Wifey Wednesday: Putting Your Husband First

Today, welcome guest author Kate from Making Space, a mom, wife and reader from the UK, who like many of us asks an important question, what comes first, children or marriage? Here’s what she says about putting your husband first.

Children or Marriage: Putting Your Husband First

This is what a normal day in our household looks like.

Jonas wakes up, if I’m organised enough I will have woken up before him to shower and get myself ready. I put him on the potty (and continue to do so regularly for the rest of the day), get him dressed, we go downstairs, I make him breakfast. I wash up all the dummies and beakers he used last night. I empty the dishwasher, and then load it, whilst talking to Jonas as he has breakfast. I get him down from the table, he plays whilst I have breakfast. I quickly load the washing machine and prepare his changing bag. A neighbour might knock on the door and come in for a quick chat. We quickly rush out the door trying to get to a toddler group on time, but often running 30 minutes late. We stay there until lunch and then walk home super quickly to get back in time for Jonas to have a quick lunch and then nap. He wakes about 2 or 3pm, leaving me a couple of hours to spend some 1-1 time with him, do cleaning, hang the washing, prepare dinner and do any other chores around the house for which there always seem to be many.

Engagement

Before Children

Around 5 or 6pm I am so happy to see Alan’s car pull up in the driveway. Honestly, not because I am excited to chat to my husband or give him a kiss for all his hard work in the office enabling me to be a stay at home mum, but because seeing him walk through the door means he can assist me in looking after Jonas, or sorting bits in the kitchen, or putting Jonas on the potty for the 20th time that day, or just lending a helping hand. Just doing anything which enables me a couple of minutes to breathe and have some time off from being a ‘mummy on duty’. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mummy, but I think most mummies will understand, some days it is relentless and there is such freedom in being ‘off duty’ for even 5 minutes.

As I started writing this post, I was going to write about juggling things in motherhood, something I’m sure I will write about soon, but as I started typing I realised something. Sometimes, and probably often, my focus in my day is so much on my son, and my long list of chores or jobs to achieve, that I forget something equally as important. I forget something that was here before any of these ‘to do’s’ or ‘priorities’, I forget my marriage. I forget to give myself to my husband.

I spend so much of my day giving my best to my son, that when Alan walks in the door and we go through the strict paces of the dinner/bedtime routine for Jonas, there is very little of my best left to give.

By the time 7pm on a good day, or 8pm on a not so good day comes, and Jonas is asleep in his cot, this mummy is knackered. Desperate for some me time, just to do something other than give of myself, longing to chill or zone out. I don’t really want to hear about his day, because surely it can’t compare to the importance of him needing to hear about the events of our day, the laughs, the new developments, the tears or tantrums, the accidents or successes of potty training, surely my husband’s tale of the day can’t compare to this, right?

As I type this I am reminded of something one of my close friends once said:

Our husbands were there before we had kids and they will still be there after.

I guess the state of our marriage will be dependant upon the attention we give it during these years when it’s hard to give again when we have done so all day.

I think this will probably be a challenge for a lot of mums, especially in those early years when our little ones are so dependant on us. We can feel like we have literally given so much that we have emptied ourself of all energy, that there is none left to find.

If this resonates with you, I challenge you, like I challenge myself, to remember the one that was there first. To remember our husbands who have given us these precious children. And on those days when we literally feel like we have given above and beyond for our babies, to somehow muster up something else, to give to our husbands. To remember that when they walk in the door, although you may feel desperate for them to help, to take time to give them a kiss. Or when you feel like you have to tell them the events of the day because you haven’t had any other adult conversation within the last 4 hours, to remember, maybe they want to share their days events with you first. And when you hand them a list of ‘to do’s’, perhaps stop to think what this type of welcome might feel like to them as they step in the front door. Perhaps think that they may have had their own challenges or stress that day, and they may need a breather too.

And then remember this: we give to our children firstly because we love them, but also because we are investing in their lives. Don’t allow yourself to lose your love for your husband, but on the days that maybe you don’t feel it because you are so exhausted, remember you are investing in them too. Investing in your marriage, and when your babies have grown up, and flown the nest, your husband will still be there. And the success of our relationship will depend on what we put in now and how much we give to them now.

If this seems impossible, because you can’t possibly think of anyone else other than your little bundle of joy that is also a bundle of a lot of hard work, ask God for help. Ask Him for strength. Ask Him to show you little ways you can bless your husband, or help you to organise things so you have more time. Because the same is true of our children and our husbands; what we put in in the early years, most definitely affects what we get out in the later years.

Decide that what you get out of your marriage in years to come will be good!

Me-and-My-Boy-150x150My name’s Kate. Two and a half years ago I became a mummy. My life massively changed! I left my career, fell madly in love and started the biggest learning curve of my life. I have learnt many things since then but the biggest by far is that by the grace of God all things are possible. God has given me wisdom when I’ve needed answers, given me strength when I’ve been overwhelmed and given me capacity beyond my natural ability. I write a blog because honestly some days we all need something to read where we can find hope, encouragement or just a space to hear, it’s normal! You can find it here: Making Space.

How I Win Every Argument with My Spouse

Today we welcome Daniel Robertson from God’s Help for Marriage, as he shares about how to win every argument with your spouse–the answer is so good, you BOTH actually win!

How I Win Every Argument with my SpouseThis past summer I was working a temp job at the local county fair. One day, before my shift started, I took my wife and kids (and mother-in-law) to the fair for some family fun. But this trip ended in an epic argument between me and my wife. One of the worst we’ve ever had in 7 years of marriage.

I’ll also share how we overcame this argument, and the secret to winning every argument with your spouse. This secret is so powerful that not only will you win, but so will your spouse.

We were having a great time at the fair. The kids loved the Ferris Wheel. I think I took each of them on it twice, even though I don’t like heights. But what they loved even more was the dance floor, where they were playing country music and a bunch of kids were goofing off and dancing in a way that only little kids can do. They spent quite a bit of time there dancing around.

In fact, I was starting to get antsy because I wanted to show them more of the fair, and it was getting closer to the start of my work shift. I also wanted to help my wife get the kids in the car before my shift started. I hinted at my wife a few times that I wanted to go do something else, but she didn’t take these hints.

Sidenote: Hinting is not a great form of communication. I’m learning to be more direct with my requests.

After a few of these hints, I was really starting to get frustrated. I also knew that my 3 year old son was likely to throw a temper tantrum if and when I did try to get him to leave. I figured it would be better to get him away from the crowd to throw his tantrum, so I swooshed in and grabbed him. I pulled him away, with him kicking and screaming the whole time.

All of this happened without communicating with my wife about what I was planning. Huge mistake.

She was furious, and embarrassed to be seen with me after that. I looked like the mean daddy, who dragged his kid away from his fun. I thought I was the hero, who was taking charge and preventing a very public 3-year-old tantrum.

Sensing my wife’s fury, I knew it was time to end the fair date. I helped her get the kids into the car, and then tried to make amends with my wife. I explained why I did that, and she explained why I was wrong in what I did. I reached out to hug her and told her I loved her. She pushed me away and said something like “I hate you” or “I don’t love you”–with more vehemence than I could ever have imagined coming from her.

I was infuriated by her rejection. I don’t think I’ve ever been more hurt in my life. So I went to my car to get my badge and uniform shirt, and I still had maybe half an hour before my shift started, so I sat in my car, fuming. How could she say what she did? How could she let me start off a work day with this hanging between us?

So, how did we recover from this argument? How did we both end up winning?

I’ll tell you in a bit. But first, I’d like to talk about some common questions couples have about arguing.

How Often do Happy Couples Argue?

Despite this epically bad argument, my wife and I are a very happy couple. And happy couples argue just as much as any other couple.

In other words, it doesn’t really matter how much you argue. Argue a lot. Argue a little bit. It doesn’t make a huge difference on your overall happiness in the long term.

In some ways, arguing is actually a sign of a healthy relationship. Each person brings different beliefs, ideas, and values to marriage. You probably even have different ways of doing the same task.

Sometimes, these conflicting attitudes cause arguments. And that’s OK. It shows that each of you is willing to stand up for your values and positions. And that’s a good thing. If a couple told me they never argue, I would suspect one of them of being a wallflower or having given up.

What’s the Right Way to Argue?

Again, HOW you argue isn’t actually all that important in your long term happiness as a couple. It probably matters more than how often you argue, but not by much.

