4 Core Strengths in Marriage, Pt. 2

Today, I’m excited to share the second part of this Core Strengths series by my friend and author Tami Myer who blogs at Manna for Marriage. If you missed last week’s post, you can go back and review the first two strengths needed for your marriage by clicking here. Personally, this posts are timely, since James and I celebrate our first anniversary this week (social distancing style). I’m so grateful for an amazing first year of marriage, and next week, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned this first year. But for now, please join me in welcoming Tami once more as she shares her last two points with us.

Post by Tami Myer

3. Commitment

Many people think that the most important “C” in marriage is communication. Communication is important, certainly, but I think that commitment is even more essential.

When you and your spouse are committed to one another, you gain a firm platform under your feet that allows you then to work on your communication or any other issue. Being committed to your marriage means that nothing on earth is more important than your relationship. Of course, you want your obedience to God to be your highest commitment, but your obedience to God motivates and strengthens your commitment to your marriage.

Even after exchanging vows on your wedding day, there are times when it is important to verbalize that commitment. When you and your spouse do not agree on the color of the carpet, it can be helpful to say, “I like the green, but I value you more than the carpet.”  Or when you are dealing with something more serious, it can be very stabilizing to say, “This is tough, but I am absolutely committed to you and to our marriage.” Speaking your commitment out loud reminds you both of what you truly value.

Commitment is the solid foundation that undergirds a successful marriage. It is your commitment that protects your love, not the other way around. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it: “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but … the marriage that sustains your love.”

4. Kindness

Is there ever a time not to be kind in your marriage?

Short answer: no. Long answer: never.

Some people seem to think that marriage is a license to be unkind, as if demonstrating thoughtlessness were part of real intimacy.

But God says:

Love is patient, love is kind. … It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. … Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV)

Practice kindness every day with your spouse. Nothing will strengthen your marriage more than simple, ordinary, everyday kindness.

Smile. Be patient. Give a hug. Speak a gentle or encouraging word. Stick a note on the mirror, or leave a small gift in the drawer. Join your spouse on an errand, or rub his shoulders. Refill her empty glass.

These things may seem little, but so are the breaths that we take into our lungs moment by moment. Our lives are sustained by the little things.

Honor. Attentiveness. Commitment. Kindness. These are relational strands that you can weave into your marriage every day. The result of these daily, consistent practices–however small or unseen–will be a strong and successful relationship.

Learn more about strengthening your marriage in “10 Simple But Powerful Ways to Build Your Marriage.”

4 Core Strengths in Marriage by @manna4marriage on @kjhogrefe

4 Core Strengths in Marriage, Pt. 1

If you received my newsletter this month (if not, you can get next month’s by clicking here), you may be looking forward to my friend Tami’s post as much as I am. Tami blogs at Manna for Marriage where she encourages and equips couples in their marriages. As my husband and I near our one-year anniversary, I asked if she would share some advice for building a strong foundation for the future.

Well, I have good news. She shared so much excellent material with me that we decided to break it into two posts: this week and next. Please join me in welcoming Tami today!

By Tami Myer

Every marriage is unique with its own blend of personality styles, family backgrounds, and life circumstances. Even the “secrets to success” can vary from couple to couple.

However, there are four concepts that add immense strength to any marriage. Relationships that build on these four principles will be resilient and healthy. Couples who fail to establish these qualities in their homes can expect pain and crisis.

Developing these core strengths will make all the difference in your marriage: honor, attentiveness, commitment, and kindness.

1. Honor

Learn to maintain an inner posture of honor toward your spouse. In your spirit, keep saluting your husband. In your spirit, keep bowing to your wife.

Work on developing this discipline until it becomes your default position. There are no “days off” and no “time out” when it comes to honor. It is the oxygen in your marriage.

Honor is the oxygen in your marriage. Read more by @manna4marriage on @kjhogrefe.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:10, NLT)

Your spouse is created in the image of God. That was true on your wedding day, and regardless of how long you’ve been married, it is true today. And it will still be true on your most difficult days. Your spouse will always be worthy of honor because of the eternal spirit that God created him or her to be.

