Christ, the Church, and Marriage

We often go into marriage expecting it to be easier than it truly is. Did you enter your marriage thinking that being a Christian would insulate you from struggles, only to stumble–or witness your spouse stumble–and have to walk a path littered with pain? If you have–or currently are–there is hope!

-Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.-Hebrews 10-23, E

Marriage: a Representation of Christ and the Church
by Toni Shiloh

A lot of us enter marriage with a heart full of love and expectations of happy ever after. When struggles appear we either fold under the pressure or keep trucking on. Then the portrait-119851_640struggles get harder. The tally sheet longer. Until you find yourself at the crossroads of stay married or divorce.

What I’ve learned in my ten plus years of marriage is that easy isn’t a path in marriage. I thought that being a representation of Christ and the Church guaranteed easy. It seemed it should be a representation of purity and righteousness.

Then I stumbled. Stumbled so far I fell into the pit, dragging my husband right along with me. Funny how rock bottom shows you your choices don’t just affect you alone.

Then God happened.

He made me see how sinful I was. Made me realize my need of a Savior and His grace.

Then my husband forgave me. He chose to let love cover a multitude of my sins. Watching his behavior, reading my Bible, talking to God, all of it made me realize the truth of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

Our marriage was a true representation of Christ and the Church.

My husband died to his self and gave his life and dreams, hopes, expectations up all to sunshine-923890_640forgive me. He showed me unconditional love.

I was the church. The bride in need of forgiveness and salvation. My husband acted as Christ, forgiving me. We became one in our union and showed our friends and family what Christ’s actions truly meant.

I implore you, if you’re struggling in your marriage, remember Christ’s sacrifice. Cling to His hope and pick the road to resurrect your marriage. Seek His wisdom and guidance and He will be faithful to give it.

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A Life to LiveMia is headed to the famed Nottingham for a month long vacation. She never imagined she’d run into her high-school sweetheart thousands of miles away from her home town. Why would God throw them back together?

Caleb always regretted the way things ended with his high-school girlfriend, Mia. After a chance encounter in the streets of Nottingham, Caleb feels God is giving him a second chance to right the wrongs he committed. Unbeknownst to him, Mia has secrets that may require his forgiveness. Will her past overshadow his wrongs?

As Mia and Caleb work through old hurts and broken hearts will they let the blessing of forgiveness redeem their relationship?

Find A Life to Live on Amazon and Nook.

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Toni ShilohToni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an Air Force veteran, and a member of the body of Christ.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She likes to volunteer at her children’s school. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. An avid reader of Christian fiction, she writes reviews on her blog and enjoys helping other authors find readers.

She self-published a Christian contemporary romance novella, A Life to Live, and is at work writing her next novel.

Find Toni on her website, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and the group blog, Putting On the New.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Toni shared from experience how she stumbled in her marriage only to have her husband extend the love and grace of Christ. Have you experienced grace and forgiveness in your marriage? Or have you been the one to extend such love as Christ has for the Church? What Scripture helped you through such difficult times? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

As a fun aside, Toni is highlighting my debut novel, Beyond I Do, on her blog today. Pop over to have a peak-see! I’m also on Jo Huddleston’s blog, talking about how we find our inner strength. Join me HERE.

Then come back Monday, because I’ve got some fun news to share, and some questions I want to ask you. 🙂

 

 

Marriage of the Minds

“Love never gripes.”

Ouch.

I’m pretty sure it doesn’t nag, pester, and stomp around, releasing exasperated sighs, either. Yet I’ve done my fair share of all those. But over the years, God has been showing both my husband and I a better way.

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Marriage of the Minds
By Gail Kittleson

Our marriage of nearly thirty-eight years has certainly tested the waters. The first decade, engrossed in childbearing and rearing, simplified life. So much to do, so much to child-1065633_640focus on, I rarely felt unfulfilled.

My husband agrees—his work provided purpose and satisfaction, although it took some time to settle into that work. Our missionary stint in Africa ended in seeming failure, but led to him finding his niche stateside.

We divided duties much as our parents, Greatest Generation members, did. I took care of the household and children, while my husband brought in the bacon. However, he helped out with the children in many ways—his mother commented more than once that his dad definitely never changed a diaper or took turns with night watches.

The “love chapter,” I Corinthians 13, read at so many weddings,
sets high standards for us, married or not.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NLT).

And Shakespeare agrees:

SONNET 116 PARAPHRASE
Let me not to the marriage of true minds Let me not declare any reasons why two
Admit impediments. Love is not love True-minded people should not be married. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds, Which changes when it finds a change in circumstances …

 

My husband and I married in 1978, after age 25 and earning master’s degrees. We were settled. But the third decade of our union brought more strife and tension than either of us expected.

Some of this might have been due to my husband’s two year + deployments to Iraq. But my slow emotional development played a role, too. During the early years, more than happy to take care of everyone and everything, I saw rescuing and fixing as my spiritual gifts.

Oops.

In fact, I neglected my own growth and gifts along the way. Looking back, I think I’d have old-people-275319_640been happier if I’d enjoyed the self-confidence to pursue my writing career. But I didn’t, and building confidence takes a long time. A patient spouse helps too.

