What Success Really Means

Friday Roundup on To Love, Honor and VacuumIt’s Friday, the day when I share what’s been big on the blog this week, as well as some personal thoughts and a look inside my life.

Today I want to give us a pep talk on what success really means–so read on!

But the main thing I’m thinking about is my daughter’s wedding–I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that it happened! It really was a lovely day. A ton of fun, and I’ll give you all some more insight into the best parts of it later, once I have more photos.

But here’s what’s been big this week, and then I’ll share some thoughts:

What’s #1 on the Blog This Week

25WaysShowHusbandLoveReal Divorce Rate#1 on the Blog: 50 Most Important Bible Verses to Memorize
#1 on Pinterest: 25 Quick Ways to Show Your Husband Love–and Transform Your Marriage!
#1 on Twitter: The success of your #marriage depends far more on what you believe about God than on how you feel about each other.
#1 on Facebook: What’s the real divorce rate? Hint: It’s nowhere near 50%! 

Why We Shouldn’t Worry About Success

This week I had the privilege of blogging as part of the Lean Cuisine campaign–What do you want to weigh me on? I’ve been chosen to be one of their bloggers, and I’ll be heading to the Lean Cuisine kitchens soon! Kinda cool for a blogger to be chosen for that.

But when I was writing my post about what I want to be weighed on (since so often we judge ourselves by appearances), it really struck me that success isn’t  up to us. It isn’t. It’s up to God, and it’s up to the choices that other people make.

So the only thing that we can be judged on is our effort, not our success.

And that’s what I wrote.

Then a long-time reader sent me a note. She and her husband have been battling his porn addiction for a few years, and their marriage has been rocky, but it’s starting to be rebuilt. And he’s slowly starting to reach out again.

And she said this,

My husband looks rested, peaceful, and his eyes sparkle. He is happy and smiles a lot. I am learning to trust. I keep reading your blog posts, and this particular one was very powerful.

Here is what happened:

I was reading your post quietly, but then thought I would share some of it with my husband. So I start reading out loud the paragraph that begins, ” But acting right and doing your part to create a great marriage is something we can all do…” I keep reading. My husband and I are really hearing together what you are saying.

And then I get to the paragraph toward the end that says, It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to be a mess. But if, in the midst of that mess, you treat yourself well, you treat your husband with integrity and faithfulness, and you treat your kids with love, you have accomplished a lot.

And I am reading and my eyes swell with tears, my throat closes up, and I can’t finish. My husband rubs my hand gently, and I just weep. This was exactly me. You told me I had accomplished a lot, and I don’t know why, but it took a weight off my shoulders. It was so affirming and beautiful and got right to the heart. It was a healing moment for me, for us, and I thank you, Sheila, from the bottom of my heart.

That really resonated with me, too. I’m so glad I was able to express what I was feeling when I wrote that post. I can think of so many women whose marriages and families aren’t perfect, but they have stayed faithful to God. And that is such a big accomplishment.

We had a friend of my younger daughter’s staying with us for a few days. He’s a major overachiever (in a good way), and he’s heading off to college in the fall. And of course with that comes worries about whether or not you’ll be able to keep up the grades and the success you’ve had so far. And I meant to say something to him while he was here–kind of the pep talk that I give all high achievers that I know. But I forgot, and now he’s left, so maybe I’ll just send him this link. But here’s what I wanted to say:

We have to believe that God has a plan for us.

That God has created us with our unique giftings and talents and skills for a reason–that He wants to use us to further His kingdom (Ephesians 2:10). And that needs to be the main goal of our lives–to be right in the middle of God’s will, knowing that He will use us in incredible ways.

And so what is our role in that? It isn’t to succeed. It isn’t to come first or to win a particular prize or to achieve a certain standing. It’s simply to do our best. That’s it. It’s to do our best. That is the offering that we give to God, and then we need to trust that God will use that offering and multiply it and work things through so that we will be able to accomplish the things that He has planned for us.

Don’t carry that burden of feeling that you need to accomplish some particular thing.

If you don’t get into the right school, or you don’t get the right prize, or the apparent right job, know that God still sees and that God is still weaving the framework for our lives.

