Untangled in Love

I never thought I’d be one for mushy stuff. Anyone who’s heard my commentary during chick flicks knows I’m not a romantic.

But there’s this guy.

The one I moved seats to be near the first day of class. The one whose shenanigans had my head and finger wagging from the start. The one who asked me to date him after I spent hours telling him every reason not to love me. The one who led me to my Savior.

His eyes were fixed on Christ even as he took my hand in his. I thank the Lord he has little regard for any other sight.

During more than 6 years of knowing each other now, I’ve witnessed a faith-skill of his I pray the Lord helps me hone as my own.

He’s an expert disentangler.

Ironically, this only applies spiritually. When it comes to being entangled physically, he’s got a knack for being wound up in cords, having limbs stuck in furniture, nearly strangling himself with ties, and being unable to remove himself from places he climbs into (AKA…dryers.) Some evidence:

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Spiritually, though, my husband is quick and nimble to:

“throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” –Hebrews 12:1

What I’ve noticed most in his way of staying free and ready to obey the Lord is an attention to who He is serving. 2 Timothy 2:26 warns of being enticed into entanglement in the enemy’s snare. The verse says our enemy captures us for the purpose of having us do his will.

We are never entangled in sin for the purpose of serving God.

So, when we are entangled, we’re serving the will of the enemy.  It might be through self-serving or through people-pleasing. We may be money-driven or fear-abiding. Whatever the case, when we’re entangled, we’re not fixed on the purposes of Christ.

This is one of the ways my husband’s “black and white” thinking helps.

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He isn’t easily entangled because His eyes are fixed on Christ intently. He notices when he is looking at someone else. He notices when what he’s doing isn’t serving the Lord.

And when he notices, he turns from the dark to the light. He shifts his eyes to Christ. He throws off whatever is bidding him to pay attention to or serve anything else. Whatever it is, it’s not worth missing out on beholding the Lord.

I’m blessed when he helps with my writing because I know he won’t fail to point out words that hinder instead of help the gospel. As I analyze, assess, and plan in life I am grateful to have by my side someone with foresight and discretion regarding the Lord’s will.

Among the most precious aspects of our marriage is my husband’s habit of getting my attention to direct me to Our Lord -who has his attention.

He hates to be entangled, and he hates to see me tied in knots too.

Praying this Valentine’s Day you and your loved ones can help each other disentangle to fix your eyes on the One who matters most.

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

I’d love for you to guest post on First and Second! Especially for an upcoming series…more here.

Marital Spats and God’s Plan (Giveaway)

**Giveaway details at the end of the post!**

The day our premarital counseling workbook began addressing arguments, my husband and I were relieved. We have always been really good at arguing. It’s one of our unexpected spiritual gifts (ha!) We even told the pastor counseling us.

He was surprised.

Apparently, most couples get married believing they’ll always just get along or are caught up in love to the point that arguing has yet to cross their minds.

Not us. The Lord uniquely blessed us with plenty of practice disagreeing early on.

I mean it. The Lord gifted us with arguments.

My husband and I learned from the Lord Himself to argue well and to resolve issues to His glory. We have been taught to fight- for each other. The Lord has allowed us to experience strife- teaching us to strive to discern the Lord’s will despite our own propensities for sin.

Arguing can be to God’s glory too.

When we learn to disagree in a godly way, we learn to work in unity with the Lord to live according to His will. 

That’s what The Blessings of Unity by Richard Case is about. I really enjoyed the book’s no-nonsense approach to the topic.

Married to Linda for more than 45 years, Case offers Biblical insight into one of God’s primary commands for husbands and wives: to cleave to one another. Case puts the command in context: not only is cleaving in marriage important, but it is also part of the unity of the body of Christ.

As Case says on page 35, “unity is brought about by our desire to pursue God.” We ought to seek this sort of unity in Christ’s body as the church and as couples.

The Blessings of Unity provides comprehensive Bible study examining several angles and forms of unity. I’ve never encountered a topical marriage book so structured around passages of Scripture.