I’m happy to say we continued our journey together in spite of some nasty bumps that jostled us out of complacency. This winter, we spent one of our most memorable months together, my husband enjoying his relatively new photography hobby, and me editing away on a novel.

I hope our story encourages anyone enduring a bumpy time right now.

“It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NIV).

***

In This TogetherAfter losing her only son to World War II and her husband soon after, Dottie Kyle takes a job at a local small-town Iowa boarding house. Her daughter Cora moved to California straight out of high school to work for the war effort, married a sailor and settled down in the Golden State—another loss.

Dottie cooks and cleans, volunteers at her church, and tends her garden. But she hungers to meet her two precious grandbabies on the coast. When troubles arise in Cora’s third pregnancy, Dottie longs to help, but old fears prohibit that arduous, cross-country train journey.

At the boarding house, complications arise that force Dottie to speak up for what’s right, and as her confidence grows, so does the unexpected interest of the widower next door. Dottie has no idea second chances wait right around the corner.

Find In This Together on Wild Rose Publishing, Amazon, Bookstrand, All Romance eBooks, and Kobo.

 

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Gail KittlesonGail, a late but sincere bloomer, taught college expository writing and ESL. Now she focuses on women’s fiction and facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats. She and her husband enjoy family in northern Iowa, and the Arizona Ponderosa forest in winter.

Meeting new reading and writing friends is the meringue on her pie, as her heroine Dottie would say.

Connect with Gail on her web site, Facebook, her Facebook Author’s Page, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

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Let’s talk about this: Gail talked about how her marriage went through some rough times, and pointed us to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians. How do you and your spouse work through rough moments in your marriage? How do you bring–and keep–God as the center of your relationship with your spouse? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Light Bulbs

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Reactions are just that: reactions. Sometimes we react without thinking…and it doesn’t turn out so well. When those reactions are more intense than the situation warrants, pay attention. Chances are, a deep, long-hidden wound is festering within.

My guest today, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas author Shellie Arnold, shares a moment when she literally lost it, and what God did with her emotional explosion.

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A Light Bulb Moment
by Shellie Arnold

We’d just bought our new home, a strategic decision to make our lives easier and give us architecture-1279512_640more family time.

Our gas bill would drop, as would Stephen’s commuting time, by about 90%. And, I’d finally get to attend the church where my husband worked. Hooray!

I hadn’t actually been inside the home. Stephen had, but I hadn’t. I’d looked in windows and glass-sliding doors, and assured our two young boys Dad had picked a good one.

I loved the back porch, the large lot, and the four bedroom split plan. Privacy anyone?

That first night we all slept in the family room, an indoor camp out. I promised the boys the next day we’d unpack their toys and fix their bedrooms.

That first morning I walked into a bedroom and flicked the light switch. Nothing happened. Because there were no ceiling fixtures in the bedrooms. The 1980s building style meant occupants were expected to plug a lamp into the outlet wired to the switch.

light-bulb-376926_640Not one bedroom had a light. Not one.

Something inside me snapped. How could my husband have missed this important detail? How could he have picked this home for us? He didn’t love me, didn’t care about me.

I lost it, completely lost it, in a meltdown of epic, volcanic proportions. Not one of my better moments.

By the time I’d finished fussing and letting Stephen know exactly how hurt I was, I not only knew I’d screwed up in a big way, I knew God was uncovering a serious issue in me.

A missing light fixture should not provoke the reaction you had the Holy Spirit said. In my head and heart I knew that. But my response had been so instinctive, so knee-jerk, I also knew it was automatic.

I hadn’t thought about what I felt, what I said, or what I did. I had simply reacted. To a childhood moment when walking into a room without light had meant rejection and pain. A moment I’d learned my feelings weren’t important. I didn’t have a place, or a real home, and I had no right to expect any different. I simply had to adjust to how life was now, take it or leave it.

Over the next few weeks, I prayed over why I’d behaved so badly, and I fought not to continue behaving that way. The battle was tough. My response came from such a deep, wounded place, the feelings were as powerful as any I’d ever felt. At times I thought I’d Photo by David Castillo Dominicinever get past what I saw as a defect in our home and our marriage, even though we bought ceiling fans with lights and Stephen installed them in each bedroom.

Then, as God began healing the pain of those childhood events, He showed me the truth behind Romans 12:2. Yes, God could heal my hurt, but I also needed to change how I thought about certain experiences. Only then, could I react out of righteousness rather than pain, or wounds, or trauma. Only then would I truly be transformed.

Only then would my marriage benefit from God’s work in me.

If like most of us, you brought childhood wounds to your marriage, I challenge you. Ask God if you live reacting to those hurts, rather than what’s really taking place today. If you let Him, God will heal those wounds. But don’t stop there—let Him change how you think and how you behave. In the end, it will all be for His glory.

***

spindlechair_coverWhat happens when the miracle God gives you threatens to destroy your marriage?

Laurie Crane is happily married. And she is usually to overlook her husband’s moments of quiet sadness. If only God would give them a child…

Pierce wants a child as badly as Laurie and has spent years praying alongside her. But he has no idea that a “yes” from God will unearth long-buried memories and bring their marriage to the brink of disaster.

