Monday, April 8, 2013

Simple Secrets To Enjoying Marriage: Part 2

Last week I shared part one HERE and mentioned that I found 10 simple secrets in 1 Peter 3:8-12 that you can apply to your marriage to help your relationship more enjoyable.

1 Peter 3:8-12 says "Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

But since i'm a slightly long winded person I was only able to get through four of those ten things so i'm going to try to finish up today! So let's start where we left off...

5. Have a humble attitude

Stop thinking about yourself!!! Nobody wants to be around a person who's primary focus is themselves. They are impossible to please and will suck the life right out of you! If you are an "all about me" person you can suck the life and joy right out of your marriage without even trying. You have to take your eyes off of you and put them on your spouse.

C.S. Lewis said "Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less" and that's exactly what you have to do in marriage.

I think a lot of problems in marriage would almost solve themselves if people would just stop thinking about what they want or how they feel or what they need, and instead focus on what their spouse wants, how they feel and what they need. When you both focus on each other instead of yourselves you are both taken care of, and that's honestly how God designed it to be.

6. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you

In The Message version this part says "No sharp-tonged sarcasm". Do you know what would happen in your marriage if you got rid of sarcasm?! Now i'm not talking about playful banter here, I personally don't see anything wrong with them at all. What i'm talking about are the hateful sarcastic comments. People so often use sarcasm to say the things they can't just say outright.

And really, we've all done this! You're in the middle of a disagreement, or your spouse did something you didn't like and you don't want to be openly hateful so you just get those little jabs in there. Stop it! You can't enjoy your marriage if you're always on guard with each other waiting for the next "sharp-tonged" sarcastic remark.

7. Find ways to bless when you've been wronged

This is incredibly difficult to do but can bring so much healing to your marriage! You have to face the fact that your spouse is going to do something to hurt you at some point in your marriage, you married a flawed human being and it's just going to happen.

But here's a novel idea...when your spouse does do something that hurts you, don't look for a way to hurt them back. I know this can go against every one of our natural tendencies but fight that urge! Do something instead to bless them or help them. God can easily work in that kind of environment, and that's really what you want. You can easily enjoy a marriage that God is moving and working in!

8. Don't speak evil. Don't tell lies.

Both of these should be pretty obvious, and yet, not speaking evil can be one of the hardest things to get under control! Some of the definitions of evil are "immoral; wicked; harmful; or marked by anger or irritability". Any talk that would fall under this definition needs to be taken out of your marriage.

Think about your conversations with your friends about your spouse. Do you keep all evil words out of those conversations? That last half of the definition is where I think most people get caught up, we aren't to speak to or about our spouse with words "marked by anger or irritability" and sometimes that can be really hard to do!! But you'll enjoy your spouse and your marriage a lot more if you learn to talk to them and about them with love.

9. Turn away from evil

Take that definition of evil that we just saw and put it here. Anything that is immoral, harmful, marked by anger or irritability needs to be removed from your marriage. And expanding on the definition a little, anything that is "sinful, depraved, vicious, corrupt, vile or destructive" also needs to be turned away from.

You need to not only work to turn your marriage away from absolutely anything that would fall under these definitions of evil, but you also need to work on turning yourself away from them. You'll never be able to turn your marriage away from them if you aren't first turning yourself. Understand that the direction of your marriage will follow the direction you personally take. Your marriage follows you.

This goes from not only your actions but also your thought life. I've found that what you think about and dwell on usually comes out in your words, then your actions and can then become your lifestyle. So if your thought life is filled with all these definitions of evil in regards to your marriage, it won't be long before your words and actions are filled with them to.

Psalm 19:14 says "May the words from my mouth and the thoughts from my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my defender." We have to let the words from our mouth, and the thoughts from our heart be filled with good, not evil!

10. Search for peace and work hard to keep it

This one right here pretty much sums up the whole thing! If you are working for and looking for ways to keep peace in your marriage, you're going to enjoy your marriage a whole lot more! But remember, John 14:27 says "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you."

The peace we need to have working in our marriage will only come from Christ. You can't search for peace or work to keep it in your marriage without going to Christ, it's only found in Him!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Simple Secrets For Enjoying Marriage: Part 1

My most favorite thing to talk about on this blog is marriage. And since it's been so long since i've done so on here, let's start with one very important fact...marriage is hard. Let's just get that out there right up front! Living with a person, and sharing your life with them is one of the most difficult things in this life. Now i'm not down on marriage or trying to scare anyone off, but if i'm going to talk about marriage, i'm not about to pretend that it's a piece of cake either!