Each chapter addresses challenges and strategies for unity in the context of living by God’s Word.

Being aligned with the Holy Spirit is another main theme throughout The Blessings of Unity. Case explains: “The same one Holy Spirit in me is also in my spouse…our decisions can always go to unity with the Spirit when we are willing to hear what the Spirit has to say” (pg 42.)

Insightful points like these are packed in tightly.

If there is a criticism of this book, it is also a warning: The book is dense to the point of disorganization. You will find extensive, helpful, Biblical truth throughout, but you will have to work to put it all together in a memorable format for yourself.

I imagine spouses would benefit from reading the book individually and discussing it informally, as it’s not clearly organized for shared study. Retreat or study leaders are also likely to find essential truth in The Blessings of Unity, but should expect to create their own more organized materials for teaching and discussion.

Certainly useful and supported by substantial Bible lessons, The Blessings of Unity is an important reference guide for those involved personally or professionally in the work of more faithfully pursuing God through marital relationships.

Find a copy here.


GIVEAWAY of THE BLESSINGS OF UNITY:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post
  2. Be sure to include your email address in the private form for commenting
  3. Comment by 11pm EST Monday, November 21st.
  4. I’ll randomly select a winner on Tuesday, November 22nd and notify you by email if you won! You will then receive a free copy in the mail. 

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”


BONUS GIVEAWAY: All For Jesus eBook

If you’d like a practical 6-page eBook on living an unshakable life, you can grab it here.


This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not- The Word Works Series!

You know the friend who always answers “how are you?” honestly but non-intrusively? That’s how Jeanne writes. Her blog, Where Faith and Grace Hold Hands, bids you welcome, shares an experience, and then turns the “how are you” into “How God is.” Grateful to welcome her today!
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Since I was a girl, I’ve struggled with the effect of rejection on my identity. Being teased and bullied in elementary school left permanent scars on my heart and self-concept. After becoming a Christian as a teenager, I still struggled with the lie that acceptance by others—especially the popular kids—would erase the fear that I really, truly was not enough . . . that I was “less-than” most of the kids I knew.

After I married and my husband and I decided we were ready to start a family, we crafted a timeline and waited . . . and waited for a child to come into our family.

Our walk through infertility, as painful as it was, also freed me from many of the lies I’d carried from girlhood into womanhood. Lies that said, “You are less than.” “You are not enough.”

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One day, as I was driving around town and lamenting to God about how much I wanted a baby, I said something to the effect of, “You must not love me as much as you love others. You give teenagers who don’t want babies a pregnancy. You give women who have four children one more. And You haven’t given me any children. Even though I’m ready to be a mom. I want to be a mom. You love them more than me.”

I could almost hear God’s response audibly. He said something to the affect of: “I love you, Jeanne. I can’t love you anymore than I do, because I already love you completely.

My thoughts stopped, amazed.

Tears began to flow, even as I drove . . .

. . . as I absorbed His words spoken straight to my aching heart.

The biggest truth I took from that conversation is:

God loves each of His children passionately, perfectly, and completely.

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As I spent time with Him in the Bible, He showed me verses that proved just what He thinks about His children.

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Jeremiah 31:3—“The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’”

Zephaniah 3:17—“The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Psalm 139:17-18—“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”

Isaiah 49: 15-16“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”

As I meditated on these verses, I came to realize that to say He loves us less than another is to call God a liar . . . which, of course, we know isn’t true.

I suspect I’m not the only who has doubted that God really loved me. The thing is, when we take the truth of His word to heart, it revolutionizes our understanding of Him, and refreshes and deepens our relationship with Him. To know that there is nothing we can do that will cause Him to stop loving us? That is a life-truth right there. It’s when we grasp this truth that we can walk free of the condemnation that accompanies so many of us.