The Spindle Chair – book one of The Barn Church trilogy

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Shellie Arnold writes and speaks on marriage and family. She truly believes that despite baggage, neglect, or mistakes, when husbands and wives listen to God, they can live happily even after. Her passion is sharing how God has helped her do exactly that. She maintains a blog at www.shelliearnold.com, and is the founder of YOUR MARRIAGE resources. Shellie is a mother of three and has home-schooled for over twenty years. She lives in Ohio with her husband of twenty-nine years.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Shellie shared her heart today about how her reactions were hurting her marriage, and how God was gracious to show her what caused her reactions and what she needed to change. Have you had a similar experience? How did God change your heart? What Scripture verses encouraged you throughout your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. We can all learn from one another.

This has been a quiet week for me as I prepare to teach a class at the Wordsowers Christian Writer’s Conference this Saturday. I’d love to have you join me!

Yesterday I had the privilege of joining Angela Meyer on her blog, talking about perceptions in marriage can either create a bond or fracture it. Read the post HERE.

And this past Monday, I wrote a parenting post on a very needed topic: giving yourself a time out. Read it HERE and join in the conversation.

Forgive, Laugh, Pray

woman-1006100_1920It’s incredibly painful to live with a stranger you once called your best friend. It’s the kind of feeling that causes your heart to literally ache and your gut to knot. I remember, and may I never forget.

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for any length of time know it’s only by God’s grace alone that Steve and I are still together–and in love!–twenty years after we said our “I dos.” Seventeen years after we almost said our “I’m dones.” (You can watch a video of our story HERE.)

Today’s guess, LoRee Peery shares her experience of marital isolation and how God intervened. As you read her post, prayerfully ask what God is wanting to show you through it.

-Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.-Ephesians 4-32, ESV (1)

Forgive, Laugh, Pray
by LoRee Peery

Forgive ~~ Laugh ~~ Pray

In no particular order, these three elements are vital to a marriage relationship. Bill and I have been married over forty years, and will tell anyone God is the only reason we’re still together.

Forgive, laugh, pray. Too bad I didn’t take those verbs into account during the years we struggled. We both came from dysfunctional, alcoholic homes. Each is the oldest in the family, strong-willed and stubborn. Bill and I are what was once termed “Type-A son-388523_640personalities.” We didn’t agree on most things, especially when it came to disciplining our children.
Our Lord has done wonders in each of our lives.

When our children were small I cared for them physically and loved them as much as I was able, but I feel I failed them by not listening and giving them credit for having their own voices. Bill admits to being absent. I admit to being wrapped up in surviving as a single mom with my oldest, and distracted by grief as I fought PMS during three impressionable lives.

We attended church but it wasn’t a priority until the Lord brought me to Himself two years after we wed. Bill focused on providing. I kept busy with the children, caring for the house, and church activities. He often missed children’s and church activities during the week. He did become involved for weekend soccer.

I’m admittedly a hard person to live with, grumpy when I fight chronic pain. Bill lost breakup-908714_640himself in fix-it-up projects out of town, neglecting what needed to be done at home. I started writing, which placed my energy and focus on projects rather than all the little things that once bugged me to distraction. (I first typed that word as destruction. Apt, without the Lord’s intervention.)

Our marriage survived because the Lord used women’s Bible studies. Through one of those associations, Bill met biblical men. Unknown to me, two of those men revealed to Bill how a lifestyle practice affected his personal testimony in a negative manner. It took six months of going to lunch until the Light came on. Bill changed.

I changed as well. God worked on our hearts individually. We attended couples’ Bible study. We never did agree on child-rearing, especially discipline, but I gave Bill and our holding-hands-752878_640children to the Lord. The control and responsibility wasn’t mine to hold on to.

We remain two imperfect people striving to glorify the Lord by action and attitude. We fail every day, but fall back on our faith, and attempt to accept one another as we are. I know what makes Bill valuable. Christ died for him. And that man God put in my life loves me. He’s always protected me and had my back.

Forgive. Laugh. Pray.

***

Touches_revamp_300_FrontTouches of Time:

A decades-old unsolved homicide.

A grieving single mother-to-be.

A cold-case investigator.

Sarah Bishop goes through her deceased mother’s belongings and becomes immersed in the details of her grandfather’s unsolved homicide. Determined to find who was responsible, for the sake of her unborn baby, Sarah vows to seek out the answers her mother had failed to find.

Cold Case Investigator Ford Melcher is intrigued by Sarah’s dogged drive to solve the old mystery. His current case has reached a frustrating dead end, but he comes to believe it is somehow linked to Sarah’s quest. His desire to protect her from further hurt is put to the test, especially when he has secrets he’d rather not disclose.

Answers could remain elusive as to who struck Sarah’s grandfather and left him in a ditch. Will the search for those answers open doors for her to discover the life God planned? Can she accept that plan if it includes a man who wasn’t forthright with information?

Find it on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

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Have I got a storyInspirational romance author LoRee Peery strives to remember the Lord’s redeeming grace each day when she surveys her sense of place in Him and where He has placed her. She clings to I John 5:4 and prays her blended family and dozen grandchildren see that faith. Her Frivolities Series and other publications are available at Pelican Book Group.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Many marriages start off rocky because of different upbringings–or similar ones, sometimes–and there are a lot of adjustments to be made. If you’re married, did you and your spouse have a period of adjustment? Did you have differences of opinion in important things such as raising  your children? How did you work through those opinions? How did you see God moving in your marriage? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Facebook on Living By Grace. We have a lot to learn from one another.

