Wedding Ring Issues

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Check it out here.


Reader Question of the WeekWhat does a weding ring really mean?

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and then take a stab at answering it. I’ve had two questions lately about wearing wedding rings, so I thought I’d try those today!

Should you always wear a wedding ring?

One newlywed writes:

I’ve been married about 6 months now. The problem I’m having is my husband often forgets or chooses not to wear his wedding band. Sometimes his hands swell up and it doesn’t fit his ring finger (on these days, if he wears it, he puts it on his pinky finger, which isn’t a problem). Also, his parents work in a factory, so they don’t often wear their rings; he may have developed the habit by seeing his parents’ use of their rings. He also may not see the wedding ring as important as I do.

To me, though, the wedding ring is important. It’s our way of telling the world “I’m taken, I’m off the market.” When he doesn’t wear his ring, I feel as though he doesn’t find it necessary to tell the world he’s taken. It seems as though he spends less time with his ring on than off. I only take my ring off for sleeping, doing dishes, or showering, and it hurts to see that he wears his so rarely.

I’ve mentioned to him several times that I would like him to wear it, and he usually says something about “It wasn’t fitting today” or “I forgot it” but doesn’t actually change anything. Sometimes, if we’re on the way out the door and I see it sitting somewhere, I’ll mention it and he’ll put it on without saying anything or making an excuse, but I don’t want to turn into a nag–I want him to wear it because he wants to show the world he’s married, not because I bug him to.

How can I approach my husband about this without making him feel guilty? I don’t want to cause a fight, but I do want him to see that this is a topic I feel strongly about.

Interesting! Here are a couple of thoughts, in no particular order:

Why you should wear your wedding ring--and your husband should, too!

Make sure his wedding ring fits

Honestly, it’s odd for a man’s hands to change size that much. It could be that his ring is a little on the small side. If his hands swell up a lot and he can’t wear it often, perhaps having it enlarged by half a size would help. I’ve had to have my ring resized several times over our marriage, and my husband has had his resized once. It isn’t really a big deal, and if it’s that much of a problem, it may be worth looking into. People’s hands really don’t change in ring size that dramatically that frequently, so it honestly could be that it’s too small.

Taking your ring off means you’re more likely to lose it

I don’t take my ring off for doing the dishes, showering, or anything. I really NEVER take my ring off unless I’m making meatballs or bread or doing something with food prep that would get it all over my ring. If your ring is sized properly you shouldn’t have to take it off.

Remember, the more you take it off, the more likely you are to lose it. It sounds like he takes his off and leaves it around the house. Bad idea. That is a recipe for losing it! If he needs to take it off for some reason, have him take it off and leave it in a particular place.

Also, if you wear it all the time, it feels really, really odd to have it off. It could be that he’s never worn his for long enough periods of time to make it feel normal to have the ring on. Encouraging him to wear it straight for a week (when it’s been resized) may help to get him to wear it all the time.

Some people have to take their rings off for work

Your husband’s parents had to take them off working in the factory. My husband takes his rings off when he’s in surgery or when he’s working with premature babies. But he always puts them back on. He hides his ring in the car, and then as soon as he’s done work, he puts it back on again. So if your spouse has to take it off at work, perhaps encourage him (or her, if you’re a guy reading this) to leave it in the car so that it’s on at all other times. (I know it can get stolen in the car, but that’s a really remote possibility if you hide it well).

People SHOULD wear their rings

At all times, in public, it’s good to wear a wedding ring. It does show the world you’re taken. It absolutely is important.

So, with that being said, here’s really the most important issue:

Talk to him openly

The real issue here isn’t with rings. It’s with how they learn to communicate the things that are important to them. And I just wonder from this letter writer’s question if she has ever sat down with him and told him flat out how it makes her feel.

I think that many of us assume our husbands know how we feel, and are making a deliberate choice to disregard our feelings and do what they want. But in my experience, it’s far more likely that he has no clue what you’re thinking. And even if you hint at it, (“I see your ring on the table. Do you want to put it on before we go out?”), he may have no idea how important this is to you.

It’s early in your marriage now. You need to get in the habit of sharing how you feel. This doesn’t mean that you have a fight. This is simply sitting him down and explaining how you feel, and then making a request of him.

If he chooses not to follow your request, then you’ve got a bigger issue and you’ll have to decide how to deal with it. I do have other posts on resolving conflict, and you can look them up in my Marriage FAQ page; many are listed there. But with most issues like this, he likely doesn’t know. Unless you talk openly and don’t beat around the bush and make an honest request (“I’d like you to wear your ring unless you can’t because it could get wrecked/dirty”), you don’t know whether he would willingly wear the ring. It may be something he’s just never thought of and doesn’t realize is important to you. So try being open about it, and see what happens!

Can wedding rings lose their significance?

Here’s a very different slant on the wedding ring question:

My husband had an affair and with God at the center of our healing we are working through it. We believe that we have a new covenant within our marriage. The issue is that I still cannot bring myself to wear my rings. He wears his, and I am okay with that since I did not break my vow. I feel that my husband made a promise with the ring he placed on my hand, and he has broken that promise. The ring is not worth a lot monetarily, but it has sentimental value. We plan to renew our vows soon and my husband is going to propose and marry me all over again. I struggle with using the same ring this time or purchasing new rings for a new start. How do you feel about this. Is it just a gem and piece of metal that can be blessed again, or should it be stored away?

First, I am so glad that you are fighting for your marriage and rebuilding it! That is wonderful. An affair does not necessarily mean the marriage is over, and I have known so many couples to emerge even stronger. So great to hear!

As for the ring, if you would like a new one, I don’t think there’s a problem with that (if you can afford it). If you want to use the old one, I certainly think that can be blessed, too. It’s really the meaning that YOU give to the ring. If you would feel more comfortable and excited about a whole new start, and he understands that, then by all means get another ring. But if you want to say, “we’re together forever, and we’re never giving up,” and using the old ring can signify that, then that’s all right as well. It’s what you both think that matters.

So I’m going to throw this one out to the readers and ask them: would you get a new ring if you were in this reader’s position? Or would you use the old one? Leave me your thoughts in the comments and let’s help this woman!

10 Projects You Can Do This Weekend with the Ultimate DIY Bundle!

Ten years ago I used to have a little soapmaking business. I ran out of time to pursue it, and all of those materials sat in my storage room. But a few months ago I decided I was going to start making some things again! And lately I’ve made some lip balms, started learning about aromatherapy (it can do major things in the bedroom!), and creating new lotions to attack problem areas.

And it takes just minutes.