Your husband’s actions may not always be worthy of respect; but every day, he is worthy of your respect because he was designed by God for greatness and strength. He is an immortal, priceless spirit, created for significance and success, known and valued by God.

So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, NLT)

Your wife’s behavior may not always be worthy of esteem; but every day, she is worthy of your esteem because she is an immortal, priceless spirit, designed to bring delight and pleasure to the heart of God. She is loved and cherished by God.

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. (1 Peter 3:7, NLT)

Honor your spouse by using gracious, tactful speech. You might even want to do what my husband, Chris, and I have done throughout our marriage: banish sarcasm. I realize that sarcasm can be witty and fun, but it can also be like a little crack in the door.

Sarcasm often opens the door wider and wider until truly ugly and hurtful comments come sliding through.

Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29, NLT)

Honor your spouse by using your best manners. Don’t save your polite behavior for company! Instead, use your “fine china” manners with your spouse every day. Sure, you can relax and wear your comfy clothes, but don’t relax the filter on your thoughts or the guard on your tongue. Should we be more courteous to complete strangers in the grocery store than we are to our covenant partners?

I don’t know if I should tell you this next thing about my husband because it might make the women jealous and the men annoyed. Chris opens the car door for me not only when I am getting into the car but also when I am getting out of the car. Before Chris and I were married, someone warned me that my husband would soon quit opening doors for me; but 32 years later, he is still walking around the car to open my door! Chris does this as a gesture of honor to me; but primarily, it reveals him as a great man of honor.

Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10, ESV)

This is something we often forget: when we show honor to our spouses, we are actually demonstrating that we ourselves are people of honor. When we withhold honor from our spouses because we think that they are undeserving, we are only exposing our own insecurities and pettiness.

2. Attentiveness

Dr. John Gottman is a world-renown marriage researcher who discovered that he could predict–with surprising accuracy–the success of a marriage based on a single factor.

Dr. Gottman had expected to find that successful couples communicate at deep, intimate levels throughout the day. He had expected to find that they usually agree with one another. But that was not what the research showed!

Instead, Dr. Gottman discovered that the single most important factor in marriage is attentiveness. Successful couples are attentive to one another’s attempts to connect. Couples who are not attentive to one another in positive ways will eventually break up.

Dr. Gottman found that husbands and wives make bids for attention throughout the day. A “bid” is any attempt to connect with another person. A bid can be spoken words, a touch, a facial expression, or a sound. “Accepting” a bid means responding to a bid in a positive way. This process of making and accepting bids is what knits a relationship together.

Accepting a bid can be as simple as responding to a comment by saying, “Really? That’s interesting!” If your wife smiles at you, you can smile back or wink. If your husband says that there is a red bird sitting on the fence, you can take a moment to look out the window and thank your husband for pointing that out.

Ignoring bids or responding in a hostile way (“Who cares?!”) absolutely shreds a marriage.

This concept of making and accepting bids is simple, but it is extremely important. (It is another expression of honor.) Be attentive to your spouse’s bids, and respond in pleasant ways. Responses may be brief, but making the effort to acknowledge your spouse is critical.

Join us next week for the second half of the Core Strengths series! Until then, what did you learn from Tami today that could encourage your own marriage? Or if you’re a young adult, what idea might you want to tuck away for later? Please share in the comments.

4 Core Strengths in Marriage by @manna4marriage on @kjhogrefe

10-Point Check-Up for Your Relationship, Part 2

Short on time? Listen to the audio version of this post.

Last time, we looked at five check-points from I Corinthians 13 to help us evaluate if we are loving our spouse, significant other, and other loved ones well. Today, let’s round out the list with five more points. Can we truthfully fill our names in the blank? More than likely, we all have some areas needing God’s refining work.

#6: I ______ am not self-seeking.

