Defusing Conflict in Your Marriage

Early in our marriage, it seemed Steve and I spent more time fighting than talking, and with every ID-100160817argument, 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.

20160602_101945Years 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 contemplation-176883_1920your 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. 

LoveThrivesVerseJpgEven 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 livingbygracepic-jpto 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. 🙂

Loving Fiercely

Their love is fierce, in the passionate moments and in the conflict, and though I know they’d rather skip the fighting all together, they’ve learned how to hold on. Tight.

Love isn’t always flowers, date nights, and long, intimate conversations. Even the best of marriages have teeth-gritting, foot-stomping moments. Those moments can absolutely shatter your marriage, or you can find a way to push through.

Today I’m honored and tickled to have my sweet brother and sister-in-law on my blog.

-However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.-Ephesians 5-33, ESV

Warm Cups of Tea
by HaYoung Jung Febus

I woke up this morning to a very awake husband whispering(ish), “Jakkiya, do you want 20160309_073940some tea?… Jakkiya, do you want some tea? … Jakkiya, I already boiled the water. Jakkiya, do you want some tea?”

Now, for those of you that hear about our marriage off-Facebook, know that my husband and I can be fiercely affectionate to each other…and equally fierce in our fights, as well. Like, really fierce. I think this is what makes these whisper(ish)’s and teas all the more special for me.

We have both felt “defeated” as we repeat certain conversations over and over and over. And over. A wise friend once told me of the 20151230_114539importance of “persevering in repeated conversations” in marriage. Yet there have been times we both literally felt like we had depleted every ounce of perseverance juice in our souls—every ounce.

However, through these warm cups of tea, the Holy Spirit is very much alive in our household, and I experience the Spirit’s love through my husband. I know my husband doesn’t make me tea in horrendous hours of the morning just because I am so great to him. I know that he’s seen the ugliest side of me—he will see more—and the miracle is that he still chooses to serve and love, because the Spirit is very much alive in him.

Even after this wonderful cup of tea, we will still fight. We will still have deadlock areas that seem impossible to figure out. We have baggage that will take a lifetime to unpack. And it still hurts that my husband doesn’t think I’m funny, because let’s be real people, I’m hilarious. But as long as we have these milk tea-moments in our marriage going on, I know we will only learn to love better. I 20160318_184554know we have already learned to love better and praise God for that every day. Well…almost every day.

Conclusion: Husbands, thou shalt make caffeinated beverages for thee wives every morning. Thank you, husband.

***

livingbygracepic-jp

Let’s talk about this: HaYoung shared a bit about her marriage and the fighting–and how the Holy Spirit uses simple peace offerings from her husband to show His love and keep hers and Raymond’s strong. Do you see “milk-tea moments” in your own  marriage? How do you intentionally reconnect after a conflict or during times of stress?

For those following me online, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Today I’m on Putting On the New talking about intentional obedience and deliberate grace. Join me HERE.

Tuesday, I was busy! I dropped in at Seriously Write and spoke about how authors can get their books into libraries and stores. Join the conversation HERE. I also went over to Seekerville to share my observations about those who have a winning mindset. Join the fun HERE.

On Saturday, I had the joy of visiting Edie Melson on The Write Conversation. I spoke about narrowing the scope of your blogging. Join the conversation HERE.

And finally, last Friday, I shared how reaching the end of myself led to freedom on Elaine Stock’s site. Read the story HERE and join in the conversation.

10426573_10205915387019579_6039181238012022411_nFor those who live in or near the Omaha Metro, join me on April 9th at Barnes and Noble near the Oakview mall between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. I’ll be signing copies of my latest novel, Breaking Free (and maybe all my other novels as well. I’ll find out). Come in, say hi, grab a latte or mocha at the cafe’, grab an autographed copy of my novel for you or a loved one, and let’s chat! And help me spread the word by inviting your friends! You can do so by sending an email through the B&N link then click on “email” in the bottom right. Click HERE. 