Some happy couples break all the “rules” of how to fight fair. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Use “Active Listening” techniques
  • Don’t get defensive
  • Don’t use blame-shifting
  • Don’t say “always” or “never”
  • Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements
  • Don’t attack your spouse’s character
  • Stay on topic

All of this is good advice. Follow it, if you can. But let’s be honest. In the heat of the moment, all of this good advice goes out the window. Even for the happiest couples.

The one rule you need to stick to every time is to not use violence when you argue. Spousal abuse is never OK. Other than that, all of the “arguing rules” are guidelines.

The Real Secret to Winning Every Argument is What you do After the Fight

OK, let me finish the rest of my story. A few minutes into my work shift at the fair, my wife called me and apologized for how she reacted. It was probably less than an hour after our fight. Definitely less than two. She also offered to bring me lunch at my break, which I had been planning to ask her to do until our argument broke out.

In other words, she made a peace offering.

In her book “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages” Shaunti Feldhahn reveals this as the secret:
“When highly happy couples inevitably experience hurt feelings and conflict, they will at some point mutually reconnect by sharing a private signal that says ‘We’re okay.'”

After an argument, happy couples reach out and reestablish their friendship and commitment to each other. I initially reached out to my wife by trying to hug her and tell her I loved her. Although she rejected my initial peace offering, it wasn’t long before she made her own attempt to reestablish connection with me.

Maybe you stay angry for days after an argument with your spouse. You might stonewall, push your husband or wife away, or just shut down. All while stewing in anger and bitterness and thinking negative thoughts about him or her. These thoughts are particularly damaging because they shift your perceptions of your spouse. The longer these thoughts continue, the more these negative perceptions become a part of your subconscious thinking patterns.

For instance, after our fight all I could think about was how badly my wife overreacted, and how could she let me start work like that, and all kinds of uncharitable thoughts about her.

These negative thoughts stopped instantly once she called and apologized. They were immediately replaced by feelings of gratitude and friendship.

It’s important to note that this has nothing to do with resolving the conflict. My wife and I never reached an agreement of who was “right” and who was “wrong”. We did come to an understanding of WHY we each did what we did, but we never agreed that those reasons were right.

There are some conflicts you will probably never resolve in your marriage. You’ll keep arguing about the same things over and over again. In some cases you might be able to reach a good compromise. In others, you might just have to agree to disagree.

But if you quickly reconnect with your spouse after an argument, you both win. Every time.

So how do you do this? The best way is to apologize and make some kind of “peace offering” after the argument. It might be as simple as a hug. Or maybe you make a goofy face or tell a joke to try to get your spouse to laugh. Or you touch pinkies as a secret sign that says “We’re okay”.

Or there’s my personal favorite: make up sex.

And if your spouse offers a peace offering, do your best to accept it. Maybe you aren’t ready right away. If not, it’s important that you make the next move. As soon as you are ready, make your own attempt to reconcile and reconnect.

Whoever makes the initial move, it’s best if this happens within a few hours of the argument. Or within a day at most. The sooner this happens, the better.

DanielDaniel Robertson is a Christian husband and father and writes about how to improve your marriage with Biblical principles. Download his free report to discover 3 simple keys to create more passion and intimacy in your marriage, or read his recent post on 15 tips to rock your marriage in 2015.

 

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

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Top 10 Mistakes I Made as a New Bride

Top 10 New Bride MistakesToday frequent reader and contributor Ngina Otiende from Intentional Today joins us with her top 10 mistakes–in the hopes that we won’t follow in her footsteps! Her first book released  yesterday on Amazon, and I think Ngina’s stuff is awesome. So I asked her to guest post for me, so I could spread the word about Blues to Bliss.

As a new bride I didn’t know much about marriage, the man I married, or myself.

But I thought I knew a lot. 

After almost seven years of marriage, now I can smile at some of my naive expectations and thoughts. But back then it was no smiling matter. I was steeped in new bride blues, I had no grace to give myself or my husband. And I did not understand that good wives are made over time, not over night.

Here are Top 10 things I did as a new bride that set our marriage on edge (and how not to follow in my steps!)

1. Scrubbing our house down the day he went back to work

And proudly proclaiming “I scrubbed the house down..and my back is killing me!” when he walked through the doors in the evening.

What he heard?

“Your (former) bachelor pad is filthy and it’s your fault I am in so much pain”
No man wants to feel like they hurt their wife, especially not from the wife herself! Or that they are dirty.

Over the years I have learned that it’s not so much what I have to say but how I say it and when I say it.

2. Thinking our first fight was the end of our marriage

Before marriage I heard “In marriage, God will either see both of you or none of you” I interpreted that to mean that Tommy and I had to be in perfect agreement all the time – no conflict or issues, certainly not sulking and being mad at each other for days at a time. When we stumbled into blues-ville, God would leave, to return once we sorted out our issues.

I battled hopelessness and despair. I thought our little love would limp for the rest of its life (because divorce was never an option). And I was mad with Tommy for messing up our spiritual life!

Over time, God would show me that every couple has issues, even the brand new ones! In fact it’s our issues that make us need Him. He would never leave us or forsake us, but we had to make a conscious intentional decision to invite Him into our messes. We (let me say, I) also had to learn how to put our messes in His hands. And leave them there.

3. Fearing to seek help

You know how you get married and everyone thinks you are swinging from the chandelier in excitement, all day, every day? And if you happened to have received excellent premarital counseling from mentors, you feel awful about going back to them with issues because you reckon that’s like saying “Your advice and effort not work”.

Yup. I did not yet understand pre-wedding mentoring is advance preparation; it does not wipe out possibilities of marital challenges, it equips you to handle them.

Our mentors understood that challenges would come and they wanted us to consult them and not feel ashamed. Me, I needed to get over my pride and say “Er, I am having a hard time following this guy because I think he doesn’t like me anymore”

4. Forcing him to stay up late in the night to resolve conflict.

I was the in-your-face-we-can’t-sleep-till-we-talk-about-this new bride. My husband was the melancholic, conflict averse we-don’t-have-to-talk-about-this-now-or-ever new groom.To say that we had hot debates would be incorrect because many times I would be having hot debates all by myself, while he sat and brooded.

Especially when I elbowed him at 2 am in the morning with “I can’t sleep, we must talk!”

You can’t always iron out conflicts the first time you try. And since God is always interested in real peace, not fake peace that comes from sweeping things under the carpet or rushing through resolution to get back to your “nice Christian lives”, He doesn’t mind us working through challenges slowly, so we can get  to the bottom of things. He’s not worried or intimidated when it takes a couple of sittings – or days – to iron out the creases and crooks.

5. Ironing his clothes

On the week my husband returned to work, I ironed all his work shirts, polished his shoes and proudly pointed it out when he came home in the evening. I was so proud of myself.

My husband plucked everything from my hands, walked away and told me not do that again.

Husbands are different. I thought all good wives take care of their men in that way. But mine likes to pick his clothes, iron them, polish his shoes and generally take care of himself.

Now that I am slightly older in marriage, I am beyond grateful that my man likes to take care of himself like that! ‘Cause there are many who prefer to be helped in that area (and nothing wrong with that by the way). My lesson? Don’t import everything you hear, just because it works in someone else’s marriage doesn’t mean it will work in yours.

6. Thinking I had nothing to give

Because of our not-so-few-squabbles, I felt disqualified from helping others. I also felt the pressure to be perfect in order to mentor and walk with other courting couples, brides-to-be and newly-weds.

I would learn that  it’s my messy marriage that gave me a message, my hurts and lessons enabled me to empathize. Without experiential lessons, I would be an empty gong; trying to take others where I had never been.

Now I know that early marriage adjustments and challenges are good because they keep you on your knees and make of you an effective messenger of God’s love.

7. Worrying about disappointing others

Not too long in marriage someone came to me and told me she’d heard my husband and I were very unhappy. And this person was so disappointed because “If she (Ngina) had waited so well and yet ended up in an unhappy marriage, then marriage is no good at all”.

I was shocked that someone imagined I was miserable. Why? Was it that time I cried during worship? Is it the way I am wearing my hair, do I look unhappy? If others think we are unhappy, are we unhappy? We don’t agree on everything, does that mean we should always agree? She’s a single person, what other singles have I disappointed, how will this affect them for the rest of their life? 

I was an irrational mess.

