It was the last thing I expected to hear from my ultra dependable, hard-working husband. And yet, looking back, I should’ve seen this coming. He’d been beaten down and overworked for far too long. I should’ve responded to his statement by wrapping him up in a giant hug.
Instead I hit freak-out mode. He was our sole bread winner. We were living in an expensive suburb of California. I stayed home with our daughter, homeschooled her in fact. And had zero desire to change our education plans.
Fast forward a few months, and my husband handed our house keys to our realtor, in essence declaring to her, our neighbors, our friends and one another that we didn’t plan on returning.
He’d turned his work keys in the night before.
My husband still hadn’t found a job, though we were hopeful. And I was panicked, like ready to vomit panicked, though I largely kept my emotions in check–to Steve and my daughter. My prayers, however, were another matter entirely:
Help us, Lord! Fix this! Give me just a hint that all this will work out.
Then, we packed our van, and headed for the Grand Canyon. For a family vacation.
Because everyone goes on vacation when unemployed right? Made perfect sense to me.
Long story short, God came through. My husband received a job offer that very day. Our house sold for full asking price. That very day. We went on our vacation and the Slattery family lived happily ever after.
Not. So not. Because life is full of upheavals, uncertainty, set-backs and gut-churning panic moments. But over the years, having made it through numerous unexpected and sometimes frightening situations, I’ve learned how to find peace in times of uncertainty. All I needed to do was follow, cling to, believe in, and live out, to the best of my ability, God’s wisdom and truth. Because His promises will never, ever fail.
The next time you’re facing a panicked moment, follow the steps laid out in Psalm 37:
3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
5 Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.
7 Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.
23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. (NLT)
Trust. Not in our circumstances, our spouse, our savings account or that job, but trust in the Lord. Remember His character. He is always and only faithful, loving and true. Remember His promises and how He has proved them true for you in the past. Center your mind on truth–what you know from God’s Word, and refuse to engage negative, fretful thinking.
Do good. God has a good, eternal work for us to do each day. Some days that ministering to a neighbor or serving the needy. Other times it’s building up our family and pointing them to Christ. Consider that God may have put you in the position you’re in, as uncomfortable or frightening as it may be, to touch a heart or reveal His grace through you. So do good.Serve Him in the hard and the easy. And take joy in knowing your purpose extends beyond you and your circumstances.
Delight in Christ. Draw near to Him through prayer, music, and Bible reading. Soak up His presence; let His Holy Spirit fill you completely, knowing He will be strong on your behalf. Don’t let the uncertainty of the moment rob you of the sweet treasure of resting in His presence.
Commit everything to Christ. I could likely write an entire book unpacking this one but I’ll sum it up with one word: surrender. Surrender the moment, the situation, yourself, your heart and plans, to God. Leave it all in His hands, knowing He’s working at this moment on your behalf.
Be still and wait patiently. He will fight for you. He is working out a plan for your life, for your family, for your marriage–for whatever you’re facing. You won’t move things along any faster by fretting, but you may when you take the time to be still in His presence, soaking up His strength and listening for His direction. At least, when you do that, there’s a much better chance you won’t do anything to make matters worse through a panicked reaction.
Follow. If you belong to Christ, your spiritual ears have been quickened so that you can recognize His voice (John 10:16). Scripture promises God will and does speak to us (Isaiah 30:21). Psalm 16:7 says, “Even at night my heart instructs me.” So listen. Then obey.
Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you grab hold of peace when life feels crazy and uncertain? Do you have any go-to verses you like to pray or meditate on? Any songs you find especially helpful?
Discovering the Best of You for Healthier Relationships with Dr. Alison Cook –
Faith Over Fear
Do you have difficulty telling others no? Do you find yourself frequently pushing your needs and desires aside to meet the needs of everyone else? Do you ever struggle to know how to love others as Jesus desires while also setting healthy boundaries? In this episode, Dr. Alison Cook shares biblical wisdom on how we can discover the best of ourselves and how doing so leads to healthier and more fulfilling relationships.
(Scroll down for discussion/reflective questions.)
The Best of You: Break Free from Painful Patterns, Mend Your Past, and Discover Your True Self in God
Boundaries for the Soul
The Best of You Podcast episode: "Should I turn the Other Cheek? Why It's the Opposite of Being a Doormat"
Find Dr. Allison Cook:
On her website
Find Jennifer Slattery:
On her website
What resonated with you most in this episode?
How might you answer Dr. Cook's question: What do you want?
How reciprocal do your relationships tend to be?
Where might you land on the selfless, self, selfish scale Dr. Cook mentioned?
How comfortable are you with setting healthy boundaries?
When do you find it most challenging to set healthy boundaries?
How can strong, clear boundaries lead to relational health?
What is one action step God might want you to take, having listened to this episode?
Discover more Christian podcasts at lifeaudio.com and inquire about advertising opportunities at lifeaudio.com/contact-us.
Only God can turn a marriage that is rapidly imploding into a clear example of God’s power and grace. For all those who are struggling in their marriage, or really any relationship, this Christmas season, maybe Kelly’s story give you hope.
