Monday, December 12, 2011

The Power of a Picture

With our anniversary sneaking up in January, I was thinking about the many pictures from our wedding that we still have not developed. Although the images from our wedding are stored on the computer to view anytime, I really want them neatly assembled into a traditional album. I told my husband yesterday that for my anniversary present this year I want ALL of our wedding pictures processed.

Later on that day, we were running an errand at CVS. Adam scanned his CVS card at the front, and a coupon printed out. He laughed out loud and said, "Look, Sweetheart!" It was a $2 off photo processing coupon. I glimpsed at it and was like, "Oh neat!" Realizing I had not fully absorbed what he was saying, he continued, "look at the date." The coupon's expiration date was January 10...our anniversary. I was so touched by how God speaks to us in even the smallest details to answer the desire of our hearts.

I began to reflect on the emotional response that is triggered in a human when viewing a picture. I love this quote by Aaron Siskind, "Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured remembers little things long after you have forgotten everything." A picture is not just interpreted with the eyes, but also the mind and the heart. I remember when my dad passed away last year, his pictures were displayed at his funeral. I did not want to look at them because I was not ready for the emotions that would inevitably be induced. It was just too painful in that moment.

Today I felt God show me that He wanted to use wedding pictures for healing and restoration in marriages. My spirit remembered the verse, Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." Most weddings have close to a thousand pictures taken during just a few short hours. The pictures are not meaningful because of the ephemerality of the moment, but because of the eternal value that is folded into that moment.

The enemy has used pornography for years as a trap too divide marriages. Satan knows that a picture can be a portal into thoughts and emotions. I thought about how powerful pictures are used to attack commitment. Then, I was reminded of the flip side, how God wants to use pictures as an instrument in which His regenerative power could flow without restraint. He will use it as a gateway to the heart to rekindle love and joy and to strengthen the cord of your commitment. If you do not feel the sweet fountain of feelings that spring from first love, ask God to open your heart as you open your photo album. Even if you feel nothing, have faith that the God of the universe, Who has the power to create all things can create a new beginning for you and your spouse. How incredible is it that God can use the stillness of a photograph to stir love back to life? I guess a photo's light never really stops reflecting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What Lies Beneath

The New York Times reported that there is a direct correlation between the frequency of disputes over money and divorce rate. A study conducted by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University found that "couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month."

Fights over the same issue will continue to resurface until the missing clue is discovered. Picture a murder scene enclosed with a hem of yellow crime tape. A husband and wife will continue to chase each other around the perimeter of what they have defined as "safe territory." Crossing the crime scene tape means facing the gory bloodstains of offense and boundaries closely guarded by fears. However, it is necessary to scrutinize the outline of our deadened hearts in order to solve the mystery. Divorce statistics show that about 80 percent of all marriages end because of "irreconcilable differences." In other words, 80 percent of marriages end as an "unsolved mystery." Mark 10:8 says,"'and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh." Has our society grown so desensitized that we no longer feel nauseous at the sight of a dead body? A marriage that ends in divorce is nothing short of a tragedy.

One of my favorite quotes is by Aristotle, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Arguments over dollar signs and decimal points are only isolated pixels of a photograph. The photograph will give us clear picture of what we do not want to face. Care to cross the crime tape?

Almost every fight can be traced back to an unmet need, especially reoccurring ones. A woman's number one need is security. A man's number one need is respect. Although a wide variety of fights can stem from the money topic, the needs can almost always be traced back to these basic gender needs. Another variable to look at is what money represents to each spouse. Let's look at a few cases.

Case #1- Rachel goes on secret shopping trips. She hides receipts from her husband, and has been taking out new credit cards to transfer balances of the old ones. Her husband, Tim, ran a credit report and discovered her secret. He screamed at her and said many things he now regrets. They apologized and made promises, but the same thing happened six months down the road. Tim has filed for divorce.

Behind the crime tape of case #1- Rachel equates material possessions with security. She is feeling neglected and struggles with feelings of insecurity. Too afraid and ashamed to approach her husband, she rides the emotional waves of retail therapy until the euphoric high dies down and the bills pile up. She feels guilty about the bills, but is too afraid to be honest because of Tim's reaction, so shops even more to numb the pain. Tim feels that he can't trust his wife, and feels disrespected. He masks these feelings with anger and verbal abuse.

Case #2 Jeff has lost his job due to a recent downsizing at his construction company. He has put in his application at several companies, but after no response, has began to lose hope. Andrea is a successful dentist and is supporting both of them. She asks Jeff every day if he has found a job yet. When she sees him on the couch at home when she gets off work, she rolls her eyes. Jeff starts drinking more heavily and feels like a failure. After five years of marriage, and countless arguments about finances, Andrea files for divorce.

Behind the crime tape of case #2- Andrea is the daughter of a single mother who taught her to be fiercely independent. She will not return any of her biological father's phone calls. After all, he was an alcholic who abandoned her mother and her. Jeff, who had unresolved wounds from a father who never accepted him, was attracted like a magnet to Andrea, who had it all together. Andrea found her security through her financial success, and looked down at Jeff, who always seemed to be in between jobs. Behind the walls of Andrea's success was a mush of vulnerability. She longed for Jeff to be the leader, and to reassure her that love was all they needed. Jeff could not seem to find the right fit for his talents and abilities, and felt like he never would every time Andrea belittled him. Jeff saw himself as nothing because he made less money than Andrea, and even if he one day did, he would never have her respect. The judgment that Andrea sowed by never forgiving her father is now being "reaped" by the creation of a similar situation.

Case #3 Doug's parents are multi-millionaires. Doug has inherited the family business when he was twenty-five. He has successfully grown the business, and has bought a large house and drives a luxury car. At thirty-five, He marries Olivia, a gorgeous twenty-two year old. Doug wined and dined Olivia when they dated, but now that they are married, he gives Olivia small allowances each week. He has numerous secret investments and bank accounts. Olivia feels frustrated by the control and has regular emotional outbursts. After two years of marriage, they call it quits.

Behind the crime tape of case #3 Doug equates his identity with the number in his bank account. He does not view marriage as a covenant, but a contract in which the other party cannot be trusted. Olivia has emotional outburst because she does not feel secure enough to confront Doug or to get help. Her sugar-coated expectations of a fairy-tale marriage melted.