And it’s fun! I love crafts. I’ve been a knitter my whole life, and there is just something about creating that makes us feel more productive, more purposeful, even more in line with God. God, after all, is creative, and when we can tap into our own creativity, I think we touch an important part of ourselves that is often dormant.

And so I’m excited to share with you today about the The Ultimate DIY Bundle– a collection of carefully curated DIY and crafting eBooks and eCourses from the world’s leading authors and bloggers in the industry.

For the crazy low price of just $34.95, you get access to a carefully curated library of over 76 eBooks and eCourses. And let me reassure you that this really is great value: the Ultimate Bundles team (who produced the resource) has spent MONTHS seeking out the most respected experts in the industry and asking them to contribute their premium-quality eBooks and eCourses. These really are the best of the best when it comes to DIY and crafting advice and information.

Topics in the bundle include:

  • Home decor
  • Furniture painting
  • Photography
  • Chalk pastels
  • Handmade gifts
  • Homemade skincare products
  • Cake decorating
  • Photography and photo-editing
  • Paint colors and interior design
  • …and a whole lot more (76 eBooks and eCourses in total) – to help you be inspired or get started with your next DIY or crafting project!

There’s no need to worry about information overload though: The Ultimate DIY Bundle comes with a complete guide to getting started, so that you can know exactly which resource to use for your specific crafting or DIY project and jump straight into it with confidence!

Hurry though! The Ultimate DIY Bundle will only be on sale for 6 days – from 8am EST on Wednesday, January 21 until 11.59pm EST on Monday, January 26.

But when you buy it, you get access to the books right away. And you can start crafting today! I’ve been having such fun looking through the books, and I wanted to share with you TEN ideas that you can do this weekend to get yourself feeling more creative and productive!

1. Lime Coconut Body Scrub

Lime Coconut Body ScrubIt’s just epsom salts, Vitamin E, some essential oils–and some actual lime and coconut! If you don’t have any essential oils on hand, you can often buy them in a health food store, or get them on Amazon. I use them all the time now (and I’ll be posting soon about 10 ways to use essential oils in the bedroom!)

It’s from Kimberly Layton’s Homemade Gifts for Every Occasion, part of the Crafts collection of the Ultimate Bundle:

2. Make Gift Bags Out of Old Clothes

I love using gift bags for hostess gifts, birthday gifts, thank you gifts–even gifts when I speak! And the book Reuse, Refresh, Repurpose (also in the Crafts section, above), has some great ideas on how to make purses, bags, and gift bags out of old clothes! Your kids will love doing this with you, too. It’s simple–you could make a dozen in a day.

Gift Bags

3. Spray Paint Old Knick Knacks White

I loved this idea from 21 Inspiring Thrift Store Transformations! Take ugly knick knacks, like old trophies, animal figurines, or pitchers, and spray paint them white. She explains how, and all of a sudden they’re useable again!

Paint White

She also lists the 10 most important things to watch for at a thrift store–the things you can use easily. It’s awesome, and it’s part of the Home Decor section.

4. Choose New Paint Colors

Need a pick-me-up for your house? How to Choose Paint Colors (in Home Decor, above) helps you choose your style, understand color theory, and see how all elements work together! Read it today, pick out the paint tonight, and go to it!

paint colors

5. Figure out How to Use Those Camera Settings

Have a great camera, but don’t know how to use it? Say No to Auto is a simple book that explains what terms like ISO, exposure, and shutter speed mean, and how you can manipulate them to take great photos–no matter the conditions! It doesn’t take long to learn, and then you can spend the weekend practising.

Say no to auto

It’s part of the photography section.

6. Get Ready for Mother’s Day!

I love this Mother’s Day Pillbox–it’s part of a book of printables for gifts for every season of the year. And you can put 7 Mom Quotes in the pillbox, too, to show her much you love her! I think making these with the kids for Grandma would be a riot, too.

Mom Pillbox

It’s part of the Crafts section, above.

7. Use Your Scrapbooking Stash

The bundle also comes with a bunch of e-courses, and one of them helps you take all your scrapbooking extras–and figure out how to use them up! Love it.

Use Your Stash

Here’s just one of the amazing ecourses offered!

 8. Scan Your Old Photos–and Use Them!

You can even scan your kids’ artwork (you can only put so much on the fridge), their first writing projects, and more! This ecourse also teaches you how to organize your digital files so you can find things easily when you need them (like, for instance, when you have to start preparing a slide show for your daughter’s wedding. :) Tee hee. My daughter just got engaged!)

Scan Photos

It’s part of the e-course section, above.

9. Make Your Own Household Cleaners

I made up a batch of laundry soap last night using the recipes from this bundle! And it’s so easy (and cheap). Most of the ingredients you likely have on hand right now.

cleaners

The book Clean & Simple is part of the Home and Garden Section.

 

10. Learn to Knit Socks

I couldn’t leave knitting off my list of 10, since I love it so much! With this bundle you also get a ton of free bonuses, including a Craftsy video course of your choice. And I’d recommend Lucy Neatby’s course on knitting socks. I’ve knit about 30 pairs of socks, at least, in my life, and I just love them! You can keep them in your purse because they’re a small enough project, so you’ve always got something on the go!

knit socks

So there you go! 10 Reasons to Get the Ultimate DIY Bundle.

There are crafts for everyone, and you’re sure to find something that you’ll love.

You can buy with complete confidence because you’re covered by the Ultimate Bundles 30-day money-back guarantee. That means you have a full 30 days to enjoy all the eBooks and eCourses in the bundle, and if you don’t think they provided enough value, you’ll get a full refund.

Not only that, but The Ultimate DIY Bundle comes with 5 awesome bonuses, worth over $150. That’s 4x the price of the bundle alone! These include…

A free $15 Store Credit PLUS 8×10 Art Print from Hope Ink ($43 Value), a free online class from Craftsy (up to $60 Value), free $15 store credit to Fawnsberg.com, a free sewing pattern PLUS a Premium Video Class from UpCraft Club ($19.99 Value), and free, full digital copies of Where Women Create Magazine and Greencraft Magazine ($20 value) from Stampington and Co.

So, don’t miss your chance to grab The Ultimate DIY Bundle, and get 76 incredible eBooks and eCourses for just $34.95. All you need to do is take action by midnight on Monday, January 26!

This amazing deal ends in just…

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Pick up your copy right now, before it’s too late. Or, learn more here.

Have a fun and crafty weekend!

 

 

Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post. Read the fine print about this bundle and read the answers to frequently asked questions about the bundle.

 

How to Increase Your Chances of Marriage

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

Check it out here.


How to Increase your chances to find a spouse--and spend your twenties well!

