A Needed Reminder

Sometimes I treat God like a spouse who I am just giving obligatory time to. I show up for the date nights but then live this married life without Him. Maybe you can relate. There are days where I spend time reading the Word and uttering a few prayers before rushing into my day, only to completely forget that I am living this day with Him. He is the One giving me each breath I take. He is the One I am to be serving and loving and thinking about. 

While a relationship with Christ does consist of reading my Bible and praying, those things are not the end goal; God is. Bible reading and prayer are just tools to help me in knowing Him better.

Our earthly marriages are similar. I would never say that date nights are all that my marriage consists of. While they are good and extremely helpful, they do not make up the bulk of the day/week/month. No, most of married life is spent in the sharing of everyday moments, walking and talking with my spouse.

Our union to Christ is the same. Our relationship with Him is not made up entirely of early morning devotions. No, we walk together through the good and the bad, the big and the small. He is ever-present with us whether we’re desperately asking for His help or praising Him for His goodness. We can praise, worship and enjoy Him all throughout our day for He is always with us. Best of all, He has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. It’s a life-long, eternal commitment. We are His bride. He is our Bridegroom.

When Your Husband Fails To Be Your Savior

Marriage can be hard. 

You enter it thinking you know a person but then discover there are some unexpected challenges that this lovely person now brings into your life. You struggle to figure out a groove, but eventually you learn how to love one another well in the current season of life you are in.  It feels like you’ve made good progress, and then bam! Suddenly everything you’ve worked so hard to establish is shaken as you hit new life transitions like a change in job, a move, a new baby joining the family, a hard and unexpected life trial, etc. 

I fight this “shaking” of my marriage world every time it happens, but I’m beginning to realize that I don’t think it’s going to stop. And here’s why I believe this to be true: God hates idolatry and what I tend to idolize is my marriage. What do I mean by this?  I mean that I often find myself falling into the trap of looking to my husband for my source of worth, purpose and satisfaction in life. However, God is too good of a God to let me settle for anything less than Himself. He isn’t going to let me find satisfaction in my marriage if I’m not first finding my satisfaction in Him. 

He says in Exodus 20:3 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Most of us are familiar with this command, but because our idols don’t take on the form of a little golden statue that we pay reverence to at certain times of the day, we often fail to see them as idols. We simultaneously fail to realize that we often demonstrate this same devotion towards the daily things in life such as our phones, cars, homes, jobs, etc., These things that we give so much of our love and energy to can easily turn our hearts away from our Savior. 

Some people may recognize that these objects demand their attention more than they should. In turn, they set up boundaries in these areas to help them keep their affections in check. 

But what if our idol is a person? To be more specific: what about our husbands? God has called us to love them, right? Surely, we can’t turn them into an idol, can we? Alas…the answer is still yes! As Tim Keller says on page 17 of his book Counterfeit Gods, an idol “is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” And husbands can definitely fit under that category!

Over this past summer, I found I was really struggling with this area of idolatry. I had been messing up a lot and my normally gracious husband was struggling to extend grace to me. I seriously didn’t know how to handle it. As a child I was always extremely aware of my sin and had always struggled with feeling the weight of the law. Then I learned about this amazing thing called grace. God’s grace. So unmerited. So undeserving. And yet so free and available to me! As an adult I married this amazing man who also usually extended that same grace to me. He pursued me with unending love. He sought me out when I wanted to pull away. He reached over when I turned my back. Over and over he showed me Christ’s love and I thrived on it. I loved this man for the way he loved me; perhaps I loved him a little too much for it.

But then something began to change. He was getting tired of constantly forgiving me. He was getting tired of reaching out. He was getting tired of pulling me close. Instead, he found himself wanting to pull back. We both could tell he was starting to resent me for my struggles with anger, selfishness, pride, etc. He didn’t want to, but he did. Little by little, we could feel ourselves drifting further apart. I didn’t know how to handle a husband who didn’t forgive and it honestly crushed me to the very core. I was living in the fear of messing up and living in the guilt of past failures. And in his own strength, my husband struggled to extend love and grace to a person who just kept repeating the same mistakes.