But before you go, if you’re local, I want to invite you to join me at the Oakview Barnes and Noble in Omaha this Saturday where I’ll be signing copies of all my books.

FB Cover PhotoPop by to say hi and grab a mocha at the store cafe’! And if you live in the Lincoln, NE area, join me at their SouthPointe Barnes and Noble next Saturday where I’ll be doing the same.

For those of you who follow me online, here is where I’ve been this week:

Tuesday, I was honored to be on Wordsower’s Author Showcase before their conference at the end of the month. You can read my interview HERE. I also had an interview with Anne Weaver HERE.

And last Friday, I visited Carole Towriss’ blog for an interview. Join me HERE. I also ventured over to visit with Debra Butterfield to talk about removing cliches from your characters. You can read it HERE.

I was tickled to see Intertwined highlighted on the RIRS site last week. You can check that out HERE.

And… the highlight of this week? Tomorrow I have the opportunity to speak to local elementary school 3rd graders on crafting “reality fiction.” I have a feeling I’m up for an adorable morning! If you’d like me to speak to your school, university, or writing group, shoot me an email at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. And if you’re local, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

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.

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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. 

Your Spouse Is Not Your Enemy

Has your marriage become a battle ground? Have you lost the “we” and slipped into a “him or me” mentality?

Most people, when they’re newly engaged and married, can’t imagine that they may face times when they just really don’t like their spouse, or are so angry they see them as the enemy. Join Julie as she shares with us her own experience.

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Your Spouse Is Not Your Enemy
By Julie Arduini

As an engaged couple, we committed to attending a FamilyLife Marriage conference. We wanted to avoid any pitfalls that might come our way, and for my husband, this was hisengagement-925023_640 second marriage. I brought my own baggage into the marriage. We learned principles that gave us a great foundation.

One of the things we learned is so simple that it’s almost cliché: your spouse is not your enemy. If you’re a newlywed, it’s laughable. When would your beloved ever become your enemy?

Fast forward past our newlywed years, past my own chronic illness and infertility, job changes, a move, nearly losing our baby, and the death of my dad, and we were not in a state of oneness. During all these changes, we’d been separated during the week for a few months while my husband worked a new job out of state and I tried to sell our home in our current state. Once we sold the house and moved as a family to Ohio, we were certain life was going to be bliss. That marriage would click along like it did in those early years.

Instead, we were ensnared by conflict. He was used to being on his own because of the job change taking him away during the week. I was the single mom for a while and I found my own method of getting things done and I resented any correction he had for me. I was grief-stricken and tired. A fight ensued and I unleashed a lot of ugly. And out of my argument-238529_640husband’s mouth came the words, “I’m not your enemy.”

At first the words made me furious because they did feel like such a cliché. But as I calmed down I realized how far we had moved from that couple daily fighting for oneness as we had learned in that conference. We were in isolation and it was a terrible place to camp. And I was treating my husband like he was the enemy.

Finding our way back was a process, and we got worse before we got better. There were so many changes coming at us we didn’t know how to grieve or cope as individuals, much less as a couple. When we had our rock bottom, we went back to the principles that we started with. We became intentional in sharing with each other and building the friendship. We trusted God to remove our walls and let the other in as an ally. We looked for triggers that still tried to (and sometimes still do) trip us up. We returned to praying with and for each other.

It’s still a process. We’re in transition again and the temptation is there for me to see my husband as an intruder trying to rain on my party, and I’m sure he could say the same for me. This time around, I’ve went and confessed my thoughts and asked if my attitude is holding-hands-752878_640visible and I have brought him down. And without so many words, I’ve come right out and asked if I’ve made him feel like we’re enemies. Thankfully, the answer is no.

Marriage is tough. I’m a reader and I devoured marriage books before and after the wedding. I’m still in shock at the amount of work and warfare we have had to put in to put and keep our marriage in a place of unity. If you are looking at your spouse as a foe and not a friend, go back to the basics. Prayer. Communication. Forgiveness.

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January2016Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the upcoming re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past, set for a spring release. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her athttp://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at Julie Arduini: Surrender Issues and Chocolate and the weekly email, Sunday’s Surrender and Chocolate.

Find Julie: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can sign up for her monthly newsletters here, and her weekly Sunday’s Surrender and Chocolate here.

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Julie is working on something new. Be on the lookout on her website and Amazon page!

Entangled:
Carla’s been given her dream, to leave her job as sheriff and attend cosmetology school. The gift is so overwhelming that she struggles with feeling unworthy, especially since she still feels guilty for becoming a mom as a teenager. When Wayne Peterson reenters her and their son Noah’s life, Carla creates some tangles between her and her steadfast boyfriend, the flannel-wearing, truck driver Will Marshall. Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

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Here are additional resources that helped us:

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Let’s be honest: the real enemy is out to destroy marriages and will do whatever it takes–that’s evident when you look at the marriages around us. But there’s always hope (1 Peter 1:3-5)! Have you ever looked at your spouse and thought of him or her as your enemy? How did you move past that? What do you do now to ensure you don’t view your spouse in that way again?

Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

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

Today, Julie and I traded places! While she’s here, I’m over on her blog. You can join me HERE.

Yesterday, I visited Ane Mulligan at Southern-fried Fiction to talk about responding to God’s call. Visit Ane’s blog HERE.

I visited The Engrafted Word Tuesday, interviewed by the wonderful Savanna Kaiser. Join us in the conversation HERE.

On Monday, my heroine, Alice from Breaking Free, was interviewed over on Margaret Daley’s site. Read the interview HERE.

This past Saturday was a busy one! I stopped by Patti Shene’s to talk about releasing the past and being transformed. I’m also giving away a paperback copy of Breaking Free. Join the conversation HERE. I also visited Jodie Wolfe to speak about writing Intertwined…and how I didn’t really follow the cliché rule of writing what I know. Visit HERE.

Last Friday, I was over on Heart of the Matter talking about the ways people pleasing can derail us and how we can learn to discern God’s will for us. Come listen then share your thoughts with us HERE. I also had a very fun, quick interview with Joselyn Vaughn. Read the interview HERE.

And finally, last Thursday I visited Zoe M. McCarthy’s site to talk about three elements that will strengthen our writing. Read the post, then join the conversation HERE.

Whew! Crazy busy but fun week. Hope you’re was amazing.

What Submission Looks Like in Modern Marriage

woman-975339_1920I’m a strong-willed, bull-headed, opinionated, outspoken modern woman married to a man who continually challenges me to pursue my dreams and make an eternal impact. And yet, I take Ephesians 5:22-23 literally, which says, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of His body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything” (NLT). 

Yes, the verse preceding this says we are to “submit to one another,” but here’s the deal–I have no control over my husband’s behavior but I have full control over mine. And in this instance, I can choose to obey Christ, trusting He truly does know better than I how to build a happy, intimate relationship, or I can operate on my own faulty, self-absorbed, deceived thinking.

Hm…

So, what does biblical submission look like in modern marriage?

It’s not oppressive. It doesn’t mean suppressing my God-given ideas and intellect and following my husband around with the remote and an iced soda. In fact, in my home, it’s rarely seen, until a major conflict arises. When that happens, I’m given a choice–dig in my heels and fight for my way, or surrender and submit, trusting God to work things out according to His will.

Let me illustrate with a story. When our daughter was young, I felt a clear and strong call to homeschool. Excited to embrace this new journey God had laid out for me, I shared this with my husband.

His response: No.

Not, “Let’s talk about this,” or “Let me think about this.” Nope. Nothing but a firm, “No.”

So, being the stubborn, opinionated, and at times self-righteous, woman I am, I fought, nagged,

photo by marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

photo by marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

argued, pestered, and cajoled in an effort to get my way–which I firmly believed was God’s way.

The result? The tension in our marriage increased and our home became a battle ground. Steve and I grew further apart, far from the united front our daughter needed.

Convinced I was right and Steve was wrong, I turned to prayer, expecting God to rally behind me.

He didn’t. He told me to submit. To put my marriage above this thing, as important as I felt this thing was. So, with confused reluctance, I did, figuring I’d either heard God wrong or He’d change my husband’s heart.

God did the latter. Shortly before our daughter was to start her kindergarten year, my husband said to me, “Have you considered homeschooling?”

My stomach dropped. Had he seriously forgotten about the major battle we’d had over this issue? I’m not sure if he had or if his question was a way of initiating conversation, but regardless, in the two years I’d gone silent on the subject, God had begun speaking–to my husband. He’d changed my husband’s heart, and that fall, I began teaching our daughter from home with the full support of my husband.

Consider how different things might’ve turned out, had I continued to fight for my will. I may have worn Steve down eventually, got him to concede to my desire, but he probably would’ve resented me and our homeschooling for it. It would’ve been a mess for years to come. He certainly wouldn’t have stood beside me, supporting my efforts.

God’s way was better. But then again, isn’t it always?

I could share numerous other stories like this, of times when Steve and I stood on completely opposite sides of an issue with no signs of compromise and God gave me the choice to keep fighting or submit. And every time when I’ve chosen to submit, God has worked things out, in His timing and His way, and always, always for our good.

Because He’s good. And He’s sovereign. He has a plan for me, my family, and my marriage, and He’s committed to working out that plan. And in my marriage, when wills collide, God’s plan for me is submission.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. Ladies this is a hard one, right? I think because we’re fearful. We’re fearful if we concede to something, we’ll be trampled on or something will go wrong, or we’ll miss out on or lose something we hold dear. But faith is the antidote to fear–faith not in our fallible husbands but rather in God.

What areas are hardest for you to submit? When have you surrendered an issue to God, conceding one of your husband’s wishes, and what were the results? When have you dug in your heels and fought for something and regretted your behavior? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

(If you missed part one and two of this post, you can read them HERE and HERE.)

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

Yesterday I chatted about my novel, coffee, and other randomly fun things on Sarah Ruut’s blog. You can join our conversation HERE.

On the Internet Cafe’, I asked then addressed the question: Are You Training Your Child For Divorce. You can read my post HERE.