Marriage is not perfect. Ours was not, still isn’t, perfect. Though we get better, you never really eliminate challenges.Fortunately the only person we need to be doing marriage for is God. He’s the Author–our happiness and joy and impacting others is a result of living for Him and doing marriage His way.

My lesson? Don’t take responsibility for other peoples’ opinions and disappointments, even their joy!

8. Making my husband the source of my happiness

I don’t know how we stumble into this idea as new brides. But somewhere between the glories of a courtship filled with chivalry and sweetness and the crescendo of the engagement and a wedding, we start imagining that our husbands are responsible for our happiness and joy. We are crushed when they disappoint (because they do at about Week 1 of marriage).

We start wondering if we made a mistake and how to correct it. I learned quickly  that I married a fellow human being. If I wanted happiness and joy, I had to go get it myself!–from God, not from a human being. Tommy was, still is, the most amazing man, but He cannot supply what I need to get from God. I have to remove that impossible expectation on him and look to God to meet all my needs.

9. Having no life outside “us”

I had just resigned my job of 7 years, I had nothing going on in terms of a career. I  “lost” 99.9% of my friends when I got married. I was broke. And I was a newlywed! (isn’t that why we get married anyway, to have a forever best friend?!). But while Tommy was the greatest guy and the best gift that ever happened to me since Jesus, he made for a terrible girlfriend. And the sad thing was, he was not even trying to improve. I had high expectations, but over time I would learn that I need other women in my life–I need activities. I need to cultivate  passions and goals outside my marriage–not to compete with my marriage, but so I could be balanced and purpose-filled.

10. Expecting great sex without intentional involvement 

I expected my husband to know how to make the bedroom exciting without my involvement. “He’s the guy; he knows how to make things work.” I was a passive new bride. And it made for disappointments before I started making serious mental adjustments.

Guys like to know what is working and not working in the bedroom–not in harsh critical ways, mind you, but through loving practical feedback. When they operate in the blind, they tend to give their wives what they think they need. And that’s not always a good thing.

The wise bride learns (and the emphasis here is learns) to speak and communicate and respond to her husband, not lie back and expect fireworks without effort.

Ngina OtiendeNgina Otiende is the author of the newly released book, “Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily-ever-after in the Early Years“. In the book she talks about her early marriage challenges and how God transformed their relationship through intentional effort and grace.  Ngina blogs at IntentionalToday.com where she equips the early-wed wife with tools and resources to create intentional happily-ever afters. Connect with Ngina on Facebook, and Pinterest 

A LifeLong Love with Giveaway

The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for January: Setting the Right Foundation. Click through to see the books and choose one!

This year on the blog I challenged everybody to read one book a month–that’s 12 books over the year–to boost your marriage. Every month we have a different topic (next month is sex! :) ), and hopefully it will help you all to get a new perspective on how to grow your relationship. (Check out all of the subjects for each month here!)

For January I gave you all a choice of three books–A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas, The Story of Marriage by John and Lisa Bevere, and Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge. I’m so thrilled so many of you took me up on the challenge, and today I want to share some of the gems I learned from A Lifelong Love–and then leave you with a giveaway!

And bonus–I just realized that Gary’s publisher put the ereader version of A Lifelong Love on sale this week! That wasn’t even planned. So you can pick it up on Kindle or Nook, etc., for only $3.82!

A Lifelong Love--January's book choice

Gary Thomas always takes you to the feet of Jesus. When I read his book The Sacred Search, about finding a mate, the thing that stuck with me the most is that in looking for a spouse, as in everything else in life, Matthew 6:33 must be our guiding verse:

But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and then all these things shall be added to you.

In A Lifelong Love Gary shows how to live this out once we’re married.

I write about marriage all the time, but sometimes I reread what I’ve said and I worry that it’s missing something. It’s not that I don’t agree with what I’ve written; it’s just that it’s all so practical. I’m usually talking to people about how to solve specific problems; and so I give them specific steps. But Gary reminds me, and us, that in everything, it’s all about what we’re doing for God. It’s all about our attitude about Jesus. And our marriages are about far more than our feelings.

Ironically, when we realize that, we can find true marital bliss.

Gary’s book takes you to the feet of Jesus. It’s divided into three parts: The Magnificent Obsession (remembering that the mission of our marriage, just like everything else, is pleasing God; Growing Together, or how to overcome significant hardships in your marriage; and The Journey Toward Love, or how to live out a real oneness with your husband.

I felt this book would be perfect for our January entry of Setting the Foundation, because if we get this “magnificent obsession” right from the beginning of the year–that God needs to be the centre of our focus, our aim, and our worship–then the rest of marriage will fall much more easily into place.

If I could sum up what Gary says, it would be this:

A good marriage is something you make, not something you just find!

“A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.” (click to tweet)

I can’t sum up the entire book, but what I would like to do is give you three snapshots, one from every section, that meant a lot to me. And I’ll be adding other thoughts on my Facebook Page to give you fodder to think throughout the weekend, so do stay tuned there!

God desperately cares about how you treat his son

The night before Gary married his wife Lisa, Lisa’s dad broke down in tears and said to him, “I don’t have to worry about Lisa. She’s found a guy who will take care of her. She’s going to be okay.”

And he was so relieved.

Now that I have a daughter getting married I totally get it. You pray so hard for your kids to find someone who will cherish them, and treat them well, and serve God with them. And when they find that person, you relax so much!

And one day Gary realized that just as Lisa’s earthly dad was so concerned about her happiness and well-being in marriage, so her heavenly father was, too. God wasn’t just Gary’s father; God was also Gary’s Father-in-Law. And how he treated God’s daughter desperately mattered to God.

So Gary turns that question back on us: what if one of the singular best services that you can give to God in this life is to love your husband? Even if he isn’t always loving back. Even if he’s difficult. Even if he doesn’t understand your love language, doesn’t get your personality, doesn’t love sharing his heart.

Gary tells the story of one mom of five who is exhausted and complaining about her husband–and feeling so distant that they rarely make love. She has reason to feel ticked off. But he asks her, “how would you feel if one day your son grew up and married a woman who treated him just like you are treating your husband?” The question floored her.

So let me ask you who are moms that same question: how would you feel if your son grew up and married a woman who treated him the same way you treat your husband right now?

That question has made me refocus my evenings with my husband. I want to make sure that when he gets home from work and we have some time to spend together that he knows I’m glad he’s home. That he knows I waited for him all day. That he knows there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Gary talks about how loving like this IS hard–but it’s what draws us into God’s arms and what grows our own spiritual dependence. And God does notice your acts of love, even if your husband doesn’t. And there will be a reward for those acts, even if you don’t see them on this side of heaven.

Be careful of power imbalances in marriage

In the second section of the book Gary gets practical about the really difficult seasons in marriage–what it’s like to be in a lonely marriage, and how to overcome that.

I appreciated his emphasis on the idea that marriage IS a battle–but it shouldn’t be a battle we fight against each other. It should be a battle we fight WITH each other. Together we form a team that God uses to transform the world. When we see that–that we are part of this epic struggle and epic story that God is waging and writing, then marriage has a deeper purpose. Indeed, that idea that there is a bigger story behind our marriage than just whether we feel loved is the key theme in all three of the books I chose for this month. Think of you and your husband on the same team, fighting for God to transform this world, rather than on opposing teams bashing each other.

In fact, this idea–that we should be on the same side engaged in the fight together, can truly transform marriages because it gives you a sense of purpose.

lack of purpose

Nevertheless, sometimes we do feel on opposing teams, and Gary outlines how this often manifests in power imbalances. These occur when one spouse appears to care more for and is fighting more for the marriage than the other.

Here’s an example: when dating, the guy woos you and dates you and is romantic, but once you’re married all he wants is sex. The romance seems to end. And she feels lonely.

Or when the baby comes, she becomes all tied up in being a mom, and the husband feels left out.

Here’s the danger of power struggles that women need to understand. Gary writes: “One thing I’ve learned about men: if we don’t think we can win, we usually won’t even compete; we just start focusing elsewhere.”

And so you drift. And the biggest sign that power imbalances are causing one or both of you to check out of the marriage? your social circles become distinct and separate. You start confiding in and hanging out with people your spouse doesn’t even really know.

Fight against the drift. Remember that marriage must be something intentional, so that when we feel ourselves drifting, or when we notice our spouse starting to check out, we don’t just get mad. We do something to rebuild intimacy.

Gary says, “When couples say “I do” on their wedding days, I wish they’d add, “and I will, every day of our lives.” “

Love isn’t a feeling. It’s something that you are intentional about. It’s not about being “in love”–it’s about practising love.

