Old Testament Marriage Advice

Hello Friends,

Show of hands! How many of you love the Old Testament?!? I love the Old Testament, however, my point of view is not the general consensus. Most people find the Old Testament as boring and not practical for modern-day life. To be totally transparent with you I use to be one of those people. I felt like the New Testament was the only thing in the Bible that was relevant to me and that there was nothing in the Old Testament that could help me. It wasn’t until I discovered a translation that I loved that I actually took the time to read the Old Testament. It was then that I realized that for one thing, it was not boring at all and also it was packed with life lessons and wisdom that I could use in my daily life to help me become the person I wanted to be. Now I read the Bible as a whole and there are so many things that I have learned from it.

In case you are not super familiar with the OT. Nehemiah is one of the books that you will find there. It is a short 13 chapter book. Nehemiah is our main character. He is an ordinary man that was actually born a slave. He hears about his homeland and how it is in ruin. Jerusalem had been taken overtaken and basically destroyed and no one had been able to successfully rebuild it. The idea of his homeland being in shambles breaks Nehemiah’s heart so he asks his king if he can go back and start rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. The king grants his request and the rest of the book tells how he goes about rebuilding the wall and the opposition he faces.

In the book of Nehemiah marriage is not mentioned AT ALL! So you may be wondering why we are talking about Nehemiah on a marriage blog. Well as it would turn out there are some things about Nehemiah’s life that if we apply them to our marriages can actually help us to grow. Alex and I literally made this discovery last week. Our church is doing a sermon series on the book of Nehemiah and Alex was asked to preach one of the sermons. As he was prepping for the sermon, he was sharing his notes with me. As I was reading over the main points I saw how if we would apply them to our lives it would help us do the work that God had in store for us. Then I thought, “If we apply these to our marriages it would help us as well.” So we are going to do a twist on Alex’s sermon by looking at these main points through the lens of how they can help our marriages.

Marriage Tips from Nehemiah

Seek God Faithfully

We have said this so many times and we will continue to say this! Marriage is God’s idea and it is a good idea. However, we have to invite God into our relationships if they are going to reach their full potential. We need to let the One that created marriage, to begin with, be apart of ours. We need His guidance and wisdom. We need His peace and His grace. We need His help in every way imaginable, amen? The only way we can include God in our marriages is by seeking Him every day!

When Nehemiah heard about the condition of his homeland He instantly went to God. We see in the book of Nehemiah that he prayed and fasted for 4 months before he said anything to the king. He had a desire to fix the problem but he went to the Lord before he did anything or said anything else. We need to do the same thing in our marriages. We need to seek the Lord about everything but especially if we have a problem.

God should not be our last resort. He should not be our “fall back” plan. He should be our first point of contact.

When we get our relationship with the Lord in the correct order we will learn some pretty amazing things about our Daddy God.

Nothing is too big for God’s power or too small for God’s heart!

Nothing is too big for our God but you will learn as you spend time with Him that nothing is too small for Him either. He cares about the tiniest of details in your life. If it matters to you it matters to Him.

When we seek God consistently, He will hear you more actively!

Who are you more willing to help? Your spouse or a stranger? Your spouse, right! Why, because you have an intimate relationship with them! You love them because you spent time with them and truly know them. The same is true for God.

More time spent with God=Deeper relationship=More time spent praying=

More Prayers getting answered.

Define the Vision Clearly

After Nehemiah had prayed about this for four months the Lord opened a door for him. The king asked him why he was so sad. When Nehemiah told the king what was wrong the king asked him what he could do to help. Nehemiah did not beat around the bush. He had his answer ready. “Send me to Jerusalem so I can rebuild the city.” Nehemiah had a vision that he could define to the king and because of that, the king granted his request.

I personally believe this is where a lot of marriage fail. It’s not a lack of caring it is a lack of clarity. When it comes to our relationship we need to know what we want and be able to define it clearly. There are a lot of things in life that we can be passive about but our marriages are not one of them.

  • What is your vision for your marriage?
  • Are there any goals that you want to accomplish?
  • Where do you see your self in 5, 10, or 20 years?
  • What is something you want to improve on?
  • What problems do you have that need to be addressed and dealt with?
If you can not define what you want then you CAN NOT DO IT!

If there is something you want out of your marriage you have to be able to define it or it will not happen. Good marriages do not just happen on their own. Problems do not get solved with no participation on our part. Goals do not get accomplished without deadlines.

You can have the marriage you want to have, but you have to start by defining what it is that you want.

Make Plans Carefully

Nehemiah went back to Jerusalem with a plan to accomplish his goal of rebuilding the wall. He did not go into this project without any structure. He knew what he wanted to do and he knew how he wanted to do it.

Once you have sought after God and defined what you want in your marriage then it is time to go into action. If we want the marriage of our dreams we are going to have to make some plans to achieve it. We need to have goals and then put deadlines on them.

Why do we need deadlines for our goals? Because a goal without a deadline is just a wish and chances are it will never happen. It is a lot easier to be passive if there is not a time frame.

I believe John L Beckley said it best with, “Most people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.” It’s not a lack of care or love that is the problem in most relationships. It’s just a lack of vision and planning!

Nehemiah’s desire was to rebuild Jerusalem and because he followed this protocol he was able to achieve his goal. You can have the marriage you want by doing the same thing!

Seek God Faithfully

Define the Vision Clearly

Make Plans Carefully

You can do this! We are praying for you!

 

 

Marriage and Motorcycles

Hello Friends,

Back in March of this year, Alex traded in his Spyder Can Am for a motorcycle with a backrest. He made this trade mainly because it was always his ultimate goal to have a motorcycle and also because He wanted me to have a backrest so I could ride with him more and be comfortable. To be honest, this trade made me super nervous because he was going from a three-wheeled motorcycle to two wheels. I had the grand experience of one ride on a motorcycle that had happened over 10 years ago and my times on the Cans Am were not that great because it did not have a backrest and I was constantly sliding all over the place. I had all but quit riding it because of how nervous it made me. I thought that this would be even harder for me since we were losing a wheel and would now have to add balance to the list of things I would need to think about when I was riding. I was excited for Alex but at the same time, I was not looking forward to the learning curve.

Our first few rides were super short and just ok. It had been a hot minute since Alex had driven a motorcycle with two wheels and we all know my experience level. So we were both getting used to the new bike. We have a lot of people at our church that rides so Alex organized a ride for all of us to go on after church one Sunday. I really wanted to go on that ride with Alex but I also knew I really needed some more time on the bike before that happened. We both have really busy schedules but we found a night 3 days before the ride for us to go out. This ride was not fun at all. In fact, I was pretty much ready to throw in the towel because the biker life was not for me when something happened that turned it all around.

We had been riding maybe 30 minutes and in that time I felt like I was doing everything wrong-all the things. If it could have been done wrong I was doing it wrong and I think I was inventing new things to do wrong as I went along. Alex was trying to give me pointers along the way but it just seemed like he was yelling at me and I could not fully hear him so it just seemed pointless. Finally, Alex pulled over turned the bike off and we talked for a few moments. He calmly explained the things that I need to fix, told me how to fix them, and then to my surprise, he asked me if I wanted to keep going? Honestly, I did not want to keep going and it shocked me that he did. I wanted to quit. I wanted to cry and then quit but the fact that he was willing to keep going spurred me on to not give up. I agree to go on because Alex wanted too. If he was willing to get going I felt like I should too. Was the rest of our ride perfect, no, but something did shift at that moment. We had both made the decision to keep going and keep trying to improve and because of that things did improve.

