Marriage Mondays: Strong Foundation

Every other day it seems like someone is getting engaged, married, or having a baby. Of course I know that it is not an epidemic and that it truly is just the season of life that many of us are in right now. In all the excitement of starting something new, moving to new levels, and adding to families I cannot help but think about the importance of a strong foundation.

Psalm 127:1 reads, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” I personally, never want anything that I do to be in vain especially when it comes to my marriage and family so the foundation piece has always been super important for Joe and I.

We have definitely been through some things in these past few years and I know that the reason we are still happily married is because of that foundation in Christ. It is our goal to continuously work to ensure that Jesus is the center of all that we do. When we first got married we quickly learned that our love was not going to get us through the difficult times. But isn’t that such a cute thought? Our love will see us through! Hmmmph… yea right!

When I am upset with Joe, when I am offended, or hurt my love for him does not always overpower my emotions. Many times my emotions temporarily win that battle and things get worse before they get better. Then I remember that my marriage is a covenant between God, Joe, and myself and my perspective almost always shifts immediately. I am blessed to be married to a man that understands that same concept and it has made things a bit easier to handle. When we found out that we lost Nia the first thing that we did was grab hands and pray together. It was in those moments that I realized how crucial having Christ at the center of our marriage was. Things for sure are not always perfect, but I know that our foundation is set firmly in Christ and that makes everything better.

Marriage Mondays: Service Charge!

Joe and I always joke around about taking a service charge when we do something for each other. Typically the charge involves food. For example, if I ask Joe to pass me a bowl of popcorn he would take a few off the top and yell, “service charge!” In response, I would make a little face at him and we laugh. The same happens when he asks me to do stuff that involves a snack. As I was reflecting on the little playful phrase between the two of us and even thinking of how we borrowed the term from banks I started to think about God and how it would be if He service charged us. Can you imagine how that would be? Every time we took a breath God would yell, “service charge!” and take our breath away for a short time. Or every time we sat down to eat He would yell, “service charge!” and scoop half the food off of our plates.

Thankfully, He is not that kind of God and we do not have to worry about those things with Him. Likewise, we should not have to worry about them with our spouse. So often, I hear individuals saying that their significant other owes them this or that because of what they did for them. I even catch myself having that same mentality from time to time and I immediately feel convicted. In a marriage conference we attended a little while back the presenters talked about the importance of serving one another in marriage. Not just serving, but constantly working to out serve the other. I was reminded of John 13:1-17, where Jesus washed the disciples feet. He was showing them the importance of serving one another, in love. Verse 17 reads,

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

I just want to encourage you to apply the same principles to your marriage today. Joe and I have definitely not mastered this concept, but we are both striving to out serve each other daily. We have witnessed firsthand the difference this has made in our relationship as we take the focus off of ourselves and place it where it belongs, on God first and then each other. As the word says, “you will be blessed if you do them.”

How can you work to out serve your spouse today?

Marriage Mondays: How I See Me vs How He Sees Me

A friend and I were talking the other day about how our bodies have not bounced right back after having our babies. It is so easy to look at celebrities and even other women that we know and love in our own lives and wonder why it seems so easy for them and so difficult for us. I often look down at my little pooch belly with pride and thankfulness because I know that God has blessed my womb to carry two babies so far and that more are to come. However, I do not always feel confident when it comes to what my shape now looks like.

I did not really realize that this was a problem until my husband’s compliments to my body begin to feel like insults. When he would look over at me and tell me that I am beautiful or sexy I would cringe on the inside because I disagreed. I would instantly take a quick inventory of the parts of my body that need some work. I thought about the stretch marks, extra folds of skin, and the incision from my c-section (though barely visible it is HUGE to me!). Yet and still he would have this look in his eyes that let me know that he really did believe what he was saying. This dude really does think I am sexy!

It took a while for me to come to terms with that and to even see the parallel between this and how God views us. I am thankful that Joe loves me… stretch marks and all (as he should of course!). I am even more thankful that God loves me through all of my mess.

Did you ever have body image issues after having kids? How did you deal with it? How did/does your spouse make you feel?

Marriage Mondays: Life with Baby

I must admit that prior to having the baby I was concerned about how our marriage would be different. Essentially, we are each devoting a large portion of our time and attention to Nehemiah (and he requires so much!). I can see how easy it can be to neglect other things and people or even to put your marriage on the back burner. As much as I am really into the baby and his needs I realize that we have to work to protect our marriage. I do not want us to become one of those couples that lose themselves in their children. So I have been thinking of different things and ways to keep it healthy, fun, and vibrant! (Despite the lack of sleep!)

