divorce-908743_1920How 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.


What Makes a Marriage Work?
by Mary Hamilton

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, writing-1209700_640he 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 withoutnails-1420329_640 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.

Would you add any suggestions to our list?


HNEmodifiedcoverHere No Evil:

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?

Find out when you read Hear No Evil, Book 1 Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.


Alt. headshotMary 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.

Connect with Mary on her website, Facebook, and Pinterest.


livingbygracepic-jpLet’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.


Today I’m doing something a little different, mainly because I committed to do so. But after some nudging from Patty Wysong, and some emails shot around by the Jewels of Encouragement team, I succumbed to…vlogging. The point of the vlog was to introduce ourselves and give readers a voice and face to put to our writing. If you scroll down, you can listen to the time I alluded to on Saturday, and how a less-than-pleasant time impacted my resolve for 2012.

I’ve seen so many marriages crumble, many for small irritations, because of misunderstandings, or an abundance of bickering. Which in my mind is just wrong. Outside of abuse and infidelity, the marriage bed is sacred. So why are there so many divorces in the church? I believe it’s because we’ve forsaken obedience and flipped it to doing “what feels right” or makes us happy. But Jesus never said, “Come find the next party.” He said, “Unless you pick up your cross daily, you are not worthy of me.” And, “But whoever loses his life for me and the gospel shall find it.” And “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

It’s about obedience and commitment even when–especially when–it’s hard. If you’re a Christian, your word should be certain. People should know with you a promise made is a promise kept. Not only when it’s convenient, or when we get something out of it, but when everything in us wants to run the other way. Why? Because we belong to an absolutely holy God who always keeps His promises.

If we want fellowship with God, if we want to “dwell on His holy hill”, we will value what He values, hate what He hates, and live like He lives. We will be people of integrity and we will do what it takes to make and keep a holy, united marriage bed. Because agape love is a forever love that never walks away.

Psalm 15:1-4
1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
      speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
3 Those who refuse to gossip
or harm their neighbors
or speak evil of their friends.
4 Those who despise flagrant sinners,
and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
and keep their promises even when it hurts.

We can keep our promises. We can hold tight to our marriage, no matter what state it’s in, and we can foster increased intimacy, one step at a time.


What about you? What’s step do you need to take today to work toward relational intimacy? Take it, but don’t stop there. Keep walking, friend! For those of you who have been in the negativity-spiral for some time, this won’t be easy and likely you won’t experience quick results. You and your spouse will need to learn new patterns of behavior, which takes time. In fact, it might take the same amount of time to reconnect in your marriage as it did to disconnect, but speaking from someone who went from near divorce to (as my daughter calls my husband and I) like newly weds, it’s so worth it.

And now, stop by Patty Wysong’s blog where she explains a little about what this whole vlogging thing is all about.

What about you? Do you have a marriage-transformation story you’d like to share? Shoot me an email at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. Now go be intentional, y’all! Chasing after an extraordinary God with radical obedience.

Hopefully you’re not tired of hearing about El Salvador, because I plan to write about the El Salvadoran people often. In doing so, I hope and pray not to forget the deep love God gave our family for these people and I want to encourage you to get involved. If not in the orphanage in San Miguel, then somewhere. And I pray that you would not only get involved, but that you would stay involved. That you would commit to the long-term.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we do missions, and I’m not talking about missionaries. I’m talking about those annual trips churches take. Often, we pop into a country, build a building and work with a local church, then pop out, never to return. The next year, we go somewhere else. And this makes us feel good, right? We got to experience numerous cultures and we feel all spiritual for stepping out of our comfort zones.

Only it’s not about us. It’s about making an eternal kingdom impact, and as I mentioned in my previous blog, that takes time. It takes commitment. It takes relationship-building.

What if each church adopted one orphanage and stuck with that facility? What kind of change might be accomplished in five years? Ten? While in El Salvador, we taught the girls of the Remar El Salvador orphanage in San Miguel how to make bread and beads. They’ll sell the baked goods in the market, and the beads in the US. Although I still have some hurdles to cross to make this happen (and would appreciate your prayers) my long-term vision is to develop a web page for this orphanage where I can help sell the beaded items. My dream (and prayer) is that the bead-busines will grow to the point that I can then hand it over to the orphanage, teaching them how to run it.

And I don’t think this would be a difficult model to follow. We chose beads because one of our members has a relationship with a bead dealer and a couple of our members are gifted in this area. Perhaps your church has quilters, or knitters. It’s not difficult to teach these skills and help facilitate sales.

Because here’s the thing….building are great, but one day these girls are going to age out of the system. The building won’t be of value to them then. But if we can teach them a marketable skill, we increase their chance for success.

Over the next few months (and God willing, years) I’ll be sharing my vision with you and throwing out ways you can help. Pray about getting involved. It really doesn’t take much to make a world of difference in someone else’s life.

Here’s a slide show our pastor made of the trip. I’ll give you a low-down of how our trip went so you know what you’re seeing.

We started our week at a local church we partner with. Our reasoning is, by partnering with a local church who knows the area and already has established connections in that area, we can multiply our efforts. (While functioning as the body.) Our youth pastor preached, a few of our members gave testimonies, and our youth band played. Then I led a conference for children’s Sunday school workers. This was exciting! I was able to talk with them in-depth about child-development and ways to engage. That night, our senior pastor preached and his sermon aired on local television stations.

On Monday-Wednesday we worked at the Remar orphanage in San Miguel. While there, we performed maintenance stuff, brought new sheets and made the girls’ beds, spent some one-on-one time with the girls’ and taught VBS.

On Wednesday night we helped a local church launch their three night crusade. Thursday-Friday, we spoke in the public schools and held crusades in the public park. Somewhere in there we hit the beach and market, but my days are jumbled at this point.

During the crusade, I watched the people in the city. The first night, curious heads poked out of doorways and the local policemen watched from their stations. But very little people outside of our group came. The second night, some students from the local schools gathered on the outskirts, but they didn’t stay. By the third night, a few of the locals started to meander over and one man in particular rode his bicycle over, stayed, and accepted Christ.

As I thought of all this, I was reminded of a story our pastor shared. Our church picks up students from local apartments every Wednesday. The bus is normally packed, but that wasn’t always the case. Our pastor tells of a time when he’d park outside the mailboxes at this complex every Sunday morning waiting for someone to show, only to drive away in an empty van. But he kept going again, and again, and again. And now, we have a bus-load of kids that come–a bus-load of lives being changed. But it didn’t happen over night.

I believe this holds true with missions as well. Our church plans to go back to El Salvador in January and I believe our results will be multiplied as those who watched us the during our recent crusades gain the courage to come near. I believe we’ll be able to expand our teaching to the orphanage and build stronger relationships with the girls. The longer we commit to this orphanage and city, the greater the chance of lasting change.

Many of you are probably feeling overwhelmed right now. My talk of El Salvadoran orphans tugs on your heart, but so did my talk of foster children. Then there’s all the other very important ministries in our world. The tendency is to dabble in a bit of everything, following where our “heart leads”. I challenge you to look at your service and giving differently. Find a ministry or organization to commit to and stick with them for the long-haul. And think in terms of how you can help facilitate long-term change, not momentary self-gratification. Because again, it’s not about us, is it?

(In the following slide show, you’ll notice we took the girls to a water park. This is an amazing story. Our pastor really wanted to do this, but was worried about how much it might cost and didn’t know if we had the funds. Yet, we went….and God went before us. While there, Elaina, the orphanage “mother” talked with the water park owner, explaining who we were and what we were doing. He let us in for free. Because of his generosity, thirty girls got to be kids for one afternoon.)