Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Thirty One: If There Was One Thing to Take Away From This Month...

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey and sticking with me!!!
If there was one thing I'd hope you would take away from this month, it's to lean on God and make Him the most important thing in your marriage. God has the power to heal all wounds, right all wrongs, correct all paths, change hearts, alter the course of relationships, and allow forgiveness. In fact, He is the only one who has that power, no matter how smart and educated we think we all are. Lean on Him and you can never go wrong.
I am praying for you!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Thirty: The Importance of an Individual Walk with God

Something that simply can't be overlooked is having your own identity and having your own walk with the Lord. Just because you are married doesn't mean you have to share everything with your spouse, as in, you need to do everything as a married couple. You are on your own journey and need to have your own personal conversations and studies with God. You need to be able to pray for things that sometimes just need to be prayed for individually. God can teach you things about your own personality on your own and help mature you in His ways and doing these things by yourself can work wonders in your own life.
Joining a ladies' or mens Bible study can incredibly beneficial. It allows you to therapeutically work through sex-specific concerns with other members of your own sex. Retreats are another great way. I encourage everyone to have a life of their own, in addition to having a life with your spouse.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty Nine: The Beautiful Art of Sacrifice

Sacrifice for another person is a lost art. Most people just aren't willing to do much sacrificing. "It's my way or the highway!!"
Sacrificing your belief in God or your morality isn't what I am talking about, here. I am talking about now having to always have things your own way. And it's not needing your needs met on a 24 hour a day basis. Sometimes, you have to meet someone else's needs, despite not meeting your own.
Perhaps it's giving a back rub that really don't want to give because your spouse has had a stressful day. Maybe it's giving up your savings for a new purse so your spouse can have that new golf club he wanted. Or, allowing your spouse to sleep in, even though you are tired as a dog, to make them happy.
Sacrificing your own needs for your spouses, and not for the idea that they will return the favor, can be very freeing. These small acts, listed above, can mean the world to your spouse and can heal a lot of hurts. Try sacrificing for a month. Maybe, try every day to sacrifice in a small way and see how well it's noticed.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty Eight: When Both People Don't Agree on the Direction of Your Life Together

I personally believe this is something that happens more commonly in marriages than anyone ever talks about. People have this idea that once you get married, you will always make decisions that are in tune and align with the other person's decisions. You will both always be on the same wavelength and have the same dreams and ambitions.
Well, this just isn't the case. Let's pop that bubble now, shall we?
We are all on a journey. Some of us are on a journey as individuals and as a married couple, so it can be difficult to always be headed in the same direction. Selling a life-long family home and traveling the country, quitting a job to start a new business venture, having kids now or later, living in Texas or another state, these are all times when dreams and ambitions clash with the demands of family life.
At one time or another, you will probably be asked to put a goal on hold to be supportive of your spouse's journey. And guess what - that is OK. God takes us down paths that we might not choose for ourselves but that end up being true blessings we wouldn't have had otherwise. I am not saying your marriage should be a constant sacrifice. What I am saying is that from time to time, you might have to veer off in a new direction and it doesn't mean you two have to part ways. It just means that compromise and prayer might be something you have to do for a little while and trusting God to show you the way.
If you appreciate that your marriage is on a journey too, and it might not always be going in the direction you'd like for it to go, you might find the "veering" to be an exciting way to see what God has in your store for your lives together.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty Seven: Dealing With the Issue of Trust

Trust is a very important part of a relationship, I don't think any would argue that fact. When that trust is broken, it is hard to get it back.
Broken trust is something I think almost everyone goes through at one time in their marriage. It doesn't always have to be in the way of infidelity - it can be one spouse sharing confidential information with someone else, spending money without the other knowing, or keeping things secret that shouldn't be a secret. When your spouse violates your trust, how do you deal with it?
I know we'd like for our spouses to be perfect and never do anything wrong, but the fact is that is just not true. People are going to make mistakes from time to time. Sometimes, letting it go is the best way of dealing with it. However, sometimes letting it go just isn't an option. If your spouse is violating trust by keeping secrets or spending money you don't know about, it might be the symptom of a larger issue or addiction and needs to be addressed by a professional. Depending on the situation, knowing that these are one of those times, during our marriage vows, that says, "for better or for worse." Addressing the situation and discussing it needs to happen, no matter how uncomfortable or hurtful the situation might be. Once the truth is "set free," true healing can begin.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty Six: When Past Problems Are Too Prevalent