We definitely want to pick back up with our date nights, although we probably will not be ready to leave the baby until he is a little bit older. My mom mentioned on the last date night post a really good idea for an in house date night. I think that we will probably try that. I have a good friend who is a pretty good cook and seems to already be interested. (Hint, hint- you know who you are!) We have also discussed limiting social media after a certain time of day and just focusing on each other. One thing we also currently do that we both want to stop is eating on the couch in front of the television. Our goal is to have dinner every night at the dining room table. That way we can gaze into each other’s eyes and fall in love over and over again every evening! (LOL) We also used to take walks together and we really enjoyed them. That will probably be more of a family activity, but it is still a good way for us to connect and do something that promotes a healthy lifestyle. I also think that once the baby is on a good and solid schedule we can have time in the house where we can do fun things like game nights, art nights, movie nights, etc. And of course, physical intimacy is important so that will be an area of focus as well!

I am excited about getting some balance in our home and working to ensure that Joe and I stay connected. Did things change for you after having a baby? Any suggestions for how to keep things fresh after a baby?

 

IMG_1583                                                                       Joe and I during a walk recently.

Marriage Mondays: A Moses Experience

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My husband and I experienced a great deal of hardship early in our marriage with the passing of our first child, Nia. We ended up going to speak to a pastor at our church for counsel and guidance. In talking with her, several things came out that really spoke to me and our situation. One of those things was that she described what we went through as our ‘Moses Experience’. When she first said this, I was like huh? She went on to reference the scripture in the Bible when Moses had a physical encounter with God on Mount Sinai. When he came down from the mountain he was not the same Moses that went up the mountain.

Exodus 34:32-35 reads,

And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in
in commandment all that The Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
And til Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But
when Moses went in before The Lord to speak with him, he took the vail
off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of
Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the
face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the
vail upon his face again, until he went it to speak with him.

This scripture takes place after Moses spent forty days and forty nights on mount Sinai with The Lord. Exodus 34:28 says that he did not eat or drink during that entire time. As people, both Christians and non-Christians, it is difficult to fathom not eating or drinking for such a long period of time. Sure we fast nowadays, but most fasts are time-restricted or restrict your diet in some way, such as the Daniel fast. Can you imagine not eating or drinking for forty days? Can you imagine not being able to use your juicer to liquify fruits and vegetables, like many of us do for our liquid fasts? Or not being able to set your alarm clock to 6pm to eat for our time restricted fasts? Can you even imagine being all alone on a mountain for forty days with no other person to fellowship with or complain to about how hard fasting can be? Moses had none of that, but he made it through and came out wiser and stronger than when he went up forty days prior. He depended solely on God for everything he needed. He allowed himself to be fully immersed in God and in God’s purpose for him at that time.

Moses’ face was different because he experienced something deeper than the physical. He had a spiritual encounter with God, he experienced God’s glory firsthand. After an experience like that you will never be the same. When my husband and I lost are baby girl we had a similar experience. No, we did not go up to a mountain, or fast for forty days. But we did have a spiritual encounter with God. It was an experience and an encounter that can either make you wiser or break you down, it can either strengthen you in your faith or cause you to wither, and you can come out on the other side of it with your face shining with God’s glory like Moses’ face or with your face battered and beaten by the storm.

When Moses descended from the mountain he brought forth the Ten Commandments. He did not come back from his encounter empty handed. He came back with something to show for what he went through, something that God gave him to bless the people and give Him glory. Like Moses, we all go through tests and trials. Challenge yourself to allow God to use you for His glory in every situation you go through. Imagine how bright the world would be if we all walked around with faces shining like Moses’ face and giving God the glory He deserves through our lives and testimonies.

What are you going through right now? How can you turn that into a Moses experience so that God gets the glory?

Marriage Mondays: Cultural Differences

When Joe and I first started dating a lot of people seemed concerned about our cultural differences. Joe is from Kenya and I am American. To be honest, I cannot remember if Joe and I ever considered this before people started to bring it up to us. We were just happy and in love! Neither of us grew up in homes where we were taught that we could not date or marry people from other cultures. We were not advised against it or taught to “preserve” our culture by staying within the culture. So I was kind of surprised when the comments starting flowing in.

I did, however, learn rather quickly that there were some very stark differences in the cultures we were raised in. This was even more apparent as we begin to prepare for our wedding. Both sides of our family had elements that they felt should be included and Joe and I had to decide what we felt was best to include. The wedding planning experience caused me to really look at the traditions that cultures have and the meaning behind them. I did not want to do things just for the sake of doing them, or because so and so said this is how it should be done. We decided to do things that we felt were significant and meaningful and we eliminated the rest.