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As I began to embrace His words to me, I released the tight hold I had on my dream for motherhood. He revealed to me the idol that it had become. I chose to trust His love for me and His plan for me. I began to see that I am His girl. We are all His children. His precious treasures. He loves us.

If you’re not sure about this, ask God to show you in His word what He has to say about you and the inestimable value He places on YOU.

What about you? If you have trouble believing God loves you no matter what, what’s holding you back? What is one life-changing lesson God has taught you?

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

I Do! But How Did I Do It?

 

Confessions of a Bride on a Budget

Guest Posted by the lovely Maggie Miller

A newlywed, Maggie has been blessed by the Lord with a wonderful man- and a wedding to fit their story. Though she faced discouragement, she can testify to the Lord's provision for their wedding and the beginning of their marriage. Enjoy!

When I first got engaged I was thrilled – the man of my dreams (hilarious, hard-working, soft-hearted, God fearing, wonderful all-around) wanted to spend his entire life with ME!

We had been dating for 2 years at that point and I was so ready to say, “I Do!” I immediately got into planning mode and began taking my Pinterest wedding board ideas into full swing (yes, I had a wedding board long before I got engaged…) However, I quickly realized two things:

1. Weddings are incredibly expensive

2. I have a very limited budget.

Every venue I found cost as much as my entire wedding budget – or more! Just to use the venue!

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My parents and fiance’s parents were very generous in helping us out with what they could, but even with their help I knew pulling off my “dream” wedding was going to be tricky.

Now, 8 months later, I can officially say my wedding was everything I could have wanted it to be and moreand I was able to make it happen even with very tight finances. I know so many brides-to-be are in similar positions (we’re at that age where it’s more shocking if we don’t see a “newly engaged” social media post each week), and I want to encourage all those ladies that if you’re a bride on a budget, don’t fret! I did it, and so can you!

The venue was probably the most difficult thing to find – I knew I wanted something that had an outdoor ceremony and indoor reception, and I wanted it all in one location (picky, I know). However, I knew I could make it work. Instead of googling “wedding venues in Phoenix” I decided to research “unique event sites in Phoenix,” simply because tacking on the word “wedding venue” is instantly going to increase the price of the rental place.

Even though they were beautiful, my budget couldn’t afford any traditional venue. I had to think outside the box. We ended up renting out a small nature center that was extremely affordable (less than ¼ of the price of traditional venues) and absolutely beautiful. Parks and churches are also great options that can sometimes be rented free of charge.

After the venue was chosen, there was so much more on the to-do list: flowers, catering, decorations, photographer, a DJ, the dress, invitations, rehearsal dinner…the list (and costs!) never seemed to end! There were so many things I wanted for my dream wedding, but I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to have it all, and that made me feel so discouraged.

With current pop-culture and reality television, it is so easy to get wrapped up in shows like Four Weddings and Say Yes to the Dress, where the brides have unlimited budgets and a wedding coordinator to plan their entire lavish $50,000 day. However, the truth of the matter was that that bride wasn’t me, and I had to realize that that was okay.

You’re not any less of a bride because you can’t afford peonies in your bouquet or floor length tablecloths for your décor.

Some of the best advice I received was to sit down with your fiancé and prioritize the things that are of utmost importance to each of you. Are you dead set on having an incredible professional photographer but couldn’t care less about the “dream dress”? Do you want to cut back on flowers and décor so that you can be inclusive and invite more of those extended family members?

Choose what works for you – every wedding is unique and fit to that specific couple. Make it your own! Even though you will have to compromise in some areas, you will be sure to have the most important things done the way you want them.

After that discussion, I expressed that my priority was the venue, but that I also cared a lot about my dress. Don’t limit yourself to chain bridal retail stores for a gown – I knew I had a tiny budget but still marched right into a Scottsdale high-end bridal boutique convinced I could find something on sale, was honest about my tiny budget (I’m talking $500 people!), and walked out an hour later having found a dress that surpassed my wildest dreams hugely discounted because another bride had purchased it and changed her mind (P.T.L.) Yes, I recognize this doesn’t always happen, but sample sales and last season gowns are fairly easy to find!