There are things we do to each other in a marriage that are devastating. Infidelity, secrets and lies, abuse. Coming out on top after situations like these is incredibly challenging. It takes two people who are very committed to making things work, who've prayed about it and asked God for continued support, and above all else, are willing to let the past go to move on to the future.
All too often, we can really hold on to hurt and allow it to consume our lives. For some, it's challenging but not impossible to let the hurt go, but for the majority, the hurt lingers for months and even years.
If there are still unresolved circumstances in your marriage, the past can never be let go. Consider joining a marriage healing group or attending a marriage conference to learn new ways of replacing the hurt with joy. In fact, that is probably one of the best things you can do. Knowing that you are not alone in your hurt and other people are in your same situation can be cathardic in its' own right. More so than anything, if you keep trying to "fix" the problem on your own without the right tools, you could still be taking damaging action that can hinder your progress in the right direction.
There are some circumstances in the Bible where divorce is an option, I will let you research that yourself, because I think it should be the ultimate last resort. However, if you are continually being abused or if your spouse is continuing to engage in intimate relationships with other people, these are things that might not be able to be fixed. But if you are both committed, you can get over these things with the help of God and other supporters in your life. Take heart, the past doesn't have to continue on in your future. Not only that, God uses our past to help others with their futures. You never know when God might call you to say, write a marriage Bible study someday or speak and counsel to other married couples because you've been able to overcome the past together.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty Five: Discussing Your Problems and Discerning Feedback From Others

If there is one thing that can speed-up the end of a marriage, it's endless discussion of your problems with others and taking the wrong advice.
One thing you should never (and I am using the word "never") do is gripe about your spouse publically, berate them, make fun of them, be condescending about them, or belittle them on any public forum, including Facebook, church, or in social circles. You are supposed to be a team, not one against the other, and in this instance, do unto your spouse as you would have them do unto you. First of all, it makes other people really uncomfortable because they don't really know what to say. Secondly, there are few ways to come back from that in a marriage.
If you are frustrated in your marriage and don't really know what to do about it, there are many ways to get help. Have you talked about it with your spouse and vocalized your concerns in a non-confrontational way? If so, and you can't seem to solve the problem, a professional counselor or pastor could certainly help. If you are going to turn to friends for help, you must really keep in mind who you are asking advice from. Are these people from broken marriages, too? Are they giving you non-Biblical advice, such as acting in retaliation for wrongs or to commit infidelity? Are they telling you not to "back down?" Are they trying to convince you to treat your spouse in ways you wouldn't feel comfortable with your spouse treating you?
If so, you probably need to stop talking with them about your marriage. God can't work in an environment like that and you are not doing anything for yourself or your marriage except venting and focusing on the negative to other people. I really think before talking about problems in your marriage to friends or family, you have to remember that when this "problem" blows over, they will still remember what you've said. When you two are in a better place, it could make it really hard for your friends and family to continue to accept your spouse. Don't lie about your marriage and hide the truth, but discuss it with a trained person who can really help get you through the tough times and keep your problems confidential.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty Four: Not Letting Disagreements Steer Your Off-Course

Part of any marriage is disagreements. You spend too much of your time with your spouse, the idea of getting along about every little thing every minute of every day for the next 40 - 50 years is just plain silly. I have always said that you'd have arguments and disagreements with anyone you spent that much time with for that long.
Expecting conflict is setting the expectation that life won't be constantly rosy, which I think is a good expectation to have. I don't think expecting marriage to be constantly hard is good either, because it shouldn't be hard all of the time. But disagreements are going to pop up from time to time. All too often, these disagreements are really not very important and the subjects on which the disagreements are built are sometimes silly, but can be turned into much larger issues if they are allowed to.
If you are arguing every day and unable to come up with any type of resolution as a couple, it is probably best to talk with a professional who can help mediate and teach you better ways to resolve your conflict. However, if disagreements are not relationship threatening but have gone off course from time to time, take heart, this can be fixed.
My husband and I hardly ever "fight," but we do have conflicts and disagreements, probably more often than we realize. My husband does a really good job of holding his tongue on things, which probably helps our arguments not spiral out of control. I have learned to not always say every little thing I am thinking and to not allow our arguments to fester and stick around. We argue, we resolve, we move on. Some conflicts might be ongoing and might never fully be resolved and some are just one time occurances. The issues that are ongoing conflicts in marriage are the ones that are the hardest to get over because you know this probably won't be the last time this subject will be brought up. Here are some phrases we have learned to stay away from:
1) You "Always" or you "never" - Using indefinite phrases like that are often on exaggeration and used out of context. Your spouse doesn't "always" or "never," the word you are looking for is sometimes. These are words that we try to stay away from as it implies things it shouldn't.
2) Hitting below the belt - We all say things we don't mean. Unfortunately, words don't go away. Everyone knows their limits in a relationship, whether they've ever been told what they are or not. If you are using words that are designed to hurt and not to resolve the conflict at hand, then you are using the wrong words.
3) Endless repetition of a point - my husband hates that I keep on and on when I've made my point 15 minutes ago. It is so easy to get caught up and never letting a topic go that it has the counter-effect. Not only is it annoying, but it's ineffective.
4) Bringing up past arguments - Yes, we know there is probably a pattern in behavior, but is it necessary to recount each and every instance? Keep things in the present and instead of recounting the incident, talk about feelings or how you might act the next time something like this comes up.
5) Expecting a long-term resolution to occur during an argument - fighting hardly ever leads to a resolution on anything. If the fight is about dirty dishes always being left around the house, then fighting about it isn't going to fix the problem right then. But, the fight about dishes can turn into who-knows-what else. State your peace quickly then give each other time to calm down, maybe watch TV in another room. I often watch a comedy show or something silly to remember that this really just is a fight about dishes, not about the end of our marriage. It just gives me a little perspective.
6) Be ready to apologize, even if it's not right now - If you know you've taken the fight one step too far, you need to learn to say your are sorry. I often can't apologize right that moment when I am upset, but give me 30 minutes and a bit of cool down time, and I am ready to say those words, and say them when I really mean them, not just to be "nice" or "make peace."
Disagreements are going to happen but you need to learn to control them so they don't overtake your marriage. Promise each other that you can argue, resolve, and then let it go. And really do let it go. You can see that disagreements don't have to be that thing that comes between you.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty Three: Picking Priorities and Keeping Them

