Posted in Marriage

Marriage Monday: The Purpose of Relationships

What is the purpose of relationships? Why do we seek out partners and marriage?

If I am honest with myself and others, I will admit to a great deal of selfishness regarding my desire for relationships. I don’t want to be alone. I want to be loved and cherished. I want to be appreciated. I want to be needed. I want to have my needs met.

But, let’s consider the biblical purpose of relationships for a moment. Flip your Bibles open to Genesis and take a look at the familiar account of creation. Now, look specifically at Genesis 2:18, which reads, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’” (NASB)

This verse launches into the beautiful passage establishing the foundation of marriage. And what a glorious institution it is! But, there’s more to this passage than just marriage. After all, not everyone marries. Not everyone is supposed. But, the statement of “it is not good for man to be alone” is applicable to everyone – not just married folks.

That shows us that this is not strictly the establishment of marriage. It is the establishment of all relationships. All aspects of companionship, marital and otherwise. We need others in our lives.

But, why?

To fully glorify God in our lives.

Yes, my friends, it is that simple. We were made to glorify God. We were created to have communion with Him. But, how do we truly accomplish that without other people around us?

Marriage advice reminds us that this is not a 50/50 gig. Instead, we are advised to give 100%. Christian marriage counseling reminds us to simply trust that God will take care of the balance.

But I would argue that it’s less a matter of what we give to our spouses and more a matter of what we give to God. We give 100% to Him, offering Him our full spiritual sacrifice – our very lives – and allow Him to be glorified through every aspect of our lives. That includes our marriages. Oh, and every other relationship as well.

What would happen if we considered our marriages and other relationships to be avenues for God’s glory? What would become of our problems? Our disagreements? Our irritations?

Why don’t we give it a try this week?

Posted in Marriage

Marriage Monday: As a Family

Do you recall the story of Isaac and Rebekah? We meet Rebekah in Genesis 24 when Isaac’s father Abraham sends a servant back to his family to secure a wife for Isaac. Rebekah returns with the servant willingly to marry a man she has never met.

Twenty years later, twin boys Jacob and Esau come along. Take a look at Genesis 25:28: Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Mom and Dad chose favorites. And in the long run, choosing favorites caused major issues in the family. Although Scripture does not go into detail about the marital relationship of Isaac and Rebekah, her willingness to readily deceive her husband for the sake of her favored son (Genesis 27) is pretty solid evidence of division within the marriage.

What about us?

The story of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau is not about marriage, and I won’t stretch it to glean marital truths from it. But it is an example of what happens when we allow our children to form a wedge between us and our spouses. Because it is an example, I believe we can use it as a springboard from which to discuss positive alternatives.

Here are some thoughts to ponder:

1) Instead of dividing us, the presence of our children should remind us to intentionally put one another first.

Our oldest child loved both mama and daddy and wanted us to fill different needs. Our second child was much more particular, but she did not mind mommy and daddy being together – as long as I could be there to meet her needs.

When our son came along, though, we found ourselves in brand new territory. He was a jealous mama’s boy through and through. Once he began to talk, “My mommy!” was a common phrase when my husband would try to hug me while our son was in my arms. My husband would sweetly, but firmly, respond with, “My wifey!” and proceed to wrap me in a huge hug. He was never harsh with our son, but he intentionally taught our baby boy that it was not a competition.

And now my son has no doubts. He knows I’m Daddy’s first. And he’s secure in that knowledge and in the knowledge of our love for him. By extension, my husband and I have seen our love continually strengthened because we reinforce it before our children and the rest of the world!

2) Instead of making life about our children, we are driven to even more strongly consider the impact of our marriage on the world around us.

Our children see the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our marriage. They hear us fuss and disagree. They see us in unity. But, through it all, they are completely confident in our solidarity. And if they see our solidarity, how much more will the world see it?

Marital solidarity is not a cultural preference these days. But it is a biblical reality. Being intentional about our marriage is an incredible testimony, and our children offer a great litmus test by which we can evaluate how others view our relationship.

3) Finally, instead of life being us versus them – whether it’s Dad and Mom versus the kids or Dad and “Esau” lined up against Mom and “Jacob” – interactions with our children can help us learn how to be strong in marriage in communion with others.