On Tuesday I stopped by Johnnie Alexander’s to share the spark behind my latest release, Breaking Free, which I offered as a give-away. You can join the fun and get entered into the drawing HERE.

Monday I stopped by Whispers in Purple to participate in a fun interview. You can join me HERE.

Last Friday I shared what seems to be y’all’s favorite post, a special road trip romance and how an anniversary trip to Seattle added color and depth to my latest release. You can read this story HERE.

And finally, last Thursday I visited the Inkslinger Blog to share an excerpt from Breaking Free. You can read that HERE.

 

 

4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part One

Relationships are hard work. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I get so tired, all I want to do is squirrel away by myself and ignore what should be done. However, relationships can’t be ignored or neglected. And shouldn’t be. Today–and tomorrow, a treat!–Tanya Eavenson talks about the four relationships we must invest in. And don’t forget to come back next week when I’ll share the rest of my thoughts on the S word and what biblical submission looks like in a modern day marriage.

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4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part One
By Tanya Eavenson

With spring fast approaching, many people are preparing for warmer days. Spring break. A quick getaway. Perhaps you’ve starting thinking about what your family will wear on Easter morning. Maybe your thoughts have turned to gardening: the type of plants to purchase, the items needed to start the project, or the weekends to complete the task. In these instances, how much time do you think it will take to cultivate a plan, prepare to execute it, and then get it done? Days? Weeks?

In the same way, how much time do we spend planning, preparing and cultivating our relationships? Here are four relationships I believe God desires us to grow, care for, and nurture for our benefit and His glory.

1) Cultivate your relationship with Him.

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The first and most important relationship you have in this life is your relationship with Christ. But cultivating a relationship with the Lord in our own strength is impossible. How many times have we forgotten to read scripture or pray? If you’re anything like me, it’s tough raising children, being a helpmate, working outside of the home, etc. These aren’t negative things; on the contrary, family and children are a blessing from the Lord. However, we can’t use people or things around us as an excuse. We have to make time for the Lord.

You might be saying, “Yes, I want to have a deeper relationship with the Lord, or I used to have that closeness being in His word, but how can I get that back?” Here are several practical ways to cultivate your relationship with the Lord.

  • Prayer is one of the most important aspects of a Christian’s life, affecting his or her relationship with the Lord. Scripture says that even Jesus withdrew to quiet places, alone, and prayed. So if Jesus needed to spend time talking with His Father, how much more do we need to be before Him ourselves?
  • Remove idols from your life. There’s a misconception of what the word ‘idol’ means. Years ago, an idol was a wooden, metal, or gold statue built in the image of a god. People worshiped this idol. Today this meaning still remains, but it also includes anything that takes priority over the Lord’s place in your heart and life. Is there anything in your life that you’ve put before God?
  • Read the Bible. Designate a time during the day to set aside to read God’s love letter to you. Whether it’s morning, afternoon, or evening, find a time that works best with your schedule.
  • Memorize Scripture. The Bible says the word of God is a lamp that lights your path, showing you direction when you’re lost or uncertain. It’s also called a sword: a weapon for protection against the enemy. Memorizing scripture is exactly that: protection for your mind and strength to carry on in a world that tries to rob, conquer, and destroy our joy.

2) Cultivate your relationship with your spouse.

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Have you ever considered that marriage was created by God, not only for the sake of two people coming together as Adam and Eve had done, but to bring glory to Himself? We are to show our spouse the same sacrificial love that Christ showed for us, not only giving up ourselves for another, but being an example for others so when they see us, they too will be witnesses of God’s love. Here are a few practical ways to strengthen or to begin re-cultivating your relationship with your spouse, and in the process bring glory to God.

  • Pray: for your spouse. For your marriage. For the Lord to protect your marriage.
  • Be intentional. Did you know the word “love” is a verb: an action word? Put your love into action. Spend quality time together. Go on a date. Go for a drive. Just go—do something together.
  • Offer forgiveness. Ephesians 1:7 says, “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” We have forgiveness through Christ for the countless things we’ve done, so how can we not extend that same forgiveness to our spouses? When we offer our forgiveness, we are glorifying God in our actions, honoring God and our marriage, and possibly being a witness to others around us.

Please join me back here tomorrow as I write about the other two relationships God wants us to cultivate.

***

Restored_1400x2100 (1)Dr. Steven Moore is known nationally for saving lives. If only he could save his own. Unable to deal with his cancer prognosis, he retreats to a happier time in his past—to the woman who once stole his heart.

Four years after the death of her beloved husband, bookstore owner Elizabeth Roberts still struggles to sustain her faith and joy in the Lord as she raises her two sons. She strives to find a way through her family’s grief, never suspecting a man from her past might offer hope for her future.

But how can there be a future when he’s only come to kiss her and says good-bye?

Purchase here:
Amazon
iTunes
Barnes & Noble

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DSC_0729bTanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. You can find her at her website http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/ on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.

***

For those who enjoy following me all over cyberspace… Here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Tuesday, my article on training our children to stand strong against spiritual warfare went live on Crosswalk.com. You can read that HERE.

Read about my heart behind my latest review on my publisher’s website HERE.

