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!

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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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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Got Hope?

Mr X and I are facilitating an “Art of Marriage” seminar at our church in a couple of weeks. (If you have opportunity to attend one, or the Weekend to Remember, do it!) A young couple told me today how much they needed to come, and the man got emotional; it seemed like he wanted to say more, but just ended up saying, “… we need this.” I tried to give him encouragement by saying EVERY marriage can be better than it is! And marriage is such hard work. Everything in our society fights against us, and it’s so counterintuitive… Put someone else’s needs ahead of my own? Give, when I feel like taking? Submit my will to his? Lay down my life for her? Dearies, the sooner we acknowledge that we are selfish, depraved sinners in need of a Savior, the better. And if you think you aren’t, read  Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things; who can understand it? It’s too sick to be cured.”  and reconsider. To be selfless goes against every fiber of our human flesh, yet it is what God requires of us, in relationship with Him as well as in our marriage relationship. The good news is that He equips us to do that with the help of the Holy Spirit and Scripture.

Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible. Matthew 19:26

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2

And of course, the “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13 which begins “Love is patient and kind…”

I had this revelation a while back and it made me feel better; maybe it will you too: When there are SO MANY verses telling you how to act, it must mean that it’s not easy to act that way. Notice there aren’t countless instructions telling us how to be mean and selfish! That just comes naturally. We have to CHOOSE to act in a godly way, but the rewards are great when we do.

But what about those marriages that have been hurt beyond the natural selfishness and carelessness that happens in all marriages? Ones where the love has grown cold? Where too many unkind words have been spoken? Where pornography or other adulteries have held a spouse captive? Where the marriage is dead?

Our God is in the resurrection business.

[God] will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; [He] will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Isaiah 61:4

Even if you think it’s been too long; it’s too far gone, He can renew marriages that have been devastated for generations.

I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn… Isaiah 57:18.

You are not a surprise to God. Your sin is nothing new to Him. If we weren’t sinners, why would Jesus have had to die?

Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. Isaiah 61:7

God doesn’t give us the bad that we deserve– that’s mercy. And then He gives us the good that we don’t deserve! That’s grace. Remember He’s the God of hope! (Romans 13:13)

There are lots of free online resources for hurting marriages. The Christian Marriage Bloggers Association, which I am proud to be a member of, is a great place to start. If you need prayer, there are lots of prayer warriors that read Auntie Em. If you need more practical advice, comment and I will keep it private if you want.

I mean it when I say– Auntie Em is here to help.

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He Wasn’t Always My BFF

Where does your husband rank on your BFF scale? Hopefully, he’s at the top. Because love changes as your marriage matures, friendship needs to be constant. Irritations arise; misunderstandings happen; responsibilities will weigh you down; heartbreaks and disappointments will come. But through it all, if you are friends, your marriage has hope!

Today marks the third post in the series Revive Your Marriage, with Sheila, Jennifer, Courtney, and Darlene. (Catch up with Revive Your Prayers and Revive Your Attitude if you missed them!) Today is Revive Your Friendship!

What does “friend” mean to you? It’s different for different people, and understanding that is part of what we have to overcome in marriage. I want a friend with whom I can share the deepest parts of my heart, and that friend will affirm me, feel my pain, encourage me, and then share his or her own heart. In my experience, it’s usually been HER heart! (I’m fortunate to have several really close girlfriends that fit this description!) My bottom line: Share your FEELINGS.

People who are not “into” their emotions, or “touchy-feely” like I’m accused of being, (Could is decribe your husband?) might want a friend who will DO things with them– enjoy the same things that they do. Their bottom line: Share EXPERIENCES. I’ve read that women tend to like relationships to be face-to-face, and men like them shoulder-to-shoulder.

So what’s a wife to do? First, you pray for your husband. Then you check your own attitude! Then you set out to REVIVE YOUR FRIENDSHIP. Don’t wait for him to do it. You do your part, and leave him to God.

I used to be really surprised when couples would divorce after many years of marriage, but now I know what happens: they are busy building a family, building a home, building financial security, building educated children… then suddenly, those “projects” are done. The kids go. The house is paid for. You have enough money. And there is nothing left to work for. You worked on autopilot so long that you forgot why you chose each other in the first place.

As our children were launching out on their own, I spent time worrying about this very thing.  I was afraid that we would have nothing to talk about, nothing in common anymore once they were gone. (I see now that I was guilty of putting my children’s needs ahead of my husband’s, and he sees now that he didn’t give me as much emotional support as he could have. We’ve both improved!) I talked to 2 friends who are a bit older than I, and past my stage of life. (Always have somebody ahead of where you are on your Board of Directors!) Their advice was oh-so-wise, and now I’m passing it on.

  • Remember what attracted you in the first place. What did you like to do then? Do those things again. (Sometimes this is not practical because you were in high school, and now you’re too old!)
  • Do your everyday chores together- plan meals; go to the grocery store; cook and clean up; build a garden project.
  • See if your budget will allow you to do some things you couldn’t do when all those kids were at home! We have traveled quite a bit since our kids left our nest! Mr X also developed an interest in photography, so I’ve gotten him several cameras, and we turn every vacation into a photo op.

And I would add these tidbits:

  • If both of you take God’s word seriously, you can put the needs and desires of the other ahead of yourself. Learn to at least tolerate, if not enjoy, what they do! I talked about engaging more in the football games for Mr X, and ending up enjoying it more. I still don’t love football, but I do love my husband, and he loves football, and he loves my going with him. It shows him that I love him. He has been to lots of musicals and choir concerts that he normally wouldn’t have attended, but has gone with me. He has a Goldwing motorcycle that he loves, and he likes to ride long trips and camp out… I give him my blessing to have guy time on these trips, but I’m happy to ride somewhere for lunch!
  • Make the effort to DO some things. It doesn’t matter what, just do SOMETHING! When you are so comfortable with each other, it’s easy to slip into the rut of doing the same thing every day, not connecting with each other, not challenging each other to grow as people.
  • Develop couple friends– Share new experiences with other people. Don’t wait till your house is perfect; have them over after church one night for sandwiches! (Visit Sandy at The Reluctant Entertainer for some great inspiration!)
  • And finally, as always is always the best advice, see what God’s Word has to say about friendship:

John 15:13 Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.

We are seldom asked to die for our spouses (though mine has assured me, and I believe him, that he would take a bullet for me!), but the more important thing is to lay down our lives in servanthood to our spouses. To put their needs and desires about our own.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times…

(not just when everything is going well and you actually LIKE your spouse! “Like” comes and goes, but “love” is there all the time.)

1 Samuel 18:1 … the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

I love this description of a soul-deep friendship.

Make friendship with your husband your top priority this week. Let Auntie Em know how I can help.

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