Encouragement for Hurting Spouses

“Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” (Amos 9:11, NLT)

I know that you are asking God to fulfill these words in your marriage, and I earnestly join you in that prayer, believing that God’s heart is strong for healing and reconciliation. But I also know that at this moment, you sense only cold silence and closed doors.

I want to encourage you that you are not alone in your pain, God is not discouraged, and His plan for your life is not in tatters.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV)

God is not limited by your emotions. You can feel low and yet have strong faith. As you set your will to follow God, He works powerfully through your yielded spirit.

“Therefore, since we do hold and engage in this ministry by the mercy of God …, we do not get discouraged (spiritless and despondent with fear) or become faint with weariness and exhaustion.” (1 Corinthians 4:1, AMPC)

I pray that the following five truths will strengthen you today.

1. God’s mighty purposes for your life and your marriage are not thwarted. 

“I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2, HCSB)

God is still using your marriage to draw you closer to Him. The Spirit is still using you to show those around you what God looks like. You have the opportunity to reveal God as a forgiving God, full of generous grace, unfailing commitment, and unconditional love. In fact, it is when our marriages are difficult that we are most able to demonstrate these awesome attributes of God.

And when our marriages are difficult, we are often able to see our own hearts better. When a spouse is warm and supportive, we may believe that we are more loving than we really are. “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” is usually a  pleasant transaction, not a self-denying sacrifice. But when we serve a spouse without receiving appreciation or even acknowledgment, then our inner responses reveal our true motivation.

As others have pointed out, when we are treated like servants, we quickly learn whether we have servant’s hearts or not! When we are not receiving positive feedback, we have the privilege to serve purely for the sake of love.

(Continue reading HERE at StartMarriageRight.com.)

Blessings to you,
Tami

 

 

 

 

 


*Photo by FreelyPhotos from StockSnap

Meditating on Scripture: A Life-Changing Habit

One of the most life-changing habits we can develop is meditating on Scripture.

This means to keep a phrase or passage from the Bible in our thoughts, pondering its meaning and implications. As we go throughout the day, we keep that thought in mind, reflecting and contemplating. Even when we are not consciously considering the phrase, it is still on the “backburner” of our thinking.

We mull it over, asking ourselves questions such as these: 

 What does this say about God? What does this say about me? How does God want me to apply this to my own life?

What are the spiritual and physical parallels in this situation? What deeper truths are hidden here? How does this connect with other truths?

How does this passage encourage me? convict me? instruct me?

How is the beauty of Christ revealed in this Scripture? How can I treasure and adore Him here?

Meditating on Scripture is like pouring our behavior and our thoughts into a divine mold. When we hold God’s thinking in our minds, our lives begin to conform to the image of Christ.

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Over and over, we let the “water” of the Scriptures wash over our minds and spirits. As we do so, we are cleansed and refreshed. The water of the Word is not only a refreshment to our thirsty spirits; it is also a powerful force that shapes us, just as the repeated rushing of water can sculpt even rock.

Those who meditate on Scripture “are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (Psalm 1:3, NLT).

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God tells us to study the Book that He has given to us:

Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. (Joshua 1:8, NLT)

What promise from God are you leaning on today? Are your thoughts focused on a specific Scripture? Are you clinging to Truth?

Of course, meditating on Scripture and memorizing Scripture go hand-in-hand. I want to encourage you always to have a verse or a passage that you are memorizing. Just five minutes a day of memorizing will change your life!

(Listen HERE as Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband, Ken, talk about how he memorizes Scripture.)

Below are several encouraging Scriptures. I pray that you will be greatly blessed as you meditate on the precious and powerful promises of God.

If you would like to print these verses, I am attaching them as a pdf HERE.

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You can find additional Scripture printables at “Five Smooth Pebbles for You.”

Blessings to you,
Tami

Creating an Extraordinary Marriage (Part 2)

I invited my friend Kristen Hogrefe to share some of her insights into marriage as she and her husband recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary. (Learn more about Kristen’s talented writing and her award-winning novels at the end of this article.*)

In this two-part series, Kristen explains 12 choices that create extraordinary marriages.

Whether you are a newlywed or a seasoned spouse, practicing these guidelines will be a blessing in your home!


