Laugh, Smile, and Play, Day 10

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                                   Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Adam and I enjoy having fun together.

We love laughing.

We love making each other smile.

We like being goofy and silly.

We like spending time together relaxing.

Laughter is important in a marriage. There are health benefits to laughter. Laughter decreases stress hormones, increases immunity, helps fight infection, and even can help temporarily reduce pain. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine…

I think sometimes we take life too seriously. Lots of scary, chaotic things are happening in the world. Jesus invites us to be still and know God. Sometimes, I feel guilty for taking the time to rest and have fun, but this is the exact opposite of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been freed from condemnation, from guilt, and from shame. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t enjoy your marriage and your spouse. There is joy in the Lord –

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

A few years ago I wrote these words…

No marriage can thrive without fun and laughter in my opinion. I love to laugh with my husband, and I enjoy making him laugh… especially since this is a hard task to accomplish. I enjoy the challenge! Laughter is great medicine for breaking up an upsetting moment and a great antidote to an argument. Laughter is a great way to let off steam and melt away stress. Laughter and silliness helps us feel human…

We are about to enter Advent season. Christmas is coming, a season of joy, but it can also be a season of stress and sorrow. Now is the time to plan and prepare for times of rest and relaxation, joy and fun and laughter.

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This is Day 10 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community. 

 

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It’s Okay to Cry, Day 9

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                             Image courtesy of Pansa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I struggle with my emotions. I struggle with letting myself cry. My husband has beautiful emotions, and always encourages me that it is okay to cry. Sometimes we need to mourn. We need to grieve. We need to feel pain.

We often shield ourselves to protect ourselves, but we aren’t doing ourselves any good when we do. It’s okay to feel sad together.

I recall many a fight with Adam that ended in tears. Those tears were life giving. The tears allowed me to step out of my “perfect expectations” and my “perfect image” and to accept there is brokenness in this world, my life, and marriage and I can accept and embrace my grief. Even Jesus cries after the death of His friend, Lazarus, not because He is weak, but because He is human and crying is a natural response to loss.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time to weep and mourn. It’s okay. Remember it won’t last forever. This life on this planet is temporary. But it’s okay in the moment to grieve, to cry, to feel pain. Sometimes this might mean you take time apart from your spouse. Sometimes it means you spend more time together. Grief has a way of helping me grow and bond in marriage.

When grieving…

… remember to accept your grief or your spouse’s grief as is. There’s nothing bad about feeling pain and sorrow. Leave judgment behind.

….remember there is no timetable for grief. Different people grieve at different paces. It’s important to know when to move on, but allow yourself and/or your spouse the appropriate time to grieve. Be patient and supportive.

…remember to communicate about your grief and pain. Discuss the grief process. Sometimes this might simply be nonverbals such as holding a hand while crying, or embracing.

…remember that it is okay to ask for help, or to ask for support from others beside your spouse. Relying solely on your spouse for grief support might lead to burnout. It’s okay to reach out.

…remember you don’t have to be strong all the time. In fact, it’s okay to feel frustrated and upset. It’s what you do with these feelings that makes a difference. Allow yourself to feel pain, and then set boundaries so you avoid wallowing.

…remember it is okay to have fun together in the grief. Sex can be incredibly healing during a difficult time, or after an emotionally intense argument or a painful dry spell. Laughing together as you cry can be therapeutic too.

You are not alone in your grief and your pain. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Most importantly, remember you have a God who cares and who has given you a life partner to help you through the difficult times.

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This is Day 9 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community. 

Build on It, Day 8

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                             Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A few years ago, I was showing a friend my beautiful engagement ring and realized two of the stones were missing. I was devastated. I thought this was a sign that I was a bad wife or that I didn’t take care of my jewelry. But see my marriage is more than just my ring. It won’t crumble if a stone is lost or even the entire ring is lost. The jewels had a fragile setting, but my marriage doesn’t. I was able to replace the jewels, but if my marriage crumbled, I can’t replace my marriage.

When building a home, the most important part to remember is the foundation. Without a solid foundation, the home will not be built to last. The structural integrity depends on the foundation. The entire weight of the house rests on the foundation.

Similarly, a marriage needs  a solid foundation to help maintain its structural integrity. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a foundation as “a structure that supports a building from underneath” or “a basis on which something stands or is supported.” I also find it interesting that a foundation is also defined as “the act of beginning or creating.”

 

When speaking to the crowds in Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus says…

…everyone who hears these words of  mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

What kind of foundation do you want to build or create in your marriage? Honestly, without Christ as our foundation, Adam and I would not have weathered the storms in our marriage. We probably would’ve failed. But God is gracious and good and His foundation is strong.

The reason I was upset about my ring and the loss of stones was because it is a symbol of our commitment and our vows to one another. It is a symbol of our love and our foundation – the core beliefs our marriage is built upon. However, it is just a symbol. The foundation itself is what’s important. My marriage is founded on something that extends beyond precious gemstones. My marriage is founded on the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

But it doesn’t stop there. We work at our marriage. We work to build upon our foundation. We work to strengthen our marriage. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” God’s Word Translation version of 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage each other, and strengthen one another.”

How’s your foundation? Is your marriage built to last? I guarantee you if you’re doing this challenge, if you’ve committed, you’re trying, and you want a marriage that lasts, and you are committed to a strong foundation. Keep at it in the faith, my sisters in Christ!

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This is Day 8 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community. 

Tear It Out, Day 7

11-7-2016-tear-it-out

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One thing I like about Christmas is watching people open presents. As an adult, I find such joy in picking out gifts for people and enjoying the moment they tear through the paper and find something they really wanted underneath and within.

Ecclesiastes 3 says there’s a time for everything, including a time to tear down. What could you possibly want to tear down in your marriage?

As I think about gift wrap, we don’t really enjoy the gift if it stays in the wrapping. Sometimes we let certain things wrap us up – fear, anxiety, worry, shame, etc.  Fear and anxiety is a powerful wrapping that the Devil can use to keep your marriage from growing and keep you stagnant. Once you tear through the “wrapping” though, you can toss aside the paper. Similarly, you tear through the “wrapping” and toss aside fear.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast” a.k.a. toss “all your anxiety on Him” (Jesus Christ) “because He cares for you.”

We all have fears and worries and concerns. Our fears shouldn’t overwhelm and paralyze us and wrap us beneath so many layers. Breaking through the wrapping may not happen overnight, but keep chipping away, a little tear at a time. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines tear as “to remove by force.” God cares for you. Don’t forget that! He cares for you. He wants to take your anxieties away. He wants to tear through your fears. Let Him.

The Message version of 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

Don’t let fear cripple you and wrap your love and your marriage. Fear keeps us from trying. Fear keeps us from living. Fear will cause your marriage a slow death. Protect your marriage by tearing out things that are tearing you down. Let go of your fears, cast your anxieties on Christ, and tear off those things that are holding you back from a great marriage!

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This is Day 7 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community.

 

Words of Life, Day 6

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I crawled in bed one night and Adam leaned over and whispered to me, “You’re awesome.” There was no special reason. He spoke these words just because. We didn’t have a conversation that followed. I did smile and say thank you, of course, because his words really blessed me. I fell asleep with such peace.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Words are powerful. Words have the capacity to destroy, but they also have the incredible capacity to heal.