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For everything else, I once again thought out-of-the-box. I signed my mom and her friend up for a free DIY flower arranging class at a local wholesale florist so that they could create handmade bouquets for me, rather than paying a professional to do them. We also enlisted sweet and talented friends as our photographer, videographer, and DJ to cut back on those huge costs. Instead of a wedding coordinator, I had a girlfriend (who has an incredible eye for design) help create centerpieces and put the venue together the morning of the big day.

My mom’s friend is a graphic artist and she handmade (and printed!) our invitations as a gift to us. Multiple of my girlfriends who had recently gotten married let me borrow hundreds of dollars worth of décor for centerpieces and tables. The point is, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your friends and family want to be a blessing to you during this time, and allowing them to help makes them feel like a part of the big day. 

Piecing everything together wasn’t easy, and I frequently got discouraged. I prayed daily for trust and peace, as our expenses seemed never-ending.

Jesus knew financial insecurity was one of the biggest areas in which I needed growth, and he truly used my engagement season to remind me of his consistent faithfulness and provision. Does this mean he will always provide a hugely discounted wedding gown, or help you get a bonus at work to pay for the day? Absolutely not! But I am convinced that he will provide the resources to help you feel special no matter what – so be on the lookout. 🙂

Lastly, remember, your day is going to be beautiful, and not because you are wearing your dream dress or because you are saying your vows in your ideal location.

Your day is beautiful because you are starting eternity with your best friend in front of all your family, your friends, and most importantly our sweet creator – and nothing is more beautiful than that.

If you would like to connect with Maggie, you can find her on Facebook here.

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This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus and #LifeGivingLinkup.

When Communicating Seems Impossible

Photo from: stevemehta.com

Marriage is a place in which we learn just how difficult the basics of communication really are.

I’ve learned in my marriage that what means one thing to him doesn’t mean the same to me. His use of words is often full of hyperbole and expression, I’m often literal. He says what he thinks, I think about all the different things I say. It’s hard to figure out at times which thing that was said was a decision, and which was just talking. Our lines get crossed.

This isn’t just my marriage.

There are stories of marriages that fall apart because a wife works day and night to make the home perfect and spotless, and, never receiving thanks or compliments, wears herself thin trying to improve it further. Meanwhile, her husband is pleased, but he never expresses it. His displeasure grows, however, as she seems less and less interested in him and more obsessed with the home. They end up in counseling because she feels overworked and underappreciated, and he feels like she doesn’t care about him.

The resulting phrases are familiar to us:

  • “How can you possibly say that? Or think that?”
  • “Haven’t you paid any attention?”
  • “Why didn’t you say so?!”
  • “What do you think I’m doing all this for??”
  • “If you had just…”
  • “That’s not enough. Don’t you know how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes?”

When words like these start flying, it’s time to bring in a third party. Or rather, the first party: the Lord.

Ever considered that just like God made you (and the whole world, including your spouse,) He also made language? He made communication in every form. Nonverbal, demonstrative, literal, actual words, in written form. All by His design.

He also designed marriage, with all of its cracks, potholes, and gaping gulfs of “we just aren’t able to connect.” Let Him span all of that. Let Him unite the two of you in such a way that at long last, those impossible communication gaps are bridged.

All others things that we unite in in marriage won’t last. Causes, personality traits, commitments, passions, and hopes will change over time. The Lord will not. All of those little things that get lost between two people as they try to work together are known to the Lord.

Unite in Him.

I’ll say it again, in this rambling, poorly communicated post: unite in Him.

If your words to each other aren’t working: pray. Together. You’ll find that there is more grace, more possibility, and more opportunity to be one when the One who matters gets to speak first.

Gratefully linking up with:  Woman to Woman WednesdayWomen with Intention, TellHisStory,Thought-Provoking Thursday, Missional Women, and DancewithJesus