Priorities are tough because our priorities seem to change with every passing day. there are some priorities that we set for our time and then priorities we set as examples for our children. Being intentional means setting priorities and keeping them, no matter what happens during our days. It can be challenging, but worth it.
Our first priority in our marriage should be finding time for God. How much time is up to you and God, but at least once a day, time needs to be set aside. Our second priority in our marriage should be our spouse. Whether or not we want to admit it, our spouse is who we've chosen to spend our life with, they need to be the most important person, aside from God. Our third priority are our children. It's tempted to make them #1, but we shouldn't.
After that, our priorities need to be decided between to the two people in our marriage. Questions like: Will we be a two-parent-working home or will one of us stay home? How many activities should each child get involved in? How many activities should we individually be involved in and how much time should we spend in those hobbies? How much time will we spend in service to the church? How will we spend our money each month? These are all ongoing concerns that take money, time and energy away from our families that should be discussed and considered. Both spouses should have equal input on the priorities and their positions should be considered very carefully. After a decision has been made, it's important to stand by that choice and live life according to the priorities we set and not sway. If a priority decision isn't working, alter it to work.
Living lives by the decisions we make is incredibly important because it forces us to be intentional, which in turn, allows us to be fruitful.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty Two: Setting a Loving Example for Your Kids

Something we don't think much about is that while we are busy arguing and not hugging and kissing each other in a marriage, we are showing our children what a marriage is supposed to look like. Modeling a marriage is incredibly important and how you need to do that is something you and your spouse have to be on the same page about.
When my husband and I got engaged, we started talking a lot about this. We knew that we wanted our kids to hear us argue, but also resolve it in front of them. We wanted to hug and hold hands in front of them so they can see good examples of affection. We wanted to talk about finances in front of them (to some extent) so as to not set unreasonable expectations and to know there are limits on things. We wanted to pray together so they could see how it should be. We wanted to volunteer and serve together to set the example for what they should do. We wanted to show them the important things rather than the material things that just don't matter. We are not always great at these things, but we try.
Just remembering that little eyes and ears are on you can help keep ourselves accountable to the things we do and say to each other. You have to strive and show your kids what a loving and Godly marriage should look like, even though it's not always easy at times.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty One: How Not to Let Kids Run Your Lives

We are in a season now with constant activity. I hate it, personally. I love kids getting to participate, but I hate promising my Saturdays away to soccer or girl scouts or birthday parties. I am also in a season where it feels like my kids are getting all of our hard earned money. (Yes, we are going in to the Christmas season, so that might have something to do with it.)
So, the ways our kids run our lives are by time and finances. How to do you not let that happen? It's tricky and it requires you to maybe feel a little selfish sometimes. If you are like me, you are OK with walking around with holes in your shoes so your kids can have seven pairs at once. You will spend $50 at Chuck E Cheese but not spend $50 on a sitter and a good movie. You will buy the kids 10 presents each for Christmas and give each other things items you need for the house, like a toaster so you can "kill two birds with one stone". I am guilty of it as much as anyone. At some point, you have to draw the line.
I have been known to skip a soccer game so the two of us can sleep in. I have been know to rearrange the finances so we can go out on a date. I have been known to not put the kids in a multitude of activities so our lives can be a little more free. You have to do this, otherwise, the kids are the boss of all things, and I just don't want that to happen. We all only have so much money and time - for 18 years (and after) my kids are not going to get it all. We are all so willing to sacrifice for 18 years for our kids - but guess what. 18 years is a fifth of our OWN lives. It's OK if every once in a while, you use your time and money for yourself instead of for them. Not all the time, but once in a while.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty: Having a Fruitful Marriage in the Busy-ness of Being a Parent

