Tears of Joy and Sadness~Marriage

MY HEART WAS BEAMING AND BREAKING

Many Sundays ago now at church, our pastor was teaching about worship. Different forms of worship and postures in worship. It was beautiful and inspiring. I felt deeply connected to God as we sang worship songs and listened to recited poetry. Then there was a shift in me when our worship pastor shared a story about a veteran who had been in the process of getting ready to commit suicide. In the background, he heard the song Broken Hallelujah by The Afters. He then felt God tugging at his heart and he stopped what he was doing and went to get help that night instead. I stood singing this song or rather trying to sing this song when I broke into tears. It was so emotional for me to be singing this song while realizing that my husband and I  haven’t experienced anything so broken or heart-wrenching. We have been so truly blessed. As I stood with my husband holding on to me, worrying about me at that moment, I started to think about our marriage and all the joy that it brings to me and hopefully to God as well. Our marriage has definitely been a blessed experience. I stood crying tears of complete joy, and then my thoughts drifted to those that are struggling in their marriages, experiencing the brokenness that we were singing about and tears of sadness fell mixed with the tears of joy.

When I thought of all the young and older couples that I have spoken with about marriage, my tears began to come a little faster and little harder. I have couples who ask how we have stayed happy for so long? (We have been married 16 years) They ask how to communicate better? They would ask how to spend time together when they don’t agree on what to do or they simply don’t have fun together anymore. A lot of times it is that everything has become an argument. There are so many issues in marriage that we face that we don’t usually even think about. My heart was breaking at the realization that couples all throughout the church are hurting and in pain. I simply couldn’t imagine.

US

I want to talk a little about my own marriage and pray that you take something away from this that will be helpful to you now or in the future.

Dan and I were married at the age of 18 and have been married for 16 years. We have 4 children ranging from 5-16 years old. Yes, we argue and get mad at each other. We definitely disagree when it comes to our children sometimes. We don’t always see eye to eye politically and we don’t always have the same plans for the evening if you get my drift. We are not perfect, but we love one another and act out our love daily. We center our relationship around the Lord together and separate. We try our hardest to never go to bed angry with one another. Dan and I have both come to the realization that there is a lot of give and take in marriage. I don’t always get what I want and neither does he. There is a huge element of compromise. When you can start to think of your marriage more like a partnership full of times to give and times to take it becomes a lot easier to communicate.

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FINDING TIME

Dan and I spend quite a bit of time apart, I am assuming like many of you. Either both of you or one of you probably works outside of the home. Communication gets lost and set on the back burner. It is so vital to reach out to one another at some point during the day. Let your spouse know that you are missing them, that your day would be better if you could be together. When you know that you are being thought about it triggers happiness and pride in your relationship. When your needs are being met, then you are more willing to meet the needs of your spouse. Set aside a time that is just for the two of you every day. No phones, no t.v., no laptops, no kids and no pets (if they are distracting). This doesn’t have to be hours, just a short period of time so that you can check up on one another. Ask your spouse how their day was and actually want to hear the answer. Talk about the kids, work, God. Talk about anything that is important for you to communicate with one another. If you don’t have anything important then bring up an old memory from your past and just celebrate you. Communication is the key to a long-lasting relationship of any kind but especially marriage.

I know that for a lot of couples careers/school take up a lot of time. I know this all too well. Dan was working full time and going to school full time for many years of our relationship. It was vital that we figured out together how he could use his evenings to not only get the work done that he needed but that he could also have family/us time with no work involved. There were many nights that he sacrificed his sleep in order to give me the time and attention to show me that I was still his number one. In return there were countless nights that I would stay up waiting for him, or I would fall asleep in whatever room he was in so that I could honor one of our key goals. This goal was to always go to bed together. When he would be finished, he would wake me and we would go to bed.