I love how when I’m feeling ill or my body is aching all Adam has to do is lay his hands on me and speak a few words in prayer. I always feel better even if my pain doesn’t go away or I still feel sick.

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”

Part of why I wanted us to share one thing we are grateful for every day on the forums as part of the challenge is to get into the habit of speaking gracious words. Don’t just type them in the forums or write them in a journal and then tuck them away. Take the time to speak words of gratitude to your husband.

The Message version of Proverbs 25:11 says, “The right word at the right time
is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.” Your man may not like jewelry, but I guarantee you he will appreciate words of grace and kindness spoken just for him. 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines healing as “to make whole again, to restore, to return to a sound state.” Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time to heal. A well-timed, rightly spoken word or two can make all the difference in calming a person down, filling a person with peace, or giving a person love.

We live in a broken world with lots of uncertainty, violence, and chaos. In this world, we are to be kingdom minded. We shouldn’t lose sight of all the good things God has given us and all the blessings we have. Take time to speak kindly to your spouse and use positive, encouraging, uplifting words.

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This is Day 6 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community. 

Words of Death, Day 5

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                              Image courtesy of foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the summer, I attended a discipleship workshop. One of the lessons that stood out to me was “naming your reality.” When something has a name to it, it is no longer unknown and therefore it doesn’t have power over you anymore. I talked a little about this on Day 3 of the challenge. The second night of the workshop, I woke up in the middle of the night sensing something evil. I couldn’t really explain it other than it made me fearful momentarily.

At dinner earlier, I had prayed with two others and they had prayed over my sleep as I have suffered from chronic insomnia. I feel most spiritually attacked in the night when I’m asleep or half-asleep. I knew we had prayed that God would send His holy army of angels to protect me and if I did wake up, we prayed that it would be brief, and I’d be coherent, and I would fall back to sleep quickly.

I sat straight up, picked up the nearest object (my water bottle) and threw it across the room, saying, “In the Name of Jesus Christ through the power given to me by God the Father, I command you, Satan, to be gone.” With that, I laid back down and fell asleep immediately and I woke up the next day feeling refreshed.

John 10:10 speaks of the devil and how he has come to steal, kill, and destroy. However, Jesus promises us abundant life. I don’t know about you but abundant life, in my mind, includes abundant peace. We have been given incredible power over the Devil, more than we realize. Ecclesiastes 3 talks about how there is a time for everything, including a time to kill. It sounds odd to say, but we can speak words of death to the Devil.

1 Peter 5:8-9 reminds us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Jesus reminds the seventy-two in Luke 10:18-20, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Isn’t that last line wonderful? Yes, you have authority and power to overcome the devil and speak words of death to him through Jesus Christ, but most importantly, your name is written in heaven. You have eternal security. Like my mother says, you have a life insurance policy called salvation.

I have suffered from disturbed sleep for many years. This affects my health and wellbeing, but it has also affected my marriage. Adam has spent many days and nights praying over me and with me for my sleep.

I am sure if you think about it, there is something in your life or someplace in your marriage where Satan is trying to get a foothold or maybe he already has a foothold. Remember the power given to you in the name of Jesus Christ to cast him out, overcome him, and banish him from your marriage, life, and home. Most importantly, remember your names are written in heaven. You have eternal security and salvation in Jesus Christ.

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This is Day 5 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community. 

 

The Good Soil, Day 4

 

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                         Image courtesy of Keattikorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love gardens. There is something wonderful about wandering through rows of flowers, plants, and trees. All of life began in a garden. I feel like anytime I’m in a garden, I feel alive, like this is how life was meant to be.

I recall one summer I came home in between semesters at college. I asked my mom if I could have the very special job of taking care of the garden. My grandfather and I went to the store and purchased plants, flowers, soil, tools, and even my pair of purple gardening gloves. I spent hours in the garden that summer, tilling the soil, planting the flowers and bushes, weeding, and watering. I was pretty proud of my accomplishment by summer’s end. I had a beautiful garden full of impatiens, lilac, marigold, and even some herbs. When I returned to college, I left my mom a brief note telling her how much I appreciated the opportunity to grow things and how to tend to the garden in my absence. When I returned at Christmas, nearly everything was dead, including the marigolds, and they are a hearty flower.

You see, my family was busy with work and school and life and didn’t have time to take care of the garden. I was a little miffed at the time, but I don’t blame them. Gardening is hard work and it takes a large amount of time to be successful and for the flowers to thrive. Marriage is much like a garden. Your marriage requires some tenderloving care in order to thrive.

In Matthew 13:1-9, Jesus tells the parable of the seeds. Only the seeds that landed in fertile soil thrived. The seeds that fell on the footpath were eaten by birds, and the seeds that fell in rocky shallow soil withered and died, and the seeds that fell among the weeds were choked out. Similarly in marriage, you need a good bed of soil, a solid foundation, in order to grow, free from obstructions like footpaths, rocks, and weeds.

Plants also need sunlight to grow. It’s a minor miracle that plants get the energy they need from the sun through the process called photosynthesis. The sun is a source of energy and heat for plants. Similarly, your marriage needs energy (something that propels you to action and sustains your relationship) and heat (something that keeps your spark and passion alive).

Plants also need water to stay alive. Plants typically need about an inch of water a week. Too much water and they can drown. Too little water and they can dry up and die. Water gives the plants much-needed hydration and keep the soil moist so the plants can continue to grow. Similarly, your marriage also needs water (quality time, communication, and dates) in order to stay hydrated and healthy.

This is not the season of planting. November 4th is in the late end of harvest. As much as I like gardening, I enjoy the harvest more. There is something exciting and wonderful about enjoying fruits and vegetables and herbs from my own garden. Like the seasons in nature, there are seasons in your marriage. There will come a time where you will begin to bear fruit, evidence of the work you and your spouse have put into your marriage.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for everything under the sun – a time for planting and a time for harvest. When you, as a caretaker in the garden have done your job – preparing the soil (we can liken this to premarital counseling and the conversations you and your husband continue to have), planting, giving the plants plenty of sun and water, and assuring that weeds and bugs do not choke out the plants, you can expect a good harvest.

Think about the kinds of things you want to accomplish in your marriage – the kinds of fruits you would like to see. Proverbs 31:12 reminds us that a godly wife does her husband good, instead of harm all the days of her life. Galatians 1:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Seek to do your husband good. Take care of the garden of your marriage. Examine the soil. Throw out the rocks. Pull out the weeds. Give your full energy and attention. Keep your marriage bed warm. Water your relationship with plenty of quality time together. And when the time is right, simply rest and enjoy the fruits of your work.

Lord, I thank you for the wonderful garden of my marriage. I ask that you equip me with the tools to care for what you have given me properly. Help me to see the weeds and rocks that get in our way. Help me to put the proper amount of attention and energy into my marriage. Help me to make sexual intimacy and passion a priority. Help me to water the relationship with quality time and communication. Allow me to enjoy the fruits of our work in our marriage. I ask your blessings upon this garden. Amen. 

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This is Day 4 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community. 