Kids take a lot of time and energy, don't they? If we aren't careful they can overtake our entire lives. I do think that's what they are supposed to do, but it doesn't mean they are more important than our marriages. Sometimes, they are. But not all the time.
Just for starters, to get this out of the way, I personally don't ever feel like it's one person's sole responsibility to raise the kids, even if that person is a stay at home mom/dad. When both parents are home, they are both responsible for the day to day stuff, like getting kids fed and bathed. And I don't think that just because one parent doesn't work outside of the home means that 24 hours a day, their lives should be dedicated to the job of raising kids. That's just my perspective. For one thing, it's ridiculous. For another thing, that person deserves to have 1) A life outside of the home from time to time, with other friends, and 2) They deserve to have a life where their spouse makes them feel like more than just a parent.
All marriages need to have their own identity, where they are not "the mom and dad of..." but they are "Jason and Jenna." All marriages deserve time without kids. It's worth the money you'd spend on a babysitter. Or even, after the kids go to bed, to spend some time together. Don't let kids' needs always trump your needs as a couple or as an individual. As women especially, we allow the guilt of leaving our family override our need to get out of the house by ourselves. That guilt will eat you alive and make you very resentful.
My husband and I don't get out together much, but we do spend a lot of quality time together at home. Our daughter goes to bed promptly at 7:30 each night because that gives us time to hang out and have some kid-free, work-free time. We've spent countless nights out on our patio talking, just to get out of the house and away from the TV/cell phones, after our daughter is asleep. We've rented movies that do not have talking animals in them and saved the candy and popcorn for us, after the kids' bedtimes. I don't usually do chores after 8, just on a matter of sheer principal. Now, if it needs to be done, of course. But most of time, that time is reserved either for me or for us.
We also find time to have discussions about God and quiet times, too. We discuss our spiritual life when kids aren't constantly interrupting. You have to find time for this somewhere in your day.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Nineteen: Surround Yourselves with Godly Couples

We've touched on this on other days, but it's incredibly important to surround yourself with not just good couples, but Godly couples. Couple who know and understand the relationship God wants us to have together.
I am always reminded of the movie with Kirstie  Alley and Tim Allen called For Richer or Poorer where they are forced into an Amish community in hiding. Before they go there, they have a horrible marriage and are surrounded by selfish friends who encourage them to be selfish too. When they are surrounded by strong people who encourage selflessness, they begin to change how they see each other. The movie is a little silly, but you get the idea. I've seen horrible advice given on Facebook especially to wives that encouraged thoughtless and selfish acts of retaliation to husbands. Look at many of the celebrity relationships, people with open marriages who allow their spouses to have relationships with other people. It is so easy to go, "well, if they do it, I can do it too!" We look to other people to justify our actions even when we know they are wrong. Don't have friends who encourage your own selfish behavior and thoughts, it will only help destroy instead of help build up. Have friends who will tell you when you are being selfish, or are acting in ways that are unbiblical or downright wrong. Of course, this requires being OK with being held accountable, but it is definitely better than the alternative.
Sometimes, when we are lost, we just don't know the right direction to take. Other Godly couples can be helpful in that, too. Being a part of a marriage ministry where you can take classes and go on retreats that encourage Godly marriages can be lifesaving in a marriage. Just think - bad influences are stronger sometimes than good ones, so don't even give bad influences a chance.
There might also come a time when your marriage becomes one to model others after - you just never know when your experiences could help save another marriage.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Eighteen: Serving Others Together

The last thing a lot of people want to do is serve others. It's a commitment, it's time consuming, and sometimes, you feel like as a struggling couple, the worst thing is to have to spend time together, sacrificing your time for other people. However, serving together, even for one hour a week, can be hugely beneficial for your marriage.
The definition of stewardship is "the activity or job of protecting or being responsible for something." To God, this means our financial resources and our time. While tithing is important, serving together is also what God calls us to do. Serving someone or something else (like a ministry) allows you to see your spouse in a different light than maybe how you've seen them. It also allows you to work together for a common goal.
One of the biggest reasons people don't serve is because they don't think they are good enough, it's a commitment of time they don't have, or they don't think they know enough about the Bible to actually be a leader. Serving allows you to see that all of these things get worked out by God if you are doing what He is calling you to do. You'd be surprised at how much your schedule opens up and how much you can enjoy your time together while focusing on something else besides your own marriage for a change. I highly encourage everyone to find a place where they can serve together, even if it's not in the church.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Sixteen: When One Spouse Just Isn't Interested

While I personally haven't experienced this in my marriage, my husband did in his previous marriage. And he was the culprit. There were times that he just didn't care. He was selfish. What do you do in those situations?
I think to say that every marriage goes through this is not exactly accurate, but it's certainly not uncommon. Especially if you've been having trouble for a while or you feel as though you are married to the wrong person. There are a million little reasons why marriages could end up this way. Lots of fighting, infidelity is rearing its ugly head, tons of reasons. If you are the partner struggling with feeling like your significant other just doesn't care anymore, it can feel defeating and hopeless. What is that saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink? You can't make a person do anything they aren't ready to do. And it's probably not the case that the other person just doesn't care, maybe they also feel like too much has happened to come back from, or maybe they've been hurt too many times and are afraid that one more big blowout will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Breaking the cycle of hurt is difficult but not impossible. A lot of times, when couples get to this point, they tend to alienate themselves from other people because they are ashamed and embarrassed at what their marriage has become. If you have done this, get back into a group of people you love and trust and ask for help. Bringing in a third party, like a pastor, can do wonders because it allows people to talk about their problems while having a professional "mediate" which creates a new flow of communication. Get involved in a church together. Serve together somewhere. Change your habits of focusing on your marriage and focus on something else as a team. But mostly, ask for help and seek out professional counseling from either a minister or trained counselor. Do it now rather than later.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Fifteen: How To Counsel Each Other Without Bossing Each Other Around