Money can take the form of a magnifying glass of what is already in a person's heart. Financial unity is important in a marriage, but oftentimes the prerequisite to dealing with the financial problems is tapping into the basic gender needs. As a husband feels the respect of his wife, he will snip the crime tape and let his wife into the more vulnerable parts of his heart. Likewise, as the husband builds security in his wife through openness and reassurance, the chronic nagging that often sparks arguments will dissipate. Invite the Holy Spirit to search the areas of your heart that are closed off so that your marriage does not become an unsolved mystery.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Seven Blessings from Couple Prayer

I am sure you are familiar with the old adage, "couples who pray together stay together." An array of supporting statistics have underscored the truth of this invaluable nugget of wisdom. Although the 2004 Barna study found no difference in the divorce rate among those that classified themselves as "christian" versus "non-christian," this statistic proves to be glaringly inaccurate once you scratch the surface. The litmus test is passed when Biblical promises are activated by commitment and practice. A recent study showed that when couples attend church regularly together, the likelihood of divorce drops by 35 percent. A nationwide study conducted in 1980 revealed that when couples attend church together AND read the bible or pray together on a daily basis, the divorce rate drops to a remarkable rate of only 1 in 1,105 marriages. Wow!!

Despite this amazing hope, only a reported 4 percent of Christian couples pray together on a daily basis. I am reminded of bible verse John 10:29, "Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Many couples do not pray together because they do not truly believe that it is important. If you sincerely believe in the importance of something, you do it! Consider this natural example. We brush our teeth each day because we know there is a real-time cause and effect. If we brush our teeth faithfully, we will have fewer cavities and fresh breath. We will not be afraid to smile and show our teeth. However, on the flip side, if we do not brush our teeth each day, this will lead to teeth decay and offensive breath. You might even try to hide your stained teeth by not smiling. Eventually you could even lose your teeth!

Perhaps the reason why so many couples do not pray together is because they do not truly believe it will make a difference. Spiritual treasures are seen as somewhat nebulous, and that is why more emphasis is placed on the natural. Just as we must brush our teeth every day to enjoy healthy teeth, we must invite Christ into our marriage to cleanse us and strengthen us. If we leave him out we will develop tiny holes beneath the surface of our intimacy which will lead to "cavities" or portals of entry that the enemy can walk through. If we leave Him out completely, marriage will decay and eventually wiggle its way loose from the roots of commitment.

Making a shared commitment to pray with each other and for each other on a daily basis will not only bring you closer to God, but also to each other. Let's look at seven blessings that result from couple prayer:

Blessing #1) A reduction in the number and duration of arguments.

Arguments almost always arise from the spirit of confusion or strife. A partner essentially lays down their stubbornness, hurt feelings, and differences the moment he or she says, “Let’s just pray.” When you open your mouth to pray, you close the mouth of the enemy. I Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”Prayer ushers in peace and reduces stress, anxiety, and fear.

Blessing # 2) A deeper level of intimacy.

A person is spirit, soul, and body. To be married is to be one with another’s spirit, soul, and body. We can be one emotionally and be one physically, but to achieve the deepest level of intimacy, we must also be one spiritually. When a couple is united spiritually, the physical and emotional take on greater meaning and fulfillment. I Thessalonians 5:23 reminds us that man is created triune, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Blessing #3) Counters the attacks of the enemy

Prayer is a mighty tool that God has so graciously given us. There is power when two pray together as one. Isaiah 30:17 says, "One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, At the threat of five you shall flee, Till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain And as a banner on a hill." Prayer counters the six tactics of the enemy which include:

1) deception- perversion or distortion of the truth
2) doubt- makes you question God's word and His inherent goodness
3) discouragement- makes you focus on your problems instead of God
4) diversion- makes the wrong things seem attractive so you want those things more than the right things
5) defeat- makes you believe you are a failure so you don't even try
6) delay- makes you put off something so it never gets started or completed

Prayer has the power to counter all six of these by the power of the Name of Jesus. If you are struggling with one or more of these, ask your spouse to pray for you against specific areas of struggle. There is power in prayer and unity. Ephesians 6:12-13, “12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Blessing #4) Builds your faith.

Celebrate answers to prayer by keeping a journal of miracles both big and small. Include answers that God moved in a way that may have not been expected, but drew you both closer to Him. List out God’s Scriptural promises for prayers not yet manifested in the natural.

Blessing #5) Generates the fruit of the Spirit.

Happy, healthy marriages must be full of the fruit of the Spirit. If you are two trees of righteousness planted in Christ, you will harvest a double portion of fruit! Being kind and patient to your partner requires us to turn to HIM in prayer for strength beyond ourselves. Galatians 5:22-23, “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. 23 Against such there is no law.”

Blessing #6) Fosters a spirit of praise and thankfulness

Prayers of thankfulness will help you and your partner endure trials and tribulations together and develop an overcoming Spirit, which demonstrates the power of the cross within you. Praising God at all times magnifies the LORD rather than your circumstances. I Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (NKJV)
The ESV version says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Blessing #7)Unlocks prophetic promises over you and your spouse, releasing you into your destiny

When you pray words of encouragement and speak prophetic declarations over your spouse, you are blessing him/her. You are calling forth God’s will to be done through edification and truth. Romans 4:17 says, "(as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed-God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;" When you pray blessings of encouragement over your spouse, you see clearly what encouragement is and what it is not. Rooting out harmful criticism is also essential so you are not praying one way and acting another. James 3:10, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be so.”
These seven blessings are just a handful of the multiplicative rewards you will experience when you engage in couple prayer. As you come into alignment with God's order, your marriage will enter into the promise of Isaiah 45:3, "I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, am the God of Israel."

Monday, October 10, 2011

I might be allergic to you.

Our immune system has the capacity to operate as an overzealous soldier ready to serve in any battle. The medical dictionary defines an allergy as “an exaggerated immune response to substances that are generally not harmful.” A healthy immune system protects the body from harmful substances such as viruses and bacteria. However, it also reacts to foreign substances called allergens. Allergens are harmless unless a person has allergies. A person suffering from allergies has an oversensitive reaction which manifests in an array of unpleasant symptoms. Examples of symptoms include sneezing fits, rashes, and itchy red eyes.