Lately I’ve been preoccupied thinking about dating, engagement, and marriage (because my daughter got engaged! Yay!). And so I’ve written a number of things lately on why young people should prioritize relationships even in college, and why you need to be careful who you give your heart to. But there’s one more piece of advice that I have for late teens early twenty somethings, and it’s going to be controversial. But I’m going to say it anyway.

If you want to get married, then make yourself available to get married.

That may not sound controversial yet, but here’s the thing: that’s actually the opposite of what we’re often taught in church, and it’s certainly the opposite of what kids will hear in school. And my fear is that many young people who desperately do want to get married are acting in ways that make marriage less likely.

First, though, a caveat: Marriage is not the most important thing in anyone’s life. God is the most important thing in anyone’s life. And you can have a full and complete life without being married. I am not saying that we should raise our kids to obsess over getting married or to worry about getting married. But I do believe that if this is a goal that they have that they should live in such a way to make that goal more likely.

So here’s where the controversial part comes in: if you spend five years teaching English in Japan or China or wherever, you decrease your chances of finding a spouse. That doesn’t mean you WON’T find a spouse; you just decrease your chances. And it certainly doesn’t mean that if you feel called by God to go somewhere you shouldn’t go; it’s just that I think many twenty-somethings want to have these “experiences” before they get tied down, but in so doing they limit their chances to get tied down.

If you want to get married, it is smart to spend your time where there are large numbers of potential mates.

I have a young friend named Daniel who felt called to go to the mission field, so he moved to Central America in his early to mid-twenties. Yet while leading a youth group from North America on a short term missions one summer, he met a youth group leader. A woman. Who was wonderful. And they married recently. I know another young woman who was serving in India who met the leader of another short term missions group, and they were recently married. If God is calling you somewhere, you go. Absolutely.

But studying abroad for a year? Taking a few years to backpack across the world? Even living for two years on a cruise ship? Nope. If you want to get married, and it’s really important to you, then go where you will find a whole ton of young, Christian potential spouses.

There’s another exception: I heard the story recently of one man who became a Christian at 22 after leading a really messed up life. He took the next two years on the mission field just serving so that he could get to know God better. After that, he came home, went to seminary, met his wife, and the rest is history. Sometimes we need those few years to find ourselves if we have a lot of issues to deal with. But if you don’t, then don’t take yourself out of the pool of marriageable people at a prime time in your life.

I have served on the mission field with my husband AFTER I’ve been married, and we’re planning to again. Getting married does not end your dreams of travel or service. In fact, I’ve traveled more and served more since being married than I did before I was married.

Be very careful about what kind of post-secondary education you choose.

I would venture to say that about half of married people met their spouses in school–either in high school or in college. Those school years are vitally important, because they occur right at the time that we’re getting to the age where marriage is possible, and we’re with the largest number of people our own age at the same time.

And I think that’s why so many people send their kids to Christian universities. You get to meet other Christians, after all! There’s a reason we call them Bridal Colleges, not Bible Colleges!

But hold on a second. The majority of Christian universities have a terrible sex ratio of about 70 girls to 30 guys. Think about that: for every guy, there are at least two girls. So if you have a daughter, do you really think that’s the best place to send her? (If you have a son, he’s practically guaranteed to meet a wife. A daughter? Not so much.)

It may certainly be the best place if it’s the education you’re after, but having been to a secular university and attended the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship group there (and met my husband there), I can tell you that you can get a lot of Christian training at the secular university Christian groups, too. In fact, those Christians are often extremely strong in their faith, because they’re in a secular environment but they’re choosing to spend the majority of their free time in Christian study and service.

That’s where my daughter met her fiance, too. And the opportunities for learning evangelism are amazing! My daughter has become a major evangelist when she didn’t even know she had the gift.

Secular university is not for everyone, but I’m just saying that one shouldn’t assume that one will marry just because you go to a Christian university. If you’re female, your chances are actually better at a Christian group in a secular university where the sex ratios are more even.

If you do choose a Christian education, then, make sure it’s in a city with a wide range of church options that have large college and career groups, so that you can meet other people in a church setting.

Don’t just believe “God will send me a spouse if I trust him”

A lot of girls (and it’s especially girls) are sitting at home on Friday nights, reading Christian books, watching romantic comedies, eating ice cream, and praying that God will send them a spouse.

And that seems like trust. They’re wrestling with God about not getting anxious about it. They’re learning to let it go. They’re not obsessing.

But does God really do that? Does God answer our prayers without requiring us to do anything at all? Is that the best way of demonstrating trust–to remain safely in our comfort zone, not doing anything scary, while waiting for God to show up? Or does he want us to stretch ourselves a bit?

It’s scary to join a whole bunch of college and career groups. It’s scary to invite people back to your house for dinner or for movies and popcorn. It’s scary to take up people you don’t know well on their offer of “do you want to hang out on Saturday?” But the truth is that most of us marry someone that we meet through our social circle. You meet a friend of a friend, or a cousin of a friend, or a brother of a co-worker. You know what I mean.

But to do that, you have to have friends. Hang out where there are other strong Christians. Volunteer in places that you care about. Serve in a lot of ministries in church. Serve on short-term missions trips. Go to weekend retreats. These are all great places to meet a wide variety of people–but, even better, they’re all great places to build your faith and to build yourself as a person.

In the church, we often give people the message, “You can do whatever you want, and God will provide.” I don’t think that’s true. I think we need to prioritize and put first things first. If you hibernate for five years in grad school, never talking to anyone, I’m not sure a mate will just show up. If you stay living at home after high school in your small town with few Christian marriageable options, then I’m not sure a handsome perfect guy will suddenly move in next door. Sometimes we need to move away to a larger city with bigger churches.

Sacred SearchThis is one of the main messages in Gary Thomas’ excellent book Sacred Search, too. If you want to get married, then get serious about making friends and growing your social connections. Live out your dreams!

Look, I am writing this for people who want to get married. If that is not your main goal–if you are focused more on career or on missions or on something else–then that honestly is fine. I believe that God puts stirrings in our heart that we are to follow.

But my fear is that we are not teaching young people the common sense facts about finding a mate. So if marriage matters, make yourself marriageable, and that includes putting yourself out there. It’s scary. It takes some risk. It takes a lot of time–you won’t get to stay home and watch Netflix as much. But it is worth it, and I encourage you, if it is important to you, to get out there and live a big life and meet lots of people! Then, even if you don’t marry, you’ll still have a wide circle of friends, a wide number of interests, and a really full life. And that’s worth it, too.

 

Why I’m Anti-Divorce and Pro-Remarriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are biblical grounds for divorce?

The Bible lists two: adultery and abandonment.

Adultery

Matthew 19:9 says:

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

Abandonment

Then 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 says this:

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

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

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

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

What about Abuse?