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Last week, we saw six choices that can help make our first year of marriage—or any year, for that matter—extraordinary. Today, we’re going to look at six more. Whether you’re engaged, newly married, or married for decades, we can all start today, by God’s grace, to make our marriages the best they can be. (Read Part One HERE.)

#7. Be interested in what interests your spouse.

James tells me he’s read more books since meeting me than he has in the rest of his lifetime. That’s a credit to him for wanting to care about something that interests me. On the other hand, I’ve gotten into mountain biking because of him and really enjoy off-road biking now.

I’m not saying you have to change your interests because of your spouse. Instead, you should expand them so that you each spend more time with your spouse doing something important to him or her. The impact on your relationship will be the best return you can make on any time investment.

#8. Encourage time apart.

Some couples become so absorbed in each other that they completely lose their identity and their friend groups, which is entirely unhealthy. You are still two people. Even though you have mutual friends and are each other’s favorite person in the world, he needs some time with the guys, and you need girl time. James has been wonderful about encouraging me to take a night out with my friends, and I’ve encouraged him to do the same. We’re both better for it.

#9. Always give more and never keep score.

Try to “out give” each other. This is a challenge I’m striving to practice. It means buying the brand of Fig Newtons he likes (even though I don’t) or putting his favorite chocolate chip cookies in the oven “just because.” It means looking extra special just for him or finding a fun way to surprise him.

Secretly, I suspect James is practicing on me too. The other night, my stomach was upset, and even though we had both gone to bed, he offered to get up and get me some Tums and something to drink. (I didn’t want to get up, and I imagine he didn’t either.) But he did. Because loves cares about upset tummies.

A marriage of two givers is a beautiful thing.

#10. Shoot the little foxes before they reproduce.

“Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes.” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV)

Solomon used foxes as a metaphor for any subtle little thing that tries to drive a wedge in your marriage. He understood that “little foxes” can damage tender relationships. Even the biggest fires start with a little flame.

He said to catch the foxes. I say shoot them dead. I’m more convinced than ever that the Devil hates marriage and wants to stir up strife through any little thing he can get his hands on. She forgot to change out the toilet paper roll? So what. You’d have to replace it yourself if you were living alone. He forgot to take out the trash? Take it out yourself. Don’t let little things become big deals.

One practice that helps is by rehearsing all the kind things your spouse does. If I catch myself starting to complain about something, instead I remind myself, “He is such a good griller. He made me dinner last night.” Or, “I love that he helped me clean the house to get ready for my girlfriends.” Focusing on the positive puts any little annoyances in perspective.

#11. Be your best self.

One of the best gifts you can give your spouse is to take care of yourself physically and stay attractive. You’re doing yourself and your own sex drive a serious favor here too. There is no reason you should gain twenty pounds your first year of marriage, even if one of you is an exceptional cook. Don’t get “lazy” just because you no longer have to fit into a wedding dress.

I’m sorry/not sorry if I’m hurting any feelings here, because I feel so strongly about this point. As the Bible explains, your body isn’t your own any more. It’s your husband’s too (I Corinthians 7:4). He’s equally responsible for maintaining his body and health as well. No matter how you age or what changes your body goes through, never stop striving to be fit and healthy. That doesn’t mean you’ll be a super model, and please don’t even start comparing yourself to someone who looks like one. It just means you’ll be the best version of yourself.

If you find yourself making an excuse right now, put a pin in it and instead ask, “What CAN I do?” Maybe you can join a gym together or keep each other accountable to eat fewer sweets. We all can do something. The key is consistency and accountability.

#12. Have “an anointed adventure.”

When we were doing marriage counseling, the pastor spoke about the need for “an anointed adventure.” In other words, our marriages should be about something greater than ourselves. He challenged us to think about what that adventure might look like for us.

After talking and praying about it, James and I discovered ours. We want to love people well and have a home that feels like a haven or a welcoming place. Our dream is to one day live on a lake and create our own “retreat” environment. I’m not sure when that dream will be realized or what it will look like, but we’re practicing hospitality where we are right now.

Every couple’s anointed adventure will be different, so don’t compare yours to someone else’s. Remember that God gifts everyone in different ways. Also remember that you and your spouse can still minister separately as well, but choose at least one area where you can serve together.

Closing thoughts

Looking back over our first year together, I almost feel the need to pinch myself at how wonderful it’s been. I want this joy to be yours too, and I hope some of these ideas will help. Of course, difficult times and disappointments will come and probably already have, but let’s always remember how blessed we are to have our spouses. They are a gift. Let’s treat them that way.