Dead Inside, Day 3

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says there’s a time for everything… including a time to die. I could talk about death – the end of one life and the beginning of another. I could talk about “putting to death” sin in our lives. But today I’m going to talk to you about a different kind of death – when you feel dead inside.

The unknown is scary. I can’t tell you the number of times I thought something was wrong with me because of anxiety or my days where I felt off for no reason. I can’t tell you the number of times I thought I must not be a good enough Christian if I struggle with anxiety and depression. Once I admitted to myself I struggled with anxiety and depression, I was free to be myself. I was free to live my life because giving these struggles “a name” meant I wasn’t crazy, it had nothing to do with “being good enough,” and my struggles no longer had power over me.

This doesn’t mean my depression and my anxiety just go away. God isn’t a fairy godmother and he doesn’t just wave a magic wand and all my problems go away. It doesn’t mean I don’t still get mad at God some days and wonder why. This simply means that I know what it is I struggle with and I admit it freely. Once you know what something is, you can move forward instead of getting stuck. 

A few weeks ago, I was having an off day. Things are going well in my life so I had no reason to feel “dead inside.” This doesn’t mean my feelings or lack thereof were any less valid. If someone told me to “snap out of it,” I would stare at them because how do you snap out of something when you don’t know what it is?

My husband suggested we go for an evening walk. It was mid-autumn and the trees were alive with color. I realize the irony because the changing of leaves is a sign they are dying. The colors were particularly bright on this evening – red, yellow, orange, purple, and gold. During the walk, I tried to explain what I was feeling or not feeling. I told Adam I felt depressed. He didn’t try to “fix it.” You see, that’s because he knows me.

Admitting I have depression and anxiety is like the leaves on an autumn tree. Once the leaves let go, winter settles in and the tree lies dormant and dead. Similarly, once I give a name to my struggle, I let go of the power it has over me and I can leave it behind. There is a beauty in knowing something previously unknown, in being in the moment even if the moment is sad or painful or simply empty.

Adam and I walked hand-in-hand in the silence, meandering down the autumn tree-lined streets of our neighborhood. Once he stopped and hugged me. He didn’t need to say a word. He knew what my soul needed. We embraced between sunlight and gold and my spirit began to feel alive again. My soul whispered, “This is what love is.” 

By admitting “I am depressed” aloud, I named my reality.  There’s something about saying something aloud that makes it real. When I know what it is, it doesn’t hold anything over my head anymore. The unknown is scary but God invites you to step into the known – to remember that He knows all things and you are known and you have been given power through the Holy Spirit. 

 

 

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about how he has a thorn in his side and a messenger from Satan torments him. Some days I can seriously relate, and I don’t think that torment is always known to us. Sometimes it’s just like how I described above – feeling dead inside for no reason and wondering why. Paul pleads with God three times to take it away and God responds in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” And Paul answers, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Admitting I feel dead inside isn’t weakness; admitting I am depressed isn’t surrender; This admission is quiet strength because I gave a name to it and the thing that was silently sticking in my side no longer has power over me because I know what it is.

I want you to know that it is okay for you to feel sad or angry or anxious or fearful or overwhelmed or depressed or even not to feel anything about this challenge.

I want you to know it is okay to get behind or not do every day of the challenge.

I want you to know you don’t have to be the perfect wife.

I am not the perfect wife. Admitting this aloud gives me the freedom to be a good wife to Adam and to have off-bad days too.

Live in the freedom you have been given by God through the power of His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

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This is Day 3 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community. 

 

Bring to Bear, Day 2

Bring to Bear from Becoming His Eve

I have not experienced the glories of birth yet, other than my own trip down the canal. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the outs because of this, like I haven’t joined this club of motherhood. This feels especially true in my Christian women circles and seems like everyone who is in their late twenties already has a child, and is on there way to their second, or third. I love children. I’m happy for my mom friends. But I’m not there yet.

In a culture that’s on high-speed all the time, I am grateful to be taking my time in the “birthing” department.  I am in no rush to be a mother. Everything in God’s timing has become my motto.

Still it’s hard sometimes because I feel this invisible pressure to be a mother from my Christian lady friends. After all, I’ve been married for nearly six years. What am I waiting for?

I want to shoot the questions right back. Can’t I be fruitful without giving birth? Can’t I be fulfilled without joining motherhood? Can’t Adam and I have a solid marriage without raising kiddos, at least at this junction in our lives?

All that being said, when I read “a time to be born,” can I be honest? I cringe a little. I am not ready to birth children yet. I could read it as There was a time when I was born, but there’s not a whole lot I can write about that, you know. Not challenge worthy.

The word “born” is the past participle of “bear.” The word “bear” has multiple definitions. Dictionary.com defines bear as “to hold up, support…to hold or remain firm under…to produce by natural growth… to strive harder, intensify one’s efforts… to endure… to face hardship bravely.” These words relate to childbirth as labor is intensive, something to be endured, to be faced bravely because it is hard.

However doesn’t this also describe life? Marriage?

Marriage required you to hold up and support. Marriage requires you to hold and remain firm under your covenant. Marriage requires you to strive and work hard for with intense effort, because it’s worth the effort. Marriage requires you to endure, and to face hardship together bravely.

I am not the same woman today that I was on my wedding day and I’m grateful for that. I have grown and matured with Adam. I have a long way to go.

I will never peak at perfection in my marriage because there’s no such thing, but my marriage is worth fighting for, working for, bearing down, and bearing fruit.

Can I get an Amen?

In order to bear fruit, your must be rooted in the Vine, Jesus Christ, grounded in His Word, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 says,

Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LordThat person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him.They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Bad news? You can’t do it alone. You can’t bear fruit just by “being good” in your own merit.

Good news? You have a God who gives you His strength to endure. If you are rooted in Christ, you will be like the tree planted by the water.

You won’t need to fear when heat comes (when things get painful and labor becomes hard) because you can “bear” down together and endure with the strength of God.

You won’t need to worry about drought because you will be “watered” and “refreshed” by the Living Water.

If you make God the roots of your marriage, if you “bear all things” together, God will bring to bear His fruit in your lives. 

Bible Passage for Meditation/Prayer: (Today I encourage you to read the passage once, read it again, and then pray the passage over your life and marriage).

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14

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This is Day 2 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community. 

Step Into the Present, Day 1

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

                                                        Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In mid-October, I was hit with a bout of food poisoning or a 24-hour flu bug. I remember feeling guilty because all I could do was sleep all day, and when I was awake, the only thing I could really do was watch Netflix. My husband had to remind me that it’s okay to rest. It’s part of the healing process. Did you hear me? I felt guilty about staying in bed and sleeping when I had the flu? What’s wrong with me?

We are so wired to be givers and caretakers. We are so caught up in the lie that we must be busy to be productive that we forget to take care of ourselves. We forget that rest is equally important. We forget that rest is vital.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Note the Bible doesn’t say you must do everything at once, or do everything in one season. Shoveling snow my driveway may be apt in February, but certainly not August. Swimming in the lake would be fun in June, but certainly not in January. It also is unreasonable to try and seed the earth, enjoy fully blossomed flowers, harvest your vegetables in your garden, and allow your land to lie dormant under snow all in the same season. Just like the physical seasons, it is important to pay attention to the seasons of our lives – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and maritally.

