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Marriage (and why I lived in a bathrobe)

It’s been a minute, I know. And I’ve missed you. So I’m sliding into your inbox today with a quick personal update, a few scripture prayers, and DIY idea you can try for a marriage you love.

But first, a little backstory.

Last summer, I asked you to let me know what topics you’d like to see covered in a book about marriage. You weighed in with some very specific answers. You wanted principles and prayers you could use for better communication, handling conflict, and knowing how to deal with parents and in-laws. You wondered about intimacy—both the physical and the spiritual kind, particularly where you and your spouse might not be in the same place, faith-wise. And at least one of you asked if I could please write something–anything–that would get your husband to do what you wanted him to do.

Marriage Survey Responses

I put all of these things in the pondering pot and went poking around in the Bible to see what God had to say. I came away convinced that God is crazy about marriage, and that his deepest desire is to equip us to love one another as he loves us: selflessly, lavishly, and in ways that go beyond anything we could ever ask for or imagine.

I also interviewed oodles of people. I talked with everyone: Newlyweds and empty-nesters. Folks who’d spent years on the struggle bus and those for whom the “for better” eclipsed the “for worse.” Couples who were comfortable talking to God–trusting him with their most important relationship–and those who had no idea where to begin.

And then I went into a writing hole. I basically stayed in my bathrobe for a few months, poking my head out of my office just long enough to ask Robbie to read something and give me his feedback. Which was both helpful and hard. Robbie is nothing if not honest. And even though he sent me back to the drawing board more times than a husband who wants to eat dinner “sometime tonight” should ever do, his comments were thoughtful and wise (especially when it came to tricky topics like handling money, experiencing forgiveness, and having good sex).

When it was all said and done, we hit “send” on the manuscript a scant three minutes before it was due. I thought we should celebrate by going to bed (like, to bed-bed. For a month.), but Robbie said it was time for a toast.

A toast to the marriage manuscript

I look tired, I know. I was tired. I am tired.

And honestly? There were plenty of times during the process when I questioned God. Who was I–who were we–to write this book? Would it be any good? And would we have any friends when we finished, since I’d spent such a long time in the hole? Writing is lonely. Writers are lonely. It’s a privilege, to be sure, but if your heart’s desire is to write a book, you need to know, up front, that your social life may take a hit.

(And, if you are like me, you’ll probably gain at least seven pounds in the process.)

The book–cleverly titled Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage–releases next spring (just in time for wedding season!). I’ll be giving you little sneak peeks between now and then, including excerpts from interviews with folks who’ve done the marriage thing well, folks who’ve navigated the “for better” together, as well as some hard seasons of “worse.”

For now, though, I’ll leave you with three of my favorite marriage prayers–verses you can personalize for yourself, for a friend’s marriage, or even for your unmarried children as you pray for their relationship with their eventual spouse.

Heavenly Father,

Make us kind and compassionate to one another, and quick to forgive. (Ephesians 4:32)

In humility, may we value one another above ourselves, not looking to our own interests but to each other’s interests and well-being. (Philippians 2:3-4)

May our marriage be rooted and built up in Jesus. Strengthen our faith and cause us to overflow with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)

Amen.

❤️

I put these prayers on a card we gave all the guests last summer at Virginia and Christopher’s wedding.

marriage prayer card

And okay, so it’s not technically a “DIY” project–not unless you’re way better than I am at graphic design. But any local printer (thank you, Virginia Beach Printing!) can help you make your own card, personalizing it with a monogram or a cross or any emblem you like at the top. This makes a sweet party favor at a wedding shower or bridal luncheon, or slip the card into a frame as a gift for a couple you love. Happy wedding season–and happy almost anniversary, Virginia and Chris!

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The Helper knows what looks good on you

Maybe you’ve heard about the woman who looked at God and said, “So far today, I’m doing all right. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, or told any white lies. I haven’t been greedy, nasty, or selfish. I have not whined or complained or cursed—not even once! And I haven’t charged anything on my credit card or eaten any gluten.

“But…I am going to be getting out of bed in a minute, and I think I will need your help.”

Can you relate? I know I can. When it comes to right living, we all need God’s help. Particularly since obedience—doing the right thing—is linked to living in the warmth of God’s love.

“If you keep my commands,” Jesus says in John 15:10, “you will remain in my love.”

John 15:9-10

Trouble is, obedience does not come naturally. Disobedience comes naturally. “I have the desire to do what is good,” Paul writes, “but I cannot carry it out.” We’d all be doomed, when it comes to desiring and doing the right thing, except for the fact that God knew we’d need help. And he gives it to us in the form of the Holy Spirit, our Helper.

