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Talk to me…like lovers do

Want some fresh ways to talk to your spouse–and to God–about your marriage?

I’m sliding into your inbox today with the quickest announcement about my favorite freebie of all time: CONVERSATION CARDS.

conversation cards to talk about

Good communication is vital to any relationship, especially marriage. We’ve designed these CONVERSATION CARDS with 20 unique questions and prayer prompts based on my new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage. Sized just right for slipping into a pocket or purse, the cards are perfect for date nights, breakfast table convos, or any time you and your spouse want to connect–with each other and God–in a meaningful way.

Conversation cards (tulips)

Conversation Card Collection

parenting priorities to talk about

Here’s the best part:  The set is FREE when you pre-order the book! And you don’t have to wait for release day on April 25; you can download the cards today! Just pop over to jodieberndt.com and enter your order number on the form that pops up. We’ll send you an email with the link to download; all you need to do is print ’em, cut ’em out, and start talking!

“Then those whose lives honored God got together and talked it over. God saw what they were doing and listened in.” (Malachi 3:16 MSG

Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage Promo Graphic

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Five best ways to talk to your spouse

This post about how you can talk to your spouse appeared earlier this week at Club31Women, a place where you’ll find articles, books, and other helpful resources to help your family flourish. I’m sharing the article here in case you missed it—and because I want you, my email friends, to be the first to access TWO FREE CHAPTERS from the new book that can help you talk (and listen!) to your spouse with love.

Five Strategies for Talking with Love

My husband Robbie and I once hosted a large dinner party where, to ensure a good mix of conversation at every table, we seated guests according to whether we thought of them as a Q or an L. Everything was going well—everyone seemed engaged in some lively discussion—until one of the “L’s” noticed the scrap of paper I forgot to remove from under his plate and demanded to know what it was.

Not knowing how else to handle the situation, I confessed.

“You’re kind of loud” I said, “so you got an L. The gal to your left is a bit quieter—she listens more than she talks—so she’s a Q.”

The room went silent for a beat and then erupted in laughter as the L’s began identifying (and congratulating) themselves on being the life of the party. The Q’s exchanged knowing glances, which made them seem mysterious and alluring.

Neither communication style is the “right” one; talkative or reserved, we all have room to improve. And when it comes to marriage, if we want to talk—and listen—to our partner with love, five strategies can help.

Five strategies for talking with love

First, set the stage. As unromantic as it might sound, good communication flourishes with a little advance planning. Pick a regular time to connect—whether it’s a weekly date night or ten minutes every morning over a pot of French press coffee—even if you don’t have anything major to discuss. That way, when something important does come along, the pathway to being present for each other will be comfortable and familiar.

Second, don’t expect your spouse to be a mind reader. I’ll never forget the gal who texted her fiancé on Valentine’s Day to say she did not need flowers. To her, that was a hint: she’d really like to get flowers. To him, it was confusing—especially because he had (fortunately!) already purchased a bouquet. Clear communication is key; we have to say what we mean. And if a topic is particularly important, it can help to ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” as a way to be sure that your partner is paying attention.

Third, keep it positive. Our brains retain more negative than positive thoughts, and the buildup from hurtful or disparaging words can create an atmosphere of hopelessness or resentment. We’ll obviously need to talk about difficult things, but we can choose how we frame these conversations. If finding something positive to say feels like a stretch, ask God to show you how He sees your spouse. Be alert to the beauty God reveals and speak that—both to and about your spouse. Studies show that speaking well of someone actually influences you to look on them more favorably and with greater appreciation! A win-win!

Fourth, be responsive. Every day, we make dozens of observations or requests of our spouse, often with something as simple as, “Look at that sunset!” When you recognize and reply to what’s been said (“Wow! That is beautiful!”), connection happens. When you ignore your partner (or pay more attention to your phone or the TV or whatever), bonds break down. Look for ways to connect and show support for each other in the seemingly insignificant interactions of daily life.

Why Jesus asked questions

And finally, ask questions. Even the simplest queries—What’s the best thing that happened today?—can make your spouse feel valued and loved. Jesus understood the power and importance of questions, and he asked far more than he answered: Do you want to get well? Why are you so afraid? What do you think?

Jesus knew all the answers, of course. His questions weren’t intended to produce information; rather, they were designed to build relationships, create conversation, and take his listeners to a new level of understanding. Which, at the end of the day, is what we all want in our marriages, right?

We all want to be deeply known.

We want to be understood.

It doesn’t matter if we are loud, quiet, or somewhere in between; we all want to be able to look at our spouse and ask what may well be the most powerful of all the Lord’s questions—Do you love me?—and know that the answer is yes.

