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

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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

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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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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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Questions from the Bride, Part 2

I’m excited to share part two of this interview with Tami Myer of MannaForMarriage.com. Once more, she graciously answers my questions, drawing from her thirty-plus years of marriage. As a bride-to-be, I so much appreciates her wisdom, and I hope that her words bless you as well.

Bride: Forgiveness is something couples must generously extend, but, of course, that’s not always easy to do in the heat of the moment. What has helped you to be more forgiving as a wife?

Ruth Graham, the wife of Billy Graham, said that “a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” How true! Learning to forgive is a marriage essential.

In fact, pastor Ron Zappa says, “If you are having trouble in your relationship, I guarantee you’re having trouble with forgiveness.”*

I have had a lot to learn about forgiveness! One thing that I have come to realize is that the moment I sense that my heart has been offended, I must take action. My natural reaction is to sink down into my hurt, to feel it, and to hover over it solicitously.  But that is a dangerous trap! I must act quickly to prevent an offended heart from becoming a deformed heart.

Here are a few key thoughts that I try to keep written across my mind:

1. A chance to forgive is a great opportunity! Forgiveness is perhaps the most powerful spiritual assault which we can hurl against the enemy. The opportunity to forgive is an opportunity to re-enact the gospel. I can advance the Kingdom of God in this moment, or I can walk into the enemy’s snare. It is a God-enabled and God-reflecting privilege to forgive someone, and I am a fool if I harden my heart instead.

2. I do not have the right not to forgive. It is easy to resent the command to forgive. We feel that a burden has been unfairly dropped on us, and we chafe against it. It seems, in fact, that forgiving would be an injustice! But when we think this way, we are believing the lies of the enemy.

The truth is this: it is an injustice for God’s people not to forgive. When we do not forgive, our spirits are demanding payment from someone when God has already paid in full. Insisting that someone still owes us after God has suffered severely for that person’s wrongdoing, as well as for all of ours—this is a great injustice which God will not overlook. (See Matthew 6:15.)

3. Forgiving will always enrich me. Forgiving puts us in a spiritual posture which allows increased intimacy with Christ. When I do not forgive in my marriage, it is as if I am putting up walls around me, creating distance between my husband and myself. My defective sin nature tells me that these walls will protect me. But I know now that walls of bitterness will always entomb me.

Bitterness does not build healthy protection, but forgiveness does. Forgiveness shields me from the corrosive acid of resentment. Nothing a spouse says or does has the power to truly harm us (although those things can hurt!), but our own reactions of bitterness can poison our lives.

On the other hand, forgiving serves to heal me. How encouraging! When I forgive someone else’s brokenness, some of my own brokenness is healed. How could I not see the opportunity to forgive as a blessing from God?

Elizabeth Elliot said that the best consolation is obedience. Perhaps we can adapt her statement to say that the best consolation for hurt feelings is the obedience of forgiving.

When we forgive, we are being conformed to the image of God. We definitely feel   s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d  in the process, but we can be confident that we are being shaped for greater effectiveness and for maximized joy.**

Bride: Do you have any resources you’d recommend to engaged or newly married couples? What are some of the resources you offer on your website MannaForMarriage.com?

Pre-marital counseling is valuable; but in many cases, there is something else that is just as important and even more helpful: marriage mentoring.

In your pre-marital counseling, you are eager to learn, and you are trying to listen, but you don’t really have a hook to hang these truths onto yet. It is like sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture on how to drive a car. It is hard to fully process that information until you are actually in a car with your hand on the steering wheel. Once you are out of the classroom and onto the road, you suddenly have many “teachable moments”!

Make a commitment now–before you get married–to meet with someone a couple times during your first year of marriage. Schedule an appointment for several months after your wedding with your pastor or with another married couple. Another good option is for you and your spouse to meet with separate mentors.

You don’t need to plan anything formal; it can be a conversation over lunch at a nearby restaurant. But get your plan written on the calendar.

Also, plan to attend a marriage conference together, such as Weekend to Remember.