It’s easy to want to look ahead. When I’m stuck in the doldrums of a cold January, I can’t wait for the first signs of spring. When the summer feels like it’s dragging long (which it certainly feels a bit like this in my home state), I long for the coolness of autumn. I remember when I was a kid in school during mid-April, I couldn’t wait for summer vacation, and when it was late fall, I couldn’t wait for Christmas break.

It’s easy to long for certain seasons to last longer. I’m not going to lie. Spring often feels rushed to me. Autumn feels skipped over. After New Year’s, it is nice to rest from the hustle and bustle of the holidays but then January and February can feel incredibly dull.

Does this happen in your marriage too? I look forward to many wonderful years with my husband, and rightly so. Sometimes I wish we “had it altogether” by now and we were in our own home. Sometimes I reflect back on the youthful glee and fluttering of my heart and endless conversations when we were first dating. But I’m not in the past. I’m not to the future. I’m here in the present.

It’s easy to get caught up in looking ahead or reflecting back, but you often miss out on the present as a result. There is beauty and joy and something to be grateful for in each moment in the now. This November, we will be taking the time to reflect on the things we are grateful for in our marriages and about our husbands.

After my bout of illness, I took an entire day to move slowly (which is hard for me). I purposefully did not multitask, but instead focused on whatever I happened to be doing at the moment – showering, putting on makeup, eating, reading, listening to music, etc. I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt. I was relaxed. I wasn’t stressed. I didn’t have to rush. I let go of things that weren’t important and set them aside to focus on what was right in front of me. I was actually more productive.

In our hectic world of technology, busyness, and endless activities, it can be hard to remember to be present. When we run at a mile a minute and multitask, we lose the ability to be at our full potential and to be fully present. James 4:14 reminds us, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

This challenge isn’t about what great things you can do or how busy you are or how many things you’ve accomplished in a day or a week or a month. This challenge is about what God wants to do in your life and being present enough to hear His voice and direction. 

Fix your eyes on what is important. Take the time to work, but also take the time to rest. Ask God to show you what it is you ought to do and to help you step into the rhythm of work and rest. Ask God to show you what’s really important in your life and the determination to focus on one task at a time. It’s harder than it seems, but remember your life is too precious to be wasted. You are like a mist, here for a moment, and gone the next. Make it count.

This November, take the time to be present. Step into the presence of the Almighty God and allow Him to speak to you and work in your life. Step into the moment with your husband giving him your full and undivided attention, free from the tether of technology and the to-do list.

Bible Verse for Meditation: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

PrayerAlmighty God, I praise you for your glorious presence in my life. I confess that I am not always “present” with you, and I allow myself to be distracted by technology and to-do-lists and things of this world. Lord, I thank you for the gift of breath and gift of life. I ask that you would help me to remember to be in the moment. Show me what really matters in life. Help me step into the rhythm of work and rest. Equip me with the determination to focus on one task at a time. I ask that I would see your presence and notice little things – little glimpses of your love. I also ask that you would remind me of the little things I love about my husband and that I would notice him and give our marriage the attention it deserves. In Jesus’ Name, I pray by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen. 

5th-annual-bhe-challenge

This is Day 1 of the 30 Dates in November Challenge 2016. Sign up here. Join us on the forums for the challenge of the day and participate in a supportive community. 

 

Challenges, Gifts, and Blessings (30 Dates in November 2016)

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Photo Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today I received a birthday present from my sister. It’s October. My birthday is in December. She said she wanted me to enjoy the gifts during the holiday season. I think this is the earliest I’ve opened a present for my birthday ever!

Isn’t there something wonderful about opening up a present? The excitement and the anticipation as you pull off the paper and find a gift just for you?

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

As you prepare for the 30 Dates in November challenge, I want you to prepare your heart to receive a gift. I don’t know what this gift is or how God will use this challenge in your life. I do not assume that my words are the best words or that this challenge will change your life or marriage. I do believe that God has many blessings in store for you this November just waiting for you. Perhaps you won’t see the fruits of your labor immediately and you may not until long after the challenge, but this isn’t about results. This is about what God will do in your heart and life and marriage. I ask that you spend time in prayer and ask God to cultivate a spirit willing to listen and a heart of gratitude as you prepare.

Each day in November, we will share one thing that we are grateful for about our husbands. I encourage you to write down this thing each day during the challenge and share it with your husband. You can send it to him via text message or email. You could leave it on a post-it on the bathroom mirror. You could write a note and stick it in his lunch box or briefcase. Or if you’re ambitious, you can make a card for him. This will give us an opportunity to uplift your husband with words of affirmation and kindness.

I wanted to add a few things about the forum.

  1. If you haven’t signed up, please click here and make your commitment. The sign-up process will take less than 5 minutes. You will need to wait for approval from me. This is to ensure security.
  2. The forum is perfectly secure. Only approved members and myself can see what you post and reply. Also all of the information the system will ask you to enter is private.
  3. When you are approved, you will see a Welcome board, Prayers & Praises board, General Discussion board, Prep Time board, Challenge board, Introductions board, and Post Challenge Discussion board.
    • The Welcome board lists a welcome and some of the technical details about the challenge.
    • The Prayers & Praises board allows you to list specific prayer requests and praises you might have. I’d highly encourage you to add what prayer requests you have for the challenge, and if you have done the challenge before, I would love to hear how God worked in your life and marriage through the challenge here.
    • The General Discussion board is for you to discuss anything not directly related to the 30 Dates in November Challenge or BHE.
    • If you haven’t already, read the Prep Time board as this will help you prepare for the upcoming challenge in T-4 days!
    • The Challenge board has been tweaked a bit. Inside you’ll find a description of this year’s challenge and a sub-board containing the daily challenges. On November 1st, you’ll need to click into the sub-board to find the first day’s challenge, and then so on for the following days.
    • Please pop over and introduce yourself on the Introductions board. Feel free to share as the Lord leads. I’ll write a general announcement/welcome on October 31st to all members. You can mention people on the board directly by using the @ symbol and their username. i.e. @admin (that’s me).
    • The Post-challenge discussion isn’t relevant yet since we haven’t started.

I hope this clears up some confusion about things on the forums.

I’m excited and looking forward to taking this challenge with you! May the Lord bless you with His goodness and grace!

:o) Adam’s Eve (Hannah)

Remember to Breathe (30 Dates in November 2016)

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have a problem. I pour myself a delicious cup of hot coffee straight out of the pot, fresh and just done. Then I carry this cup around half the morning, sometimes into the early afternoon. I set it down. I pick it back up again. It’s cold. So it’s off to the microwave I go to reheat it… about five or six times. It’s not really fresh anymore, but I’ve deluded myself into thinking it still tastes good because I’m busy and I don’t have time to notice the quality has slipped.

We live our lives in perpetual motion. We glorify busy. We feel the need to be busy for the sake of being busy. This November, I invite you to take a step back, slow down, and breathe.

That’s right. Breathe.

Right now.

Go ahead.

Take a deep breath in. And exhale.

Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.”

A life lived at 100 miles per hour isn’t really a life now is it?

You have been given a precious gift – the gift of life. A breath for every moment of the day.