In marriage, a partner can develop an "allergy" or an over-reaction to a topic or event in effort to avoid pain. Due to past hurts, our psyche will shift into overdrive when recognizing familiar "allergens" that have inflicted pain in the past. Like an overly ambitious immune system, we erect our walls of defense, preemptively hurling aggressions before our partner can do the same.
It is important to reveal these seemingly elusive triggers that can quickly erupt into an ugly rash of arguments. Consider this scenario. A wife becomes inordinately upset when her husband does not promptly return her call. She leaves several messages, each one more intense than the one before. The husband has left his phone in the car, and by the time he calls her back, she is a fountain of tears. However, all the bewildered husband hears is an endless stream of irrational questions. What he doesn't realize is the she has a "trust allergy." Her past boyfriend cheated repeatedly, and she is on guard at the slightest sign that could point to infidelity.Without prior knowledge of this trust allergy, the husband feels that he is being wrongfully attacked, and subconsciously starts to act distant towards his wife. The overly alert wife starts to sense withdrawal from her husband, which in her mind confirms her suspicions of unfaithfulness.
What is very interesting is a physical allergy is something that is perceived as concrete, and therefore the treatment is clear-cut. An individual who suffers from a peanut allergy must be administered a shot of epinephrine in order for the symptoms to start reversing. However, emotional allergies are often viewed as somewhat nebulous. If not recognized early on, confusion will settle it on both sides. Of course the "shot of epinephrine" is to quickly inject an ample dose of unconditional love and grace. This treatment will almost always ease the severity of the symptoms.
In the example about the wife with the trust allergy, the husband is confused because he has not factored in the existence of this allergy. He is looking merely at the false accusations or symptoms that have manifested. This would be as irrational as staring at someone with a peanut allergy whose lips have swollen up to twice the size, and saying, "Your lips should not be that large. Look in the mirror. They look hideous. Make them shrink now."
The enemy will try to hinder unity and healing by confusion. The moment you realize that your words have the power to inject a life-giving substance in your spouse is when you will see a turning point. It may not be a natural reaction, but it is sure to have supernatural results.
It is amazing that certain physical allergies will develop spontaneously and then clear up over time. If your husband or wife suffers from emotional allergies, remember that it is the Holy Spirit's role to heal, your job is to love.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In Sickness and In Health

After reading an article enumerating Pat Robertson's emotive justifications for divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's, I feel compelled to measure his dangerous admonitions by the Light of Scripture.

During the call-in segment of the show, Pat Robertson addresses whether or not a husband should remain faithful to his Alzheimer's-stricken wife. "But I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her."

Wow. This is chilling for so many reasons. Thankfully, his co-host Terry Meeuwsen points out, "But isn't that the vow we take when we marry someone? That it's for better or for worse? For richer or poorer?" (Christianity Today).

Marriage is inherently sacred and binding. Marriage was fashioned by the Designer as a type and shadow of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ--the body of Christ as the glorious bride, our LORD and Savior, the Bridegroom. This is why marriage exists. Thank the Lord he does not desert us in our weakness. He does not forsake us when we forget His promises. His love for us is unconditional and everlasting.

Mr. Robertson has unknowingly stepped into the enemy's camp of relative ethics. To abandon a commitment in the face of hardship does not line up with the powerful prophetic Word, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death." (Revelation 12:11, NAS) Marriage is a beautiful testimony of laying down your life for the sake of your spouse daily. As Christ gave us the Ultimate Sacrifice willingly, our Christian walk is voluntarily making decisions for Him because of His love through us. Christians have eternal life in Christ and once that decision of surrender is truly made, John 10:28 (NAS) says, "and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." Doesn't it make since then, that the enemy will seek to "snatch" a Christian's testimony?

To make decisions regarding marriage on the basis of feelings is not only a slippery slope, it is ethically toxic. Robertson continues, "...I can't fault him for wanting some kind of companionship. And if he says in a sense she is gone, he's right. It's like a walking death." There are so many times that Mr. Robertson has prayed in faith for people's healing on the show. By denoting Alzheimer's as "a walking death" he magnifies the power of disease over the power of Christ. Just because he has not witnessed the miraculous healing of Alzheimer's, does not mean that it will not happen in the future. We serve a living God with no limitations. Let us always walk by faith and not by sight. Isaiah 43:18-19 (NAS) says, "Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.

I cannot help but recall a great man of honor, the late President Ronald Reagan. He is one of the most beloved presidents of all time. In November of 1994, Reagan formally informed the nation of his fight with Alzheimer's. "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the summit--sunset of my life." In Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, Morris gives us an inside look into this illness. "I think the single most shattering story I heard about him was the fact that a friend put a white ceramic model of the White House into this fish tank that he had in his office. And he took it home in his fist," Morris continues, "And when Nancy pried his fingers open and said, 'What's that, Ronnie?' And there's this this little wet White House in his hand. He said, 'I don't know, but I think it's something to do with me." Staying by your spouse's side during his/her darkest hour is an opportunity to bestow honor on earth as it is in heaven.

Could we also remind Mr. Robertson of the power of love? Perhaps the mind has decayed, but the heart has not. Christ can fill every empty space. May we have courage to love our spouse just as much in the sunset as the sunrise.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Anoint Your Home

"You shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil." ~Exodus 30:25 (ESV)

Recently God pressed it upon my heart that we should anoint our home with oil. I felt a strong desire or unction in the Spirit to do this. In fact, it seemed that almost every Christian article I read throughout the week spoke on this topic. I shared this with my husband, who agreed that this is something we needed to do.

We purchased some oil at the store. Adam prayed over it and consecrated it to fulfill God's purpose in our home. It was the most simple and yet beautiful ceremony, and I could tangibly feel the glory of God and His presence as we walked together along the internal perimeter of our home. Adam smeared the oil along each portal of entry including windows and doorways. When we paused at the front and back doors, Adam commanded in the name of Jesus that two guardian angels always be posted at each of the doors. I asked Adam if we could anoint each room, too. We even anointed the bathroom! After all, it is a place designated for individuals to rest and relieve themselves. Why not let go of spiritual junk, too, while you are in there?

Since we do marriage counseling, Adam anointed the love seat in which our honored guests sit. He prayed that the healing presence of God would invade every marriage that we encountered. He also anointed our own marriage. With an oil-dipped finger, he drew the figure of the cross in his palm and mine and held our hands together as he consecrated our marriage to the Lord.

This ceremonial blessing touched my heart so deeply. There was nothing special about the oil itself. In fact, it was purchased at Walmart. God can use anything you give Him. To us, it was an external symbol or manifestation of our faith in Jesus Christ. However, God can specifically lead and instruct you to buy specific fragrances and ingredients if you ask Him. Be sensitive to His leading. Anointing our home demonstrates the following connotations:

1)It is a divine anouncement that any spirit other than the Spirit of God is not welcome and must go in the name of Jesus. (II Corinthians 10:4)

2)It is professing that Jesus lives in us and through us. Jesus Christ means "Jesus The Anointed One." Our bodies are a temple of Christ (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

3)It represents God's protective covering that rests over us (Deuteronomy 33:12)

4)Just as Exodus 30:25 says that the anointing oil is to be "blended as by the perfumer," it is a recognition that any good thing rising from us is from God alone, our Perfumer, who was broken and bruised for our transgressions.

5)It is a line of demarcation in the Spirit delineating that our home is under His rule and Kingship. We are His humble servants (Joshus 24:15)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Seek Your Spouse's Needs First

...and yours will be added unto you!

So many things in God’s kingdom are upside down and opposite from the world’s kingdom. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” In marriage, it is almost automatic or instinctual to identify needs that we have individually, especially the ones that remain unfulfilled. However, this is a trap from the enemy that ultimately leads to BOTH partners having unmet needs.