Do you take an interest in what interests your spouse? One of the best ways to show your SO that you care is to actively engage with his interests instead of demanding your preferences. For example, James enjoys watching cross-country biking. I honestly didn’t know that was a “thing” before we met, but guess who now knows the top racers by name? Yep, I do. Go ‘Merica and Kate Courtney!

When we seek others’ interests above our own, we cultivate the mind of Christ. In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul wrote these words:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (NKJV).

Although Paul was referring to unity in the church body here, I think the mindset of humility has far-reaching applications for our relationships. We can love well when we put others’ well being  and preferences above our own.

#7: I ______ am not easily angered.

There is never a reason to raise our voice to someone we care about unless perhaps his personal safety is in danger. “Watch out for that falling tree!” Yes, that would merit screaming. However, our common speech should “always be with grace” (Colossians 4:6 NKJV).

Realistically, the people we love will anger us at times. We live in a fallen world, and anger is an emotion we experience. However, how we respond to that anger is up to us. If your SO makes you angry, express that you’re feeling angry and ask to talk after you’ve been able to work through your emotions. Responding in the heat of the moment will only hurt, not help, the problem.

#8: I ______ do not keep records of wrongs.

I once heard the story of a newly-wed asking for guidance from an older woman. The young bride complained, “My husband makes me so angry sometimes. How many times do I have to forgive him?”

The older woman said, “I decided my husband could do ten hurtful things, and after that, I would have a right to be angry.”

“What was on your list?” The young woman asked eagerly.

“I never wrote them down,” the wise woman replied. “But whenever he did something hurtful, I told myself that was one of the things on the list I needed to forgive.”

Such wise advice! Relationships aren’t sparring matches. Don’t try to count your love’s faults. Prayerfully examine your own. (See Matthew 7:3.)

#9: I ______ do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth.

A relationship that delights in evil is headed to the gutter. That seems like a no-brainer, but how do we rejoice with the truth?

When we face discouragement in our relationships (and we will), we should tune our thinking as Philippians 4:8 instructs.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (NKJV).

Let’s rejoice in the beautiful parts of our relationships and entrust the areas that need work to God in prayer.

#10: I ______ always protect, trust, hope, and persevere.

When James and I took our marriage vows, we pledged to have and to hold, for better and for worse. Daily, we must guard our marriage by making it a priority. We must trust, hope, and persevere even when rain clouds darken the sky.

I admit that we’re still in the newly-wed stage. However,  the other day James reminded me that we will always get to choose our attitudes toward our marriage. Our marriage will be what we make it. By God’s grace, I’m trusting for a beautiful, though imperfect, story.

Love Never Fails

You may have noticed I left off verse 12 from out checklist, the verse that begins, “Love never fails.” There is only one Love that never fails, and that Love is Jesus Christ Himself. He is our Model and our Example.

In our earthly relationships, we are going to fail, but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving to love well. As a runner, I’ve always appreciated Paul’s metaphor of life as a race. I think it applies to relationships as well.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV).

Regardless of any past mistakes, let’s press forward and love well the people God has placed in our lives.

Free Download

I hope this check-up list is helpful to you! Maybe you can use it as a dialogue starter between you and your SO. If so, click on the image to download the PDF of the full checklist.

May we all keep short accounts with those we love so we can be quick to root out and keep out any stumbling blocks to our relationships (1 John 2:10).

~ Kristen

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10-Point Check-Up for Your Relationship, Part 1

Short on time? Listen to the audio version of this post.

This month, James and I will celebrate our five-month anniversary! Each month, we’ve started the habit of doing a check-up on our relationship. It’s nothing formal, just a moment to pause and ask each other if we’re driving the other crazy yet. I’m glad to report that we haven’t!

In all seriousness, though, I appreciate this check-up, because it invites honesty, transparency, and a chance to make misunderstandings right early before something becomes a larger issue.

Did you know that I Corinthians 13 provides a check-up list of its own? If you replace the word “love” with your name, you have a basic check list of the behaviors you need to practice in order to love well.

Right, that’s easier said than done. But let’s give it a try and see how we do.