How can I bless you?–not How can I get my needs met?

Here’s where the rubber hits the road, where the real heart attitude shows itself. In your interactions with your husband, what is your motivation? Is it to get your needs met? Or is to bless him? Gary urges us to keep our eyes on how we can love. What if the greatest lesson you can have on this earth is not how to find love but how to love? When we learn to love, we become more Christlike. We’re transformed into the likeness of God’s son (Romans 8:29). We grow.

And so when you are at a standstill in your marriage, ask yourself, “what can I do to bless my husband?” And start doing! When we act love we feel love. I know you’ve heard this all the time, but it is real. Why is it that you feel so attached to your kids (those of you who are moms). Have you ever read a story about a horribly neglectful mother and said to yourself, “How could anyone do that to their child?” But it isn’t that hard if you haven’t acted love. When you get out of bed in the middle of the night repeatedly to soothe a child; when you give up your own time to spend with a child; when you spend hours on homework and wiping dirty noses, you are so invested that you feel those loving feelings.

When you don’t invest time and energy, the feelings aren’t there.

So how do you bless your husband?

I really appreciated one example Gary gave that is something I say repeatedly here, too. Blessing your husband means you care about his ultimate good–not just about his feelings. So he gives the example of a woman who throws away her husband’s stash of porn against his wishes. A woman who wants to bless her husband will not allow him to do something that will harm their intimacy and his relationship with God. He won’t enable sin.

But it’s our attitude her that matters. When you confront your husband, are you doing so because you want your own needs met? Or are you honestly looking after his own interests? The result may be the same, but the heart attitude dictates how the whole interaction feels. And the heart attitude is what brings God into the picture.

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?I appreciate Gary Thomas so much, and I know this book will help you see your husband and your marriage in a whole new way, pointing you to Jesus. A Lifelong Love is only $3.82 on Kindle right now–a huge sale! So pick it up today.

I’ll be announcing February’s books next week, but just a heads up: they’re about sex! And we’re going to have fun! :)

But today I want to leave you with a giveaway, featuring many of the books that I’ve talked about this month on the blog. You can win one of 9 prizes of:

One prize of: A Lifelong Love, The Story of Marriage, Love and War, and Choosing Him All Over Again
Two prizes of: A Lifelong Love
Two prizes of: The Story of Marriage
Two prizes of: Love and War
Two prizes of: Choosing Him All Over Again

January Prizes in the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge of 2015!

Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win! Remember: you get 5 entries if you leave a blog post comment with a question you’d like Gary to answer! I’ll send the top 5 questions his way and ask him to respond on Facebook!

I’ll draw the winners next Wednesday night at midnight EST, and then announce them on Thursday when we do our next marriage challenge post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Some other bloggers have taken up the challenge to read and review some of my picks as well!

Check out Mom’s Morning Coffee with her look at Setting the Right Foundation, too.

(If you’re a blogger who has also reviewed some of these books, leave a link in the comments. If I get enough of you, I’ll start a Linky next month!)

Are We Expecting the Impossible in Marriage?

Are We Expecting the Impossible -- Expectations in Marriage

Are your expectations in marriage impossible to achieve?

Recently I was going through some older posts that most of you will not have seen, and I came across this one about having sky-high marriage expectations. I thought it was worth re-running today.

You may have heard it said before that “the enemy of the best is the good”. The French philosopher Voltaire made it famous (though he said it in French!), and it caught on because it’s so true. Often we get so caught up doing good things that we miss the best. We miss our priorities.

But that being said, I think the reverse can also be true.

Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.

When the best is more a fairy-tale ideal than a reality, then it can become the enemy of making any kind of real progress. The best can actually be a hindrance to your marriage.

Allow me to use an analogy that doesn’t have to do with marriage first to show you what I mean. A while back I caused a ruckus in the comments section of this blog because I insinuated that there were things that women could do to reduce the chance of sexual assault, and we should teach these to our daughters. I never said that we could eliminate rape (because we can’t)–but I said that we could reduce it.

People kept taking issue with me, so I kept writing follow-up posts, and the comments grew worse and worse. One commenter really summed up the other side perfectly. She said (and I paraphrase):

Women should be able to wear whatever they want and go wherever they want. You should be talking to the men, not to the women!

She was a little ruder than that, but I’ll leave out the colorful language.

What a strange comment, though. OF COURSE women should be able to wear what they want and do what they want without getting raped. We should live in a world where there is no abuse, no rape, no children in poverty, no wars, and no violence. But we don’t live in that world. And since we don’t, what steps can we take to protect ourselves?

They were focusing so much on what SHOULD be that they refused to acknowledge that there were any steps you could take to make our present life, the one we are living in right now, even the least bit better.

It was all or nothing.

Have you ever felt that way about your marriage? I once knew a woman who eventually left her husband, who explained it to me this way:

God created marriage to be a joining of two human beings–an institution where we’re able to communicate, and love, and respect, and share ideas and share vision and purpose. He created marriage to build us up, not to tear us down. He created marriage to be part of our fulfillment, not part of our destruction. My husband didn’t know how to communicate. He never listened to me. He never talked to me; he only ever talked past me. He used sex just to satisfy himself. In other words, it wasn’t actually a marriage. And so I ended it.

I have no doubt that her marriage was extremely difficult, but do you see the problem with her position? She was saying that because her marriage was not one in which two individuals were completely joined, it was thus not a marriage. God intended marriage to be fulfilling; it was not, therefore the argument about whether one had biblical grounds to divorce was moot because this wasn’t even marriage!

Her argument is flawed, because while God said marriage should be like this, He never invalidated marriages that were not like that. Indeed, in Corinthians Paul even tells women married to men who aren’t Christians to stay if they can–and these marriages are obviously not a complete joining of minds and ideals.

This woman was looking for the best in her marriage; she didn’t find it, so therefore she invalidated everything else.

Many of us enter marriage with similar thoughts. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we can completely bear our souls. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we are unconditionally cherished. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we find our best friend. Then, when the should doesn’t happen, we give up. We have expectations in marriage about how things SHOULD be, and we can’t settle for second best. We don’t look at little changes that we could make to grow the marriage, or to grow our communication, because we figure that he is just hopeless. He’s so out of touch with what a husband should be, that growth is well nigh impossible.

None of us is perfect, though, and I think we need a different strategy. If your husband isn’t a good communicator, or sulks constantly, or watches too much TV (or plays too many video games), or never spends any time with the kids, that doesn’t invalidate your marriage, and it doesn’t mean that things can’t get better. After all, by staying away from drunken parties, girls can drastically reduce their risk of date rape. Similarly, by learning new communication techniques, you can drastically reduce your risk of growing apart and ending the relationship. You can do things to move in the right direction, even if those things won’t give you 100% change. They can still make your life significantly better.

Now, in some cases no matter what you do you can’t rescue a marriage. You can’t stop an abusive man from hitting you just by learning to be nicer or not pushing his buttons. You can’t stop a porn addict from using porn, and these things do need to be confronted. But in most marriages it’s not these huge issues that bring us down. It’s disappointments in the day-to-day.

What I would suggest, then, is that we stop focusing on our ideal expectations for marriage, and we start looking at what we can do to make things better.

In other words, quit focusing so much on the destination, and focus instead on the direction. Move forward, even if it’s slowly, and you will eventually get there. Focus so much on the finish line, and how far it is away from your current position, and you can quickly lose heart.

This applies to aspects of marriage, too. I was at a place in our marriage once where everything was going really well–except sex. It’s not that it was horrible; it just wasn’t what it was supposed to be, according to the media and all the sermons I heard about how God created sex to be wonderful. For a few years, I gave up. It’s not that we didn’t make love; it’s just that my attitude was one of: “this just isn’t for me. It’s all for him, and I’ll just get through it.” I believed that if sex wasn’t the ideal, then I had been cheated, and there was no point in even trying.

It was only when I had an attitude shift where I started to ask whether I could believe that it could get better–even if it was slowly. When I made the mental shift, then the way I acted also changed.

Whether it’s in your marriage as a whole or in individual parts of your marriage, don’t give up because you haven’t reached the ideal.

The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for January: Setting the Right Foundation. Click through to see the books and choose one!Ask God to help you make baby steps, because those steps can add up! Ask Him to give you a new heart to grow, even if it’s slowly, because moving in the right direction gives you a new attitude or outlook on your marriage which is so much more energizing.