I’ve clearly stated on more than one occasion how important it is for my husband and me to pull back and have time to ourselves. But, it’s also important for us to function in community with others. So, we start with our family. We are training our children to follow Christ in everything. That means that if Doug and I have to divide to do women’s or men’s things, our “little” women and man divide and go with us. That’s part of training them. If we divide as a family, it is very rarely for one of us to go a lonely direction. Yes, that’s necessary on occasion, but it is our rule to make that the exception!

Marriage is not just about him and me. It’s about us. It’s about everything that encompasses us. Our children are a part of that! As a result, we must actively pursue a godly marriage as a family. What are ways you can accomplish that this year?

Posted in Marriage

Marriage Monday: Just Because

My husband is the king of “just because” moments – those little moments when there’s no real reason to celebrate, give a gift, or do something out of the ordinary. He just acts out of love.

I’m not so great at those moments. I tend to be more of a planner and need a reason or an occasion to motivate me to action. That’s an area I want to grow, though. I want to be more about the “just because” actions.

So, why are those moments so important? Because they show that we’re thinking of each other. They are tangible proof that our relationship goes beyond just the normal facts of married life. Our marriage is not just about going through the daily routine, parenting our kids, and putting up with each other. It’s about being a picture of Christ’s relationship with us.

And, let me tell you, my friends. There are many things the Lord does in our lives “just because.”

Just because they help us bring glory to Him.
Just because they fill us with joy.
Just because they teach us to know Him better.
Just because they bounce through our lives to impact others, drawing them into the kingdom.

Yes, marriage is a picture of all of that.

Suddenly, those little “just because” moments become far more important, don’t they? Those moments in which we are wide open in our love for our spouses. Those moments in which we display that love before the world. Those moments that are not about bragging but are about being true and real and honest.

I love seeing husbands and wives sitting close together, holding hands in public, or fully engaged in delightful conversation. I love seeing them drawn together like a magnet. There’s little more beautiful than the sight of a husband’s face lighting up when he sees his wife or a wife’s expression when she’s about to explode with pride for her husband.

Those are “just because” moments that shine.

Creating a marriage that reflects Christ, thus fulfilling marriage’s true purpose, is not an easy task. But, it can start with something as simple as being intentional about “just because” moments.

How can you be intentional this week?

Posted in Marriage, Thoughts from Scripture

Marriage Monday: Thinking of You

Okay, so I’m a day late for Marriage Monday! I got this written, but not edited yesterday. But, as I’m trying to be more diligent about posting, I’m going to go ahead and publish today. Enjoy! 

This morning, the power of thought is hitting me strongly. Oh how powerfully our thoughts intertwine with our actions, speech, and relationships. What happens when your mind is full of delight? What about when you rehash something that made you angry? What if your thoughts are melancholy? Or sad? Your words and actions follow those thoughts, don’t they?

Although there are instances when we can be good actors when the need demands, it is extremely hard to truly act in a manner that contradicts our thoughts. And often, if we consciously separate our behavior from our thoughts, we either find our focus and mood conforming more to fit our actions or we become so exhausted that we can no longer maintain the charade.

Thought & Marriage

Let’s apply that to marriage. I’ve written before about the importance of speaking positively about our spouses in public, especially in this culture where spousal bad-mouthing is an art form! But, how can we expect to be honestly positive about our spouses in public if our thoughts do not flow accordingly?

Think about the last time you were angry or aggravated with your spouse. Think about the thoughts that flowed through your mind. Did you combat those thoughts or stew in them? Did you talk out your frustration with your spouse, or did you just let it simmer? How do you feel right now when you remember your agitation? Does it quickly stir up negativity in you again, or does it leave you wondering why you got so upset in the first place?

When we let negative thoughts stir, simmer, and stew in our minds, we do not truly grow our marriages. Instead, we set ourselves up for that moment when exhaustion sets in and our charade is exposed. It might take a while. Years, even. But eventually, we will awaken to discover that our marriages are crumbling and a fix is going to take a whole lot more than just a mental adjustment.

What Scripture Has to Say

But, what if we do something about it right now? Today? What if, in this very moment, we choose to follow the scriptural mandate to take authority over our thoughts?

We can find insight into this scripture mandate in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. In the grander context of the passage, Paul is offering a defense of himself, but these specific verses sum up the reason he feels the need to defend himself. He has had some challenging words to say to the Corinthians, and they’ve apparently fussed a bit about it, challenging Paul’s authority in the process. He responds by telling them why it is so crucial that they listen to his teaching. Take a look:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

Is marriage any different? In the grand scheme of things, is your fight truly with your spouse? Or is it possibly with the spiritual forces against which we are battling? Should it not then follow that we, too, must take every thought captive in our marriages as in every other area of life?