It’s great to have goals and dreams; God often gives those specifically to us. But ultimately it is God’s plans that we need to be focused on. And if we give God our best, then He will surely take that and use it. After all, if God has a person who is saying, “I want you to use me!”, why would God not do something amazing with that?

So don’t worry about success; that’s not up to you. And no matter what happens, God will use you in HIS way, even if it’s not how you envisioned. Just give God your best, and then no matter what happens, you have so much to be proud of. And God will do amazing things with your best.

That’s what I wanted to say. I think it applies to young people starting off, but I think it also applies to marriage. You give God your best; it is up to God (and up to others’ free will choices) what happens afterwards. But don’t ever feel like you are a failure because you didn’t achieve something. If you tried, and gave your best, you are never, ever a failure. God sees that, and God uses it, and you should be proud.

By the way, check out my original post! You can enter to win a $100 Visa gift card, too, so don’t miss it!

My Baby is Married

Yay! It was a lovely day. Here’s just a sneak peak:

Wedding Photo

Rebecca and Connor wedding

Katie Creeper Photo

As some of my regular readers will know, my younger daughter has been taking “creeper” stalking photos of her with the two of them all year. So of course no wedding would be complete with a Katie creeper photo:

Wedding Creeper Photo

Thanks to Emma Sangalli photography for all the awesome photos! If you’re in Ottawa, look her up!

I’m Off to New York for Katie’s 18th!

So Katie missed signing the registry as maid of honour at her sister’s wedding by nine days. But she’s now about to turn 18, so she and I are heading off to New York City this weekend to see Les Miserables and to do a bit of sightseeing!

It’s hard to believe my baby is now 18. I’m really an empty nester. More on that Monday. I’m already starting to tear up.

So those are my main thoughts! Have a great weekend, everybody!

Finding Joy in Your Boundary Lines This Summer

Please welcome Katharine Grubb, of www.10minutenovelist.com, who shares how our limitations can be good things, how boundary lines this summer may bring joy in unexpected ways.  Read on…

Finding Joy in Your Boundary Lines This SummerWhen you’ve spent your adult life in Massachusetts, you get a definitive picture of what the perfect summer is. This picture is full of clambakes, Cape Cod antics and Kennedy-esque leisure. If not the Kennedys, then you may envision 104 days of Phineas & Ferb type adventure in which no one has to do chores, pay those outrageous technology bills, or go to bed.

These images are far removed from my reality. We’ll never have the money for a idyllic Martha’s Vineyard beach house. The only boat we have is one we made of paper that is seaworthy for thirty seconds in the bath water. In most cities, you can’t legally own a platypus as a pet.

Every summer, I have to battle various restrictions on our family. Every summer this is a huge challenge.

Psalm 16:5-6 says, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

This verse challenges me to look at my summer boundary lines, or my limitations, as good things. School is out for my kids! I don’t have to homeschool for weeks! We are free! But even in that freedom, there are good things that keep us restricted or limited. Some of these boundaries I love, like the fence around Grammy’s pool. Some I’m not too fond of, like the fact I don’t always have a car available to me. Instead of complaining about my lack of freedom this summer, I need to look with fresh eyes the boundary lines God has given me.

Boundaries put us in a place where we must learn to submit to God’s call on our life. They may be there to correct a behavior in us, much like the toddler put in a time-out chair. We need that boundary too at times. I’ve had more trying summers than this one. In hindsight, I was grateful for the lessons learned and the gentle way God led me into obedience. If your summer is beginning in discomfort, pray that God shows you how you can change your behavior or your attitude.

Boundaries put us in a place of safety. In much the same way that we instruct our children to not swim in the deep end or to stay in the yard, God gently put his boundaries around us to prevent us from harming ourselves or being susceptible to temptation. Why do we have pool rules? To keep our children, whom we love more than anything, from being injured. How much more our Father protects us with his boundaries. Thank God for literal and figurative lifeguards, playground fences and warning signs on the deluxe package of fireworks.

Boundaries encourage contentment. When my plans change, or when I’m a season of transition, the last place I go to is contentment. Yet, I know my children will never learn contentment if they don’t see it modeled by me. Our summer will be much more pleasant if we don’t pout when faced with a rain delay, a summer cold or we can’t make the picnic. And really, who wants to be a Kennedy anyway?