Fast forward three days, we go on the ride with our group from church. We had not been riding very long when it occurred to me that I was actually having a good time. I wasn’t anxious or scared and Alex was not telling me to do anything differently. In fact, by the end of the ride, I was hooked and we were both having so much fun. The things that were scaring me 3 days ago were not bothering me now! The things that were making me want to give up 3 days ago were now easy and even fun!

As I was praying about what to do this week’s blog and video on the Lord reminded me of the ride and the things that I had learned by not giving up. He showed me that marriage is a lot like riding a motorcycle. You can have a smooth ride or a bumpy ride depending on how you work you put into it. So I want to share what I learned with you guys in hopes that this makes your marriage go a little smoother.

 

Marriage Lessons from a Motorcycle Ride

 

  • You can’t fight against each other

One of the first things Alex told me before we even got on the bike was that I could not for any reason fight against him. If he leaned I had to lean and if he didn’t I couldn’t. He explained that we had to work together or this was not only not going to work but that it could be dangerous for both of us. The same is true in marriage. We have to work together for our marriage to go smoothly. If we are constantly fighting against each other we are not only not enjoying the journey but we are opening our marriages up to certain dangers. We have an enemy that would love nothing more than for our marriage to end in divorce.

When we make the decision to work together instead of against each other we take away any opportunity the enemy may have to harm our marriage.

  • Stop and Communicate

Communication is very important if you are going to have a smooth ride but sometimes it is hard to do while you are moving. There are times that you just need to stop and talk things out. On our first ride, I really thought that Alex was mad at me and was yelling in anger. This only added to my frustration and was not helping the ride at all. It wasn’t until Alex stopped and turned the bike off that I realized he was just trying to speak loud enough that I could hear him over the noise. Once it was quiet and I could hear him it was much easier for us to communicate and then get a plan together to tackle the rest of the ride.

Life can be busy and words or lack of words can be misinterpreted but if we will stop and talk things through our marriages will grow and it will help us to work together as a team.

  • Learn from others

When Alex traded his bike, he and I both started talking to people that owned motorcycles and asking them for tips. We also started watching the way others drove and rode their bikes. There is no shame in getting help from people that clearly know more than you do. We were the newbies and we totally embraced that fact. We wanted to know what to do so we went to people that we knew had been riding for a while and could give us good advice. This is so important for marriages always. Find couples that have been married for a while and are happy. Gain wisdom and insight from these people so that you do not fall into certain problems.

Problems are going to arise in marriage but by seeking out good advice some problems can be avoided altogether.

  • Don’t Get Ahead of the Driver

I knew on our first ride that you had to lean when you went into curves. That was the one thing I knew had to happen so I was ready. The problem was I was a little too ready. I would see the curves coming and would start leaning before Alex was actually in the curve. This threw him off balance and made it harder for him to drive. In marriage, we each have roles and responsibilities as well. The husband is the head of the household and the wife is to submit to her husband. So let’s just say the husband for this blog is the driver and the wife is there to help him as a navigator. When we try to take over and do things out of our role it makes things harder. When I was leaning before Alex it made things more difficult for him. I had to wait on Alex’s lead than follow him for us to get through the curves safely and the same is true in marriage.

Husbands are the drivers and our marriages will be a lot smoother when we let them lead and do not try to get a head of them.

  • Keep Your Cool in Stressful Situations

So this lesson came from a silly situation. On our first ride, I saw something hit Alex’s hand. Alex looked over and shook his hand. What had hit him then flew over his shoulder and landed on my leg. It was then that I realized what it was. A giant (monster size) dragonfly. It was at that moment that I had a decision to make. Lose my crap and we die in a fiery motorcycle accident or stay calm and give Alex time to pull over. I wanted to pick the first one. Everything in me wanted to pick the first one actually. I wanted that bug off of me asap but I knew that if I did that we would both be hurt. So I sat there until Alex could pull over and I could get this monster off of me. We both had to keep our cool in that situation for us to not get hurt. If either one of us had freaked out both of us could have been hurt. Isn’t that true in marriage as well? Isn’t there times in a marriage that you want to lose your crap? Isn’t their times that you just want to let it fly and say all the things you are thinking? I know I have had those moments when I have wanted to do that but it is in those moments we have a choice to make. We can say the words that we want to say and our marriage can go up in flames because some words are like fiery arrows or we can pull over by keeping our mouths closed and take the time needed to calm down.

Staying calm and holding our tongues in a stressful situation can make all the difference in the world with our spouses. Life and death are in the power of our words. Use your words to build your spouse up not tear them down.

  • Find Your Flow and Enjoy the Ride

On that Sunday ride, Alex and I finally found our flow. We started working together and when we did it became enjoyable for both of us. Did our ride look like everyone else’s? No! We had to find the pace that worked for us since we were still learning. Your marriage does not have to look like anyone else’s either you just need to find out what works for you and work it. Alex and I do life the way we want to do it and it does not always look like your normal marriage but it works for us and we are happy. As long as you are Biblically correct I say you do you!

Do not think that your marriage has to be like everyone else. Find your own flow and enjoy your ride!

  • Don’t give up

I know that if Alex had given up on that first ride the second ride would not have happened for me. I wanted to quit but because he did not I kept going and because we kept going we were successful. Let’s be sure to apply this principle to our relationships! Regardless of what is going on and the way things may look, keep going. Don’t give up even if your spouse wants too! Keeping going and do everything your power to keep them going!

You could completely change your marriage by simpling making the decision to keep going!

This may all seem crazy but these things helped me when riding a motorcycle but they have also helped me in my marriage! The Lord uses everyday practical things to speak to me in a way that I can understand and I am so glad he does. I want my marriage ride to be just as smooth as my actual rides with Alex. And I want the same for all of your marriages!

You can do this!

We are praying for you guys!

And They Lived Happily Ever After

17 years ago a cute boy with long swoopy hair said hey to me in the lunch line in high school and the rest is basically history.
roberson
We had several mutual friends and quickly began dating. I’ll never forget our first kiss on the side of the school gym in between classes. It was magical and I am pretty sure I fell in love all through the hallways of that school. We had so many naysayers who were anti-high school love and spoke negativity into our lives that these kinds of relationships just don’t last and we were silly. Well, I guess we just dropped a big boo ya on them.
Now has it been easy and an absolute cakewalk since then? No way? However, we all know anything good is worth the work.

So is it really all a fairy tale with the happily ever after?

In 2002, we rode up to Cheaha and had a picnic lunch.robertson carriage  Zac there gave me a gorgeous tanzanite promise ring and I’m pretty sure you couldn’t have wiped my smile off my face if you tried. Five short years later we made that drive again and while trying to take half a million pictures, Zac stops me, gets down on one knee and asks me to marry him. I was SHOCKED! We had talked about it but I literally had no clue it was coming and I was so happy. We got married in 2008 and we rode out after our I dos in a horse-drawn carriage while wearing my Cinderella gown holding hands with my very own {cowboy} prince charming… so it sounds just like a real-life fairy tale.
I will be upfront and honest in saying that we by far do not have everything together or have it all figured out. We simply love each other and are willing to do whatever it takes to stay married forever. We have literally grown up together: two high school graduations, three college graduations, new jobs, first jobs, job loss, animals (so many animals), a miscarriage and then 2 beautiful little boys. We have learned so much in our years together and here is what we do and we pray it will help you.

Wear matching outfits.

(Kidding, well….kind of!)