My Prayer for You and Me This Week

Perhaps your week has gotten off to a beautiful start, and your thoughts toward your spouse are pure and beautiful right. But perhaps you are struggling. Getting into a new week has you scrambling and frustrated, and that frustration is seeping into your relationship.

May I encourage you to take captive your thoughts about your spouse? May I pray with you as you seek to ensure that your obedience in marriage is complete? Oh, how I pray that you will be able to delight in your spouse today and throughout the week, in thought, in speech, and in interaction!

Posted in Marriage, Thoughts

Marriage Monday: Goals & Togetherness

This week 2015 will end. Our new year begins as Thursday rolls into Friday. Some of you will be making resolutions. Others will declare resolutions to be a waste of time. Some of you will just plug right along, letting life return to normal after the holiday chaos. Others will be restructuring schedules and finding ways to breathe life into the long winter months. (Can you tell I interact with homeschoolers?)

But, there’s one thing we should all be doing. We should be setting goals. Okay, so we don’t all have to set goals when the new calendar year turns. Perhaps your goals connect with the school year. Maybe you set goals with each new birthday or anniversary. Whatever the case may be, goals are something we all should establish and revisit regularly. And they are so much more useful than resolutions!

Goals & Marriage

So, what does a discussion of goals, resolutions, and the new year have to do with marriage? Everything!

You see, you and I can set goals all we want. But, if those goals are not in line with the goals our spouses have set, or worse, are contradictory to them, we will fight an uphill battle – one we will probably end up losing. And we will thwart the efforts of our spouses as well.

So, what can we do?

Set Goals

As Christians, our ultimate goal is Christ. Period. But, even Paul gave very specific examples of how he intended to accomplish the goal of glorifying Christ with every ounce of his being. Why should we expect to accomplish as much with less focus? So, we set before ourselves specific ways in which we will glorify Christ and draw others to Him.

Might God change those goals? Might He step in and redirect us in 2016? Very probably. But, when we do not set goals, we tend to flounder about with no purpose, spiritually or otherwise. Prayerfully setting goals makes us more sensitive to His voice and His direction, even if He redirects us mid-flow.

Share Goals

Individualism is well entrenched in the western cultural mentality. But, it’s also a spiritual deterrent. I was created to need the support of others. Even if my goals are strictly my own (my health goals, for example), the truth is that I cannot achieve them on my own. I need the help and support of my family, and especially of my husband. He wants to motivate, encourage, and support me. But, how can he if he has no idea what my goals are?

Encourage Goal Setting

Last week, my husband shared some of his goals for 2016. Next, he asked for mine. Finally, he challenged each of our children to consider goals. They were a bit intimidated by that challenge. They’d never thought about setting goals for themselves. And that is true of many of us. We just move through life, going with the flow, when we could instead be aiming for a goal.

If your spouse has never considered the idea of setting goals, present that challenge this year. (But, don’t be pushy. Start by sharing your own goals, then prayerfully go from there.)

Support the Goals of Others

Actively. Joyfully. And, when it comes to our spouses, we should attempt to merge our goals with theirs. If any of our plans clash or interfere with one another’s needs, perhaps we should reconsider and prayerfully re-evaluate.

Your goals – combined with your spouse’s – will go far to shape how your marriage grows this year. Stand together! Work together! And be ready to look back this time next year and see what God has done as you have submitted your time and energy to honoring Him through growth.

Posted in Marriage, Thoughts, Thoughts from Life

Marriage Monday: A Servant’s Attitude

This month in Sunday school, the youth girls at our church are walking through the fruit of the Spirit. In preparation for each lesson, I’ve looked back at Elizabeth George’s book God’s Garden of Grace. I love the way she sees the fruit of the Spirit as three “categories” of growth in grace. Love, joy, and peace represent growth in the attitudes of grace. Patience, kindness, and goodness are the actions of grace. Finally, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control represent the application of grace.

This past week, we discussed the action trio in class, reviewing also the reminder that the attitudes have to be in place first. There is no action if our attitudes are not full of grace!

How often do I ponder that truth in my marriage?

My husband and I are frequently doing for one another. It’s a part of marriage. But what is behind our acts of service to one another? Are the actions habitual or intentional? Are they duty or delight? Are they obligatory or flowing from a peaceful heart of love and joy?