I’m going to tell you a secret.

Sometimes I forget I’m breathing.

Well, of course, I’m breathing, because I wouldn’t be alive otherwise. That’s the beauty of God sustaining me. However, I get so busy that breathing becomes something I don’t pay any attention to – I take it for granted. What happens when we forget to breathe?

We confuse efficiency with fruitfulness. We use multitasking to get more done in the day. We think busyness is the mark of a successful woman, but it’s not.

You can’t live a microwaved life.

Don’t buy the lie. Don’t be sucked in by the endless to-do list and the multitude of things we must buy to make us happy and the ridiculous promise of more – more money, more time, more information, more stuff, more security, more love, and more power. Moving at top speed will not get you more. In fact, it’ll get you less… in terms of eternity, in terms of things that have value, in terms of things that matter most.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Replace the “they” with “you.” Insert your name here. Imagine Jesus is speaking directly to you. Read it again.

Don’t let busyness steal, kill, and destroy your spirit, your life, your breath. Lean into Jesus and accept the life He has for you, a life that is full and abundant and beautiful.

The 30 Dates in November Challenge isn’t about doing more. It isn’t about doing everything every day. It isn’t meant to be a burdensome task. I’ve bought that lie before. I’ve struggled and overwhelmed myself with the amount of content needed. I’ve struggled with keeping up with everything. This year, I want to do things differently.

The 30 Dates in November Challenge isn’t about “being busy.” It’s about finding rest, taking time for the things that matter most, spending time on things of value – your relationship with God and your marriage.

This November, I invite you to fall into a rhythm – a pendulum of work and rest.

Allow God to renew your spirit.

Allow God to restore your soul.

Press the pause button on busy.

Take a moment.

Breathe.


You can learn more about and sign up for the 30 Dates in November Challenge here.

I encourage you as you prep for the challenge take some moments of quiet each day to pray, meditate, and breathe. I’m sharing one of my favorite songs ‘Breathe’ for you to listen to and meditate upon as you quiet your heart. Listen to the words and allow God to speak His truth to you. Don’t pay attention to the pictures. Don’t read the words. Just close your eyes and listen.

 

 

 

5th Annual 30 Dates in November Challenge

5th-annual-bhe-challenge

I am pleased to announce the 5th annual 30 Dates in November Challenge! Are you ready?

This year’s theme is: Strategic Work and Strategic Rest.

This year’s theme passage is: Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

Each date (day) of the month is an opportunity to grow in your love for the Lord and your husband. My goal is to provide:

  • do-able daily projects for busy wives
  • a springboard for creatively and purposefully loving your man
  • daily Bible passage
  • extra encouraging content and additional resources via a private forum

Each day on the forums, there will be a new thread for participation corresponding to the day.

These threads will include…

  • additional content related to the blog post of the day
  • an opportunity to share something we are grateful for
  • discussion questions
  • the daily challenge

I highly encourage you to pray and read/meditate on the Bible verse of the day. Don’t feel that you need to read or do all the additional content. The purpose is to intentionally do something every single day to bless your husband.

Challenge projects will be available via private forum discussion only this year.

Only registered and approved members will be able to see the boards.

Last year, I did the challenge via Facebook, but this limited us to people who had Facebook accounts. I’ve previously done mass emails and then straight-up put the challenge on the blog.

This year, I want to make it comfortable, convenient, and safe for you to receive challenge content and participate in discussions, and anonymously if you wish, to allow for more open, honest discussion. This will also allow you to work and participate at your own pace. Also, I don’t have to resend challenge content. It will already be posted.

Make your commitment official.

Click here to read more and to sign-up.

Welcome to Life as a Woman

Photo Credit: stockimages from FreeDigitalImages.net

                                        Photo Credit: stockimages from FreeDigitalImages.net

I love autumn. It’s my favorite season, but it is also a season of change and growth and challenge for me. It’s a time of year when my anxiety and depression flare, and I feel stressed out for absolutely no good reason. In Colorado, sometimes it feels like we have an extra long summer and then skip right over fall and go straight into winter.

I need my fall, people!

I need the time to transition to the long winter ahead.

I need the time to slow down and reflect and get “me” time.

I need the time to appreciate the beauty of the world around me before it’s too cold to walk outside.

However, this autumn, I feel like I’m moving at breakneck speed, trying to keep up with graduate school, marriage, writing, friends, my new job, and life in general. I started out autumn with the best of intentions. I sat down to write content for my upcoming challenge, and nothing came. Well, snippets came. I have 7 books on my personal reading list and I haven’t started one of them (and 3 of them are due back to the library next week). I planned to have awesome autumn dates with my husband (and since he’s started a new project and I’ve started a new job, we haven’t had as much time for one another).

On Sunday, it all came to head when I broke down during an argument with my husband. I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed and I vented. I felt pathetic and worthless and unloved (all of which is untrue). It was cathartic to get it all out. It was cathartic to tell my husband how I was really feeling and to let the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. I was in line at Safeway that same afternoon and when the checkout lady asked how I was feeling and I responded “tired,” her response was “welcome to life as a woman in America.”

Really? 

Is that what it’s come to? 

I have to accept that I will be exhausted…

…stretched to the limit…

rushing 16 hours a day…

stressed out and overwhelmed…

… with no end in sight? 

I don’t want to be that kind-of woman!

I have to be the ultimate career woman…

…the sexiest wife,

…raise wonderful little ones, 

…hang out with friends,

…be cultured and educated and well-traveled,

…make a mean casserole,

…be a super volunteer and serve in church ministry,

…write a fantastic blog,

…and still have time for myself? 

There’s no way I can keep up with that! It’s impossible!

I don’t want that kind-of life.

I need my rest. I need my sleep. I need my slower speeds. I need my de-stress techniques. I need my support from my husband and my family and my friends. I need my down-time. I need my relaxation. I need my Sabbath.

Ladies, don’t buy into the myth that you MUST live your life “tired.” 

We’re going through a sermon series at church about “messy spirituality.” Two weeks ago, I was incredibly blessed when my pastor spoke about the pendulum between work and rest. This is how God designed life for us.

We live in a world that has been warped and broken by sin. We live in a world that swings between chaos and laziness. This is out of whack. No wonder we’re exhausted. It’s okay to busy. It’s okay to rest. It’s not okay to live at either extreme.

When you live your life in the pendulum between strategic work and rest, your life becomes about worship, not worries or wastefulness.

Ecclesiastes 3 talks about “a time” and “a season” for everything. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 is one of my favorite Bible verses, and I literally have to come back and remind myself of the truth of these words over and over again.

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

When you live in the balance and the rhythm, you can live as a whole woman God created you to be instead of fragmented into the endless to-do-list of your life.

Share with Us: What parts of your life are fragmented right now? What are some of the ways you find a healthy rhythm in your life? 

5th-annual-bhe-challenge

30 Dates in November – This November, join me on my 5th annual 30 Dates in November challenge! This year’s theme is “Strategic Work. Strategic Rest” and our theme passage will be Ecclesiastes 3. We will be focusing on cultivating a heart of gratitude in our marriages and lives and stepping into the rhythms God intends for us as women. Sign-ups begin November 15th.