Boundaries promote creativity. Pope John Paul II said, in Love & Responsibility “Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love.” Out of love, God often restricts us so that we can find creative solutions to our problems. His solutions will be richer than we could ever imagine. I don’t have access to a car everyday, but I am within walking distance of the library and a playground. I’ve organized the mothers at church to meet me twice a week at places that are easy for me to get to. Our church moms now have two free events every week — one at the playground and one at a local swimming hole — that meets my need and theirs too. My limitation of not having a car regularly allowed me to create this. What are the creative solutions God wants to help you with in your boundaries?

True Supernatural Joy

Boundaries can calm anxiety. Thirty-one flavors of ice cream sounds like a great options but life is easier when you only have chocolate and vanilla. I’ve found, for me and for my children that the fastest path of peace is one with the fewest choices. Rest in that and be grateful for those boundaries that restrict your options.

Boundaries remind us that joy is not found in experiences nor in abundance.

We want to teach our children that while summer is fun, it’s not what makes us happy. True joy is found in rest, in thankfulness, in loving people and the simple beauty of a firefly at night.

True supernatural joy is found when we finally rest inside our boundaries, not when we struggle against them.

God is the God of the summer. He created summer so that the earth could grow. Perhaps for us, summer is a chance to stretch our faith and become more vibrant and healthy. Phineas, Ferb, and the entire Kennedy clan should be so blessed.

KatharineGrubbWrite a novel in 10 minutes a dayKatharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day.

She blogs at www.10minutenovelist.com. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new weekly newsletter, The Rallying Cry, is an honest, kleenex-worthy, you-can-do-this, faith-filled message of hope for those who need it. Sign up here.

Reader Question: What if My Marriage Was a Mistake?

What if my marriage was a mistake?

Reader Question: What if my marriage was a mistake?On Mondays I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it, and today’s is rather sad. A woman writes:

Can you offer resources toward unequally yoked marriages? Also info on how to deal with a severely emotionally disturbed spouse? I slept with my best friend ( but we were also in love), got pregnant, and got married. My husband isn’t against my faith, he accepts it and promotes it to the kids, but he doesn’t have it and won’t consider going to church, etc. He has some different morals, values, etc. also, it turns out he has major issues. Several people in his immediate family committed suicide and he’s dealing with depression, etc. I know that God can redeem this, but how do I know if our marriage was just a result of my mistakes or if it is something that God will use for good. I don’t want to be a martyr in my own life, but I do want to do what God wants.

I can feel her pain and her dilemma. She got married because she thought it was the right thing to do in the circumstances–but she’s not happy now and she’s wondering if her marriage was a mistake. She’s wondering if she’ll ever feel the loved she’s dreamed of, or if she’s just stuck in this relationship.

I know many other women asking themselves that question, especially if the marriage wasn’t originally planned. They got pregnant. They wanted to escape their home life. They were single moms and just wanted a roof over their heads. And now they wonder if they chose wrong, and if they missed out on what God really wanted for their lives.

So let’s try to tackle this one today: what do you do if you feel like your marriage was a mistake?

What if my marriage was a mistake? #marriage

Let’s Stop Thinking About “The One”

Part of the reason that we feel like we made a mistake is that we think God had a Plan A for us, and we chose Plan B. If we hadn’t have married this person, then we would have found the one that God really wanted us to marry–our perfect soulmate, so to speak–and we would be far happier. Instead, we messed up. We didn’t follow God’s plan for our lives. And so doesn’t it follow that if we’re going to get back on track for Plan A, we’re going to have to ditch this Plan B? If we married the wrong person, then we can never really be on track with God in this life.

I understand that thinking. But I also think it’s totally off base. Here’s why:

God doesn’t have just one person for you to marry. God lets you choose.

This idea that there is a perfect soul mate for us out there to complete us is actually not biblical. Gary Thomas did a great job explaining this in a recent blog post, “Why God Didn’t (and Won’t) Tell You To Marry Your Spouse.”

Gary writes,

There is, quite frankly, nothing in Scripture that ever tells us it is our sworn duty to marry one particular person. Whether we marry, and who we marry, are spoken of in Scripture as part of God’s “permissive will,” something He allows us to choose.