I think it’s so fun to coordinate our outfits. I always have. I would go to Zac’s house in high school before a date and try to find something that matched me. It is ridiculous, I know.
Here’s my point.robertson family
Does Zac care anything about our matching outfits? NOPE! But he loves me! My favorites are when he sees my clothes laid out then I see him after he’s dressed and I say, ” Oh cute, we match”, to which he just grins.
So do you really need matching outfits to stay together? No way. What you do need is to do things that make your spouse happy even if it’s not something you particularly care about. Just be supportive.
Let me give you another example of this. We had been dating a few years and Zac asked me to go on a “trail” ride on his new horse (it totally wasn’t a trail). So let’s start off by saying I’m not a horse rider. I have since learned lots of skills and come into my own version of a cowgirl… but still a big no on the horse riding business. Fast forward, we are riding along with his version of the trail, my description is the thickest, steepest woods ever. While riding a vine wraps around my neck and basically tries to kill me. I manage to lay back in true cowgirl style (I totally bought boots for this adventure by the way) on the horse and unwrap the vine. We then ride on a bit when someone asks if I am ok. I’m now bleeding and look as if I tried to commit suicide. Thinking I am the best girlfriend ever and surely this is all almost over, we come upon a small ocean (ok maybe it was a creek). Zac crosses the water then calls for me to follow. My horse said NO! Y’all here I am on the side of this embankment up against a tree because clearly, I’m not a cowgirl after all. Zac has to get someone to hold his horse and he wades across the freezing cold chest-deep water in the middle of November to rescue me. I tell you this story to say, did I really want to go on this ride? Negative. But I did it because He wanted to. I could tell you countless stories of nights spent at ballparks into the wee morning hours watching him play softball when a warm bed would have been better, horse shows in the million-degree heat holding all his supplies and helping make our horses oh so shiny and clean.
Even if it’s not your cup of tea, do it. It will likely become your favorite times. Not necessarily because it’s your new favorite thing but because it’s your favorite person’s favorite thing.

Do life together.

We constantly do things together. If Trevor has baseball practice, we go as a family. If we need groceries, load up together. Time to feed the horses, everyone put your boots on. We live on a farm with a dog, 6 cats, 8 chickens, and 4 horses. There is always something to do. Literally, always! We like to use our time wisely. Zac coaches several sports, works two jobs and shows horses. So to say he is busy is an understatement. So things that allow us time together and getting things done we love. Now, are there nights that I want to throw the feed bucket at him? Sure, just keeping things real for ya.
But, sometimes just being together is what we need after a long day even if it’s surrounded by crying kids and hungry animals.

Go places

I’ve always been a bit of a homebody. However, Zac has shown me there is a lot out there that we can experience together. We had been married just a couple years when Zac planned a trip to a horse clinic in Texas. I told him I didn’t want to go. I let that poor man go alone. He had to travel, eat and sleep by himself. Now, there are times now I’m sure he would jump at that chance, however, this was not my best move as a new wife.
Do life together and when they ask you to go, GO.
Now we plan things as a family and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We love showing our boys that they are important and we make our time with each other intentional. I encourage you to not necessarily look for new things to do together as a couple/family…. just live life together!

Laugh, a lot!

I tend to be on the anxious side, it’s not my fault, I’m a 6 (on the Enneagram). Zac knows me so so well and does a good job of keeping me sane. We love to be silly. Life doesn’t always need to be so serious. In Proverbs 17:22 it says, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine,”. God desires for that cheerful spirit so, laugh.
Keep life and things in perspective. Most things we think are big, are really small in the grand scheme of things so laugh them off.
I mean maybe don’t go as far as Zac and tickle your spouse until she pees, but whatever.

Have fun

We love to have fun together because we are best friends.
mud
When something happens good, Zac is who I want to call. When something happens bad, Zac is who I want to call. Marrying your best friend is the best!

 

Love JESUS

I know that sounds like a gimme, but it is THE reason we are still holding hands, kissing, and HAPPILY living our life.
When I say love Jesus, I don’t mean a little love, or even a lot of love (like I love iced coffee). I mean a full-fledged real-life relationship (on the daily) with YOUR Lord and Savior.
As a Christian, we all naturally go through seasons in our life. Seasons where we couldn’t get closer to Him unless we were walking the streets of gold, seasons where we are desperately searching for His voice, and seasons where we let our first love, Jesus, slip to the wayside.
Our marriage is at it’s BEST when we are BOTH walking and talking daily with the Lord.

The Secret to Marriage

To sum everything up, if I could say there is a secret to marriage, I would say this is it. It sounds so very simple but it’s not. You can’t control your spouse’s relationship with Christ and no matter how great yours is alone, that is not enough. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says that “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”.
It takes all 3 of us to make this thing called marriage work.

The Five W’s of Marriage

Hello Friends,

Have you ever taken an English class?

I am sure if you are able to read this then the answer is yes. If you are like me you have probably taken multiple English classes through your life. Regardless of the number of English classes, you have taken I am sure at some point you have seen the 5 w’s. Maybe they were never referred to as the 5 w’s but you have definitely run across these five words in class. The 5 w’s are- who, what, when, where, and why. In English class, we use the 5 w’s for information gathering and problem-solving. When it came to doing an exercise or paper in your class, by asking yourself these five questions, you could find the information you needed to solve whatever the problem was or write the paper.

As I was praying and thinking about what this blog should be about the word “why” popped into my brain. I went to Alex and told him that I thought we should do the blog and video about the word, why. I explain to him that I knew it was just one word but that I could not shake the fact that it was important and maybe we should talk about the “whys” in marriage. That was literally all I had to say about it when I went to him. He took that one word and that one thought I had, thought about it for a few moments, and then said let’s do that but add a few other questions too, like what and where and when. At that moment, we both thought about an English class so we googled it. We looked at the five w’s that we learn about in English class and decided to do a spin on it- the 5 w’s of marriage.

So tonight’s blog is more of an assignment than anything. As I thought about the 5 w’s and how I have used them in school it became very clear that if we will ask ourselves these five questions it can help us in marriage also. If these five words will help us gather information and solve problems in school why can’t they do the same thing in other areas of our lives as well?

Below I have listed several questions per word that you can sit down with your spouse and discuss. Use these questions as a starting point you can focus on all of them or one of them or you can add some of your own. Do whatever will be most beneficial for your relationship. In the very first blog and video, we did we talked about having a road map for our marriage. You can use these questions to get you back on course if you have gotten lost or to keep you focused and continuing on the right path. These questions can help to solve problems in your relationship or to help you accomplish certain goals you may have as a couple.

Below you are only going to find questions, I am not going to answer them because the answers that are right for Alex and I may not be the correct answers for your marriage. Every marriage is different so I do not for a second want you to think that yours has to look like ours or anyone else’s. The main thing here is to sit down with your spouse. The two of you have to be on the same page if you are going to make progress in your relationship. So let’s get started with our assignment, shall we?

The Assignment

Let’s answer the following questions! Keep your eyes on your own paper! You may begin!

WHAT?

What is something I love about my spouse?

What is something that we do well as a couple?

What is something that needs improvement in our marriage?

What goals do we need to set as a couple?

WHEN?

When is a good time to invest in my marriage?

When is a good time to be quiet?

When is a good time to speak up?

When should I seek counseling for my marriage?

WHERE?

Where are we in our relationship right now?

Where do we see our marriage in 5, 10, or 20 years?

Where should we start to make changes?

Where can I make my marriage a priority?

WHY?

Why do I react to things a certain way in my relationship?

Why do I feel like my relationship should look a certain way?

Why do certain arguments happen?

Why is my spouse special to me?

WHO?

Who is someone that is watching your marriage?

Who is someone you can mentor in marriage?

Who needs to compromise or apologize?

Who do I need to remove from my life to make my relationship better with my spouse?

 

Press through the Awkward

These are just a few questions to get you started. My prayer is that you sit down with your spouse and go through these questions and any others that will help to further your relationship and draw you closer together. These questions may be awkward and not easy to talk about but it will be worth it in the long run if you can fix areas in your marriage that need some resolution! You are worth it, your spouse is worth it, your marriage is worth it.