A Mountain of Hope by Kelly Klepfer
Though my upcoming co-written novel, Out of the Frying Pan, is full of humor and quirky characters, and I’m someone who loves to laugh and find joy in the moment, I’ve had my share of sorrow and seasons steeped in darkness.
I was “saved” as a young child. Billy Graham scared me straight at age six. I didn’t want to go to hell so I said a prayer. Years later, I was still saying those prayers. Often. Throughout high school I managed to juggle being a good Baptist with hating myself for my inability to be a good Baptist.
My high school sweetheart and I married when we were just 19 and 20. He’d dabbled with pot and we’d both spent far too much time drinking. All grown up we continued to drink, had a child, and he began drinking other places. When I was pregnant with our second child, seven years into our marriage, he began to drink heavily and with a group of friends I didn’t know. A month before I gave birth he finally admitted he didn’t love me anymore.
Devastated, I asked him to leave and began building a life without him while he moved into a home with a barely functioning alcoholic. He insisted on being with me when our baby was born but when my water broke a month early I couldn’t reach him. His roommate said he wasn’t there.
My father took over trying to find him once they had taken me to the hospital. I was prepped for the C-section when he finally arrived. I’ll never forget the loneliness in the following few minutes. The anesthesiologist placed a mask over my face. I was strapped down and unable to communicate. The spinal anesthesia numbed a vertebra higher than my previous C-Section so I couldn’t feel my lungs moving.
I began to panic that I wasn’t breathing. So I tried to communicate with my half-drunk stranger of a husband with my eyes. The anesthesiologist had buried himself in a Stephen King novel. My husband finally said something. The doctor leaned over. “She’s hyperventilating.” My world had grown gritty gray and white by this point, and finally he placed a breather mask over my face, and I was able to resurface.
A few months later, on Christmas Eve, my husband had a nostalgic come to Jesus moment. He did love me after all, and wanted back into our home. My heart had hardened, grown bitter. I looked at the options I had and decided if he was willing and would treat me better I’d be open to it. As long as the good outweighed the bad I’d let him stay. We both sought “Christian” counseling. My counselor tried out things like primal screaming. His told my husband he didn’t really have problems with addiction. There was nothing Biblical in our counseling sessions that I recall. (Bonus takeaway: Be warned: Find Biblical counselors not “Christian.”)
My husband began to slowly increase in drinking again though he kept it at home. I continued to grow in bitterness and my mantra that as long as the good outweighed the bad he could remain.
Five years later he got scared and cold turkey stopped drinking. Within months there was something weird going on with him. He admitted to me that he felt restless and that he wanted to do dangerous, risky things. I asked him to talk to different males and to please let me know should he really find himself wanting to cave in.
A couple months later, on our anniversary, while I was getting ready to go out on a date with him, the phone rang. My aunt had just arrived to pick up the kids for an overnight and I gave them quick hugs and kisses and sent them out the door before saying hello. That hello changed my life in so many ways. It was the other woman who revealed not only the affair she’d been having with my husband but also that she was pregnant.
Dark, dark, dark days followed. We entered counseling again. He voluntarily went through the alcohol addiction program that is court ordered for those receiving DUIs. We began to attend church again for the first time in years. Somehow, in spite of very close friends and relatives telling me to leave, accusing me of having battered wife syndrome, being foolish, I stood firm. My reason–I wasn’t going to give up if he was done being an addict just to see someone else benefit from my pain. I wanted to see it through to the end just in case he might actually be able to beat this thing.
Our lives were changed in so many icky ways. The betrayal and the hardness of my heart toward him was just ugly. But I trudged through. Early after finding out about the affair I was out of town with unbelievers who loved a good party. They decided that I needed to get all dressed up and get drunk and find myself a little payback.
God delivered me.
I went to the hotel bar by myself to get drinks for the three of us while my friends were doing their hair and makeup. While there my eyes connected to those of a man at the bar. Looking into his eyes was like looking into his soul. I saw such emptiness there, such hurt, such loneliness that it called to me on a very primitive level. I wanted to connect with that. Scared, I hurried back to the hotel room with my drinks and told my friends about the guy. They insisted I go back, but I was afraid. On our way out to go bar hopping we stopped there to see if he was there. He was gone.
At the bars I drank more than I ever had before. Drink after drink after drink. Nothing touched me or loosed my inhibitions. All I could think about was how miserable I was and how much I just wanted to go back to the hotel room and cry myself to sleep. God kept me sober, I’m convinced, because payback would’ve ripped my soul to shreds. And been the nail in the coffin of my marriage. I threw up all night long. But was saved from a very ugly thing.
Five years after the affair we we’re finally able to see his daughter. They lived four hours away. We’d travel at least once a month. It was a very hard time, and I kept a very long list of what my husband was doing and not doing to make up to me for putting me and my kids through the torture.