Gary goes on to show that Scripture gives several reasons for marrying and help on choosing someone of the right character, but it doesn’t say that there is only one person for each of us. We’re given the chance to choose for ourselves.

Let’s Own our Choices

Why does this matter? Because if you realize that there wasn’t a specific Plan A, then it’s not about getting back in line with what God wants for you. It’s more about realizing that God lets us choose, and now it’s time to figure out how to glorify God in the midst of those choices.

Gary writes,

Far healthier, spiritually, than to sit in resentment against God, is to say to yourself, “I chose this man/woman. It might or might not help to explore why. But since I made the choice of my own free will, I bear certain responsibilities for the commitment I have made.” Then God becomes your ally, not your enemy, in helping you face the future. Instead of, “God, why did you lead me into this mess,” you’ll pray, “God, help lead me out of the mess I’ve made.”

So many of us believe that God led us to our spouse, and then when that spouse becomes abusive or becomes mean or has an affair we blame God. “But you told me to marry him!” Or else we think, like this letter writer, that we missed the boat and so we have to jump off the one we’re on and row really hard to get back to where God wants us to be.

But what God wants is to have us submit to Him where we are right now. That’s God’s will for us–to serve Him in the everyday, even if our everyday has taken some bad turns. It’s not to get back to a perfect life He had planned for us. It’s to let Jesus shine through where we are.

It’s Freeing to Realize “I Chose Him”

When you realize that you yourself made the choice to marry him–God didn’t make you, your parents didn’t make you, your husband didn’t make you–you made that choice, then you can also see how you have a responsibility to make that marriage the best it can be. If you feel that somehow you were coerced into marriage than you can never really throw your all into it. But if you realize, “I made those vows myself”, then you can see that you have a responsibility to them.

Why the Vow Matters #marriage

Where Do You Go From Here?

What does God want you to do in a difficult marriage? What is the best way to serve God right now?

I’ve written a lot on this topic, and so I’m going to link to different posts that can give you some practical ideas about what to do now. But the main thing I wanted to leave you with today is that it’s not about finding that Plan A. It’s about recognizing those choices you freely made, and then figuring out, “how do I serve God today, right where I am?”

Could you have made different choices? Of course. But you didn’t. And you don’t know how those choices would have turned out anyway. But you did choose this, so let’s work with it and see how we can find contentment and peace right now.

When You’re in a Loveless Marriage

Living in a Loveless Marriage
When You’ve Checked Out of Your Marriage
Why the Vow Matters
When is it Okay to Give Up on My Marriage?
Encouragement for Those in Really Tough Marriages
10 Truths About Emotionally Destructive Marriages

How to Get Back on Track in Your Marriage

Changing the Dynamic in my Marriage
The Two Ingredients of All Successful Marriages
Be a Spouse, Not an Enabler
Tackling Huge Marriage Problems

I’ve also got a ton of posts on how to spend time together more, how to ask for help, and so much more. You can find those on my Marriage FAQ page.

I hope some of those are helpful.

But for today, I just wanted to dispel this idea that we may have married the wrong person, missed out on God’s specific, perfect will, and now we need to get back to it.

God’s will is for you to glorify Him today, where you are. It’s for you to love in a healthy way that points people to Jesus (it’s not for you to enable sin, though!).

So now let me know: what do you think of this idea that there is one perfect person for us to marry? Let’s talk in the comments!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

 

Why Christians are Losing the Culture War

Christians may be losing the Culture War--but maybe that's not the worst thing in the world if it gets us back to reaching out to our neighbors.Christians are in a Culture War. And I don’t think we’re doing a particularly good job.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I posted about the Duggar abuse scandal. Which got read a lot. And which kind of consumed the day (I didn’t even get cake).

So perhaps I’m just feeling a little contemplative today, but I have a bunch of thoughts in my brain that I thought I should try to get down. I hope they make sense, but after a weekend of watching many Christians defend the Duggars’ decision not to immediately remove Josh from the home; saying “the girls are absolutely fine! You can tell because we see that on TV!”; and “it was only touching; it wouldn’t have done that much harm”, I guess I’m just a little restless and rather sad.

So I want to give my hypothesis of what’s happening in our culture.

Western culture, and especially American culture, used to be quite Christian.

We had Christian values, even if not everybody believed. And, to a large extent, people felt that our country was blessed because the country reflected Christ’s values.