What the Helper Does

If you’ve been following along in my Facebook or Instagram stories through Lent, you know we’ve been reading Catherine Marshall’s classic book, The Helperwhich details forty different ways the Holy Spirit offers practical help in our lives. I’m linking the book in this post, but you might have to settle for a used copy; new ones are hard to come by (and cost waaaay more than the $3.95 I paid for mine, back in 1978).

The Helper (1978 edition)

The Helper does all sorts of valuable things, from reminding us what Jesus said, to equipping us with supernatural power, to guiding us in ways that save us worry and even time. He also (and this is where the ability to do the right thing comes in) gives us new desires. He doesn’t force them on us, of course, but as we entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s keeping and care, he gives us (as Philippians 2:13 puts it), the “desire and the power to do what pleases him.”

I love that. Because honestly? We don’t always know what would please God. Plus, there are plenty of times when we might know the right thing to do but we just don’t want to. Or, like Paul, we might actually have the desire, but we lack the power, or the ability, to see whatever it is through to completion.

In her book, Catherine Marshall tells the story of her friend, Janet, who arrived in Washington, D.C. “deficient in taste and know-how.” Knowing that her friend needed help if she hoped to fit into the city’s sophisticated climate, Marshall connected Janet with a style maven who took her on, waiving the customary fee for her service, and ordered up a beautiful three-piece British tweed suit—something that the newcomer could feel confident wearing in almost any setting.

(Stick with me here. I know a three-piece suit—British or otherwise—might not be a “must have” today, but as a high-schooler in the 1970s who owned one made of royal blue polyester, I would have given anything to have some tweeds of my own.)

As Marshall tells the story, the suit arrived and Janet burst into tears. It was ridiculously expensive—and she wasn’t even sure she liked it! But then, as she wore it, a strange thing happened. She began to love the outfit, and her own taste started to change. “The purchase turned out to be one of the mainstays of Janet’s wardrobe for eight years,” Marshall writes. “The tweeds were not worn out even then.”

God knows what we should wear

Here’s the takeaway:  When we submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit (just as Janet submitted her will to that of the big-city stylist), we allow him to go to work in our lives. He transforms us, as Romans 12:2 puts it, renewing our minds—changing the way we think—so we can know God’s will, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

And then, somewhere along the way, it hits us:  Like a professional stylist, God knows better than we do what looks good on us. And when the Holy Spirit tells us what to wear—to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”—we can trust that we will love the result. The Helper has impeccable taste.

The Holy Spirit, our Helper, has impeccable taste

❤️

I shared the story of Janet and the professional stylist in my book, Praying the Scriptures for Your LifeIf you’d like to spend a few more minutes thinking through how the Holy Spirit can work to give you the desire and the power to do what pleases God, here is a brief excerpt from the “Reflect” section at the end of that chapter, along with a few prayers you can pray:

  • God’s commands are always designed for our benefit; they are motivated by love. Likewise, our obedience is born out of relationship, not obligation. Our connection to Christ creates our desire to obey—and it is through obedience that we abide in Christ’s love.
  • Still, though, obedience can be hard. Don’t be afraid to ask the Holy Spirit for help, knowing that your humility acts as a magnet for God’s grace. And remember: God will never give you a command that he doesn’t also give you the power to fulfill. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in your life today.
  • Take a few moments to reflect on what that resurrection power can accomplish in your life. Dry, dead places can become fertile ground; sin’s chains can be broken; radiance can replace shame. Ask God to open your eyes to the beauty of his commands as you surrender yourself to his keeping, trusting the Holy Spirit to give you both the desire and the power to do what pleases God.

Heavenly Father…

Work in me to will and to act to fulfill your good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

Create in me a clean heart. Restore the joy of my salvation and make me willing to obey you. (Psalm 51:10-12 NLT)

Don’t let me be arrogant and stiff-necked, refusing to obey your commands. May I listen to you, knowing that you are gracious and compassionate towards me, slow to anger and abounding in love. (Nehemiah 9:16-17)

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Easter Basket Book Giveaway

We’re a month away from Easter, and baby Noah and I are just hopping into your in-box today to let you know about our favorite freebie of the year:  THE EASTER BASKET BOOK GIVEAWAY.

Easter Basket Giveaway

Every year, we pick a few of our best-loved new releases – books we think families will enjoy – and share them with you. If you want to win the Easter Giveaway, pop on over to my IG account to tag one of your favorite bunnies, but for now I’ll just go ahead and tell you what’s in the basket this year. (Click on any of the titles to learn more or order on Amazon; books may also be available at ChurchSource.com, ChristianBook.com, or your favorite local bookseller.)

Little One, We Knew You’d Come is the latest release from beloved author Sally Lloyd-Jones. (You know her from the Jesus Storybook Bible.) It’s a beautifully illustrated way to celebrate the joy of new life and love when a baby is born. Noah especially loved the last line: “…we’re so glad you’ve come!”

