A Mountain of Hope

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.

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Billy Graham

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 aid-1807541_640anesthesia 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.”)

alkolismus-64162_1920My 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 emotion-556794_1920of 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 unnamed-1dead, 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.

Buy Out of the Frying Pan on Amazon.

***

unnamedKelly 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.

 

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The Road to Restoration

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The Road to Restoration
by Jan Pierce

Luke 3: 4-6 “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight. Every ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” 

We believers are aware of the need to “fill the valleys and level the hills” for those who have never heard the Gospel. They may not understand God’s ways or the depth of their sin. They don’t grasp their need of a Savior. But how do we deal with long-time Christians who fall into sin?

They know better.

I’d been saved for over twenty years and my husband was a pastor. I taught Sunday School and women’s groups. I’d studied the Bible forward and backward for many years. I knew heartsickness-428103_640about sin and the wiles of the enemy.

I knew better.

But even though I knew, over the course of several months I allowed a relationship with another church leader to go beyond the bounds of friendship. I moved into a secretive and “romantic” relationship with a man not my husband. And though the relationship never became sexual, my heart was divided.

We’d been friends for years, enjoyed social times as couples, gone on leadership retreats, worked side by side to build a church. We’d even lived with the family for a time while we were in the process of buying a home. We were friends. We loved their children and they loved ours.

I sinned.

Once the relationship became common knowledge we were required to go before the church and confess. We were not allowed to speak to one another again. He lost his leadership position and moved away. I lost my good reputation.

Although all of this took place over twenty years ago, some of the lessons learned are as nature-669592_640fresh today as they were then. I learned first-hand about ways to minister to those caught in the web of sin. I learned what helps and what doesn’t.

My Father God sent Jesus to die for my sins. He wanted me restored to Him. And I was. But as I look back on that time I realize we Christians often don’t know how to love someone back on their feet. We mess it up.

From My Perspective:

  • Though I’d behaved in sinful ways I was shocked at my own behavior.
  • I didn’t expect anyone to overlook my sin or condone it.
  • I was numb both in mind and spirit—it felt as if I had watched another person’s behaviors.
  • Long lists of scriptures handed to me by well-meaning believers were not helpful.
  • Notes and letters of condemnation and shame broke me further.
  • At the most horrible time of my life most friends and acquaintances had no idea how to help. They disappeared.

Over many months and years I received my healing. I traced the roots of my unhealthy need for approval that led to attention seeking. I came to understand some of the “ministry” I received had not been at all helpful, though well-intentioned.

How can we do better? How can we help to “make the crooked straight and the rough roads smooth?”  These are the actions and behaviors that brought healing and eventual wholeness to my heart.

Unconditional Love

While I didn’t expect or want friends to condone what I’d done, I was not able to take in corrective words at rope-1469244_640that time. I was in shock. I was grieved beyond words. I could barely get through the days—going to work, cooking meals, being me. Those who were able to reassure me of their unconditional love were like healing balm to my raw heart. One woman said, “I don’t care what you did, I love you anyway.” Another stood in church beside me and read a verse of God’s redemption with a strong, firm voice. A man I barely knew wrote me a letter telling of the struggles in his own marriage and sending encouraging words filled with love. I’ll never forget those who acknowledged that I’d fallen, but loved me until the day I could stand again.

The Gift of Time

Because we were in positions of leadership, everyone involved went through painful transitions. We lost our leadership positions. We eventually lost our church body. We were like lepers calling out “unclean.” Friends disappeared like a mist. A teacher friend once said, “Nobody loves you when you have head lice.” It was like that. Those who were willing to spend time with me, talk with me, listen and pray—they were gold.