We’d fight all the way home while I’d critique him and his performance. One night it was so bad. I’m so grateful none of the kids were with us, I remember him screaming. “I hear your words but I don’t understand what you want. It’s like you are speaking Chinese.”
It broke me. I sobbed the final hour of the silent trip. How could he not understand? How could I live with this one second longer? I was tired of paying for his sins. His working extra three weekends a month so he could take one weekend off. That night I screamed out to God that He needed to change my husband. I couldn’t do this anymore. And I was so, so angry that my marriage was going to end over this when it had survived alcohol, a husband who didn’t love me and an affair. So angry. When I was through screaming, God asked me a simple question, right into my heart. “Why do you think you are right?”
I couldn’t answer that question. Exhausted and silenced. I gave up, and I told Him I couldn’t but that I was going to find out what my role and responsibility were in marriage and obey Him. It just so happened that an intense marriage inductive Bible study was starting the next week at my church. I signed up to go solo. And my life began changing immediately. As I learned I changed and let go and healed and grew. I began studying other aspects and absorbing and consuming God’s word. I didn’t care as much about my marriage as I did about my right relationship with Jesus.
The trials didn’t end. But I chose to die to myself. Slowly, my husband became jealous over my relationship with Jesus. He wanted that, and he wanted to share it with me. Through this whole period of time we were involved in a church, leaders to some extent, and there was so much death in us. We began to be resurrected in Christ and we truly died.
At age nine, our youngest daughter, his from another mother, moved in permanently. While we navigated life with God at the steering wheel we were able to overcome even more obstacles. And the strangest thing happened. Our older two kids began to see faith really walked out, not just talked about in church, but the parents they saw in church were the parents they went home with.
Our youngest struggled with obvious challenges. At age 17 she told us where to put our rules, and she stepped out to live a life of her own choosing. More dark days followed. But God’s faithful answers to prayers uttered with groans and tears and His grace and mercy kept doors cracked open. Today our, MY, youngest daughter is married with a baby of her own and her own stepson. She speaks to us daily and seeks out our earned-the-hard-way wisdom. A restored relationship with her is a gift beyond words.
What about our other two children? The ones who lived through the drama and the affair’s aftermath, my bitterness and self-righteousness, the alcoholism, how are they? Did they survive the ugly childhood we provided?
They are a delight and a joy. Both living fully for the Lord and His plans for them. Our middle daughter chose to follow Christ into opening her life to foster care. She took in four little siblings and has now adopted three and prays and longs for the baby who is currently with the biological mom. As a single mom of three she is a shining light for Jesus and is making a profound difference in the lives of these amazing children. Our son teaches at a local high school. He and his wife have opened their hearts and home to so many people I can’t even keep track of those they have blessed. Generosity is who they are. And they breathe Christ in and out in their interactions.
God has been consistently for me. Allowing me to come to the end of myself, allowing me to fail miserably so that I ran to Him.
When the chef of Sunset Paradise Retirement Village ends up dead, life for sisters Fern and Zula Hopkins is whipped into a froth. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective Jared Flynn. Should he be concerned about their safety or the criminal’s?
But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts–especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene.
Before the snooping pair gain any headway with the case, it becomes crystal clear that the sisters share a mysterious secret that takes life from the frying pan and into the line of fire.
Kelly Klepfer had ambitions to graduate from the school of life quite a while ago, but alas…she still attends and is tested regularly. Her co-authored cozy/quirky mystery, Out of the Frying Pan, is the culmination of several of the failed/passed tests. Kelly, though she lives with her husband, two Beagles, and two hedgehogs in Iowa, can be found at Novel Rocket, Novel Reviews, Scrambled Dregs, Modern Day Mishaps, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter, with flashes of brilliance (usually quotes), randomocities, and learned life-lessons. Zula and Fern Hopkins and their shenanigans can be found at Zu-fer, where you always get more than you bargained for.
How can a couple go from googly-eyed in love to utter hatred within a few years? Why is it so many adults who once pledged to love and cherish their spouse “till death do we part” stomp on their vows, toss in their wedding ring, and walk away?
Maybe the better question is, what does it take to make a marriage work? Today, my guest Mary Hamilton shares her experience in doing just that when her son comes home from college. Read on and be blessed and encouraged.
Upon his graduation from college, our son noticed how many friends from both high school and college were getting married. But considering the number of troubled marriages he’d seen and the number of friends who came from homes scarred by divorce, he wondered how many of these relationships would succeed.
So, he gave his dad and me an assignment. Based on our 34 years of experience, we were to prepare a list of 5-10 bullet points on what makes a marriage work. While the following are not necessarily in order of importance, here’s the list we came up with.
A common faith, and a similar maturity in that faith. Without our personal faith in God, our marriage might not have stood the test many years ago. Faith provides accountability to a higher authority. It humbles us when pride gets in the way, provides hope in troubling times, and deepens the joy of victory over self.
Agreement on money—both spending it and saving it. Like most couples, one of us likes to save every penny and one likes to spend them. We need each other for balance so that the spender learns to save for a rainy day (and retirement) and the saver learns to enjoy the benefits money provides. Appreciate each other’s “bent” and cooperate to achieve maximum benefit from your finances.