You can do this! We are praying for you!

Spiritual Investment for Relational Gain

Hello Friends,

Over the last seven months, we have talked about so many things that we can do to further our relationship with our spouses. We have talked about putting their needs and desires above our own. We have talked about respecting them and studying them and spending more time together. We have talked about shifting our perspective and making every moment count. Today we are going to be changing gears slightly. Today we are going to talk about how to improve our marriage by investing in our own spiritual well being. That’s right, you can strengthen your marriage by making your relationship with the Lord a daily priority. You can strengthen your marriage by setting aside some alone time every day.

Ephesians 2:10 Amplified Version
For we are His workmanship [His own masterwork, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

If we are going to be the best version of our selves that we can be which in turn will make us the best husband or wife we can be we need to make spiritual investments by having a personal, intimate relationship with the Father. We have to pray and read the Word if we want to 1. get to know Him better and 2. grow and develop into the person He has created us to be. The Lord has big plans for us. Such big plans that we can not accomplish them alone. We have to have His help. One of those plans is to have a marriage that models Christ and the church. However, we can not model what we do not know. So spending that time investing in learning, reading, and praying is critical for us personally and relationally. If we will take the time to invest in our spiritual wellbeing we will see not only relational gain but more abundant life in general.

Let’s spend some time talking about how to develop a personal quiet time every day. 

Going to Church Won’t Cut It

I figured I would grab your attention early in this blog by making this statement. A statement I fully stand behind by the way. Let me set this section up by saying this. I love the church. I love the fellowship that it brings and the discipleship. I love corporate worship and I love sitting under Pastoral leadership. Going to church is important and we are told in the Bible that it is beneficial and needed.

Hebrews 10:23-25 Amplified Version
Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word];and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.

Here is what I am saying.

We can not go to church once or even twice a week and think that is sufficient for us to sustain an intimate, thriving relationship with the Father.

That does not work in our physical relationships and it will not work in our spiritual relationship either. Will it get us into heaven, yes, if you have asked Jesus into your heart, but there is so much more abundance on this side of heaven that comes with regular time in prayer and study. We have to have a daily rhythm if we are going to navigate marriage and life in general well. So if you are going to church, GREAT! Keep going but take time every day to have some one on one time with the Father as well.

Ways to be Intentional about Spiritual Investment

  • Find a time and a place(s) that works for you!

We can not go into this with the mindset that it has to look a certain way or that it has to look like someone else’s time. We all live different lives which means our personal time with the Lord will look differently. Go with what works for you. It may be an hour or it may be 10 minutes. It could be in the privacy of an office or it could be in the car rider line. The point is not the length or the spot its the quality time spent. God honors when we take time out of our day to draw closer to Him.

  • Find a theme

There is absolutely nothing wrong with just opening your Bible up in Genesis and starting to read. In fact, I am in the process doing just that right now. However, when we do it that way we can hit Numbers and Leviticus and gets super bogged down and stop reading. I have found it helpful to pick a topic and turn my focus on reading and studying about it. It can be whatever interest you the most. It can also be whatever you struggle with the most. When I first started spending time daily with God I was really bad at praying. So I started there and found passages that talked about prayer.

  • Bring in other resources

Find books, devotions, audiobooks, websites, podcast, or anything about what you are studying and incorporate that into your time as well. You may spend one day reading your Bible and the next day listening to a podcast. Every day does not have to be the same.

  • Talk to God

Take time to talk to the Father. I encourage you when you pray in your personal time to just have a normal conversation with Him. It does not have to be poetic or rehearsed or use perfect wording. Just talk to Him like you would a friend that had come by for coffee. Use real words, tell Him your real concerns, present Him with your real request, praise Him for all He has done, and then listen as He speaks back to you.

Your time is your time. It does not have to be perfect it just needs to be regular. How beautifully wild is it that the God of the universe wants to spend time with us. He is so big, He created all things and He literally keeps our world spinning and yet He desires to spend one on one time with us. He truly is a good Daddy. And if we are willing to spend this time we are so much better for it. I can tell you with 100% certainty that my life, my marriage, and I am so much better since I have been intentional about this. Life still happens but I feel that I navigate things so much better when I have spent that time with Him.

How Does This Help My Marriage?

  • If it makes you better it will, in turn, make your marriage better

When we are growing and learning it will have a positive effect on our relationships as well. As we mature spiritually we also mature naturally. We make better decisions because of the wisdom gained from the Lord and when better decisions are made certain struggles can just be avoided altogether.

  • We Can Share What We are Reading and Learning With Our Spouse

What you are learning about can be a great conversation piece with your spouse. Share with them a passage that you have read or an author that you have discovered you like. Share with them a struggle or a victory that you are praying for. If they are having a quiet time they can share what they are learning and praying about as well. You or your spouse could give greater insight into a topic that you may be focused on. The possibilities are endless when these conversations start happening.

  • Have a Devotion or Prayer Time Together

If you are both interested in the same topic use it and have a time of study and learning together. Find a book and read it and then come together and discuss it. Take some time and read your Bibles together. Praying for each other and with each other. Again it does not have to look at a certain way, it just needs to work for you.

 

There is so much to gain here and nothing to lose. Spiritual Investment will bring you some amazing gain. One is a better version of yourself which leads to a better marriage. It may be hard at first but keep going, don’t give up. The Lord will honor that time and it will be time well spent.

You can do this! We are praying for you!

The Enneagram and Marriage

Hello Friends,

Who likes taking personality tests? I do! I enjoy learning about myself and finding out why I do certain things, certain ways. I enjoy learning what my strengths are and how I can use them to accomplish the things the Lord wants me to do. I also like to know what my weaknesses are as well that way I can work on turning them into strengths. Another reason I love personality tests is because of the insight it gives me into the people that are in my life. I enjoy learning about my friends so I can be a better friend to them. I enjoy learning more about Alex so that I can be a better wife.

Honestly, I am a nerd. I like learning things and then applying them to my life.

I have taken several tests throughout the years to help me know myself better but I have just recently come across the Enneagram. You may have already heard about it. It has been around for years now but somehow I had missed it until about 6 months ago. Honestly, I did not take it right away because it seemed a little complicated. There are about a million different test that you will find if you google the Enneagram and since I did not know which ones were accurate tests I just pushed it aside. It just seemed too complicated to me. It wasn’t until I found Beth McCord through the Go and Tell Gals podcast that I really got into it! She is a Christian and her studies on the Enneagram are all Christ-centered. Since I knew she was a Christian I took the test she offered and have learned so much about myself, Alex, and the people in my life.

Why Take the Enneagram?

The enneagram sheds light into your personality type and why you do the things you do and how you relate to others. But what makes this different than any other test? The reason I am loving this test so much is because of how in-depth it is. I have only begun to scratch the surface of this test because of all there is to learn from it but just based on what I know so far I am hooked. It not only goes over what your strengths are but it also talks about how to grow and maintain a healthy lifestyle and relationships based on your type.

The Enneagram has put into words things about myself that I have never been able to put into words. It has helped me understand myself on such a deeper level. Since I understand myself better, I can be a better version of myself every day.

The Nine Types

When you take the test you will be one of nine types. I am going to go over each type very briefly here but I encourage you to take the test and find out what your type is. Once you find your type there is a wealth of knowledge that you can learn about yourself.

