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

LOVE IS A VERB by Catrina Bradley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cheered, and thanked him.

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

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

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

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

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

Visit her online at Scattered Seeds.

Early in our marriage, with a young child underfoot and long hours changing diapers, cleaning blocks, and watching Teletubbies, I’d anxiously await my husband’s return from work. If only to have adult conversation. But back then his work schedule was crazy, with long hours, sometimes 14 day stretches, calls at all hours. We’d plan an event, maybe a trip to the ice cream store or an evening at the park, and invariably, his phone would ring. So what’d I do? I got upset, and soured the rest of our night.

Then one day it hit me. My attitude was hurting me, and my daughter. By throwing a fit and focusing on the negative, I was robbing us all of a chance to grab hold of the rare moment we had. I decided to change my attitude and my focus.

In today’s post by Anita Estes, her husband made the same choice, and the result was beautiful. As you read her account of her husband’s gift of grace, ask yourself how you can give your spouse that same gift this Valentine’s Day. Because we live in a fallen world with stress, disappointments, responsibilities, frustrations, and demands. Life’s going to throw hurdles your way. Most likely your spouse will also, on occasion. Will you respond with anger or with grace?

God Rekindles Marriages—
With Grace
By Anita Estes

My husband’s twelve to midnight schedule had the habit of ruining evenings together, especially Friday nights when he often slept through to Saturday. But this weekend held hope for a date night, since he’d taken the previous night off. We had planned on going to the movies, so on the way home from work I bought a newspaper with the theatre listings. It had been a crazy week for me with grades due for 700 students, Bible study, lesson plans and coursework, so when I came home I collapsed on the couch. Looking through the listings, the only promising show was across the river. I doubted he would go that far, but he owed me this one since he had cancelled our previous night out, and I desired to be with him.

Let me explain why. My husband and I have been married over thirty three years and it’s been a rocky road—one littered with broken promises, near poverty, problems with addiction, and marital strife. We’ve met with no less than five counselors and are now on our seventh. This one laid out some strict guidelines for my husband, who baulked at the reigns being tightened. You see, he has been a very independent person, partly due to his heritage and my independent personality, which kicked in when he pulled away from me. But now with the children out of the house (for the most part), I’ve really needed and wanted him.

For years he weaved in and out of a close relationship to God and me, fighting depression and bouts of addiction. This drove me into a strong relationship with Jesus and my children. They became my world, and my spouse would pop in and out of ours. I didn’t grow bitter, but my lack of respect became evident to the point of putting him down in front of the children. He reacted by withdrawing affection and love. At times we would move closer to each other, then something would happen again, and he would build a wall around himself. This went on for years with only minor improvement. At one time, I had contemplated divorce.

But now he and I are beginning to experience some real breakthrough. I am praying for his emotional healing and trusting God with the outcome. He is trying to love me for who I am, and we are both trying to accept our differences. We are learning to operate in grace towards each other and listening to our counselor’s advice. My assignment is to respect my spouse more, and his is to love me more. That’s what ensued.

Sitting on the couch, tired and in a bad mood, I announced the location of the movie, to which he barked back. “No way, I’m not going that far!” Annoyed, I threw down the newspaper and retorted, “You can never make any sacrifices for me!” He replied, “You’re being quite nasty. I’m not going anywhere with you.” A fight was brewing. Then suddenly he caught himself and said, “I’m not going to let this ruin the day. I’m going to choose to love you.” The fight fizzled. I backed down and apologized, which is hard for me to do. We smoothed things over, found a great movie and had a wonderful time together.

So what was different this time? The application of grace. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 2:9).” My husband extended grace to me like God does to us. It’s grace that gave me the ability to love my husband in good times and bad. It gave me the ability to persevere, to trust God’s timing and receive grace back from my husband. Grace poured over me when I didn’t deserve it; it poured over him when he messed up.

After thirty three years of marriage, I can see it’s becoming what God intended it to be, not the American dream, but the vision God has for us—a married couple working together to perform His will, bound together in mature love. We have endured difficult times with God’s grace. Now we are reaping the harvest as we submit to His plan for our marriage, to each other and to wise counsel.

To those of you in difficult marriages, my advice is: fall in love with Your Savior first, read the Word of God and let it dwell richly within you, take time for your relationship with Him and extend grace to your spouse. Seek the godly counsel of others and submit one to another. Love and respect each other. It’s a tall order, but God’s abundant storehouse of grace is limitless!

Recommended reading: Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Anita Estes resides in the beautiful Hudson Valley of upstate New York with her husband and son. She is an art teacher, freelance writer and avid gardener. As an educator, she has been honored  in “Who’s Who of American Teachers” for 2000 and 2005. Her work appears in several compilations including God Allows U-Turns, A Cup of Comfort, Deliver Me and Adams Media books. Her devotions have been published in Penned from the Heart, “Upper Room” and on-line.
She is the author of When God Speaks: 40 Days of His PromisesTransformed—Inspiring Stories of Freedom and Letters to God on a Prodigal SonOvercoming Addiction through Prayer.  Her passion is encouraging others in their Christian walk, by calling the church to intimate and honest communication with God. She desires to help others break the bonds of addiction and pain through an understanding of God’s promises.  Visit her at www.anitaestes.com and http://anitaestes7.blogspot.com/
Anita Estes, author of When God Speaks, invites you to come along on a life changing journey through the landscape of God’s Promises. Your destination –the Promised Land. Once you embark on this forty- day excursion, you  will gain valuable insights into key promises in which God communicates concerning: Your True Identity, Divine Guidance, Resurrection Life, Hope, True Prosperity, Empowering Love, Healing and much more. Each day of When God Speaks is loaded with nuggets of wisdom that Anita Estes shares in her inspirational stories, prayers, application and evening meditation. As you reflect on these powerful verses you will be challenged and equipped to implement them into your daily life. God has given you everything you need for spiritual victory, but you must take the first step.
Letters to God, on a Prodigal SonOvercoming Addiction Through Prayer is the poignant, true story of a parent’s journey through the minefield of her adult child’s addiction. It is the heartfelt cry of a mother who finds peace in the midst of her tsunami and discovers the secret of victorious prayer! It is a potent journal packed with prayers, practical advice and key spiritual insights. Letters to God will unlock the secrets to successful prayer, not only for those dealing with prodigals, but for anyone facing their own storm.