As moms maybe it isn’t a career that we let get in the way of our time with our husbands, but maybe it is the kids. All the mom duties can become extremely overwhelming, let’s be honest…we are extremely good at overbooking our schedules. There comes a time when we have to stop and remember that if we don’t show our spouses how much we love them, respect them, and need them we could end up losing them. Love isn’t enough on its own. Love has to be accompanied by actions.  Love is an action! You can say you love someone all you want, but unless you are making time for them, sharing intimate moments with them and verbally communicating with them the feeling of love gets lost in the mess of life.

DATING

I want to keep talking a little bit more about communication but in a different form. I want to talk about dating your spouse. Yes, you heard me right! DATE your spouse. This isn’t just for the men. Ladies, you can step it up and plans date nights as well. Date nights don’t have to be extravagant, but they should be thought out. Do you ladies remember getting ready for your dates before marriage? I know I do. I wanted to look great every time. I wore the outfits that I knew he liked, I did my hair a certain way, I sprayed that perfume that made him want to be a little closer. I went the full 9 yards. He knew that I wanted to impress him, to make him happy and for him to be proud to have me on his arm. Ladies, your husband still wants to feel all of those things. He doesn’t want to feel like you have given up trying to grab his attention. Date nights are a time to reconnect, get out of the house if you can or sit down, snuggle and watch a movie at home but whatever it is, do it together with the purpose of growing your relationship. Dan and I have had many coffee run dates, so that we could hold hands with each other and not our kids. We have poured a glass of wine and snuggled up on the couch to remember the beginning of us. Date night is essential. Don’t ever give up dating your spouse! Making time and planning a date shows that you are choosing time with alone with them over anything else you could have been doing instead!

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SEX

Lastly, I want to talk about the ever so hushed topic of being intimate. As Christians it is essential that we be able to talk about sex. God created sex to be between a man and his wife. It was created to be a celebration of becoming one and of course for procreation (but we aren’t going to talk about babies). I am very much aware of the fact that God has created most men to have a more physical need than us women, but that doesn’t have to cause problems in your marriage. I am going to go back to a day in Dan and I’s premarital counseling. We were sitting with our pastor and he asked us this question. He asked us, “How many times a week are you expecting to have sex?” If I remember correctly Dan and I just started laughing. We thought what in the world kind of question is this? We are going to be having sex ALL the time (we were 18 at the time). I think after taking the question seriously  Dan said 5 and I said 3. We were advised that 3 was a good number. Now, of course, this was what was expected, not the limit! This has been a huge help to me. I don’t even know if Dan remembers it but I have never forgotten. I try to keep this expectation whenever possible because I know how important intimacy in marriage is.

WIVES

I’m not going to lie. There have definitely been times that I am not in the mood, not even remotely in the mood, but I am his wife and I am biblically called to fill his needs. I will, however, say this, I am learning after years and years of trying to figure out this whole sexual relationship that my mentality plays a huge role in how our evenings unfold. If I decide at 5pm that I am just not in the mood tonight it is then really hard to change that mindset no matter what the circumstances are. If I can stay open-minded or even be flirty with my husband then things seem to go differently. Here is a perfect example: It has been a really long day homeschooling the kids and I am exhausted. Dinner is cooking and I run upstairs to change into something comfy. I toss on my sweatpants, a t-shirt, no bra and throw my hair into a ponytail. I am done for the night. Right? Are you with me?

Now second scenario: It has been a long day with the kids, I am exhausted and dinner is cooking. I go upstairs to change into something more comfortable. I grab my sweatpants, t-shirt and change into a cute bra, touch up my makeup and head back downstairs. I walk over to give my hubby a kiss and let him know how handsome he is. Ok, see the difference? I have now set my evening up to go either way. If my husband decides to respond to my kiss and comment in a fun and playful way, then my mood shifts to a place that misses him and wants to be close.  Is this magic and does it always work? No, but scenario 2 sets up my relationship for a more physically positive outcome than scenario 1 where I am already disengaged.

