Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

NO VACUUM!

“Nature abhors a vacuum.”

 *LOL I didn’t say DON’T VACUUM!

Have you ever microwaved a plastic container without loosening the lid, then had to clean up the mess?

This happens because water heats and turns to steam. Steam takes up more space so it builds pressure till it explodes.

If you go the other way– put a lit on a hot container, then let it cool, the opposite happens. As the steam cools, less space is occupied and the container implodes upon itself. No vacuum!

A recent sermon used this illustration to show how, if we don’t fill the “God-shaped vacuum” in our souls, we will search in vain for something to fill it, and will invariably choose the wrong things.

Take it a step further and look at marriage and vacuums.

In an ideal world, the one that God designed, what fills up a marriage?

God Himself: He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. John 3:30

Servanthood:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Love: …But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12

And speaking of love, let me bring us again to Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. (Gifts, acts of service, physical touch, affirming words, and quality time. If you don’t know your own and your spouse’s love primary love language, you need to get on that TODAY!) Chapman’s concept of a love tank is a perfect illustration here. If we allow our own or our spouse’s love tank to get low– develop a vacuum– we create space for something else to come in and fill it up. The lower it gets, the more opportunity a negative force has to put pressure on your marriage. And have no illusion about what “negative influence” will come. Our culture offers us plenty– busyness, workaholism, pornography at our fingertips, relationships outside of marriage, hobbies, even church work! When we aren’t meeting the legitimate needs of our spouse we put our marriages in a very dangerous position for something– or someone– else to meet them.

An activity might be good, bad, or neutral, but if it pushes between us and our spouses, the devil can use it to hurt our marriages.

A situation we experienced, and I would imagine is very common, was when our children were young and I began working full-time. Mr X went to college full time and worked part time. I also began having serious allergy problems (thank you moldy old school) and recurrent sinus infections.

Needless to say, we were exhausted! I needed emotional intimacy and words of affirmation. These did not come naturally to a much younger Mr X. He needed physical intimacy, which was the last thing on my list after teaching then coming home for the second shift, often being sick on top of everything else.

In a typical male/female interaction, it’s a cycle– When a woman feels emotionally intimate, she’s more open to physical intimacy. When a man experiences physical intimacy, he’s more open to emotional intimacy. (For a much better explanation, please read Sheila Gregoire’s post.) But stop one and the whole system jams up. So I withdrew into child care, house work, and teaching. He withdrew into his school work, his construction business, and video games.

It probably was a good thing we were both so tired or else we would have been easy prey for affairs!

What could we have done, short of not working and going to school? 3 things:

1. Maintained emotional intimacy– talked about the situation and the problems and challenges it presented. We would have benefited from Auntie Em’s posts about Fruits of the Spirit in marriage, particularly patience! Acknowledging the problem, realizing that it was related to temporary situations with a light at the end of a long tunnel, having a plan to deal with it, admitting what we were missing and what we needed– all this would have helped us to deal with it in a much healthier and more productive way.

2. Maintained spiritual intimacy– This was pretty much absent from our marriage for a very long time. We were always active and regular in church, but we never prayed together or shared spiritual needs until the last few years, after our children flew the nest.

3. Compromised between realistic expectations and what we needed  from one another – (of course, that could have happened only if #1 had been happening!) This is a complicated issue that requires its own post… So stay tuned.

Few people have seen really healthy marriages modeled in their childhood homes. We’ve made huge strides, but our kids missed out while they were growing up. However, countless resources are available for building healthy marriages nowadays. It’s up to us to do the hard work necessary to overcome the deficiencies we come to marriage with.

What are you struggling to overcome in your marriage?

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A Fruitful Marriage- Kindness

Be kind to one another (A Fruitful Marriage)As Christians, all of us have the Holy Spirit of Christ living in us and His power available to us. If we are fully surrendered to Him, there should be evidence of it, and one of the most obvious signs is the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. The past few months I’ve been writing about the Fruit of the Spirit displayed in marriage, and now the Fruit of the month is KINDNESS.

Join me at A Biblical Marriage to delve deeper into the Fruit basket!

Showing intentional kindness to our spouses is a good way to build up the love tank to overflowing. What kindness can you show to your spouse today?