Whatever you do, don’t let the best become an enemy of that real, helpful change.

Tomorrow I’m going to be reviewing Gary Thomas’ book A Lifelong Love, our January entry in the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge. It has a wonderful perspective on how to handle a marriage that isn’t the best, and I’m so looking forward to sharing it with you!

Top 10 Questions Teens Ask About Sex

Questions Teens Ask About Sex. Are you prepared?

Teens will invariably ask questions about sex. Are you prepared?

Today on Top 10 Tuesday guest poster Rajdeep Paulus joins us to share the questions she’s had from her teens about sex! Personally, the worst question I had was from my daughter Katie, who wanted to know, “How long does he have to leave it in for?” Let’s just say conversations are often awkward–but it’s so important to leave the lines of communication open! Here’s Raj:

I’m a big advocate of communication when it comes to parenting, and when you come from a culture that didn’t talk about certain things, and you look back and wonder if things had been different if you had talked about the tougher topics with your parents, there’s one thing you can do about it. Change things when it comes to talking to your own children. And I think most parents would agree that they’d rather have their teens ask them then go to their peers or some on line website that might not tell the whole story or tell our kids how to put the delicate information in context of God’s plan for their sexuality. It’s a much more complicated topic than just abstinence vs. experimenting, and our teens need to hear the truth from us, well before they enter serious dating relationships and move forward to wedding days. I’m blessed to have a great relationship with my girls at this point, and they seem comfortable enough to talk to me about things. I tease them every once in awhile about who they have a crush on, and they all know that mom chased down a boy in fourth grade and kissed him, so they know mom’s not someone who doesn’t “get it,” sort-a-speak.

Here are the questions that have come up in the last few years with my firstborn who is now fourteen. Usually after we’ve had some heart to heart about something else. Often when we’re driving somewhere. And always when it’s just the two of us.

The First Ten Questions Your Teen Might Ask About Sex

1. What does it mean “to try?”

When my teen was a tween, she overheard hubby and I chatting with newlywed friends of ours that were trying to start a family. When the kids streamed into the living room, we began to talk in code and assumed the kids weren’t paying attention. Until later when my then eleven-year old asked me, “What did Uncle J. and Aunty M. mean when they said, ‘They were trying to have a baby?’”

I took a deep breath, knowing that my response could end the conversation or open up the door to many more questions. “What are you really asking? What do you want to know?”

And then she said, “Well, what does it mean to try?”

And then we had our first conversation that involved a lot of pauses and, “Does that make sense?” and “What else do you want to know?”

2. Do you have to take off all your clothes?

I thought this was a cute question. I still recall this walk hubby and I took on Devon Street in Chicago a week before our wedding. We were buying garlands and found some nice ones that looked like they were made of real flowers, and Sun turned to me while holding the garland in the air and said, “Can’t wait for our wedding night when this is all you’ll be wearing,” and I nearly fainted with shock. He was thinking about it. Me. Without clothes on. And I went home and cried, because I didn’t love my body, and it just hit me that he would see it. So as a mom who understands that self-image and self-love are important, I try my best to encourage my girls and help them to love their bodies the way God created them so when it’s their time, they won’t be ashamed or afraid like I was.

3. His what goes where? Is there any other way? I mean, it seems so weird. Complicated. Did I mention weird?

I think it’s good to acknowledge that the puzzle piece aspect is both weird and wonderful. And it’s normal to think the whole thing is cu-razy weird when you first hear about it. I recounted my own personal reaction when I first learned about sex in Health class. We had some laughs. And then I reminded her that acceptance and celebration comes with age and maturity and security in a strong marriage.

4. Why do they call it “safe” sex?

I think that’s a good question too. There’s nothing safe about an act that will forever change your mental, emotional, and physical world. I think it’s the furthest thing from safe, and that’s why it’s so special and not to be dealt with or decided lightly. I think that’s all the more affirmation that God created this act for married people. That’s the safest place to learn and enjoy intimacy.

5. Should I close my eyes?

Funny how we often close our eyes when we kiss. But it’s up to each person to know how they want to experience things. And I encouraged her to try things both ways, with her eyes closed and open. With the lights on and lights off. With music and without. There’s something to variety that spices things up and when it’s her turn, I want her to know there’s room for creativity. God made us creative for a reason.

6. Will it hurt?

That’s something I think more teens and young newlyweds need to understand. That it could very well hurt, but there are also ways to keep it from hurting or hurt less. And it’s okay if your kids want to talk about things with a physician. And the knowledge of real truth can also keep teens from rushing into things knowing that it’s not all easy under the sheets like Hollywood often portrays it. Conversations are important to have, closer to the wedding date, in my opinion.

7. Why do all the kids at school giggle when someone says the number 69?

Yep. This came up. And we talked about it. Position and all that fun stuff. But we also touched on how sex-obsessed our culture is and how the exploration and experiencing of things out of place of God’s timing leads to a lot more than heartache. I know of couples who were actually “bored” on their honeymoon. And I always refer back to the picture my best friend gave me close to my own wedding day: sex is like a beautiful garden surrounded by the fence of marriage. You can steal touches and moments by reaching past the fence, but shameless pleasure and wonder comes after you say your vows, unlock the fence and roam the garden freely.

8. What if I just want to stick to just kissing? Is that an option?

That’s the beauty of marriage and communicating and as days and weeks, months and years go by, you learn that not every night is a night to “sleep” together. Some nights are a time to just snuggle and fall asleep in each other’s arms. ☺

9. What if I don’t like sex?

I was very honest with her when she asked this. I said, “At first you might not, but some day, when you figure out how your body works, I promise you, you will!” Hopefully. But there are no guarantees. But if things go as they should, it could go amazingly, but it’s like every great relationship, you learn together, grow together, and grow in your love for each other as God gives you time and patience with each other.

10. Does this mean you and Dad…?

Don’t answer that.

What did I miss? And you and your kids? What kind of questions have come up?

UPDATE: After Raj wrote this, she and her husband learned that he’s been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition. She’s just asking people to pray for her husband, and for peace for her and her family. Thank you! I know she’d appreciate some kind words in the comments, too, to say that you did pray for her.

swimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and spent over a decade as an English Teacher and SAT Tutor, during which she married her best friend from Chicago whom she then followed to the island of Dominica where he began medical school. Fourteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley, New York later, she now blogs weekly and writes masala-marinated, Y.A. fiction.When Raj is not tapping on her Mac, you can find her dancing with her princesses, kayaking with her hubs, coaching basketball or eating dark chocolate while sipping a frothy, sugar-free latte. She blogs at www.insearchofwaterfalls.com and secretly hopes someday she’ll own a laptop that f51njxNzwd3L._SL160_unctions under water.

And check out her first YA Novel: Swimming Through Clouds! Sheila reviewed it here.  The sequel is and Seeing Through Stones.

Their Dreams, His Agenda: God’s Plans And Purposes For Your Children

Don’t miss the Ultimate DIY Bundle–the sale is on now until January 26 at midnight! It’s a whole library of 76 ebooks and ecourses on Sewing, Photography, Gardening, Homemade Gifts, Decorating, Scrapbooking–and even turning your crafts into a small business! I love this bundle.

Check it out here.


Today, please welcome guest author Sarah Francis Martin from Live it Out, as she shares about God’s plans and purposes for your children and how to help them walk in it.

God’s Plans And Purposes For Your ChildrenFrom the back seat I heard my son emphatically declare, “Mom, I have an idea…” The tone of his voice told me that he had been marinating on this idea for the better part of the day.

Gearing myself up for a good parenting moment at the steering wheel driving home from school, I inquired about this great idea.

My six year old: When I grow up I’m moving to New York City. Yeah. That’s what I’m going to do.

Me: Oh yeah? Well, you know that’s a big city and you have to work hard to be able to live there.

My six year old: Ok! I will do what Daddy does, you know, make money. I’m gonna work hard and make money and buy legos!

Me: Well, sounds like you have it all figured out.

My six year old: Yep, pretty much.

As I recount this conversation I remember that my initial inclination upon receiving this “big news” was to guide my son along in this “big” life decision with a real, honest look at it.

I was tempted to almost squelch this dream with questions of practicalities:

What job will you have?

Will you make enough money?

Will you thrive in a big city?

We live in a small town, and I know the allure of a big city with exciting tall skyscrapers drove this declared life path of my six year old.