Following God-given Dreams

Booksigning 11You sense God calling you, nudging you to surrender fully to His call, but you’re not sure where that will lead. To make matters worse, doubts, fears, and insecurities well within, making it hard to zero in on that still, small voice that speaks courage and peace and confidence. This journey of obedience, of full surrender, is never easy and rarely quick, but today, a sweet friend, multi-published author Shannon Taylor Vannatter, shows us it’s worth it–worth every tear, every hurdle.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of Rodeo Song to one of you, randomly selected from the comments below. (She’s also donated three of her books to three different charity fundraising events, including Takin’ it to the Streets’ first annual Hope for the Homeless event. You can see her donations here.)

I also want to congratulate the winner of last week’s give-away. Mary C. Wilson, congrats! You won a copy of Connie Almony’s novel, At the Edge of a Dark Forest! I’ll contact you soon to arrange how best to get that to you.

Living My Dream by Shannon Taylor Vannetter

At times since I first started this writing thing back in 1999, the publication journey has been a roller coaster. From the time a Print On Demand publisher published my book without my knowledge to when my traditional publisher decided to close my line, I’ve been on the verge of pulling my hair out, and have lain in the floor crying. But despite my rollercoaster ride through the publishing landscape, I’m still writing and I’m thankful I’m a writer.

On a spiritual level:

1. I get to fulfill my calling. From the time I became a Christian at fifteen years old, I felt like there was something I was supposed to do. With writing, I get to fulfill my purpose by doing something I thoroughly enjoy.

2. I get to share Jesus with nonbelievers. A non-believer is more likely to read the romance novel their friend loans them than the Bible. I recently got a letter from a Muslim man in prison telling me how much he enjoyed one of my books. He still sounded Muslim from his letter, but maybe my book planted seeds.

3. I get the opportunity to draw Christians closer to Jesus. Some of my characters are Christians, some of them aren’t. Most of them make mistakes—just like real people. I use my characters blunders to draw them closer into fellowship with God. Maybe a reader will identify with my character’s journey and take steps to draw closer to Jesus as a result.

4. I get to preach. I’m not saying I want to be a preacher, but the overall theme of all of my books is this: Love doesn’t make the world go around—God does. My characters learn that love is only lasting if God is in the center of their hand-in-marriage-1422245-m (1)relationship. So many young people in the world need that message. It gives me great joy to know that mothers and grandmothers often let their daughters and granddaughters read Heartsongs because they trust the books are clean with a spiritual message.

5. I get to connect with Christians all over the world. It makes my day when readers contact me to say my story touched their hearts. Tangible proof that I’m doing what God called me to do and that I got the message across that He wanted me to share.

On a personal level:

1. I get to work from home and my schedule is flexible. I can take time off when my son is home from school sick. I get to attend all of his school parties and events and work my writing schedule around my family. During the school year, I write while he’s at school. I work my deadlines around summer vacation, so that during the summer, I’m mom. If I need to get some writing done in the summer, I do it when he’s not home, he has a friend over, or after everyone else goes to bed. If I write until 2:00 am, I don’t have to get up early for a regular job the next day.

Writing requires a schedule, but it’s flexible enough, I can be mom when I need to be and I don’t have to worry about babysitters. Yes, he’s twelve now. And my mom left me home alone when I was twelve. But he’s a boy. Boy’s are a different species – they like snakes, fires, and guns. Enough said.

2. I can take the day off for church functions. Since my husband is a pastor, member visits, hospital visits, and funerals are a large part of our lives. If I had a regular job, he’d have to go it alone and I wouldn’t be able to be as involved with our congregation as I am.

3. My son is proud of me. He tells everyone, “My mom is an author.” He thinks it’s cool that none of his friends can say that and that I’ve taught fiction writing classes and spoke at career days at his school.

4. Through the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, I’ve made friends all over the globe. I have lots of

Shannon and me (Jennifer) at the ACFW conference in 2009

Shannon and me (Jennifer) at the ACFW conference in 2009

friends, but writing friends get me like no one else does. Not even my family. And since writing can be such a solitary pursuit, friends who get you are a God send.