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Good Seed or Bad?

Good seed or bad?Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. Matthew 13:24-26

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

We had a guest pastor at church yesterday and he preached a sermon geared toward preparing us for our new pastor, arriving in 2 weeks. (yay!) However, as usual, a concept that applies to a church also applies in a marriage relationship. Maybe it will give you some food for thought, too.

All of us have 2 kinds of “seed” in our lives: Good seed and bad, or “wheat and tares” as in the King James Version. The good kind is from God; the bad is from our flesh. Which one takes precedence depends on which one we care for and nurture– like the story of the 2 wolves, which one we feed. Good seeds in a spouse do 3 things: (I’m speaking from the female perspective because, well, I’m female, but it applies to both husbands and wives.)

1. Good seed SUPPORTS her spouse because he is her spouse and God said to. We uphold his position as our husband and follow his leadership. We don’t try to be the boss of the family and manipulate him to do what we want. We act in obedience to God, even when we don’t feel like it or think our spouse isn’t doing his part.

2. Good seed PRAYS for her spouse and puts his needs before her own. This is what submission means, despite the archaic connotation that many would have us believe.

3. Good seed SUPPORTS her spouse personally, speaking good things to him and about him. If we must bring up a problem or conflict, it’s done in love and with an eye toward reconciliation, not hurt.

Just as we have to “feed the good wolf” or nurture the good seeds in us, we also nurture our spouses. How do you nurture your spouse?

1. Good seed goes out of its way to be kind to her spouse.

2. Good seed makes time to pray for, with, and over her spouse.

3. Good seed looks for ways to serve her spouse, (speak his love language) whether it’s helping with a project, picking up the slack at home when his work is overwhelming him, fixing a special food, etc.

4. Good seed spends time with her spouse just for fun. Going to a football game when it’s not your favorite thing to do. Parking in a lawn chair in the garage when he’s working on the lawn mower. All those times when you could be doing something else– even when you have a thousand things you could be doing in the house– when you choose to spend time with your husband, he knows you’ve chosen him over all those things, and it blesses him.

How can you do some nurturing today?

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A Sweet and Powerful Thing

Back at the end of November, after Mr X had his wreck and I asked for prayers, I posted on my Auntie Em Facebook page, “Thank you so much for prayers from ALL OVER THE U.S. AND THE WORLD!! The fellowship of Believers is a sweet and powerful thing!” The more I thought about that phrase, the more I realized that it is so very true! In this situation alone we have seen it. I have readers from many countries, some who leave comments regularly telling me they are praying, and I’m sure for every one who leaves a comment there are dozens who don’t but still pray. I fully believe Mr X’s deliverance from very serious injury (even death) and quick recovery were due to the prayers of brother and sister Believers.

The past couple of months have been hard for me. After the accident (November 24) I missed 3 days of school the week before our Christmas concert (December 6), and an important audition for my kids. Our Middle school concert was December 4, and I began to get sick December 5. The normal progression is scratchy throat, throat-on-fire, laryngitis, blown up sinuses and bronchitis. It stayed true to form! I was praying that laryngitis would hold off till after the high school concert since I was singing Soprano 1 in an ensemble with my Area choir qualifiers. (Thank You Jesus; it did.) There were five more performance events the following week, and the sinus infection just kept its claws in me.

I eventually went to the doctor and began a 10-day course of antibiotics and Prednisone, followed by another round of different antibiotic. I’m actually still coughing and am not sure I’m entirely well! I didn’t decorate for Christmas beyond the few large things I could get from my Christmas closet without digging, and a tabletop fiber optic tree. (Sunshine calls it my white-trash tree!) I didn’t send Christmas cards. I didn’t finish my shopping and we ended up giving our kids money hidden inside giveaway flashlights. I didn’t cook for our get together–Sis brought gumbo leftover from her Christmas party.

The holidays were wonderful– we had planned a short trip, but neither of us was up to it, so we stayed home and rested, which is just perfect for me. They were over way too fast! And now we’ve had rain, rain, and more rain, and I am fighting off the blues, holding my breath and praying that it is not my old companion, wintertime depression knocking at my door.