Communication skills. Are you willing and able to talk with each other about anything and everything, revealing your deepest, darkest secrets? Can you broach a touchy subject without fear of rejection, ridicule or punishment? Can you argue without making personal attacks on each other? Communication involves listening as well as speaking. Marriage requires both skills.
Some common interests. Couples should have activities they enjoy doing together. But allow room for differences as well. Varied ideas and interests keeps both partners growing in ways they wouldn’t achieve on their own.
A strong sense of humor. Laughing together is fun and builds the relationship in positive ways. When used properly, it can also defuse tension whether pressures come from outside the relationship or within.
Commitment to each other and the marriage. Make your spouse and your relationship a priority over other family, friends, work, etc. Keep complaints and disagreements between the two of you, speaking only good things about each other to friends and relatives and guarding your spouse’s reputation and integrity in front of others.
Respect each other. Show gratefulness and treat each other with kindness—even when you’re tired and grumpy, even when you’re disappointed with your partner, even when you’re angry and arguing. (Yes, this will happen!) Attack the problem, not each other.
All of these might be summed up in the word “Attitude.” Are both partners in this marriage more interested in having their own needs met or meeting the needs of the other? Are both willing to humble themselves in order to lift up their mate? Are both willing to compromise for the good of the relationship? An attitude that says, “We’re in this together and divorce is not an option,” lays a solid foundation on which to build a strong and vibrant marriage.
A mother’s rejection. A bully’s taunts. Summer camp isn’t supposed to be like this.
Thirteen-year-old Brady is stunned when his mother drops him off for a week of camp and says she doesn’t want him living with her anymore. His pain only deepens with the cruel taunts and teasing of the camp bully. But is it possible his mother’s rejection was for his own protection?
Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp similar to the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Her experiences during twenty years of living at the camp, as well as people she knew there, inspired many of the events and situations in her novels.
Two of those novels have been named Selah Award Finalists.
Mary also enjoys knitting, reading and evenings spent bird-watching from their back patio with her best friend and marriage partner for 34 years. She and her husband make their home in Texas.
Let’s talk about this: Marriage should never be entered into without prayer and great thought. Mary’s son was wise to ask those with strong marriages for guidance! What are some suggestions you would add to Mary and her husband’s list? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.
Have you ever heard it said that a woman should be a help meet (or helpmate) to her husband? How did that make you feel? Today, my guest Elle E. Kay shares her perspective on what, exactly, being your spouse’s help meet actually means. But first, a caveat–Elle is not saying a wife must be a doormat, or that she should completely lose who God uniquely created her to be. Instead, she is expressing how she adapts her behaviors so that they have the greatest impact in conveying love and support. Hopefully, her husband is doing the same, but she has no control over that. All she can do is love her husband and love him well.
Being His Help Meet
by Elle E. Kay
Some may think that there is something degrading about being a man’s help meet. If you explore it from a biblical perspective, you realize that it is an honor. God made man. He then set out to get man a help meet (Gen 2:18-20). In the process of choosing a help meet, Adam was shown that there were no creatures suitable for his needs. God made Eve from Adam’s own rib bone (Gen 2:21). She was a precious gift. A woman who was “meet” (suitable, proper, fitting) to satisfy his needs.
When I think about it, I realize that in agreeing to wed my spouse, I agreed to be the woman who would meet his needs. To be a suitable mate in every way. If I set out to do that in our daily lives, we are both happy.
Every man is different and has different needs. My husband is a strong independent male. He wouldn’t be happy with me fussing over him all the time. There are some men who want just that and there are some women who are happy to provide that. My husband wants a partner who will handle the things he doesn’t like to do and who will depend on him to do “manly” things. He’s a carpenter. He likes to build things. It made him happy to make me a pool shed, a barn, and a chicken coop. He’s also a gentleman and enjoys opening doors for me. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need or want my help. He does. He may never vocalize his needs, but if I pay attention, I’ll know them. He doesn’t like to put away laundry. I do that. He enjoys a good meal, I enjoy cooking for him.
The point is, I fill in where he needs me. I don’t try to fit some ideal of a perfect wife. I simply do what makes him happy. My house is rarely perfectly clean and dust free, but the things that need to be done are done. The things that drive him crazy like a sink full of dirty dishes are avoided (most of the time). In turn, I get the satisfied feeling of knowing I’ve met his needs. We’ve all heard the expression “happy wife, happy life.” It works just as well in reverse. If we spouses rise up to the challenge and do the things that make our husband’s lives easier, they will be happier. If they are happy, we are happy.
I didn’t say anything about a proper help meet staying home cooking and cleaning. A proper help meet can only be defined by the needs of her spouse. Barring that I would look to Proverbs 31. A Proverbs 31 woman does a lot more than dust and vacuum her home.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other small thing. The things I do for my spouse, I must do without complaint. It wouldn’t make anyone happy if I walked around the house mumbling and grumbling as I went about my business.