Little One Easter Giveaway

What If It’s Wonderful? Release Your Fears, Choose Joy, & Find the Courage to Celebrate is by Nicole Zasowski, a licensed marriage and family therapist who says that God’s purpose for us is not just worked out in our struggles, but also in our dreams and our joys. Nicole makes the psychological and spiritual case for celebration, encouraging us to approach life with an expectant heart and the courage to trust that God really is good. I’d snag this one on the strength of the title alone.

What if it's Wonderful

(Noah loved the party horn we tried with What If It’s Wonderful; she couldn’t get it to unfurl but that didn’t stop her from making kazoo-like noises to celebrate!)

Wonderful 2 - Easter Giveaway

Next up in the Easter Giveaway Basket is the updated version of a time-tested classic loved by generations of families:

Honey for a Child's Heart Easter Giveaway

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt is for anyone who wants to discover wholesome, nourishing books for their kids. I wish I’d known about this resource when our kids were growing up; the annotated list of books for kids ages 0-12 is more than a little impressive, whether you’re looking for a good read-aloud story or if you just want to cultivate your child’s love for reading. (True confession: I looked through the list and I’m ordering several of the author’s recommendations for myself!)

And as someone who is currently testing the theory, “If you don’t clean for six months, the dust doesn’t get any worse,” I am both challenged and inspired by Christy Fitzwater’s Keeping House: A 30-Day Meditation on the Value of HousekeepingIf Christy cleans even half as well as she writes, her house must be sparkling. If you’re looking for some fresh inspo as you tackle the routine jobs that come with keeping house (and you want to draw closer to God in the process), this one’s for you.

Keeping House Easter Giveaway

And finally, my favorite: Raising Prayerful Kids, by Stephanie Thurling and Sarah Holmstrom. The subtitle on this one says it all: Fun & Easy Activities for Building Lifelong Habits of Prayer. 

Raising prayerful kids 2 - Easter Giveaway

From fun crafts like paper prayer chains and blessing bags, to soul-rich introductions to things like The Lord’s Prayer and the practice of Lectio Divina, to discussion prompts and sometimes laugh-out-loud stories, I can already tell that this is one of those books that’s gonna be the go-to resource every time we get to babysit the grandkids.

So…click the links in this post, check the reviews, and if you think you’d like to win the whole bundle, I’ll see you on Instagram! (Winner announced Sunday…gotta get these books in the mail before Easter!)

Raising Prayerful Kids Easter Giveaway

 

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How to rejoice (even when it’s somebody else’s big win)

(This post about knowing how to rejoice with other people – to celebrate when someone else has a win – ran earlier this week over at Club31Women.com, a place where you’ll find all sorts of good things for yourself and your family. I’m sharing the message again today, partly in case you missed it but mostly because there’s no such thing as too much cheering for one another!)

“Friendship doubles our joys and divides our griefs.”

I’ve read that quote countless times over the years, starting in high school when my English teacher chalked it on the top right corner of the blackboard.

The thought made sense to me then, and it dovetailed neatly with what Paul wrote to the Romans when he explained what love should look like in everyday life: “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” he said. “Mourn with those who mourn.”

Now, some forty years removed from that English classroom, I still believe friendship—loving others well—has the power to multiply joy and divide sorrow. But I wonder why we’re so much better at the second part of Paul’s command than the first. Why do we find it easier to weep with a friend when she’s hurting than to magnify her delight when she has a win?

Maybe it’s jealousy: We want what she has.

Maybe it’s insecurity: We compare ourselves and feel like we don’t measure up.

Maybe it’s a critical spirit: We know who she is; she doesn’t deserve the blessing.

Or maybe it’s fear: We worry, somehow, that if God showers his gifts on somebody else, he won’t have enough left for us.

Whatever the reason, the Bible is full of examples of folks who loved well—who entered into each other’s joy—and those who didn’t.

Consider how Elizabeth greeted Mary, when the young mother-to-be showed up at her house. “Blessed are you among women,” she cried, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43) Elizabeth could have been bitter or jealous (Why had it taken her so long to conceive? Why hadn’t she been chosen to bear the Messiah?), but she wasn’t. Instead, in humility, she shared Mary’s joy, fueling the younger woman’s faith with affirmation and blessing. What a gift!

On the flip side, there’s David’s wife Michal, who stared out the window as her husband danced and celebrated when God’s ark came into the City. King David and his entourage—Israel’s elders, commanders, Levites, musicians—“went rejoicing,” Scripture says, but Michal (who found David’s conduct shameless and vulgar) “was filled with contempt.” (1 Chronicles 15:25-29)

Elizabeth became the mother of John the Baptist; Michal remained childless to the day of her death.

