7 Ideas for a Happy Marriage

My husband and I will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary this year. Since my parents divorced when I was three, the concept of marriage used to terrify me. I know the statistics. Now, though, I cherish this wonderful gift and thank God for showing me the truth. I’ve learned a lot along the way and continue to grow with each lesson. Here are seven things we’ve discovered that make for a happy marriage:

1.             Commitment.  We both love God and are committed to having Jesus as our foundation. When a husband and wife are seeking God with their whole heart always, God will seal their commitment to one another and provide a peaceful stability. On a personal level, trust has always been difficult for me because of my parents’ divorce. But, I’ve learned – when two people are fully committed to God and each other, it really is safe to trust. Commitment isn’t just a declaration you make at the beginning of your marriage, though, I believe commitment is a daily, moment-by-moment choice.

2.             Communication.  We talk about everything. Sometimes it’s not easy to tell him my true feelings, but I do. Often, I start by saying, “I know this is silly, but you’re my best friend and I want to talk about this.” Be vulnerable and honest with your spouse about everything. No exceptions. It is tough, but communicating the difficult things always takes our relationship to the next level.

3.             Love.  We both have our own faults and love each other with lots of grace. I am talking about those annoying little things — socks on the floor, toothpaste splatter on the mirror, toilet lid up. Do you notice I only mentioned the things that annoy me? He has his own extensive list of my faults! Ha!

4.             Respect.  We don’t yell, curse or call each other names. Do we have disagreements? All the time. But, we always maintain respect. Another note about this, we respect each other’s goals and provide encouragement. I always say – My husband believes in me more than I believe in myself!

5.             Physical Intimacy.  Okay, I wouldn’t be real if I didn’t mention this, but a blog may not be the most appropriate place to have this discussion. I’ll keep it simple – God intended sex for marriage. So, it is a gift to be enjoyed … a lot :)

6.             Teamwork.  Life is messy. We will always be learning and growing together. With our children, we are a united team. We talk about issues behind closed doors, then we use one set of rules for the kids. As for finances, we both work on our budget together. Early in our marriage, the one in charge of the checkbook seemed to be telling the other how much to spend. It created tension. With our personalities, we’ve found it’s better to do the family finances together so we’re always on the same page.

7.             Fun.  No marriage is perfect, but figure out what works best for you and enjoy it! Laugh often and be silly. Marriage is fun!

These work for us! What would you add to the list? Do you have any tips for a successful marriage?

{Mary} Christmas = Contentment

We started building our home this summer. Visions danced in my head of Christmas morning. No sugarplums — just a decorated mantle, fire burning, lights shimmering and the kids waking up in their newly-decorated rooms with their matching pajamas. Oh, fantasyland!

Then, reality hit. We were over-budget and had to make adjustments, which caused a delay. We are now scheduled to move in January. God had a better plan.

I’ve never thought of myself as a materialistic person. I usually only shop during a sale or with a coupon. I am perfectly happy driving a dented minivan with lots of carpooling miles. But, this house has been a struggle. Worldly desires creep into my mind, but I hear the same word from God … contentment.

And, then, I think about being content at Christmas. Especially in this season, I find myself bombarded with store ads and worldly to-do lists.

Most Christmas stories focus on Mary, the virgin who gave birth to Jesus. Lately, though, God keeps reminding me of another Mary. You know, Lazarus and Martha’s sister.

The story begins in Luke 10:38 when Mary and Martha were preparing for Jesus’ visit. Martha was busy decorating, organizing and cooking. Martha was an over-achiever. Can you even imagine how her house would be decorated for Christmas? It would put us all to shame!

Mary, though, sat at Jesus’ feet. She was more concerned with Jesus than the matching table linens. Mary had her priorities straight. She was content.

And I asked myself, Am I Martha or Mary? Is Jesus the priority or have I been too busy focusing on the “stuff”?

God has given us the only gift we need. The baby was born. He became the perfect man. He poured His heart out for others. He gave life, healed the sick, He loved and accepted everyone … even the most broken and humiliated. He gave His own life so we could have eternal life in heaven.

And, if that is all He ever gave, it was enough. Jesus is all we need.

Yet, we want more. As thankful as I am for our house, it is a materialistic thing. A house can be gone in minutes by a hurricane or tornado. The Christmas presents we give our kids will probably end up broken, lost or forgotten. We need to focus on Jesus.

When we find contentment in Jesus alone, our perspective changes. Even as life’s heartaches hit, there is hope. We discover that Jesus really is the answer to our problems! He can heal, provide comfort, restore, forgive, renew. He fills a void that nothing else will. He, alone, needs to be the message this Christmas. Mary got it right.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6

Let’s help each other have a {Mary} Christmas. What will you do to focus on Jesus this season?


Helicopter Mom

As she jumped in the car after the second day of school, tears flowed. She couldn’t even tell me what was wrong. I felt sick. I had prayed that transitioning to a new school would be a wonderful experience. Why didn’t God answer my prayers?

After the crying stopped, she finally said, “I’m the only girl at a table with all boys, and they use bathroom words. They’re really gross!”

I was afraid of what I may hear but curiously asked, “What kind of bathroom words?”

She replied, “Butt, fart and they literally burp in my face!” Tears again.

Writing about it now, I’m laughing. But in that moment, I was so frustrated. I wanted to fix her problem immediately. As I drafted an email to the teacher requesting a new seating assignment, I stopped and thought to myself – I’m behaving like a helicopter mom. At the first sign of a challenge, I’m swooping in to fix the problem. I’m not allowing her to be independent and grow from this experience.

I deleted the email and never contacted the teacher. Another week passed. Every morning, there were tears. Every afternoon, relief that the day was over. I asked others for advice. I read the Bible. I prayed, but nothing changed. After drop-off one day, I was praying in the car and this is what God gave me – You may be the expert on your child, but the teacher is the expert on the whole class. Then, I remembered Proverbs 2:6:

“For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

The teacher knows how my daughter fits into the group dynamics, I don’t. With this new perspective, I emailed the teacher. I didn’t request a new seating arrangement — I simply informed the teacher of my daughter’s problem. I relied on the teacher’s expertise to handle the situation, and I asked for her advice.

Immediately, I received a response. The teacher talked to my daughter privately, and they decided on a plan of action together. It all happened … without me. My daughter solved the problem by effectively communicating with her teacher, instead of my swooping in to save the day. Thank you, God, for amazing teachers!

Obviously, if there is a major moral or ethical issue, I will proudly be a helicopter mom. I will swoop in and defend my daughter. With the simple issues, though, I’m finding the balance. I want to know and be informed. I want to pray about those situations. I want to give her advice, but more than anything … I want her to learn. She can’t grow if I’m always willing to swoop in.

I prayed for a smooth transition — it didn’t happen. God’s plan was much better. My child learned to effectively communicate with her teacher and solve a problem. And, I learned an important mothering lesson:

Stop and pray before swooping in to fix!