Type 1- The Moral Perfectionist- This type loves to have everything in their lives be done correctly. They are constantly looking for ways to make themselves and things around them better than it was.
Type 2-The Supportive Advisor- This type loves to help others and is very intuned to the needs of the people around them. These are the people that you see going into action when something needs to be done.
Type 3-The Successful Achiever- This type loves goals and achievement. They are very driven and focused and because of that, they tend to accomplish a great deal.
Type 4- The Romantic Individualist- This type loves being unique and special. They love beauty and creativity. They are very introspective.
Type 5- The Investigative Thinker- This type loves to learn something new. They are typically very independent. They prefer doing things on their own instead of asking for help.
Type 6-The Loyal Guardian-This type loves security and knowing the details of situations. They are fiercely loyal to the people in their lives that they trust and love.
Type 7- The Entertaining Optimist- This type loves fun. They are always up for a good time and they tend to always have a positive outlook.
Type 8-The Protective Challenger- This type is very direct, bold, and protective. They love justice and will make sure the people in their lives and themselves are protected from injustice.
Type 9- The Peaceful Mediator-This type loves peaceful situations. They are good listeners and tend to bring peace and calm to situations. They are very discerning.

Again that was a super brief description of each type just to give you an idea of each one.  Do you see one that jumps out at you yet?

If you are interested in learning your type below are Beth McCord’s logo and the information about her website. There you will find a free assessment with resources about each type. She also offers classes that go further into each type and classes on becoming an Enneagram coach yourself. You can also find her on Instagram at @yourenneagramcoach

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You can find Beth McCord and all her resources on the Enneagram at http://www.yourenneagramcoach.com

So how can we use the Enneagram to help our marriages?

By using the Enneagram you will not only learn about yourself but you can also learn about your spouse as well. By knowing their type, how they respond to certain things, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they receive affirmation, we can grow your relationship and make it stronger. You can become more unified as a couple because you will work together and be able to communicate better because of the information you will have about each other.

I said early that it has helped me to understand myself better but it has also helped me to understand Alex on a deeper level as well. In fact, by learning our types it has helped me to understand something Alex said to me five years ago. Yeh, you read that right. It helped me understand a statement that was spoken 5 years ago.

Alex and I have just celebrated our 7th anniversary. On our 2nd anniversary, I asked Alex why he liked being married to me. He told me that he liked being married to me because I needed him. What I heard him say was, “You are needy, but I like it.” Now that was not what he had said but that is what I heard. I did not know why but I did not like that. I did not like the idea of neediness. I did not like that (I thought) Alex thought I was needy. I saw it as a weakness, not a compliment. I could not put my finger on why I did not like what he said. I knew by the way he had said it that he meant it as a compliment and I did not want to hurt his feelings so I just didn’t say anything.

Now let’s fast forward five years. Alex and I take the Enneagram test. I am a type 5 and he is a type 2. Type 5’s are very independent and they do not like asking for help and being needy. Type 2’s love to feel needed and help others. They feel loved when someone needs them. As I was reading about both types the Lord reminded me of the conversation we had 5 years ago. Suddenly what Alex said to me made sense. Suddenly I knew what he was communicating to me.  It really was such a high compliment when I understood his type. It also showed me why I had originally not liked what I thought he was saying. From that knowledge, I went to Alex and shared that with him. We have grown closer to each other and have learned more about each other by having that conversation and it all happened because we learned our Enneagram type.

That is just one example of how knowing our types have helped us as a couple. There have been several situations where I have responded differently to Alex because I understood his actions and motives better based on this test and the same is true for Alex. I feel like I can communicate and affirm Alex much more effectively now than before I knew his type.

The main point I want to make about the importance of learning about yourself and your spouse is this- When we seek knowledge we also gain a deeper understanding. From that deeper understanding comes greater discernment into how to respond to situations that arise. When we respond correctly communication improves. When communication improves we grow into the couple we are supposed to be.

Knowledge = Growth

Growth=Better Marriage

I encourage you to dive into this and do your own research. Learn as much as you can about yourself and your spouse. Knowledge is power. This blog was about the Enneagram but there are several different personality tests that you can take that will help you understand yourself and your spouse better. I encourage you to find out as much as you can!

The more we know the more we grow and the better we become!

 

We are praying for you!

Treat Yo Self

Hello Friends,

Donna Meagle, I have three words for you!

Treat Yo Self!

When my husband made me watch an episode of Parks and Recreation about a year ago I did not think I would even like the show much less be sitting here right now writing a blog about a lesson that we learned from two of the characters.

First off, if you have never watched the show, watch it. It is quite possibly one of the best sitcoms ever. I have watched every episode now multiple times but who is counting? The show revolves around a group of people that work in the parks and recreation department at the City Hall in Pawnee, Indiana. It goes through all the government red tape that people in office have to go through to get anything accomplished. Two of the characters Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford love things, all the things. So they dedicate one day out of every year as “Treat Yo Self” day. They go all out on that day and buy and do whatever they want regardless of the practicality or the price. It is one of my favorite episodes because it is funny but honestly Alex and I have used it to help our marriage. Let me take a few moments and explain how this happened.

Tara, buy the coat!

A random fact about myself. When I was in college I discovered the credit card and the magic that happened when you swiped it. People take that swipe and in exchange, they give you things. But something rather unfortunate happens about 30 days after you get the things. You get a bill and the card company wants you to pay them back plus some. So there was a time in my life when I was in credit card debt up to my eyeballs. When Alex and I got engaged our Pastor and his wife made us take a Dave Ramsey money course. Because of that course, Alex and I became good stewards of our money and were able to pay off all the credit card debt I had and the debt Alex had as well. Since then, I have completely done a 180 where shopping is concerned. I either don’t shop or I shop off the clearance rack.

Let’s fast forward to April of 2018. My mama passed away. That was the single most painful experience I have ever been through. When we were making all the arrangements for her funeral Alex and I both wanted to go and get some new clothes so we would look nice for the funeral. So we went shopping. He got a suit and I was looking for an outfit as well. For the first time in forever, I did not look at the price at all. I just found something I liked, and off to the register, we went. When the cashier rang up the price a painful noise that I can’t replicate literally came out of my mouth. It had been a long time since I had seen a number like that on the clothes I had bought. I turned to Alex mouth open read to tell him to take it back when he looked at me and said, “Tara, buy the coat.” He followed that statement by saying that this was for my Mama’s funeral and that it was ok to spend the money. As we were walking to the car, I had found my words and was telling him all the reasons why I needed to take the coat back. He looked at me and said, “Tara Payne, Treat Yo Self.” Then he got this look on his face. I could tell that an idea was in the works. He told me that the last few months had been very hard and very sad and that we needed to do something so that this time of the year wasn’t all bad. At that moment, Alex declared April 5th as “Treat Yo Self” day for us.

This may seem silly to you but it was one of the most thoughtful things Alex has ever done for me. In a time of sadness that was so heavy, it physically hurt me my husband found a way to force me to shift my perspective. Not only did it shift my perspective it was an intentional way that we could be together as a couple. After Mama’s funeral, we left town. We changed our location and spent time together and I think it was the best thing we could have done.

Allow for Fun in Your Schedule

When you get married life happens and as much as you want to be intentional about having fun with your spouse dating, and spending time and energy on your relationship is usually the first thing that falls through the cracks. I believe this is one of the most diabolical yet seemingly harmless attacks that the enemy has on our marriages. The enemy keeps us busy and focused on other things to the point that our most important relationship suffers right under our noses.

Dating and spending time with your spouse doing things that you both enjoy is crucial if you are going to have a healthy marriage where you are continuing to grow closer as a couple. 

I do not believe it is a “good idea” to date and have fun with your spouse I believe it is a necessity. It is a necessity if you are going to stay connected on a deeper level and continue to grow together. It is a necessity if both of you are going to go the distance and be happy at the same time. It does not have to be hard, expensive, or time-consuming. It just needs to be deliberate and often.