When we intentionally focus on our spouse’s needs rather than our own, we have activated the kingdom of God and its multiplicative power. This is because:

1)We have chosen sacrifice above self-interest (John 12:25, I Peter 4:8-9, Philippians 2:4)
2)We have chosen the spirit of unity over the spirit of division (Eph. 4:2-3)
3)We are rooted in our purpose and position (Romans 8:28)
4)When you surrender your own needs, you have given them to God and whatever you give to Him, He multiplies (Mark 6:42-44)

Conversely, whenever we make decisions motivated from self interest rather than the interest of our marriage, the opposite will occur. Instead of “multiplying” the territory of our marriage, it “shrinks.” If we withhold love or grace from our spouse, we actually expand the enemy’s kingdom and unwittingly give satan an access of entry into our marriage. The enemy’s tactics are subtle and cunningly built around our weaknesses.

Marriage has spiritual, emotional, and physical components. We are going to focus specifically on emotional needs of both husband and wife. Since marriage is a part of God’s design, the kingdom principle of multiplication is applicable in emotions flowing between spouses in marriage. Whatever emotion that originates in one spouse has the power to duplicate and multiply in the other. Let’s look at an example.

When we are frustrated and angry, it is because an emotional need that we have is unmet. We can choose in that moment to love and impart grace or we can choose to criticize and retaliate. If we choose to love, that is multiplied in your spouse because love begets love. However if we act in anger, the emotion of anger will be echoed and multiplied in your spouse.

Can you identify some “situation setups” by the enemy that ultimately ends up shrinking the territory of intimacy in marriage?

Sometimes confusion can seep into a marriage simply because a spouse is unaware of what exactly his/her spouse’s needs are. Or maybe, each spouse has a general knowledge, but not to the degree in which the marriage can operate at its optimal level. It is important to identify and differentiate the emotional needs of husband and wife. In most cases, the male’s needs and female’s needs differ both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Dr. Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs, categorizes five unique emotional needs of wives and five unique emotional needs of husbands. They are as follows:


1) Affection
2) Conversation
3) Honesty and Openness
4) Financial Commitment
5) Family Commitment


1) Sexual fulfillment
2) Recreational Companionship
3) Physical Attraction
4) Domestic Support
5) Admiration

When we give liberally and without restraint to meet the unique emotional needs of our spouse, ours will be met in return. It is important to remember to love and give in these areas not based on what he or she might "deserve," which is limiting and isolating. Instead, we must give and love unconditionally and thus fulfill God's original intent for marriage.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wound Care in Marriage

God's plan for marriage is unity. The enemy's plan is isolation and division. One way the enemy seeks to destroy marriage is in the area of wounding. Just as a lodged splinter that is never removed from the flesh, deep-set resentment and unforgiveness can be traced back to a root cause.

What causes emotional wounding in marriage?

  • Wounds originating from childhood

  • Wounds from abuse in past relationships

  • Unfulfilled expectations, whether realistic or unrealistic

  • Fear of abandonment

  • Lack of verbal affirmation

  • Wounds from external stress or trauma

  • What emotional manifestations flow from these wounds?

  • Feeling of rejection/inadequacy

  • Feeling of neglect

  • Bitterness/resentment

  • Feeling of insecurity

  • Closed spirit/unhealthy protectionism

  • Oftentimes we trigger a wound in our spouse without even realizing it. For example, if verbal abuse occurred in a previous relationship, any negatively perceived words may have a magnified effect in your spouse.

    The wound will open up and "talk" by hurting/attacking the spouse. The famous quote, "Hurting people hurt people" applies here. Your spouse may say a comment with no hurtful intent, but because it is interpreted by the "mind" of the wound, the enemy will arise. A spirit of confusion can escalate a misunderstanding into a heated argument. This is when you say things you "never meant to say" because the enemy has taken over. I Corinthians 14:33 says, "God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints."

    Try to trace back to the source of the wound, and make it a habit to express your feelings. Avoid "You made me feel" statements, which can come across as an attack and cause your spouse to put up a shield of emotional defense. Instead use "I" statements. "I feel ____ when ____."

    Strategy to prevent wounding for the spouse receiving a word that could be perceived as hurtful:

  • Clarification- "When you said ____, I interpreted it to mean _____." Because I interpreted it this way, I feel ____." Is this what you meant?

  • Allow spouse to clarify what was said and meant without rebuttal. Prepare your heart, concentrate on listening with an open mind, heart, and spirit.

  • Strategy to prevent wounding for the spouse giving a word:

  • Try to think before you speak. Make sure you sift your words through the sieve of sensitivity. Remember the power of choice. Would this word edify or tear down my spouse? ~Ephesians 4:29, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers."

  • If your spouse is distant, approach him/her with compassion, and ask how your words may have caused offense. Listen with an open heart. Do not defend, but prepare your heart with the goal of increased intimacy in focus. Ask the Lord to give you insight in how you hurt your spouse.

  • Pray over your spouse's heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to pour His healing oil over the wounds that surfaced from your words. I learned the power of this strategy from Barbara Stephens ("Mama Hug"), founder of Abundant Life Ministries.

  • Strategies for both husband and wife:

  • Keep a journal this week between you and God, and ask Him to reveal areas of wounding in your marriage so that they may be healed completely to total restoration.

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help you show unconditional love toward your spouse-Love that is not based on performance, but on God's grace through you.

  • Just as hurt begets hurt, love begets love. Sow seeds of love in your spouse on a daily basis. If you don't see immediate results, remember that love keeps no account. Keep loving without deadlines.
  • Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Don't be Dismayed by Delay

    There will be times in marriage in which we reach a point of emotional exhaustion, or our romantic expectations come crashing down with disappointment. Perhaps one spouse has continually loved the other unconditionally, but because of walls in his/her partner's heart, there is not a tangible reciprocation.

    The principles and commands in our Christian walk can and should also be administered in our marriage. You might feel discouraged or even disillusioned because you have loved your spouse and have done everything you know to do, but nothing has changed. What now?

    Galatians 6:9 says, "And let us not grow weary while doing good for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."

    Never grow weary in doing good toward your spouse. Think of it as a personal assignment from God and unique opportunity to show the attributes of God's unconditional love. One of your most impactful ministries can be toward your spouse.

    If the marriage that God says you can have has not manifested yet, don't grow weary. Delay is a common tactic of the enemy and he will try to use it against you to sin.

    Exodus 32:1-4 says,
    1 "Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt we do not know what has become of him."
    2 "And Aaron said to them, "Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me."
    3 "So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron."
    4 "And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, "This is your god, 'O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!"
    (NKJV: emphasis, mine)

    Because the Israelites could not see the manifestation of the promise in the natural, they took matters into their own hands and built an idol. How often in marriage do we say, "This is taking too long! I don't see any results!" You might even at times be tempted to break the covenant of marriage. Do not take your valuable adornment of spiritual beauty (like golden earrings) and hand it over to the enemy. We can make idols out of anger, disappointment, feelings of inadequacy, or whatever becomes the center of our relationship instead of love. If you focus on it, it will become bigger than it was intended.