There are a number of helpful resources on my website, MannaForMarriage.com:

  • I recommend several great marriage books and online mentoring videos on the Resources page.
  • You will find a group code for a $100 discount for a Weekend to Remember.
  • Join us as we pray for marriages! Every Thursday, we “fight on our knees” for marriages for fifteen minutes, and we would be happy to pray specifically for you—just email me at mannaformarriage@gmail.com. You may join the prayer call live each week, or you can listen to the recorded calls at any time. You can find all the information on the Prayer Call
  • Receive a free copy of Your Marriage: God’s Masterful Design, which is a short ebook (PDF) summarizing some of the basic principles of a successful marriage.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge, its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
(Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV)

I am excited for you, beautiful bride! May the Lord bless you and your husband with great joy as together you build a household of faith.

 

* The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2019. 58.

**Interested in learning more about forgiveness? Here are other articles by Tami Myer on the topic of forgiveness:

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Questions from the Bride, Pt 2 – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Ruth Graham: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Questions from the Bride, Part 1

As a soon-to-be bride, I asked my friend and mentor Tami Myer of MannaForMarriage.com several questions to help prepare me for my wedding this month. Although the wedding event is beautiful, we both believe that preparing for a lifelong marriage is more important than preparing for a single day. Having been on her own marriage journey for over thirty years, she graciously agreed to share some of the lessons she’s learned along the way. Please join me in welcoming Tami! I hope her answers to my questions will encourage and bless you as much as they have me.

Bride: Opposites do attract, and my fiancé and I are no exception! What advice can you give to help us celebrate these differences instead of resenting them?

Yes, celebrate your differences! You will have to be deliberate about doing that, though. Otherwise, you will drift into frustration and resentment.

You could start by making a list of those differences. (And then make another list after you have been married for a few months because you will discover more, believe me.) As you review your “reasons for celebration,” make the conscious choice to look for ways to make these differences work for you, not against you. Where can they provide balance? Where can they add strength? How might they simply provide richness and color? How do they give insight into your different needs and unique perspectives?

Remind yourself—and your husband–that your differences are for accepting, appreciating, and enjoying. Be deliberate about complementing and complimenting, rather than competing and condemning.

As you yield to the Spirit, your spouse’s differences will either delight you or polish you. Either way, they are blessings!

Bride: So often, I hear, “The first year is extremely hard.” Do you agree or disagree, and why?

I am glad that you heard that the first year is difficult because, for many couples, it is! Simply knowing that can be very helpful. It is like putting your seat belt on when the pilot announces that the plane may encounter turbulence: you will be better prepared to handle the situation well.

During your first year of marriage, you might feel as though you are in junior high because everything is intense. It can be an emotional roller coaster. It certainly helps to know that this is normal!

Here are some examples of common first-year turbulence:

  • You think that you made a terrible mistake.
  • You are alarmed that your husband is not the man you married.
  • You panic.
  • You are disappointed.
  • Your feelings get hurt.

When you experience some (or all) of these things, you can come back to this article and check them off your first-year to-do list. Then you can also check off these items:

  • You have many wonderful joys!
  • You experience new adventures.
  • You learn more about the amazing, complex, fascinating person that your husband really is.
  • You learn surprising things about yourself.
  • You learn awesome things about your God.

You will find that you made it through junior high again!  And through each successive year, you will learn how to make it the best one yet.

Bride: Perhaps because I’m getting married in my thirties, I don’t have the “rose-colored-glasses” view that a teen or twenty-something might have. Instead, I’ve seen enough life and marriage struggles to know marriage isn’t always easy. What encouragement can you offer the new bride?

This is a common concern, even for younger brides (and grooms). Many people are a bit hesitant to marry because they have not observed healthy marriages up close and in action. However, they have seen countless shipwrecked marriages, and they wonder if they will be able to steer the ship of marriage any better themselves.

But take courage! It is quite possible to sail that ship triumphantly, and many have done so. It will take work, of course, but sailing is not a mysterious skill. You can learn! You must choose your teachers carefully, but there are many who are trustworthy and who are eager to help you and support you.

Building a marriage is a lot like building a house. Although many have never seen the blueprints, and many others refuse to follow them, there is a reliable blueprint for marriage. Take courage! There is a Master Builder, and He is eager to help with every part of the construction.

Marriage is not easy, but the best things in life never are. In this fallen world, good things are always opposed, and great things are greatly opposed. You must simply remember that you are holding something very valuable in your hands—something sacred. Don’t let go! Refuse to believe that marriage is not worth the effort.