Tuesday I shared a fun book-lovers romance story on Faith, Friends, and Chocolate. Read that HERE.

Wednesday I shared one of my favorite culinary inventions on Country at Heart. Read that HERE.

Join me on Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s Inkslinger blog as I share how my wedding absolutely didn’t go as planned. I’m back on her blog today to share an excerpt from Breaking Free. Visit me HERE.

I stopped by Trisha Perry’s blog to chat about my novel, my favorite city, and a novel I read and loved and think you will to. Read more HERE.

***

livingbygracepic-jp
Let’s talk about this:
When you think about your relationship with God, how do you work on strengthening and growing it? How do you work on your relationship with your spouse (if you’re married)  or other significant people in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Because You Both Can’t Lead

anger-19063_1920It’s the word that makes nearly every woman cringe, grit her teeth, stomp her foot and clench her fists. Probably because someone they’ve encountered has used this word to oppress and dominate, which is so far from God’s intention. But isn’t that just like Satan to twist something God meant for good into something burdensome and repulsive?

Before we go further, let me assure you, God never oppresses. He uplifts, equips, transforms, and sets free.

Jesus said, “The theif’s [Satan’s] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them [us] a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT).

Satisfying. Abundant. The Greek word Jesus used here means “more than”, beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectations, and going past the expected limit.marriageverse

That’s the type of life I want! I get it by living out God’s will, and in marriage, for me, His will is submission (Eph. 5:22-23). But before you cringe and close out this window, let me explain.

Things hadn’t been going well in our marriage. And when I say they weren’t going well, I mean our marriage stunk. Steve and I were so far from being the united couple we vowed to be, we spent most of our time living as enemies. In self-imposed isolation.

We had two options: divorce or get help. By God’s grace, we chose the latter.

Sitting in a small, homey counselor’s office, tears pouring down my face, I shared all the hurts I’d been holding on to for so long. I’m not even sure I made sense. All I knew was that I was lonely and felt rejected, and I was desperate for things to change.

When I’d finished crying, wining, and venting, the counselor looked at me with a rather stoic expression and said, “You want him to be the leader.”

I jerked back, blinked. Stared at her for a long time.

Um… what? Where in the world did she come up with that?

At the time, I thought she had completely misunderstood me, but looking back… she’d been right on. My heart was crying out for a spiritual leader. The problem was, every time Steve stepped up to lead, I slammed him down.

Through criticism. And “instruction.” Constant instruction. When he’d interact with our daughter: “Hold her this way.” “No, she can’t have that. Give her this.”

When he’d help around the house: “No, you’re folding those wrong.” “Use this cleaner.” “Those don’t go there.”

man-690201_1920And being the loving husband he was, he began to follow, and I’m pretty sure it was killing him. It for sure was killing our marriage. That afternoon as the two of us sat in the counselor’s office, God began to intervene, working in each of our hearts in order to create a united front. Helpmates.

The road getting there, however, was terrifying.

God’s inciting incident (for those familiar with writing lingo) happened at a quiet beach front house in a tiny fishing town in Oregon. My mom found and booked the place and the four of us–Steve, myself, my mom, and our daughter who was probably eight at the time–spent the greater portion of a week unwinding and reconnecting. With ourselves, one another, and God.

While there, my mom gave Steve and I a book, unfortunately I don’t remember the name, but it was about one man’s journey of learning to recognize and heed God’s voice. I loved the book and read it periodically on our trip. My husband, however, devoured it. Every time I looked his way, he was reading, his thick brows pinched in that studious expression that indicated he was deep in thought. He remained pensive for the rest of the trip and on our drive home from the airport after.

As we drove, he played one song over and over. It was by Third Day, “Take My Life.” You can listen to it here:

Watching him, I knew, I mean I knew-knew, God was doing something, but I had no idea what, nor did Steve tell me. Until maybe a month later when he looked me in the eye and said, “I’m quitting my job. And we’re moving.”

My stomach plummeted. “What? Where will you work?”

“I don’t know. Home Depot?”

“Where will we live?”

“I don’t know. Pick a place.”

At this point, I started to reach panic stage. This was so uncharacteristic of my husband. It didn’t make sense. But in my heart I knew, this was from God. I hated it. I was terrified. But something in me kept me quiet. At least, to my husband.

Fast forward another month, and with still no definite job in sight, we decided to put our home on the market. (Because I guess if one’s going to be jobless, they may as well become homeless, too, right? Oy.) The decision had been made–we were moving. Where? I had no idea, and I wanted my marching orders! So, as I tore our old, weed infested grass off our yard in preparation for re-sodding, I cried out to God, wining, venting, complaining, and begging–yes, begging–for Him to tell me what He was up to. Where we were going to go, and that everything would be okay.

He didn’t give me that. All I heard was, “Submit.” Again and again, “Submit.”

woman-83177_1280I’m not sure how or where I got the strength, but I did. Not because I trusted my husband. He was totally freaking me out at that point, but because I trusted God. Or at least, I was trying to. Maybe I should say I chose to trust Him, regardless of how I felt.

That was when God began to make a leader out of my husband. A strong, confident, sexy, loving, gentle leader. But he didn’t get there overnight, nor was the journey easy, for either of us. One of the biggest challenges for me? I learned I had to get out of God’s way.