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14, KJV).
We are designed to help our husbands, but that doesn’t mean we must agree on every matter. How much help would we be if we simply nod our ascent as our husbands drive our families off the edge of a cliff? Sometimes we need to speak up. Help comes in many forms and may not always be easy. God designed us to be up for the challenge.
Abandoned by her dearest friend, Stella is running-scared. Life and death decisions force her to re-examine her faith, as well as her priorities. The handsome, Jason, only exacerbates her anxiety. Should she trust him? Something is amiss in the quiet town of Edinsville. How will Stella fare as her world gets turned upside down?
Elle E. Kay lives on a farmette in the Back Mountain region of Pennsylvania. An introvert, she surrounds herself with farm animals rather than people most of the time. But once you break down her initial walls, she can be quite talkative.
Let’s talk about this: So often, society puts a negative connotation on something God creates to be beautiful. Have you experienced this? How do you strive to be a help meet to your spouse? How has that blessed you and your marriage? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace. I’d love to hear them!
Early in our marriage, it seemed Steve and I spent more time fighting than talking, and with every argument, our hearts grew a little harder and the distance between us widened. More than that, we developed a pattern of behavior and a completely skewed perception of one another.
It’s amazing how quickly negative behavior patterns can take hold, and how quickly those patterns can affect our thoughts. The two are always interconnected. The more we fight with our spouse, the greater the tendency we have to see them as our enemy, and the more they become our enemy, the more negatively we view them.
The latter is the kicker, and it creates a quickly spiraling hotbed of negative thinking.
Years ago, when Steve and I were just beginning to follow God’s way of loving one another, we went to a marriage retreat. While there, one of the speakers provided a visual that’s stuck with me. He held a quarter out at arm’s length, then talked about how he barely noticed the quarter. It was but a blip in his vision. But then he began to bring the quarter closer and closer to one eye. As he did, the quarter grew bigger, more dominant in his view, and everything in his peripheral blurred.
Now, imagine that quarter is one of your spouse’s behaviors. First of all, I’m not talking about abusive or destructive behaviors like addiction. I’m talking about stuff like leaving dirty laundry on the floor, the garage door open, or perhaps even saying something callus on occasion–it happens, folks. None of us are Jesus.
Back to the quarter/behavior. The more we focus on it, thinking about it, nagging our spouse about it, the bigger that thing becomes until it dominates our view. But if we pull back and consider that behavior as but one of many other quite positive behaviors, that thing shrinks … and our tenderness grows.
This is a powerful conflict defuser, at least for the one practicing it, and when one participant in the conflict softens, the other has a much greater likelihood of doing the same.
So, step one is consciously, deliberately think of your spouse’s good.
Here’s how it plays out in my home. Conflict often arises when both of us are tired or aren’t feeling well, because, well, honestly, that’s when we begin to self-preserve, but that’s a topic for another post. Looking around at all the things left undone that I have no energy to do, I can easily get irritated at my husband for “not helping.” (Largely because I’m quick to focus on how I’m feeling but slow to recognize when he’s feeling the same.)
BUT when I pause to remember all the times he’s gone grocery shopping for me, washed our cars, mowed the lawn, washed dirty dishes … you get the idea, I’m reminded he’s really a good guy at heart. And he truly does love me. He’s just having an off day. (We all have those, right?)
Step two: walk away.
This can be crazy hard because our pride will convince us we need the last word, or will make us view the argument as competition or a challenge, as if winning the fight has any positive value at all. (Most often, to the contrary. We can win the fight and lose our marriage. It happens all the time. Almost happened to Steve and I.)
But don’t just walk away; walk away to pray–for your marriage and that God would align your heart with His. Because chances are, without God’s help, all we’ll do is stew. And become more angry, more hurt, and more committed to digging in our heels in this fight against our spouse, and we’ve already established how helpful that is. (Read sarcasm into that last phrase.) Granted, praying in the middle of a conflict is incredibly hard, but it’s also incredibly powerful. Marriage transforming powerful.
Step three: Return calm, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and with one goal in mind–unity.
If your goal is anything else, return to step one.
Obviously, following these steps won’t resolve every issue you and your spouse will face, but man will it put you on the best footing for that to occur.
And if you try all those steps (really try, and recognize you might need to cycle through them more than once, especially when dealing with more difficult issues) and you and your spouse are still at opposing ends, get help. Seek out a Christ-centered, wise, unbiased individual who can walk beside you. Because the marriage God intended is within your grasp, and it’s beautiful. Beautiful enough to work for.
Even if it means setting that ugly, prideful, selfish, wounded self aside. (Speaking to myself here, because when I get to the heart of things, it’s usually my self-centeredness that’s causing a chunk of our issues.)
Let’s talk about this! What are some things you’ve found to be helpful in defusing a conflict? Have you tried any of the steps listed above, and if so, what were the results? Share your thoughts and experiences with us, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!