    This week, examine any idols that you have erected in your marriage that interfere with your intimacy, commitment, and love toward your spouse. Remember your priorities. Keep your marriage only second to God.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Surrender Your Spouse

    Surrendering your spouse to the Lord is one of the toughest acts of obedience, but it also comes with a big reward. When we enter into our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, He asks us to surrender our life completely to Him. This means laying down our agendas, crucifying our fleshly desires, and embracing the freedom of resurrection power in our life.

    I have learned that areas in which we try to control our spouse echo strongholds in our relationship with Christ. We may pray and sing "I surrender all," but when it comes to the test of obedience, we can see clearly the hidden stumbling blocks to experiencing true freedom in our lives.

    This past week has been especially taxing as my husband has worked well over 80 hours. My natural reaction is to be frustrated and emotionally drained. Quality time is one of my number one love languages, and it is hard on my heart to not be with him as much as I would like to. I had to surrender my ideals and expectations at foot of the cross. My flesh wants so badly to text him, "When are you coming home?" I know that he is working hard and doing what he has to do to support us. I have to remember that this will just ultimately cause more stress on him, which is the last thing I want to do. When I surrendered my emotional disappointment and ultimately my husband to God, I felt a peace replace the resistance I was feeling. Oftentimes, when we are feeling pressure, it is because God is asking us to give Him our burden. It is for our benefit and His glory.

    If we are not surrendered to the divine order that God has established in marriage, this will inevitably cause undo pain and frustration. As women, we constantly want to know the next step or where something is going. However, we are to wait for the husband to lead. As much as we would love for our control issues to be viewed as just a part of our personality or even an endearing idosyncrasy, we must at some point face the truth. Control issues are at its root, a form of idolatry. We are trying to assume a role we were never meant to. Eve had the same struggle...

    God's plan and divine order is always best. He created the husband and the wife to work together as one. If we are experiencing pain, we can be sure that something is out of alignment. Just as a chiropractor will adjust our bodies in order to achieve optimal physical functioning, God will lovingly correct us if we do not line up with His plan. Stormie Ormartian, author of The Power of a Praying Wife, said it best:

    "Part of making a house a home is allowing your husband to be the head so you can be the heart. Trying to be both is too much." (pg. 38)

    Wow, is that not the truth? If we, as wives will just concentrate on our role and seek to be a Proverbs 31 wife, the pressure is off! God has a plan for your husband. You can pray for him, but you can't control him EVEN when your intentions are good. God showed me this revelation this past week. My husband, Adam is so determined and so hard-working that he sometimes will work straight through lunch! I have been texting him to not forget to eat, and became worried because he was neglecting basic needs. God told me to just make sure he had his lunch every day, and it was up to him to eat it! Sometimes we, as women will take on unnecessary stress because of our nurturing nature. I learned that even our caretaking has to at some point be surrendered to God.

    "Lord, I surrender my husband to You. He belongs to you; he is Your creation. Thank-you that you have placed me beside a mighty man of God who loves You and serves You daily. Help me to embrace my God given role as wife and not add or subtract from it because Your plan is perfect. I know that I am called to be the heart of the relationship, and will refuse to live in condemnation when the enemy tries to tell me that I should be more. I will wait on You to change me from glory to glory. You are the one who changes my husband, not me. I give you all authority and all power to lead him into his destiny. Thank you that as I surrender to your plan, it allows you to demonstrate your resurrection power in our marriage. AMEN!"

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    The Finance Dance

    It was once said, "The one unbreakable rule of couples dancing is that the partners must move interdependently, as a unit."

    Undoubtedly, at one point or another in marriage, you will step on your partner's toes over financial issues. It has been cited for many years as one of the leading causes of conflict in marriage.

    It is not a coincidence that there are over 800 scriptures in the Bible on the topic of money. Let's study various financial twirls, flips, and missteps that can occur between husband and wife that can cause a couple to get out of sync.

    1) Financial Dips- With a swooping dip dance technique, the base partner is firmly supporting the "flyer" so that she will not ultimately fall to the ground. God designed the husband to lead the wife in the area of finances, and the wife must carefully follow his lead. I Corinthians 11:3 tells us, "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." A wonderful truth to remember is when the husband feels that he is falling in the area of finances, he can trust God to support him. God is the ultimate provider and support when both husband and wife feel as if they are weak and slipping. God hears our prayers and wants us to be careful to listen to His instruction and step out in faith in however He leads us. The Lord is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, and is not surprised by financial dips and the recession.

    2) Lead Feet- In dance, you must always be "footloose and fancy-free" or agile to be able to smoothly switch to the next sequence. Worldly mindsets can weigh us down from being able to flow with the Holy Spirit and with our partner in finance. Luke 8:14b says, "...but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches, and pleasures." One definition of choked means, "to slow down the movement, growth, or action." Worrying about money or becoming consumed by riches and pleasures can immobilize a marriage from continuing on the dance path.

    3)Don't look down!- In dancing, if you look at your feet instead of into your partner's eyes, you will stumble. Too often, one partner can become grounded in their own financial agenda and personal habits. Many times, one spouse is categorized as more of a "spender" and the other as more of a "saver." Resentment can develop along with unnecessary space and distance if communication becomes disconnected. Learn to be sensitive and in tune with your spouse in the area of finances. Pinpoint areas in which you can improve upon, plan accordingly, and resist "impulse spending" that can lead to waste. Proverbs 14:29 says, "he who is impulsive exalts folly."

    4) Dancers must don proper apparel-Dancers must where light, flowy garments. Clothes that are too heavy will interfere with the dance. In this respect, financial hoarding can create spiritual issues in marriage. Proverbs 3:27-28 says, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it.' When you have it with you." Part of learning to dance in the area of finances involves being clothed in the Lord's righteousness, not in our selfishness. All riches and glory and honor ultimately belong to the King of Kings.

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Mountains between Communication

    One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Mark 11:23, "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says."

    Of course, in order to speak to a mountain, you must first identify it. Many couples struggle with the same communication barriers over and over again, because they have not developed insight into their problem. I picture a person walking straight into a wall over and over again developing a new bruise with each collision. Is it not the same in marriage? We often deal with our hurt feelings only to encounter the same communication obstacle days later.

    One hindrance to effective communication is lacking the desire to understand your spouse. I am reminded of the Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:13, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." We have all been in that place before truly knowing the Lord in which worldly desires overshadow our desire to see God. If we apply this to our marriage, it requires an initial introspection. What is the area of self-centeredness in my life that is deflating my desire to truly know my spouse? Once the focus is turned to your spouse, other communication barriers can be illuminated.