5. Having a job that requires daydreaming. All of my life, I’ve tried to listen and pay attention, but my mind would wander. With writing–having a wandering mind is encouraged, an active imagination is required, and daydreaming is allowed. I hear voices and have imaginary friends, but everyone thinks it’s okay and normal since I’m a writer.

And that just scratches the surface. I won’t even get into how I write in my jammies most of the time.

Rodeo SongRodeo Song:

JENNA WENTWORTH FOUND THE MAN OF HER DREAMS 

But when silken-voiced Garrett Steele set out for stardom, he left Jenna—and his cowboy past—far behind. A chance encounter at one of his concerts propels him back into Jenna’s life. But, once burned by love, Jenna must guard her heart against the captivating singer.

Once upon a time, Garrett vowed he’d be a success, no matter what. But that path shattered his soul. His reunion with Jenna makes him long for things he once took for granted. Now he must show her that he’s found what he was looking for all along…right here in his hometown.

Purchase Links:

Mardel            Deeper Shopping            Amazon            Christian Book          Harlequin

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/award-winning author. She lives in rural central Arkansas in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows. Shannon writes inspirational contemporary romance and it took her nine years to get published in the traditional market.

Shannon hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as her characters struggle with real-life issues. Their journeys, from ordinary lives to extraordinary romance through Christ-centered relationships, demonstrate that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her family and doing craft projects.

You can visit her online at her website http://shannonvannatter.com and blog: http://shannonvannatter.com/blog

You can connect with her on Facebook,  GoodreadsPinterest and Twitter.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! I believe we all have a calling. For some, that may mean saving money and paying off debt to spend quality time with their grandchildren during retirement. For others it may mean launching or serving in a ministry, writing a novel, or honing a talent to be used for God’s glory. Or perhaps God’s calling you to step out in faith and courage to invite neighbors to a women’s event at your church.

All of those callings can feel frightening, but as Shannon reminds us in today’s post, the rewards of obedience are endless!

What is God calling you to do, and what steps are you taking to obey? You can share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And don’t forget to stop by Faith-filled Friends to read about the making of my novel, Beyond I Do, which is now available on Amazon for pre-order at a discounted price. I also encourage you to stop by Takin’ it to the Streets to read about one of my less-than glamorous yet more memorable moments.

Dragon Slayers!

So they're not dragons, and he didn't slay them, but don't you just love that smile? Left to right: El Salvadoran, hubby, me, princess

So they’re not dragons, and he didn’t slay them, but don’t you just love that smile? Left to right: El Salvadoran, hubby, me, princess

If you’ve been following my blog long, you know I adore my husband. For so very many reasons! But early in my marriage, I often missed out on his dragon-slaying heroics, not because they weren’t there, but rather, because I was far too focused on the burps and hiccups and casually-tossed dirty laundry. Our marriage changed dramatically when I surrendered fully–my mind, my thoughts, my perceptions–to Christ and began to view my husband through His eyes. (I shared a bit of this in a recent Crosswalk.com article. You can read it here.) Once I began to voice all those accolades God sparked within my heart, a gloriously beautiful and tender thing occurred–those dragon-slaying heroics became more frequent as my husband steadily stepped into his God-given role of provider, leader, and protector.

Today a sweet friend, author of At the Edge of a Dark Forest,(a book I’m reading now and LOVE!!!Connie Almony, talks about her dragon slayer and the impact each of us headshot1have on that hidden hero lurking within each of our spouses. She’s also giving away a copy of her novel, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, to one of you, randomly chosen from the comments left on this post. 🙂

Does Your Man Slay Dragons For You by Connie Almony

Whenever I begin to write a story it always starts as a romance. Of course, my characters take off and do things I’d never have expected when I first “birthed” them (they’re like children that way). But in the beginning, it’s always JUST a romance. With this in mind, I know there will need to be a defining moment where the man must slay a dragon (of some sort) for his lady.

You may think this idea is sexist and old fashioned. “Why can’t the woman slay a dragon for him?” You ask.

