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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prevalence Of Cyberbullying

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

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

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

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

Why Monitoring Was A Choice That Worked For Us

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

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

How To Monitor A Teen’s Cell Phone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Williams Bio

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


Women Need Authenticity! The Phenomenal Effect Campaign

Don’t we all thirst for something REAL–for authenticity?

We scroll through our social media feeds feeling inadequate because everyone else either seems so much more artsy with their photos or have gone on awesome vacations. We walk into church all prettied up, but we’re scared to tell any of the women in this community how lonely we are. We go to a family reunion and show off our kids, but we’re secretly praying that they won’t start fighting over the same things they were fighting over in the car.

We’re scared to let anyone see what we’re really like.

Women's Thirst for Authenticity: Part of Lean Cuisine's Phenomenal Effects campaign!

This summer I’ve been chosen as one of Lean Cuisine’s Phenomenal Ambassadors and sharing great stories of accomplishments. Earlier last month I helped share that the most important thing we should weigh is our effort–not just our success or our appearance.

Lean Cuisine wants to help you Feed Your PhenomenalTM by helping each other recognize the unseen things women do every day that go unnoticed, so I’m sharing the story of a woman who I think is phenomenal.

In my last post I told you about Natalie from Visionary Womanhood, who worked so hard to make her marriage work, and is now leaning more on God as she is learning that she can’t be responsible for someone else’s poor choices. And she’s come to such a greater understanding of grace in the process! She’s writing phenomenal stuff.

Today I want to share another blogger with you: Sarah Ball from Virtuous Woman Exposed. She’s a mom of 5. She struggles with her past. She struggles with keeping romance alive. She’s just plain honest. And that’s refreshing.

I first met Sarah at a writer’s conference two years ago. She was asking my advice on blogging and getting books published, and I invited her to guest post for me. Now, at that particular conference I invited dozens of women to send me guest posts. Sarah is one of the few who followed through.

What really stood out to me was her message. Sarah’s a busy mom of 5. But the whole point of her blog is that she isn’t just “The Virtuous Woman” from Proverbs 31 or anything. She’s “The Virtuous Woman EXPOSED“–the one who tells it like it is and opens up on her own foibles and where life is just plain messy.

As you all know, I’m on a crusade to end the “pat Christian answers” to marriage problems.

Sarah doesn’t give pat answers. She’s the mom of 5 kids, and she’s trying to juggle a blossoming freelance writing career while still being a great mom. And a great wife. And not losing it with everyone in sight.

I love her take on mommy porn–she’s upfront and honest about her own struggles in marriage, and she’s upfront and honest with her 16-year-old daughter. We need more of that!

I love her conclusion that bringing her muffin top on vacation to Mexico was absolutely okay. And I adore her advice to husbands on how to encourage their wives to lose weight. If every man followed her 7 day plan–wow, we’d have great marriages!

And one of the bravest things she did was to create her Fearless in 21 Days series–detailing her own battle with panic attacks and stress, and then showing how we can work through it.


Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by Accident

In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, thought #3 is all about happiness and how our husbands were not put on earth to make us happy. In fact, we weren’t put on earth to be happy. But when we find joy in God and contentment in our circumstances, then happiness usually follows. It’s a by-product of the things that we choose to think about.

And as I told the stories of several women who had discovered happiness in marriage, one said this:

“I realized that my contentment was a gift that I could give my husband.”

Instead of waiting for him to make you happy, finding your own contentment is such a gift. He won’t feel like he has to fix things for you. He won’t feel like he’s inadequate. He’ll feel like he’s 10 feet tall and he can take on the world. And that really is fun to be around!

I’ve read so many “pat Christian answers” about how to find happiness in marriage. You know the kind–learn his love language and be absolutely amazing to him, and then he will do the same for you! Or just pray a lot and you’ll find that God will give you the desires of your heart.

That’s not what it’s about. It’s not about manipulating him. It’s not about trying to convince God to make you happy. It’s about realizing what is in your control, and then chasing after doing the right thing! It’s about honesty. It’s about authenticity before God and before your husband. And it’s about being real.