I’m telling you all this not to complain and wallow in self-pity, but to be honest and share my heart with you, so that when I tell you about how the fellowship of Believers has uplifted us, you will have a context for understanding.

The day of the accident, my in-laws drove me to Lufkin, where Mr X was in the ER, about a 2-hour drive. We found out later that people stopped immediately to help. Somebody called 911 when they saw the wreck; one lady was a nurse who told Mr X he needed to be still because he was hurt, and another lady knelt down and prayed with him. His riding buddy who was also injured but was checked and released, and his wife came and prayed with us before they went home.  Our daughters and their husbands dropped everything to drive to our house, pack my suitcase, pick me up from Lufkin, and get me to Houston to the hospital where they transferred him.

As soon as I heard and was waiting to leave for Lufkin, I texted a few friends to pray, as I didn’t know the extent of his injuries, and they prayed. As word spread, so did the circle of prayers. (When he was released from the hospital and went to follow up with his doctor, he saw the PA, whom he had not seen before, and he said something about Sunshine– a light came on in the PA’s face and she said, “We prayed for you Saturday!” Turns out she has known Sunshine for years through the Emmaus/Chrysalis community, but she knows her married name, so this prayer had just been offered up for “Sunshine’s dad.”)

Our coworkers picked up whatever needed doing and said, “Don’t even think about work. We’ll take care of it.” And we didn’t, because they truly meant what they said, and took care of everything. My sweet (band director) supervisor offered to go to our choir auditions and do whatever he could, and my middle school director took over my classes and my spot in the auditions. Another coworker gave us firewood since Mr X couldn’t cut and split wood this year. Friends let us borrow medical equipment that we needed till his mobility was restored.

A high school friend of Mr X’s works in Houston and came by the hospital and prayed with us. When we got home, many friends brought food and sent cards. Our church prayed. Our children and their friends prayed. Our friends and their churches prayed. Our coworkers prayed. My Facebook friends, and Auntie Em’s friends and their churches prayed. I was so humbled and thankful.

The amazing thing about the fellowship of Believers is that we don’t have to know one another at all to have care and concern– because of our relationship to our Father, we have an automatic brotherhood and sisterhood. We don’t have to know the details of the need, or even the names of the people because God knows all that. All we have to do is come before Him and lift our needs and those that we know about.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I have a new understanding of this one– although His power is shown through us when we are weak, His power is also seen through others when they minister to us in our weakness.

Thank you for your prayers.

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Armor Up your Marriage

armor up your marriageIn my last post I wrote about my husband’s motorcycle accident at the end of November, and how his riding gear– a full face helmet, riding gloves and boots, and an armored jacket– saved his skin, and I believe, his life. (Read “Armor Up!” if you missed it.)  I got to thinking how God provides protective armor for us spiritually, and also in our marriages.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms… Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:11-12, 14-17

Stand against the devil’s schemes

It’s important to remember that God created and ordained marriage, and it is meant to be an earthly representation of the relationship between Christ and His church. Marriages that follow God’s rules are the foundation of healthy families, which in turn build a Godly society. And our enemy hates everything about marriage. Humans can do plenty of wrong, selfish things on our own, but remember when your spouse has stepped on your last nerve that the devil is scheming against your marriage. Your spouse is not your enemy– Satan is, and all the authorities and powers of this dark world. The armor that protects our spirits can also protect our marriages.

The belt of truth

The other day a salesman counseled Mr X to buy something that was more than he wanted to spend by saying, “Well just buy it and don’t tell your wife!” (He not only didn’t buy it, but told the man that he has too much respect for his wife to do that. WOW!) I remember before I started teaching school, a close friend my mother’s age advised me to write a check for groceries a little over the amount and hold that money aside as “my” money. Telling “little white lies” to your spouse is NOT okay. Neither is neglecting to tell them something you don’t want them to know, or doing something you know they don’t want you to do and hoping they don’t find out. You’re MARRIED. You are ONE FLESH. Don’t keep secrets. Nothing about you is not their business. Deception is like a little tree that grows up between the cracks in a sidewalk; it gets bigger and bigger and eventually breaks the sidewalk to pieces.