Establish a Budget for Fun

I am not saying make bad financial decisions and be unwise with your resources. And I am not saying that you should only date once a year or that you should date all the time. What I am saying is to change your priorities so that being together and having fun is apart of your regular routine. If you want to do something that costs money, establish a budget for these activities so it does not negatively affect your resources. It can look like or cost whatever works best for you.

Alex and I date on a regular basis and I am thankful for that because it gives us time to just focus on each other. It gives us a margin in our schedule for fun and enjoyment. It gives us a break from the routine.

Create Fun Non-Negotiables

We learned the practice of non-negotiables from Marcus and Emily Harrell. There are certain things that they plan out that are non-negotiables which means once it is planned it will be done. They chose to say yes to each other and no to other things. That is what “Treat Yo Self” day has become to Alex and I. We have set aside that day for the sole purpose of enjoying ourselves in whatever way we chose, it has become a non-negotiable for us.

You should make time for each other on a regular basis, but I do very much encourage a “Treat Yo Self” day. Make it whatever day works best for you. Alex chose April 5th because of the season we had just been through. Your day can be whenever you like but put it on the calendar and make it an annual thing.

I am posting two blogs this time because I  wanted to share what we did on our “Treat Yo Self” day. I wanted to give some recommendations for things you can do for fun, and some dating tips that have helped Alex and me be intentional. So be sure to read it as well.

We live in a fast-paced world that is screaming for every moment of our time. If we aren’t careful we will blink and the connection with our spouse will be gone, what a tragedy that would be.

By setting up non-negotiables, you are making the choice that time with each other is more important than anything else on your schedule. Making that choice will be a game changer for your marriage.

Make a choice to say no to the world for a moment. Choose to say yes to your spouse! Choose to say yes to spending time having fun together and see how it impacts your marriage for the better!

Friends, Treat Yo Self!

Treat Yo Self Day

Hello Friends,

So I hope that you have taken a few minutes and read the first blog we posted today about the importance of dating and doing fun things together in your marriage. Dating and spending time together has a way of establishing a connection with our spouse like nothing else can.

Fun and laughter should be the underlining melody of every marriage.

I went back and forth on whether or not to share this blog about what Alex and I did on our “Treat Yo Self” day simply because I did not want it to seem like I was just bragging about our day.

The reason I decided to share it was because it was a perfect day.

Let me explain, on the way home it occurred to me that I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the entire day. From start to finish, Alex and I have been together and had a great time. It also showed me that when you are intentional with your time and your resources you can have fun without worrying about money or schedule conflicts.

We set the time aside and saved our money for this day so we enjoyed it without any regret or guilt. I also decided to share this blog because if you are anything like us you want to date and have fun but sometimes you just can’t think of anything to do so you fall into the rut of going out to eat then coming home or just not going anywhere. On this day we found a lot of cool things so I want to take a moment to highlight some local business and give you some ideas for future dates with your spouse.

Dating Tip- Pick a location and then ask for advice from people who know the area.

The first thing we did was decided where we were going. We chose Atlanta so we talked to someone who lives there. They told us to try Ponce City Market so that’s where we started our day. Ponce City Market is housed in the historic Sears, Roebuck Building, Co building. There is a lot going on there. There is shopping, food, live events, and a lot more to do in this one location.

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This was our favorite shop at Ponce. The ladies working there were so friendly. We started talking to them when we checked out. They asked us what we were doing so we ended up telling them our story and shared how “Treat Yo Self” became a thing. They loved it and gave us a big discount on our purchase because of it!

 

SugarBoo & Co had some of the coolest items! There was a guy set up at the door selling honey based items and they had all kinds of leather items that had been hand made by the owner of the store.

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The Food Hall was huge and had several different options to choose from. This was a German dessert shop. It was 9:30 in the morning when we went through so we did not get anything but it was so pretty I had to take a picture of it! They had coffee favored desserts and a lot of fruity desserts. I’m sure Alex and I will find our way back there to try those out!

Dating Tip- Go with what you love but give it a twist

20190406_132908Alex and I love Mexican food. But on this particular day, we did not want to go anywhere we usually go. So to change it up but still get food that we liked we found a Mexican restaurant that we do not have in the area that we live! By making one intentional decision we got great food and a new experience at the same time.

Just a little FYI on this restaurant, if you sign up for their e-club (it’s free) they give you free queso that day! #quesoislife

 

 

Dating Tip- Save money so you can “treat yo self” without guilt

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Alex and I both love shoes and we found a DSW in Buckhead. This was the first time that either one of us had been in a DSW. We literally walked in had a moment of “May the odds ever be in your favor!” and went to our respected sides. Great shoes and their prices were not bad at all!

I shared with you in the first blog that I use to have a bad habit of using credit cards. I use to love shopping but I would feel so guilty afterward because I knew we did not have the money to pay the bill. The great thing about saving up the money for your date or day is that you know you have the resources available and it will not be hurting you later on. I told Alex that I so enjoyed shopping on this day because there was no guilt or regret.

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Dating Tip- Be adventurous and do something you have always wanted to do, no matter how silly it is.

Alex has said for years that He wanted to have a straight razor shave one day. On every vacation we have been on in the last few years he has been on the lookout for someone that offered it. Well on this particular day he actually found it so he went for it.

 

 

Dating Tip- Support your spouse’s passions

20190406_182410If there is something that your spouse is passionate about try and find a way to incorporate it into your time together. Alex loves to go to Guitar Center. He would go there every day if there was one close enough to our house. So on our  “Treat Yo Self” day guess where we ended up? Did we buy anything, no! But Alex enjoyed looking at the basses and playing a few of them. Sometimes just taking a few minutes to share something with your spouse can be so helpful for your marriage. It did not cost me anything to sit back for a little bit and let Alex enjoy himself.

 

Dating Tips- Have a Non-Negotiable (make them non-negotiable)

20190406_212258Non- negotiables are another thing that I mentioned in the previous blog. This is a great way to make sure that important things happen. For our “Treat Yo Self” day I had only one request, that we go to Jeni’s Ice Cream shop and have ice cream. I have recently discovered Jeni’s ice cream at Publix and it is delicious! I found out that there were three shops in Atlanta so I definitely one to go to one of them.

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This Butter Almond Brittle ice cream will change your life. They hand made the waffle cones also and this one was still warm! So good! Alex ate the Brambleberry Crisp and had the same life change I did!

 

 

 

Let me take a moment and brag on my man and tell you how seriously he took this non-negotiable. This was the only thing that I 100% wanted to do on this day. I had talked about this ice cream for about a week so Alex was very aware that I was looking forward to it. This was actually the second Jeni’s that we went too and this picture was taken about 9:30 at night. We had chosen another location because it was closer to us. When we got there it was very crowded and we could not find a parking spot. Since it was getting late I told Alex not to worry about it that we could either find another ice cream shop or just go home. He flat out refused and told me that it was non-negotiable and that we would be having Jeni’s ice cream one way or another. We decided to find another location and were successful with parking there. Alex went above and beyond just to get me the ice cream I wanted. This one act by Alex spoke some much love to me. He made my non-negotiable nonnegotiable and that was pretty awesome!

Take the Time, Invest in your Marriage

I hope by sharing our day and these dating tips it will help to grow the fun in your marriages. Alex and I had the best day and we got to draw closer in our relationship. Taking the time to invest is so important to a marriage. I encourage you today. Take time. Invest in your marriage. Make it look like whatever works best for you!  You may not be able to take a whole day. Take a few hours. Take a lunch break. Take whatever you can! Be creativity. Be spontaneous! Be adventurous! Be intentional!

Friends, Treat Yo Self!