We continued  to talk through the different issues we were struggling with and sought to love, but it felt like we were never making any progress. Every conversation we had only seemed to drive us further apart as we each focused on how our individual needs were being unmet by the other person.. 

As I sat alone on the couch one night, distraught over the fact that we no longer knew how to connect, I felt so abandoned. This wasn’t what I had thought marriage would look like. I thought my husband was going to endlessly serve me; make my life better. I had always thought we’d stay in love forever, thankful for the gift of the marriage. And for most of our marriage, it had felt like this; until recently. So why was everything falling apart all of a sudden? And what was I to do?

I began typing out my frustrations to God and as I did some of the following thoughts poured out onto my computer screen as I prayed.

God, teach me how to live in the freedom you intended for me. My husband isn’t my savior. You are. Help me to know how to forgive him before he even asks for forgiveness. Help me to find my security in You when he doesn’t forgive me. 

God, You have forgiven me. 
You love me. 
You accept me. 
You reach out. 
You pull me close. 
You never walk away. 
You continue to do a good work in me. 
Thank you!  
I know I don’t say it often enough.
Thank-you!

And that’s when it hit me. It couldn’t have been any clearer than if someone had taken a 2×4 and smacked me up-side the head with it. 

Lord, this is what You wanted me to realize, wasn’t it? I idolize having a wonderful marriage, don’t I? I idolize having a husband who loves me unconditionally. I idolize having a husband who reaches out and loves me even when I’m unlovely. I idolize a husband who pursues me. And God, while this is something You’ve called my husband to do, this is a role that only You will ever fulfill perfectly.

And so, as I continued to type that night, my prayer started to change.

God, please show me the next step. Show me one step at a time how I can best be loving my husband. Not so he will start loving me well again (though that was a deep desire of my heart!), nor so I can find my place of security in him once more, but so I can be reflecting Your amazing love to him–your faithful, never ending, never giving up, always and forever love.

And so, step by step, God has kindly been bringing me along in the realization that, as Gary Thomas says, “God is able to supply all our needs. We go to our God to receive and we go to our marriages to give.”

This realization is a good, good gift, because God alone brings lasting satisfaction and He alone will never ever fail. HE is the only one worthy of my worship!

God tells us in Isaiah 42:8 that “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”

So the next time we find ourselves struggling in our marriages, maybe it’s time to do a heart check and remind ourselves that as wonderful as our husbands may (or may not!) be, they will never, ever make good saviors. That role is reserved for Christ.

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

Helping Sunday Mornings Be Less Stressful

I sat in our minivan, finally heading down the driveway, a furrow across my brow, frustration in my heart, stress in my mind and exasperation in my voice.

This is NOT how I wanted my Sunday morning to begin….

It’s SUNDAY, we are going to Church….

My heart should be prepared for  worship and fellowship.

But it’s irritated and frazzled.

Why?

Most of all it is my sinful heart that gives into frustration and anger.

Partly it is my lack of planning.

Partly it is my lack of communication with my husband who so desires to help but can’t read the mental to-do-list that floats in my brain.

If I was a betting woman I would have bet cold hard cash that this would be the scenario every single Sunday. Week after week this went on.

I wanted it to change!

After taking it to God and talking it through with Jeremiah here are some things that help calm my heart on Sunday mornings and make the day run more smoothly.

1. Pray

– When I am intentional about communing with God in prayer about Sunday morning the night before and during the morning preparation my heart is in a much better condition to deal with all the curve balls and pressing responsibilities.

– Ask God for wisdom! He promises to give it (James 1). Ask Him, that if it would be His will He would take the reins and help things to fall in place but if not that He would give you the right heart attitude to face them and deal with them wisely.

2. Set yourself up for success Saturday night

-If I take the time to set out our kids clothes then my husband is beyond willing to take the responsibilities of getting them all dressed for church.

– Set out my clothes. Taking a few minutes to choose what I’m going to wear to church saves time and eliminates indecisiveness for the next morning!

-Clean my kitchen that night. Cleaning my kitchen after each meal is not a strong point for me but a cluttery kitchen frazzles me so much when I am under pressure. Taking time to straighten up our kitchen Saturday evening makes Sunday mornings that much nicer.