Oh, and before you go, I invite you to join my alter ego, Jen Pheobus, at her new blog! You can do so HERE. You can also read Jen’s first post on Christian Reads, a piece on the importance of guarding our words when life squeezes us, HERE. And make sure to like her Facebook page HERE to stay up to date on her writing journey. 🙂
We often go into marriage expecting it to be easier than it truly is. Did you enter your marriage thinking that being a Christian would insulate you from struggles, only to stumble–or witness your spouse stumble–and have to walk a path littered with pain? If you have–or currently are–there is hope!
Marriage: a Representation of Christ and the Church
by Toni Shiloh
A lot of us enter marriage with a heart full of love and expectations of happy ever after. When struggles appear we either fold under the pressure or keep trucking on. Then the struggles get harder. The tally sheet longer. Until you find yourself at the crossroads of stay married or divorce.
What I’ve learned in my ten plus years of marriage is that easy isn’t a path in marriage. I thought that being a representation of Christ and the Church guaranteed easy. It seemed it should be a representation of purity and righteousness.
Then I stumbled. Stumbled so far I fell into the pit, dragging my husband right along with me. Funny how rock bottom shows you your choices don’t just affect you alone.
Then God happened.
He made me see how sinful I was. Made me realize my need of a Savior and His grace.
Then my husband forgave me. He chose to let love cover a multitude of my sins. Watching his behavior, reading my Bible, talking to God, all of it made me realize the truth of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”
Our marriage was a true representation of Christ and the Church.
My husband died to his self and gave his life and dreams, hopes, expectations up all to forgive me. He showed me unconditional love.
I was the church. The bride in need of forgiveness and salvation. My husband acted as Christ, forgiving me. We became one in our union and showed our friends and family what Christ’s actions truly meant.
I implore you, if you’re struggling in your marriage, remember Christ’s sacrifice. Cling to His hope and pick the road to resurrect your marriage. Seek His wisdom and guidance and He will be faithful to give it.
Mia is headed to the famed Nottingham for a month long vacation. She never imagined she’d run into her high-school sweetheart thousands of miles away from her home town. Why would God throw them back together?
Caleb always regretted the way things ended with his high-school girlfriend, Mia. After a chance encounter in the streets of Nottingham, Caleb feels God is giving him a second chance to right the wrongs he committed. Unbeknownst to him, Mia has secrets that may require his forgiveness. Will her past overshadow his wrongs?
As Mia and Caleb work through old hurts and broken hearts will they let the blessing of forgiveness redeem their relationship?
Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an Air Force veteran, and a member of the body of Christ.
She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She likes to volunteer at her children’s school. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. An avid reader of Christian fiction, she writes reviews on her blog and enjoys helping other authors find readers.
She self-published a Christian contemporary romance novella, A Life to Live, and is at work writing her next novel.
Let’s talk about this: Toni shared from experience how she stumbled in her marriage only to have her husband extend the love and grace of Christ. Have you experienced grace and forgiveness in your marriage? Or have you been the one to extend such love as Christ has for the Church? What Scripture helped you through such difficult times? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.
I’m pretty sure it doesn’t nag, pester, and stomp around, releasing exasperated sighs, either. Yet I’ve done my fair share of all those. But over the years, God has been showing both my husband and I a better way.
Marriage of the Minds
By Gail Kittleson
Our marriage of nearly thirty-eight years has certainly tested the waters. The first decade, engrossed in childbearing and rearing, simplified life. So much to do, so much to focus on, I rarely felt unfulfilled.
My husband agrees—his work provided purpose and satisfaction, although it took some time to settle into that work. Our missionary stint in Africa ended in seeming failure, but led to him finding his niche stateside.
We divided duties much as our parents, Greatest Generation members, did. I took care of the household and children, while my husband brought in the bacon. However, he helped out with the children in many ways—his mother commented more than once that his dad definitely never changed a diaper or took turns with night watches.
The “love chapter,” I Corinthians 13, read at so many weddings, sets high standards for us, married or not.
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NLT).
True-minded people should not be married. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Which changes when it finds a change in circumstances …
My husband and I married in 1978, after age 25 and earning master’s degrees. We were settled. But the third decade of our union brought more strife and tension than either of us expected.
Some of this might have been due to my husband’s two year + deployments to Iraq. But my slow emotional development played a role, too. During the early years, more than happy to take care of everyone and everything, I saw rescuing and fixing as my spiritual gifts.
In fact, I neglected my own growth and gifts along the way. Looking back, I think I’d have been happier if I’d enjoyed the self-confidence to pursue my writing career. But I didn’t, and building confidence takes a long time. A patient spouse helps too.
I’m happy to say we continued our journey together in spite of some nasty bumps that jostled us out of complacency. This winter, we spent one of our most memorable months together, my husband enjoying his relatively new photography hobby, and me editing away on a novel.
I hope our story encourages anyone enduring a bumpy time right now.
After losing her only son to World War II and her husband soon after, Dottie Kyle takes a job at a local small-town Iowa boarding house. Her daughter Cora moved to California straight out of high school to work for the war effort, married a sailor and settled down in the Golden State—another loss.