Honesty Concerning Consequences

When sin twists its way into our lives there are dreadful consequences. There is no reason girl-517555_640to minimize them. One friend said: “It will eventually be like a broken bone that’s healed. There will always be that knit-together place,  that scar.” And he was right. The consequences were great. Innocent people were hurt. The ripples of the events traveled out to family members, friends and beyond. We lost people we loved. I had to face dark places in my own being that I’d ignored to my own hurt. To be honest, years and years have passed, but there are still awkward meetings with friends from those days—a wedding where we run into them, a funeral we don’t attend because we would run into them. It’s a sad fact that sin destroys. But…

Moving On

Praise God He sent Jesus to die for the very sins I committed. It was a long time before I healed. It took encouraging words from a new pastor who helped me get “unstuck” from shame and guilt. He offered to pray with me, counsel with me—whatever it took to regain love-699480_640my true identity as a beloved daughter of the King.

There’s a time for mourning and then there’s a time for moving on. I returned to teaching and leading women in the church. My husband and I began a ministry to Christians in India. We rejoiced that our marriage not only survived but became stronger and healthier. We counted our blessings.

John preached the message: “Repent, the King is coming.” And He did. He came and died for your sins and mine. He came to restore and heal. Let’s join hands with Him to bring restoration and hope to His people.

*** 

homegrown-family-fun-frontToday’s children are missing out on old-fashioned unstructured creative play. They seldom run and play outdoors. They don’t spend time building forts or making mud pies. Their primary choices involve computerized screentime. While computerized games and activities can be educational, they eat up the time that would otherwise be spent in active, kid-powered play—the work of childhood. Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged offers hundreds of ways to encourage healthy play, both indoors and out. Find this helpful family resource at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

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jan-109acrop1Jan Pierce is a Christian wife, mother of two, grandmother of four little boys and a retired school teacher. She draws on her life experiences to write both fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and the newly-released Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged. Both  available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

When the Wait Is Over

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The pain of infertility runs deep and cannot fully be understood unless one has experienced it. I suppose that’s true of anything we face, be it tragedy, joblessness, illness … Last week in For the Love Bible study, we talked about how to stay strong when it feels as if our prayers fall on deaf ears, and Chaka Heinze shared an incredibly powerful testimony revealing how this plays out in her life. You can read that HERE. Then, Monday, Maria Morgan talked about choosing faith over doubt. You can read that HERE. Today those two messages come together in a celebratory post by my sweet friend Susan Aken.

When the waiting ends
by Susan Aken

“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” Luke 1:7

“LORD, Please hear my prayer! You know my heart and how I long for a child. I want to shy-863056_640hold my own baby and know the joy of motherhood. I desire this with all my soul. Will You give me a child? If not, help me bear this pain and find contentment with empty arms. If it is Your will, please show me what to do. Help me to trust You.”

The cry of a childless woman runs deep. This longing is confronted at every turn with a woman who is a mother. The new babe who smells so sweet. The woman lovingly caressing her swollen abdomen. The toddler who runs around on chubby legs. On and on.

Living in a culture where being childless was a sign of God’s displeasure added to Elizabeth’s pain. Maybe she asked herself, “What did I do wrong?” Sympathetic and condescending smiles mocked her.

“Look at poor Elizabeth! I’m glad it isn’t me.”

Elizabeth’s one recorded quote after becoming pregnant is telling,

“’The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’” Luke 1:25 (NIV)

Why can’t I have a child Lord? Why do other women get this blessing and not me?

I felt that pain. I always wanted a husband, children and the American dream. But things didn’t happen the way I hoped. I found myself single at the age of twenty-nine. Not the way I’d have written my story. Then I met my wonderful husband, got married and prepared my heart for children. I soon discovered he wasn’t ready (he was younger than I) so I waited.

Years went by. He decided he didn’t want children. I won’t share the whole girl-926225_640story here but I found myself at the age of thirty-eight hoping to get pregnant by means of insemination. Month after month nothing happened. After a year of special treatments, I faced the truth I might not ever be a mom and my prayers were similar to the one I began with. Similar to what Elizabeth may have prayed.

Then came a phone call about a baby boy who needed a mom and dad. Twenty-two hours later I was holding our son! Like Elizabeth my miracle came. The wait was over.