I love that Sarah has understood that. I love that she’s wrestling in the day to day with real problems, and she’s giving other people a window into that. I love that she’s not projecting this idea that if we have these perfect homes and we do these perfect devotions and we’re all perfectly organized that we’ll be happy. No, that’s not what we’re supposed to be chasing after. It’s not about having a perfect life. It’s about treating yourself well, treating others well, and chasing after God, even in the mess.

So check out Sarah!

Sarah’s all about getting healthy: getting healthy emotionally, getting healthy spiritually, figuring out how to get healthy physically even with 5 kids.

And now I want to know: which woman do you know who is phenomenal?

Visit the Phenomenal Effect website to enter Lean Cuisine’s promotion and help spread the Phenomenal Effect by recognizing the phenomenal women in your life and encouraging them to do the same. You could win prizes for yourself and everyone that you recognize. Also be sure to visit them on Facebook and Twitter

Who are some of the phenomenal women in your life? Tell us about it in the comments. Each comment will automatically be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card, thanks to SheKnows!

Entry Instructions: 

No duplicate comments. 

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. 

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here

This sweepstakes runs from 8/13/15 – 9/30/15. 

Be sure to visit the Lean Cuisine brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Top 10 Ways I Bring Happiness into My Life

How to Be Happy: 10 Idea

How to be happy–in the middle of your mess–is the main question we’re all desperately trying to find an answer for.

How can we find happiness even if we’re busy, stressed out, tired, or a little lonely?

Yesterday I was talking about how your husband can’t make you happy–because he can’t fix everything, and he can’t feel all your angst to the same extent you do. Ultimately our own happiness comes not from other people, but from joy and contentment first (finding peace with God and with ourselves), and then we’ll find peace with our circumstances.

But how, practically, do you do that?

I had some pushback yesterday saying, “but my husband is supposed to be there when I’m hurt! He’s supposed to be helping with the kids and relieving my burdens!” To which I’d say, “absolutely!”

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentAnd in my book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I talk about both sides. I start with four thoughts that will help us get our own hearts in the right place; three ideas that will change the way you look at resolving conflict and bringing up issues when your husband ISN’T supporting you; and two thoughts for keeping close.

But I find that often when we’re unhappy we’re so quick to point the finger.

And I think it’s better to really look at our own hearts first. I’m not saying your husband is perfect; on the contrary, I spent all last week talking about what to do if he isn’t! But I am saying that too often we think he’s the sole source of the problem when we play a role too.

And so today I’d like to share the ways that I’ve found to take responsibility for my own happiness.

Too often I think we over-spiritualize this, making it sound as if happiness is there if we’d all just spend four hours a day in prayer and ignore everything else.

That’s not real life–and quite frankly Jesus enjoyed a lot of things other than prayer. Prayer is wonderful, but overspiritualizing problems doesn’t really help most of us. So I want to get practical today!

Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Too Tired for SexUsually on Top 10 Tuesday I give you ten ideas, and I tell you to pick 1-3 to actually put into practice (since no one can do all 10!) Today’s a little different. I’m not telling you to pick any of them; I want to use myself as an example, and then encourage you to brainstorm about what ideas will do the same thing for you. I’ll tell you what brings me peace and joy, but since we’re different, the same things may not work for you. But the concepts will.

How To Be Happy Tips: Big Picture

1. Pick Just ONE Bible Verse

I got this concept from Courtney Joseph, who is doing a wonderful job at Women Living Well with her Good Morning Girls series!

I know that we’re constantly told to read our Bibles, and to pray, but for many of us that’s a hard slog. And we can’t do it in the morning. And the more people say, “read your Bible!”, the more inadequate we feel.

Here’s what I do: my husband and I spend 7-9 p.m. together, walking, talking, watching a Netflix show, playing a game. But at 9 I get out my Bible, a nonfiction book I’m reading, and my journal, and I read and write for an hour. I use a devotional to tell me what to read in the Bible everyday.

Then I look for just ONE verse–just one–that really speaks to me from the reading. I write that on a piece of paper, and all the next day I look at it and memorize it and think about it. It helps me focus my thoughts.

Here’s one God gave me on Sunday, when I was struggling with what prayer means:

How to Be Happy: Choose just one verse for each day

When we pick a verse, we know that God is speaking to us. That our devotions are interactive. It’s not just you reading; God is speaking too!