The breastplate of righteousness

In addition to general instructions on the Christian way of life, the Bible gives Christians very detailed instructions on how to behave in marriage. (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7 to name a few) In a nutshell: Husbands are to love their wives with Christlike love. Wives are to respect their husbands. They actually submit to one another, loving with servant love, but somebody has to have controlling interest. That’s how I see Biblical submission of wives. The husband has the ultimate authority because his is the ultimate responsibility. I rarely watch TV and one of the big reasons is that I can’t stand the way husbands and dads are belittled and made fun of. Ladies, if you badmouth your husband that is wrong. Men, if you put your own needs ahead of your wife’s, that is wrong. If we want our marriages to be protected by God’s armor, we have to operate by His rule book.

The Gospel of peace

A Christian home should be a place of safety and peace, an oasis in a dry and dusty land!

  • Husbands,  love your wives and never treat them harshly. (Ephesians 3:19)
  • Wives, remember It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife. (Proverbs 21:19) Beware of husband-bashing parties that sometimes develop when a group of girlfriends get together.

The shield of faith

I know this Scripture is talking about faith in God, but faith in your spouse is an important thing, too. Don’t assume the worst when they say something wrong; look for a different explanation. (Maybe he’s not a self-centered pig; maybe he had a really bad day at work. Maybe she isn’t totally selfish and insensitive to your needs; maybe SHE had a really bad day at work!) Often we put on a happy face out in the world, then really let our hair down at home, with the one we trust the most. Be careful not to take that trust for granted. Give a warning ahead of time if you are “out of sorts” as we say in Texas.

The helmet of salvation

I can’t stretch this one to apply to anything but God. But to put it in a marital context, if you are both believers, you are not only husband and wife, you are brother and sister in Christ. You share a common relationship with your heavenly Father. Everything that Christ exemplified and is written about relationships — selflessness, kindness, forgiveness, longsuffering, etc— also applies in marriages.

Marriages in our world today are subjected to all kinds of hazards, from sick children to leaking dishwashers to lost jobs to infidelity. The protective armor of God can deflect many of these “flaming arrows” and can give us strength to fight the battles that will come. Armor up!

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Forgive how many times?

love forgives

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22

Then Jesus begins the parable of the servants who owed money to their master; and the one who owed a huge amount was forgiven the debt; after which he choked and imprisoned someone who owed him a pittance. I’m right there in the cheap seats, cheering when the master called him back in, tortured and imprisoned him till he could repay the original debt. Yeah! You deserve it, jerk!

But then– you know what I’m going to say, don’t you? God whispers. “Ahem…. ahem… I forgave you a huge debt. Remember? Shouldn’t you forgive the pittance that you think you are owed?”

UGH.

Do you have anyone in your life that occasionally irritates or annoys you? Or hurts your feelings? Or makes you hopping mad? Like maybe your husband?

This might be hard to imagine, but sometimes Mr X is insensitive. He’s very smart and witty, and sometimes he can’t resist popping out a smart remark, going for the joke.

And there are other times he’s said and done things over the years that have hurt and disappointed. Of course he has! He is by nature a selfish, depraved sinner, just like me. It’s only God’s grace that makes us the least bit loving and loveable. I know all this, and I really love him so very much, and enjoy his company! He spoils me and loves me extravagantly.

But there are times when I start remembering some old offense, maybe from months or years ago. I’ll roll it around in my mind, over and over, looking at it from all angles, poking and prodding to see if I can figure out any motive or feeling I haven’t already. Did I remember it all? “Maybe he said this… He must have thought… I bet he didn’t even… I should have said… If that happens again, I’ll do…” Seriously, Auntie Em? Pitiful, I know.

 And God is clearing His throat, giving me gently nudges. “Melinda… Remember… Micah 7:18″

Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Notice the remnant really is guilty. “Pardon” doesn’t mean they didn’t do it; it means they did it but don’t have to pay for it. And they sinned against GOD, sinless and perfect, not me, another sinner, who oftentimes had some part in the whole episode. But if we want Christlike characteristics, forgiveness is a big one!