The Bible reminds us that after we are married our bodies are no longer our own, they also belong to our spouse. We are not to withhold our bodies from our spouses for long periods of time but only for fasting and prayer. (This pertains to both husbands and wives) Physical intimacy with our spouse is vital! The areas of our marriage that we make strong in the Lord, are the areas that Satan has less power to destroy!

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Wow! Ladies, it is so vital for our husbands to feel wanted in that way. It is ingrained in their being to need physical intimacy. They feel that if you don’t want to be intimate with them then there is a problem; we don’t love them anymore, we don’t find them attractive, they don’t please us in that way. Whatever it may be. We as wives have the power to crush our husband’s spirit and confidence when they feel undesired. It’s not just about them though. They feel like they need intimacy to show us how much we are loved and adored. To show us that we are wanted and desired. It is important to them to know that you know how much you are loved. They don’t always understand that sweet words and watching them help around the house make us feel loved just as much sometimes!

Husbands

Husbands! It isn’t just your wives job to agree to be intimate. It is also your job to make her feel special, loved, wanted and needed. I know from talking to friends that a lot of wives feel used. Yep, you heard that right. They feel like a piece of meat that you use to fulfill your desires while leaving theirs unmet. All though the Bible calls us to not withhold sex from our spouses, he also calls husbands to treat his wife like Christ treats the church. When you try to be understanding when it isn’t a good night that can make a big difference. It comes from a place of understanding and tenderness. Don’t be demanding or use the Bible to hold sex over your spouses head. If a couple of days have passes and you are feeling unwanted, talk to your wife. You can even bring up that you have been understanding and respectful during her declines but that you miss her.

I remember going to a marriage conference with Dan and hearing this phrase; For women, sex starts in the kitchen, not the bedroom. It is so true men. We as women want to know that you are caring about us and paying attention to us during the day, during the times when you know it isn’t sexy time. We want to feel wanted as your everyday wife, not just at bedtime. Kiss her, hug her, tell her she is beautiful. You know what she loves, do that!

We know that we let you all down in the area sometimes. We don’t want to and we don’t necessarily mean to, it’s just sometimes we aren’t in the mood. There are times when I have to look at my husband and say, “I’m not in the mood right now, but I’m available. You choose.” This conversation has taken a long time to occur and an even longer time to be understood. Men and women just weren’t wired the same way.

I’m not a man but I tend to think that once you decide sex sounds good, there isn’t really much that will change your mind or get in the way. Women on the other hand, we aren’t like that most of the time. Usually we have to be able to set everything else aside. Worries, plans, to do lists, not feeling attractive, being tired, wanting to just do nothing. I know it doesn’t make sense to most of you but if you can try to understand that it just is what it is, it will help you and your wife be able to have more productive conversations. Intimacy in marriage is a beautiful, creative expression of the love that the two of you share. Your love should look different than others. It should be just between the two of you.

All of these issues that we have talked about are what start to define our marriage and the type of marriage we are going to have. Marriage is work, but it is far beyond worth the work when you feel the love flowing as the outcome. Don’t quit if you are having problems. Get help if you need it. Start setting aside time to really talk to one another. Push your anger and indifference aside and schedule a date night. Talk to one another like you used to. Date your spouse, make your spouse feel important. Ladies, take a deep breath and make the first move of intimacy. Show your spouse that they are still the most important person in your life. Learn their love language and do something that touches their heart.

ACT OF LOVE

Marriage is not easy, but marriage can be so rewarding and so much fun. Tonight ladies and gentleman I encourage you, whether you are happily married or struggling, sit down and write out all the reasons you fell in love with your spouse. In the next column write all the things you love about your spouse now whether they are the same or different.  As you head to bed leave it on his/her pillow. Make small gestures, they really do make a difference but most important of all, invite the Lord to be the center and the focus of your marriage. In all you do seek to honor him, to make him proud and to take care of his son/daughter that he entrusted to your care. Ladies, love your spouse with a love that is so fierce it is undeniable. Men, love her with all your strength and a tenderness that reaches the depths of her heart!

