE gift for you! Click here to get family fun cards – 36 printable cards with simple activities for you to do on family night or anytime! 

lizLiz is a twenty-something wife, mother, and jack-of-all-trades. When she’s not looking for ways to teach God’s truth to her three year old you’ll find her reading, cooking, writing, or enjoying the outdoors. Liz Blogs about faith, family, and life’s adventures at Simple Life. Messy Life.

Cyberbullying: Why I Decided to Monitor My Teen’s Cell Phone

Today please welcome Amy Williams, who shares her wisdom about raising teens in a time, when cyberbullying is so prevalent.  It’s time to get armed with tactics to battle bullying is all its forms.

Cyberbullying- Why I Decided to Monitor My Teen's Cell PhoneDid you have any nicknames growing up?

Unfortunately, in the fifth grade I had the pleasure of earning the moniker “Dog” from a boy named Kenny. The name stuck and followed me until the middle of seventh grade. It was the cherry on top of a heaping dish that was already filled with adolescent angst and incredibly self conscious feelings about my red hair and freckles. After Kenny blessed me with this new title, things only got worse.

Did I tell my parents or seek help from a teacher?

Of course not! That would have been a wise decision on my part, but I struggled through this bullying episode alone. I relied on tears cried behind closed doors and I avoided Kenny and the other boys in my class at all costs. Looking back, I wish that I had stood up for myself or found a healthier way of dealing with this issue.

My own experience with bullying is one of the main reasons why we chose to actively monitor our teenager’s social media and cell phone activity. The early 90’s were a trying time for myself, but at least I didn’t have to worry about technology and cyberbullying. Today’s generations are growing up in a very connected and viral social media firestorm that can quickly escalate bullying into a full fledged assault of mean, hateful, and derogatory remarks.

The Prevalence Of Cyberbullying

My own children have had a few run ins with a class bully or two and, just like their mother, they avoided seeking adult intervention until we personally witnessed the bruising and tears. Granted these were isolated incidents, but with the information available on cyberbullying we couldn’t hide our heads in the sand and blindly hand over a cell phone or tablet without some safety measures in place.

Many experts believe that cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on our children. There has been proven correlations between victims of cyberbullying and the suffering from anxiety, depression, and attempted suicides. Even with the known problems associated with cyberbullying, teens and children still continue to digitally harass or embarrass their peers.

Here are four cringeworthy cyberbullying statistics that support our choice to monitor our teens:

  • One in every three children have been the victims of cyber threats.
  • More than 25 percent of teenagers were repeatedly bullied via their cell phone or the Internet.
  • Some studies estimate that over half of our children have experienced cyberbullying in some form with 20 percent experiencing digital aggression on a regular basis.
  • Only one out of ten children will seek help for cyberbullying!

Why Monitoring Was A Choice That Worked For Us

Our children have been secretive in the past about bullying and a recent study by McAfee noted that 70 percent of teenagers have hid online interactions from their parents. This creates a digital divide between us and our children, making our jobs of keeping them safe that much harder. To compound this problem, many teens use “dummy accounts” to keep their real social media activity a secret.

With all this secrecy and very real dangers lurking online, we knew we wanted to be aware of what our children were seeing, experiencing, or doing on the world wide web. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that bullying often stops within ten seconds 57 percent of the time when a bystander intervenes. That fact alone encouraged us to pursue monitoring as a viable choice in our parenting.

How To Monitor A Teen’s Cell Phone

We are open and honest with our children about monitoring their activity. There is no snooping and sleuthing occurring, but we do have regular conversations about social media etiquette and hot topics like cyberbullying. In fact, monitoring a teen’s phone has led to many heart-to-heart conversations and learning opportunities to prepare them for life.

Listed below are four suggestions to help monitor a teenager’s Internet and cellphone activity:

  • Be honest! I can’t stress this enough. We don’t hide the fact that we check in on them and they know there is always a possibility that we will see anything they post.
  • Know a child’s accounts, user names, passwords, and sites frequented.
  • Teach social media etiquette, talk about cyberbullying, and teach them about the potential problems associated with sexting. We avoid lecturing, name calling, and yelling while actively listening to our children.
  • Choose an app that allows you to keep all of our child’s accounts in one location. This helps us sift through multiple sites, text messages, and more with ease. We took advantage of TeenSafe’s free trial period and were hooked.

