Marriage Monday: Real Time

Years ago I remember telling some coworkers that I wished Doug could work from home. They responded with laughter, assuring me that I would get tired of it very quickly.

I wasn’t so sure.

Here we are, many years later, and Doug and I both work from home. We have desks on opposite sides of a room in our house. He has an office at church, but there really isn’t much reason for him to consume the resources it takes to keep the church cool and warm just for him when he can do his work just as effectively at home.

And I love having him here, just as I expected I would.

There is a misconception about our family life, though. People assume that our choice to homeschool and to have both of us working from home means that we interact as a family all the time.

But we don’t.

Well, that’s not exactly true. We do interact all the time. I interact with the kids through school, and Doug and I exchange conversations during the work day. But those interactions are all very task-oriented.

Ultimately, even though we do not go our separate ways each day, we still have to be very intentional as a family to interact relationally, just like any other family.

Whether Mom works outside the home or not, at some point she has to to turn off the work side of being a mom and just get to know her children.

Whatever Dad’s work situation looks like, he has to be intentionally about stepping away on a regular basis (and I don’t mean once or twice a year – I mean several times a month!) to truly interact with his wife and with his family as a whole.

We have to be intentional about our family relationships.

But we have to be even more intentional about balancing those family relationships and our marital relationship. Our children need to know that Daddy and Mommy come first with one another. Yet, if we only step back to be intentional about the marriage, our children will begin to believe that only the marriage is important – not the family.

We must balance both.

When is the last time you spend real time with your spouse? With your family? Not multi-tasking by sitting down to plan out the coming week with your spouse or heading out to the ball field together as a family to watch one child play. No, I mean intentional, relational, real time.

When can you set that aside this week?

It could be something as simple as one meal with your spouse.

It could be as easy as thirty minutes of UNO with the family.

But it’s worth doing. Weekly if possible, but at least a couple of times a month. Real time. Relational time. An investment in what is really important.

How can you enjoy real time this week?

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When Praise Comes Easily

Some days, praise just comes easily.

Today is one of those days. I’m writing a few days ahead of time, though, so perhaps by the time you read this post, it will no longer be the case. But for right now, for today, it is easy.

  • The sun is shining.
  • Homeschool is going beautifully.
  • Ministry is running smoothly.
  • I not only love my job, but I have had an exceptionally encouraging few days.
  • I feel like I have the energy to face this day.

I could go on and on.

Circumstances make it easy to praise today.

Circumstances don’t always cooperate with our need to praise. Sometimes circumstances are terrible, and we struggle to find a heart of thankfulness. But today is not that day.

Unfortunately, sometimes the knowledge that circumstances don’t always cooperate warps our ability to praise when the circumstances are good. We question ourselves, wondering if we are only praising because we’re happy, comfortable, and momentarily problem-free.

The questioning pulls us down, and we get so focused on bolstering ourselves for the bad days that we miss the opportunity to praise when it’s easy to do so.

What if we were to instead just go ahead and praise without reservation?

Whether I know you personally or not, I can guarantee that you will have days that are hard. You will experience circumstances that challenge your ability to be thankful. You will encounter moments – or weeks, months, even years – when you do not want to praise. When it truly is sacrificial.

But if today is a day when praise comes easily, I encourage you to focus on one thing alone: the praise. Strengthen yourself in it. Allow God’s presence to flow over and through you unhindered. Lift your heart to Him in fullness.

There is no better way to prepare for the days when praise is hard than to praise Him today with full abandon.

PS – I wrote this three days ago. As I proof it for publication, I smile as I realize that today is NOT one of those “easy to praise” days. It’s not a bad day, really. It’s just an easier day to gripe and whine. But I get to praise. The memory of freely praising earlier this week is strengthening me to praise today. 

Which kind of day is it for you? Praise will strengthen it. No matter what. 

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Around the Web

There is so much out there on the Internet these days. Some days I feel pretty overwhelmed by the massive nature of it. But I love it when Doug or friends recommend something. Here are a few of the things that have come my way lately:

How to be Friends with an Introvert

- by a precious introvert named Jamie

First of all, a laugh. I love this post! It truly captivates the essence of an introvert. I especially love #6.

3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church

- by Jon Nielson

Will our children stay in church? Will they leave? It sometimes feels like we’re rolling the dice on this one.

- We tried to raise them right.

- We made them go to church.

- You never can tell, I guess.

I think #1 in this post really is the kicker. Are we looking for the fruit of salvation in our children?

The Problem for Complementarians Will Come from the Right

- by Carl Trueman

Doug shared this one with me. And I think there’s a great deal of merit to it. When our goal is to fight against the left, we often end up overreacting. We push so far to the right that we adopt unbiblical and extra-biblical practices. Our focus is not on Scripture and being Christlike. Our focus is instead on being the opposite of the left.

