divorce-908743_1920How can a couple go from googly-eyed in love to utter hatred within a few years? Why is it so many adults who once pledged to love and cherish their spouse “till death do we part” stomp on their vows, toss in their wedding ring, and walk away?

Maybe the better question is, what does it take to make a marriage work? Today, my guest Mary Hamilton shares her experience in doing just that when her son comes home from college. Read on and be blessed and encouraged.


What Makes a Marriage Work?
by Mary Hamilton

Upon his graduation from college, our son noticed how many friends from both high school and college were getting married. But considering the number of troubled marriages he’d seen and the number of friends who came from homes scarred by divorce, writing-1209700_640he wondered how many of these relationships would succeed.

So, he gave his dad and me an assignment. Based on our 34 years of experience, we were to prepare a list of 5-10 bullet points on what makes a marriage work. While the following are not necessarily in order of importance, here’s the list we came up with.

    • A common faith, and a similar maturity in that faith. Without our personal faith in God, our marriage might not have stood the test many years ago. Faith provides accountability to a higher authority. It humbles us when pride gets in the way, provides hope in troubling times, and deepens the joy of victory over self.


    • Agreement on money—both spending it and saving it. Like most couples, one of us likes to save every penny and one likes to spend them. We need each other for balance so that the spender learns to save for a rainy day (and retirement) and the saver learns to enjoy the benefits money provides. Appreciate each other’s “bent” and cooperate to achieve maximum benefit from your finances.


    • Communication skills. Are you willing and able to talk with each other about anything and everything, revealing your deepest, darkest secrets? Can you broach a touchy subject withoutnails-1420329_640 fear of rejection, ridicule or punishment? Can you argue without making personal attacks on each other? Communication involves listening as well as speaking. Marriage requires both skills.


    • Some common interests. Couples should have activities they enjoy doing together. But allow room for differences as well. Varied ideas and interests keeps both partners growing in ways they wouldn’t achieve on their own.


    • A strong sense of humor. Laughing together is fun and builds the relationship in positive ways. When used properly, it can also defuse tension whether pressures come from outside the relationship or within.


    • Commitment to each other and the marriage. Make your spouse and your relationship a priority over other family, friends, work, etc. Keep complaints and disagreements between the two of you, speaking only good things about each other to friends and relatives and guarding your spouse’s reputation and integrity in front of others.


    • Respect each other. Show gratefulness and treat each other with kindness—even when you’re tired and grumpy, even when you’re disappointed with your partner, even when you’re angry and arguing. (Yes, this will happen!) Attack the problem, not each other.


All of these might be summed up in the word “Attitude.” Are both partners in this marriage more interested in having their own needs met or meeting the needs of the other? Are both willing to humble themselves in order to lift up their mate? Are both willing to compromise for the good of the relationship? An attitude that says, “We’re in this together and divorce is not an option,” lays a solid foundation on which to build a strong and vibrant marriage.

Would you add any suggestions to our list?


HNEmodifiedcoverHere No Evil:

A mother’s rejection. A bully’s taunts. Summer camp isn’t supposed to be like this.

Thirteen-year-old Brady is stunned when his mother drops him off for a week of camp and says she doesn’t want him living with her anymore. His pain only deepens with the cruel taunts and teasing of the camp bully. But is it possible his mother’s rejection was for his own protection?

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


Alt. headshotMary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp similar to the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Her experiences during twenty years of living at the camp, as well as people she knew there, inspired many of the events and situations in her novels.

Two of those novels have been named Selah Award Finalists.

Mary also enjoys knitting, reading and evenings spent bird-watching from their back patio with her best friend and marriage partner for 34 years. She and her husband make their home in Texas.

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


livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Marriage should never be entered into without prayer and great thought. Mary’s son was wise to ask those with strong marriages for guidance! What are some suggestions you would add to Mary and her husband’s list? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.