    An obvious communication wall in relationships is a lack of communication skills. For this barrier, I like to apply the verse Hosea 4:6a, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Unfortunately, some marriages are ultimately destroyed simply because one or both did not learn how to communicate with one another. Both husband and wife can care very deeply for one another, but it is not adequately expressed in a way that is understood.

    Listening is an essential part of the art of communication. I think of it as "active white space" between words on a page. True listening demands a heartfelt pause that conveys respect and interest in what the other is saying. It is crucial to not think about your response or reaction while your spouse is talking, but rather absorb everything that is being said without interference. This is rather difficult and must take concentrated effort because it is our human nature to conjure up new thoughts while the other is talking.

    Of course the complement of good listening is adroit expression. This takes us to the third hindrance to communication which is emotional wounding and distress. If we have been deeply rejected in an area of our lives, silence takes residence where our psyche has been scarred. Of course when the fighting approach has failed, the emotional defense of withdrawal or "flight" response can take over. This is a natural fleshly response, and it is important to renew our emotions through the healing of the Holy Spirit, just as we renew our minds. If you recognize withdrawal in your spouse, you must encourage him/her to express what they have deadened inside. Love has the power to awaken the voice that has been silenced in our partner either through past relational wounds or current ones.

    Oftentimes, when one spouse is withdrawn, the other will become aggressive or even verbally abusive which exacerbates this negative cycle. Verbal abuse, although seemingly opposite in manifestation, is closely kin to withdrawal because of its common cause. A partner who practices verbal abuse more than likely is emulating negative communication patterns witnessed as a child or in a past toxic relationship. Psychologically, people revist or recreate the origin of trauma. This definitely indicates a critical care area in a relationship that requires professional help and rehabilitation.

    Once the mountains have been identified, there is a tremendous hope and expectancy that arises. This takes a tremendous amount of faith and perserverance. Mark 11:24 says, "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    The Four Seasons of Marriage

    I believe that Dr. Gary Chapman is definitely one of the Christian marriage "gurus," whom I am constantly learning from. Just recently I came across his research on The Four Seasons of Marriage. This really puts the trials and treasures of marriage in perspective. Remember that Ecclesiastes chapter 3 tells us that to everything there is a time and a season. Commitment is what allows the seasons to flow seamlessly together.

    1) WINTER- A period of coldness, harshness, and bitterness. The cause is traced back to rigidity or unwillingness to consider the other person's perspective and work towards a meaningful compromise.
    ~Emotions in winter include hurt, anger, disappointment, loneliness, and rejection.
    ~Attitudes in winter include negativity, discouragement, frustration, hopelessness.
    ~Actions in winter include destructive, speaking harshly, or not speaking, violent

    ~Climate in winter is noted by detatchment, unwillingness to negotiate, arguments, withdrawal, no sense of togetherness, just existing

    2) SPRING- A period of new beginnings, and the excitement of creating new life. This is marked by a return of optimism, enthusiasm, and joy.
    ~Emotions in spring include excitement, joy, and hope.

    ~Attitudes in spring include anticipation, optimism, gratitude, love, and, trust.
    ~Actions in spring include nurturing, planning, communicating, seeking help when needed.

    ~Climate in spring is noted by vitality, tenderness, openness, and a caring heart. It is delineated by new beginnings, flowing communication, a sense of excitement, and planting seeds for the future.

    3) SUMMER- A period of reaping the benefits of what has been planted, and sharing a deep sense of commitment and satisfaction.
    ~Emotions of summer include satisfaction, happiness, accomplishment, connection.

    ~Attitudes of summer include trust, commitment to growth, relaxed.
    ~Actions in summer include communicating constructively, accepting differences, attending seminars, reading books, spiritual growth.
    ~Climate in summer is comfortable, attached, supportive, and understanding. Dreams of the spring have come to pass. There is an enjoyment and satisfaction from accomplishments. Conflicts are resolved, and differences are accepted.

    4) FALL- A period when things are changing. Initially,things look okay to others on the outside, but are deteriorating internally until the changes in the relationship become obvious.
    ~Emotions of fall include fear, sadness, rejection, apprehension, discouragement, resentment, and feelings of being unappreciated.
    ~Attitudes of fall include concern, uncertainty, and blaming
    ~Actions of fall include neglect and failure to face issues.
    ~Climate of fall is marked by drifting apart and disengagement. A sense of detachment and confusion

    It is important to recognize that trials are temporary and sometimes necessary to grow in intimacy. Anne Bradstreet, British poet, says it best: "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Looking for Lizards

    My husband and I were in the car hectically running errands, when we noticed a lime green lizard on top of the side view mirror. I could not help but rooting for him, and I could tell that Adam must have felt the same because he was driving much slower than usual. It was comical to watch this freebird lizard brace itself from the wind while sprawling out his webbed toes to hang on for dear life. Of course, the wind eventually became too strong, and he fell off. My dear husband, probably in anticipation of my inordinate concern for God's creatures, looked to see where he landed. Miraculously, he saw him craw away, seemingly unharmed across the pavement. I try not to think, even as I write this, that it was ironically in the middle of the road where he got away...

    The sight of this unexpected lizard prompted my husband to remember a childhood memory. He told me that he and his friends would have competitions to see who could find the most lizards in the backyard while they were playing.

    I found 17 one time..." he said with a grin of satisfaction.

    "How is that even possible?!?" I asked in disbelief.

    His reply stayed with me, even now.

    "It's just like anything. They are everywhere if you look for them."

    Is that not the truth? How many blessings in my marriage have I overlooked because I haven't looked for them. I know there are so many miracles and provisions that God has given us during trials. How many have I not seen because my eyes have been dimmed from disappointments and disillusions?

    I pray that God will restore the child-like sense of wonder in each of us to "look for the lizards." Look for all the incredible traits in your spouse that have always been there. Collect them. treasure them. Look for all the new mercies each morning that shine in bright shades of green, just waiting to be found.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    The Power of Patience

    Most of us think of patience as passivity, but it is actually just the opposite. It requires effort and energy. Patience is a powerful catalyst that will produce exponential results in marriage...long lasting results.

    My marriage today is wonderful, but it was grown from seeds of patience at the very beginning. My husband Adam showed so much patience with me, especially at times when the natural response would be to get angry. He had enough wisdom to know exactly how to love me through my weakness. That is exactly what patience is...where love and wisdom intersect. I remember the quote he used to tell me during the difficult time we had our very first year of dating, "Anything worth having is worth fighting for."

    Though often patience is spoken without words, its message is loud and clear. "You are worth it to me. You are precious. You are valuable." As a spouse, we are constant sowers. All we can do is plant seeds of grace and patience into the life of our partner. Whether it falls on a rocky ground or fertile soil should not be a condition of whether we give it.