Then everything went off the rails starting in the 1960s. The family was attacked. Marriage was attacked. The church was attacked.

So we went into defense mode. Every time we were attacked we’d fight. We decided that we wanted to stand out from the world, so we created more and more rigid standards of what it means to be a Christian–even more rigid than in the 1950s (take purity, for example. No one was arguing for no hand holding until you’re engaged in the 1950s. This is a new cultural phenomenon).

And we treat this like a war. We’ve decided there are two sides: Us and Them.

We retreat into our own sides on the internet and in news media. Whenever one of ours is attacked, we fight back, regardless of the merits of the situation. We can’t give ground, after all, or we very well may lose everything.

Right now Christians are waiting, scared, for the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage to come down. What will happen if they allow gay marriage everywhere? What will we do?

And I guess I’m just afraid that we’ve gone a bit off track and we’re losing the bigger picture.

Our main job on this earth is not to fight a culture war. Our main job is to reach people for Jesus and to show Christ’s love to a hurting world.

I live in a country (Canada) where the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage years ago, despite the votes of elected officials. I was despondent when that decision came down, and I wrote articles in papers before the decision talking about why traditional marriage matters. Because it does. And once you allow gay marriage, a whole lot of other consequences follow. Marriage becomes about a lifestyle choice, making it less likely people will marry. Adoption issues become messed up. Custody issues become messed up. It’s just plain sad.

But you know what? Our laws simply reflect our culture, and our culture is already there. And sometimes a country gets what it deserves.

That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care; it’s only to say that even if the Supreme Court doesn’t allow gay marriage, I’m not sure what difference that will make because people’s hearts are no longer for traditional commitment. They just aren’t. And your laws reflect your culture, so within 10-15 years you will have gay marriage anyway, regardless of what the Supreme Court says.

Abortion is a separate issue; we’re winning there. But that’s because both issues have as an undercurrent justice and human rights. The world sees gay marriage as a human right and as a justice issue (gays should not be discriminated against). They see abortion in a similar way, because ultrasounds have let us see that this is a child. And so people are against abortion but for gay marriage, and in their minds that’s perfectly consistent.

So what do we do?

We can keep fighting, pointing out every bit of liberal hypocrisy to show that we’re right. We can keep fighting this war and funding this war and try to keep our ground.

And there likely is need for this. I think of it as a day job–we need professional Christians to fight the culture war on a 9-5 basis. But then let’s get back to our real life with real neighbours and real friends and real individuals.

Fighting the Culture War can’t be our main strategy or our main effort for evangelism, because it can backfire.

First, because we think in terms of strategy rather than in terms of Truth, Compassion, and Love. Sometimes strategically it seems better to slam your opponent rather than to admit that your Culture War soldier may have been off base. But that’s not standing for Truth.

But it’s not just because it can turn people away from God; it’s also because it blinds us to our own mission.

I had a woman say this on Facebook yesterday about my post about the Duggars: “I totally agree with your post, but I don’t see how saying all of this will show non-Christians we’re reasonable or that we love the victims. The media would never report this anyway. They just like to play “gotcha”.

That’s the problem. We think the Christian life is lived out in the Culture War, and it’s not. The Culture War is important, but it is not our Christian life, nor should it be our main focus. She was saying, “talking about this won’t matter; it’s only what the media reports that matters.” But that’s not true at all!

Let me give you one example: both of my girls have large numbers of non-Christian friends on Facebook–from work, from university, etc. And they saw non-Christians saying things like, “The Duggar scandal proves God doesn’t exist”, or much worse things. So the girls posted Rebecca’s article that was critical of the Duggars, and talked about how appalled they were, too. And their friends understood, and many messaged them and said, “I’m so glad you said that. I thought all Christians were excusing the Duggar parents. I’m so glad to know that’s not true. Thank you for standing up for what’s right.”

In fact, in the whole hubbub, the girls were attacked by Christians and comforted by non-Christians. Katie, especially, had non-believers messaging her and saying, “thank you for standing strong. I’m sorry for all the hate you’re getting, but we’re with you. You’re a great person.”

The media didn’t share Rebecca’s Duggar article. The media didn’t say, “some Christians aren’t supporting the Duggars.” But these people got the message because the girls said it themselves.