Your marriage is not a hobby; it is a commitment to serve another person, someone made in the image of God. As you minister to your spouse, your submission to God becomes a platform for His Spirit. He will work powerfully and redemptively in both your life and your husband’s.

Marriage is not only like sailing a ship and like building a house, but it is also like growing a garden. You will have to dig up stubborn roots and lug away heavy rocks. You will wonder if the weeds will ever stop coming. But take courage! You will also be planting and pruning, watering and weeding.

And beautiful things will grow.

For more marriage encouragement, check back next week for more questions from the bride, and visit Tami’s website MannaForMarriage.com.

Tweetables

Questions from the Bride, Part 1 – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Marriage is not easy, but the best things in life never are. – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

My Parting Thank-You to Singleness

In a few short weeks, I’m donning the white dress in my closet and crossing the threshold from singleness into a life-long marriage commitment. Entering this covenant will be the most important decision I’ve made apart from my salvation, and I’m praying for courage and wisdom to honor it well.

I realize if you’re currently single, you might be snickering right now. Why do you need courage? I’d sprint down that aisle if I had the chance! Hear me out, friends. Although I’m beyond excited for this new adventure in my life, I’m also convinced marriage is going to require as much, and probably more, sacrifice than singleness. That brings me to my first “thank-you” to my time as a single:

I thank my single years for teaching me to practice sacrifice.

As my single friends know, singleness has its fair share of sacrifice. Christian singles may have to die daily to their desires and submit them to the obedience of Christ. They often choose to give of themselves when they so much desire for someone to invest in them. And while life isn’t always lonely, it sometimes is. Even well-meaning friends don’t seem to understand the struggles they face.

Just because I’m saying ‘I do’ doesn’t mean these sacrifices and struggles are going away. They’re just going to change. For example, I will have to submit to my husband’s headship. Even though I’m so happy right now I can’t imagine this responsibility being a challenge, I’ve observed enough marriages to know that conflicts will come. I’ll have to sacrifice what I want for our marriage’s good. On a daily basis, I’ll need to die to my selfish desires to love James, my future husband, well.

Whether single or married, we are to be “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1 NKJV) and model our lives after Christ who “gave Himself” for the church, His bride (Ephesians 5:25). Our relationship status doesn’t change the command to live sacrificially. It just provides different circumstances in which we are to exercise it.

I thank my single years for showing me that my identity is found in Jesus Christ, not circumstances or a relationship.

When I was single, I often felt as though I had to prove myself in my career, writing, and service. While I certainly believe my single years gave me the opportunity to cultivate my God-given abilities, I had to learn that my identity isn’t found in anything I do or anything I have.

Regardless of my relationship status, my identity is in Christ alone. I’m God’s daughter first and always will be. Once married, I’ll still be God’s daughter and then James’s wife. And even if there are days I feel like a failure, I can take comfort knowing God is still my Father, Savior, and Sustainer. He’s faithful and will remind me that even when I fail or make mistakes, I am still His. I’m so glad to serve a God who gives second chances! Single or married, we all need them.

I thank my single years for teaching me to depend on God and establish a deepening relationship with Him.

My single years often drove me to my knees and to search the Scriptures for God’s promises. Many years, God seemed strangely silent, but I had to learn His timing is better than mine. His plans far surpass my stubborn expectations.

My walk with God has had its share of bumps and detours, but along the way, I’ve learned I can trust Him. I need time with Him each day just as I need air to breathe. My relationship with God has plenty of room for growth, and I’m excited about that. As I begin my marriage, I know I can depend on Him, even when hard times come, because He is always faithful.

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. (I Thessalonians 5:24 NKJV)

Whether God has called us to be single or married right now, His faithfulness remains the same.

I could add more to this gratitude list, and perhaps you could too. If you’re still single, waiting, or searching, please know this bride-to-be is cheering for you. My prayer is that you would not only find a godly spouse, if that is your desire, but also make the most of your single years. One day, you just might thank them.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful to DailyPS.com for hosting this post on their site. For more encouraging and inspirational posts, visit DailyPS.com.

Tweetable

My Parting Thank-You to Singleness – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)