Well that’s fine and dandy, and most of my heroines do some slaying too, but if I’m going to fall in love with the man (which is unnecessary for me with the ladies I write) he will need to be willing to take a personal risk to get the heroine what she needs.

In my novella, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, my female protagonist, Carly, explains this idea to her counterpart, Cole, when he teases her about her penchant for reading the genre. He, being a double amputee, wonders if he could measure up as a dragon slayer.

He does!

Why?

dragon-46429-mBecause dragons come in many forms.

Early in my marriage, I’d scheduled one of those free offers to check our heating and air conditioning to clear it for winter service. FREE, I thought, who could pass up FREE? I was a little naïve back then. Of course, after the check, the technician handed me a very long list of repairs we could have done at a “reduced” price by their company if I signed NOW. I was warned, if not done soon, the whole unit would blow, costing me thousands of dollars in the end. My heart pounded. What should I do? I don’t want to miss this opportunity, and I didn’t want to risk the larger expenditure that would surely come.

I called my husband as the technician huffed loudly and tapped his toe in front of me. I could hear the comforting smile in my husband’s voice as he asked to speak to the man. I handed him the phone. They chatted. A few minutes later, the man gave me back the phone and packed his things as my husband told me not to worry. He’d consult a friend who could advise us and potentially do the work for much less than this company. He did, costing a third of what I’d been quoted.

I don’t know why this seemed a big deal to me, but I felt like a dragon had been slayed that day. A dragon in the shape of a scam-artist who’d infiltrated my home and planned to drain me of my life’s blood … or at least some cash. It gave me great peace to know my husband knew how to interrogate this man to get to the truth, to call on resources, and to ensure his family’s home was properly cared for.
My husband slays dragons every day in his office, where he manages employees, ensures goals are met and a salary is gained to feed his family. He is my hero. My knight in shining armor. He is also the biggest encourager in my writing. I am blessed.

I once listened to a woman complain that her husband never thanked her for the work she did in the home. I hear ya lady—it can be a thankless job. But I was stopped cold when she recounted how he asked of her, “When have you thanked me for going to my job every day?”

I wondered, “Had I ever thanked my husband for his provision?” I hadn’t. I try to rectify that now … To thank him for the work he does and most of all delaying HIS dream of being a writer (for which he is very gifted) to provide for his family so I can pursue MY dreams.

Thank you, Rick Almony, for slaying all those dragons!

Have you thanked your dragon-slayer today?

Dark Forest--Final CoverAt the Edge of a Dark Forest:

Cole Harrison, a war veteran, wears his disfigurement like a barrier to those who might love him, shielding them from the ugliness inside. He agrees to try and potentially invest in a prototype prosthetic with the goal of saving a hopeless man’s dreams.

Carly Rose contracts to live with Cole and train him to use his new limbs, only to discover the darkness that wars against the man he could become.

At the Edge of a Dark Forest is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Only it is not her love that will make him whole.

***

Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. Her newest release, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, is a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.

You can find Connie on the web, writing book reviews for Jesus Freak Hideout, and hosting the following blogs: InfiniteCharacters.com and, LivingtheBodyofChrist.Blogspot.com.
You can also meet her on the following social media outlets: TwitterFacebookPinterest

 

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! In what ways does your spouse help you slay dragons? Pause and list them all right now, then thank God for them. It’s easy to lose sight of the heroics in the busyness of life, but they’re there. Let’s take notice! And let’s attempt to respond in kind. 🙂 (using both meanings of the word.)

We all want our spouses to be heros and heroines, but do we also want to be heroic–in our love, encouragement, words, our servanthood, our persaverance, and our commitment to Christ? Because we have no control or say in how our spouses respond. God’s assumed full responsibility for them and their behavior. But we are responsible for our responses–for being our spouse’s helpmate, encourager, and cheerleader. The question is, how are we doing? What are some things you do, each day, to honor the hero in your spouse?

Some ways to show your appreciation:i-love-you-786729-m

1) Tuck a note in his/her lunch or jacket pocket telling him/her what you love most about him/her

2) Send him/her a link to a sappy song, telling him/her it made you think of him/her

3) Buy a card for them and actually send it to them in the mail!