Living life with another person, sharing your finances, sharing your preferences, sharing your role as parent, learning how to give and take in a balanced way, learning all of their likes and dislikes, learning how to give up your way is hard! When you're in the goo-goo loving, can't keep your eyes off of each other, all I want is you, stages of dating this one very important fact seems to disappear from sight. But it doesn't usually take too long after "I do" to come and smack you in the face!

When my husband and I first got married I thought marriage would be easy. I'd been living life for all of 18 years at that point and staying alive wasn't actually too difficult so marriage shouldn't really add that much difficulty to the mix right? Ha! I remember being completely shocked at how hard it was to be married, and for that first year I thought married life was just going to be miserable at least 90% of the time. Isn't that sad?!

Thankfully we aren't at the point in our marriage anymore (Thank you Jesus!!) but we were there for a while, and I know so many other couples have been there, or are currently living there in their own relationships. As sad as it is, a difficult and even miserable marriage is a reality for so many people, and the fear of living that way forever is what drives so many to divorce instead.

I wish I could sweep into every one of those couples homes and wave a magic wand over them and magically make them happy and able to enjoy marriage, but I can't. When Colby and I were struggling so much I wanted someone to come in and fix our problem and make everything suddenly all better! But the reality of the situation was this, there were only two people who could change our situation and of those two people, I only had control over one of them.

You only have control over you. You can only work on you. You are the only part of the problem that you can fix. All that time sitting around thinking about how much your spouse needs to change, and wishing you could just fix them, is nothing but a big ol' waste of time!

So what did we do to go from a miserable marriage to an enjoyable marriage? I could tell you all kinds of things we did, some successful, others not so much. But why listen to be when you can listen to the Apostle Peter instead?

1 Peter 3:8-12 says "Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

I believe that the secrets to enjoying your marriage are found in those verses right there. I found 10 things in those verses that are key to being able to enjoy your marriage, and I believe that when you and your spouse work on each of these things you'll be shocked at how much more you enjoy each other. But remember, you can only work on you! Forget about what your spouse is or is not doing and focus on you for a minute here. Now i'm not going to get through all 10 things in this one post or i'd lose everyone's interest very quickly! But i'll get through a couple of them and do the others in another post.

1. Be of one mind

The most important thing you can do in your marriage is understand that you are one! You stopped being able to just worry about you the day you got married. Get it out of your mind, and out of your choices. When you're in the middle of a conflict it's very easy to get in the mindset of "I want to win" but that mindset can't exist in your marriage. You are one. If your spouse loses, so do you because you are one.

When making decisions, think as one. Don't only think about what you want or how you feel about it. Make your first thought be about how you as one will handle the decision, and how you as one will be affected by the decision. The most selfish and self centered people, often times have the most miserable marriages. Living selfishly will make your spouse nothing but miserable, which will make your marriage nothing but miserable.

2. Sympathize with each other

The definition of sympathize is "To feel or express compassion, as for another's suffering. To share or understand the feelings or ideas of another". Never ever belittle how your spouse feels! You don't have to feel the same to validate their feelings. A situation doesn't have to affect you the same way for it to affect your spouse. I think a lot of times people are very quick to blow off their spouses feelings about a situation just because they don't feel that way, so they can't understand how their spouse does. Get past that and learn how to sympathize with your spouse.

And ladies, make sure your husband can trust you with his emotions. Our culture is very against men having emotions, so men are taught that tears and sadness are signs of weakness. Don't make your husband feel that way. It's true that most men aren't quite as emotional as women are but that doesn't mean they are, or should be treated like they should be, emotionless. Let your husband trust you with whatever emotions he has.

3. Love each other

This word love in the Greek is philos-a friend; someone dearly loved (prized) in a personal, intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection.

There is a sexual love that's in marriage, it's great and it's very needed! But there's this whole other side of love that we forget about sometimes, and that's what this love here is talking about. Love your spouse. They are to be valued by you. You are to treat them like a trusted confidant, not someone you have to hide your personal stuff from. Hold them dear to your heart in such a close, personal and intimate way.

There should be no one in your life that you love more, not your friends, not your kids, not your one! Which, according to the definition of this word, means that there should be no one in your life that you are more intimate with, no one that you trust more, and no one that you hold more dear than your spouse.

4. Be tenderhearted. Don't repay evil for evil.

A lot of times we kind of lump tenderhearted in with sympathize but they're actually very different. A tenderhearted person shows compassion and mercy when they've been wronged.

I wish we lived in a perfect world where our spouse never hurt us or wronged us, but we just don't. There will be times where your spouse completely wrongs you. There's no getting around it, they're just plain wrong! And in those situations you have the choice to react one of two can either hold it over their head and try to make them pay (they are in the wrong after all and they totally deserve it right?!), or, you can show them compassion and mercy.