You want peace and joy, but don’t compare your spiritual life with other people’s spiritual lives. I’ve tried for years to read my Bible in the morning. I’ve tried the “reading the Bible in 90 days”. It doesn’t work for me. I’d read but not take it in.

Do what works for you. And if all you can take away is one verse–that’s enough! I find if I pray and think about one verse each day, I have an ongoing conversation with God. And it really brings joy!

2. Know My ONE Big Thing for the Year

I know my one big thing that I’m working towards for my business this year, and for my personal life this year. Personally, it’s getting my house cleaned out so my mom can move in. Businesswise, it’s getting some more ebooks written and creating a plan for them.

I know those are my ONE things (well, technically it’s two, but I have two parts of my life).

I take a yearly retreat and pray over these ONE things. And it really does help!

So everyday I do 10 minutes towards my ONE thing. That’s it. Just 10 minutes. And then I can track my progress. When I know that I’m working towards a goal and I’m being purposeful, I tend to feel more positively, like I’m moving towards something God has called me to.

3. Know My ONE Big Thing for the Day

Here’s something else: I know my one thing that I need to get done in the day. The one thing that must be checked off my list. Everything else can fall away, but I need that one thing done.

Today it’s getting a video edited that I hope will go up tomorrow.

But that way, at the end of the day, I’ll have something to point to.

If we start the day knowing our one thing for the day, and our big picture goal we’re working towards, we’re going to end the day feeling like we’ve accomplished something.

And for me personally, I usually feel the least happy when I feel as if I’ve gotten nothing done. When we get frazzled, it’s usually because our day has gotten away from us. We had some things planned, but we didn’t do them. We relaxed in front of Facebook instead, or we responded to every kid’s cry instead of trying to plan something proactive to stop those cries. And then by the afternoon we’ve had nothing done, everyone’s grumpy, and we feel like failures.

If you want to be happy, don’t let life get away from you! Know your ONE thing, and do it!

4. Pick ONE Friend

Here’s a new one I’m starting as an empty nester: every week I’m getting together with one friend for lunch. It won’t always be the same friend (in fact, I hope it’s not!) But I need more women in my life. I spend so much time in front of my computer and talking to my girls and my husband that I can get a little lonely and narrow focused. Friendships help us to step outside of ourselves.

This Saturday I’m having lunch with a friend I’ve known since university and we’re going to commiserate about our girls together. It will be great!

Every week, I know who I’m going to get together with and when. It helps me to know I’m not in this alone.

If you have little kids and you can’t do lunch, can you get together with someone for coffee? Or can you plan a one hour phone conversation with a different friend each week?

5. Get Dressed

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not. I don’t mean yoga pants and a baggy T-shirt. I mean get dressed in something that flatters you. Put on earrings (unless you have toddlers that yank!), and put on some lipstick.

I always feel so much better if I look better. It makes me feel more confident, less like a slouch, more like “I am made for a purpose and I’m going to do battle in the world today!” Yay!

How to Be Happy Tips: Stop and Enjoy

Now we’ve got the big picture things. The next five steps are just small things–tiny things that I add to my life that make me joyful. They’re not big. They’re not elaborate. But they make me happy, because they celebrate the beauty God gave us.

6. Sip Some Herbal Tea

I gave up Diet Pepsi a year ago, and that was tough, because I loved it. So I had to replace it with something. And that something has been tea. I do hot tea and iced tea. White tea and green tea. Black tea and herbal tea. I have so many teas to choose from! I take my tea supply with me when I travel.

It helps me to feel as if I’m enjoying all different tastes, without chemicals. And it’s lovely.

How to Be Happy: Find some teas you love!

7. Infuse the House with Essential Oils

God gave us five senses, but how often do we indulge them? I love filling my aromatherapy infuser with essential oils both for the scent and for the healing properties. Right now I have a headache blend going–I was feeling a little bit achy today–but it’s so lovely with peppermint and rosemary and juniper.

Ever notice how much of the Song of Solomon has to do with different senses? Let’s use them!

How to Be Happy: Add essential oils to your day

8. Reserve Time to Cook

I used to go through my day not knowing what I was going to make for dinner. Life was too hectic, and I didn’t deal with things until I had to.