#1: I ______ am patient and kind.

Fill your name in the blank. I’ll go first. I, Kristen, am patient and kind.

Well, I typically am kind, but patient, not so much. Perhaps that’s why I’m thankful patience is one of James’ strengths. He helps bring my anxious heart back to center and reminds me that sometimes, God just asks us to wait. And that’s okay.

There’s an interesting connection between both these virtues and our relationship with the Lord. Consider these verses:

  • “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7 NKJV, emphasis added).
  • “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV, emphasis added)

When we are resting in the Lord and keeping Him as our center, we can be more patient with our spouse or in any other circumstance. Moreover, when we live in the light of God’s ultimate kindness and forgiveness, we more often remember to extend grace to those around us.

#2: I ______ do not envy.

Ouch. This one is hard for most relationships. If you don’t have a relationship, you might envy your friends who do. If you’re in a relationship, you might envy someone else’s. After all, according to social media, they’re perfect and have life all together.

The truth is, they probably don’t, and we don’t either. So let’s remind ourselves not to waste our energy envying. A synonym for envy is covetousness, and the Apostle Paul warns against this sin for one fundamental reason.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)

We can be satisfied with our current relationship or situation, because when we have God’s presence in our lives, we have what we truly need.

#3: I ______ do not boast.

Do you often find yourself bragging about your accomplishments to your SO? If so, boasting might be a problem.

Although there’s nothing wrong in taking ownership for a job well done, Scripture only commends “boasting” when we redirect the glory back to God. For example, Paul “boasts” in his weakness so that Christ’s strength can be magnified in his life (2 Corinthians 12:9). In that same letter to the Corinthians, he also provides the guidelines for when boasting is appropriate:

 But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”  For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18 NKJV)

When we find ourselves craving affirmation, we need to be careful. God’s approval should be our primary concern (Galatians 1:10).

#4: I ______ am not proud.

The opposite of pride is humility, and both are attitudes expressed through our actions. Even if you don’t think this sin is your problem, ask yourself: How was my attitude about going the extra mile when my spouse forgot to do something? Did I mumble about giving more than my share in the relationship? Remember, pride looks out for “I,” but humility looks out for “U.”

Marriage has definitely revealed to me areas in my life where selfishness is present. Usually, pride rears its ugly head in “pressure-cooker” moments, such as when I’m tired, not feeling 100%, or had a tough day at work.

However, making excuses is not the solution. God’s grace is.

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6b NKJV)

That verse tells me God is more interested in my character than my comfort, but He won’t abandon me when I choose attitudes that please Him. He’ll give more grace as He prunes my pride.

#5: I ______ do not dishonor others.

Word to the wise: Never ever embarrass or belittle your SO in front of others. However, dishonor can also be a private matter as well. Do your words build up or tear down?

Our tongues hold such potential and also such danger. The Apostle James warns that the tongue is “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8 NKJV). Eek! “Deadly poison” should not describe how we talk to anyone, let alone the people we love.

Next week, we’ll look at five more check-ups for our relationships, based on this passage. Plus, I’ll offer a download that puts them all in one place, a great resource to share with the one(s) we love and start a conversation about how we’re doing.

Till next time, love well!

~ Kristen

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2 Name Changes that will Transform Your Life

What’s worthwhile often isn’t easy. In an earlier interview, my friend and marriage mentor Tami Myer reminded me of this truth about relationships when she said, “Marriage is not easy, but the best things in life never are.”

While marriage is certainly one of the best things in my life, I didn’t realize that changing my  name would be one of the “not easy” parts.  Although the Knot cites that keeping one’s maiden name is a growing trend, I’m an old-fashioned girl. I opted to change my name, but I had no idea how painful the process would be. (The Knot also provides a helpful checklist for the majority of brides who do still choose to adopt their husband’s name.)

Did you know there is no way to make an appointment at the social security office to start the ball rolling with this process? Well, there isn’t. You sit there and hope a few dozen other people didn’t decide to change their name the same day you did. For that matter, you can’t make an appointment with the DMV either, so go prepared with a good book.