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

To them I would ask this:

Why do you believe abortion is wrong?

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

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

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

God Cares About Children

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

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

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

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

God Cares About Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Does God Hate Divorce?

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

The more important question is WHY does God hate divorce?

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

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

The Beauty of Grace and Living in the Present

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

But what if you don’t have those?

Another commenter wrote:

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

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

God hates divorce–but there is grace.

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

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

What About Remarriage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cultural Reason for Remarriage

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings on all of you.

 

Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge of 2015

Join the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge! Each month choose 1 book on the subject to read to boost your relationship! Get a chance to ask authors questions, read author interviews, and discuss the books, too!

Do you want 2015 to be an awesome year for your marriage, or do you want to just get by? Do you want to grow and be stretched this year, or do you want to run from one thing to the next without being proactive?

Most of us want to grow, but life often gets in the way. And sometimes we just need new ideas and a fresh perspective to help us figure out how to do marriage better!

So I’d like to challenge you to read 12 books with me this year. Just 12 books. And two are even novels–so it honestly won’t be that hard!

I know some of you haven’t read a book in a long time, and some of you are wondering how you’ll ever find the time when you have little kids. But in a month you really can get through a book.

  • Put it in your purse to read when you’re in line.
  • Keep it in the bathroom to snatch precious moments!
  • Grab some time on your lunch hour.
  • Read for 10 minutes before you turn it at night.
  • Read on the treadmill!

It’s just one book a month!

Here’s how it works: in this Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge, I’ve given each month its own topic. And then I’ll suggest 3-5 books each month for you to choose from (since not every book is applicable to everybody!). I’ll choose one particular book to talk about on the blog, but I’ll have interviews with authors of hopefully most of them up on Facebook, I’ll have discussion forums for each book on Facebook, and we’ll have giveaways and prizes!

What do you have to do to join? Just choose a book and read it! You’ll get the most out of it if you also join my Facebook Page, since that’s where the authors will periodically be hanging out to answer questions and give away prizes. But you don’t have to pay to join. You don’t have to sign up. You don’t have to prove you’ve read it. You just have to get a book and jump in!

The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge:

  • Interviews with Authors
  • Discussion Forums
  • Book Giveaways
  • Blog Tours
  • Ask your own questions to the authors
  • And more!

So let’s get started!

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

Choose from these 3 books on Setting the Right Foundation for Marriage:

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?Gary Thomas, A Lifelong Love: What if Marriage is about more than just staying together?
(this is the book I’ll be reviewing!)

Few authors do a better job of showing how marriage and God’s purposes for our lives go hand in hand. In his newest book, Gary Thomas offers practical insights on how to keep your marriage not just intact but thriving as you grow closer to each other–and spur each other on to a closer relationship with God. Great insights, lots of great stories, and I’m so looking forward to sharing this with you!

Choose this book if: you’re looking for something deep but relatively easy to follow that will make you think–and give you practical ideas for follow through!

Pick up Livelong Love here.

Join the Lifelong Love Facebook Discussion Forum!


The Story of MarriageJohn and Lisa Bevere, The Story of Marriage

This is an interactive book–not just a teaching book. As the Beveres show you God’s story of marriage, you’re invited to figure out your own story in the devotionals, discussion questions, and prayers.

Choose this book if: you’re working through this challenge as a couple, or you like guided exercises to think about what you’ve learned.

Pick up The Story of Marriage.

Join the Story of Marriage Discussion Forum.


Love and War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your MarriageJohn and Stasi Eldredge, Love and War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage

John and Stasi are poetic. Their books are rich and are lovely and make you think deeply. In this book, they explain how the fact that we’re often incompatible is actually God’s design: how we’re forced to be more Christlike in marriage, and that helps us to grow. And then they help us to see the bigger picture: how marriage is one of God’s designs to help us enter the bigger battle He’s waging on earth–and how we can get excited about our ability to fight in it! It’s an exciting book that will help you feel proud of your marriage, and excited about the adventure God has for you together.

Choose this book if you like deep books, love to think, and love more poetic works.

Pick up Love and War.

Join the Love and War Discussion Forum.


Just pick a book, start reading, and keep an eye on the Facebook Page and on this blog for more updates, events, and giveaways! And be sure to click through to the correct discussion forum for the book you’ve picked and go on over and “like” the forum (even if that’s all you’re going to do for now!), because then you’ll get notifications whenever a discussion starts!

And if you blog, I’ll also have a linky at the end of my review post for the month where you can post your own reviews of the book (or books) that you’ve read to get more traffic!

One book a month. You can do this! And it will make a difference in your marriage!

Wifey Wednesday: Why to Work Out as a Couple

Workout as a CoupleIt’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Today welcome Jenn Faulk, who is sharing the life-changing effects and benefits that working out as a couple has had on her marriage. At the end, Jenn has a special gift for all my readers!

Four years ago, my husband was told that he needed to get fit… or else.

It was a doomsday diagnosis for us, a young pastor and his homemaker wife struggling to make a difference at a very difficult church. Stress levels were high but not nearly as high as my sweet husband’s blood pressure. When his doctor discovered this problem during a routine checkup, he told Wes there were two options — get fit or go on medication.

Like most young pastors and their wives, we doubted we could afford the medication, so we decided to go with the other option and get in shape together. Neither one of us could run a quarter of a mile at that point, so it was with great faith, anticipation, and even a little bit of fear that we signed up for our first race (so that we had a looming deadline on the calendar to keep us accountable) and began training, one tiny step at a time.

What we learned in the process was that getting in shape together, as a team, would do a lot for our health and abundantly more for the health of our marriage.

Here are just a few of the benefits we’ve discovered in working out as a couple.

1.  It makes you better teammates, on and off the pavement.

Communication is crucial in marriage, but it’s so easy to fall into patterns where we don’t adequately express ourselves or completely listen either one. In putting together a plan to work out together and actually making it happen, you’ll find that you’re more deliberate and intentional about communicating. I know that I’m never more communicative than when we’re eighteen miles into a race and I feel like dying. The freedom I feel at that point to say all kinds of things to Wes (some good, some not) honestly carries over to real life, where mundane tasks sometimes lull us into a routine that strangles real communication. Because we’ve learned to express ourselves in cheering one another on and supporting each other through physical challenges, we’re better able to keep our communication open in our everyday lives.

2.  It gives you goals to work towards together.

Remember when you first married and you had crazy dreams of all you’d do together? Everyday life and the routines we find ourselves in can sometimes rob our marriages of this wonderful practice. By tackling a fitness goal together, you’ll find yourselves dreaming big again! That first race we put on our calendar years ago gave us a definite goal to work towards together. It was such a blessing to us to have this common ground to keep coming back to and looking towards, even when life was, at time, difficult and challenging. As you work together to meet your goal, you’ll go through tough situations, challenging times, and celebrations. This only makes you better prepared for the very same experiences you’ll have in life as well.