What other choices and intentional investments have made a difference in your marriage? Please comment and share!
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*Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and lifelong learner who enjoys starting her day with Jesus and coffee. Kristen and her husband live in Florida, the perfect setting for their many outdoor adventures.

Connect with Kristen at www.KristenHogrefe.com, where she challenges young adults and the young at heart to think truthfully and live daringly.

Everything You Need to Celebrate (including cookie video)

As we observe Passover this week, much of the world is sheltered in their homes, trying to stay safe until this deadly virus will PASS OVER. It reminds us that Christ-followers are sheltered in Jesus Christ, safely protected as spiritual death (separation from God) will PASS OVER us.

How thankful we are for Jesus! Not only did He die for us, but He was resurrected to life again. If we accept the death of Christ on our behalf, then we can receive from Him the forever Life that He offers to us. We have much to celebrate!

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It has been a rich blessing in my family to celebrate Passover and Resurrection Sunday each year.  I hope that you will enjoy this special joy, too!

 

If you have children in your home, be sure to make Resurrection Cookies! My daughter Valorie explains how to do that in this short video. Each step in the recipe teaches something about the Easter story.

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Below are some simple ways to celebrate Passover with preschoolers, children, or adults. (Much of this material comes from Simple Celebrations.) Also, at the end of this post, you will find short meditations to strengthen your marriage (or other relationships) each day of Holy Week.

Celebrating Passover

What it is:

Passover is a rich, multilayered celebration. On the first Passover,  the blood from a flawless lamb protected God’s people from death.

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Fifteen hundred years later, the symbols of the Passover supper became reality as  the flawless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, shed His blood on a cross to rescue us from spiritual death . And today,  every follower of Christ can experience a personal Passover, as we are rescued from spiritual slavery to enjoy friendship with God.

Passover celebrates the fact that spiritual death passes over us, not touching us, as we commit to following Christ as Lord.

How to prepare:

  1. Set a festive, colorful table. You may want to include two long taper candles.
  2. Set a glass of grape juice at each place.
  3. Place the following on each plate:
    • a parsley stalk
    • a piece of onion, or a bite of horseradish
    • a small serving of haroset (Combine applesauce, walnuts, and cinnamon—or use chunky applesauce, if your group has a nut allergy. The idea is create something that resembles mortar and that reminds us of the bricks which the Hebrew slaves were ordered to make.)
    • a small bowl of salt water (It is not necessary for each person to have a bowl if people can share.)
    • a piece of matzoh or a plain cracker
    • a bite of cooked lamb
  4. If you are using a Haggadah (a program) with your group, make a copy for each person, and put a copy at each place. Click here for a PDF of a Christian Passover program.

You will need someone to be the leader, who will read most of the program. You may assign the shorter sections to others in your group–however you like. There are 23 reading sections. (Blank lines are provided so that you can write in the reader’s name at each numbered section.) The leader reads each section that is not otherwise assigned.

How to celebrate with preschoolers:

I like to begin by saying this: “I know that you have eaten a meal before. And I know that you have listened to a story before. But today, we are going to EAT A STORY!”

In a way appropriate for your children, tell the story of the Exodus. When you talk about making bricks, eat the haroset, which reminds us of the mortar used in building.

As you tell about the suffering of the slaves, dip the parsley into the salt water, and then have the children taste or eat it. Explain that this reminds us of tears because the Hebrew people were very sad.

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Have the children eat (or simply smell) the green onion, explaining that this, too, reminds us that the Hebrew slaves were sad because of the cruel things that Pharaoh did to them. Explain that we also are sad if we don’t know God and if we don’t know that He loves us.

Explain that God sent Moses to rescue the Hebrew slaves. Moses told the people what to do, and God helped them to escape from Pharaoh.

Let the children taste the lamb. Explain that everyone who belonged to God had a Passover lamb, and God took good care of everyone with a Passover lamb because they were His people.  We belong to God, and we have a Passover Lamb, too, because Jesus is like a Passover Lamb for us. God takes good care of us because we belong to Him.

Show the children the “flat bread,” the matzoh. Explain that when God rescued the Hebrew slaves, they had to leave Egypt so quickly that they could not wait for their bread to rise. They had to eat flat bread. As the children eat the matzoh, express gratitude to God for helping us because He loves us.