4) Engage in an activity they love (with them, of course!)

5) Buy them their favorite treat and let them know you bought it just for them

6) Send them random texts letting them know you were thinking of them

7) Ask them how you can pray for them then commit to doing that.

Share your thoughts here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Marriage 101 and Dr. Who

Biblical marriage is meant to be a beautiful thing–a living demonstration of Christ’s love and intimacy for and with the church. But marriage, no matter how blissful, should ever steal our hearts from our true bride groom. Today Joi Copeland shares a truth God showed her through Dr. Who of all things.

Me and Dr. Who by Joi Copeland

DSC_0641“I will not watch Dr. Who.” I told my husband not too long ago. I really should be careful with the words I say. A few weeks later, I found myself totally engrossed with Dr. Who.

I agreed with David Tenant when he said, “I don’t want to go.” I even told him back, “I don’t want you to either.” I really liked him as the Doctor. And then came along Matt and Amelia Pond.

I learned a lot from Amelia, a.k.a. Amy. The way she treated her fiance, Rory, to spend time with the Doctor really bothered me. It’s something that I struggled with for a bit. And then it hit me. Oh, boy, did it hit me.

In my life, don’t I do the same thing to Jesus? Oh, but I do! When I got married, I still spent time with God every morning, went to church, etc. But something, or someone, started to replace my Savior. Chris, my husband. Not because he put himself there, but because I did.

I became infatuated with “all things Chris.” I slowly began to look to my husband to fulfill my deepest needs, desires, and wants. Just like Amy did to the Doctor.

Amelia, the Doctor, and Rory often found themselves in perilous situations. She’d place so much trust and hope in the Doctor that Rory didn’t see the need to help. It was sad, really. At one point, she was stuck in a dark room apart from the guys, talking into a receiver so they could hear her. Rory often wondered if she was referring to him or the Doctor. It was heartbreaking.

Yet, I did the same thing. I looked to Chris to “save” me. It wasn’t healthy, not at all. Jesus is the only one who can save, who can fulfill the deepest places in my heart. He’s the One I ought to look to and to cling to in trying times.

Yes, God wants me to love my husband, and believe me, I 396685_love,jpgdo. I cannot imagine my life without him. Chris is my best friend, my lover, my soul-mate. He’s my confidante, my encourager, my biggest supporter. But he isn’t Jesus, and never will be. He can’t take away my hurt, heal my pain, or save me from my sins. He isn’t my Daddy, my Lord, my King. That place is reserved for Christ and Christ alone.

It took me years to come to grips with this, to realize what a pedestal I placed Chris on. So now, Jesus is back where he belongs, and I’m thankful I not only learned to love Dr. Who, but I learned a valuable lesson from Amelia Pond.

How about you? Who or what have you placed above our Lord? What did it take for you to recognize that and change?

***

Joi Copeland is married to a wonderful man, Chris, and has three amazing boys, She is living the dream in beautiful Denver, Colorado. Joi loves being a wife and mom and also enjoys spending time with friends over a good cup of coffee or tea. She’s been a Christian for over twenty years. She’s the author of two books, Hope for Tomorrow and Hope for the Journey, and three novellas, Christmas Rayne, Letters of Love, and Sheriff Bride, Rob’s Story.

Let’s talk about this. How can putting your spouse above Christ actually harm your marriage? What does that look like, anyway? What does it look like to put Christ first and to rely on Him to fulfill our needs? Do you have any similar stories to share, perhaps of a time when you were looking to get your needs filled in some other way than turning to and drawing near to Christ? How did He bring you back to Himself?

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments before or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

Jelly Beans, Candied Almonds, and Hearts … sigh

How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways ….