3.  It gives you more time with one another.

When we started running, we had two preschool-aged children who sounded more like thirty preschool-aged children when they got worked up. (More like thirty wild chimpanzees. True story.) Time together where we could have coherent thoughts much less conversation was a challenge, but we loaded our girls up in a double jogging stroller packed with sippy cups, snacks, and toys and fought for those precious few minutes where we could run together. Now that our girls are older and more self-sufficient, life is still crazy busy, and the time we get to work out is sometimes the only time we get to be alone together. We guard it jealously and can honestly attest to how those miles covered side by side have been foundational in our marriage. That time alone together, even now, away from the demands of a busy home and the responsibilities that come with it, is priceless. (And the weekend trips away to go and run a race out of town, while the grandparents watch the girls? Bliss!)

4.  It makes the bedroom more exciting.

Speaking of those trips away (ahem), getting fit together makes for an all around boost in intimacy. If Wes had known this, he’d have gotten us into running much earlier, honestly. The confidence that comes with being in shape combined with the endurance that results from pushing your limits physically… well, need I say more?

5. It gives you another opportunity to glorify God together.

When we take the time to take care of our bodies as God calls us to do, we’re better equipped to serve Him. Getting in shape and adopting a healthier lifestyle alongside your husband benefits your health and his individually, making it far more likely that you’ll have more quality, healthful years ahead with which to serve Christ. We pray for daily health and strength to give back to Him as an offering, and staying in shape together has made it possible for us to do more than we could have imagined we’d be able to do this far into our ministry together.

This past year, Wes and I celebrated ten years of marriage by running our tenth marathon together.

One of the sweetest times of our marriage thus far has most definitely been the time we’ve spent running together, working towards better health alongside one another, putting our minds and hearts to a shared goal, and celebrating every finish line hand in hand.

In this season of fresh starts and new resolutions, let me encourage you to consider beginning to dream about, work towards, and meet fitness goals with your husband. It doesn’t have to be something huge to count. Start where you are and do what you can do, trusting that the effort you put into it will be of great gain down the road for your health, your life, and your marriage.

ResolutionsAs a special gift for all To Love, Honor and Vacuum readers.  She is offering her book Resolutions FREE on Kindle for January 14, 2015 only!

Check out her Amazon book page for other books Jenn has written, too.

Jenn FaulkJenn Faulk is a full time mom and pastor’s wife in Pasadena, Texas.  She has a BA in English-Creative Writing from the University of Houston and an MA in Missiology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  She loves talking about Jesus, running marathons, listening to her daughters’ stories, and serving alongside her husband in ministry.  You can contact her through her blog www.jennfaulk.com

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Do you have some advice for us today? Link up the URL of your own marriage post in the linky below, and then remember to link back here so that other people can read these great marriage posts!

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.



Reader Question: When Do I Give Up Trying to Get My Ex Back?

When do I give up on my ex-husband? Thoughts on when to stop trying to reconcile and move onWhen should you give up on trying to get your ex back?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. I know most of my readers are married (this is a Christian marriage blog, after all), but a lot of people in crisis marriages also land on this blog. So there are plenty of separated/divorced people who also send in questions. And here’s a heartbreaking one that I’d like to tackle today:

I’ve been divorced for 8 years, and during all that time I have tried to reconcile with my husband. It’s just not working, but I’m scared to move on. When do I give up on my ex? When have I done enough? And what if I really want it to work?

I want to start by telling you a story.

When I was just getting started writing and speaking, in my early 30s, I was asked to come and speak to a MOPS group. I gave a talk about how to keep your priorities in order and how to feel as if you’re making a difference even in the diaper/temper tantrum years. The talk went well, and at the end everyone was mingling around eating some snacks.

An older woman who hadn’t been in the talk approached me. She explained that she was a grandma, and as a way of serving her daughter she acted as one of the baby-sitters for MOPS, so her daughter could enjoy the socialization and the teaching. So she asked me for a synopsis of what I had said, and I gave it to her.

She smiled as I explained, and nodded vigorously. “Oh, that’s so wonderful that you’re teaching these young women to rely on God in everything. I’ve had to learn that in the last few years. My husband left out of the blue 5 years ago to be with another woman. He spread lies about me and turned many in my family against me. It was so difficult. I lost my house and so much of my self-esteem.”

My heart went out to this poor woman. That’s so awful to have a spouse betray you like that!

But then she said this,

“But God has promised me that my marriage will be restored. I read verses about how God restores what is broken. I put them on post-in notes all over my apartment, so that when I doubt I can read them and know that God will bring him back. I pray all the time about it. And I have peace that one day my marriage will be saved.”

And at this point I felt distinctly uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say, though, and so I left. But while driving home it suddenly hit me what I should have said. I don’t know who that woman is, and so I could never communicate this to her. But now, when I speak, I always share to the audience what I wish I could have shared to the woman:

“I am glad that you have faith that God can bring your husband back. But do you have faith even if he doesn’t?”

Do you have faith even if God doesn't answer your prayers as you would like?

Because isn’t that the point? God needs to be the centre of our faith and not a reconciliation. That’s why this truth is so important:

Your life needs to become about God, not about winning your ex back

That doesn’t mean that God WON’T bring your ex back. But ultimately, after you have been through such a trauma, you are really hurt. You’re beaten down. And you’re often desperate to get the marriage back together, thinking that this will fix your broken heart. But it won’t, because that kind of pain can only be fixed by God. And once He does this great healing work, so that you know that whatever happens, God will carry you, then you are whole again. You are strong again.

And if your marriage has any chance of working again, you need to be whole and you need to be strong.

Ironically, your marriage’s best hope is for you to let go of your marriage and cling to God. To do that doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on the idea of reconciliation. It’s just saying that your faith if based on God, not on your marriage, and that you know that you will be okay.

Let go of the dream of your ex-husband and get real

When a marriage breaks up there is usually a reason. In my story, the husband had left his wife. I don’t know what is happening with my reader, but I know many on this blog have had to separate with husbands who wouldn’t give up a pornography addiction, or who refused to work and squandered money, or who had affairs. But even though they couldn’t live like that anymore, these women often have difficulty letting go of the dream of their husband.

They could still see the potential–they could still see what the marriage could be like if their husbands would just get their act together. And because of that dream, these women had a difficult time moving on.

Letting go of the dream does not mean that you let go of the idea of reconciliation. But you need to stop living in the “what ifs” and start living with what is real.