I’m afraid that we have put ourselves in such enclaves that most of us don’t have non-Christian friends, so the only way we communicate with non-Christians IS through the media.

And we forget that evangelism is supposed to be one on one. It’s relationship building. And that’s the only thing that will bring people back to Christ.

The disciples wanted Jesus to lead an army and win Israel by force. I sometimes think that’s what Christians want for America, too. Look, I’m not against having Christian leaders–Canada’s Prime Minister is a Christian and I pray everyday that he will win the next election. A country is blessed when it has Christian leaders.

But our main goal on this earth is not to make America into a Christian nation; it is to reach individuals for Christ.

And sometimes in the way that we frame the culture war as Us vs. Them, and circle the wagons, we turn off the individuals. And we feel like we are so busy winning people to Christ because we are so engaged in the Culture War–supporting politicians, giving political contributions, keeping up on the news, writing political letters–that we forget we have neighbors who just need to see Jesus. Not a letter writing campaign.

One more thing: In our attempt to be Us vs. Them, we have created even more legalistic rules of what it means to be a Christian, so that you can be sure you’re on the right side of the Culture War. To me, one of the main problems of the Duggar show was that it made it seem like the only way to be pure was to save hand holding until engagement and kissing until marriage. By showing something so counter-cultural, we thought we could show the world there is an alternative and win people to Christ that way.

But we’re just setting up rigid rules that the Bible doesn’t have. If you choose those things for yourself I completely support you. But saving hand-holding until engagement is not the biblical definition of purity.

The more that we elevate these kinds of extreme rules for Christian living, the more we solidify the Us vs. Them.

Let’s remember that Jesus was radical–but He was radical because He hung out with tax collectors and sinners, and they enjoyed Him! He was actually, for His time, radically Progressive. We’re trying to be radically Conservative. And by doing that, we’re almost becoming radical Pharisees. (I’m not saying we should become today’s version of Progressives, by the way; I’m just noting that we’ve turned the idea of radical on its head.)

I just want us to get back to a life where it’s not about rules; it’s about Jesus. And when Jesus (not rules) is real in our lives, we will have a true love for our neighbours, not a disdain for them because of the Us vs. Them Culture War.

I’m not sure if that makes any sense; I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. And, like I said, I do think it’s important to have good laws and Christian leaders. I do think holiness matters. But the Culture War can’t be our main focus of evangelism. It doesn’t work first of all, but it also makes us all feel like we’re part of the Great Commission when we’re really doing nothing of the sort. We will win the Culture War when we start winning individuals. And the louder and more stridently we fight the Culture War, the more we lose those individuals all around us.

Does anyone get what I’m saying? Or can you give me an example from your own life of how you reached out to an individual rather than seeing them as an Us vs. Them? I’m not sure I’m articulating myself well here, so I’d love to keep the discussion going in the comments!

And then I’ll try to get back to regularly scheduled programming and regular type posts tomorrow. :)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. My primary identity is in Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Godly Submission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time for it to stop.

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

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

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

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

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

Why We Shouldn’t Bad Mouth our Husbands

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t speak ill of your husband to your family

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

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

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

Don’t speak ill about you husband to strangers

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

So, who do you talk to?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do We Waste Too Much Time?

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

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

On Saturday I posted this on Facebook:

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

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

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

And in general I’d say yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s dissect this a bit.

Things that are Important AND Urgent Demand Your Attention–Rightly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do we spend so much time on time wasters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 12:1-2a says this:

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

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

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

Does this mean I can never waste time?

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

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

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

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

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

Dayspring Purpose Mug

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

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

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

5 Ways to Pray for Your Husband

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

Pray for Your Husband

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

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

Yep, I’m that slow.

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

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

That I can do.

1. People

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

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

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

2. Purity

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

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

3. Pride

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

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

4. Passion

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

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

5. Purpose

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

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

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

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

Thanks for praying for us.

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

5 Quick Ways to Pray for Your Husband

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The secret most kids won’t tell you

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

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

Keeping the home fires burning

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

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

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

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

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

Remember simple acts of daily physical affection.

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

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

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

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

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

Buy yourself an extra half-hour in the evenings.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

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Ask It! Our March Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge

“While nobody plans to mess up his life, the problem is that few of us plan not to.”