Cyberbullying is just one facet of the big puzzle of social media and cell phones, but it was enough to warrant our attention. I know that a lot of people don’t agree with our choice and it isn’t always popular with our kids, but this solution works for us.

As parents, we naturally want things to be better for our children. Bullying can leave scars behind, they just aren’t visible to the naked eye. I don’t wish that experience for anyone’s children, let alone mine. I feel that monitoring allows me to take a proactive approach and prevent unnecessary heartache down the road.

Would you consider monitoring a child’s cell phone? Why or why not?

Amy Williams Bio

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.


On the War Room: On Prayer and Fighting the Marriage Battle

War RoomOn Monday night I watched a streaming version of the War Room so I could tell you about it today for Wifey Wednesday.

The War Room is all about prayer–how a wife who starts to pray can bring such changes to her marriage.

I’ve been on a journey of prayer over the last year–praying more for my family and others than I have in a long time. It really has transformed my life in very fundamental ways. I’m learning more to recognize God’s voice. I love times of silence.

And I was so inspired by the movie. Just a quick synopsis (no spoilers, don’t worry!) and a few quick snapshots of what I liked:

Synopsis of the War Room:

Elizabeth, a real estate agent, is married to Tony, a workaholic, lying husband who is verging on an affair. They fight like cats and dogs. Their daughter feels alienated. Her life is falling apart.

In the course of her work, Elizabeth meets Clara, and older woman who senses the fight in Elizabeth. “If you’re fighting against your husband,” says Clara, “you’re fighting against your marriage.” So true!

And so Clara shows Elizabeth her “favourite room in the house”–her War Room, where she does all her fighting. It’s a closet in her bedroom set up with a chair and papered with prayer requests and answers.

Elizabeth starts praying, and God starts moving.

Now for the Snapshots of the War Room:

Clara asks what Elizabeth and Tony do well in their marriage. “Fighting’s about all we do,” says Elizabeth. Clara replies,

“Just because you argue a lot doesn’t mean that you fight well. But I bet that you never feel like you’ve won after you’ve had an argument.”

Ever been there?

Or this one:

Clara wants to start teaching Elizabeth about prayer, and then Elizabeth starts complaining about everything her husband does wrong. Clara says, “are you just going to complain, or are we going to get to work?” Complaining doesn’t fix anything. That is so true–and I’m going to expand on that in another post coming up.

The whole point is that Clara is teaching Elizabeth how to fight–how to go to battle in prayer for her marriage. And if more of us did that, our marriages would be turned around! Such a great message to hear.

And the end of the movie, when Clara tells Elizabeth that it’s time to pass the lesson she’s learned on. Our lives should be about mentoring others. Again, I’d like to write a longer post about just that rather than comment too long on it here.

My Main Reaction to The War Room:

If everyone saw this we would have an outbreak of prayer! And that is so needed. Until we start engaging the battle properly and learning to take things to God, we’re not going to get very far in this life even if our intentions are good. I really do encourage everyone to see the movie!

A Few Other Thoughts About The War Room:

That being said, I did have two reservations about the movie. Neither should discourage anyone from seeing it; it’s just things that I thought that I’d like to discuss.

The first is this: we seem to be addicted to a rather simplistic view of the Christian life, where learning to pray and coming to God makes your life better.

It’s the same problem I see in Christian romance novels where once people come to Christ/find the right guy, everything is better in their lives.

In truth, I have never known that to happen to anyone in real life. I have known people to pray and to see one area of their life fixed, but not everything all at once. And quite often the answer we get about prayer is just this: wait. Again, I’ll write more on this later, but prayer makes no sense without also having the idea of waiting.

Remember, after David confessed about Bathsheba and came back to God, his son still died. David was restored, but he still faced consequences. His life was not peachy keen. I’m not so sure why we need our stories to all have happy, storybook endings when that isn’t real life. Can we not also rejoice in a real life story, even if the ending doesn’t tie everything up perfectly?

Corrie ten Boom was a master of prayer and a wonderful woman of humility, but her sister still died in a concentration camp. All over the world today are people who are crying out to God and praying without ceasing, but they are still refugees in dire straits. Prayer is not just about God doing amazing things to rescue us in the here and now in the way we want; prayer is also about God working on our hearts, and perhaps if we weren’t so addicted to happy endings we’d have a more realistic view of what the Christian life is like.