My husband is quite the romantic. He rarely buys me glitzy jewelry or takes me to five-star restaurants. He doesn’t read me poetry or take me dancing (perhaps you remember why. If not, you can read the reason here.), but he does buy me candied almonds when he’s at the outdoorsman store. He buys me jelly beans and packs of gum … just because. He sends me one sentence—uh … one word—emails, and calls me with absolutely nothing to say. 🙂 It’s like a trail of love, small actions sprinkled throughout our sixteen years together, easily overlooked if I’m not paying attention, and yet able to penetrate deep into my heart if I am.

If you belong to Christ, you have a husband even more tender, more thoughtful, more attentive than mine. Daily, Christ showers us with love, for no other reason than because we are His beloved. His treasure.

Today my sweet friend  Elizabeth Veldboom shares how God sprinkled tokens of love before her, like hidden rose petals waiting to be discovered and cherished.

***

As I held the small angel ornaments in my hands, ready to purchase them, tears came to my eyes even as a smile touched my lips. I fingered the pretty white lace, and breathed in the words the angels held in their embrace: love, and joy. Yes, I had love. And I had joy, for I was loved.

But let me rewind a little bit. One morning last December in my prayer time I felt as if God were asking me to focus on “love” and “joy.” Love and joy? I thought, crinkling my brow. Could you be more specific, God? That’s kind of general.

If only I knew then how specific He could get.

A few days after that, I came across a blog post about the widespread phenomenon of the “one word for 2012” campaign. Basically, instead of concentrating on a huge resolutions list for the new year, participants were asked to consider focusing on just one word for 2012. They could do this through prayer, journaling, and just by asking God how He would have them apply that word throughout daily life.

The idea intrigued me, and I decided I, too, would focus on one word for 2012. As I mulled on it, my conversation with God a few days earlier came back to me. Focus on love and joy. Could those be the words God wanted me to concentrate on for 2012? I hoped not. They were two very broad terms. Besides, they were just that:two. I needed one word.

A week later found my mom and I at a craft fair. In the first room we entered, a woman selling lace angel ornaments caught our eye. As we ventured nearer, I felt a gentle tugging in my spirit to pay attention. Curious, I tried to listen closely to what God was trying to tell me. But instead of my ears, it was my eyes God used.

Looking up, one angel stood out from among the many. Love, I read. That would have been enough to make me wonder, but then I felt another gentle urging to keep looking. I swept my gaze to the side, and immediately recognized what I was supposed to see: joy, said another angel. I couldn’t believe it.

That was at least two months ago, but the words “love” and “joy” have kept resurfacing everywhere I go. And I’m not a bit surprised.

You see, I serve a God who takes joy out of the little things. Who never overlooks the smallest detail or tiniest trouble. Who orders and plans and organizes our steps. He is a God of greatness, yes-but He is also a God of the still, the small, the silent.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT.)

Every detail? Yes. Even the smallest: a single tear wetting the pillow; a snowflake drifting from the skies of heaven; the lace in an angel’s skirt.

No one is ever too insignificant for Him to notice. No problem too small for Him to care. Knowing He delights in and takes care of every little detail in our lives, we can rest easy and without fear.

I love that God delights in the details and in the small things. But even more-I love that God finds delight in the details of my small life.

I Hear Ya: In what small ways has God shown that He delights in the details of your life recently or in the past? What one word would you choose for 2012?

Elizabeth Veldboom is devoted to God, a small town girl, and a freelance writer.  She has previously been published in places like Guidepost’s Angels on Earth Magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters. Visit her blog anytime at www.thefearlist.wordpress.com– the place that is for the faint of heart. **And visit her blog today to get in on a fun give-away! She’s giving away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

And come back here Saturday as we talk about our spiritual vision. God’s always working, loving, speaking, guiding. If you can’t see His hand, perhaps you need to get your vision checked. 🙂

Love is a Verb

Most women love Valentine’s Day. With candy, flowers, sweet cards, and romantic dates with our forever-love, who wouldn’t? But if we’re not careful, our view of love can become tainted by the messages presented on commercials and greeting cards. True love extends beyond a candlelight dinner into the home where whiskers are left on bathroom sinks, dirty clothes on the floor, and toilet seats are left up. True love is evident in the things we do and the words we say throughout the year. Today Catrina Bradley shares the depth of her forever-love, reminding us that love is not only a gift of grace, but also a continual, consistent choice of action.