 

Beauty for Ashes

Hello Friends

Picture this…

“It was a beautiful, hot, but perfect day in July the day Marcus and I got married…. (it really was perfect) but, to be fair, it wouldn’t be the whole truth if we jumped in and started right there.  Truth is, this story of healing and happily ever after started, unfortunately, with a really hurtful past.

I was in a relationship prior to meeting Marcus. Dating right after high school, and from the very beginning, this guy was incredibly cruel.  Always making remarks about my weight, ridiculing me about my beliefs (raised in church I KNEW better than to be unequally yoked – Long story short, ladies/guys make sure they love JESUS more than they love YOU.  No exception.) This guy I was dating would cheat on me with other girls and actually be proud of it – it was funny to him for me to find pictures on his phone of half-naked women or answer the call from another girl thinking I was his sister, giving me a message that went something like, “tell him I was just calling to let him know he left his phone charger here last night…” or something like that.

It was your typical textbook unhealthy teenage (19 years old) relationship in every way. So, like most young girls who are in any relationship for a long time, those things tend to become your “normal” and this day turns in to that day, turns into that week, that month, that year and you stay because it’s “normal” and you just hope things will surely change.  

We got married but there wasn’t a proposal, no bridesmaids, no saying yes to the dress, no guests at the ceremony (my parents weren’t even invited).  Now, I know all of the “pomp and circumstance” of a huge wedding with a big dress, 7 tier cake, and 14 bridesmaids isn’t a necessity and doesn’t guarantee a good marriage, but my point is… for me, for what I wanted for my life, it was a mess from the very beginning and only continued to get worse year after year.  

The emotional abuse turned into verbal abuse which turned into physical abuse. The shoving and pushing turned into things being thrown at me, which turned into hitting and choking which got worse and worse and then so much worse.  I had bruises I had to cover up, I had cuts that I had to cover up, I had burns that I had to cover up. At one point I was held at gunpoint until he could decide what he wanted to do with me. I had after many years of this convinced myself that I wouldn’t make it out of this marriage alive.  I thought, as long as my kids are ok (thinking they were too young to know what was going on) I could just “deal with it”. I had always been taught and believed (and still believe) that God hates divorce, so I thought this was it. This was my life from now on.

You’re probably wondering what in the world I did to provoke him to do all of those things, but for those who have been there or those that are there right now… you understand that I didn’t really have to do anything.  He was a sick individual and what set him off could be the simplest of things.

Maybe “I dressed too sloppy. I dressed too nice. I interrupted him. Talked to loud, not loud enough. Sat down when I should have stood up, Stood up when I should have sat down, etc…” Sounds silly, but so very true.

After many years of living on this emotional roller coaster, I started to see the effects that it was having on my children.  One night, in particular, he had me pinned up against the wall in the dining room, in a complete rage when all of a sudden in mid-sentence, he stopped and I fell to the floor.  I looked up to see my little girl (4 at the time) staring at us. I knew then I had to find some help. I had to tell someone.

The process from that day to the day we got a divorce involved a lot of soul searching.  A lot of praying and reading God’s word. I knew God hated divorce, but I also had to come to realize that abuse was not ok.  I sought counseling from my Pastor, confided in my parents, and the few (really, like 2) friends that had caught on to what was happening.  

I’ve been asked many times before, “How did you do it?  How did you leave?” because if you have ever found yourself in that situation, it’s a scary place.  I have described it as standing on the edge of a cliff. I knew that if I jumped there was a good possibility I might not make it (leaving would only add fire to the flame).  I also knew that if I didn’t jump, I definitely would not make it. So, I closed my eyes and jumped. I moved myself and my kids in with my parents until I could find a place and we started the long, drawn-out process of divorce.

I would love to say that it started getting better that very day! I would love to tell you we split everything right down the middle, shook hands, high-fived and co-parented like all great Hollywood families do.  Unfortunately, that is far, far from the truth. It was a terrifying time. My life was threatened, my health declined, I borrowed thousands without knowing how I would pay it back so that I could fight a battle for my children – a battle that I still can’t stand to think about today, without crying.  It was awful and life as a single Mom of two babies was hard. Hardest job in the entire world. I learned the most important lesson of my entire life on that road though. A lesson that has carried me every day since….

One day I had just got home from working all day and as I parked, I noticed a disconnect notice hanging from my apartment door.  One of my utilities had been cut off, again. I was working full time (had a great job that paid decently), but wasn’t receiving any help in child support, still paying thousands in court costs, supporting two kids with groceries, sports, rent, utilities, car payments, etc… it just wasn’t working out and that disconnect notice was the last straw.  I was physically exhausted, mentally exhausted and spiritually exhausted. I was mad at God. Where in the world was He? I had lived for Him since I was 14 years old and I knew for a fact this other person who was causing so much trouble for me had not in fact lived for Him like I had! I know I wasn’t always perfect, but I certainly didn’t do anything too terrible for Him to let this happen to me, or to my kids! Where was He?? I had been praying and praying, asking Him to do this and that.  I even told Him what to do for goodness sake. I told Him exactly what would fix this. Where was He and why wasn’t He listening?

That day when I saw the disconnect notice, I walked into my apartment and I never even took my purse off of my shoulder. I can’t remember, but I’m sure I shut the front door!? I do remember just collapsing right there on the chair by the door, crying and screaming out to God “I give up.  I give up. I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t. Unless You fix this God, all of this, it just won’t get done. I’ve hired everyone that I know to hire I’ve prayed all I know to pray. I have no other choice now, I am giving this totally to You. I’m done.” I surrendered it all to Him at that moment, and at that moment He started doing what we all know He does best, to those who put their faith in Him…  He started working it all for my good.

Lesson learned. I didn’t go to Him with a solution anymore, just submission. I chose to trust Him.

Isaiah 61 says that God will give us beauty for ashes… that He may be glorified.

In biblical times it was customary for people to sit in ashes or cover themselves with ashes to express grief over a distressing situation.  Today ashes, I believe, can represent the wounded, messed up things going on in our lives. Everybody has ashes–and all kinds of them.

Isn’t it beautiful though that God says He can give you beauty for ashes? I love that. However, I think we concentrate on just the beauty sometimes though and forget that unless you give Him your ashes, you don’t get the beauty.  We hold onto our ashes and wonder, Why doesn’t my life change? Where is His beauty?

Well… where are your ashes? There is a substitution plan here, and you have to be willing to trust Him in handing over all of your distressing situations.  He is promising you restoration if you give them over to Him!

I grew closer to God during that awful time in my life, more than I ever had in my life.  I developed a relationship and a bond with my children that was thicker than mud. I became a better Mom, a stronger woman and a walking testimony of Psalms 91!

It wasn’t an overnight fix, there were still many battles I had to fight, but never again did I fight alone.

 

New Beginnings

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Marcus and I met in December 2011 and although the divorce had been final, he still had to walk through too many of those bad days, long nights, back and forth to court we go, custody fights, emotional days that followed with me.  God knew what He was doing when He made him for me though! He would pray over me and the kids every day, encourage me, and fight through every single battle with me. “We are in this together” he would tell me (him, me and two cute little kids)!  He made our days better and restored my hope in happily ever after. Although I felt damaged, undeserving and less than good enough, by loving me and treating me like a real man should, he helped me find myself again. God knew exactly what I wanted and needed in a Godly man like him.

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Happily Ever Afters

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Remember when I said to find someone who loves Jesus MORE than they love you… told ya, it really does work. We’ve been together almost 8 years now, married for almost 5 (in July) and God has been so, so good!! We have an amazing marriage because it is built on a strong foundation in Christ (the key to any amazing marriage)! Our little family started with four but has now grown to received_1813732768726455five!  And while some would consider this to be a “blended” family, we’ve never thought of it that way…. we are family. The thought of it being anything different has never occurred to us. We are family and we are living our beautiful adventure…

 

 

Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG) “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”   

 

The Technique of Forgiveness

I love to dance. I have been a dancer for 19 years now. I have taken thousands of hours of classes trying to perfect this craft. One thing I learned very early on is that in dance you need to have the correct technique if you are going to execute certain steps correctly and safely.