3. Keep Sunday breakfast simple

-If we could just fast all day Sunday that would help a lot! Ok, ok, so I used to make a nice breakfast every Sunday morning: pancakes, french toast, eggs, or hash browns. Breakfast food is some of my favorite but when I chose to keep Sunday breakfast simple it was a big help to keep things rolling towards getting out the door on time! And when I mean simple…I mean we eat the same thing every Sunday – granola and milk or yogurt. Not only is it already made but my husband also now knows what we will always be eating and he can get the kids going without even having to ask.

4. Plan ahead for Sunday lunch

– I noticed that I was a lot less stressed if I knew we had a fellowship meal at church or knew we were eating lunch with friends. Along with my cluttery kitchen, not knowing what we are going to eat for lunch frazzled me. We are all tired and hungry when we reach home after church and not knowing what we were eating or having to take another 40 minutes to get a meal on the table boiled in the back of my brain before we even left for church. Having a meal in the crock pot or planning to eat quick quesadillas is huge in making the day less overwhelming.

5. Make lists

-You can label me a “list person” and it won’t bother me at all! Lists save the day on Sundays. I always have a list of what needs to be done before we can leave the house and a list of everything we need to take, from the baby’s binky, to Bibles, to offering, or to a side dish for a group meal.

  • I hope these tips can help make Sundays less stressful and more worshipful for you and your family! If you have any ideas or tips PLEASE leave them in the comments below!
  • Pray, plan and be peaceful on your Sunday morning!
  • – Rachel

 

How Have You Kept Your Marriage Thriving?

Having just celebrated Valentine’s Day, the subject is fresh on our minds. Because all three of us are still in the stage of caring for very young children, it is easy to put our marriage relationship on the back burner. Today, we want to share our personal answers to the following question:

How have you kept your marriage thriving while busy with young children?

Chrystal:

Date nights. We’ve worked really hard to preserve this time and the more children we’ve added the more necessary we feel it’s become for our own personal lifestyle. We try to get out by ourselves once a week. It doesn’t always work out with scheduling, but that is our goal. We are really blessed to live near family members who are willing to babysit our children which is a huge help! However, we also swap babysitting with another family in our church. They babysit our kids while we go on a date and then the next week we can watch their kids while they get a date night in.

Mike and I take time on our dates to intentionally talk through our goals as a family and to see how we’re doing with those goals. We also take time to just unwind or to make new memories together. If there is no babysitter, we have also found it helpful to have a set night of the week where we grab a hot drink and settle onto the couch for some sharing and prayer time. Otherwise, life gets busy and we quickly become preoccupied with other things. If we aren’t intentional about setting aside time together, it often just doesn’t happen for us.

Rachel:

Jeremiah and I, on the other hand, do not have family close by, so while “date nights” are few and far between, we  have found that our marriage can thrive regardless. We try to do as much together as possible from grocery shopping to library outings to making meals. We talk ALOT. Even during Jeremiah’a break at work each day, we are either texting or using the app Marco Polo. Our kids have an early bedtime and we spend the evenings together. Sometimes that might mean snuggling on the couch as we each read our own book while other times might include cheese cake and decaf while we chat or watch a movie. And we always head to bed at the same time each night and cap off the day with conversation and prayer.

Angie:

Right now, communication is the main thing. I am finding that I have this bad tendency to play this game of seeing if Isaac can read my mind, often wondering to myself “When is he going to notice that I really would like some help with taking care of Talitha right now? Can he tell I have something weighing on my mind? What about this other thing–when is he going to ask if I want to do it?”

However, I am learning that it is much better to not play this Can-You-Read-My-Mind game and just talk about these things instead of allowing myself to get frustrated about unfulfilled (and even unspoken!) expectations. During this stage of having a toddler running around, intentional communication often takes on the form of lots of simple things: things like just asking for help with Talitha or being honest about something I’ve been struggling with. And many times, just having the conversation is huge!