Also, if you happen to buy a plane ticket in your maiden name and then update your driver’s license before the trip, be prepared for extra inconvenience and possible embarrassment, courtesy of TSA. Enough said.

Whether you’re single or married, you’re getting your name changed one day. That is, if you’re God’s child. The good news is that no social security office or TSA agent will be involved.

However, for many of God’s children, the process wasn’t pain-free but marked a defining moment in that character’s life. Our spiritual journey may have its share of trials too, but the transformation is oh so worthwhile. Take it from these guys.

Jacob: A New Name and a Wrestling Match

The name Jacob means “Supplanter,” because the character Jacob in the Bible deprived his brother Esau of his birthrights, not once but twice. Sorry to all the Jacobs out there! However, his story doesn’t end with a stigma. Instead, God blessed him in spite of his deception.

We find his story in Genesis 32. Here’s the context: Jacob had traveled with his entire family and possessions to reunite with his brother Esau. Right, that’s the same one he cheated of his birthrights! Naturally, Jacob had good reason to be nervous about this reunion.

As a result, he sent a peace offering ahead of him by the hand of his servants. After seeing his family also safely across the ford of Jabbok, Jacob stayed behind (Genesis 32:13-24).

Scripture doesn’t say why Jacob decided to spend the night alone. Maybe he knew he needed time with God. Maybe he was just being a coward and trying to delay the inevitable. Regardless, God confronted him that night. Scripture says that “a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Genesis 32:24 NKJV). Most scholars agree that this was a theophany or a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. This post is too short to explain the significance of theophanies, but you can read an excellent article about them through Answers in Genesis.

The bottom line is that Jacob wrestled with God, and in the process, begged a blessing from Him. Perhaps he requested this out of pure fear or desperation. Though none of us has literally wrestled with God, most of us can relate to wrestling with God through prayer over our struggles and fears.

The result? God did bless him. He changed his name to Israel.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

Yes, that’s the same Israel who would become the father of the nation of Israel. However, God also gave him a permanent limp, perhaps so he wouldn’t forget the source of his blessings. Despite all of Jacob’s mistakes and wrongs, God gave him a new name and a fresh start. What an encouragement that can be to us today!

Saul: A New Name and a Radical Conversion

The name Saul means “asked for, prayed for,” and for the first part of his life, Saul probably viewed himself as just that: a man specially chosen to eradicate the stubborn sect of Christianity. All that changed one day on the Damascus Road when God intervened in the life of this murdering Pharisee.

As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:3-4)

In that dramatic moment, God changed Paul’s heart. He went from persecuting believers to spearheading the spread of Christianity.

“He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:24)

Okay, but when did God change Saul’s name? Other than his dramatic conversion, there’s no wrestling scene here. In fact, the change seems to be a more subtle one. Galatians 1 tells us that Paul spent three years before meeting Peter at Jerusalem. More than likely, these were years of preparation for Paul. Perhaps these were also humbling years where God brought Paul to a place where He could use him.

When and how God changed his name specifically, we don’t know. However, in Acts 13:9, we read that Saul is now also “called Paul.” And what does the name Paul mean? It means “small or humble.” The man once proud of his name and position relinquished control of his life to God’s purpose for him.

We’re Next: A New Name after Overcoming

Jacob’s new name cost him a permanent limp. Saul’s new name cost him so much suffering for Christ that he records a laundry list of trials in 2 Corinthians 11, not so he can boast in himself, but in his “infirmity” for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 11:30).  The truth is, we’re not promised smooth sailing in this Christian life either.

Paul tells us that we have both the privilege of sharing in “the power of His resurrection” and also “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10 NKJV). No doubt he learned this truth from personal experience. Both aspects are part of knowing Christ, even though the idea of suffering usually makes us squirm.

However, through the trials and challenges of life, we can be overcomers through Christ. Ultimately, the reward is a new name written down in glory.