My second reservation relates more to the purpose of this blog, and it comes back to the “duck” philosophy that is talked about in the movie: “You had better duck, honey, so that God can hit your husband.”

In other words, God wants to hit your husband on the head with a 2×4 to get his attention and smarten him up, but if you get in the way and start trying to do some of the work yourself, you’ll get hit by it instead. So duck so that God can get your husband! All you really need to do is pray–nothing else.

Here’s the issue:

About The War Room: Prayer is the Battle, but it is also fortification for the battle to come

We have three battlegrounds: our own hearts; the spiritual realm (against spiritual forces, and where God works on the spirit of others); and the physical world where we interact ourselves.

Prayer engages the battle in the spiritual realm. And it prepares our hearts to participate in that spiritual battle. But it also prepares us to engage in the physical world.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentMy problem with the “duck” philosophy, which I speak out quite vehemently against in my book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, is that it gives the impression that the spiritual realm is the only battle. It is not. God does not just want us praying, “your kingdom come.” He also wants us to actively be a part of bringing His kingdom to the world.

In 1 Chronicles 14 David has to go up and fight the Philistines twice. Both times he inquires of the Lord (he fortifies for battle!) about what he should do. The first time God tells him, “go up and fight, and I will deliver them.” The prayer is fortification for what David actually has to do in the physical world–and as David steps out and does that, God fights in the spiritual realm at the same time.

The second instance is different: God tells David not to go and fight, but instead to walk around behind the Philistines and watch what God will do. After God works, then David can advance.

The “duck” philosophy is that it treats every instance like #2, when frequently (and, I would argue, usually) God wants us to act like #1–we have to go out and do something.

Ironically, I’m in a #2 place in my personal life with something right now. Last year God was telling me to go out and fight, and I did. And now God is telling me to wait and watch what He will do. So I am not saying that every instance is a #1. I’m just saying they’re not all #2s either. Sometimes we have to ACT.

But we cannot act unless we first fight that battle in prayer–that battle that gets our own hearts right, and that battle that prepares the spiritual ground.

I see it as a three part battle:

  1. We do battle to get our hearts right.
  2. We bang on the gates of heaven on behalf of our husband’s heart and soul
  3. We ask God for direction on what steps we should take to bring His will and His kingdom into our marriage.

There’s not a lot of good teaching on #3. There’s a lot on #2, and a little bit on #1. But #3 is almost completely lacking.

Nevertheless, in Scripture we’re told to do more than pray. We’re to rescue the wandering believer (James 5:19-20). We’re to confront someone in sin (Matthew 18:15-20). We’re to make peace (Romans 12:18). If all we’re to do is to pray, then James would have written: if  you see a believer wandering, pray for him–and left it at that. But he didn’t!

Here’s something even more startling: there are times when we AREN’T supposed to pray until things are right in the physical world. If you go to offer your gift at the altar, or if you go to take communion, and you remember that you have caused offense to someone, you go and make that right first. Sometimes not acting in the physical realm prevents our prayers from being answered.

So let’s make sure that we understand all THREE battlegrounds: our hearts; the spiritual realm; and the physical realm where we interact.

That’s what the focus of 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage is. Thoughts 1-4 are all about getting our hearts right–because we can’t do anything until we’re acting out of humility and a genuine desire to see our marriage grow, not to get our own way. And a huge part of that is also battling in prayer in the spiritual realm!

But then we get into how to act in a godly way in our marriages. Thoughts 5-7 are all about resolving conflict, or how to address the big things in our marriages. But that’s not the only thing God may ask us to do to bridge the gap or bring His kingdom into our marriages. There are also two other things: learning to make love and value sex within our marriages; and countering the inevitable drift we have in marriage and learning to be friends again.

Those are all action steps that flow out of an active prayer life. Those are all part of the battle, too. Great sex is part of defeating the enemy! Forging a great friendship is part of defeating the enemy. Dealing with festering issues and holding other believers accountable (including our husbands) is part of the battle. We pray, and we act.

People can make two kinds of mistakes: the most frequent is to act without prayer. We forge ahead, trying to fix our husbands and trying to force change when we’re bitter and angry, and it often backfires. Until we can forge ahead with the goal of bringing God into the situation, rather than our own justification, we will make things worse, because the only way to peace is through Jesus.