I Am Still Here

I am still here.

I promise.

Busyness is the reason, but not an excuse. Between graduate school, adjusting to my new part-time job, continued job hunting, creative writing, friends, vacations, and family, August and September got away from me. I would love to ask for prayer as I prep for another busy season of my life, including the upcoming blog challenge, and also my continued schooling/work/job hunt.

A few quick updates:

  • I will be continuing my Tips for Dry Spell series in December and January.
  • I will be doing 30 Dates in November a little differently this year. I plan to release more details soon, but my theme is inspired by the Positivity and Thanksgiving challenges going around social media.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Blessings,

:o) Hannah

Talk, Don’t Assume

Photo Credit: Ambro from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Credit: Ambro from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Assumptions got me into trouble early in my marriage. They still do, except they happen less frequently now. I remember, on more than one occasion in the first few months of our marriage, thinking that because my husband spent time doing things independently, he didn’t care about me or want to spend time with me. Because of my assumption, I stopped initiating and I stopped telling him what I needed and wanted.

Some of this was our adjustment to marriage and learning how to manage our time and hobbies and also learning to appreciate and understand our personalities. After many, many conversations, I asked my husband to show me why he loved certain hobbies, and I know I can just ask my husband when I need and want his attention.

It sounds silly. I could’ve just said something and I would’ve had what I needed, but instead, I allowed myself to wallow in my self-pity and self-deception and kept on assuming. It took me awhile to understand that assumptions are disrespectful and detrimental and counterproductive.

Making Assumptions 

Let’s first look at the definition of assume. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines assume as “to think something is true or probably true without knowing it is true.”

Immediately, I see two problems here.

Assuming is just laziness. When you assume, you aren’t taking the time to really know the truth, to seek answers, and you can easily brush aside the idea of “fixing” a problem, or not even realize there is a problem. In the context of the article, when you assume your partner isn’t interested in sex, you take a backseat to your marriage by passively allowing a concern to persist. This is a slippery slope to denial.

Assuming can build resentment. When you assume, you aren’t giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt. You aren’t allowing your spouse to defend him/herself. You let a supposed truth become “the” truth. This is dangerous because you might just follow the slippery slope to making a problem bigger than it is. When you do that, you might just start building up resentment in your heart.

In both of these circumstances, you are robbing your spouse of an opportunity to connect with you and for you to connect with your spouse. There are no simple solutions, and I don’t think the article is stating this, but I do think there is some nuggets of truth in here. Jumping to conclusions without consulting your spouse is dangerous because you begin to fashion in your mind a not-so-accurate picture of your spouse.

The second and greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 6:31 reminds us to treat others as we would like to be treated. You would want the opportunity to be loved and heard and respected. You would want your spouse to listen to you and talk to you and avoid assumptions about you. You should desire to do the same for your spouse.

Suggestions

I have 3 suggestions. These are not, by any means, an end-all, be-all solution to all your problems during a sexless period in your marriage. I am not a licensed therapist or counselor. I am not a pastor. I do not have professional experience. However, these are the things I have found to be proven true, helpful, and solid during dry spells in my sexual intimacy with my husband.

First, talk to God. Take your concerns to the Lord first. Pour out your heart before Him. Ask Him for a gentle heart when speaking to your spouse. Ask Him for peace and protection over your conversations and your marriage bed. Ask Him for humility and a willingness to listen. Ask Him to help you both through any hurts, doubts, or barriers that may be prohibiting you from being intimate with one another. Ask God to give your spouse an open, willing heart and ears to listen. Ask God to show you an appropriate time to speak with your spouse. Ask Him for the courage to be honest, yet respectful with your spouse. Ask God to help you cast aside any assumptions and listen for and to know the truth.

Second, talk to God with your spouse. Pray together before you talk about difficult subjects. Ask the Lord for His protection and to surround you both with His holy army of angels. Ask Him to place a wall of protection around your hearts, minds, spirits, and bodies – to keep any forces of evil and distractions out. Ask Him to place a wall of protection around your marriage bed, your bedroom, and your house. Don’t be afraid to be very specific with your requests. God wants to hear everything. It’s not like God doesn’t already know, but this act of praying is powerful, and prayer demonstrates you are actively participating in communion with God and you seek Him with humble hearts. Ask God to cast out any spirit of laziness or denial within you both, to cast aside any assumptions, and to give you a naked vulnerability with one another spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Third, talk to your spouse. Let your spouse know how you are feeling. Be honest and vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to talk about pain and frustrations, but be sure to keep the focus on your feelings and experiences and less on your spouse’s failure to initiate or have sex. Try not to talk too long so your spouse has time to process and respond.

Ask your spouse to explain what is hindering you two from sharing in intimacy. If they don’t know, pray about it or give them time to think it over and agree to come back and speak about it later. Ask your spouse if there’s anything you are doing or not doing that isn’t helping the situation. Try not to be defensive here, but listen respectfully.

When it’s your turn to speak again, briefly recap what he/she said to make sure you understand and ask for clarification where you don’t. Spend time brainstorming together about solutions to your struggles (and this can be done separately after the conversation also). Schedule a time to come back together to check in and talk more.

James 1:19-20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  

Give your spouse the opportunity to talk and explain. Genuinely listen. Try to avoid defensiveness, but instead take a moment to breathe and think about your words if you’re feeling attacked or you are misunderstanding. Be slow to become angry – and don’t become angry based on assumptions. Why do all this? Because God desires righteousness from you. Ultimately, the purpose of marriage is to become holy and united, not to be happy and problem-free. Work through the pain and the struggles and open up your hearts to one another to talk, not assume.

Final Thoughts 

Be hopeful and humble. While you have conversations, try for physical contact like holding hands or hugging while praying. Recognize this may not be fixed in one conversation session. It may take many, many more. If the conversations appear not to be helping after a certain amount of time (and there’s no right or wrong amount here… this is really just personal preference and after asking God for discernment), you may need to consider speaking with a physician or seek counseling together.

Author’s Note: This is Post 1 in Tips for the Dry Spell Series. It’s been a few weeks since I addressed the issue of dissent and a particular article about sex on my social media and the blog. I thank you for your patience as I’m in a busy season of my life. 

3 Sweet Foodie Dates

Who doesn’t enjoy sweet treats and dates that don’t break the bank? We’re always looking for inexpensive date night ideas. Today I bring you 3 sweet date night ideas.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Gather your favorite ice cream toppings – i.e. whipped cream, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, Oreo bits, brownie bites, gummy bears, hot fudge, coconut flakes, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, strawberry syrup, nuts, sprinkles, m&m’s, honey, cherries, berries, bananas, dark chocolate shavings, etc. Pick up your favorite ice cream (personally I like vanilla if I’m adding a lot of toppings). Set out two dishes and two spoons. Take turns feeding each other scoops of sweet goodness. :o)

National Lollipop Day

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pick up a lollipop bouquet or make your own with a bag of lollipops and a pretty ribbon (in your spouse’s favorite color). Attach a little note “My heart goes lolli-pop for you!” or “How sweet it is to be loved by you!” Top off the sweetness with a big kiss! :o)

Fortune Cookie Day

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pick up a package of fortune cookies. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own with the recipe here. Take turns reading the fortunes or write your own including sexy and sweet thoughts for your spouse, words of encouragement, or Bible verses. Include a note saying “I’m so fortunate to have you in my life.” :0)

Utilizing Discernment with Secular Tools

Last Monday, I shared thoughts on the benefits and disadvantages of utilizing secular content as a tool for improving your marriage. Today I want to discuss using discernment.