Dottie cooks and cleans, volunteers at her church, and tends her garden. But she hungers to meet her two precious grandbabies on the coast. When troubles arise in Cora’s third pregnancy, Dottie longs to help, but old fears prohibit that arduous, cross-country train journey.
At the boarding house, complications arise that force Dottie to speak up for what’s right, and as her confidence grows, so does the unexpected interest of the widower next door. Dottie has no idea second chances wait right around the corner.
Gail, a late but sincere bloomer, taught college expository writing and ESL. Now she focuses on women’s fiction and facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats. She and her husband enjoy family in northern Iowa, and the Arizona Ponderosa forest in winter.
Meeting new reading and writing friends is the meringue on her pie, as her heroine Dottie would say.
Let’s talk about this: Gail talked about how her marriage went through some rough times, and pointed us to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians. How do you and your spouse work through rough moments in your marriage? How do you bring–and keep–God as the center of your relationship with your spouse? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!
Reactions are just that: reactions. Sometimes we react without thinking…and it doesn’t turn out so well. When those reactions are more intense than the situation warrants, pay attention. Chances are, a deep, long-hidden wound is festering within.
We’d just bought our new home, a strategic decision to make our lives easier and give us more family time.
Our gas bill would drop, as would Stephen’s commuting time, by about 90%. And, I’d finally get to attend the church where my husband worked. Hooray!
I hadn’t actually been inside the home. Stephen had, but I hadn’t. I’d looked in windows and glass-sliding doors, and assured our two young boys Dad had picked a good one.
I loved the back porch, the large lot, and the four bedroom split plan. Privacy anyone?
That first night we all slept in the family room, an indoor camp out. I promised the boys the next day we’d unpack their toys and fix their bedrooms.
That first morning I walked into a bedroom and flicked the light switch. Nothing happened. Because there were no ceiling fixtures in the bedrooms. The 1980s building style meant occupants were expected to plug a lamp into the outlet wired to the switch.
Not one bedroom had a light. Not one.
Something inside me snapped. How could my husband have missed this important detail? How could he have picked this home for us? He didn’t love me, didn’t care about me.
I lost it, completely lost it, in a meltdown of epic, volcanic proportions. Not one of my better moments.
By the time I’d finished fussing and letting Stephen know exactly how hurt I was, I not only knew I’d screwed up in a big way, I knew God was uncovering a serious issue in me.
A missing light fixture should not provoke the reaction you hadthe Holy Spirit said. In my head and heart I knew that. But my response had been so instinctive, so knee-jerk, I also knew it was automatic.
I hadn’t thought about what I felt, what I said, or what I did. I had simply reacted. To a childhood moment when walking into a room without light had meant rejection and pain. A moment I’d learned my feelings weren’t important. I didn’t have a place, or a real home, and I had no right to expect any different. I simply had to adjust to how life was now, take it or leave it.
Over the next few weeks, I prayed over why I’d behaved so badly, and I fought not to continue behaving that way. The battle was tough. My response came from such a deep, wounded place, the feelings were as powerful as any I’d ever felt. At times I thought I’d never get past what I saw as a defect in our home and our marriage, even though we bought ceiling fans with lights and Stephen installed them in each bedroom.
Then, as God began healing the pain of those childhood events, He showed me the truth behind Romans 12:2. Yes, God could heal my hurt, but I also needed to change how I thought about certain experiences. Only then, could I react out of righteousness rather than pain, or wounds, or trauma. Only then would I truly be transformed.
Only then would my marriage benefit from God’s work in me.
If like most of us, you brought childhood wounds to your marriage, I challenge you. Ask God if you live reacting to those hurts, rather than what’s really taking place today. If you let Him, God will heal those wounds. But don’t stop there—let Him change how you think and how you behave. In the end, it will all be for His glory.
What happens when the miracle God gives you threatens to destroy your marriage?
Laurie Crane is happily married. And she is usually to overlook her husband’s moments of quiet sadness. If only God would give them a child…
Pierce wants a child as badly as Laurie and has spent years praying alongside her. But he has no idea that a “yes” from God will unearth long-buried memories and bring their marriage to the brink of disaster.
The Spindle Chair – book one of The Barn Church trilogy
Shellie Arnold writes and speaks on marriage and family. She truly believes that despite baggage, neglect, or mistakes, when husbands and wives listen to God, they can live happily even after. Her passion is sharing how God has helped her do exactly that. She maintains a blog at www.shelliearnold.com, and is the founder of YOUR MARRIAGE resources. Shellie is a mother of three and has home-schooled for over twenty years. She lives in Ohio with her husband of twenty-nine years.
Let’s talk about this: Shellie shared her heart today about how her reactions were hurting her marriage, and how God was gracious to show her what caused her reactions and what she needed to change. Have you had a similar experience? How did God change your heart? What Scripture verses encouraged you throughout your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. We can all learn from one another.
It’s incredibly painful to live with a stranger you once called your best friend. It’s the kind of feeling that causes your heart to literally ache and your gut to knot. I remember, and may I never forget.