Over the past year I’ve been marinating on the topics of dreaming, life paths, and purposes. The idea of seeking after God and His presence in my life parallels with the topic of purpose and dreaming. How do we marry the two in order to make a difference with our lives and find satisfaction in God and His agenda? How does taking our place in God’s kingdom allow us to find this ultimate satisfaction?

As I’ve taken more of an adult perspective on this weighty topic, the “big idea” conversation with my son caused me to look at it from a different angle.

Facilitate God’s Dreams And Purposes In The Lives Of Your Children

The following excerpt from my book Just RISE UP!: A Call To Make Jesus Famous speaks to our interactions with our kids about their dreams and purpose. It takes a perspective of the individual, adult nature. But, as I’m circling back to this material myself, I find that it applies to my interaction with my six year old dreamer as well.

There’s a verse that I’ve read in passing before and probably even doodled on a note to a friend as a means of encouragement to her. God reminds us of His Word at just the right times for encouragement. I’ve got this heaviness on my heart in my own journey to rise up, as I want to be used by God. He has planted dreams in my heart, but doors have yet to open to allow me to fully walk through and live these dreams out. I hide ideas and plans in my heart, often checking to make sure they came from the Lord and not from my own fancies. If you don’t quite identify with this, know that it is okay. But if the idea of joining God in His kingdom work and making Him famous gets your heart pumping, that means the Lord is working in you and through you.

Here’s that verse: I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you, will not stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you until the day Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, returns to redeem the world. (Philippians 1:6 THE VOICE)

This great work God is doing in our lives starts with the work God does inside our hearts and minds. The word work is appropriate in my opinion as I imagine Jesus using His gardening tools while digging up roots of pride and jealousy in my heart, patting down fresh soil of trust and peace, watering my God-given talents. And if we believe Scripture, He will continue to toil, root out, plant afresh, and grow beautiful blooms in my life and yours—blooms that will RISE UP! and flourish. Even a novice gardener like me knows that before a plant comes to full bloom time, care, pruning, watering, and sunlight are in order.

Excerpt from Just Rise Up! by Sarah Francis Martin. Download a FREE Chapter from all three new Inscribed Studies Here. (No email required)

We have the privilege of working alongside the Lord to care, prune, and water our children’s life purpose. Just as we take care to nourish their bodies and minds, we can start today to nourish their souls and guide them to seek after God in all aspects of their lives.

As it is a process in our own lives, this endeavor won’t come to full bloom for some years in our child’s life. But there are a few key things to keep in mind along the journey.

Model An Attitude of Kingdom Perspective

We all know that our children are like sponges, soaking in even minute details from their environments.

My husband and I have started to become more intentional in sharing details of what we do as a family and as individuals to serve the Lord. We have learned the importance of taking time to explain on a six year old level why our family gives money to this ministry, or why mommy wrote that book about Jesus. Life gets busy and it is tempting to gloss over details like this during the rush to basketball practice!

Depending on your child’s maturity level, help them work through their own calling from God within their world. Explain how God uses them to be a sweet friend to the new girl at school. Or how they share the love of Jesus when they stand up to a bully on the playground on behalf of another kid. It’s neat to think and pray together about how God works in their lives at such a young age.

Nurture Your Child’s God-Given Talents

I love exploring my child’s gifts and talents and characteristics. It’s important that we spend time in prayer asking God for wisdom to best facilitate these gifts and talents.

How do we accentuate them and draw them out?

How do we express to our child that God blesses them with unique and individual gifts and talents that only they can fulfill?

Be The Soft Place To Land

This is one that I constantly have to remember: to allow space for dreaming and planning. I think this is best achieved when we help our child work through these dreams and plans in their own prayer lives.

If our child trusts us with their “big ideas” knowing that we won’t let practicalities squelch their passion, they will see that their Father God is the ultimate safe place as well. When we seek after the Lord, knowing we can trust Him, we become more in tune to where He is moving in our lives. Our hearts become open to following that path which will be fruitful and fulfilling. Walking with our children in this lifelong process can be exciting.

Several weeks after my six year old made his big city declaration, we sat together as a family watching the popular show American Ninja Warrior––a favorite in many households with boys. As we cheered on the men and women and heard their stories of hard work to get where they are in this physical competition, I could almost see the little cogs turning in my son’s mind. Another declaration burst out from his mouth, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m moving THERE.”

Before I could explain that he would have to train hard and sacrifice much physically to attain this goal, I let that practicality go for the moment. In the lives of our children, dreams and fancies transform and bloom. But it is God’s plan and His kingdom that never changes.

As long as our children take a stand on this firm foundation, they can not go wrong in their life purpose.

Sarah Francis MartinSarah Francis Martin is a wife, mother, friend, mentor, author and wanna be artist. She has a passion to ignite this generation to get up off the couch of complacency and do life differently for God’s kingdom. When she is not typing away at her laptop, you can often find Sarah on date nights with her husband, rough housing with her young son, or getting her hands messy with craft paint. She is the author of Just RISE UP!: A Call To Make Jesus Famous

Why I’m Anti-Divorce and Pro-Remarriage

Thoughts on the biblical grounds for divorce, what it says about remarriage, and to value both marriage AND divorced people in the church.

On Tuesday I made quite a stir on Facebook. In regards to this post on when you should give up trying to get your ex back, I wrote:

I’m having to delete a lot of comments on the blog today from people saying that divorce is never a biblical option. I find that sad. I know God hates divorce–but He hates people being wounded and abused and betrayed, too. And Jesus gave us some reasons for divorce. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am very pro-marriage and anti-divorce, but more importantly I’m pro-truth and pro-healing. If a marriage is based on abuse, manipulation, and lies, then that is not God-honouring, either. Most of these situations are not black and white; they are grey, and I believe God’s grace is there for us. If I let those comments through, I fear that they will do emotional damage to the very hurt and wounded people whose marriages have fallen apart who wind up at my site. We need to be pointed towards following God in the situation we find ourselves in now, not being yelled at for very tortured decisions we made earlier.

The outpouring was immense, and so I thought I should do a follow-up and explain what I really think about divorce and remarriage. Please keep in mind that I am not a theologian. I have just thought about this a lot and prayed through it, and this is what I believe.

Divorce Is a Last Resort–and there are only a few reasons for it

I am absolutely against divorce. I’ve written that the vow matters. I’ve questioned whether women are leaving marriages too fast. I’ve said that sometimes we live in a loveless marriage–and we need to find a way to get through that.

However, with that said, I am also fully aware that sometimes divorce is necessary, and sometimes divorce happens when you didn’t want it to. My father left my mother. My mother certainly never wanted to divorce, and it pulled the rug out right under her. But divorce wasn’t her choice.

Then there are those who live in a dangerous marriage. For them, too, divorce was likely not what they wanted–but they had no option.

What are biblical grounds for divorce?

The Bible lists two: adultery and abandonment.

Adultery

Matthew 19:9 says:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

Abandonment

Then 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 says this:

If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.(emphasis mine)

Clearly Paul here is saying that if a spouse leaves you, you are no longer bound.

Notice anything that isn’t mentioned here? You’ve got it:

What about Abuse?

And this is where I get really uncomfortable and why I started deleting those comments. The divorce “purists”, as I will call them, read the Matthew passage (and seem to ignore the Corinthians passage) and say that the only acceptable reason for divorce is adultery. Because Jesus gave us no other reason, then there can be no other reason.

To them I would ask this:

Why do you believe abortion is wrong?

It’s because we’ve inferred an awful lot from a few verses. Abortion itself isn’t mentioned in the Bible because it wasn’t relevant for the culture. So the Bible doesn’t speak directly about it, yet pretty much all Christians fight against it for one simple reason: Because of what we know about God from the rest of Scripture. He knew us while we were yet unformed in our mother’s womb, and He planned our days (Psalm 139:13-16). He planned good works for us before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 2:10). God is love. The rest of Scripture speaks to the sanctity of life. The Bible doesn’t mention lots of things we struggle with today–pornography, career choices, education choices–because these weren’t talked about or relevant then. But we can still infer from the Bible what godly decisions are.

So what, then, can we infer from the rest of Scripture about living in an abusive marriage? Does God expect us to stay?

Absolutely not. Read the Old Testament prophets and you come away with the overwhelming impression of a God who goes to battle for the downtrodden and who notices injustice. We serve a God who hates abuse in all its forms.