Don’t Forget These Blogs!

Doug’s blog is always my favorite first stop, so don’t forget to keep up with his wonderful words of wisdom!

And the content of never ceases to amaze me. I watch the ideas and posts roll in, and I find myself humbled and honored to rub shoulders with these people!

What are you reading this week?

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Marriage Monday: The Little Things

When our middle child was born, we decorated her bed in cow print. I made a little stuffed cow out of leftover material from her bumper pads and headboard, and someone gave us a big stuffed cow as a baby gift.

We had no idea that cutesy decorative plan would turn into a cow passion.

For her tenth birthday, our daughter requested a cow themed birthday and began asking for cows as gifts. Now, just over a year later, her collection has increased from the bumper pads and two cute cows of infancy to quite the menagerie of stuffed cows and cow print treasures.

The little things have added up to quite a collection!

Life has a way of doing that. We discover little interests, plant small seeds of thought, or invest a small portion of our attention. It seems insignificant at the time, but we wake up one day to find that the small has grown. Like my daughter, we suddenly have quite the collection!

I love it when God takes little seeds and turns them into something grand. He molds them beyond anything we ever could have imagined or foreseen. But we have a responsibility, too. We must be attentive as He incorporates those growing seeds into our lives.

It is especially critical that we pay attention to those little seeds in our marriages.

Often the little interests, tiny thoughts, or bits of energy and attention seem insignificant in the beginning. We put a bit of ourselves into them, not even thinking about the need to share with our spouses. Then we wake up and realize that the little interests have turned into passions. The tiny thoughts have become big hopes, dreams, and even plans. The small amount of energy and attention has suddenly become much greater.

And our spouses don’t understand because they never knew about them when they were just little seedlings.

Obviously, if my husband and I shared every little thought that popped into our heads, we would never be able to sort out the significant. That is why it is so important for us to recognize the difference between random thoughts and tiny buds of interest. And as we have learned to recognize, we have also learned to share.

“I have a random thought.”

“This might be a ridiculous idea.”

“I wonder about…”

Sometimes we talk and the thoughts end there. Sometimes Doug and I proceed in awareness of the budding thoughts and interests of the other, but allowing the pursuits to be relatively independent. Still other times, we share a thought that the other is able to enhance and help develop, offering a different point of view.

There are also those times when a tiny shared thought becomes a joint dream. It grows into something we become passionate about together. And what joy we share as we watch it grow!

Whatever the case, though, we share. The little seedlings must not grow without the knowledge of my spouse!

There is nothing too little for a marriage. No thought too insignificant. No interest too ridiculous. No expenditure of attention or energy too minute. But there are things that can grow too big when they are not shared.

What little thing can you share with your spouse this week? May the sharing only deepen your bond!

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The Satisfactory Choice

Over the summer, my job responsibilities changed. I have spent the last few months learning the new job, trying to figure out what it entails, and determining how to balance each week. This week I finally managed to create a workable plan for walking through each week.

Now I just have to decide to follow it.

Isn’t that the way it goes so often? We have a plan. We have a solution to every problem. But following through with the plan and solution is another matter entirely. We fail, not because we do not have the ability to succeed, but because we do not make the choice to succeed.

I made my work plan on Tuesday. But as I sat down at my desk on Wednesday, I had to decide whether or not I was going to stick with the plan. So many things tugged at my mind and tried to attract my attention. Could I truly focus on what was right before me, despite the seeming urgency of everything else?

The same thing happens to us spiritually.

I love Psalm 90:14.

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

God’s lovingkindness is overwhelming, isn’t it? It is powerful. It is strong. And it is completely satisfactory!

But, just because we have God’s lovingkindness does not automatically mean we are going to be satisfied by it. Just as I had to actively choose to adopt my new work flow, so we have to choose to be satisfied by the lovingkindness of our Lord and Savior.

So, what does it take to be satisfied by His lovingkindness in the morning?

First, we must make a mental choice to be satisfied by the things of God.

So many things vie for our attention. They creep in and say, “Be satisfied with me!” Some of them are good: family, friends, work, ministry. But they are not enough to satisfy. They are simply tools by which God allows us to experience satisfaction in Him. When we lay upon them the responsibility of our satisfaction, we will always be disappointed.

We must determine that we will be satisfied by the lovingkindness of God alone, recognizing that He might show that through our relationships with our families, fulfillment in the jobs He has set before us, or opportunities of ministry that He creates.

Secondly, we must consider our hearts.

Satisfaction cannot simply be a mental checklist of acceptable actions. It must also extend into the heart where contentment lies. Satisfaction in the lovingkindness of God means that, even if no one else were to ever love us, we would be content in the love of Christ.