Make it personal (and get a sneak peek at the new book)

Think about the communication patterns in your marriage. Do your words build up or tear down? Do you confide in your spouse? Ask good questions? If you don’t have a regular date night or “connection time” on the calendar, build that into your schedule. It may feel awkward at first, but trust God to work in and through your conversation as you build a marriage where intimacy and connection can flourish.

You can read more about good communication in Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage: Trusting God with Your Most Important Relationship. The book is available now for pre-order (click here), but if you just can’t wait to get started, click here to get exclusive early access to two chapters designed to help us talk (and listen!) with love. 

Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage Promo Graphic

And in the meantime, here are three of my favorite “talking and listening with love” prayers you can use right this minute to pray for your marriage:

Heavenly Father,

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight. (Psalm 19:14)

Let our conversations be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we will know how to answer each other. (Colossians 4:6)

Tune our ears toward wisdom and our hearts to understanding, especially as we talk about _______. (Proverbs 2:2)

Amen

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How to pray for your marriage

How can you pray for your marriage? What do you want God to do for you and your spouse? Where do you need his help?

If you’ve been part of our email friend group for more than a minute, you may remember when I first began asking questions like these, both here and on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Your answers covered a wide and wonderful spectrum. You wanted God’s help when it came to handling conflict, talking about money, and navigating differences in your faith. You wondered about dealing with parents and in-laws. You wanted to know how to honor and protect one another—and to extend forgiveness when you fall short.

And you wanted to have fun together.

Robbie and I want these things too. We want God to teach us to love and cherish each other in everything from our communication to how we meet one another’s physical and emotional needs. As empty nesters, we want to cultivate a marriage that doesn’t grow stale but follows the Proverbs 4:18 promise: The longer they live, the brighter they shine. And, perhaps more than anything else, we want to know how to prayfor each other, and for our marriage.

Which is why I am sliding into your in-box today with a printable marriage prayer card

Marriage Prayer Card you can print

…and counting the weeks until the NEW BOOK releases!

Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage Promo Graphic

I know what the book says, of course (I’ve stared at the pages umpteen times in the editing process), but there’s something about holding a book in your hands—one that has prayers all written out and accessible for every need—that makes trusting God seem so much more do-able.

Marriage Prayers for growing in kindness

Book Covers - Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage

Handling conflict in marriage

Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage is not a book about “fixing” your spouse. Nor it is one that highlights any kind of idealized Christian marriage. It’s a book for real-life marriages with stories from real-life couples—couples who know what it’s like to struggle and stumble, even as they move toward that sweet spot of grace. It is a book about bringing your cares and your questions to God—the One who works in us to desire and do what pleases him—and then trusting him with the outcomes.

And there will be outcomes.

Study after study details the benefits that come with mutual prayer—perks that include a higher satisfaction in marriage, a greater sense of emotional well-being, and even better sex. Even when you’re fed up with your spouse (they left their towel on the floor, they were late again, they sing off-key in the shower), praying helps. “Prayer gives couples a chance to calm down,” is how a piece in the Wall Street Journal put it. “And it reinforces the idea that you’re on the same team.”

If praying together is not something that would fly in your home—maybe your spouse is not a believer, or they aren’t sure prayer works, or one or both of you just balk at what feels like a strange or unfamiliar idea—that’s okay. This is a book meant to help you pray as you can, not as you can’t.

When Robbie and I taught marriage courses at our church, we understood that a lack of prayer in a marriage did not in any way signal a lack of love. One of the things we encouraged couples to do, if they were not comfortable praying together, was to consider the material, reflect on the questions, and then ask one another:

“What’s something I can do to support you in this area? How can I let you know you are loved?”

How can I let you know you are loved?

Malachi 3:16 says, “Those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.” Could it be that God pays attention when we talk with each other? Might he even receive these conversations as prayers? When they’re birthed in the context of marriage—a relationship that’s designed to reflect God’s covenant love and be a picture of the gospel of grace—we have to believe that he would.

I wish I could put a copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage in your hands right this minute! For now, I’m contenting myself with this gift: A printable Marriage Prayer designed exclusively for my email subscribers. The card includes some of my favorite scripture-prayers from the book, prayers Robbie and I have prayed for our own marriage as well as for our adult children as they’ve begun their new lives as husbands and wives.

Marriage Prayer Card (with Robbie and Mary)

I hope you like this marriage prayer card as much as I do. Click here to download (you’ll be asked to verify your email address and then you’ll get a link to the card in your inbox). You’ll find two identical prayers on the page: One for you, and one you can share with a friend or tuck into an engagement card or anniversary gift (did you know that PAPER is the traditional gift for celebrating the first year of marriage?).