Ouch, right?

This is a heavy, complex subject, this S word thing, and one that can’t be addressed, it seems, in a single blog post. Which is why I want to expand on the topic. Come back in two weeks to learn how I feel this biblical principle plays out in modern-day marriage. In the meantime, join me next week to hear from a very special guest, Tanya Eavenson, who will be talking about godly relationships in general and four in particular she believes God wants to cultivate.

FB Cover PhotoBut before you go, fun news! Breaking Free releases (online) in four days! Woo-hoo! (Which means I’ll be all over the Internet, and the midwest, in the days to come. 😉 ) (It releases in bookstores on April 4th.)

For those looking for deals, Christian Book Distributors is currently running a pre-order discount. Go HERE to buy the novel at 31% off! You can read the first 30-some pages for free HERE. You can check out scene location pictures HERE.

Oh, and for those who’ve read Intertwined, my publisher posted book club questions. Grab a friend and chat about your favorite parts of the novel and what it showed you. 🙂 You can find those questions HERE. And if you live or will be in the Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines, or Austin area, I’d love to see you! Visit my Event Page to see when I’ll be in your area.

Finally, for those in the Omaha Metro, my church is hosting an amazing marriage conference with free childcare the night before. Check it out and register HERE and HERE.

 

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! When have you felt God asking you to do something that made no sense or evoked panic? How’d you respond and what was the result? Do you have any thoughts on the S word? What do you think God means when he tells wives to submit? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Learning to Follow

surrenderProverbsversepicStrength is great, until it turns to pride. Determination is great, until it becomes stubbornness.

How was it my most admirable traits quickly worked against me? Against us?

I was a young bride. Naive, incredibly self-centered, and at times, self-righteous. And insecure. And, as a new mom, utterly terrified. Maybe that’s where our marital problems arose. I don’t know, but what I do know is, left on our own, Steve and I wouldn’t be where we are now, deeply in love, twenty-some years later.

My first venture back into “church-world” happened on a Mother’s Day. Though my husband and I had attended on occasion prior, we eventually quit going. Neither of us were living our lives for Christ. God was more like a back-of-the-mind figure, one we’d call out to once in a while, when things got crazy or we wanted something in particular then forget entirely for long stretches of time. Meanwhile, our marriage began to disintegrate. Not that it’d been incredibly strong to begin with.

But then one morning, completely absorbed in my misery, I took our young daughter out for a walk. I ambled through the neighborhood, pushing her in the stroller. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, but I’m sure I was rehashing all the woes of my life. (Woes of my own making, I might add.) I turned a corner, and a woman, also out for a walk, drew near. Upon reaching me, she stopped and said, “You should come to my church.”

I blinked. Um… Oookay. Then listened as she told me where it was.

The next Sunday, Mother’s Day, I went. Alone.

It’s hard sitting in church by yourself on Mother’s Day, staring at the sea of couples all around you. And as I sat there, looking about, all I could think of was, “I want that.” I wanted the happy little family. I wanted my husband beside me, his arm draped over my shoulder, while we bounced our squirming infant between us.

That picture of peace, love, and intimacy seemed to far away, so unreachable. I knew what I wanted–whatheart-700141_1920 our marriage needed–only I had no idea how to get there.

But God knew, and that Sunday morning He began to lead us on a journey that was equal parts frightening, painful, and absolutely miraculous.

It started with Him prying open my strangled grip on my life as He whispered to my battered and terrified heart, “Let go, and trust in Me.”

Trust in Him. Not in my husband and his ability to be what I needed. Not even in myself and my ability to be the wife I so desperately wanted yet continually failed to be. Trust in Him to work through our messy lives, heal our broken hearts, and not only restore our faltering marriage but make it stronger than it’d ever been. Stronger than we’d ever imagined.

It started with surrender, and that surrender led me to another S word. One that may make you cringe. It certainly did me! Come back next Thursday and I’ll share more.

If God’s saying the same thing to you, this song, one of my favorites, might encourage you.

6In the meantime, speaking of marriage, my publisher has released a free excerpt of my upcoming novel, Breaking Free, which reviewers are calling gripping and suspenseful. You can read it HERE.

Plus, I hope it’s okay to share, but I’m just so giddy about this… The other day I received the best review ever. What made it even better is that, that morning, I was feeling a bit discouraged. (We writers can be moody and insecure. I think it must be inherent to the creative mind.) And it felt like God was saying to me, “Keep at it, girl.” You can read that review here: One of the Best Books I’ve Read in a Long Time

Other resources you might enjoy:

The Spindle Chair (fiction, but wow, a great marriage resource.)

How Death Can Bring Life to Your Marriage

You Gotta Fight (Ignore the crazy bad posture. My word!)

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Are you married? If so, I imagine you’ve had your share of ups and downs. What has God taught you, in regard to developing intimacy? Or maybe simply in regard to doing life together? Or if you’re not married but either hope to be one day or have watched other married couples with intrigue, what are some things you’ve learned that you plan to implement (or think your friends should!)? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.

And… for those who are participating in our Brain Experiment–any verses you can suggest to help us find the strength and courage to surrender our significant relationships? Share them with us!