So says Andy Stanley early in his book Ask It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions. And today we’re going to talk about it and help YOU not mess up your life!

Book Review of Ask It by Andy Stanley

It’s our March edition of the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge! You just have to read one book a month–and every month is a different topic! And then I’ll give you a couple of choices (in case you’ve already read one book or in case not all books apply to you).

This is one of those months where not all books will apply. We’re talking about setting boundaries–how to make sure that you’re taking responsibility for the things that you are responsible for, but also ensuring you don’t overfunction and prevent other people from doing what they should do, and to ensure that you don’t enable sin.

I had four book suggestions, three of which were for women who really felt like they were doing too much in their marriage: Boundaries in Marriage, The Emotionally Healthy Woman, and The Emotionally Destructive Marriage (listed in order of severity of marriage problems). I’ll be looking at The Emotionally Destructive Marriage next week.

But what if you don’t have these kinds of issues in your marriage? Then I suggested the book Ask It, which is an amazing little book, and gives us help so that we don’t wind up with these sorts of problems in our marriage later (or in other relationships!). It’s just great wisdom for life, and I’d like to talk about it today.

Ask It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make DecisionsThe “One” Question

Stanley starts his book by showing us rather convincingly that we don’t think ahead. We get into these messes that anyone could have seen were going to be messes, and then we feel trapped.

We spend too much money. Our marriage falls apart. Our kids struggle. And why is that?

It’s because we don’t focus on the right question.

Usually, when we’re trying to make decisions, we ask, “Is there anything wrong with this?” That’s how we get into messes. We can’t find a definite “no”, and so we justify doing really stupid things.

You don’t sit around looking for reasons to do the right thing; it’s the bad decisions that require creative reasoning.

The better question is this one:

What is the wise thing for me to do?

And he goes on to show that the question needs to be expanded, to this:

In light of my past experiences (including my specific temptations and shortcomings), in light of my current circumstances, and in light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do right now?

Seriously, people. Do we know how revolutionary that is? Take just the issue of dating, for example. Many women end  up with total losers. They date people who don’t treat them well, and then maybe they end up marrying them. We all know women like that (maybe you even are one!) We all have sisters or friends who are in the midst of destructive relationships, and we so want them to get out.

And then they do–and six months later they’re with a carbon copy guy, moaning to us how there aren’t any good guys in the world.

But, as Stanley says,

“Why does every relationship end the same way?” In most cases the answer is, “Because every relationship started the same way.”

You meet the guy in a bar, or at a party where everyone’s drunk,  or through a friend who has substance abuse issues, and suddenly you wonder why you end up with losers. We have to stop doing what feels natural and start asking ourself, “is this wise”?

Neglecting Something Important Has Lasting Consequences

After setting up the importance of “the question”, Stanley then takes a look at our everyday lives. Are we actually doing wise things on a day-to-day basis? And he shows how often we’re not. When we fail to plan and fail to be wise, we end up neglecting the important things. And neglect has lasting consequences.

The health of your marriage tomorrow will be determined by the decisions you make today…There are rarely immediate consequences for neglecting single instalments of time in any arena of life.

That is so true, and to bring this back to the subject of this blog, I see this so much in the area of sex. When sex falls to the wayside, when we women diminish its importance and refuse sex consistently, or else just go through the motions without really throwing ourselves into it, we drive our husbands away.

We know that sex is important to a relationship, but in the day to day, when we’re tired, we often neglect it. Let me give you several of Stanley’s thoughts on this:

But in the areas that matter most, a burst of energy and activity cannot reverse the consequences that accompany a season of neglect…Relationships are built on small, consistent deposits of time. You can’t cram for what’s most important. If you want to connect with your kids, you’ve got to be available consistently, not randomly…If you are not walking wisely, your time will be fragmented by a thousand urgent, disconnected opportunities and events. Such opportunities and events will seem important at the time, but when strung together they have no cumulative value.

“Falling” Into Sin with Emotional Affairs

One area I really appreciated about this book was the chapters he spent on sexual sin, and especially how we “fall into” affairs. He tells an all-too-convincing story about how two people who work together end up in an affair not because they planned to, but because they failed to plan NOT to.