Speaking of gifts…

The new book comes in two formats: a softcover that’s perfectly sized for your nightstand or for slipping into your purse, and a hardback version with a clean, simple cover—something a man might pick up. Something that feels “just right” for a wedding or anniversary gift. (In fact, if you invite me to your wedding in the next year or two, don’t be surprised to find the hardcover slipped into the box with the crockpot or the wine glasses from the registry; I’m stocking up!)

I’ll be sharing more about Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage as release day draws near, along with a few more fun freebies that are in the design phase right now. I have LOTS of ideas to help us pray about our most important relationship, and I’m running them all by Robbie to get his input. Because let’s face it: What’s a great marriage idea if your man’s not on board?

And speaking of being on board…

Robbie and I kicked off the new year (our 38th as a married couple) with two weeks on a boat.

Jodie and Robbie on a boat

It doesn’t matter if it’s a canoe or a catamaran, my man is happiest when he’s on the water. I’m still navigating my role as First Mate (and there may or may not be a forthcoming blog about some of our boating “adventures” and how God used them to, um, strengthen our marriage), but all told, we had a great time. Our adult children were with us for part of the voyage; if you’re wondering how many grown-ups can fit in a dingy, the answer is “at least ten.”

10 in a dingy

❤️

P.S. If you’d like to pre-order the book (and get the “best price” guarantee when you do), I would be super grateful. I don’t know much about algorithms, but pre-orders let retailers know when to stock up and which books they want to showcase for their readers. Which feels helpful… 😉

And in the meantime, here’s what Robbie and I are praying for you:

May your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

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The Christmas Sleigh

Funny, the things you inherit. I got my grandmother’s sewing machine, her love for finding shells on the beach, and an old wooden sleigh designed to hold Christmas cards.

When the sleigh came to us in the mid-90’s, it was long overdue for a tune-up. The thing languished in the attic until about ten years ago, when Charlie—a gifted woodworker—began courting Hillary and I put the decrepit heirloom in his hands. I didn’t say he had to fix it—not in so many words—but Charlie catches on quick. He did a beautiful job.

The Christmas card sleigh

This year, Grandma’s sleigh got another makeover: a wintry white and gold mix, courtesy of Virginia Beach artist Terre Ittner. I wanted to add a Bible verse to the paint job. Was there something, I wondered, that captured the spirit of Christmas cards?

“Good news from a distant land.”

I sensed the Holy Spirit’s whisper, but I knew that was only part of the promise. What was the rest of the verse? And where did it show up in the Bible? I needed help and, as usual, BibleGateway.com delivered:

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.

That’s Proverbs 25:25. And honestly? I can’t think of a better reason to send Christmas cards.

Because our souls are weary. Parched, even. And more than a few of us (including our beloved U.Va. family) are grieving, even as we hold onto hope this holiday season. We need good news—whether it’s from a distant land or our next-door neighbor.

Every year Robbie and I come up with a dozen reasons why we’re not going to send cards—the hours involved, the jaw-dropping postage, the angst over not saving the planet—and every year, as soon as the greetings from the first crop of over-achievers show up in our mailbox, we change our minds.

Words like JOY and PEACE come as a balm to the soul, particularly because we know there are unmet longings and prayers that have yet to be answered behind every card.

Family pictures testify to the enduring blessing of friends and the beauty unleashed when we carry one another’s burdens.

And cards that carry God’s promises (even obscure verses from Proverbs) provide an anchor for hope.

Our little refurbished heirloom has held a fair slice of history, the heartaches and joys that have colored at least five generations. And I can’t help but think that if she could speak, the sleigh would sing of the “hopes and fears of all the years” that are met in Christ—the good news that is the fundamental message of Christianity—and echo the very first Christmas greeting: 

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Sending much love from our home to yours this Christmas—along with the good news that is Jesus!

Christmas Card with family photo

🎄

P.S. You may know that Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage releases in April. The book was both a delight and a challenge to write (Robbie read every word and offered more than a few valuable edits0, and I’m hoping to take a long winter’s nap in January. See you back here in February 2023. Happy New Year—I’m grateful for you!

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What’s the best Bible? (Plus a Christmas Giveaway!)

Note: I’m writing this post from the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. It’s a bucket-list place, filled with ancient history, modern technology, and more than a few breath-taking encounters with the written and living Word. I first wrote about the museum several years ago, right after it opened. For my “top five” reasons to visit, click hereAnd if you want a chance to win a copy of my favorite Bible, keep reading!

What’s the best Bible?