Be honest about where you are at and where your husband is at, and reconciliation is not a healthy or wise idea right now, then put it out of your mind and focus on the now.

I am not saying that this is easy. This is likely the most heart-wrenching thing you will ever have to do your whole life. You can’t do it alone; you need a good church community and good friends around you–and often a good counselor. But it is the wise thing to do.

What is the right thing for me to do in the here and now?

If reconciliation isn’t possible, because your husband hasn’t gotten real about the steps that he needs to take, then you need to start living in the here and now and take steps to make your own life better as it is in the present.

Get some schooling or get a job if you have to support yourself and your children. Find a great church to be involved in and start serving. Start an exercise regimen to help you feel better about yourself. Move closer to other support systems that you will need, if necessary. Get your finances in order. In other words, do things that will help you so that if things stay exactly the way they are right now, you (and your children) will be in a better position. If you refuse to do these things because to do so seems like you’re saying “the relationship is really over”, then in the long run you’ll likely hurt yourself.

Love Must Be ToughLook, sometimes if a relationship is in really bad shape, the best way to turn it around is to give someone a big jolt and help them to realize the consequences of their actions. If he knows you are waiting in the wings to take him back at a moment’s notice, what incentive does he have to get his life together? But if he realizes, “she’s serious. We’re not getting back together until things change,” then he might do something.

That’s what the book Love Must Be Tough teaches you, and I highly recommend it for people in this situation. It shows how the worst thing that you can do is to show your ex that you’re always available to him, that you’ll always take him back, that you’re always there. Groveling does not work. Having sex with him when he comes over to visit you, when he’s not showing any kind of remorse, will not work. You need to show him, “this is who I am without you, and even though I don’t want to be alone and even though I’d rather be with you, I will choose to be without you and I will get on with my life until you show me that you want a real marriage.”

But when do I date again?

Ultimately, though, what I think women are really asking is, “when is it okay for me to date again? When can I actually move on?”

I can’t answer that one for you, except in generalities. Every situation is different. In some cases there are definite biblical grounds for divorce, and in some there really aren’t. (That being said, even if there aren’t grounds, if he has abandoned you by not reconciling, then that becomes a biblical ground, in and of itself.) In some cases he has made a lot of progress, or he is fixing things, and you do need to wait and give him a chance.

I had a friend who left a marriage, telling everyone it was because of his porn use and his cheating. The problem was that these things had been in the past, and he was working at making them better. Soon after she left him she started dating someone else, and she is now remarried. She claimed she had biblical grounds, but the fact was that he was getting right with God at the point where she started dating. That is not right.

One rule of thumb: I think it’s dangerous to get into a new relationship too soon. I’d give it at least a year and a half, if not two years, after a split with no sign of reconciliation. You need to give him time to change his mind, but you also need to give yourself time to heal, because otherwise you’ll be going into a new relationship with a lot of baggage.

That’s not set in stone, but I do think it’s wise to give some time, and likely the more the better.

Does God ever bring about reconciliation?

Absolutely! In fact, if you want a great story of reconciliation, my friend Juana Mikels has just written a book called Choosing Him All Over Again, where she shares her story.

Choosing Him All Over Again: A Story of Romance and RedemptionThirty-five years ago Juana left her husband. He didn’t give her what she needed, he didn’t know how to show her love, and they were drifting apart so fast she didn’t think there was anything left. They had only been married for two years, but it had all gone downhill.

A few months after their break-up, Juana started attending a Bible study. She became a Christian, and realized that the break-up was not her husband’s fault. It was hers as well. She hadn’t given selflessly in the marriage. She hadn’t loved him properly. And now she wanted him back!

There was just one problem. He was seeing someone else and had no interest in reconciling. Juana had hurt him too much.

So now what was she to do? She continued to draw closer to God and decided to just show her husband unconditional love. And after months and months of that, her husband’s heart began to soften. It took a long time to rebuild the marriage that Juana had already torn down, but God did it as He slowly started to change Juana’s attitude.

It’s a great story of hope–check it out here!

So, yes, God can rescue marriages. In fact, God loves picking up broken pieces and molding them back together again. He’s in the healing business. But sometimes the thing that He wants to heal is YOU, not your marriage. So chase after God now, and focus on God, not just on your marriage. And then, no matter what happens, you will find you still are strong.

This post contains affiliate links.

On Women and Food–and What We’re Really Hungry For

Accepting what you needToday’s guest post is from Emily Wierenga, author of the touching memoir Atlas Girl.

We were newlyweds.

I was anorexic.

Trent came home one day to find me crying on the couch about the living room—about how off-kilter and ugly it looked with our second-hand furniture—and I hadn’t eaten since the night before.

He put his arms around me. “Let me make you supper,” he said—this farm-boy I’d met in Bible School, who drove a car he called The Beast and volunteered at kids club.

I nodded, kissed him. Grabbed a bag of marshmallows and headed into the office to paint at my easel.

Half an hour later Trent called me for supper. He had made burgers, corn on the cob, and “fancy” salad (which is what he calls salad with grated carrots, cheese, onions, bacon and croutons).

I emerged from the office, my mouth white, the marshmallow bag empty. I sat down at the table, looked at the plate full of food, and said, “I’m not hungry.”

I don’t know why he didn’t leave me then and there.

I’d been so hungry I’d stuffed myself with marshmallows, instead of waiting half an hour for food that would sustain me.

All I could hear was the scratch of Trent’s fork on his plate as he ate.

It was the beginning of a three-year relapse into anorexia which would nearly wreck our marriage, and it wasn’t until we left our jobs and moved to Korea that I would begin to eat three meals a day, again.

Because sometimes it takes moving to another country to see what you have right in front of you.

I’m better now. I’m eating now—I never skip a meal, and I have two little boys whom doctors said I’d never be able to have, because of the damage anorexia did on my body.

And I’m wondering how many of us settle for the marshmallows when what we’re really hungry for is food that will last?

How many of us, sisters, sit down with a pint of ice cream after a stressful day, or binge on Oreos after the kids go to bed? How many of us try diet after diet but end up filling on junk because we’re just so hungry?

I think of Jesus at the well, with the Samaritan woman. How he asked her for water—but then offered her Living Water in return. He offers us Living Bread—his body.

Because this is what we’re hungry for, isn’t it friends?

A love so deep and long and wide and high it fills every crevice of our souls; a kind of love that would die for us, a kind that sings over us, a kind that walks through fire with us?

We are born longing for the kind of affection only a divine being can offer. We are born aching for the kind of fullness which comes from an everlasting love.

But it’s not a bag of marshmallows. It’s not fast fame or fleeting praise or accolades.