Let me give you just a few of Stanley’s words of wisdom:

Do you know why people are prone to make such foolish moral decisions? Because something always whispers to us that our situations are unique: Nobody has ever felt this way before.

But there is nothing unique about your circumstances, your emotions, your desires, and your passions. And as long as you deceive yourself into thinking that you are the first to feel what you are feeling, you will chase those feelings to the neglect of wisdom.

In terms of marriage, this book is worth the price just for the diagnosis of emotional and physical affairs, and for the advice on how to be wise and protect yourself.

The problem with an affair is that at each step, people start justifying their behaviour. “There’s nothing really wrong with texting a co-worker outside of work hours.” “There’s nothing wrong with grabbing dinner with him while on a business trip. We have to eat, after all.” “There’s nothing wrong with stopping by her house to drop off these papers.” And that’s how we do it–we ask ourselves, “is this really wrong?” But if we asked ourselves, “Is this really wise?”, we’d likely have a different response.

Quote from Andy Stanley's book Ask It

None of us plan–or intend–to get into trouble. The problem is, we don’t plan not to. (click to tweet!)

What is Beneficial?

I love that Andy Stanley brought up  1 Corinthians 10:23, because I use it all the time in my Girl Talk when I talk to churches about sex:

“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.

That’s such a great verse. It’s not about whether or not something is WRONG (everything is permissible, after all). It’s about whether or not it’s beneficial. Now, in the context, Paul isn’t saying that there’s no such thing as sin. What he is talking about is all of those grey areas that aren’t necessarily sin, but that we still struggle with. It’s not a sin, but is it wise?

I’ve used this verse specifically with sex toys. I’m not saying using a feather on your spouse or even making them lie still while you tease them is wrong–far from it! But there are some toys which basically recreate body parts and give you parallel sexual experiences, rather than enjoying stuff together. And the more that we focus on these physical elements, the less we’re likely to feel that sex is intimate. And who tends to reach orgasm the most in marriage? Those who feel the most intimate! Intimacy and trust are the best aphrodisiacs, and you can’t buy them at a sex shop.

I have more on that in several other posts, but I think when we’re trying to decide our boundaries in the bedroom, that’s a great question to ask!

Finding Mentors for Your Life–and Your Marriage!

Finally, Andy Stanley ends with a plea that we start learning to ask for help.

Wise people know when they don’t know, and they’re not afraid to go to those who do know. When wise people bump up against their limitations, they stop and ask for help.

I have repeatedly said on this blog that every couple should have a mentor couple–someone you can go to in times of crisis to ask for perspective and prayer, or someone you can bounce things off of if you just hit a wall and you can’t seem to agree. People who know you in real life and who care about you and who are godly themselves are the greatest resources we have.

Yet often we don’t turn to mentors. Why?

One of the primary reasons we don’t seek counsel from the wise people around us is that we already know what we are going to hear–and we just don’t want to hear it.

I see that often on this blog. I’ll write a long blog post explaining what you should do in a certain tough situation, and then people will comment with their terribly sad stories, saying, “I desperately need advice! Tell me what to do!” But I just finished telling you. The problem is that my solution often entailed them changing, or them doing something difficult. People don’t want to hear that. They want a magic solution–and most likely there isn’t one. Most major change only happens when we work through it.

Who Should Read Ask It?

Everyone! Seriously. It’s a great book for the Christian walk. I think couples could read it together at night (it’s such an easy read with lots of stories in it). It would give you something to talk about as you try to make decisions. But if youth groups read it with their teenagers, or college & careers groups read it together, that would be wonderful, too. Imagine if we could equip our young people to ask the right questions from the outset:

In light of my past experiences (including my specific temptations and shortcomings), in light of my current circumstances, and in light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do right now?

I really encourage you all to read it! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and like Stanley says–I do think it will revolutionize how you make decisions.

If you read it, tell me: what was your favourite part? Did he help you see something in a new way? And tune in next week for our look at The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.

I’ll be sending out my “Round Up” Newsletter later today. I send it out maybe 3 times a year with more personal updates from my family, photos you won’t have seen on the blog or Facebook, and announcements of what I’m writing, where I’m speaking, and what I’m thinking about these days. If you aren’t signed up, you can do so here!