    Patience always has a reward. Ironically, many do not wait for it because it is so delayed. Know that patience is prophetic. It is like the dramatic hesitation between two chords in music. A crescendo in a piece of music must be introduced with a "pause" that is both necessary and expectant. It has exponential power that will be seen for years to come.

    Here are the rewards that manifested as a result of my husband showing me patience:

    1) I understood God's unconditional love for me on another level
    2) It held up a mirror to my own flaws so I could see myself clearly to change
    3) I have a greater desire to show patience towards him when he needs it
    4) I have more patience for other people in my life
    5) It has helped me to grow in spiritual maturity

    Never estimate the power of patience!

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Restoration in Marriage

    Many of us view restoration of marriage as a rigid entirety...meaning restoration is only necessary if you are separated or divorced. However, I believe that all of us want a more perfect marriage. Maybe certain areas of your marriage are strong and thriving, while others are weak or need renewal.

    Restoration has many meanings and connotations. It means "retribution of something taken away or lost." Applying this to marriage, what areas do you pray will be restored? First, I think it is important to breakdown marriage into its operative functions in order to properly assess areas that need attention:

    1) Spiritual Needs- prayer, fellowship and devotion, unity in maturation, growth in gifts and ministry

    2) Security Needs- financial and physical well-being, stability, safety, fidelity

    3) Emotional Needs- affection, quality time and conversation, nurturing of passion

    4) Validation Needs- respect, value, approval, admiration, and adoration (could be a subset of emotional needs, but I believe it merits its own category)

    5) Destination Needs- supporting one another in fullfilling purpose, developing gifts, talents, intellectually, socially, visions, and dreams

    I like to visualize each of these areas as cups. Which one is overflowing? Which one is leaking? Which one is half-way full or even empty? Obviously, each area needs continual attention and continual re-filling. If you look at the words "re-storation," "re-newal," and "re-filling", they all have the prefix of "re." This has an important implication for marriage. The prefix "re" is like a synonym for "again." That is why we want to hear "I love you" again and again and again. Each day requires renewal and restoration of the original intent and spirit that was cherished on our wedding day. Ask the Lord which areas of your life need a special restoration or re-filling of the Holy Spirit to be made new again.

    May we empty ourselves out each day as vessels to contain restoration in our marriage.

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    True Submission

    I know in today's culture, most women cringe when they hear the word SUBMISSION because that is how many women perceive it...bold...dominating...all caps, all powerful...with no room leftover. However, that is submission out of context. Submission is a willingness to yeild or comply to another's desires or authority without resistance. True submission is not forced, but rather given or offered from a heart overflowing with love. I think it is vitally important to explore the barriers to submission or traps that the enemy sets to keep true submission from manifesting in marriages. The enemy is a master at perversion and redefining with the goal of restricting the blessing of submission.

    1) Power struggle - This is the same tactic that Satan used in the Garden of Eden. He put a seed of doubt in Eve's mind...Did God really say?? Adam and Eve ate the fruit that had a false promise attached to it. The false promise is that they could rule over themselves rather than God ruling over them. It was a direct challenge to God's perfect order. Today, that same seed of doubt has been placed in women's minds. Did God really say to submit to my husband? Yes He did. Ephesians 5:22 says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." It is a divine order.

    2) Vendetta over Value - Much of the resistance and internal struggle that women face with submission is over a confusion of value. We must remember that marriage is God ordained and a God idea. The position or role one holds does not undermine the value at all. We are equal in the Spirit. That is why God Himself can be both Servant and Lord. Jesus washed the disciple's feet and yet He is King of Kings. The Trinity is the most perfect example to convey value. Jesus was both 100% God and 100% man. He surrendered unto the Father and said in Luke 22:42, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done." Submitting to the Father did not change the value that Jesus had. In contrast, it magnified it because of the power of unity. The wife is just as valuable as the husband, because they are one.

    3) Husband's Misuse of Authority - Husbands are armed with a huge responsibility to love their wives as Christ loved the church (see Ephesians 5:25). This means all that the husband has, he willingly gives to his wife without hesitation. Men that withhold love, money, time, loyalty, or protection are not following the Biblical mandate for leadership. To lead is to serve. Submission is a choice. It is not to be demanded, abused, or forced. God gave all of us a free will and he chose us and wants us to choose Him. His love for us compels us to obey and submit to Him. Similarly, a husband that loves his wife so boundlessly and extravagently will inevitably lead to his wife WANTING to submit to him.

    A picture of perfect submission equates to perfect unity. God hand-picked marriages so that we may rule and reign as king and queen, husband and wife. If a queen turned against the king, this would create division. However, there is a reigning authority in the unity of marriage that leads to an expansion of territory in all realms: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I like to picture a couple holding hands. Together, when two hands join, it makes 10 fingers. According to Christian Resources Today, the number 10 represents "completeness that happens in a divine order." Wow...

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Encourage your Spouse

    Have you encouraged your spouse today? This is something that should eventually come as natural to us as brushing our teeth or eating. Our marriage needs daily nourishment. Encouragement means the most from the person you love.

    It is easy to get caught up in the distractions of the day. However, our priorities are alway highlighted by our words and actions. If you internally value your spouse, there must be an external manifestation. Be a manifestation of grace to your spouse from day to day.

    Psalm 4:7 says, "You have put gladness in my heart. More than in the season that their grain and wine increased." Pray that you will be a source of blessing to your spouse. Tell him/her you love them. Show them. Remind them. Plant seeds of encouragement every day believing they will manifest in due time.

    Here are some ways you can encourage your spouse:

    1) E-mail your spouse first thing in the morning (my husband does every means the world to me).

    2) Send "I love you" texts at least once a day.

    3) Ask your spouse to write down his/her dreams, visions, and goals so you can pray over them.

    4) Edify your spouse by thanking him/her for specific things they do for you.

    5) Purposefully omit criticism of faults even when it seems deserved at the time.

    6) List out at least 5 qualities you love about your spouse and put it in a place that he/she will find it.

    7) Purposefully look for the positive in your spouse and accentuate it.

    8) Make a meal for your spouse that you don't normally make~ breakfast, lunch, dinner.

    9) Do something for your spouse that requires sacrifice with joy~ either monetary, time, etc...

    10) Brag about your spouse to others instead of complaining.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    The People Pleasing Mask

    As individuals we often struggle with insecurities in different areas of our lives. These insecurities are often drawn out and magnified in marriage. We wear many different masks in order to gain approval - either consciously or unconsciously to gain the approval of our spouse. One of these is the people pleasing (or spouse pleasing) mask.

    On the surface, like most masks, this may seem like a desirable phenomenon. Pleasing your spouse is a good thing? Right? Yes and no. It is the underlying intentions, or hidden goal that makes this mask a counterfeit to love. Imagine a wife that sacrificed her needs in order to please her husband day after day. However, over time, frustration, bitterness, and bottled resentment start to rise up within her. This is a result of her craving approval from her husband. She performs everything with the subconscious goal of gaining his approval. Since love, by definition, cannot be earned, this turns into a viscious cycle of performance. The frustration and emptiness she feels is a result of her flesh leading and her heart lagging behind.