How we perceive ourselves can have such a dramatic impact on everything–how we interact with

Photo by adamr taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by adamr taken from freedigitalphotos.net

others, how we perceive others interactions with us, how we perceive our world, whether we take risks or shrink back in isolation. No wonder Satan works so hard to distort our thinking in this critical area! Today a sweet friend, young adult author Mary Hamilton is talking to all the misfits among us, which I suspect applies to us all at some point or another. As you read her thoughts, ask God to show you where your self-image has become distorted and then ask Him to replace that deception with truth. Ask Him to show you who you are in Him.

Ever Feel Like a Platypus?

by Mary Hamilton, author of See No Evil

Photo by OpenClipartVectors taken from pixabay.com
Photo by OpenClipartVectors taken from pixabay.com

The platypus is a curious creature. His legs are way too short in proportion to his chubby body. He hunts for food underwater like a fish, has webbed feet for swimming and lays eggs like a water bird, but is considered a mammal. He has the body of a beaver but the beak of a duck. Even his name sounds goofy. Platypus.


Have you ever felt like a platypus? A misfit? Ever complained that you’re too fat or too short. Your nose is too long, your legs too chubby, your hair too frizzy/curly/straight? I know I have. At different times, I’ve wondered, why can’t I be athletic like him? Why can’t I look more like her? If only I could play an instrument or sing like So-and-so. In other words, God, why didn’t you make me different (i.e. better)?

Remember those funny mirrors that distort your image, stretching your body out long or squishing it together? That’s how Satan wants you to see yourself. Distorted. Out of proportion. A misfit. He’s been at it since the Garden of Eden, where his whole strategy was to make Eve dissatisfied.

Eve? Dissatisfied? She had a perfect husband–they were made for each other. She lived in a

Photo by evert taken from pixabay.com
Photo by evert taken from pixabay.com

beautiful garden home with pets of every kind, fresh food every day, and she and Adam walked with God every evening. What more could a woman want?

The one thing God declared off limits. “If you eat from that tree,” Satan whispered, “you’ll be like God.” Hear that hiss of dissatisfaction? Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to be the woman God made her; Eve wanted to be like God himself.

When we look into the perfect mirror of God’s word, we find that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, woven together by God Himself in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:14-15) Thread by thread, over and under, God wove each of us together—hair, eyes, nose, chin, body, arms and legs, hands and feet, fingers, toes and personality.
The next time the Enemy whispers dissatisfaction in your ear, remember that distorted mirrors give you a warped view of yourself. Look to the Lord for a true reflection of who you are, who God made you to be.


Alt. headshotMary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp in southern Wisconsin, much like the setting for her middle-grade Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Each book tells the story of kids who bring their baggage to camp—and learn how to carry it.

Mary is a graduate of Long Ridge Writer’s Group, a member of ACFW and CAN. Her writing has won recognition in several contests including the Genesis and Selah contests.

When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors. She and her husband live in Texas.

Visit her online.

See No Evil:

(Christian fiction for teens / tweens / middle grade.)

Taylor Dixon knew having his younger sister at camp would be a pain, but he never expected the SeeNoEvilFrontDropCroppain to go so deep. At 15, Taylor dreams of getting his driver’s license and driving race cars when he’s older. His sister, Marissa, is the only one who believes in his dream, but her adventurous spirit keeps landing him in trouble. Consequently, Dad won’t let him get his license and predicts Taylor is heading for the same jail cell as his once-favored older brother.

Taylor returns to Rustic Knoll Bible Camp expecting softball, swimming and sermons. Then he finds a classic Mustang in the camp’s garage and jumps at the owner’s invitation to help restore it. But when Marissa falls for his snobbish cabin mate, the war of words and pranks escalates until it threatens both the car and his dreams for the future.

Will Taylor fulfill Dad’s prediction and end up in jail? Or will he finally learn the Truth found in the old car’s engine?