Can our hearts choose to receive what Christ has to offer? Can we choose to allow that to be enough? Satisfactory?

God woos us. God calls us. God draws us in. But on a daily basis, we have a choice. We can choose to follow the plan He has created for us, or we can choose to follow the other things that vie for our attention.

May we be diligent to make the only satisfactory choice.

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Marriage Monday: The Mondays of Marriage

It is probably a bit obvious that I have skipped this post for several weeks now. Is it because I have nothing to say about marriage? Not at all! I love talking about marriage. I have been reviewing and looking for articles on marriage for work. I have recently written about marriage for other publications and blogs.

Yes, I love talking and writing about marriage.

But this is Monday. And this series is called “Marriage Monday.” And Mondays are, well, Mondays.

Maybe you like Mondays. In all honesty, they are not inherently bad. I am not one of these who thinks that Mondays mark “back to the grindstone” after a weekend of freedom. I do like weekends, but I also happen to really enjoy my jobs. All of them.

It’s just that Mondays come after Sundays. And Sundays are an exceptionally tiring first day of our work week. Why? Because we are a family of introverts in the ministry. Sundays are wonderful. We love being with our church family. But, social interaction requires energy from us. We need to recharge afterward, no matter how much we enjoy it.

So, our family comes into Monday needing a recharge – a recharge we don’t always get when we need it because of the demands of Monday.

What does that have to do with marriage? Just this…

Even on Mondays, our marriages deserve a positive investment.

“Mondays” in marriage don’t always happen on a specific day of the week. They come when we are tired. They come when we have trouble controlling our words and actions. They come when we struggle with supporting and encouraging our spouses because we’re just so tired ourselves. We don’t know what else we have to give.

We forget that giving to our marriages actually brings the rest we need.

I may be tired. I may be overwhelmed. I may have a to-do list that is four times longer than the time for completing it. I may just want to crawl back in bed and hide from the world. But in the midst of it all, my marriage should be my haven. My joy. The place I want to be, with all of it centered in the love of Christ.

Marriage is not something on the list or just another aspect of my life that must be dealt with. Marriage is instead a part of me.

Mondays like to derail that reality. Mondays like to make marriage just another “thing.” But the truth is that marriage is part of the remedy for Mondays. Why? Because marriage is the picture of our relationship with Christ, and Christ is the reason we can rejoice, even on Monday!

As you head into this Monday, what threatens to turn your marriage into just another thing on your list? I challenge you to turn that around – allow your marriage to be the example of Christ working in your today. Allow it to be what puts a smile on your face, no matter what is trying to bring you down.

May your marriage be your blessing on this Monday.

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Stop Praying for Peace!

Now, before you picket my house and boycot my blog, hear me out on this one.

Actually, let’s go to the Bible on this one. That’s where this idea comes from in the first place. Why don’t we start with Galatians 5?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NASB

Then take a look at Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-6 NASB

1 Peter is always good, as well:

The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 1 Peter 3:10-11 NASB

Are you beginning to see a pattern here at all?

What exactly is true peace?

Peace is not something that just washes down over us in answer to our prayers. Peace is something that we must allow to shine.

It is part of the fruit of the Spirit who dwells within us. If peace does not radiate through our being, perhaps we should stop and ask ourselves what in our lives is blocking the Spirit.

It is the result of surrendering our anxiety to the Lord through prayer. We think it is useful to worry, but Scripture calls worry a sin. Sin hinders the Spirit’s work in our lives. Is there no peace coming when we pray? Then perhaps we are clinging to sin.

It is something that we must actively seek. The Spirit does not shine through our lives as a result of passivity. We must actively walk away from the things of this world and actively seek the things of God.

So, is it wrong to pray for peace?

Perhaps it is not wrong in and of itself. But, let’s think about something for a minute. If our prayers are focused on peace, then what are we bypassing?

  • We pray for peace, but we do not see where we need to surrender to the work of the Spirit.
  • We pray for peace, but we do not consider the angst and anxiety that we are adding to a situation.
  • We pray for peace, but we do not pursue righteousness and the will of the Lord above all things.

In all honesty, we want peace without the sacrifice.

What must I do?

As I type this, I am struggling with agitation. My mind whirls with all that is on my plate. My heart struggles over unanswered prayer and needs that seem to be perpetually unmet. The snippiness of my children is getting on my last nerve.

I need peace right now.

But, I also see what is blocking that peace. My mind is not focused on Christ. My mouth is not full of rejoicing. And my heart is not chasing after that which is good.

As I intentionally refocus, seek forgiveness, and settle down, the peace begins to come. Just a little trickle at first, but the trickle grows to a flow until peace finally washes over me. The Spirit is in control once again, and I am submissive to Him. I cannot help but have peace.

Do you need peace today? I encourage you to stop praying for it and start taking actions that will ensure it.

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