I guess everyone has their favorite version or style, and if you visit the Museum of the Bible, you can see what lots of kings liked, from James to Elvis to the great-grandma of Henry V:

King James Bible

Elvis Presley's Bible

King Henry V's great-grandma's Bible

I respect their picks. But for me, it’s the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. Back before there was Google—before anyone had ever heard of a search engine—this workhorse got the job done.

The book was chock full of tools like a concordance for finding specific words, colored maps to get the lay of the land in the ancient world, book-by-book outlines, and character studies. All super engaging and helpful.

Concordance

Colored map in Bible

Bible Character Studies

But what made this particular Bible so very special was the chain reference system. I have no idea how they did it, but a bunch of brainiacs put their heads together and came up with a way to let regular folks navigate Scripture and discover what God had to say about more than 8,000 different topics, from sibling relationships to handling money to what our heavenly home will really be like.

Chain Reference Bible System: Home

With the Thompson Chain Reference Bible, you didn’t need a seminary degree or even a commentary to understand Scripture, as valuable as those things may be. Instead, you could open to any page in the Bible, follow the links, and let God’s Word reveal and interpret itself.

Alert readers will note that I’m writing in the past tense. It’s true. I loved my old chain reference Bible, and I used it to help me write all my books. I used it so much, in fact, that after more than 30 years it started falling apart.

Not even duct tape could help anymore.

Duct tape Bible

Which is why I was so very excited to get my hands on the brand new, UPDATED edition of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. It’s available in several translations, with different cover styles, sizes, and fonts (hello, Comfort Print!). To celebrate its release, I am GIVING AWAY a copy of the MacDaddy version: Genuine goatskin leather, gilded page edges, ribbon markers—the works! 

Thompson Chain Reference Premiere Edition Bible

Bible interior pages

This particular style costs almost as much as my first car, but you can access the entire collection, with all the different price points and features, by clicking here. (And heads up: All the versions are on sale at FaithGateway between now and the new year!)

Chain reference topic: Cares of Motherhood

Thompson Chain Reference Bible

Am I grateful for Google, and for online resources like BibleGateway? Of course I am. But for anyone who wants to discover God’s heart as it’s revealed in the actual pages of Scripture—whether you’re doing a topical study, preparing a talk, or just enjoying a quiet morning with God—I don’t think you’ll find a better study Bible than this.

Old Testament Prophecies

Want to win the leather Bible? Head on over to my Instagram or Facebook and “like” the post with this picture…

Me with the Thompson Chain Reference Bible at the Museum of the Bible

…and then drop a comment letting me know your favorite Bible story/verse/character and tag someone who’s helped cultivate your love for God’s Word.

Speaking of loving God’s Word…

Do you have a reading plan for 2023?

Not to get all judge-y about it, but as one of my mentors used to say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” If you want a Bible reading plan for the new year, here are two of my favorites:

The Bible in One Year. Whether you prefer your daily readings delivered via email, phone app, or podcast, this step-by-step tour takes you through every chapter and verse in the Bible, with reflections and prayer prompts from the always engaging Nicky and Pippa Gumbel. Robbie and I have “done” this reading plan several times; it never gets old—plus, it’s kinda cool to know that you’re reading the same parts of God’s Word with over a million people, worldwide, every day! Click here to learn more or to access your free subscription.

Search the Scriptures. If you’re looking for a slightly slower pace, you might enjoy Alan Stibb’s book, Search the Scriptures. It takes you through the entire Bible in three years, not one, and Stibbs offers questions for reflection and biblical cross-references for deeper study. I’m wrapping up Year One of this book and I love it, but I do have three caveats:

First, the book isn’t cheap. It’s nearly $34 on Amazon. But if you break that down into three years (or get it for Christmas!), it becomes almost a bargain. 🙂

Search the scriptures

Second, the thing is a doorstop, heavy and thick. I took my copy to Kinkos and had it chopped into three parts (one per year) and spiral bound, which provides the added benefit of giving you something that will lay flat as you read.

Search the Scriptures Spiral bound

Third, Stibbs provides thoughtful questions—but he doesn’t give us the answers. Consider “doing” the book with a friend or two, and compare notes. I’m super grateful to my pal Margaret for her spiritual insights (and for the fact that she almost never misses a day, which is more than I can say for myself). Click here if you’d like to try Search the Scriptures yourself.

Okay, enough pictures of Bibles. I know you’ve got wrapping and baking to do. But don’t forget the Bible giveaway—which, by the way, is exclusive to our email friend group; it’s my Christmas present to one of you! 😊 We’ll pick the winner on Sunday 12/18 and announce in my stories that afternoon. That way, I can head to the post office on Monday, with all of the last minute gift-mailers, and send the book on it’s way!

❤️🎄

 

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