  • We can’t stay angry and be like Christ.
  • We must show unfailing love. (which covers a multitude of sins 1 Peter 4:8)
  • We must have compassion. When everything calms down and a husband realizes he’s hurt the one he loves the most and is supposed to protect, it hurts him on many levels– to see her pain, and the disappointment he has in himself for falling short as a Christian and as a husband.
  • We mustn’t GO FISHING! When we make the choice to forgive, we need to throw the sin into the depths of the sea and leave it there.

When one of these temptations to relive an offense pops up, I say NO in my mind– I picture it in all caps. Then, I’ll actively use my senses– looking at what’s around me or concentrating on what I hear, something like that, and begin thanking God for forgiveness and newness in Christ. If  the offense still hangs around,  I’ll go to step 2, and say “That’s old news– over and done. Forgiven. In the bottom of the sea.” Usually by this time it’s gone, but if I need a step 3, there is Scripture and prayer– I realize that our enemy would like nothing better than to rekindle old hurts and disrupt our marriage, because he hates us and he hates God. He can’t get at God directly, so he picks on His children. I tell God I know what is going on, and need Him to take care of it for me, then quote some Scripture or hymns. I don’t have a huge store of chapter and verse memory, but I know this much:

  • When You forgive me, you justify me too- JUST AS IF I never sinned.
  • Love covers a multitude of sin.
  • Your grace is greater than all our sins.

Funny how God works! I had been dealing with pop-ups Saturday, and in our sermon Sunday morning our pastor said some of the very things God commands us to do for our own good are hard. The paralytic had to stretch out his hand. (Mark 3:5) The cripple had to pick up his pallet and walk. (John 5:8) The adulterous woman was told to go and sin no more. (John 8:11). And we are told to forgive, not just seven times, but seventy TIMES seven. Every time the offense comes to mind, we must choose to forgive again.

Did you get that?

Every time an offense comes to mind, we must choose to forgive again.

(Tweet this!)

I suspect if you are an introspective, melancholic personality type line me, this might be a struggle for you, too. As I’ve gotten wiser (LOL and OLDER!) it’s become less of a problem because I can squelch it quicker. I figured out how to fight!

How do you deal with old wounds that try to pop up and cause new hurt all over again?

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An Explosive Combination

The past few weeks I’ve written several posts at A Biblical Marriage, trying to negotiate the dangerous “minefield” of holiday stresses– finances and  traditions, and unrealistic expectations so far, overcommitment and exhaustion to come. But I realized I had more to say, because when you mix it all together it can really cause explosions!

Traditions provide continuity and a fun staple of family memories, but it’s unreasonable to expect them to remain the same forever. Sandy Coughlin wrote a great post about when it’s time to change, and included this profound statement:

“Tradition is a beautiful thing if it doesn’t overwhelm you. But with traditions come a lot of expectations. And with failed expectations come a lot of stress and guilt.”                                       The Reluctant Entertainer

I was seriously upset the year my kids decided to ditch a tradition that I loved. Our first house was a small frame house on piers. We had a large gas space heater that normally kept us plenty warm in our temperate southeast Texas winters. However one year it was freakishly cold, dipping into the teens, so we left the heater on that Christmas eve, shut off Sis’s bedroom, and moved her to a pallet on the floor where Sunshine and the Boy had bunk beds. Well of course they all ended up on the floor and had a big slumber party. It was an accidental start to a tradition that lasted several years, and I just *LOVED* it. It seemed so like the Waltons!

Fast forward to 1995. We moved to a larger brick house with central heating. All the kids — ages 10, 11, and 14–had their own rooms. When I started talking about getting the music room ready for them to sleep there they all let me know really quick that they wanted no part of that lame idea! Sweet and fun as it was, its time had passed, but Mom wasn’t ready for it to go. (I did let it go, but pouted about it.)

Any time something changes– it could be the ages of your children, the height of your ceilings (We had to stop having a 9′ tree.); the time your Sunday School starts (this was a killer; we had to stop having pancakes on Sunday morning!); or family members’ jobs, you might have to change and adapt your expectations. We don’t “do our tree” with the kids on Christmas morning after breakfast anymore, but I still fix our “Christmas morning casserole” and Mr X’s parents come eat with us.