Euphoria! Grace in the form of a newborn baby. A love letter from God. Grace in every cry and squeak. Grace in arms filled with a sweet baby boy. I knew that I didn’t deserve the miracle God

Week 3 memory verse

Week 3 memory verse

gave. We made several decisions along the way that should’ve taken us off the miracle list. I hadn’t even been seeking God with my whole heart.

child-337540_640Did Elizabeth feel that euphoria? I’m certain she did! Did she see grace in the face of that newborn boy? I believe so.

She went from shame to rejoicing.

I wouldn’t change one thing about how our son came to us. I imagine Elizabeth would say the same. God’s timing is always perfect.

In that moment, when the waiting ends, God’s grace is painted in living color and all we can do is bow and give thanks.

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him.” 1 Samuel 1:27 (ESV)

***

Amazing Hope:

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s amazingdevotion includes verses from the Bible, inspirational thoughts by the author, reflection questions and a prayer. The topics include many of the struggles common to us all such as parenting, death, fear, sin, and the futility of daily life. There are also devotions on the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power of God’s word and other topics. These writings express the hope that gets me through each day and I pray they will also help you.

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susanakenSusan is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty-nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church!

Connect with Susan on her web site and Lulu.com.

Let’s talk about this! When our prayers aren’t answered on our timetable, when our waiting takes years, even decades, we may assume God isn’t listening or that He doesn’t plan to answer our prayers at all. But Scripture tells us God is always working on our behalf. That doesn’t mean He’ll grant every one of our desires, but it does mean He will always and only do what is for our best.

This brings me to this week’s memory verse: “From ancient times no one has heard or perceived, no eye has seen any livingbygracepic-jpGod besides You, who intervenes for those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4 NET).

Can you share a time when it felt as if God wasn’t listening only to find out later He’d been working behind the scenes, setting things into motion, on your behalf? How might focusing on His promise to work things out for our good (Romans 8:28) help you maintain hope and spiritual strength during a time of waiting?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace or For the Love Bible study, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Keeping It God-Centered

Merging two people with different personalities, ideas, thoughts … and sins … can make marriage hard. Today, my guest, Karen Pashley, shares with us the hope and foundation we have in God to make our marriages not just work, but thrive.

We love because He first loved us.

The Trials and Triumphs of a God-Centered Marriage
by Karen Pashley

Let’s face it, being married is not easy.

Pair up two individuals with different personalities, energy levels and tastes, ask them to pair-707506_640manage a household, children, social  commitments, and their careers on a daily basis and you have a recipe for friction.

Throw in the fact that we are sinners—and at times our sin will hurt, disappoint and anger our spouses.

Small irritations, like hogging the remote or continually leaving wet towels on the bed are not so hard to overcome.

But what about the biggies? What if your spouse has an affair? Struggles with an addiction? Or develops a nasty temper? That’s when the vows you declared on your wedding day actually become your reality.

To love, honor, and cherish. Through good times and bad, For richer or poorer, in sickness and health.

Without the grace and mercy of Christ, marriage doesn’t seem like a logical idea at all, does it?

Falling in love is the easy part. Loving our spouses for a lifetime takes commitment, determination, and disciplining our minds to trust in God.love-699480_640

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”

Conjuring up love when our souls are weary, or stressed, or hurting is virtually impossible without the love of Christ flowing through us.

God designed man and woman to be uniquely and wonderfully different, yet He planned for us to come together and become partners in marriage. He knew this would not be an easy task for us—His first couple blew it big time, yielding to the sin that so easily ensnares.

We’ve been blowing it ever since.

But, the Lord is good, and kind and merciful. He did not haphazardly concoct this scheme called marriage and then leave us to our own feeble means to make it work.

Jesus gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit so that we could experience His perfect love for us (1 John 4:13). And when we embrace that unfathomable Love—despite our frailties, shortcomings, and sins—we can love our spouses, in spite of their frailties, shortcomings, and sins.