There are times where you may feel like you have every right to make them pay, and in all honesty you may be right, but a tender heart won't allow it. You have to cultivate and build a tender heart for your spouse in the good times when they haven't hurt you, so that in those not so good times when they've hurt you more than you know what to do with, that tender heart kicks in and shows a compassion that your hurt may not understand.

I'm going to stop here and do the other 6 in my next post, or at least try to do all 6 then! I know that each of these four can give us plenty to work on for now. And no matter where you're at in your marriage, a good season or an absolutely miserable one, there is always room to work on these areas! Never get to the point where you think you've got it all figured out and you don't need to learn or improve anymore.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

All We Need Is...

Well it's that time's time to open up my laptop and let the words flow. There's only a tiny problem with this, it's been about eight months since my last blog post!!! Considering I wrote three times a week for almost a year this blows me away. Over the past year Colby and I started a couples group at our church which is awesome and something I completely love, but I spend a lot of my time each week studying for that and I ended up just letting this blog go. But over the last few weeks this tiny little blog, and the overwhelming desire to sit down and write again, has started to fill my thoughts.

So today I sat down to try and write and...nothing. After writing has filled so many of my thoughts for the last few weeks I finally set time aside to actually get something out there and absolutely nothing would come out. Now that's not to say that I couldn't think of anything to talk about, it was exactly the opposite actually. Topic after topic, and idea after idea filled my mind and made it impossible to write anything.

Should I talk about marriage, or sex, or family, or lessons i've learned with my kids lately, or gossip and rumors, or the church, or Jesus, or....the list goes on and on! I want to talk about it all and I want to do it right now! Of course I know that i'd lose everyone's interest in no time at all if I ran back and forth between topics and carried on for pages and pages. So i've decided that for today i'm actually not going to talk about any of those things! Today the thought that is consuming my mind and jumping to the front, is love.

A few days ago the air1 verse of the day was 1 Corinthians 13:7 but I like verses 4-7 so that's what i'm sharing here. Those verses say "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

These are verses that we all know. We've heard them at least a dozen times and most Christians can quote at least parts of them. But my question is, do you know these verses or do you live these verses?

Knowing you should love is one thing, but living that love is another. Knowing you should be patient and kind is one thing, but living patiently and with kindness is another. Knowing you should love through every circumstance, and actually loving through EVERY circumstance is another.

See what Paul is talking about here is the kind of love that puts yourself last and puts those around you, those you are called to love, first no matter the circumstance. The problem with this is, we live in an "all about me" culture and if that "me" isn't taken care of we suddenly forget the whole love thing. If something in the bible is hard to do, we throw it out, call it old fashion and say it doesn't apply to us anymore, and i'll be the first one to admit that loving like these verses talk about is HARD. But the fact is, the Word doesn't change.

Hebrews 13:8 says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." And that same Jesus, who never changes, is the one who loves us in every circumstance, is patient with us, and kind to us, and never rejoices in our injustice but only ever rejoices when truth wins out. His love never gives up on us, it never runs out and it never loses hope, no matter what.

Now I know things are hard. I know people hurt you. I know people wrong you, sometimes on a regular basis. But I know what Jesus said. He said, "love". He didn't say "love if...", He said "love".

I'm not trying to sound like some 1970's flower child walking around singing "All we need is love" here but think about it...

If we had love, would we hold on to that grudge, or let it go and hold onto forgiveness instead?

If we had love, would we share the latest piece of gossip, or work on speaking only good and truth about our friends and those around us?

If we had love, would we give up on a difficult situation or relationship, or would we fight for it?

If we had love, would we remember every time we were hurt and pull out our list of wrongs all the time, or lay each one down at Jesus feet?

See it's so easy to think about how we were wronged, or how we were hurt and completely forget about how WE wronged or how WE hurt. And in spite of all that, Jesus loved. He forgave and chased after and never gave up on us. That old "WWJD?" phrase that everyone talked about for a while really is a good question. What would Jesus do? In this case that's easy to answer because He already did it. He loved. He forgave. He sacrificed. He let go of our past and allowed us to build a new future. How on earth can we think we have a right to do anything less that what Christ himself did for us?

This might be a little too strong of a post for my first post back in such a long time but I think it's needed. I've seen so many situations and relationships lately that just need this one thing! I'm not trying to down play the difficulty of this one thing, but difficult and impossible are two completely different things! I don't know about you but I serve a God who says in Him, ALL things are possible and that gives me great hope, in even the most impossible situations.

1 Corinthians 13:13 "But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love."