Another area we can have a lot of unrealistic expectations is in the area of finances. If you are living on a shoestring and barely making ends meet through the year, it’s silly to expect a huge haul of gifts for the children (or ourselves) at Christmas, but we still do it sometimes. Those insecurities about our parenting slip in and we can feel like parenting failures if we can’t get our kids the latest big thing. Be careful about this!

Now let’s get personal. We all have “rules,” ideas that we think should be carried out. They are the cause of many upsets in marriages. Back at A Biblical Marriage, LeRoy and Gina wrote a great post about figuring out their vacation rules in Tips for Successful Travel with a New Spouse. Scott wrote a hilarious one about choosing our battles. Sometimes we don’t realize what our rules are until they are broken; we are furious, and our spouse is bewildered! Know your rules, and figure out if they are worth keeping. Here’s a true story of my best friend:

The first year she and her husband were married, she thought they should make and decorate Christmas cookies. She mixed them up, rolled them out, and they were ready to go. He was watching football or something and wasn’t interested. She was furious and dumped them all in the trash! He was flabbergasted and didn’t have a clue what he had done wrong.

The holidays seem to magnify any weakness we have or that we see, and they make for some of the most stubborn ideas about what the rules are. Have you seen family misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and fights over these issues? I’ve seen several.

  • I have to cook ALL the food, from scratch. (Result: I’m exhausted, and if you don’t eat it all I take it as a personal affront and am mad at you.)
  • My sister got a diamond necklace for Christmas and I want one too. (Oops… didn’t budget for that, so I guess we go into debt, or have a resentful wife and a husband who feels inadequate because he can’t get his wife what she wants, which can both spiral into bigger problems.)
  • You stayed with your in-laws LAST Christmas.. it’s our turn! (Keeping score is a sure way to result in family strife.)
  • I’ve got so many parties to go to, programs to decorate for, rehearse, and perform in, that when I finally get home, I’m too exhausted to give my husband and children the attention they need. (What is my first priority supposed to be?)
  • We have to eat Thanksgiving dinner ON Thanksgiving Day at noon. (Oh well. The Boy works in a Country Club restaurant and holidays are some of their biggest days. If we stuck to that rule, we would miss out on him.)
  • We have to have a whole turkey and Grandma’s dressing. None of that new-fangled Food Network stuff!

You get the idea. Avoid Holiday Explosions! Examine yourself and figure out your rules. See how they measure up to THE rules. Adjust yours if necessary. Be flexible and understanding. Extend grace! Remember the Reason we are celebrating, after all, and pray that everything you say and do will point people TO Him and not AWAY from Him.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15

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Tradition…. Tradition!

(Are you like me and hear Tevya singing?)

Tevye Tradition

Mike Burstyn as Tevye

 

 

Do you have timeless traditions centered around the holidays at your house? Certain foods you eat, fixed a certain way? Meeting and gathering on a certain day? Traditions give wonderful continuity and security to families.

But when you marry, or have children who marry, traditions sometimes have to change or at least adapt, and this can cause lots of conflict for everyone! Visit me over at A Biblical Marriage to read some tips to avoid stress over changing holiday traditions!

Holiday Stress

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Give Me A Man

On the way to church this morning I prayed for a marriage post idea, which I usually do, and I got one, albeit from an unusual place! 1 Samuel 17 tells the story of David and Goliath. I wouldn’t have expected parallels to marriage to be there, but they are!

Give me a manDavid has gone to the battlefield as his dad instructed, and sees Goliath taunting the Israeli army. He is huge; he wears 120 pounds of gleaming bronze armor and carries a spear weighing in at about 23 pounds!

He seems unbeatable.

He makes fun of the men. “Why did you even bother putting on your battle gear? … Choose a man for yourselves, and if he can beat me, then all the Philistines will be your servants!” Can’t you just hear the sarcasm dripping off his tongue? Then he adds what looks to me to be the Old Testament equivalent of a double-dog dare: “I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together!” As soon as our pastor shouted those words, I knew they were a battle cry, from God, for marriages! “Give me a man, that we may fight together!” Our enemy puts giants of temptation in our paths all the time in our modern world: incessant advertising to tempt our greed; sexual images literally everywhere you look to feed our insecurities and stir up lust in our husbands; perpetual distractions that can easily take our focus off the most important things. It’s a constant battle– however, when we feel defeated it’s because we haven’t used all the weapons at our disposal. Our pastor brought out how, oftentimes, we are so AFRAID of criticism or failure that we are paralyzed and do nothing. Look at the couples who don’t marry, but give in to the myth that love can’t last and marriage is foolish.