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3:12 NKJV)

I don’t pretend to understand what that’s going to look like, but Revelation 2:17 does provide some clarification. It says that the new name God gives to us is sacred and special, so special that only the one who receives it will know it. Wow!

Changing my name here on earth may have involved a hassle and a half, but oh, what a privilege it is to be James’ wife! However, this privilege is but a picture of the wonderful change we as God’s children will experience when God gives us new names one day.

How can this thought be an encouragement to you today?  Please comment and share.

Kristen

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Wedding Day Joy: Stories Behind the Photos

Our wedding photographer recently shared our photographs, and I currently feel like a little kid who is about to overdose on Christmas cookies. It’s the feeling of, “Please, please, someone share this goodness with me because if I eat any more by myself, I’m going to burst!”

So this week, I’m sharing this happiest of snapshots into my personal life. Maybe saying so is cliche, but James’ and my wedding truly was the best day of my life, next to my choice to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.

Some Humor

Joy overshadowed the entire day, and I’m also grateful for the humor dosed throughout. For starters, my now-husband and I wrote each other letters that our friends helped us exchange before the ceremony.

I laughed out loud when reading his first line, “Do you remember the time you broke up with me?”

Yes, yes, I do.

That’s a longer story than this blog has room to hold, but I’d just like to encourage you with this: If you have a relationship you’re tempted to give up on (whether romantic or friendly), give it a second chance. Some friendships aren’t meant to last forever, but some just need extra work. Don’t let pride, miscommunication, or unrealistic expectations rob you of a tremendous blessing.

Some Tears

James warned me that when I walked down the aisle, he would probably lose it, and I didn’t mind that he nearly did. The love in his eyes melted my insides to mush.

This picture is one of my favorites, not only because of the love in my groom’s eyes but also because it captures his mother sharing the moment with him.

However, I was priding myself on keeping things together … until I started to read my handwritten vows.  You see, James and I decided to personalize part of our vows, so we scribbled them on darling little His and Hers booklets from Hobby Lobby.

The moment I saw my promises in my handwriting, I lost it. Not just sniffling. Stuttering sobs.

Bless his heart, James had a tissue ready in case he melted down and offered it to me instead. After dabbing my eyes and nose, I managed to gasp through the rest.

Many times, tears are our body’s way of cleansing or responding to sadness. Not this day. Mine were tears of joy and tears of gratitude. We both had prayed long and hard for God’s choice in a life partner, and today, all those years of waiting were coming to an end. All that bottled-up emotion just seeped out as I realized finally, I was making this lifetime commitment. Today turned a new page.

Some Reminders

Several people asked about the unity cross we assembled during our ceremony and said they had never seen that symbol used before. We absolutely loved the significance of this cross. There’s a detailed explanation that comes with the cross (available through several online sellers), but the short version is that there are two pieces: the outer frame represents the masculine strength of the groom, and the delicate interior represents the beauty of the bride. Three pegs hold the two pieces together, representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This cross now graces our living room. It’s a daily, visual reminder that we made a vow before God to honor and uphold our marriage and how very much we need to depend on Him for our marriage to flourish.

So Many Thank-You’s

One post can’t even begin to express how much gratitude we owe to our family and friends.  This day wouldn’t have been absolute perfection without all their love, support, and help–from my family who hosted the reception; to James’s mom who hosted the rehearsal dinner; to our sweet friends the Lambersons who organized the reception decor, the flowers, and the emcee responsibilities; and to our many friends who volunteered to help decorate and transport a myriad of items.

You know who you are, dear ones! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

My friend and Italian travel partner Maria drove overnight from Tennessee to Florida with her husband to help set up the reception. She is an absolute gem!

My dear friend Mrs. Lamberson blew any expectations of mine out of the ballpark with her gorgeous flower arrangements and detailed decorative care. I’m forever grateful to her and her team!

Only the beginning

Weddings are beautiful, but they are only the birthplace of a marriage. As we prayerfully begin this journey together, James and I want more than anything for God to be pleased with our lives and our union.