Those of you who’ve been following my blog for any length of time know it’s only by God’s grace alone that Steve and I are still together–and in love!–twenty years after we said our “I dos.” Seventeen years after we almost said our “I’m dones.” (You can watch a video of our story HERE.)
Today’s guess, LoRee Peery shares her experience of marital isolation and how God intervened. As you read her post, prayerfully ask what God is wanting to show you through it.
In no particular order, these three elements are vital to a marriage relationship. Bill and I have been married over forty years, and will tell anyone God is the only reason we’re still together.
Forgive, laugh, pray. Too bad I didn’t take those verbs into account during the years we struggled. We both came from dysfunctional, alcoholic homes. Each is the oldest in the family, strong-willed and stubborn. Bill and I are what was once termed “Type-A personalities.” We didn’t agree on most things, especially when it came to disciplining our children.
Our Lord has done wonders in each of our lives.
When our children were small I cared for them physically and loved them as much as I was able, but I feel I failed them by not listening and giving them credit for having their own voices. Bill admits to being absent. I admit to being wrapped up in surviving as a single mom with my oldest, and distracted by grief as I fought PMS during three impressionable lives.
We attended church but it wasn’t a priority until the Lord brought me to Himself two years after we wed. Bill focused on providing. I kept busy with the children, caring for the house, and church activities. He often missed children’s and church activities during the week. He did become involved for weekend soccer.
I’m admittedly a hard person to live with, grumpy when I fight chronic pain. Bill lost himself in fix-it-up projects out of town, neglecting what needed to be done at home. I started writing, which placed my energy and focus on projects rather than all the little things that once bugged me to distraction. (I first typed that word as destruction. Apt, without the Lord’s intervention.)
Our marriage survived because the Lord used women’s Bible studies. Through one of those associations, Bill met biblical men. Unknown to me, two of those men revealed to Bill how a lifestyle practice affected his personal testimony in a negative manner. It took six months of going to lunch until the Light came on. Bill changed.
I changed as well. God worked on our hearts individually. We attended couples’ Bible study. We never did agree on child-rearing, especially discipline, but I gave Bill and our children to the Lord. The control and responsibility wasn’t mine to hold on to.
We remain two imperfect people striving to glorify the Lord by action and attitude. We fail every day, but fall back on our faith, and attempt to accept one another as we are. I know what makes Bill valuable. Christ died for him. And that man God put in my life loves me. He’s always protected me and had my back.
Sarah Bishop goes through her deceased mother’s belongings and becomes immersed in the details of her grandfather’s unsolved homicide. Determined to find who was responsible, for the sake of her unborn baby, Sarah vows to seek out the answers her mother had failed to find.
Cold Case Investigator Ford Melcher is intrigued by Sarah’s dogged drive to solve the old mystery. His current case has reached a frustrating dead end, but he comes to believe it is somehow linked to Sarah’s quest. His desire to protect her from further hurt is put to the test, especially when he has secrets he’d rather not disclose.
Answers could remain elusive as to who struck Sarah’s grandfather and left him in a ditch. Will the search for those answers open doors for her to discover the life God planned? Can she accept that plan if it includes a man who wasn’t forthright with information?
Inspirational romance author LoRee Peery strives to remember the Lord’s redeeming grace each day when she surveys her sense of place in Him and where He has placed her. She clings to I John 5:4 and prays her blended family and dozen grandchildren see that faith. Her Frivolities Series and other publications are available at Pelican Book Group.
Let’s talk about this: Many marriages start off rocky because of different upbringings–or similar ones, sometimes–and there are a lot of adjustments to be made. If you’re married, did you and your spouse have a period of adjustment? Did you have differences of opinion in important things such as raising your children? How did you work through those opinions? How did you see God moving in your marriage? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Facebook on Living By Grace. We have a lot to learn from one another.
But before you go, if you’re local, I want to invite you to join me at the Oakview Barnes and Noble in Omaha this Saturday where I’ll be signing copies of all my books.
Pop by to say hi and grab a mocha at the store cafe’! And if you live in the Lincoln, NE area, join me at their SouthPointe Barnes and Noble next Saturday where I’ll be doing the same.
For those of you who follow me online, here is where I’ve been this week:
Tuesday, I was honored to be on Wordsower’s Author Showcase before their conference at the end of the month. You can read my interview HERE. I also had an interview with Anne Weaver HERE.
And last Friday, I visited Carole Towriss’ blog for an interview. Join me HERE. I also ventured over to visit with Debra Butterfield to talk about removing cliches from your characters. You can read it HERE.
I was tickled to see Intertwined highlighted on the RIRS site last week. You can check that out HERE.
And… the highlight of this week? Tomorrow I have the opportunity to speak to local elementary school 3rd graders on crafting “reality fiction.” I have a feeling I’m up for an adorable morning! If you’d like me to speak to your school, university, or writing group, shoot me an email at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. And if you’re local, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conferencewhere I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.