I don’t want to give you a checklist to approaching secular content because I don’t want to counter the point I have already made. However, I am a kinesthetic learner and for those of you who don’t know what that means, it means I learn by doing. I like to have practical steps to try in order to live out what I am learning.

This goes back to what I said earlier – “walk in the way of love.” Walking is active. Faith is active. I hope that you don’t just hear my words and dismiss them, but that is a personal choice. It is my hope that you hear God’s Words and His truth spoken into your life and that God was able to utilize me as His servant in the process. To walk in the way, to live out your faith, to live out what you are learning, requires active participation.

So without further adieu or caveats, I leave you with a few humble suggestions to navigate secular content (and even Christian content, as everything should be filtered through prayer, Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit).

Begin with a heart of respectfulness and harmony. 

  • Make the time to pray (seek God’s truth together).
  • Make the time to discuss (invite each other into respectful conversation and share your concerns, frustrations, needs, and desires in a loving way).
  • Make the time to plan (figure out appropriate and beneficial action steps for overcoming the problems).

When you begin with a heart of respectfulness and a desire for harmony and unity, you will be better able to achieve your purposes and goals. These three steps are also a good way (though by no means is it the only way) to clarify your intentions and expectations when you start and to set the tone for your conversations and actions.

Decide what your purpose and end goal is. 

In the context of the article, if you and your spouse are experiencing a dry period in your marriage bed, together, you might decide your end goal is to overcome the dry period and to rejuvenate your sexual intimacy. If it helps, write this goal down as you pray and look for resources. The purpose is a bit more specific to guide you through the process. You might decide your purpose is to grow closer to one another, to honor one another and God through your goals and action steps toward your end goal.

Decide what tools you will utilize. 

As stated above, there are some benefits to utilize secular tools as long as you view these tools through discerning eyes and prayer. Allow prayer, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit to guide you in finding resources (i.e. Internet research, reading an article or blog post, seeking counsel with a physician, pastor, or counselor, finding a book, etc) to aid you in your process.

Humbly remember your source of strength is Christ. 

Read an article, book, blog post, etc through the eyes of faith. Listen to counsel and advice through the ears of discretion. Ask God to give you discernment and wisdom as you make decisions and create action steps based on something you have learned. Ask Him to give you the strength and to help you recognize you cannot fix problems or overcome brokenness on your own.

Recognize there may be value even in earthly things. 

I often find well-intended, positive secular content helps to get me thinking about things in a new way. Perhaps I am not experiencing the same problem as the content suggests and I might not use the same tools or steps to work through the problem, but the content might open my eyes to something I have not otherwise seen or recognized. Ask God to show you what nuggets of truth He might have for you through an article, secular or Christian.

Acknowledge the root of the problem. 

Ask God to reveal the root of the problem rather than just the symptoms.

For example, a couple might be having a dry spell in their marriage. He might be working longer hours than normal and she might be busy with church and social activities and they are both “too tired” when they get home at night. Perhaps one of them had a sinus cold recently.

The root of the problem isn’t the longer hours or the activities or the sinus cold. Those are surface problems. The secondary level of problems is prioritizing or things outside your control. The root of the problem is selfishness. While that may sound harsh, “too tired” and “too busy” shouldn’t be an excuse. Personally, I don’t want to be “so selfish” that I use “too busy” and “too tired” as excuses all the time because I don’t want to make the effort to make love and show love to my husband.

Perhaps the couple needs to examine what in their lives is necessary and what can be let go in order to make more time for sexual intimacy. Perhaps the couple needs to re-frame their concept of sex and stop limiting themselves to the act of intercourse itself. Perhaps the couple needs to start thinking creatively about their time to include opportunities for intimacy more regularly.

There are many possible solutions to the problem and I only named a few, but the point is – ask God to help you see the truth of the matter – to acknowledge the root issues – because without acknowledgement and understanding of the root issues, you can’t make any progress and you only slap a bandaid on the problem, or worse, ignore a deeper issue.

Take the focus of “me” and put the focus on “us.” 

Remember you and your spouse are a team. Self-help and self-guide and self-evaluation and self-reflection may all have good intentions, but in order to fix a problem in your marriage, you need to focus first on God and what He’s saying and then on the “us” – you and your spouse.

Don’t misunderstand me – take the time to reflect and evaluate in your personal quiet time. Spend time in prayer alone, praying for your spouse, your marriage, and your marriage bed. Take the time to search Scriptures and find the truths God is speaking directly to your heart. Confess sins that are causing you to stumble in your marriage.

However, don’t get caught up in the worldly lie that YOU can fix your marriage problems if only YOU try harder, do better, or follow the guidelines illustrated in an article, book, seminar, blog post, etc. News flash! YOU can’t fix your problems alone. YOU can’t fix your spouse’s problems alone. YOU BOTH cannot fix your marriage problems alone.

YOU CAN, however, recognize you and your spouse are partners in this life in the context of God’s grace, love, and redemptive purposes. Fixing the problem is not a one-way street. It’s a three-way street – or better description – problem-solving requires the Cross of Jesus Christ – up, in, and out.

  • an upward focus on God (acknowledging His strength, truth, and purposes),
  • an inward focus (asking God to cleanse your heart from sin),
  • and an outward focus (inviting your spouse into the creative problem-solving process and ultimately modeling Christlike love in your marriage to the world around you).

Benefits and Disadvantages of Utilizing Secular Tools

On Friday, I mentioned the article I shared on BHE’s Facebook page that received a bit of feedback and flak alike. I felt like I should and could better address some of the concerns raised via the blog rather than a lengthy social media post. You may read Monday’s post here.

I wanted to first discuss the benefits and disadvantages to utilizing secular tools before I address specific points from the article itself.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Utilizing Secular Tools 

What is a Tool? 

Let me first define tool – Dictionary.com defines tool as “anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or a purpose.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online defines tool as “a means to an end.”

With any tool, you should first approach and ask what your end goal or purpose is. Then you can ask if the particular tool is useful and helpful for reaching your goal or purpose.

A tool is not… a mandatory means to an end or the end or purpose itself. It is merely a handy device or something to be utilized in achieving your goal/purpose.

Certain tools are not for everyone. I don’t think any author, myself included, when they set about writing advice, intends their advice, their method, their way, or their tool(s) to be the only way to accomplish a task, reach a goal, or fulfill a purpose. Most often, advice-style counsel (in the form of a blog post, article, book, workshop, or session) is merely an offering of tools, an exchange of ideas, a conversation piece to help the average person, and therefore is not intended to be specifically applicable to everyone’s life in every time, way, and place.

Benefits of Utilizing Secular Materials

There are good intentions.

