Saturday, January 17, 2015

{Marriage is Hard}: 10 Ways to Keep it Going Strong

It was April 1, 1995. April Fools Day. Flannels and droopy hair were in style. Either that or everything black. To express our teenage angst. 

I was sitting at table with a friend and all his other friends at a Denny's restaurant way past midnight. My parents weren't worried about me. As long as I was in a group, it didn't matter how long I stayed up.

And that is when we met. Sleepy-eyed and trying to be cool. Telling jokes and eating appetizers.

When it was time to go, I hugged him goodbye and the rest is history.

It's amazing how we have come from this...

To this...

The first few years of marriage were pretty easy. Just living life and loving each other.

Then, the winds and rain of tragedy hit our house, threatening to make it fall with a tremendous crash. There were times it very nearly did, but by the grace of God and our holding onto Him and His faithful Word, we made it thus far.

And, as we healed, forgave and were restored, we are glad we stayed together. And, thankful to the Lord neither of us gave up.

So what did I learn along the way? Tons. I wrote it all down in journals to look back on. Because I know marriage is hard, but the Lord is strong enough and His grace is sufficient enough to help us weather life's storms.

And it is good to be reminded, encouraged on those hard days. From my journals, I noticed the following reoccurring themes...

10 Ways to Keep a Marriage Strong:

1. Be Thankful: keep a notecard of all the reasons you are thankful your spouse to keep tucked in your Bible and look back on when you aren't feeling so loving toward him.

I am thankful that he...

opens doors for me

holds heavy things for me
encourages me
makes breakfast for the kids...

2. Be Prayerful: Once a week, I set aside a day to pray for my husband. A good book that helped me to start was The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. Life is a battle (Ephesians 6:12-13). Your spouse needs you on his side in prayer to fight the temptation to be selfish. To love sacrificially.

3. Be Grace-full: The times when you have the hardest time loving your spouse is the time when you need the most grace. These are the times I have asked for "multiplied grace and peace (2 Peter 1:2)."

4. Be Humble: We need to be humble enough to let things go. Some battles are worth fighting, but most aren't. It is more about saving face and saving pride.If the issue isn't crucial enough to be resolved at that moment, give your spouse some time and space to be lead by the Lord in loving you.

5. Be Open: Sometimes you will need to use unconventional methods to encourage your spouse to be a godly husband. If there are things in your marriage that are not healthy, ask the Lord to show you ways to help keep the good things in and the bad things out. Be willing and open to do the hard things to stay together. A helpful book to consider is Boundaries in Marriage and consider getting good Christian counselling.

6. Be Submissive: Submission is not as bad as it sounds. We look to the Lord and do what is pleasing to Him. And as we do, our desire to do things that please our husband grows (Ephesians 5:22-24). This doesn't mean being less or burying our wants and needs. It just means living in peace and harmony and not doing things that would put a burden on family life without first coming to a consensus with our spouse. Communication is key in true submission. Not silence.

When I felt passionate about going on a mission trip to Ukraine, at first Billy didn't want me to go. It would be burdensome to be apart from me and be the sole caretaker of our child, but I gave him ample space and time to think and pray about it. He eventually came around and gave me his blessing. We need our husband's blessing to flourish in whatever our pursuit.

7. Be Alone With God: If we can't be alone with God, we can't grow. Our faith walk is not dependent on our spouse. We have to make the time every day cultivating our own relationship with the Lord, apart from our husband. In heaven, there is no marriage (Matthew 22:30). We will be close to our husband, but in a different way. Our most important relationship is with God.

8. Be Patient: Being in a "marriage rut" is no fun. But, we must remember we are on a journey of faith. This world is not our home, but there will be times of refreshing. Wait for those times and seek God's face. He will bless you in the waiting.

9. Be Creative: It is imperative that our spouse is not our sole means to purpose and fulfillment. All the Disney princess movies have a "happily ever after" when the prince marries his bride, but then what happens. What happens after Mr. Darcy wins over Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice? We need to seek ways to use our gifts to the glory of God in our family, but also in the world. To be a light and let it shine for Christ.

10. Be Loved: "We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)." When we know who we are in Christ are hearts are filled with love. And we can share that unconditional, grace-filled, agape love with our spouse. And, with the world. When they see our love for each other, they see Christ in you the hope of glory !

"Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness."

Lamentations 3:22-23

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Make Every Effort Count: Doing Every_Thing

Life is short. With the new year already begun, we only have another 355 days left in 2015 to choose spending our time doing something, nothing, or every_thing.

Do Something:

This is usually the fail-safe of most people, including myself. I think most of my time is spent going and doing. Like worker bees, we buzz from project to project, sunrise to sunset without much thought as to the long term purpose of it all. This isn't a bad thing. We have to brush our teeth, eat three square meals a day, pull the weeds, mop the floors. It's part of being responsible and good stewards of all the Lord has given to us.

Do Nothing:

What a luxury, to be able to do nothing. I can't imagine what life is like in situations where people have to work just to survive. Reading of the life of pioneers in the Little House on the Prairie series, I see how hard life used to be in America.

But, look at us now. There are so many technological advances to make living easier. We have so much free time on our hands, we seek ways to entertain ourselves.

Still, life can be hard. I think of the many who struggle with depression. We can get stuck and unable see past the heaviness of hopelessness. It's as if the weight of the world is on our shoulders.

It is only as we seek the glimmers of God's grace, His glory, can we be lifted out of those dark places. He is ready and able to give us a renewed sense of hope and purpose in our suffering.

As the Psalmist says,

"I love your sanctuary, Lord,
    the place where your glorious presence dwells." (26:8, NLT)

We do nothing when we wait for the Lord and seek His face. Finding Him in His glory is worth all the wait. And as we are waiting in quiet repose (Isaiah 30:15), our character can grow more into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). It is during difficult times that we can develop patient endurance. 

Do Every_Thing:

Doing every_thing? Doesn't that sound a bit like going overboard?

There is a difference between doing "everything" and doing every_thing.

Doing "everything" is being over-responsible to the point of getting burnt out.

Doing every_thing is finding that perfect, straight and narrow path laid before us and doing every_thing we are destined to do. Because we don't want to miss a single solitary thing the Lord has given us as our mission in life. 

Doing every_thing is truly our destiny. It is being willing to sacrifice all our time, our efforts, for Him.

We must be willing to change directions from doing something we were in the middle of doing to do what the Lord has planned for us in that moment. Or when we are doing nothing, rely on the Lord's strength to shift the focus from our pain, to helping others in theirs.