No, it’s a slow cooked meal and we need to wait, to be patient, as this is the kind of love prepared by a gentle pair of hands which feeds your soul.

Trent still makes me fancy salads. He still makes burgers and corn on the cob and I no longer eat marshmallows. Because I’ve tasted real food and there’s no turning back.

There’s no turning back from love.

Emily T. WierengaEmily Wierenga is a blogger and the author of several books, including her touching memoir Atlas Girl about her struggle with anorexia and figuring out where she fits in this world. She’s an artist, a writer, a mother, and a lover with a passion for Africa. You can find her at http://emilywierenga.com.

Atlas Girl

Wifey Wednesday: Don’t Stay Pure Until You’re Married

When you read that title of the post, you probably thought I meant this:

Don’t stay PURE until you’re MARRIED.

But what if I actually meant this:

Don’t stay pure UNTIL you’re married.

The until makes all the difference.

In the church, that’s the message we’ve been giving young people: you stay pure UNTIL you’re married. But what does that mean? That once you tie the knot, your purity is somehow lost? That implies that sex once you’re married is somehow impure. That you are now tarnished. And that you have lost something you can never get back again.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Last year a woman wrote a blog post about how she regretted being a virgin until her wedding night, and the post went completely viral. Her point was that growing up in the church she felt that sex was dirty, and by staying a virgin until her wedding it made sex awful. If she had been able to embrace sex earlier her sex life would have been much better.

But the problem is not virginity; the problem is the spin we put on it.

And the best rebuttal that I read to her piece is this one by Sarah, a single woman in her twenties, who made the point I made above: Christians, stop staying pure UNTIL you’re married. Go read it. It is awesome!

Here’s just part of what she wrote:

If your goal is staying pure UNTIL marriage, you’re going to walk into a marriage highly dissatisfied. That’s because you were never meant to lose your purity. In fact, it’s not something that CAN be lost. It’s a lifestyle, not a state of being. Something either you walk in or you don’t. In accepting the exchange of Jesus, you can’t separate yourself from it. It goes with you to both the grocery store AND to the sanctuary, to the doctor’s office AND to the kitchen to make a sandwich.

It also goes with you to your bedroom.

It goes with you, because you go with Christ.

Purity isn’t lost in the moment, it’s an essential key to a happy (and lasting) marriage. It’s what keeps you connected to both God and each other, it’s what helps you stay strong and faithful to one another, it’s what helps you to build trust and affection.

And yes, blushing elders. It’s one of the most important ingredients in having GREAT sex.

Read the rest here.

WifeyWednesday175Now, today is Wednesday, the first Wifey Wednesday of 2015. And on Wednesdays I always talk marriage. And so today I’d do a bit of a rah-rah post to get us ready for great sex in 2015!

One thing I love about all you, my readers, is that so many of you send me articles you think I may find interesting. That’s how I first found out about that viral post, and that’s how I first saw Sarah’s great rebuttal.

Kathy R sent me this note:

One of my friends posted this article [about not being a virgin on your wedding night] on facebook calling it “One Hell of a powerful article” so I wanted to share it with you. While I understand the reasons behind this person’s issues with sex, it still bothers me that she is basically saying “I wish I’d had sex a long time ago because then I wouldn’t have all these problems!” And now that I’m pregnant with a little girl, it scares me to death what to do to train her up in the way God sees sex and marriage, not the fear-mongering that some churches do, but how it was designed!

Elizabeth C and others sent notes that echoed Kathy’s, and several mentioned the same issue: how do we raise our daughters so they don’t think like that?

I think the easiest way to raise kids who have healthy views of sexuality is to have a healthy view of it yourself–and to not shy away from conversations. If we are not ashamed of sex, and if we enjoy sex, our kids will pick up on the fact that sex isn’t something to be ashamed about at all.

So the key to raising kids well is YOU.

Making the new year awesome in the bedroom--by dealing with our attitudes towards sex

We all have issues regarding sex.

All of us. And that’s truly okay. Don’t berate yourself about it; just know that it is universal.

Why wouldn’t we have issues? Sex is so interconnected with our identity and with our spirituality. It’s all tied up in our ideas of true intimacy, both with our husbands and with others, and even with God. And we live in a fallen world. So that means that the parts of us that are the most personal, the most intense, the most vulnerable, will be marred in some way. Some of us will be marred more than others, but we will all be touched.

And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you if you have issues! Truly. I had issues with sex–I couldn’t relax because I had such major trust issues and I didn’t feel that I could let my guard down. And if you can’t let your guard down, you can’t enjoy sex. I didn’t even realize I had these issues until we got married! But being married helped me get over those trust issues, and they slowly went away. God used marriage as a vehicle to heal me.

So whatever your issues, know that you are not alone, but also know:

God can handle your sexual issues.

Just like there’s healing for other issues in our lives, like perfectionism or rejection or grief, there is also healing for whatever sexual issues you have. Really. If you’re struggling, it honestly doesn’t always have to be like this!

Sex reveals our insecurities, and here are a few posts that may help you:

Getting over your own sexual baggage

Getting over your husband’s sexual baggage
Getting over the effects of sexual abuse
Developing a healthy view of sexuality

If you never had a healthy view of sex because of the same issues as the original blog poster, here’s my take:

Has our purity culture gone overboard?
Why we should stop using the term virgin

I echo a lot of Sarah’s points there with my own spin on them.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf you enjoyed those posts, and if you’ve really struggled to get a healthy view of sexuality, you really need to pick up The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. In it, I explain in detail (and with a lot of humor) why God created sex the way He did, and how we can see it as a fun, low stress, intimate thing. When you read this blog, you get bits and pieces. If you want it all in one place, get that book! It will help. (and give it to girls who are about to get married so they don’t have the same regrets as that blog poster!)

But sex also reveals our sin, and lays it bare. Here are some posts that can help with that:

4 things you must do if your husband uses porn
Discovering your husband is having an affair
What to do if he’s texting other women
When YOU’RE the one who needs forgiveness

Practice makes perfect–even when it comes to sex!

Sometimes it just takes time to figure out what you like, and to figure out how to make sex feel good.

And the more you do it, the better at it you’ll get! That doesn’t mean that sex will be an awesome trajectory, where you start out lousy and you continue getting better all the time, so that each encounter is better than the last. Hormones may interfere for a few months (or years), little kids may make you tired, you may go through a stressful period. But if you stand back at the end of several decades and take a look at your marriage, most women do see that it gets better over time. Indeed, in my surveys for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, I found that the best years for sex in marriage are around the two decade mark.

Here are some posts that can help you with that:

How to have an orgasm
9 Great Sex tips to make it feel even better!