This is probably one of the biggest areas my husband and I are dealing with. I personally feel like in a marriage, after about a year of marriage, you stop being so courteous with conversations and start getting really defensive. Hopefully, within a few years, you can master the art of learning when to be humble, learning when to bite your lip, and learning when to just allow your spouse to make their own mistakes. I think all married couples have good intentions for "helping" their spouse with their choices. (How many of you have had the "Why are you going this way, highway such-and-such is so much faster" conversation?)
Lately, I've really been convicted with learning to keep my mouth shut in certain circumstances when my husband just won't listen to me otherwise. Sure, I help him with things, he asks my advice in areas of business at times, or other problems. And he appreciates my advice. But sometimes, when my advice hasn't been solicited, it's not really appreciated. And that upsets me. But it's something I have to learn, he isn't one of my kids. He's my husband and I have to learn it isn't up to me to make him do things.
However, I think in a marriage, pride and ego can certainly get in the middle. Sometimes, I have to remind him that my opinion, at times, does really matter, whether he wants to hear it or not. And sometimes, it really does. As long as both partners are willing to hear with open ears and close their mouths when necessary, things will go much better. It is certainly difficult at times, though. I have to pray about it more than I'd like. You know, at those times that all I want to do is take the steering wheel and make him go the way I know is faster, but then I have to say, "what's an extra ten minutes, really?" Or in the case of our past Saturday, he will hit traffic by himself and I won't need to open my mouth at all.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Fourteen: Having a Fruitful Marriage When Marriages Around You Are Broken

When you have a group of friends, it's going to be pretty common that more than one of their marriages will be not only broken, but downright unbiblical and disrespectful. But what do you do when marriages around you are broken and your marriage is struggling right along with the rest of them?
The people you choose to model your marriage after is a pretty important thing, which is why we discussed joining a church together. When you are surrounded by marriages that are all just hanging on by a thread, it's hard to know where to turn when things in your own marriage start to get rocky.
If your marriage is strong and you are noticing a need for marriage help for those around you, it's a good opportunity to start a marriage Bible study in your own home and invite couples you know are looking for help and don't know where to turn. What a tremendous opportunity for a ministry!! If your marriage is suffering, consider your married friends and whether or not you have an adequate support system to nourish your marriage. Especially if you are surrounded by people who give you bad advice because of their own feelings of their partners, and I've seen some pretty terrible advice, you might want to consider looking elsewhere for some new married friends. The only way to really help is to pray and ask God for guidance, and for some good, open, strong married friends to meet. This is a really important step to a fruitful marriage.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Thirteen: Marriage Ain't Always 50/50

Anyone who says marriage is 50/50 is, well, incorrect. Marriage is not always an even distribution of time, energy, and work. Sometimes, it will be 80/20. Sometimes, it will be 10/90. Sometimes, it feels like both people are just as invested, just as hard-working, as their partners. Even in those circumstances, I really do not ever feel like 100% of the time, both partners are putting the same amount of work into their marriage.
I honestly feel like people who get married with the notion that one day their union will be even and stay that way are setting themselves up for a big disappointment. That's not to say that both people can't work hard and tirelessly for their marriage. I just think saying a marriage is a split partnership, right down the middle, is expecting your partner to do things exactly as you would do them and if they don't, you might start to feel like they aren't working as hard as you.
There are so many areas to which a marriage needs energy. Just a few would be household chores, dealing with the kids, making dinner, working, praying for one another, sleeping in, dating each other, this is a very small list. To say someone is giving exactly the same amount as you means keeping score. "I've done all of the housework this week!" "You've got to sleep in the last 3 Saturdays!" "I always have to make dinner!" I am not saying both people shouldn't be pulling their weight. But there will be times that it's just not like that. If it's a constant and unending problem that your partner never helps, that's one thing. But don't expect a give with every little take. Don't expect the other person to give you back exactly the same as you put in. Give with the idea that's what God wants you to do and you will get back in ways you never even dreamed of.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twelve: Picking a Church You Both Like

As a Christian, single or marriage, picking a church is always a daunting process. Being married makes the decision a little more challenging.
I think picking a church can be difficult because it's hard to judge how well you will get along with others and it can be kind of tough to get to know people. We've been at our church almost two years and it took us a good year to really feel comfortable and get to know people. No one just walks in to church one Sunday and immediately feels like they are where they belong. I think you get a feeling from God that tells you that you are in the right place, but I still feel like there is a sense of uneasiness that lingers for a while. I am a social person and I have found church to be the hardest place to get to know people. I know that the reason it feels that way is because as much as we want to be accepted at church, we are terrified to show other members our true selves, especially our true marriages. You think you are around every one else who is in the "perfect marriage," when in your marriage, you right and argue and don't pray together, etc, even though you don't realize that everyone there has had that season of marriage too.
I think as a married couple, there are a few things to think about, and it's not about whether you like the preaching on Sunday.
First, if you have kids, you have to be comfortable with the children's ministry. Are they organized? Do they have a good system in place for watching the kids? What do they teach the kids? Do the other kids look like they are having fun? Do they have Awanas or other types of kids' activities?
Second, does the church have a marriage ministry? Do they value the importance of marriage and do things to encourage strong and Godly marriages?
Third, are there plenty of married people around your same age? Or at least, couples who are in the same season of life as you? Do they do things together as couples and as families?
These are all things to consider, but the biggest thing I can say is give visiting a few weeks and really go out on a limb to see if there is a place for you to fit in and serve at your church. This means more than just coming to church service. Sunday school (or whatever the church calls it) is a good chance to really see if it is a church you could see yourself, your marriage, and your family thrive. If you feel good about it, give it some time. Forming relationships will take time and commitment, but it will happen. The biggest thing, though, is just to get involved. Start somewhere, start where the church needs people, then go from there.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Eleven: The Benefits of Praying Together