Disclaimer: I know that there are all different types of relationships. I know that sometimes the husband is the one not wanting to be intimate and the wife does. I was generally speaking. Please try and understand and take what pertains to your situation no matter which side your relationship falls on.

 

Where Is God In All Of This Chaos???

When I can’t sleep

I always seem to find myself writing late into the night when my husband is away and it always seems to be the times that I have no idea what is going to come out. I close my eyes, say a quick prayer and invite God to guide my fingers to the right keys to form the right words. Tonight as I am sitting here I am encouraged to invite you all into my prayer. So please, join me.

Dear God,                                                                                                                                                  I want to lift up my readers to you today. I pray that you would guide them to a place of peacefulness, rest, and action. It has been a week of great tragedy, much division, and just pure chaos. I pray that you would give us your wisdom before we speak and your ear to listen to others. I pray that families would be united and divisions would be bridged. You are the mighty healer, the calm comforter, the strong warrior, the ultimate judge and the most loving Dad that any of us could ask for. Please help us to know how to be your hands and your feet. We all know that now more than ever we are a world that needs to see you in one another. 

Amen

Why is there so much pain?

What is our world coming to? Why is there so much pain and chaos all around? We are watching cities being destroyed by hurricanes, there are train bombings in London, a massive shooting in LA, but really we know there are shootings happening every day somewhere. Cops are hated for killing innocent people. People are fighting addictions.  Children are kidnapped, women are raped, we have a massive sex trade industry happening in front of our eyes. Kids are dropping out of school, parents are getting divorced, teens are running away. We have young girls with eating disorders, boys that are being bullied so bad that it’s illegal.

We have a giant mess of pain and sadness in our lives every day. None of these things may be personally affecting you, but if you turn on that tv or surf the web there is no way you can be human and not be affected by the devastation that you are seeing. Where is God in all of this?

He is not far from any one of us” Acts 17:27

I strongly believe that God is in Heaven and in all of his strength he is profoundly sad. He has plans for us. Plans for his sons and daughters and they are not plans to seek and destroy. There are so many times that I hear people question where God is when disaster and heartache strike. If there is a God how could he let this happen?

Here is the truth in that question. God is where he has always been and forever will be. He is with us, in the hearts of the people who love and believe in him. Does that mean we are perfect? No! Definitely not, no one will ever be perfect except for Jesus. God didn’t say that he was the controller of people. He is the creator. There is pain and suffering, devastation and loss because of the evil that was allowed when sin entered the world through the serpent tricking Eve into eating the apple from the tree of knowledge.

Let’s get back to God being our creator. Yes, he created us. Yes, he knows all things. Past, present and future he knows them. He does not control all things. God is a creator in love. He did not want a world that had to follow him or that was forced to love him. He gave us free will. The will to make our own choices, and he still grants us that same free will. He didn’t make us God following robots. It is our choice not only to follow him, and to love him but also to choose our own actions. God isn’t killing people, God isn’t sending people out to do awful things in his name, he isn’t looking down in joy at what our world is coming to. He is sad and disappointed I am sure. Heartbroken and angry!

 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

We have Satan who is the temper of all things. He is evil, it is because of his evil that his final destination will be the pits of Hell. Satan is powerful and he knows what our weaknesses are and he preys off of them. He seeks out those who are the weakest, those who are the farthest from Christ and he uses them to destroy all things good.

You may be wondering why then as Christians we are still part of the problem. Well, it’s quite simple. Although we are Christians we are still sinners living with the same free will that the non-believers have. We are still targets for Satans attacks and most of us are not strong enough in our relationship with God to always win. God is strong enough of course, and he will come and help you battle when you call on him. Our problem is that usually when we are far enough away that Satan can attack and do some real damage, those are usually the times that we think God has left us and we have to do it alone. Therefore, we don’t call out to him for help.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Do you hear what I am saying? GOD IS HERE! He is in you, and He is in me. Do you let others see him? Are you using the abilities that God has given you to fight for good? Serving others, greeting strangers, are you dropping to your knees and praying? There are so many of us that think there is nothing that we can do, but we are wrong. We may not know what to do but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something.