I love my husband dearly, and I really do love doing for him. But, so often I do not apply the attitude of that love to the day-in, day-out living of life. I don’t always approach walking through our morning routine as an outflow of patience, kindness, and goodness. I separate preparing lunch and caring for the normal routine of the home from the spiritual dynamics of our relationship.

But it’s all part of my service to my husband. And it all must be rooted in the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. Yes, even the most mundane, routine service. Even those acts must reflect the Spirit’s faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

My goal this morning was to start the day with that perspective, getting my attitude in place even when I did not want to get up, then letting my actions follow through. And it’s been a really good morning – not just in routine flow, but in our hearts as well. We both noticed it.

How can the fruit of the Spirit shine forth in your marriage this week?

Posted in Marriage

Marriage Monday: My Competent Spouse, Pt 2

Last week, we discussed the reality that our husbands are truly competent. But, what does that look like practically? How can we affirm the competency of our spouses?

Here are a few things I’ve learned along my marital journey (and am still learning!):

Does It Matter?

There are times when I look at something my husband has done, and the perfectionistic monster arises within me. I want to go behind him and correct, do it my way. So, I stop and ask myself why it matters. Is it really problematic, or is it just preferential? Is my preference worth correction, criticism, and derision? The more I practice asking myself these questions, the more I find that the answer is, “No!”

A Little Honesty, Please

When it does matter, I should be honest about it. Some days, I need a little more order and structure. So, if I go back and straighten that comforter just a bit more, I should do it with honesty, admitting that this is a day when having the little things done my way will help me cope with the greater chaos of life just a little more easily.

There are also times when I have information my husband doesn’t have, requiring a tweak to how he accomplished something. I must remember this, though: My perfectionistic days should be very much the exception, and any necessary tweaks should be explained clearly and positively.

Sharing is Good

It’s also very important to blur the lines of responsibility sometimes as well. In our family, Doug takes on most of the ministry responsibilities, and I tackle the homeschooling. We try to share the overall family needs, although that system fluxes depending on whether or not our circumstances allow Doug to work from home.

Sometimes, though, those responsibilities overlap. Or, one of us is in a situation of needing to let go and allow the other to help. It’s okay to step outside of our standard roles – and I need to trust him to be able to handle a role he does not normally fill.

Going Public

Most importantly, though, I must publicly support his competence. It is culturally acceptable – and even encouraged – to bad-mouth our spouses in public. To joke about the things they don’t do well. As a godly wife and help meet, I should do the opposite. I should build up his strengths, not declare his weaknesses. The more I brag about him publicly, the more I see his strengths and the less I even consider his weaknesses.

Please know that I understand there are all types of marriages in today’s world. There are times when a husband truly is incompetent, and to say otherwise would be lying. If you are in that sort of marriage, please honestly and openly seek help!

But, Christian wives, God has given us the honor and privilege of being help meets to our husbands. Let’s reflect that honor by building them up and praising their competence!

Posted in Marriage

Marriage Monday: My Competent Spouse, Pt. 1

We’re all guilty of it, aren’t we? We’d rather do things ourselves because someone else couldn’t possibly do it correctly. Or maybe just not well enough.

Okay, okay – no one else can do it MY way!

This seems to be especially true of our spouses.

The old-fashioned, King James word for a wife’s relationship to her husband is “help meet.” Many see that to be a subservient, inferior, or negative term. But, I love it. It reminds me that I have the incredible privilege of supporting, strengthening, encouraging, and building up my amazing husband. What an honor! What a joy!

Yet when I indicate that my husband is incompetent by criticizing how he accomplishes tasks, or when I jump to do things because I don’t believe he can do them well enough, I relinquish that honorable role. Instead of supporting and building up, I tear down. My criticisms weaken and discourage him when I should instead be strengthening and encouraging him with my words.

Ladies, our husbands are incredibly competent. No, they do not do things the same way we do. They do not make decisions according to our fashion. And, in some areas, it is true – we do certain things better than they do. But don’t forget that there are many, many other ways in which they are more accomplished.

And in every way, they are competent.

We live in a society that argues equality. Woman has to be as strong as man. As successful as man. As accomplished as man. As capable as man. I could go on and on.

Unfortunately, that mentality sets women up to diminish men. Why? Because until we are truly as accomplished, we must find a way to bring them down to our level to even the playing field.

Fortunately, we have truth on our side! We know that God created each of us beautifully. He created husband and wife to fit together in perfection for the purpose of glorifying Him as a single unit.