I personally will not share something I believe deliberately and willfully promotes an ungodly lifestyle or actions. However, I might share something that I don’t wholeheartedly agree with at times because it is the author’s intent to promote positive, healthy relationships and to encourage growth and the overcoming of obstacles. The author intends good to come from reading the article. In this particular article, I believe the author was hoping to help couples achieve better intimacy, which is not a goal limited to a Christian audience.

There are useful principles, even in secular material and advice. 

The content might introduce a new angle or way of thinking about things or considering things that you may not have previously considered. God may or may not choose to speak to you directly or indirectly through the articles I share, but I do not doubt God can use worldly advice and secular content or tools to reveal truths about Himself, His purposes, you, and your marriage. The articles and content are a “means” to an “end,” but they are not the only means nor are they the end themselves. They are a tool, but there are other tools in the toolbox that may be better for achieving the end. That doesn’t mean we should never utilize certain tools.

The Internet, for example, is a secular tool for all intents and purposes. Many evil things can happen on and through and over this tool called the Internet. And yet, many good, godly things can happen over the Internet. As Christians, we can utilize the Internet to share the gospel, promote God’s truth, edify believers, give testimony to the power of God in their lives, pray for one another, read Scriptures, and serve God. This blog is an example. My social media sites are an example. My emails are an example. I can connect with people I couldn’t otherwise connect with, and reach farther than I am physically capable to at this time because of this tool called the World Wide Web. Is this the only means of connection? Absolutely not. I could continue my BHE ministry offline, but for now, I utilize the tool called the Internet.

I am not trying to compare my blog ministry to the article I shared, but I am trying to illustrate how we, as Christians, can utilize secular tools for godly purposes. A secular tool that causes us to think critically, examine our motives, intentions, and actions, and that promotes positive solutions to problems can be useful.

Disadvantages of Utilizing Secular Material 

Not everything is beneficial. 

By its very nature, secular articles and content tends to be human-centric. The problem is that you can’t fix things on your own merit, strength, or willpower. There is no self-help article or book or material that can magically fix and solve all your problems. There is no magic formula or step-by-step guide to achieving fantastic marital intimacy.

That’s why I think the title of the particular article I shared could be better called “7 Suggestions for Helping Married Couples Through a Dry Period in Sexual Intimacy.” Okay, perhaps it needs a better title since that is rather long, but my point stands.

These are merely suggestions because ultimately that’s all they are. They are not the end all, be all solution to every problem regarding intimacy in marriage.

The word “save” in the the original title is misleading (and therefore not beneficial)  because it implies solid solution and definite rescue from the “dry spell.” You are already “saved,” but through the blood of Jesus Christ, not an article, book, or blog post. You need to depend on Christ to empower you and strengthen you and your spouse to work through a dry spell, a problem in your marriage, or an area of struggle in your life.

You avoid the root of the problem. 

Step-by-step guides are helpful to a point, but they don’t address the root of the problem – sin. While you are “Saved” through Christ Jesus, you still live within a sinful, broken world. It is important to remember that while this is no longer your identity – sinful and broken – you are still impacted by the brokenness and the sin in the world around you and you are still apart of the brokenness and the sin.

If you assume or think or try to solve every problem through a list of things you ought to do, you are taking matters into our own hands and assuming control of the situation.

When you ignore the root of the problem or condition of your life, faith walk, marriage, and subsequently, sexual intimacy with your spouse, you will never see the brokenness for what it truly is, and if you refuse to see the true condition, you cannot fix things and things will never get better.

Acknowledging the root of the problem requires you to be in a place that starts with you recognizing the problem for what is is and seeking God’s guidance, strength, and purposes for renewal, hope, and restoration. In other words, you need to see things the way God sees things in order for there to be change.

You place the emphasis on self. 

Most of the time, secular content focuses on helping you as it should. However, there is a danger in only focusing on self. While the article I shared did mention talking with your partner, the overall tone was directed to an individual, not a partnership. There is an inherent danger with focusing on yourself and forgetting the other in the relationship.

Marriage is a partnership, a weaving together of two lives, two hearts, two bodies, two minds, and two spirits. A husband and wife are intertwined quite literally. God created Adam, and then He created Eve from Adam’s rib. Eve was created as Adam’s ezer kenegdo – “his sustainer beside him.” God designed Adam and Eve (husbands and wives) to be of one flesh. Sexual intimacy is a crucial, critical part of marriage, designed for pleasure, comfort, and satisfaction.

However, Scriptures don’t stop there. 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 tells us that our bodies are not our own. The husband should “fulfill his martial duty to his wife” and he “does not have authority over his body but yields it to his wife.” Similarly, the wife should “fulfill her marital duty to her husband” and “she does not have authority over her body but yields it to her husband.” Sex is ultimately about fulfilling and satisfying your spouse. Therefore, you cannot solve the problems of your marriage or your sexual intimacy merely by reading one article and following a list.

Over and over again in Scriptures, God talks about putting others above yourself. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sex or that you shouldn’t experience pleasure or if something is painful or uncomfortable you shouldn’t stop. I never, ever want to encourage anyone to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable and this is a conversation that should happen between you and your spouse.

However, the danger of following the “steps” of an article, book, or some other form of content is to get too focused on self to the point where you won’t even try, you won’t talk about it, or you can only think about your pleasure, desires, and needs. You need to think about your partner’s pleasure, desires, and needs also.

Ephesians 5 tells us to “walk in the way of love just as Christ loved us” (vs. 2). Loving as Christ is sacrificial in nature. This again doesn’t mean you can’t ever feel pleasure or have your physical needs met, but it does mean you should consciously make an effort to please your spouse and ask God to root out any selfishness or sin that may be hindering you from loving your spouse fully and completely.

 

On Dissent

Earlier this week I shared an article over on BHE’s Facebook feed from the Huffington Post written by a secular author. The sharing of this article generated a bit of heat both on my Facebook and my email. I feel I can better address comments and concerns on the blog rather than social media.

I have three points I’d like to make before discussing the benefits and disadvantages of utilizing secular tools, using discernment, and addressing the points the author makes in the article.

  • First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who engaged in conversation with me. I don’t want to shy away from having a respectful, intelligent discussion, even with dissenting opinions. I do not expect everyone to agree with me, or with the author’s viewpoints. I, myself, do not agree with every point the author shared.
  • Secondly, I want to reemphasize my last point there by saying that the articles and content I share and link to are not a direct endorsement. I share articles and links as a tool to be utilized by you to get you thinking, to start a conversation with your spouse, to encourage respectful dialogue among blog readers, and to promote growth.
  • Finally, I want to add that while I am okay with dissenting opinions, I will not tolerate blatant personal attacks of myself, my husband, my marriage, the blog, or any of my other readers. If you disagree with someone and cannot say anything respectful and edifying, please refrain from sharing these comments. I wholeheartedly want to encourage dialogue, but I want to emphasize personal attacks, passing judgment and assumptions, rude or unkind comments, or name-calling are uncalled for, unjust, and simply will not be permitted on the blog, my social media sites, or my email. If you have any further questions, please refer to my policies, email policies, and social media policies.

Upcoming Posts 

  • Benefits and Disadvantages of Utilizing Secular Tools,
  • Utilizing Discernment with Secular Tools
  • I will address specific points from the article I shared regarding intimacy issues and possible solutions through a Biblical perspective.
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