What can a young man learn about being God’s man and leading in marriage?

Give me a man

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

David was young and inexperienced in war. His brothers tried to shush him, and the King discouraged him. But he was confident in God.  The battle against marriage is between our enemy and our Father. We are just little soldiers. God is FOR marriage, and He will fight the enemy for it. We just have to realize what is really going on, and follow His rules.

Don’t be stupid. (My loose translation of Ecclesiastes 10:3–  …the fool lacks sense and shows everyone how stupid he is.)

David wasn’t foolish– he took 5 rocks, not just one, and he did have experience using a sling. Don’t rush in and marry the first person you are attracted to. Take some time. Have a plan. Have some resources at your disposal. Get counsel from older, godly people whose judgment you trust.

The battle is the Lord’s.  1 Samuel 17:47

David knew he wasn’t fighting in his own strength. Neither are we, if we will surrender our will to God’s, and take orders from Him. He’s offering to lead our battalion!

The difference in David’s battle and marriage is that David’s  was just one battle, and marriage is More like Whack-a-Mole– Any “giant” might rear up again, and when you do finally kill it, another one might take its place! When you take a stand for God, be prepared for war. That’s why we are given a full set of armor in Ephesians 6, and are warned the the devil is like a roaring lion, looking for a meal. Girls, we need to do our part in encouraging our husbands and raising our sons to be strong, godly leaders. Listen– do you hear it? God is calling– “Give me a man, that we may fight together!”

Source David and Goliath  Source Bride and Groom 

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Leave and Cleave

For this reason shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:

and they shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:24 (KJV)

Leave and cleaveHave you thought about the context of this passage? It comes right after God created Eve from Adam’s rib, and Adam pronounced, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

Adam and Eve had no mother and father to leave. God clearly put it in there for people who came afterward, who would face the sometimes difficult transition of changing loyalty. When we marry, we are to shift our primary loyalty to our spouse. He or she becomes our first priority, and should stay that way, ahead of children or jobs, or anything else on earth.

Part of leaving includes becoming financially independent. Dave Ramsey strongly advises against lending or borrowing money within the family. That creates a dynamic that complicates the leaving and cleaving admonition, and as Dave says, “Thanksgiving dinner just doesn’t taste the same when you’re eating with the banker.”

“Cleave” is a very strong word meaning “to cling” or “to stick to;” literally becoming one organism. After a Covenant marriage, to separate is like amputating a limb; to commit adultery (“adulterate” means to put something that doesn’t belong into something) is like putting in a malignant tumor.

Marriage was God’s idea. During the week of creation, every day He said, “It is good.” But after He created Adam, and Adam had named all the animals, God said, “It’s NOT good for the man to be alone. I’ll give home someone suitable to help him.”

What’s marriage for, anyway? Obviously, procreation. Specifically, procreation of children that we bring up in the fear and admonition of God, to continue His work. Another purpose is to exemplify the relationship between Christ and the Church. Servant leadership, selfless love, trusting submission. We need to always remember that a world of unbelievers is watching our Christian marriages, waiting for them to fall apart, so that when they do, their excuses seem justified.

The pleasure, both relational and sexual, that we receive in marriage; well, is it a purpose or a result? I’m not sure, but I know that when we get it right– God’s way– we get a lot of both!

Having a successful, Godly marriage requires a lot of self-discipline and effort. You have to give, to be kind and forgiving, when you’d rather not. You have to admit your sins and ask forgiveness, when it’s more natural to blame someone else.

Tweet this! Marriage is the perfect lab where we practice godly living!

There are lots of failed “experiments” in righteousness, but that just gives us opportunity to practice the other side of godliness, which is forgiveness and grace.

Here’s a great preacher and teacher, who was featured in the Art of Marriage, teaching on marriage at his church. Have a date night at home with your spouse and watch it together!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

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