Because of varying personalities, preferences, and circumstances, among many other things, each marriage and family is different in this area. For this reason, there are many different ways to go about making one’s marriage a priority, while also attending to the many responsibilities of having young children. Please keep in mind that our answers here simply reflect what we have personally found helpful!

Personal Post – A Wedding Story

9 months of engagement. In retrospect I could say that it almost felt as long as 9 months of pregnancy. I said “almost.’’ Not quite like it, but the months definitely dragged by. I had said yes to my high school sweetheart and then 9 months of wedding planning proceeded to follow.

The to-do list was very long. Establish a budget, pick a wedding color, try on wedding gowns, look at budget, order cake, pick out flowers, look at budget, research bridesmaid dresses, line up musicians, look at wedding hairstyles, look at budget, talk to photographer, look at budget, etc. etc, etc. My fiancé thought we could keep the wedding simple. I agreed. Simple turned out to mean “low in cost” which meant a lot of extra research and DIY work was required.

There were times when I wondered if it would be better to just elope. I love planning parties, but this seemed like a lot to get lined up! My mom reminded me that marriages on earth are a picture of our marriage to Christ and that is no small deal! One day we will be sharing in the “marriage supper of the Lamb” with our perfect Groom and in a small way, my union to Mike would represent that holy bond between God and man. So we continued on with our planning. And we did enjoy a  lot of it. This was giving us a chance to work on a big common goal together; to see how well we did at being a team.

In preparation for the big day, there was also marriage counseling and plenty of long talks. I remember engagement being a hard phase. Committed and ready to be this man’s wife, but not yet fulfilling that role, I sometimes struggled with knowing whether I belonged under my dad or under Mike. Reminds me of my relationship to God. I belong to Him, but yet I am not yet united with Him,  and the struggle between those two realities is real.he struggle is real.

The week of the wedding arrived and the planning and hard work paid off. It was a relaxing week, for the most part, and I enjoyed the time with family and friends. At the rehearsal Mrs. Huber told our wedding party “Mike and Chrystal have spent 9 months preparing for this day and from here on out their work is done. If anything goes wrong, they don’t get to know about it. You come tell me.” I remember feeling surprised and then relieved to realize she was right! We could just relax and enjoy these special moments now. So we did.

Later that night I lay awake in bed, trying to recite my personal wedding vows in my head. Why did I have to be so wordy? I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to remember everything I had written down. Struggling to sleep, I pulled the “maid of honor duty” card on my sister Rachel who, somewhat begrudgingly, agreed to give me a back rub and listen to me rehearse my wedding vows. I finally slept.

Honestly, a lot of how things played out the next day are kinda a blur in my memory. A happy blur, but a blur nonetheless. I remember…

…our flower girl having a blast twirling in her dress.

…my sister doing my hair.

…exchanging letters with Mike around the corner of a building and wondering if he had seen any of my dress peeking out.

…my dad coming into the room to get me and giving one loud sob before gathering his composure and leading me down the aisle.

…congregational singing of “I am His and He is mine” while I stood beside the man I was about to marry.

…Mr. Huber giving the challenge.

…making it through the vows and only stumbling once.

…parents praying for our marriage. 

…our first kiss (while I stood on a stool!)

… new family hugs in the back room afterwards.

….floating on cloud 9 as we entered the reception hall as Mr. and Mrs. Stauffer.

…talking to lots of people.

….kissing. Lots and lots of kissing. Some people have no shame when it comes to tapping glasses.

…looking out over the tables at the reception and feeling overwhelmed by the fact that all these people were here simply to support us as we began this adventure called marriage.

…bubbles that didn’t blow. (Useless “Dollar Tree” bubbles!)

…riding away in a horse-drawn carriage and hearing Pastor Walters yell “We’ll see you in Sunday School tomorrow!”

…pictures with the groomsmen, bridesmaids, etc.

…and then finally, just Mike and I left alone…. ready to start our lives together.

And while marriage has certainly had it ups and downs, by God’s grace, we are now approaching seven years of marriage.  Day by day, step by step: loving, often stumbling, forgiving, and getting back up. It’s been a wonderful and growing journey for both of us and one I wouldn’t trade for the world.