But the other mistake we can make is to failure to act at all–to make it seem like only God is to do the heavy lifting, when sometimes the greatest act of faith is to step outside of our comfort zone.

I loved the call to prayer at the end of The War Room. I’m already realizing that I need more visible reminders of what I’m praying and of promises or answers I’ve received, and I’m starting to build that in. It was an inspiring movie, and I do urge everyone to see it. It will help you battle in Realms #1 and #2–our hearts and the spiritual realm! And it is a great message to get you to do that.

So see the movie, and then start praying in those realms. Get your heart right! Pray for spiritual breakthroughs. Absolutely!

But after all that, just don’t forget that there’s a third realm where God may ask you to act. And in your prayer life, ask Him what those actions should be.

Did you see The War Room? What did you think? Have you ever heard the “Duck Philosophy”? Let me know in the comments!

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! If you’re a marriage blogger, link up your own marriage post in the linky below! Just leave the URL here, and then be sure to link back to this post so other people can read these great marriage thoughts!

Making it Home: When Sex Isn’t Easy and Playful

Welcome guest author Emily Wierenga, as she shares an excerpt about how sex sometimes hurts from her new memoir, Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity and Purpose.

Making it Home

Some nights, we can’t.

We have one set of bed sheets, and they’re tattered for the washing. In the winter it’s a feather tick we sleep under, feathers plucked by the Hutterites who live down the road from us.

I cry because I can’t let Trent in again.

It hurts too much, and it’s our wedding night all over again—two sons later.

“Shhh—it’s okay, Em, we’ll try again,” he says. But I know it’s not just my body that won’t let him in.

We sleep beneath the feathers, and some nights, Trent kicks it off because he’s too hot. He’s always naked, me, wrapped in flannels and “You should really try sleeping without clothes,” Trent says, holding me. “You’d be so much warmer.”

“I doubt that,” I say with a laugh. “I know why you want me to sleep naked… ”

He kisses my neck. “You know, sometimes, Em, I just want to hold you.”

I nod. I know. Because he is the man who waited six months just to kiss me.

Who waited twenty three years to have sex with someone—and that someone was me, on our wedding night.

But I was sewn tight that night, and the champagne didn’t loose anything. Trent waiting in the bed in the cottage, his black suit and white shirt flung on the floor and him leaning on one arm, waiting for me. The July heat whispering through a window, and the beach just steps from the cottage. The stars like the diamonds on my dress, clustered together and I thought about running.

“Are you coming, Em?” Trent said, and I let that dress fall, clutching the sheets to my flat chest and he pulled me close but I was an aged envelope that had glued shut. And I cried. Him saying, “Shhh, it’s okay, we have our whole lives to figure this out.”

We were the couple who, when we were dating, hadn’t been able to stop kissing until three in the morning, his hands under my shirt but now, after the vows beneath the trellis and my dad’s tender prayer and the rose petals falling, now that we were married, I was like a caged bird. Him trying to open the lock but I wanted that cage. I knew every corner, every rung, and I’d put myself in there when I was sixteen.

Trent’s fallen asleep against my shoulder, his quiet snores in my ear, his long arms around my waist.

I’m reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, my bedside table littered with ear plugs and sleeping pills. And some nights, still, even after two babies and ten years of becoming one beneath the sheets, my body still runs to that cage.

I’m that bird, learning how to fly.

Sheila says: I so appreciate Emily being so honest in her book about her struggles. If you’ve struggling with vaginismus (when sex hurts because you’re too tight), I do have some information in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. You can also find some information on vaginismus here.

When Sex Hurts

This excerpt is taken from Emily Wierenga’s new memoir (the sequel to ATLAS GIRL), Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity and Purpose. Order HERE.

What does it mean to be a woman and to make a home? Does it mean homeschooling children or going to the office every day? Cooking gourmet meals and making Pinterest-worthy home décor? In Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose, author and blogger Emily Wierenga takes readers on an unconventional journey through marriage, miscarriage, foster parenting and the daily struggle of longing to be known, inviting them into a quest for identity in the midst of life’s daily interruptions. Get your copy HERE. Proceeds benefit Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree.

Get FREE downloadable chapters from Making It Home HERE.