What a beautiful picture!!

Ladies, our husbands might not notice what we notice. They might not complete tasks just like we do. But, instead of being critical of them because of it, what if we were to recognize that their differences are amazingly wonderful?

What if we were to praise their competence?

Oh, what a difference it would make in our marriages! Oh what an example it would present to this world! Oh, what a pattern it would establish for our children!

And oh, how it would raise the head and shoulders of our incredibly competent husbands, allowing them the freedom to walk in strength and honor.

Posted in Marriage

Marriage Monday: Entrusting the “Real”

As I have been pondering how to restart Marriage Monday posts, a question has been rattling around in my mind. So, this morning, I present it to you.

Who sees the “real” of your marriage?

What do I mean by “real”? Well, think about it this way. We all have a public marriage and a private one.

The public marriage, obviously, is the one everyone sees. The public marriage reveals much, to be sure, as others see how we interact as spouses. Are we kind to one another in public? Do we speak positively or negatively to and of one another? Are we affectionate, or do we tend to keep that private?

The private marriage, however, has multiple facets. There are certain aspects of the private marriage that should stay only between a husband and wife. Period.

But there are other aspects of the private marriage that don’t automatically have to be fully restricted. In fact, these are the aspects our children see day in and day out. They know the nitty gritty of how we treat one another in the privacy of our own home. They know the “real” of Mama and Daddy’s marriage.

Those are the aspects that I mean when I ask who sees the “real” of your marriage. The things that are typically only seen at home. Some good, some bad. But definitely not the picture that the wide world sees. And, in truth, it’s not necessarily things we want the wide world to see.

That does not mean, though, that we need to hide this aspect of marriage from everyone. Some people need to see the “real” of our marriages. And we need those people – and the sharing that comes with them.

On the day our moving trucks arrived at the new house, the Choate family, some of our dearest friends, came to help tackle day one chaos. If anyone knows moving, it is the Choates. They move every few months in their service as Wycliffe Bible Translators in the Solomon Islands. They definitely know what it takes to become quickly functional after a move, and they were ready and able to dive in right alongside us.

But, Aaron and Joanna also understand something else. They fully grasp the kind of pressures moving puts on a marriage. Those little moments of miscommunication. The ways different personalities prioritize what needs to be done and when. The stress of chaos and a lack of routine. The effects of exhaustion.

It was so freeing to not have to hide those moments of strain from our dear friends. And, it was even more beautiful to have Aaron look at us and say, “I’m already praying for your marriage through all of this.”

That kind of friendship is not only priceless, it is essential. As couples, we need friends we can trust with the nitty gritty of marriage. Friends who understand the private victories and can help pray through the private struggles. Friends who see and grasp.

So, I ask again: Who sees the “real” of your marriage? Anyone? If there is no one, then my prayer for you this week is that God will provide those friends for you and your spouse. Friends who see. Friends who understand. Friends who will listen, rejoice, and fight with you. Friends who know that the struggles solidify your marital bond. And above all, friends who know how to pray for your marriage in all seasons.

Posted in Marriage

Marriage Monday: Play Time!

What do you do for fun?

Many of us start listing the hobbies we love but rarely have time for. Or we talk about spending time with our girlfriends. What mom doesn’t occasionally want a night out with the girls?

But how many of us put things we love to do with our husbands at the top of the list?

I love to read, sew, and knit. I like solving logic problems and reasoning puzzles. Oh, and I enjoy assembling puzzles as well.

My husband does not enjoy most of those activities. He likes reading, but obviously the most “together” we can be while reading is to be sitting together when we read our separate books. Even if we’re both reading the same book (E-books are wonderful, aren’t they? No waiting!), he reads much faster than I do. By the time he’s halfway through the book, I’m just getting into it. So, while we enjoy reading together, we still need to find other ways to be truly interactive.

We definitely need to make sure to take the time to do the things we love individually. But we also need to make sure we intentionally play together. We must find things that energize both of us – and generally lead us to unwind and laugh together.

It’s easy to get caught up in going through life together, supporting one another, that we forget to just play sometimes. Play is not just critical for children. It’s essential for adults as well.

How long has it been since you’ve just let go and played with your spouse? I encourage you to give it a try. It doesn’t have to be overly planned out or strictly scheduled (that tends to defeat the purpose). It can be very simple – a game, a common hobby, a funny TV show that you haven’t seen in a while. Just make it play. Not productive. Not essential. Just pure fun.

How can you play this week?