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Explain that grape juice reminds us that God loves us so much that He would die for us! Say, “This juice is red (or purple), just like a valentine. This juice is like a valentine from God because it reminds us that God loves us very much.”

Conclude with a short prayer, thanking God that He loves us very much, that we can belong to Him, and that He helps us because He loves us.

How to celebrate with children:

Here is a new script that works well with children. It takes 20-30 minutes, but it can easily be adapted for a shorter celebration, too.

Celebrating Easter

In marriage:

As we reflect on the Scriptures concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, we can learn valuable truths for our marriages. Here are daily devotions with practical applications for each day of Holy Week:

One more resource for your marriage: “The Power of a Torn Veil.” Jesus Christ invites us into a new covenant, a relationship based on giving instead of earning. In our marriages, it is easy to revert to old-covenant thinking (“you owe me!”), but it is healing and life-giving to fill our marriages with the grace of new-covenant thinking.

Joyous celebrations to you!
Tami

Creating an Extraordinary Marriage

I invited my friend Kristen to share some of her insights into marriage as she and her husband recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary. (Learn more about Kristen’s talented writing and her award-winning novels at the end of this article.*)

In this two-part series, Kristen explains twelve choices that create extraordinary marriages. Whether you are a newlywed or a seasoned spouse, practicing these guidelines will be a blessing in your home!

Just over a year ago, my husband and I said “I do.” Like most new couples, we received lots of advice, and we welcomed what wisdom others had to share.

However, one recurring comment troubled me: “The first year of marriage is hard.” Although I understood that we would both have adjustments to make, I didn’t like this “survivalist” mentality. After all, Jesus came so that we could have life “more abundantly” (John 10:10), and surely that concept applied to marriage, part of His design. But what did I know?

Well, I have good news. The first year of marriage doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can truly be extraordinary, but both husband and wife are responsible to each other to make it that way.

#1. Agree that you married the right person.

Once you say, “I do,” this one is signed, sealed, and delivered. In God’s eyes, that person is now the “right person” because you made a covenant before Him with this individual. You can’t make the excuse, “I married the wrong person.” The truth is that anyone you marry will disappoint or upset you at one point or another, and that reality doesn’t make him or her the “wrong person.”

In short, remove this excuse from your vocabulary. Resist the temptation to compare your spouse to any other person. It’s not a fair comparison, because you don’t know anyone’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your spouse’s. This person, complete with brokenness and beauty, is God’s plan for your life. Relish that reality and that privilege.

#2. Be kind and thoughtful to each other.

This one should be a no-brainer, but if the Apostle Paul felt the need to remind his readers, then more than likely we can use the reminder too. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV)

Marriage brings adjustments. You each bring different life experiences and personal habits into the relationship. Instead of expecting the other person to be just like you, embrace the differences. Also, make room for changes.

When we got married, James moved into my house. Realizing what a big change this would be for him, I rearranged and gave away furniture to make room for his. I also practiced saying “our home” instead of “my home” and tried to look for ways to incorporate his things.

Everyone’s situations are different, but during those first early weeks and months, be sensitive and aware of simple ways to make the transition smoother. When in doubt, ask what you can do.

#3. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

My husband and I marvel at how much other couples seem to fight. We’re redeemed sinners like every other Christian couple, but we don’t argue or yell at each other. If we disagree, we talk about it. If we’re having a bad day, we’re honest about it. If we mess up, we have to apologize.

I remember having a particularly rough day at work. Coming out of my office, I found James working on his laptop and told him straight: “It’s been a tough day, babe, and I’m pretty upset about it. Just know that it has nothing to do with you.”

Don’t make your spouse guess if you’re upset with him or not. Be transparent. Once James knew how I was feeling, he was able to lovingly support me through my emotions instead of wondering if he were somehow responsible for them.

#4. Be realistic. Your spouse is not a mind-reader.

Gals, this point is especially for us. We sometimes romanticize our spouses and expect them to know exactly what we want. That expectation is just not realistic.

A few months into our marriage, I kept seeing these posts from my girlfriends about their guys giving them flowers “just because.” I wished that James would do the same, but then I remembered something my brother once told me. “We guys aren’t mind-readers.”

The next time James asked if there was something he could do for me, I simply said, “I’d really appreciate if you gave me flowers sometime. It might seem silly, but I’d love to get flowers from you.”