Everyday choices that we make have a domino effect. When you change one person’s life, that gives them the chance to change another person life and so on. Wake up followers of Christ! We have a world with so much pain and suffering. This world needs to see Jesus and see that he is alive today. We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus that they see!

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9

Stand up, volunteer anywhere you have a passion. Talk to that stranger that looks sad, volunteer with kids and teens at church. Touch one life to touch another. Are you a Christian with an addiction that is hurting? Get the help that you need to get healthy and then tell Satan to stay the heck away. Are you in a marriage that seems helpless and unhappy, yet you know that as Christians he calls you to stay married? Get help, go to counseling, start dating each other again. Fall down on your knees and ask God to intervene and heal your relationship. Are you a Christian survivor of any kind? Go out and help other survivors. We all have a story, we all have a testimony. If you have Christ living in your heart then I urge you to show him to the world!

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”   Romans 12:9-13

Now is not the time to hide away. Nor is it the time to be afraid of upsetting someone by talking about Jesus. Now is not the time to expect someone else to do what you can do. It is not the time to hear and yet ignore what God is calling you too. Now is definitely not the time to sit back and allow Satan and evil to destroy our nations. Get up, take a deep breath, count to 3 and then go! Put on your spiritual armor and go!

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 10:7

Who am I hearing? God, Satan or Myself?

I have a friend who has been asking me this question. How do I know if I am hearing God, Satan, or myself? Wowza! That was the first thought that came into my mind. My second thought was that I have no idea. My third thought was that I am going to study this and see what I can find. So here I am sitting, staring at my computer, Bible in hand, a prayer said, (asking God to be my words) and steaming hot tea. Time to bunker down! I hope that you will get comfy in your chair as we try and pull apart the answer to this question together.

I think that as we dig in it is important to first know that characteristics of who we are looking at. You obviously know yourself and what your thoughts, motives, and reasons are usually like. Because of this, I want to skip ahead and see what the Bible says about God and Satans characteristics.

Here is what I found. The Bible tells us that:

We know God is love.                                                                                                                                          1 John 4:8 ESV Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. 

We know God is never changing.                                                                                                                Hebrews 13:8 ESV Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

We know God is perfect and that he protects us.                                                                                      Psalm 18:30 ESV This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
We know God is with us always.                                                                                                                   Isaiah 41:10 ESV Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

We know God is truth and justice.                                                                                                                     Psalm 99:4 (ESV) The King in his might loves justice. (Justice)                                                                 Psalm 25:5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you, I wait all the day long.

 So Now we can look and see that God is good, love, never changing, perfect, true, and a shield of protection. He is with us always, he is truth and he is justice. God is perfect. His plans for us are perfect and all that he wants for us is good.
Now let’s be fair and see what the Bible has to say about Satan’s character. We don’t want to jump to conclusions.  I know, I know, if you are a believer then you already know that Satan is the bad guy. The thing is, not everyone is a believer already and I think that we sometimes forget that when we are talking to others so stick with me.

Here is what I found. The Bible tells us that:

We know Satan is a devourer.                                                                                                                               1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
We know Satan is deceitful.                                                                                                                   Ephesians 6:11 (ESV) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

 

We know that Satan is powerful and evil.                                                                                                             1 John 5:19 (ESV)  We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

Wow! Scary huh? No wonder we want to make sure that Satan isn’t the voice that we are listening to. He has the power to trick us into things that are not Gods plan. He is prowling around the Earth waiting to devour us any chance he gets. As we talk about Satan and his evil power please remember that he only has the amount of power that God allows. He is still under Gods control.

Ok, I think we are ready! We now have a little knowledge about the characteristics of those who we are talking about.