Per Google~

Technique is the basis of all fundamentals of dance, from holding your body correctly while performing to executing skills properly in a routine. Strong technique extends across all areas of dance, regardless of the style of your routine.

The technique is so important in dance because it keeps you balanced to perform the movement in a correct way. It keeps you from injury and aids in making the movement smooth and beautiful. Can you dance without technique? Sure, people do it all the time but you can always spot the dancers that have had technique training from the ones that haven’t.

Marriage is like a dance. It is two people coming together with a common love and goal. When both people are moving to the same beat and are in step with each other the dance is smooth and enjoyable. But when one or both people start dancing offbeat and some toes get stepped on the dance becomes jerky and robotic. If these missteps aren’t corrected by proper technique the dance can be hindered or even worse injury can occur.

One technique we have to learn if our marriages are going to be successful is forgiveness. Forgiveness is something that we have to be willing to use on a daily basis in marriage.

In every marriage, missteps happen which leads to toes getting stepped on. It may start innocently enough but if forgiveness is not extended and received the little things can become big things very quickly. We are two imperfect people living in small spaces. The trick is to use the technique of forgiveness quickly and often to avoid the little things from becoming big things. So let’s break down some practical steps that can be taken to extend forgiveness in our marriages.

The Little Things

Like I said early in every marriage little things happen that require forgiveness. These are the words that get spoken in angry or the things that get forgotten and cause hurt feelings. These are the things that seem harmless and small but if we do not address them they start to add up over time. Sometimes these are intentional things and other times we do not even realize feelings have been hurt. So what are some ways we can make forgiveness a part of our everyday lives?

Over-Communicate!

I remember the first time I hurt Alex’s feelings. The thing is that was not my goal at all. I thought I was offering advice and he saw it as me criticizing him. The fact that it was unintentional did not matter. Words had been spoken that hurt so forgiveness was necessary. Here’s the deal though, had he not communicated this to me I would have never known it happened. Again my intent was to help not hurt so if he had not spoken up I would not have known that anything was wrong.

Communication can be hard but it is necessary for a marriage. We have to be able to sit down with our spouses and be real. Once Alex told me how that made him feel I was able to not only apologize but to also tell him that was not my intent.  If you have trouble with talking through things with your spouse I have a few little tricks for you!

What You Said vs What I Heard

I have mentioned this is another blog but it is so good I think it needs repeating. This one thing has helped Alex and me on so many different occasions. When words get said that hurt your feelings or if you are having an important conversation and you need to be on the same page this is what you do. You tell your spouse, “Ok, I just heard you say this- and you tell them what you heard.” This lets your spouse know what you heard them say and then they can confirm that it is correct or restate what they were trying to say. It’s amazing in marriage how a person can be saying something and the other person hear something totally different than what they were trying to say.  By using this technique forgiveness can happen very quickly if it is needed and sometimes hurt feelings can be avoided altogether.

What Do I Know to be True

Anytime something is said or done in a marriage that is hurtful it is really easy to start thinking and saying absolutes. The words “never” and “always” are very dangerous when you are upset. One harsh word can turn into the statement of, “You always say hurtful things.” or ” You never say anything kind.” Once you start thinking and saying these absolute statements things can go from bad to worse pretty quickly. We can think ourselves into a huge problem if we are not careful. The Bible tells us what we should do with these harmful thoughts.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says this-

And we tear down every proud idea that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We also capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.

I put this verse into practice by saying things that I know are true. Anytime I have gotten my feelings hurt I change my thinking by saying truth statements about Alex.

Alex cares for me and has my best interest at heart

Alex does the same thing but in a different way. He takes 1 Corinthians where it is talking about love and he puts my name in the place of love.

Tara is patient and Tara is kind

These are just small ways that we choose to think positive about each other. Once we put these practices into place forgiveness is easier to both give and receive.

Choose Your Battles- Is it Worth the Wasted time?

This should go without saying but I’m going to say it anyway. There are times that we should pick our battles and let it go! I hate being mad at Alex and honestly some things are not worth the wasted time. We need to know when something needs to be talked through and forgiveness needs to be given/received or when to just chalk it up to they are having a bad day and cut them some slack. No one is perfect. We all need some grace from time to time.

The Big Things

Now let’s talk about some of the big things that happen in marriages. People make big mistakes. Some are easier to forgive than others. Some of you who are reading this have been hurt very badly by your spouse now or a previous spouse. Please know that I am not down paying whatever happened to you. I am going to lovingly speak some hard truth to you. Even in the worst situations forgiveness is vital. Harboring unforgiveness will only affect you negatively if it is not dealt with. Our society tells us lies about forgiveness. Because of those lies, some people believe that they shouldn’t forgive and or worse yet that they can’t forgive.  The Bible makes it very plain that we are to forgive others of their wrongs just like we have been forgiven.

Matthew 6:14-15 says~

Yes, if you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, then your Father in heaven will also forgive your wrongs. But if you don’t forgive others, then your Father in heaven will not forgive the wrongs you do

This verse is very blunt and we need to take it very seriously. If we do not forgive we will not be forgiven. So how do we forgive people who have hurt us deeply and who may or may not be repentant?

Marriage Counseling

Forgiveness can be very hard. If a problem has happened between you and your spouse and you are struggling with forgiveness but you want that reconciliation in your marriage I highly recommend getting outside help. Find a Christian counselor or pastor to help with this. There is no shame in getting help. Getting this help may be the difference in your marriage succeeding and it failing. If reconciliation is possible pursue it with everything you have. Marriage is sacred, do everything in your power to restore it.

Small Groups and Church Family

Find small groups that focus on hurts and forgiveness. I know at our church we have groups that focus on these topics and they have really helped people process their pain and start the process of forgiveness. Having people that have walked through some of the same trials is so helpful because we get to see that healing and forgiveness are possible. You never know what other couples have gone through just by glancing at them. Make friends with other couples. Learn their stories and what all they have overcome. I have been so shocked to hear some of the horrible things that couples I look up to have been through. They seem so strong now I would have never guessed the work they had to do to get to that place. By going to church and befriending other couples you have people that can help you, pray for you, and share their wisdom with you.

Pray and Spend Time with the Father

The Lord is not going to ask us to do anything that He will not help us do. He told us to forgive and He will be there to give us the strength and grace to do what he has asked us to do. Seek Him and be real with Him. Let Him know that you are hurting and that you want to forgive but that it is hard. He is big enough and cares about you enough to handle your deepest and darkest hurts. He is also powerful enough to heal us of them if we will let Him.

Pray for Your Spouse

It is not easy to pray for the person that hurt you whether it be big or small. But something happens in us when we make the decision to pray for them. One it brings God into the equation. It allows Him in so He can do what needs to be done. Secondly, it shifts our focus to the forgiveness and grace that has been so lavishly given to us. The Lord does something pretty cool in us when we pray for those who hurt us. He heals us. Maybe you can only muster a small prayer at first but God honors small things in big ways. Take this one day at a time and see what the Lord can do when you obey Him and ask Him to help you.

Forgiveness is a process. It is not a decision that you will make once and be done with it. You may have to forgive your spouse every hour or every day, to begin with, but eventually, your feelings and your words will line up with the decision you have made. Marriage is worth the work. Forgiveness is worth the work. Your spouse is worth the work. You are worth the work.

You can do this. We are praying for you.