God Cares About Children

And here’s an important point: living in an abusive marriage, even if the woman is willing to put up with it, harms the children. Over and over again in Scripture God talks about rescuing children from those who would mistreat them (see Luke 17:2).

If staying in a marriage to an abusive person, or staying in a marriage to an alcoholic or drug addict, would hurt a child, then God does not want that.

I do believe that the word abuse is thrown around a little too quickly today, and I’ve written what is abuse and what is not. Not all yelling is abusive; it depends on the pattern, the effect, and the bigger picture. But emotional, sexual, and physical abuse are real and this is not God’s plan for His children.

One important point, though: We often believe that “kids are only happy if the parents are happy, so if the parents’ marriage is unhappy, it’s better to divorce.” Not true. Researcher Judith Wallerstein found that kids who grew up in an unhappy marriage fared better than kids who grew up with divorced parents. The effect of parents’ unhappiness on the kids is not a legitimate reason to divorce–except in one case. Studies also showed that children who grew up in violent or abusive marriages did better if the parents did divorce. So if you’re just unhappy in your marriage, it’s better for the kids if you stick with it and make it work. If you’re being abused or in a high-conflict marriage, it’s not.

God Cares About Sin

Another theme of Scripture is that God cares about the heart, not appearances. Divorce purists seem to stress the form over the heart–as long as the two people are technically married, God is happy. But no, God doesn’t want appearances. God wants changed hearts and changed lives! Here’s what I wrote in another post, Are You a Spouse or an Enabler?:

If your spouse is acting in such a way that they are denying a vital part of themselves and a vital part of the Christian life–like responsibility or intimacy or community–then doing nothing about it enables that spouse to avoid any impetus for spiritual growth.

Churches should be places where the wounded come to find healing, not where the wounded come to give them cover so they can avoid healing.

And yet all too often that is what we’ve done–we hate divorce so much that we ignore the other side: God does not want an army of wounded, damaged people. He wants wholeness. And so we must deal with people who are refusing to confront huge issues.

In that post I show what the Bible says we should do if a spouse is sinning. One of the Facebook commenters on Tuesday wrote this:

One truth that I believe that is overlooked or dismissed by people who are quick to judge those of us who have suffered through divorce (it was a heartrending and crushing experience) is that pleasing God and being like Him is not about keeping up appearances. God looks at the heart, and in light of that reality a true divorce has happened long before any secular legal actions have been taken – or can happen even when no actions are taken. A dead marriage is equal to a divorce in all the ways that are visible and valuable to God, and it’s sad to me to see married couples who obviously despise one another or (perhaps worse) are completely indifferent – especially if children are involved and being hurt by their parents’ situation. I am a child of Christian divorce as well and our young lives were fraught with secret abuse, sadness and confusion until my father (a well-educated preacher who led a double life) left my mom and abandoned us. Life was hard and sad growing up after that too, and I felt very mixed emotions of relief, abandonment and guilt once our father was gone. However, I was nothing but glad for my mom because she had done all she could to be a good wife, and had been so mistreated and disrespected by him in every area you could imagine – she didnt deserve that.

Scripture does not contradict Scripture. We aren’t told in one place to confront sin and live blameless lives and look to the heart and then told in another place to just keep the form in place and ignore sin. The heart matters. And if someone is sinning so much, either through abuse or adultery or an addiction or a refusal to work, then this must be dealt with.

Love Must Be ToughNone of this means that divorce is necessary in these cases; usually, I believe, a separation is a better tool. If a spouse is addicted to porn, or refusing to work, or an alcoholic, or gambling away the paycheque, then a separation says, “you need to shape up and this will no longer be tolerated.” That’s what James Dobson recommends in Love Must Be Tough. And, ironically, it’s this separation that often kickstarts real change which leads to reconciliation.

Why Does God Hate Divorce?

Divorce “purists” point to the verse that God hates divorce as proof that we should not divorce except in the rarest circumstances. But here’s the thing–I think we would all agree. In fact, most divorced people would be the first to say that God hates divorce, because they hate divorce, too. They know how awful it is.

The more important question is WHY does God hate divorce?

I do not believe that He hates divorce because people who divorce are somehow worse sinners. I believe He hates divorce because He loves us so much, and He knows the severe trauma of divorce. He knows the havoc it wreaks on our hearts. He knows what it does to the children. And He knows what a culture of divorce does to undermine the culture of marriage and family and commitment. Divorce has major ripple effects.

So God hates divorce because of its effects–not because divorce is any worse sin. We know that if one is guilty of breaking one part of the law, one is guilty of breaking the whole law. We are all sinners. I believe that when it says, “God hates divorce”, it’s really saying that if your husband left you or beat you or made your marriage unbearable, and you are weeping buckets of tears, that God is weeping those tears with you.

The Beauty of Grace and Living in the Present

I’ve explained why I believe that adultery, abuse, abandonment, and other major sins that endanger the whole family (like addictions or refusal to work) are grounds for separation and/or divorce.

But what if you don’t have those?

Another commenter wrote:

I’m divorced. No excuses, no Biblically sound reason. I was young, stupid, and a big ol’ sinner. He didn’t beat me or abuse me in any way. However, it’s done. It’s in the past and I feel absolutely certain that it is forgiven like any number of other sins in my past. I was wrong but that awesomely mighty God forgave it AND was generous enough to send me a husband who loves me and doesn’t judge my past.

She did not have biblical grounds for divorce, and she knows that. But now she is a believer, and that means that she is a new creation. And you can’t turn back the clock, and God does not intend you to. Why is that we say some sins can be forgiven but not others? Paul was a murderer, yet God still used him. David was an adulterer, yet God still used him (and his son through Bathsheba). Indeed, that adulterous relationship is in Jesus’ line.

God hates divorce–but there is grace.

Choosing Him All Over Again: A Story of Romance and RedemptionSo if you divorced in the past, and then became a believer, are you supposed to reconcile with your husband? I believe that, if possible, you should try. That’s what Juana Mikels did in Choosing Him All Over Again, and God showed them tremendous grace.

But that does not always work. Sometimes you can’t reconcile because he doesn’t want to, or he’s moved on. So then what?

What About Remarriage?

Divorce purists will also say that there is never permission to remarry. God may have given us grounds for divorce, but not remarriage.

However, I don’t believe this is true for two reasons. In the Matthew verse quoted above, Jesus said:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

That means that if you divorce and marry another and it was because of sexual immorality, you are not committing adultery. So if you had grounds for divorce, you also have grounds for remarriage.

Yes, it says “whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Luke 16:18), but you can’t look at that verse without also looking at this one. Jesus obviously was carving out an exception.

And in Corinthians, Paul wrote that the husband or wife was no longer bound if they were abandoned. They aren’t bound anymore–therefore they can remarry.

The Cultural Reason for Remarriage

Why isn’t the Bible more obvious that remarriage after divorce is okay? Because it was just assumed. In those days a woman was either under her father’s care or under her husband’s care. There was no way for an adult single woman to make a living. That’s why caring for widows was such a huge deal in the New Testament church. For Jesus to allow divorce, then, meant that He was also allowing remarriage. He would not allow divorce just to consign women to desperation and abject poverty. People simply had to remarry.

I know many of you who are here on this site are remarried–and want to make these remarriages work. I welcome you here; and I hope that I can help you with just that! I never want you to feel that because you are not on your first marriage that you are somehow inferior. God wants you to honour Him in the here and now.

And so that’s where I’m at: I’m anti-divorce, because I think it should be the last resort, and only in certain circumstances. But if divorce has been inevitable for you, then I wish you great happiness and intimacy with someone else, if God brings someone into your life.

The comment with the most likes was one from my friend Kathy, whom I know in real life. I’d like to leave you with it:

As a divorced person myself (with what I understand to be a biblical divorce–abandoned by an unbelieving spouse who was committing adultery), and someone who desperately wanted her marriage back, I feel the weight & sting of those who think in judgmental terms as if their own sin issues are minor compared to a divorce. I always jokingly say that divorce is the unpardonable sin in the church, but sadly, it seems far too often that it is looked at in that way. I have done my share of study on the topic of divorce and remarriage as a biblical counsellor, but also as someone who hoped to be married again one day, but only if it did not offend God. As far as I can understand in my simplistic way, God has allowed for remarriage in my circumstance. I was blessed with the offer of marriage just over two years ago from a wonderful Christian man who took divorce and remarriage as seriously as I, and also did his research (and by the way, he was widowed after 36 years of marriage so no divorce on his record). We consulted many “wise counsellors” and studied God’s Word before taking on our vows of marriage because again, we did not want to be out of step with God. We are convinced God is the author of our love story, but should we find that in our fallible state we were mistaken, is not the blood of Christ valid even on this? I believe we should take marriage, divorce, and remarriage very, very seriously, but I also believe we must approach it all with truth IN LOVE. Divorce seems to just be one of those divisive issues, and invokes much emotion, but hopefully it will not invoke undue unkindness from those of us who have been shown unfathomable love.