Then one day, about eight years ago, I made a startling discovery. I actually LIKE cooking. It smells luscious. It’s amazing that you can take vegetables and meat and broth and turn it into something that looks so lovely and tastes so lovely. It’s using God’s raw ingredients to create–so cool!

So now dinner prep is MY time. When the girls were little they had that time off to play or do whatever they wanted–as long as they left me alone. And it’s still my favourite part of the day. I plan what I’ll make the night before and get all things out of the freezer, but then I cook. And I relax. And I’m happy.

9. Go For a Walk

When my girls were little and driving me crazy, I had one go-to method that calmed us all down: I’d stick them in a stroller and head outside, even if it was freezing and snowing.

Getting out of the house always worked its magic.

I love fresh air. I love seeing my neighbours. I love time to breathe.

These days, whenever I’m frustrated with some writing, or I can’t think of what to say next, or I’m stuck with emails, I knock on Katie’s door (she’ll be gone in two weeks! Yikes!) and I say, “let’s go for a walk.” She hardly ever says no.

If my husband’s home, I take him, too.

And if no one’s home, I go by myself.

I pray. I think. I breathe.

And then I come home.

10. Just Feel

I take time everyday just to FEEL–in the physical sense. Whether it’s some stretching, or asking my husband to give me a massage (or treating myself to a professional one occasionally), or going for a jog, I try to feel.

We live our lives almost entirely in our heads, and I think that’s what often gets the dissatisfaction going. If we can take time everyday to STOP and ENJOY, it makes a difference.

So feel–stretch, exercise, massage. Breathe. Smell. Drink. Revel in the wonderful things that God has made. Give yourself a minute to enjoy something beautiful. And then continue to work on your big picture things that give you purpose.

Those are my ten things. Yours may be different. You may include listening to music (I find I’m loving silence more and more), or digging something in the garden, or sketching something.

But notice what isn’t on the list: Netflix. Computer games. Facebook. Do I do these things? Yes, I do. But I know they don’t make me happy. If I fill my life with those I will feel chronically dissatisfied. That’s not to say we CAN’T do them. But if you want to be happy, you’ve got to find ways to seek out God’s purpose, fulfill that purpose, and revel and enjoy what He has made.

Creativity is one of the ways we’re made in the image of God–and too often we squeeze creativity out of our lives.

As I said yesterday,  your happiness is a gift you can give your husband.

When we are happy and at peace, he doesn’t have to solve anything. He can take a deep breath, relax, and revel in being at home. So if there are things that you can do to find that joy and contentment, you’ll also find your happiness. And that will boost your marriage tremendously!

Let me know in the comments: What makes you happy? What small things can you do to bring joy into your life?



Why Christian Pat Answers for Marriage Don’t Work

When Pat Christian Marriage Advice Doesn't Work

When my oldest daughter was married last month and we were planning the service, we had to choose Scripture readings.

And so we googled “Bible readings for weddings”. And all the typical ones showed up: 1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 1 John 4:16-19 (about how God is love, even though the passage has nothing to do with marriage); Ecclesiastes 4:12 (a cord of three strands is not easily broken).

It seems that only certain passages are deemed worthy of a wedding. But in reading many of them I didn’t even think they fit a wedding all that well. So we chose different ones instead:

Romans 15:5-6

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Colossians 3:12-14

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

We thought those were beautiful for a wedding–and for a marriage! In fact, I’ve been praying that passage from Romans over my own marriage ever since, because I think it’s so wonderful.

But it occurs to me that we do something similar when it comes to marriage advice.

If a marriage problem pops up, we immediately pull out “the marriage passages” of Scripture, and often leave it at that.

Ephesians 5:22-33: wives submit to  your husbands and respect them; husbands love your wives.

Proverbs 31: Be a virtuous woman!

1 Corinthians 7: Don’t divorce and be generous sexually with your spouse.

1 Peter 3:1-7: Wives, obey your husbands and “win them without words”.

And maybe we’ll throw in 1 Corinthians 13 (about what love is) or Genesis 2 and 3 (about the creation story and the fall, too).

It’s as if God wrote this massive book sharing His heart with His people, and yet we’re only supposed to search out those few verses when it comes to marriage.