Praying is a fundamental part of the Christian walk. As an individual, spending time with God in prayer is essential, but praying in your marriage, together, can make a world of difference There are so many benefits to praying together:
1) It is really hard to say ugly things to someone for whom you just prayed with/prayed for.
2) Praying shows you as a couple the path God wants you to lead.
3) It brings to importance the things God wants you to work on in your marriage.
4) It puts you both on the same page.
5) It helps you live in your role God intended within your marriage.
6) It helps remind you that marriage isn't fleeting, it is a promise.
I still remember the first time I ever heard Jason mention my name to God in prayer. No man had ever prayed for me or about me before. While I knew Jason was important to me, there is just a level of intimacy I gained knowing that he thought more about me than just a girlfriend, my spiritual life and my heart were important to him, too. The second he prayed for me, it made me want to be close to God, too. It made me want to have more than just an earthly relationship, I wanted our relationship to be centered on God. Praying for your spouse and with your spouse is probably one of the best things you could do for your marriage, without a doubt.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Ten: Marriage is More Than a Partnership

Some days, a marriage can feel like two people, working equally together, for the common good, overcoming all obstacles together. Other days, it feels like it's barely holding on by a thread. Is marriage really a partnership every day? Or is it two people, doing the best they can, which some days looks better than other days?
I personally feel like marriage isn't always an equal give and take, and it is certainly more than just a business partnership. Marriage was meant by God to glorify Him and gave us the other person to help us walk through this life in God's plan for our lives. We seem to forget that fact sometimes. We lean on the other person to always help us when we aren't strong, but it doesn't always work perfectly in that regard. A strong marriage is one where there is a third person - God - and He is the center of our lives together.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage, Day Nine: When You Think You've Married the Wrong Person

I think this is probably the number one reason people get divorced - not because of money or infidelity, those are just by-products of the idea that a spouse feels like they married the wrong person. I can tell you now that asking God into your relationship before you get married and making sure the person you marry is who God wants for you is incredibly important, but once you are married, it's God intention that a marriage stay intact.
We all know as Christians God didn't intend for marriages to end in divorce. So, what happens when we start to get the feeling you are married to the wrong person?
When you marry someone, you spend the rest of your life with them. The rest of your life is a long, long time. I think it is normal to go through periods of time where you feel less close to your spouse, or your lives start to change and you feel like two different people than you were when you got married. The less time you spend together, due to work schedules or kids, usually adds to this feeling of separation. I think in marriage, there will be periods when it's important to get to know each other again. People change several times in their lives and as people in marriages change, it's important to communicate with your spouse about your feelings and opinions about things. This is all part of God's plan for your marriage - to know, love and respect your spouse. But it has to start with communication.
God wants your marriage to succeed!

Friday, October 11, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage, Day Eight: When Both Partners Are in Different Spiritual Times of Life

I personally think this is one of the biggest challenges a marriage will face. As a "married couple," we feel like we are united in this life together and go through life in the same direction and with the same experiences. However, it often turns out that while we are a "couple," we are also two individuals who are in a Christian journey and walk with our personal Lord and Savior. There are going to be times when one of us feels weaker in their walk or less secure in their understanding. This can make life a little harder.
I think the only answer that truly works in times like these is prayer and spending personal time with God. Praying for each other regularly and with intention is something we should be doing always, but especially during times of struggle, praying for your spouse is incredibly important. Fighting and resentment can start to build up during these times, and not having regular conversations with God can certainly add to the problems.
Marriage retreats, marriage counseling, or perhaps spending some time individually in women's or men's Bible studies can allow a spouse to address some of the individual issues a spouse might be facing. Encouraging one another during this time is also very important; instead of making each other feel "less than," encouraging one another will do wonders.  

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage, Day Seven: Women, What is Your Role?

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,." Ephesians 5:22-23
As a Christian wife, God has called us to submit to our husband's authority as the spiritual leader of our families. This is hard from some women to do, for sure. While the wife manages the household, he husband is the spiritual leader. Sometimes, these roles can get a little "mixed up." A lot of women, especially non-believers, get caught up in the word "submit" and seem to equate that word to be a form of slavery of some kind. This is not how a Christian relationship is to be. Submitting to a husband's authority means allowing your husband to lead your family. Sometimes, we as women have a bit of trouble giving up that control. It is Christ's expectation that we do and our families will flourish as a result of that.
"An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life." Proverbs 31:10-12
This verse shows just how much God wants husbands to love and appreciate their wives. I love this verse because it really takes our understanding of what role we play to a new level, that the relationship of a Christian marriage is more than just servant/master, as many people tend to think about it. A wife's role is a very important one, especially in their role in what they play in their husband's life.