31 Days to Great SexAnd, of course, my book 31 Days to Great Sex has challenges that build on each other. It starts with the first week addressing how we feel about sex. Then we do a week on feeling more comfortable and flirty with each other–emotional intimacy. Then we turn to a week of challenges on embracing physical intimacy and making sex feel great. And then we end with challenges on how to feel more intimate–that spiritual intimacy. It’s okay if the book takes more than a month to get through! You’ll find that you talk more about sex, and you learn more about each other and yourself.

Sex really is a journey in marriage.

Sometimes you’ll have months where everything is amazing and you work like clockwork and you both have libidos that are through the roof. And sometimes you’ll have months that are a bit of a struggle.

But those struggling months help you to pull together. They point out the problems that need to be dealt with. Maybe one (or both) of you is too stressed or overworked. Maybe you’re going through a depression or hormonal changes and you need to see a doctor. Maybe you’re grieving something and you need to be able to lean on each other. Problems in the bedroom can be a sign of other things, and when we deal with these other things together, it ultimately brings us closer.

I think sex shows us why we need the vow. Without that marriage vow, when things got tough in the bedroom many may throw in the towel. But because of the vow, if sex isn’t working well we can figure it out. We can weather the storm.

Think about that woman who wrote that article. If she had had sex before she was married, would things have been better? No. She still would have had the same sexual hangups. And sex wouldn’t have worked well. But because they weren’t married, they would have wondered: should we even be getting married if we don’t work in the bedroom? Are we sexually incompatible?

I know if my husband and I had had sex before our wedding that wedding may not have happened. It was so disastrous that we both likely would have had second thoughts. But instead we were able to work through it. It’s a journey.

And I think that’s a wonderful thing.

I don’t know where you’re at in your marriage. I don’t know if you’re in crisis, or if you’re in blahdom, or if  you’re in ecstasy. But wherever you are, know that 2015 will have its ups and its downs. It will be rocky. But regardless, it can also be very good. Sex can be one of the vehicles where God does great healing in our lives. It can be a vehicle where God helps us embrace more freedom and helps heal some of our perfectionism and control freak tendencies. It can be a vehicle that God uses to bring you and your husband closer together.

And let’s not forget–sex can be a great stress reliever! :)

So embrace it this year. Don’t despair if you have issues–just work on them and take them to God. Don’t despair if it’s never felt very good. Just consider it a great research project for the year ahead. Don’t despair if you’ve been going through a rough patch. It’s a new year–and new beginnings!

And I wish you a very great new year, even in the bedroom. We’re going to talk a lot more this year about what real intimacy is, and about how to deal with more of the common problems we have in the bedroom. So stick around! But whatever you do, don’t give up on sex. Don’t believe it’s hopeless. It can be awesome–and it will be for you, too. Just give it time.

Now, do you all have any advice for us today? Just enter the URL of your own blog post in the linky below. And be sure to link back here so that other people can read these great posts!

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My Man of Steel

Yesterday was my twenty-third anniversary. We were married at Christmas when I was 21 and he was 22.

When I started writing my newspaper column twelve years ago, one of my first columns was about my anniversary. And so I thought I’d publish it here–about what Keith meant to me after eleven years of marriage. This was first published on December 21, 2002.

Reflections on Our Anniversary: My man of steel

This Saturday I’m supposed to give my husband something made of steel.

We’re celebrating our eleventh anniversary, and for this blessed occasion whoever is in charge of anniversary gift etiquette obviously ran out of ideas. “Paper? Taken. A nice wooden chest? Taken. What about diamonds? Better save that as an incentive to stick around.” Growing increasingly desperate, she probably looked out the window, saw her husband’s ‘57 Chevy up on blocks, and yelled, “Steel!”, forever relegating us to eleventh anniversary hopelessness.

I figure I’m left with a new car (fat chance), the foundation for a new house, or power tools. But the only thing more ridiculous than me trying to choose a power tool would be my husband trying to use one. The one and only time he did any home improvements was his attempt, along with another doctor friend, to hang a pot rack. Instead of drilling into a stud, they drilled into my toilet drain, sending water—and I don’t know what else—into our kitchen.

Whatever I choose, though, it occurs to me that Ye Olde Marriage Etiquette Lady may have had a point.

Steel is an appropriate metaphor for marriage.

Steel holds houses together, keeps bridges from buckling, and forms the foundations of our cities. Steel doesn’t bend.

Over the years of our marriage we’ve had some tough times. Keith’s residency at the Hospital for Sick Children was horrendous. He always came home exhausted. Two babies demanded our attention, leaving us with no energy for anything else. In the middle of this, we had a beautiful baby boy, who lived only 29 days. Though I will treasure those precious four weeks forever, his death left a hole that can never be filled on this side of heaven.

When I walked down the aisle eleven years ago, I knew I loved Keith and that he loved me.

I figured that love would be enough for forever. I was wrong.

Love alone would not have seen us through these eleven years, through miscarriages and sleepless nights, through baby stresses and our son’s death. As much as I adore my husband, I don’t think it’s love that has made our marriage strong. Indeed, that idea—that love keeps us together—can actually harm a relationship.

If love is what keeps us together, then when we stop feeling all gushy towards each other we wonder if the relationship is viable. Commitment is just as important as love, and perhaps even more so. If you’re not truly committed to each other, you can’t really discuss problems. Whenever you do, the whole relationship may be at stake. But when you are committed to each other, you can hash something out until you get it right, because you know that person isn’t going anywhere.

During our first year of marriage, I was ready to kill my husband many times over, or at least bean him on the head with a frying pan. He understood nothing about my feelings, while I, of course, understood everything about his. What allowed us to get through that time was not that we loved each other—there were times we both doubted it—but that we knew we were in this for the long haul. We had promised God, and we had promised each other, and we did not make those promises lightly. And if you’re in it for the long haul, then you may as well work it out, because the longer you wait, the more miserable you’re going to be.

In every relationship there are times when splitting up seems like the only option.

Certainly in cases of abuse or chronic infidelity this may be the case. But overall, God promises that people will be happier if they choose to honour Him by staying and working it out. It occurs to me that this is the way steel is forged: through hard work. The sign of a strong marriage is not that storms don’t come; but that when they do, you decide to weather them together. And as you do so, that steel supporting you grows stronger.

My husband is the most romantic guy in the world. He’s easy to love. And as we’ve chosen to commit to each other, the steel holding up our house has grown stronger. My kids can tear all over it and it won’t collapse. They can jump and tug and pull, and we’ll stand firm. I cherish every day we have together, and I look forward to many more.

It is not love that keeps a #marriage together; ultimately it is commitment.