What a wonderful, thoughtful God he is! He has equipped us to receive and give love to one another through His own Spirit!

christ-776786_640We can love our spouses in and through anything, if we embrace the love our Father has for us.

I like the way the Bible spells it out for us in 1 John 4:10-12:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

My new novel explores how a Christian family deals with the consequences of the husband’s infidelity. Each character wrestles with their own flaws while searching for the answers to their pain. Only when they yield to the love God has for them can they begin the journey towards forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

Readers and reviewers often contact me to share how this story profoundly affected them and their approach towards situations needing healing and forgiveness in their own lives. I hope you’ll consider reading—may your soul be refreshed with the living water of Jesus’ love.

***

Precious in His Sight:

The story of one determined wife, her guilt-ridden husband, and the other woman, whose struggle may set them all free . . .

PreciousinHisSight_CVR2What if your husband was cheating? What would you do?

Feisty, tenacious, and adorably flawed, Sugar Brennan is fiercely committed to her family, her traditional Christian values, and her spotless reputation in her affluent Southern community. When she discovers her husband Clay has been unfaithful, Sugar is determined to right the wrongs in her life.

Then Clay’s former mistress returns to Westfield with devastating news, posing a heart-wrenching dilemma that challenges Sugar to rethink all she’s believed about faith, family, and the healing power of forgiveness.

She’s been raised in a preacher’s home, taught to love her enemies.

She’s got the fish sticker on her car and a collection of good works under her belt.

But . . . reach out to the woman who nearly destroyed her marriage? Surely God wouldn’t ask her to go that far.

“This book will stir your emotions, warm your heart, and ignite a longing in your spirit to know the One who loves us unconditionally . . . no matter who we are or what we’ve done.”   —Denise Jackson, NYT bestselling author and wife of country music superstar Alan Jackson

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IMG_8533-Karen Pashley writes and speaks with wit and candor about relevant, often gut-wrenching topics that resonate with women of all ages. Her Amazon best selling novel Precious in His Sight is hailed as “a story of betrayal, heartbreak, and reconciliation with unrelenting themes of grace, forgiveness, and Christian duty” by Publishers Weekly. Karen lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy the rich culture, glorious landscapes, and the occasional celebrity sighting. Read more at  http://www.karenpashley.com

Order Karen’s inspiring novel at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Walmart.com.

Connect with Karen on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Loving our spouse is an ongoing, deliberate choice we make, but it’s only possible because of 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.” How do you show and act out your love for others? How have others shown you love? Share your thoughts, ideas, and encouragement in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

Making Marriage Work

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Respite for the Caregiver

Chronic illness, disease, and long-term injuries are an incredible burden for the one experiencing them. Sometimes, so much so that we forget to care for our caregiver. Today, my guest, Kelly Irvin, shares her perspective on what caring for her own caregiver–her spouse–looks like and why it’s important.

Matthew

The Gift of Respite
by Kelly Irvin

My husband recently bought a 2016 Charger with a Hemi. You’re thinking, “What does this have to do with anything other than debt management or the lack thereof?” It has to do with the fact that he has learned in the last year that his wife has a chronic degenerative surgeon-1049534_640disease and a life-threatening disease. He’s been suckered by a one-two punch and he’s reeling. Yet, he’s still standing.

In October 2014 I had spinal fusion surgery to correct severe scoliosis. In November 2015 I received the diagnosis of primary lateral sclerosis. In January 2016 an oncologist informed me—us—I have Stage 4 ovarian cancer.

Through it all, my husband has rolled with the punches, at times serving more as a caregiver than a husband. When I thanked him, he said this was where the “in sickness and in health” vow came in. When I found out about the PLS—which eventually results in use of a wheelchair and sometimes the inability to use arms and to talk—he said, “If I have to carry you, I will.”