How do we become like Elizabeth instead of Michal? Put another way, how do we cultivate a spirit of humility—one that is quick to celebrate someone else—instead of a spirit of criticism and contempt?

How do we rejoice with those who rejoice?

First, we can anchor our identity not in who we are or what we do, but in our status as God’s beloved. God loves us—and wants to bless us—just because we are his, and an awareness of who we are in his sight can keep things like jealousy, insecurity, and fear from gaining a foothold in our lives.

Rejoice with those who rejoice

Second, we can pray with expectant joy for our friends, interceding for them when they struggle and giving thanks when they succeed. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Praying for someone else gives you a vested interest in their well-being and opens the door to sincere and generous love.

And finally, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help. We don’t have to worry that he’ll see our warts and our weakness; he already knows all about that and he is always praying on our behalf.

What about you? Where have you found it hard to enter into someone else’s joy? What keeps you from celebrating when a friend has a big win? Confess any jealousy, insecurity, or fears to the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to help you anchor your identity in your status as God’s beloved.

Psalm 112:5 says, “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely.” Let’s be generous with our love, coming alongside others in their hard times and, even more, in their rejoicing.

❤️

You can read more about joy-sharing friendships–and how to cultivate them–in Praying the Scriptures for Your Life:  31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God.

 

 

 

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Does your Valentine have a long nose?

Does your Valentine have a long nose?

That question might seem peculiar (and okay, it kind of is), but don’t blame me. Blame the Apostle Paul, who brought it up.

In one of his letters to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote a lot about love. You know the passage I’m talking about; you’ve heard it at a bazillion weddings. And in fact, when our son Robbie got married, the minister cautioned against dismissing the passage as cheesy or cliché, since it’s become so familiar.

Wedding photo

I’m talking, of course, about 1 Corinthians 13. That’s the one where Paul says that whatever we do–no matter how noble or moral or jaw-droppingly generous–is basically worthless, if it’s not motivated by love.

And then he details what love looks like:  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

That’s really good stuff, but it’s a bit of a mouthful. So with Valentine’s Day almost upon us, let’s just bite off what we can chew.

Love is patient.

The Greek word for patience in this verse is makrothumia, which means long-suffering. Or, even more literally, long-passioned. You know what a short-tempered person acts like, right? Picture the opposite. Picture someone who waits before expressing their anger. Someone you feel safe with. Someone who makes you feel loved.

Picture God.

Because honestly? The kind of patience Paul is writing about is the kind of patience God extends toward us. “He is not slow in keeping his promise,” Scripture says. “Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” It’s that very patience, coupled together with God’s unlimited kindness, that makes us want to love him back.

God wants us to have that sort of patience with one another–and especially, I have to believe, with our Valentine. (Particularly if our Valentine is someone we’ve lived with for, say, 37 years.) God knows, and studies show, that being generous toward our loved one–extending patience and kindness instead of anger and contempt–can create an “virtuous cycle,” one where love begets love.

But what if you’re not a naturally makrothumiac-ish person? (Don’t @ me, all you Greek scholars; I’m trying.)

The good news–the great news, actually–is that we might not be naturally patient. But that’s okay. Because God offers a super-natural answer. Makrothumia is something the Holy Spirit produces in us; all we have to do is say yes.

Okay, so I know some of you are wondering what any of this has to do with being long-nosed. I’m getting there. Be patient.

(Had to.)

Paul was writing to Greek-speaking people, so he used Greek. Had he been writing in Hebrew, he would have used ’erek appayim. Which, as we all know, literally means “long of nose.”

For instance (stay with me here), in Exodus 34:6 when God describes himself to Moses, he says he is “The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness!”

This verse could actually be translated like this:

“The God of compassion and mercy! I am long of nose and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness!”

Why does God say he is long of nose? I don’t know. But as someone whose own nose gives my face what some people call “character,” I am grateful for the Hebrew translation. I just wish my patience were as prominent as my proboscis. 😉

What about you? Could you use a little more makrothumia in your love life? Could your Valentine?

If so, you’ll find lots of prayer prompts in my book Praying the Scriptures for Your Life, which includes chapters on loving others (even when that doesn’t come naturally), waiting well, and asking God for things like patience and kindness in your marriage. Click here to order.

And in the meantime, here are three of my favorite “patience prayers” you can pray. I’m sending these along with armloads of love and warmest wishes for a Happy Valentine’s Day!

❤️

Heavenly Father,

Fill us with the knowledge of your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that we may be strengthened with all power and have great endurance and patience. (Colossians 1:9-11)

Equip us to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Help us be completely humble and gentle. May we be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

Amen

Robbie and Mary's Wedding

(Photos by Jen Fariello.)

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