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage, Day Six: Men, What is Your Role?

Technical difficulties with my computer have let me get a little behind!!!
As we've mentioned before, the man is the spiritual leader of the household.
"But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. " 1 Corinthians 11:3
It is the expectation of the Christian husband to be the spiritual and physical leader of the family. Husbands are to strive to be complete in their walk with Christ, thereby being able to lead their family in matters of Christianity. This includes teaching and leading their family in quiet times, spiritual direction of the family, prayer, serving, and all other Biblical matters.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, " Ephesians 5:25
"Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them." Colossians 3:19
It is also the expectation that the Christian husband will love his wife, as Christ loves the church. This is very important, as a loving husband is part of the connection of respect to the husband from the loved wife.
No husband will be perfect in his role. This is very difficult for some wives to understand, that we expect perfection or ultimate wisdom from our husbands to do the right and "Christian" thing at all times. Sometimes, a husband will be less strong in his walk than others, while some periods of the marriage will be better than others. It is all a part of our journey as Christians.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage, Day Five: Being an Intentional Spouse

Do you ever sometimes feel like your marriage is on auto-pilot?
Marriage, after a while, become a business partnership, in which both people are striving to meet certain "quotas" to keep things going. Pick up the kids, drop off the kids, make dinner, get to the soccer game, get sleep, etc. It's just one "check" on the to-do list after another.
How often do we stop and actually think about our spouse and their needs in our day? The answer for all of us, is probably an ashamed "not very often."
It's not just about putting together a last minute date night or doing the dishes so they don't have to. It's actually stopping and thinking about them, then intentionally and purposefully living a life where they are mored than just a last minute "thing" to think about. It's about getting to know them, every year. Getting to know what they are thinking, what their goals are, how they feel about things (both in the family and in the world), and seeing how they stand on issues. It's about doing things that make their lives easier on a daily basis. It's about not letting life and work become more than our spouses.
Being intentional at anything in life takes work and thought. Not just letting life get control of you and direct you is difficult and it takes forethought and effort. As a spiritual leader, it is your job to keep that going. As a wife, it's your job to communicate your needs in that capacity to your husband. As a husband, it's your job to show your wife you love her, appreciate her, and will do things for her that help be happy and healthy.  
Think about some ways to be intentional in your relationship with your spouse today.

Friday, October 4, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Four: Who is the Spiritual Leader?

I think this is probably something all of us know, but the Bible tells us that the husbands are to be the spiritual leaders of the family. Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter 5 that the husbands are the head of the wives as Christ is the head of the church. This chapter tells us as wives, we must submit to our husbands. It goes on to say that this means that husbands must love their wives as they love themselves and wives must respect their husbands.
However, the New Testament doesn't get super specific on the exact ways a husband should be the spiritual leader, does it? It leaves the term "spiritual leader" and what requirements fall into that category pretty open for individual determination, much like other things in the New Testament. I tried to find the chapters and verses that said, "Husbands, you need to take your families to church twice a week and participate in Bible studies every quarter, be a deacon in church, do a family quiet time every day, etc." but alas, I couldn't find those verses listed. Obviously, they do not exist.
Being a spiritual leader in every marriage really looks different in every marriage. The thing that God told us is that husbands are the head of the house. Women, submit to your husbands. Men, love your wives. Women, respect your husbands. In the next couple of days, we will talk specifically about each spouse's role in a marriage. But today, we are talking specifically about what a spiritual leader looks like.
Women, we expect our husbands to be pretty close to our idea of perfect, don't we? At times, we feel like our husbands are failing us. That because they don't do what our vision in our head is about being a spiritual leader, that they aren't doing what God has called them to do. Because they don't know all of the answers, that we can't trust them to lead us. I have had this problem a time or two (or a hundred) in my own marriage. You hope that your husband is living up to his end of the bargain and is providing you spiritual guidance regularly and participating in the all powerful "church." But sometimes, it's just not like that. Does that mean that you can't follow him, anyway?
I think trying to force your husband to do the things you want him to do as a spiritual leader is a very slippery slope. I think wives certainly should encourage their husbands during times of tribulation and doubt. But most importantly, we have to know that the one and only person that can change a person's heart is God. It is something between God and the individual. Praying is probably the best way you can get on the same page about the role of the spiritual leader in your family. But also in praying for the man "you want your husband to be," you have to pray for your own heart, that it isn't full of wrongly placed ideas and that you can learn how to follow your husband's guidance in your marriage within the confines of what is in the best interest of your family. If you are having trouble "making" your husband do something he isn't ready to do, take a step back. Pray about it and let God be the one that leads him. It's so hard to do and it takes such patience, but the benefits that will come from God leading versus you leading will be tremendous.
I put this on us, wives, because all too often, we think we always know what is best. We don't try to be like that, but we are. We are the ones who take on the lion's share of responsibilities. We know how our family runs, down to the smallest item on the grocery list to the budgeting every month. We think because we are in charge of mostly everything in our households that we know how to best lead our family spiritually, as well. It simply isn't the way it is supposed to be. I am not saying lay down and never have an opinion or never share what God is laying on your own heart about directions you think things should take. If a man loves you the way God has asked and is taking Christ's lead in love, he will certainly respect your opinion and advice about matters of spiritual direction. If you give respect and he, in return, gives love, you have a cycle of communication and giving that can move mountains.
If you are struggling with this in your marriage, you are absolutely not alone. In a marriage, this is probably the hardest thing to do. If you are struggling and in need of some great information and guidance, there is study that was excellent that my husband and I did that could really do wonders in your marriage. Don't want until things have gotten so far out of control that it's too late to work on it, if you are experiencing discourse in your marriage about this, this Bible study entitled "Love and Respect" is wonderful. If you don't/can't do this, find a Bible study at your church about marriage that you can participate in. Travel, if your church doesn't offer it. It will be worth every penny you spend.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Three: Starting From the Beginning When a Marriage is Breaking