Parenting is the greatest test of faith I’ve ever experienced. Nothing can break my heart, send my pulse sky-rocketing, and bring me to my knees like the sweet, hurting or scared face of my child. Watching our daughter navigate through high school is hard enough. I can’t imagine what it would be like to know they’re fighting in a war. Today’s post, from a Marine’s mom and fellow writer, shows us what it means to trust God not only with our lives, but with the lives we hold most dear.
The Purpose of Faith by Mary Hamilton
The bumper sticker on my car reads: “I may look harmless but I raised a U.S. Marine.”
In approximately two weeks, my son—a Marine—deploys to Afghanistan.  It’s not the first time he’s been deployed. Two years ago, he served in Fallujah, Iraq as part of the security detail for a battalion commander. He finished his enlistment, came home and went to college for a year, then decided he wanted a little more adventure and excitement. He always thought it would be impressive to say he fought in two wars, under two presidents. And he figured he had a window of opportunity where he was still young enough and unattached, and he needed to make use of it. Sound judgment, in our opinion.
Seven years ago, he told us he wanted to join the Marines. My husband and I heard “military” and believed he would go to college, maybe join a ROTC program, and enter a branch of service as an officer. He was accepted at a university, but when we went to look it over, he was obviously uninterested. We attributed it to normal teenage apathy. Several days later, he told us (with little enthusiasm) that he’d try college for a year and if he didn’t like it, he’d quit and join the Marines. We thought that sounded reasonable.
I expected to feel settled now that the decision had been made. Instead, I felt…restless. My spirit felt troubled. All week, I kept thinking he’s going to change his mind. He’s going to join the Marines. School is not where his heart is at. It would be a mistake for him to go to college right now. He’s going to join the Marines.
Finally, I figured out it was the Holy Spirit pestering me, so I sat down to discuss this with God. I sensed God was leading my son into the Marines; this was the path chosen for him.
“But what if he doesn’t come back?” I argued.
A saying came to mind that I’d read when my dad died nearly 30 years before. It went something like this: If we believe in God, we don’t have to worry about when we die, because whenever it is, we’ll know we’ve accomplished everything God thinks it’s important for us to do.
I sensed God asking me, “Has anyone ever died outside of my timing? Has anyone’s death ever caught me by surprise? I decide when you’ve accomplished everything important that I have for you to do, and nothing can take you from my hand before that time. But when that time comes, it won’t matter whether you’re in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or out here on the freeway, or in your own back yard.”
Okay, Lord. Next question–how do I cope if his time comes when he’s over there?
Christ gives us eternal life. First Corinthians 15:19 says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Faith is not just something we use to get us through this life. It’s for the next life. Death is exactly what our faith is for. Hope beyond the grave. Hope that this is not the end, that we will see our loved ones again on the other side.
Now, seven years later, I remind myself of these things. That no one can snatch my son from the Lord’s hand before his appointed time. Not even terrorists.
Easy to say. Hard to practice. Especially when I read of young men shot by snipers or blown up by buried explosives. But, I raised a U.S. Marine. One of the Few, the Proud, the Brave. If he can face this danger with confidence, so can I.
His time may come while he’s in Afghanistan. If it does, I will cry my eyes out and grieve for the man whose smile brightens any room; whose one-liners can make us laugh so hard we get tears in our eyes; who once told me, “Mom, I may take a different girl out each night but you’re still my favorite.”
And in the midst of grief, I will cling to my faith, to the hope that this is not the end. I will see him again. That’s really what faith is for.
Mary Hamilton is a follower of Jesus Christ, a sinner saved by grace.  She is happily married with three terrific kids who are almost grown and on their own. She started writing for publication about 25 years ago. A few articles found publication in magazines like Today’s Christian Woman, Seek, Discipleship Journal. She also wrote a Christmas play entitled “Homespun Angel”. Now, she’s working on her first novel. Although she originally intended it for an adult audience, it has taken more of a turn to middle-grade (ages 8-15). Hopefully, someday, you’ll see her name on a cover in a book store.Visit Mary’s blog to find out more about her and her writing, or shoot her an email at mhamilton122@yahoo.com.
***And remember, this month I’m hosting my “top 20 of 2011” where I repost twenty of my favorite blog posts, written by others, from the past year. At the end of the month, I’ll tally your comments, FB shares, retweets, and “likes” to determine your favs of my favs. 🙂 So…if you loved this post as much as I did and want to see it in the top three, you know what to do.