Emily T. WierengaMaking It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose_medium_image_attachmentEmily Wierenga is a blogger and the author of several books, including her touching memoirs Atlas Girl about her struggle with anorexia and figuring out where she fits in this world, and Making It Home. She’s an artist, a writer, a mother, and a lover with a passion for Africa. You can find her at

Reader Question: I’m Scared of Sex Because I Don’t Want to Get Pregnant

How can we have a healthy sex life if I'm scared of getting pregnant? Some thoughts on finding the win-win!

What do you do when you’re scared of getting pregnant, hate hormonal birth control, but then you avoid sex?

Reader Question: We can't agree on birth control, so I'm scared of sex!Every Monday I like to try to answer a reader question. Today I have the same question from two readers who are both scared of pregnancy. One woman writes:

I read many Christian blogs encouraging frequent sex between man and wife. I believe it to be helpful to a marriage. But what do other couples do when they don’t want to use contraceptives but are feeling insecure about having more children? My husband and I were not on the same page for a long time about having more children. That definitely affected our sex life. It is Biblical to have frequent sex so then should we just expect to have 20 children?

Another woman writes:

I follow and love your blog, but this is a topic I have either missed you addressing, or perhaps you haven’t addressed it. I am happily married for 16.5 years. We have 8 beautiful children, whom I stay at home with and homeschool. I feel complete in our family size, for many reasons. My husband says he does, also. However, we cannot find a birth control we agree on. We have failed at NFP/FAM both times we tried to use it. We hate how condoms interfere with intimacy, and we don’t want to do anything hormonal. I am leaning towards something permanent, but my husband is not on board there, either. Because of us not being able to agree/decide on a reliable form of birth control, I am fearful of pregnancy, and my attitude toward sex with my husband is suffering.

I’d love any advice on how to overcome this speed bump in our marriage. The simple answer would obviously be “get on the same page”. But what do we do when that’s not happening? Maybe I’m just looking for reassurance that I’m not the only one who has felt this way.

You’re definitely not the only one who has felt this way!

So how does a couple come to an agreement in this tricky situation?

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentIn 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I shared the concept that quite often in marriage we think of conflict as a win-lose thing. I told of three different stories–including one of my own–where we get into these endless arguments trying to come out on top.

For instance, quite a few years ago, when my girls were little, I was homeschooling them and Keith had a busy pediatric practice. He wanted one night a week to himself, to get together with some local guys and play battle scenarios with miniature soldiers (think that sounds geeky? You have no idea!). But I was starting to get writing assignments, and I needed time to write.

Keith was genuinely burned out. He had life and death decisions constantly. He needed time to decompress.

I genuinely needed time to use my own giftings.

How were we going to solve that one? It didn’t seem like both of us could win; there were only so many hours in a week.

But eventually Keith (it’s usually Keith who is the smart one when we’re in conflict) realized we were being ridiculous. We were fighting over time, but there were other ways to get more time. And Keith ended up cutting back his practice half a day a week to give me an afternoon to myself, when he took the girls. It was great.

We found a win-win.

In most conflicts,  you can find a win-win–or at least find a solution that you’re both happy with.

But this birth control one is a tricky one, because it really seems as if there are only two options: either he gets sex and she gets pregnant; or he gets no sex and she doesn’t get pregnant. In both scenarios, one wins and one loses.

Find the win-win instead

So how do we get out of this win-lose dichotomy?

Instead of focusing on who can make the better argument, ask: what do I need here?

What is your underlying need? Both of you speak it out loud. It’s best if you even write it down! And you may have several.

She might write:

  • I want to feel confident that I won’t get pregnant
  • I feel uncomfortable with hormonal birth control methods
  • I want to feel close to my husband

And he might write:

  • I want a fulfilling sex life with my wife
  • I feel uncomfortable with condoms

As soon as you write your needs down, you’re now in problem solving mode.

And problem solving mode is much better than fighting mode.

Give each need the God “sniff test”

Here’s another thing I bring up in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: not all needs are legitimate.

I once had a reader write because her husband was a pastor who had been involved in porn ten years prior. He had gotten clean, but over the last year some typical behaviours had started again–he was secretive; he was becoming more selfish; he was becoming more verbally cutting.

She asked him if he was using porn, and he said, “I need trust in a marriage. You’re violating the marriage covenant by not giving me something I need.” And he refused to let her see his computer.

Some needs are illegitimate, and are actually covers for sin.

Let’s take a look at these needs. The one that stands out to me is “I want to feel confident I won’t get pregnant.”