LOVE IS A VERB by Catrina Bradley

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..”  Ephesians 5:25

My husband might be the epitome of this passage of Scripture. So much so, that, sometimes, I come dangerously close to worshipping him. He has no problem saying those three beautiful words we all want to hear – “I love you” – but he wouldn’t have to verbalize it to for me to know. From the day we became one flesh, his actions have proven it.

Brad knows my flaws and recognizes my limits. His love for me encompasses my weaknesses, and strengthens them. When I commuted an hour and a half to a high-pressure job, he encouraged me to hire a housekeeper. I wouldn’t have minded cleaning my own home, but when I dragged my body in the door at night, I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. The long commute and the longer days zapped my energy and my motivation.

Only once was a “Spouse of the Year” honored at company’s annual Christmas Party. My husband was that spouse. I was in charge of the party, and he ran errands for me, purchased gift certificates for my boss, and put up with my crazy hours and foul moods for weeks. The usual stuff. He is always the winner of my Spouse of the Year award.

Before I left for work every morning, I pulled my pre-packed lunch out of the refrigerator. Brad said it was no big deal to fix my lunch; he was making his anyway. And when I returned home at night, his second load of laundry was usually drying.

More often than not, he makes our supper. He also does most of the grocery shopping, so he buys yummy easy-to-make dinners, or heat-and-eat frozen delicacies. Sandwiches are always an option, and some nights we just have cereal. He’s easy to please.

He is also is the most selfless person I know. (He’d probably disagree; he’s also humble.) I vividly remember stealing into my friend Leigh’s house at midnight to whisk her away from her abusive husband while he was at work. She, her two children, and her cat spent the next few months as members of our household. Brad doesn’t even like cats. Or children for that matter. Another year we shared our home for three months with a couple who were between house closings. Many friends in dire straits have been helped out of financial holes by my husband.

We have never been in a financial hole. Brad learned stewardship from his father and is a responsible caretaker of our earnings. He thinks of little things that add up. He won’t carry a balance on a credit card, preferring to withdraw from savings if necessary instead of paying interest. And not a month goes by without a deposit into that savings account. I was reared by frugal parents myself, and I’m no spendthrift, but I do need reining in once in a while. He is reason to my fancy.

Brad is not what you would call “romantic,” but he is oh-so thoughtful. The grocery store has four rows of my brand of deodorant, but I can hardly ever find my favorite: Original Scent Solid. One day, Brad came home holding up a bag. (Did I mention he also does the grocery shopping?) “Honey, guess what I found?” He grinned, and pulled out .. “Original Scent Solid!”

I cheered, and thanked him.

“But wait.” He reached into the bag again. “I got you not one .. not two .. not three .. or even four .. but FIVE .. Original Scent Solids!”

I know I’ve done nothing to deserve such a mate, and all too often I fail to reciprocate. Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”  Submission might be repulsive to some women, but I have no problem with it. What I need God’s help with is being the Proverbs 31 wife. Verse 10 says it best: “An excellent wife, who can find?” Not here, that’s for sure. The more Brad shows his love for me, the more I realize that I need to get my act together!

James said that “Faith without deeds is useless.” (James 5:20)  I think the same might be said about love without deeds. Is your love more than three beautiful words? Is it a verb? Or, like me, do you need to put wheels on your words and get into gear?

Lord, thank you for Your amazing, undeserved, unconditional love. Please help me receive that love, and share it with more than just my words. Help me to be the wife you want me to be. Amen.

Catrina Bradley grew up in Iowa but now makes her home in Georgia where she serves her church as Admin & Ministry Assistant. She has been blissfully married for over 20 years and has a beautiful, talented daughter and two precious puppies. Her Christian poetry, essays, fiction, and devotions have been published in numerous on-line and print venues. She posts quasi-regularly at her blog Scattered Seeds and monthly at Jewels of Encouragement.

Visit her online at Scattered Seeds.