Blessings on all of you.

 

Top 12 Ways to Pray for Your Kids and Grandkids

Scripture to Pray for Your Kids (or your grandkids!)

Today’s guest post is by author Wayne Stiles, who writes about making the Bible–and its lands–relevant to us today. I saw this awesome list on his site about how to pray for your kids and asked if I could reprint it! I thought it was a great way to start the New Year–with more intention about praying God’s Word for your kids.

We all pray for our children. We want them to do well in school, or to get a good job, or to stay healthy. But their greatest need for prayer is their spiritual lives.

The longer I am a parent, the more I see the truth in the Apostle John’s words:

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. —3 John 4

If our children have a genuine walk with God, they will be better equipped to make wise choices throughout their lives. Our challenge, then, is how to pray for our children in this way.

When our daughters were only toddlers, Cathy and I participated an excellent parenting class that gave us a handout called: “How to Pray for Your Children.” We prayed through this list for years. In fact, as I read through each point today, I can remember specific instances in which God answered the prayers. He is still answering them.

I have edited the list and added some verses to it. I have also made a PDF you can download and print to keep in your Bible or prayer journal.

It’s never too late to begin praying for your children—and your grandchildren.

It is one of the greatest investments you will ever make into their lives.

How to Pray for Your Children and Grandchildren

The list is not a magic formula. It doesn’t guarantee that God will answer right away. But prayer is powerful, even when the answer is delayed.

Because there are 12 prayers in this list, you could concentrate on one prayer per month. Within a year you will have consistently prayed the entire list.

1. That they will know Christ as Savior early in life.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. —Romans 10:1

From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. —2 Timothy 3:15

2. That they will have a hatred for sin.

Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. —Psalm 97:10

3. That they will be caught when guilty.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. —Psalm 119:71

4. That they will be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives: spiritual, physical, emotional, social.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. —Luke 2:52

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. —John 17:15

5. That they will have a responsible attitude in all their interpersonal relationships.

Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. —Daniel 6:3

6. That they will respect those in authority over them.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. —Romans 13:1

7. That they will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong friends.

My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul.” —Proverbs 1:10-11

8. That they will be kept from the wrong mate and directed to the right one.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? —2 Corinthians 6:14

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” —Genesis 2:18

9. That they, as well as the one they marry, will remain pure before and after marriage.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. —1 Corinthians 6:18-19

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. —Hebrews 13:4

10. That they will learn to submit completely to God and actively resist Satan in all circumstances.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. —James 4:7

11. That they will be single-hearted, willing to be sold out to Jesus Christ.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God –this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. —Romans 12:1-2

12. That they will be hedged in so they cannot find their way to wrong people or wrong places and that the wrong people cannot find their way to them.

Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. —Hosea 2:6

Praying for your Children - Free Printables

Prayer ExamplesWant to pray more? Download these prayers–and more!

Download the .pdf of Wayne’s prayers here.

I’ve also created a group of Paul’s prayers for his “spiritual” children that you can use to pray for your own kids and grandkids! You can either download the printable version, or the version for mobile phones.

Printables of Paul’s Prayers

For Mobile (no background): Mobile Version of Paul’s Prayers

 

Wayne Stiles Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does NothingWayne Stiles loves connecting the Bible and its lands to life. He leads tours of the Holy Land and writes devotionals that help you incorporate history with God’s work today. He is the author of several books, including Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing. Download his free 30-day devotional, Grow Strong, when you subscribe to his blog here.

How Sex is a Spiritual Experience

Can sex really be a spiritual experience? I thought I’d launch into 2015 by combining my two favourite topics: Sex and God. And I’m going to let one of my favourite guest posters, J from Hot, Holy and Humorous, give us her insight since I’m still on holidays. Here we go!

Sex can be a spiritual experience--not just physical. A look at how God, sex and #marriage go together.As Sheila has stressed here many times, and in her marvelous book A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, sexual intimacy is more than just the physical. When we make love according to God’s design, there’s a spiritual depth to the experience.

Unfortunately, sometimes we wives don’t feel or believe that. Sex seems purely carnal, as if it couldn’t be associated with our deeper soul. Frankly, the only time God is brought into many marital bedrooms is when someone yells “Oh my God!” in the heat of climax.

Look, sex is physical. It’s very physical. But I believe this act can also honor God and touch our spirit.

Here are some reasons why.
God the Creator designed sex and said it was good. Who thought up this crazy thing called sex? Well, that would be God. He could have made sex a fairly straightforward, reproduction-only event. But instead He designed it for intimacy and pleasure as well.

Consider the pleasure centers of our bodies, the way humans often make love facing one another (not a feature of the animal world), and His words about husband and wife becoming “one flesh.” It was after God commanded humans to “go forth and multiply” (and we know how that’s done) that He labeled His creation “very good” (Genesis 1:28, 31, NRSV). His design for sexual intimacy in marriage was good from the beginning.

There’s a whole book in the Bible about sex. God made certain an entire book celebrating marital intimacy – the Song of Solomon – was included in His Word. This book is instructive to couples on what thriving intimacy looks like in marriage. It includes affection, affirmation, connection, and yes, sex.

Song of Solomon even includes a passage in which the married couple engages in sexual intimacy, followed by the encouragement to “be intoxicated with love!” (5:1, HCSB). In other words, get the full amount of pleasure and excitement from this experience that a husband and wife can. God is in favor of physically expressing love in marriage, and expressing it fully.

Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is a metaphor for our relationship with God. This one can be difficult to imagine.

How can a physical experience between husband and wife relate to anything in the spiritual realm between God and His people?

Yet, that’s what God says. In the book of Hosea, God promises to take His people as his wife, in that intimate relationship of marriage (see Hosea 2). And in Ephesians 5:31-32, the Apostle Paul expresses it in this way: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.” God likens the one-flesh experience of husband and wife, that deep intimacy, to the relationship our Lord wants to have with His church. When fully making love with your husband, you can’t get any closer physically. And this intimacy is a metaphor for how close God desires us to be with Him.

Sex is most intimate when we bring God’s commands and biblical principles into the marriage bed.

Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in MarriageSex by itself is a purely physical act, but we know that in relationship – in marriage specifically – it means far more. Sex becomes an expression of emotional closeness, of trusting another with your most private self, of covenant love. As said before, it should be physically pleasurable. God created to feel good. But if you want the very best in your marriage bed, you’ll approach it with God’s commands and biblical principles in mind. That is, with love, kindness, patience, honesty, goodness, and joy.

That’s why I wrote Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage—to help wives improve their sexual intimacy by applying the Word of God to their marriage.

No, I’m not constantly picturing God while making love with my husband. (That could feel awkward.) But I don’t leave behind the person God wants me to be when I enter the marital bedroom. Rather, I want to honor Him there too, while having a fabulous time with my husband.

God created my soul, and He created my body.

I can use both in tandem to follow His design. Indeed, as I’ve learned how to approach my marriage bed with a more spiritual focus, the sex has become even more physically exciting.

So yes, sex is physical. But God created it to go beyond the physical in your marriage. Even to embracing the spiritual in your life.

J from Hot, Holy and HumorousSex Savvy WifeJ. Parker is also the author of Sex Savvy: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives. She writes the Hot, Holy & Humorous blog, where she uses a biblical perspective and blunt sense of humor to foster Christian sexuality in marriage.

 

Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in MarriageSheila says:

J writes so well and so REAL about sex. And with the New Year upon us, it’s a great time to make a resolution to make sex awesome for BOTH of you this year. If you’ve always struggled to make sex intimate, and not just physical, why not embark on a journey with J this year and work through her book Intimacy Revealed? It’s one devotional a week–one thought to chew on and pray about all week–so that by the end of the year you’ll feel more confident, more excited, and more in awe of how God created sex to be.

From marriage-specific scriptures to biblical principles, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage guides Christian wives through weekly devotions that shed light on God’s gift of marital sex.