May we truly be better together for His glory.

Kristen

Special thanks to Aja Skye Photography for capturing these moments!

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To Guard Your Marriage, Guard Your Tongue

Special thanks to my friend and author Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com for sharing her words of wisdom in this guest post. Whether you’re newly married like me, been married a while, single, or dating, the biblical command to guard our tongues is relevant to all of us.

***

As you know, Kristen just tied the knot with a great guy (woo hoo!). Now, I know she’s overwhelmed with newlywed life, and she’s being bombarded with advice she probably didn’t ask for. Still, as the “big sister,” I feel the need to share the following bit of wisdom I’ve learned over the course of eight years of marital bliss:

To guard your marriage, guard your tongue.

Here are a few practical ways to bless your marriage through your speech.

1 – Don’t be Ugly

One day your hubby will spill his drink on your beautiful new couch, forget your anniversary, or run over your favorite rose bush with the lawn mower. In that moment, you’ll want to scream at him for being careless, forgetful, lazy, or just plain mean—but don’t do it! Instead, take a breath. If that’s not enough, take a hot shower, put on your comfy jammies, and blast the BeeGees.

Remember that this is your partner in life. You’re on the same team. Then sit him down, make sure you have his attention, and tell him how you feel. Even then, don’t yell or say anything ugly because you’ll regret it later.

“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 NAS).

2 – Don’t be Critical

Reality check: your hubby will never cook, clean, or take care of the kids the way you do. He is a man, after all, and men always approach these things a bit different than we do. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t help around the house or that his quality of work should be less than yours. However, when you see him wipe up a disgusting mess on the floor with your dish towel, take a breath. (There’s a lot of breathing in marriage. Go ahead and practice counting to 10 now.)

Start by thanking your hubby for cleaning up the mess. After all, if he were still living alone, it would probably stay on the floor for a long, long time. Then say something like, “Hey, honey, I like to use those towels for the dishes, so it’s probably best not to use them on the floor. Let’s use paper towels next time, okay?”

If your hubby understands why you do things a certain way, he’ll be more apt to follow your lead. But be careful here! If you correct everything he does, you’ll become overly critical, and he’ll start to tune you out. No one wants to be a nag (or live with one), so pick your battles wisely.

“It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman” (Proverbs 21:9 NAS).

3 – Keep His Secrets

As soon as you get married, you learn little things about your new hubby. Some might make you giggle—like his penchant for bubble baths after a rough week. Others may make you cringe—like when his frugality leads him to buy frozen steaks from the dollar store. You may feel the desire to share these little secrets with your mom or best friend, but don’t! Marriage is a sacred union of two, and when you share your hubby’s secrets with others, you let them into your marriage … and nothing good comes from that. Enjoy this time as you get to know your new hubby, and assure him that he can trust you with his heart as well as his little quirks.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip” (Proverbs 20:19 NAS).

4 – Speak in Love

While it’s important to avoid negative speech with your hubby, it’s just as important to fill your conversations with positive speech. Is he worried about work? Tell him that you’re proud of him and that you’re praying for peace and new opportunities. Did he spend all day planting new flowers for you? Tell him how much you appreciate his hard work and how great the yard looks (but avoid mentioning the fact that he ran over the last batch of flowers). This isn’t about platitudes but about finding something good, something sweet to say to the one you love.

“A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4 NAS).

Those are four different ways you can guard your tongue—but that’s easier said than done. The apostle James had this to say about it:

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:8 NAS).

That’s less than encouraging, right? So what is the answer?

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:1-3 NAS).

The truth is that we can’t control our tongues through our own efforts, but if we submit ourselves—including our speech—to the Lord, He will give us the strength and desire to do so. Here’s a simple prayer you can repeat as often as needed:

“Lord, please guard my marriage by placing a guard over my tongue. Keep me from saying things that would hurt our relationship, and give me the humility to speak in love and kindness. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

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To Guard Your Marriage, Guard Your Tongue – @kjhogrefe & @BigSisterTweets (Click to Tweet)