He smiled and thanked me for telling him. “I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I got you flowers.” Guess what? He brought home flowers soon after that.

#5. Have adventures together.

I realize the wedding and honeymoon are expensive, but find ways to experience life together. James and I love to travel, so we’ll hunt for cheap-o flights, plan visits to see friends, or even just drive to the beach to watch the sunset. Adventures don’t have to be pricey. You just have to be intentional about planning them.

The time you spend together sharing new or favorite experiences contributes to both of your “love tanks” and builds memories.

#6. Grow together with Christian community and with Jesus.

This one is so, so important. After we got married, we tried several Sunday school classes for couples until we found our Honeymooners class. There is something so precious about doing life with other couples who are walking in your shoes. Also, being intentional about learning together deepens your relationship and fosters healthy conversations. With our class, we’ve gone through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Academy and are currently in the Love and Respect series by Emerson Eggerichs.

In addition to Christian community, husbands and wives should spend time together in God’s Word and alone with God. This year, James and I have been reading through the book of John and are looking forward to starting a new book soon. We also have our separate quiet times in our own ways. However, don’t fall into the trap of comparing your walk with God to your spouse’s. What matters is that you both invest in God’s Word and are committed to growing in your walk with the Lord, even if your approaches are different.

Also important is that you consistently pray for your spouse. Two resources I’ve found helpful are Jennifer Smith’s 31 Prayers for Your Husband and The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.

Next time, we’ll look at six more choices couples can make to get their marriage off to a great start. For now, which of these ideas is most helpful to where you are right now?


*Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and life-long learner who enjoys starting her day with Jesus and coffee.

Kristen and her husband live in Florida, the perfect setting for their many outdoor adventures. Connect with Kristen at www.KristenHogrefe.com, where she challenges young adults and the young at heart to think truthfully and live daringly.

Key Strengths for Marriage (Part Two)

Although every marriage is different, there are four concepts that add immense strength to any marriage.  Last week, we looked at the strengths of honor and attentiveness (HERE). Today, we examine two more of these core strengths.


3. Commitment. Many people think that the most important “C” in marriage is communication. Communication is important, certainly, but I think that commitment is even more essential.
When you and your spouse are committed to one another, you gain a firm platform under your feet that allows you then to work on your communication or any other issue. Being committed to your marriage means that nothing on earth is more important than your relationship. Of course, you want your obedience to God to be your highest commitment, but your obedience to God motivates and strengthens your commitment to your marriage.
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Even after exchanging vows on your wedding day, there are times when it is important to verbalize that commitment. When you and your spouse do not agree on the color of the carpet, it can be helpful to say, “I like the green, but I value you more than the carpet.”  Or when you are dealing with something more serious, it can be very stabilizing to say, “This is tough, but I am absolutely committed to you and to our marriage.” Speaking your commitment out loud reminds you both of what you truly value. (Continue reading HERE.)

Today, I am honored to be guest writing again for my talented friend Kristen Hogrefe. Continue reading HERE to learn the essential strengths for any successful marriage (Part Two). You can read about the first two core strengths in Part One HERE.
Blessings to you,
Tami

Key Strengths for Marriage

Every marriage is unique with its own blend of personality styles, family backgrounds, and life circumstances. Even the “secrets to success” can vary from couple to couple.

However, there are four concepts that add immense strength to any marriage. Relationships that build on these four principles will be resilient and healthy. However, couples who fail to establish these qualities in their homes can expect pain and crisis.

Developing these core strengths will make all the difference in your marriage: honor, attentiveness, commitment, and kindness.

1. Honor. Learn to maintain an inner posture of honor toward your spouse. In your spirit, keep saluting your husband. In your spirit, keep bowing to your wife.

Work on developing this discipline until it becomes your default position. There are no “days off” and no “time out” when it comes to honor. It is the oxygen in your marriage.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:10, NLT)

Your spouse is created in the image of God. That was true on your wedding day, and regardless of how long you’ve been married, it is true today. And it will still be true on your most difficult days. Your spouse will always be worthy of honor because of the eternal spirit that God created him or her to be. (Continue reading HERE.)


I am honored to be guest writing today and next week for my talented friend Kristen Hogrefe. Continue reading HERE to learn the four core strengths for any successful marriage (Part One).