    Therefore, it is evident that pleasing your spouse can be a wonderful picture of love and sacrifice IF their is no expectation in return. This is a very big IF, especially if we are honest with ourselves. It is natural to want to please, but it is supernatural to love. Ask God to show the areas that need to be surrendered to Him. Love is always a gift, not a reward. If we are frustrated because we are not receiving the results that we desire, we must see this for what it is--the dead end of performance.

    I believe, though, if we do love and seek no love in return, we will receive it anyway...whether it be from our spouse or from the heart of God.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Personality and Your Partner

    Making a vow to understand your spouse is an important part of the commitment. I believe that the Myer's Brigg's personality assessment may be one of the most cost-effective counseling tools that is out there for marriage.

    Conflict inevitably arises from differences. With sixteen different personality types and unique variations between these types, it is easy to see a huge potential for misunderstanding. There are four integral areas in which each person organizes their lives. Personality Desk breaks it down for us to examine in light of compatibility and relationships:

    Extraversion/Introversion- This scale refers to where you focus your attention and get your energy. Extraverts are in tune with the external world and other people, and are energized by external stimulation. Introverts are more focused on the internal world, thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Introverts are renewed through solitary activity and quiet reflection.

    Sensing/Intuition- This scale pertains to how you prefer to take in information. Sensors gather information in a very concrete, detailed oriented, and factual way. They tend to be factual, and are oriented to the present moment. Intuitives tend to be more abstract in their perceptions and are inclined to think more about meaning, connections, and possiblities. Intuitives are more imaginative than realistic.

    Thinking/Feeling- This scale refers to how you prefer to make decisions. Thinkers prefer to make decisions that are based on fact or data, and like to reason things out logically. Feelers prefer decisions that are consistent with their values, and help to build harmonious relationships.

    Judging/Perceiving- This scale refers to how you prefer to organize your life. Judgers tend to prefer structure, schedules, and plans. They like clear expectations and feel accomplished from completing tasks. Perceivers prefer an open-ended, spontaneous, and flexible existence. They enjoy that their options are open, and that there are many possibilities available.

    Understanding your partner's unique blend of these personality characteristics will open the door to better communication. For example, knowing that your spouse is an introvert and has been knee-deep in the corporate world all day is incredibly helpful. He/she is probably drained at the end of the day because their energy source has been so depleted, that a "recharge" in front of the TV or computer may be necessary before an engaging conversation. On the flip side, if your spouse is a bubbly or charming extravert, being at home all day away from people will drive him/her stir-crazy.

    Communication conflicts can also flare up when one spouse is predominantly a "thinker" and the other is a "feeler." A "feeler" spouse may want to hear "I love you" a seemingly exorbitant amount. Whereas a "thinker" may logically process that he/she said "I love you" at the beginning of the day or week and it is therefore not necessary to repeat it. A thinker could process this as unnecessary redundancy. This does not negate his/her capacity for love. However, it is important to adjust behavior until the love is properly received by the spouse. According to personality cafe, "thinkers see a correspondence between words and deeds, because correspondence to reality is the test of truth." However, they observe that a feeler likes to hear and say I love you "because that is affirming." If you believe your spouse is "overly sensitive," it is incredibly likely that you are a thinker and your spouse is a feeler, or at least relatively speaking in intensity.

    Of course, a "sensor" married to an "intuitive" will also have a unique set of challenges. Sensors are seen as practical and in the moment. A sensing spouse could at times view their intuitive spouse as being unrealistic and having his/her "head in the clouds." In contrast, an intuitive could view a sensing spouse as overly practical and unromantic. Intuitives can often "read between the lines" in conversations and might interpret something that was never intended by their sensing spouse. It is crucial to employ communication basics such as, "Did you mean this?" before jumping to conclusions and sulking the rest of the day. A sensing spouse needs to make an effort to patiently clarify anything that could be potentially taken the wrong way.

    Perhaps one of the most obvious differences between spouses because of its comical manifestation is the judging/perceiving characteristic. "Judging" spouses typically hate to be late because of their need to adhere to a schedule. A "perceiving" spouse could just as easily live without clocks because their need to be "free." I picture a glamorous wife nonchalantly trying on several outfits with different shoes and accessories, while the dutiful husband is pacing back and forth feeling his blood pressure rising with every passing minute.

    Part of loving your spouse is adjusting your behavior because you know it is important to them. This certainly does NOT mean losing your identity or changing who you are. However, it means making necessary sacrifices from the heart with the underlying goal of increased intimacy.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Preserving the Sanctity of Marriage

    I said my vows the first and last time on January 10, 2009. I love my husband with all my heart, and I know that it will last because Christ is the glue that holds it together. In today's society, emotions hold more importance than commitments. Everywhere you turn, decisions are justified not by fact, but by feeling. The trouble with this overly indulgent stance is that feelings are transitory and change with each passing day. Couples that vow "for better or for worse" really mean "for better or for better." It is only during the tough times that the strength of the commitment is tested. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." The Holy Spirit should be the third strand in the knot of marriage. Ironically, many couples believe that a "trial marriage" can be simulated through cohabitation. However, as in most cases, the man and the woman have conflicting goals for the arrangement. The woman believes this will be a motivating factor that will inevitably lead to a ring on her finger. He is being "conditioned" for the next phase of commitment. To the man, he is already receiving all the perks that come with marriage minus the responsibility. For him, there is no motivation to get married. On the other hand, there are plenty of cohabitating couples that make it to the alter. According to Bride's Magazine, 65 percent of couples live together before they get married. Unfortunately, the story does not always end happily ever after. The Boston Herald observes that research indicates that people who live together prior to getting married are more likely to have marriages that end in divorce. The tragic flaw of cohabitation is that it has a built-in escape hatch. Couples who cohabitate have one foot in the relationship and one foot out from the beginning. It is this soft roll-out of marriage that allows couples to slip right into a divorce. An increasingly popular theme for filed divorces is "irreconcilable differences." In this type of divorce, no one is at fault or to blame. Reasons sited could be anything ranging from "personality differences" to "irreversible antogonistic feelings." There's that emphasis on feelings again... In effort to be politically correct and tolerant, the truth is expertly concealed and dressed up in legal jargon. It would be much more difficult to sign a paper that said, "broken commitment to God and to each other just because you didn't feel like being married anymore." At the end of the day, love and commitment will keep a marriage together. Each spouse must understand that when reciting marriage vows, God is in the audience. It is not just an utterance soon to be forgotten. It is a daily vow made again and again when wrapped around sanctity and determination.