He has sat by my side waiting for biopsies and scans to be done and again when the results were shared. Work from home became work from the hospital during the early rounds of chemotherapy.

supermarket-732279_640He does the laundry, the grocery shopping, takes out the trash, changes the litter box and cooks. In addition to all the chores he did before. He takes care of the finances and deals with insurance. And he works full time.

For twenty-eight years, I did most of those chores, worked full-time, and took the lion’s share of child-raising duties. The weight has shifted and it has changed our relationship. It can’t not change it. Our love has changed in this new season in our lives and our marriage.

When he called me to say he was picking up our son to go car shopping, I said okay. Did I auto-1291491_640think it was a great idea, given my retirement and my uncertain future? I didn’t. But I also know my husband. He did his research and made financially sound decisions.  He drives an hour to work each way so that I don’t have to move away from my church family. Driving in a car that feels good under him relieves some of the stress of dealing with massively congested traffic five days a week. For a minute he’s not thinking about chemo and hair loss and CT scans and what a murky future will bring.

So when he asks if I mind if he goes out with his friends on Saturday night to shoot pool, I don’t hesitate. Go, enjoy, be silly, tell jokes, rib each other, live in the moment. I know he’ll come home to me.

Caregivers need respite. Give your spouse that gift. Sometimes that respite comes in the form of a trip to the outlet malls or a paint night or scrapbooking event. Sometimes it’s a hunting or fishing trip or a basketball game. Sometimes it comes in a night of racking billiards-548359_640them up and sinking the eight ball. Sometimes it’s blowing smoke about being able to do zero to fifty in sixty seconds (something I’ve specifically forbade him to do!). Whatever it is, if you’re a caregiver, find it. Turn tomorrow over to a gracious, caring God. These light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. Health challenges change our relationships with our spouses—making them deeper and stronger. I find joy in that. I hope you do too.

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Saddle Maker FinalRebekah Lantz feels betrayed and abandoned. Tobias Byler is bound by regret. Can two young runaways from a world away teach them the healing power of a true family?

Rebekah isn’t like her sister Leila, but no one seems to believe that. Ever since Leila made a decision that has haunted her family and their small Amish community, Rebekah has been held to a higher standard under her mother’s watchful eye. Boys avoid her. She simply longs for the chance to be a wife and mother like the other girls.

Tobias Byler only wants to escape feelings for a woman he knows he should never have allowed to get close to him. Moving with his family to isolated Bee County, Texas, seemed the best way to leave his mistakes behind. But even a move across the country can’t stop the past from accompanying his every thought.

A surprise encounter with two half-starved runaway children forces both Rebekah and Tobias to turn their focus on others far more desperate.

In doing so, they discover the key to forgetting the past may open the door to the love and the future they both seek.

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ChemoDoCroppedKelly Irvin is the author of The Saddle Maker’s Son, the third novel in the Amish of Bee County series from Zondervan/HarperCollins. It follows The Beekeeper’s Son, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “a delicately woven masterpiece.” She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest Housing. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.

A former newspaper reporter and public relations professional, Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to read books by her favorite authors.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: We heard from Kelly about how difficult it is for the spouse of a chronically ill person, and how that spouse needs to be supported. Do you have a caregiver for yourself? If so, how do you support that person? If you don’t have a caregiver, do you know one you might be able to support by offering some respite? What are some ways you find respite in God? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below or over at Living by Grace. We can all learn from one another!

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breakingfree_n1664109Book news! My latest release, Breaking Free, is on sale (paperback version) for $4.60! Get it HERE! Aaaaannnnnd, Intertwined is on sale (paperback version!) for $6.68! That’s 58% off the regular price! Get it HERE and read the first 2 chapters for free HERE.

 

Being His Help Meet

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.

-Do all things without murmurings or disputings.-Philippians 2-14, KJV

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.

wedding-559422_1920 PIXABAYWhen 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 hands-1022212_640things 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.

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Abandoned by her dearest friend, Stella is running-scared. Life and rsz_stella3death 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?

 

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ElleEKayElle 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.

Connect with Elle on Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and her website.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’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!