I completely understand that feeling. I really do. But no matter what birth control method you use (short of sterilization), there is always a risk. And our futures are in God’s hands, not ours. Whatever we do for birth control, we have to realize that “I may have another baby in my future.” That’s God’s prerogative. And if you do get pregnant, God will be there to give you strength and help you love that baby and mother that baby.

To not have sex because you don’t want to get pregnant is really saying, “I don’t trust God.” It’s a spiritual issue far more than it is a marriage issue. And that’s dangerous.

I’m not saying she’s wrong for not wanting more children; I’m just saying that we should never presume upon God. And ultimately this question is much easier to work out if we’re able to trust God and say, “I’ll do my best, but I know that  you hold my future, and whatever happens, I’ll be okay because you will carry me.

Let’s Problem Solve Together!

Now let’s problem solve together. She doesn’t want to use hormonal birth control, and likely for good reason. The women in my direct line react badly to it. We gain 10 pounds in the first month–and keep ballooning up to about 40 pounds heavier, even if it’s a low progesterone dose (trust me; I’ve had several family members, including myself, go on low doses not for birth control but to regulate periods. It’s been a disaster). We get totally grumpy. We lose our libido. I even get blood clots!

And some people have similar reactions to the IUD. For most, though, the IUD has far fewer side effects that the Pill. However, there is controversy over whether it prevents conception or just prevents implantation.

So let’s take the hormonal out of the way. That leaves:

  • Condoms
  • Diaphragms
  • Natural Family Planning

J from Hot, Holy and Humorous swears by her diaphragm! You can put it in early in the day; nobody feels it at all during intercourse; and it’s super effective. Not to share TMI, but I can’t use one. I’m just really queasy about that sort of stuff (which is ironic considering what I do for a living). But if you’re NOT queasy, it sounds awesome.

Let’s Talk Condoms and Natural Family Planning

If a diaphragm isn’t in the cards for you, what about a combination of other methods? With natural family planning you chart your cycles so that  you know when you ovulate. Then, about 4 days before ovulation and 3 days afterwards (that’s actually a REALLY long window, but I’m trying to be super careful here) you avoid intercourse or you use a barrier method.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive HealthRemember: You cannot get pregnant when you’re not around ovulation! Seriously, that little sperm needs an egg. No egg, no pregnancy. And eggs are only viable for a few days, as are sperm. So in the week right after your period (or at least in the first five days), you’re usually good to go! And then after ovulation until your period–green light, too!

I really understand being nervous about this. I have a 20-year-old daughter who just got married who is still in school. Believe me–we all get it! We really do. But one of your needs is feeling close to your husband, and one of his needs is feeling close to you through a fulfilling sex life. You owe it to yourself to educate yourself about fertility. The more we understand, the less scared we will be. Learn the science behind it! The best book for that that is recommended everytime I talk about this is Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

How Do I Get Over Being Scared to get Pregnant?

Knowledge + Trust in God = A fun sex life!

You need both elements. If you’re ultimately scared that a pregnancy would be a disaster, and think that “disaster factor” makes it more likely, since God always gives you what you’re most scared of, it won’t matter how much you educate yourself. Your problem is a spiritual one.

But if you really aren’t educated, then you’ll think that you can get pregnant ALL THE TIME–which honestly is not true.

When you have both elements, it’s easier to sit down with your husband and say something like,

Look, we each want a great sex life. But during these days we’re just going to have to use condoms. It won’t be so bad, though, because it means that on other days we don’t have to! So it’s only a sacrifice for part of the month. And this way we’ll be able to feel close and have fun again. And with me understanding my body, it will help me understand my libido and pay attention more, too!

So often we ignore our bodies, and miss out on our libido surges. When you’re tracking, you pay attention. I’ve got a series on understanding how our hormones affect libido, too.

You can find a win-win, even in this seemingly impossible situation.

But you’ve got to let God into the equation. And as you do more research, you just may find that you’re more excited about sex because you understand your own body better.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentDo you and your husband go around and around with the same issue, never resolving it? Maybe it’s whether to homeschool. Whether to move. Whether to buy a house. It seems like only one person can win. But what if you just need to look at the situation differently? In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, Thought #7 gives a detailed plan to find a win-win. I hope it helps you resolve that longstanding conflict, too!

Now let me know in the comments: How have you dealt with the fear of pregnancy?