Don’t get me wrong–these passages are wonderful and give lots of wisdom and direction for our relationships. Bu they are not the WHOLE picture. When we look at those passages in isolation, we often distort them and, I believe, interpret them wrong. Context matters, and you can only interpret Scripture by looking at the rest of Scripture.

God created marriage as the perfect analogy of how He feels about His people. It’s the most important human relationship. And so don’t we think that the REST of the Bible may also have important things to say about marriage–important things about this very messy relationship which can’t always be summarized in pithy sayings or stitched on a pillow?

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentMy new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage launches August 18, and I’m so excited to take the next two weeks leading up to that launch to talk about this concept of Christian “pat answers”–advice that we give that often doesn’t satisfy because it misses the bigger picture.

Pat answers make two kinds of errors:

Either they make a big problem seem small (by minimizing the severity of the problem and suggesting a solution that won’t solve it at all), or they make a small problem much bigger by giving advice that sends a woman in a completely wrong direction.

An example of the making a big problem small: “just have sex more and then he won’t watch porn!

An example of making a small problem big: “God is close to the broken-hearted, so if you’re sad, just pray more!”

The first won’t work because it misunderstands the problem.

The second won’t work because it misunderstands God and what God wants from us.

And we aren’t going to grow in our marriages until we start thinking differently–getting rid of these pat answers, many of which we’ve heard our whole lives in church and in Christian culture–and getting back to what God wants for us.

And that’s quite simple: He wants us all chasing after Jesus and looking more like Him everyday.

Jesus didn’t live by simple formula. He lived His life always seeking out to do God’s will, and as He did that, He found great joy and brought joy to those around Him. His aim was always the same–to bring people closer to God–but His actions varied with circumstances. And that’s how we should live, too.

Submission NEVER means putting up with abuse: on Debi Pearl, submission, and wife abuse.I wrote an example of how Jesus varied His actions while keeping His aim in this post on how Submission Doesn’t Mean Putting Up with Abuse.

Some of you are walking through difficult marriages, and I’m so excited to be able to share with you how thinking about those problems differently and thinking about what God wants from you can change the whole dynamic of your relationship.

Some of you are walking through great marriages, but you still find yourself dissatisfied at times, and wondering why your husband doesn’t “get you” all the time. I’m excited to show you how sometimes the way that we think about marriage actually jeopardizes our happiness. And I’m excited to show you how some simple, practical things can turn the whole thing around!

Quite simply, our modern Christian culture has some awfully sloppy thinking.

And that sloppy thinking is impacting our ability to have great marriages. So it’s time to stop listening to pat answers and start listening to the WHOLE of God’s word.

In the next two weeks leading up the launch, I’m going to share with you my big picture for the book, and then look at 9 pat answers that can derail our thinking about marriage, and 9 thoughts that can send us in a better direction.

I’ll do that with some video–I’m getting Katie to help me make some videos the way that she does!

I’ll do it with a few contests and a few personal stories.

And it’s all going to culminate with the big launch on August 18 when you can win some prizes, and get lots of freebies if you’ve ordered the book early (or on that day!).

This book grew out of a viral blog post I wrote a few  years back–7 Thoughts That Will Change Your Marriage. But it also has grown out of my thinking about marriage that I’ve wrestled with on this blog for the last few years. Many of you, my faithful readers, have had front row seats to some of the debates here, and if you’ve enjoyed the posts, I know that you’ll enjoy the book!

If you order it now, it will be shipped on August 18. And if you order for your Kindle or other device, it will download as soon as it’s available.

And if you order now, it’s 51% off! Only $7.42 for the paperback on Amazon, while it’s $14.99 regularly. So lock in your pre-order price now!

Button Order the Book

And don’t miss any of the posts leading up to the launch–or your chance to win! Sign up to get my blog by email, or to get a weekly round-up of all the posts!

Now it’s your turn: What are some “pat answers” you’ve heard about marriage that can make a problem worse? Let me know in the comments–and I may use your answer for tomorrow’s Top 10 post!


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, 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?

(Looking for simple ideas? Here are 100 free summer activities to try!)

True Supernatural JoyBoundaries 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 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!

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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 book, Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, 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 peaceMAKER, not a peaceKEEPER.

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.)