GOD IS ON OUR SIDE

We all have decisions big and small to make every day. It’s hard, I get it. I’ve been there too, many times. Dan and I are always spending time in prayer before making decisions. We know that being in close relationship with Christ makes it a lot easier to hear him when he is trying to reach us. I wanted to look at his characteristics because they say a lot of about what kinds of decisions he would want us to make. A God that is perfect and good is going to want us to make decisions that are perfect and good as well. He isn’t going to advise us to do or choose anything that would lead us to a place of sin. No matter what form that sin may appear. He isn’t going to pull us towards a decision that is going to hurt us spiritually, physically, or mentally. He wants what is best for us and sometimes that is the decision that we weren’t really leaning towards. I want to make it abundantly clear that I know that God leads his people into hard and scary situations. I know that not every one of Gods plans for you may feel like he is on your side. I do know that when his people trusted him, even in taking the hard moves he always provided. His people always came out better on the other side. I say this only because there are those of us who are called to a life of missionary work, or work with the underprivileged and sometimes those things bring hardships. Those hardships will always be worth it when you are following Gods calling.

SATAN IS AGAINST US

When I was at a Bible study learning about the armor of God (see link to blog post below)  I started thinking about decisions a little differently. I think it’s important to remember that God speaks to our hearts and really pulls us in love. Satan, on the other hand, gets into our thoughts. He tries to trick us into thinking that we need certain things to be happy, or that we deserve certain pleasures that we know are not good for us. He is just waiting to attack. Satan has a limited amount of power and that is a truth; Satan doesn’t have the power to know what we are thinking, but he can hear us speak. Satan can’t know our deepest longings the way that God does, he simply knows what we profess out loud. I mean just think about that for a moment… How many times do we ourselves give Satan the ammunition to use against us? The information he needs to pull us in. I can’t even count the number of times that I have complained about a certain thing/person and low and behold Satan attacks that exact thing or relationship. Why? Because I let him know that it was faltering, teetering. I let him know that this was the chance to swoop in try and make me look at the situation for worse than it was. Not only does he attack us where we are weak, but he tries to give us what we want in the worst ways. Don’t give him the power. I remember a time that Dan and I were really wanting to move away. We just really wanted to experience something different. Satan knew that. He knew how to get to us at that point. Sometimes decisions are so tempting. I mean I really felt like Satan hand delivered us a way out. Dan was asked to come and interview for a job somewhere else. A great job, great paying and he already knew some people there. It would have been really easy to just take and go. I really thought we were going to until we stopped and really considered what the decision meant. We are pretty certain that we know where God wants us in the future and this wasn’t this place. Had we not really focused on listening to our hearts and where they were leading we would be long gone. My point is that Satans schemes rarely looks bad. He is a deceitful mastermind and is great at making things look a lot shinier than they really are. Remember, he is tricky and has nothing good up those sleeves.

What does any of this mean to us and our decision making opportunities? It means that if we stop and think long and hard about what our decision really is, why we are making one in the first place, and what our own motives are we can be prepared to listen to God tugging at our hearts and at the same time be aware of the areas that Satan may try to exploit our wants.

I guess I would have to say that while studying God and Satan’s characteristics I have come to a conclusion that the best way for us to know that we are hearing God is to be in constant communication with him. Make a pros and cons list. Do you see God’s hand in that? Can you see the way you can work for him, or will a change pull you farther away? Will you be able to give God the glory or will a change cause you to receive the glory? God is a loving Father who wants all the best things for his children. We know this to be true but it is hard to remember that his best for us doesn’t always look the way that our best would look for ourselves.

Open your heart, don’t give Satan the power. Look to other Christians for Biblical advice and spend time in communication with your heavenly Dad. Keep your heads up and trust, follow your heart! I know there have been many times when I knew I was seeking Gods will because I was scared to take the leap and knew that although it is good for me, it wouldn’t have been my own thought.

Leave me comments: I think this is a great conversational topic, thank you for reading

Link to Armor of God Post:  http://mypennedheart.com/the-devils-wearing-pink/

I wish I had some great book reviews on this topic, unfortunately, I do not but feel free to head over to Amazon and take a look around. Amazon Books