So, we know what fruitful is. We know where we are starting from and where our weaknesses may lie. Now, what do you do if you are started from a place of being "broken" or "breaking?"
If your marriage is breaking or broken, have hope that you can change it. It will be work and it will take doing some things differently than how you've done them in the past, but you can change the fate of your marriage. It's God's intention that marriage is a convenant that lasts "till death to you part." The marriage you are in is a marriage that God wants to last.
There are so many reasons a marriage can break up. Too many to even considering listing. A lot of times, we get to a point where we feel like there is no return and have a hard time finding our way back after months or years of hurt. Broken promises, disrespect, lack of a common ground, these are all things that can go on for such a long time that it can be hard to figure out how to start again. The other problem that seems to happen is that you are so focused on your partner's downfalls and faults that you couldn't possibly be focused on what is the right thing to be focused on, and that is God.
As easy as that solution might sound, turn your attentions to God. Even if your partner won't do it with you. Even if you are the only one praying for your marriage or working on it, still do it anyway. Pray that God will use your actions as an example of Christ's love to your spouse. Pray for your spouse, pray for your marriage. Every day. Begin praying to God to show you His plan for your life, your partner's life, and your life together. Ask your spouse to pray with you, even if he/she won't, ask anyway. When you begin to focus on God rather than on each other, you start turning your heart towards something that can be fruitful rather than something that isn't fruitful.
If you and your spouse are willing to work on it but don't know how to start, doing the above things are a good place to start. In the upcoming days, we will go through some specific ways to get to a fruitful place in your marriage. Have hope - things can get better.
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." -Ephesians 4:2-3

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Two: How is Your Marriage Today?

Before you can know where you are going, you have to know where you are starting. Today, we will look at our marriages from their starting points.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine where you are starting off from.
How are both of your relationships with Christ?
Do you have a church you attend regularly?
Do you both put regular effort into the success of your marriage?
Is your spouse supportive of your dreams and desires?
Is your spouse attentive to your needs?
Do you pray for your spouse and with your spouse every day?
Do you argue with your spouse more than you spend not arguing?
Do you tell your spouse you love them every day?
Are you more attentive to your child's needs than your spouses needs?
Do you have a group of supportive friends/couples who share the same beliefs as you?
Do each of you have an outlet or place to grow your own individual interests and walks with God?
If any of these things sound like something you are struggling with, just take a moment and pray for your marriage. Take a moment and pray for yourself and your spouse and specifically ask God to open your hearts and move your towards a more fruitful place.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day One: What Does Fruitful Mean?

Many of us are either just married, still young in our marriage, experienced in our marriage, or senior in our marriage. At every point, there comes a time when the marriage is either stagnant, unsatisfying, too hard, too easy, or just plain boring. When you look at marriage from the perspective of being "successful," what does that mean? One that is happy most of the time? One where the two people in it simply stay married because they don't believe in divorce? It is so difficult to define marriage in those terms. I think the word we should be looking for is "fruitful."
Having a fruitful marriage is one where the love of Christ is shown to each other, to our children, and to others, on a daily basis. It's one that produces fruit; one that is purposeful. It's a marriage in which the two people in it have a purpose with one another. It's a marriage where they know their place with each other. It's a marriage where both people love each other, their children, and others, like Christ loved us. Once we get married, we often find that we are doing our best just to manuveur the pitfalls of life without losing it completely. We become "business partners" in life, doing everything we can just to keep it all together. We try and keep date nights in our sights, but often fall short of spending enough time with each other, much less spending time with God and walking in the path He wants for our marriage.
Having a fruitful marriage is more than just keeping the passion alive, or spending time together, or "keeping it together." A marriage that is fruitful is a marriage with an idea of where it's going in God's plan. In this next month, we will explore how it's possible to have a fruitful marriage that exemplifies Christ and His love for us. No matter where you are coming from in your marriage, there will be something you can gather from this time together!!