As a young couple that was very important for us because we learned how to make decisions based on our family and what we felt was best. It helped to create the foundation of our relationship and instill in us the importance of uniting as one in more than one aspect. Despite the differences in how we were raised we were uniting under God’s culture and our desire is to continue to create our own family culture and identity based on the word of God and not man. Galatians 3:28 reads,

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
I believe that culture can be a beautiful thing. It is something that unites people here on earth for a variety of reasons and purposes. It is something that can hold a nation together during difficult times. Unfortunately, it can also be something used to divide and destroy if given the power to. God’s culture and kingdom supersedes all and should be what unites us despite the culture we were raised in. Within our relationship, something may come up every now and then about how this was done in our homes growing up or what this means. Ultimately we discuss it and decide what is best for our family. So far, that works for us.

Are you and your spouse from different cultures? How do you all balance traditions and customs in your relationship and family?

Building or Tearing Down?

Today, as I was checking out Aisha’s blog over at oldfashioncouple.wordpress.com I felt convicted. Reading through her posts allowed me to recognize another area that I am weak in when it comes to being a wife, homemaking. Now, I am not saying that my home is always dirty and things are all over the place, but I do have this image in my mind of what I want things to be like. Somehow, through my daily routine that does not always occur. I usually wake up in the morning and plan out my day while still lying in bed. I decide the main things I will focus on for work, business, and for home. Day in and day out, it seems like my list for home gets neglected after everything else has stolen my attention.

It reminded me of the importance to not just maintain a clean home but to build your home as a wife in every way. Proverbs 14:1 says,
“ The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”
So I had to sit back and ask myself, am I building or am I tearing down? There is so much depth to that question. It is important to me that I am creating an environment that is conducive to the growth and development of my family. An environment that is filled with love, order, and productivity. I want my guests to feel the same thing when they enter my home. It is important to me that I lean on the Word of God for wisdom on how to steward my home and family as a wife and mother.

Therefore, I have decided to start working towards those goals by focusing in two areas: my words and order. I have mentioned it before, but I always saw myself as a wordsmith. And not in a positive way. I took pride in my ability to use my tongue to cut someone down despite their physical stature or social status. I now want to use that to bless others more and encourage them, especially my husband. I want to uplift him as the strong man of our home. For me, this has definitely gotten easier over the years. I learned rather quickly when I got married that Proverbs 25:15 is so true! (“With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.”) The way that I speak to and honor my husband directly translates in so many areas, particularly the way my son will learn to speak to others and the way he will expect his future wife to speak to him.

As far as order is concerned, I love it. I love organization and structure. The problem is that I do not always follow through with it, although I can devise a great plan and system. My primary goal in this area is to bring more order to my home by maintaining it better on the surface- more consistently. Consistency in this area is my biggest struggle.  I want to work to maintain the cleanliness of my home on a daily basis. I also want to get better with meal planning and cooking because I want to build my family’s physical health and financial health as well. So those are the two areas I will be focusing on for awhile. I feel like Proverbs 14:1 is not something that I will master and then be able to move on. It will be something to constantly strive toward and over time I will continue to identify areas in my life that need improvement and change. For now, words and order is on the agenda!

What about you? Are you building or tearing down? What are some things you want to work on in this area?

Submission

I recently came across an article about Candice Cameron (most of us will remember her from Full House). She has been a champion for Christian marriage for ever and has been married for over 17 years. In this article she was speaking about Biblical submission and how it works in their marriage. I personally, grew up in a home where my mother stressed the importance of that. I listened to her have so many conversations and debates about that with other women on the topic. She is even supposed to be writing a book (where is it lady?!?!).

Candice Cameron Bure Article
Needless to say, I agreed with what she was saying in this article and on the video. I think that there is power when the proper hierarchy and in turn respect is present within a marriage and the home. Ephesians 5:22-33 speaks directly to this truth and parallels the concept of submission within marriage with the relationship between Christ and the church. Of course, there can be an entire blog dedicated to this topic alone, as so many women struggle with it. So there will probably be more posts on submission in the future, but I would love to know what your thoughts are on the topic and this article in particular.

Marriage Mondays: What I Wish I Would Have Known

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Have you ever looked back and thought “Man! It would have been so nice to know this or that before I did this or that?” I was recently thinking back about how much Joe and I have grown since we started dating over 8 years ago. But there is so much I wish I would have known in advance about love, dating, and marriage. So I decided to compile a little list of five things I wish I would have known.

 
1. You won’t always like your spouse. I think I was in fairy tale land back in the day and I believed that I would always like Joe… every second of the day. Then we got married and the honeymoon phase ended and things got real. I learned very quickly that I do not always like him every second of the day. Sometimes he gets on my nerves. Sometimes we do not agree on things. I do however, like him the majority of the time which is good since we are married and all… FOR LIFE!!!

 
2. You have to choose to love your spouse everyday. I heard this before we were married at a marriage conference and was completely confused at first. I learned later that I have to choose to love my husband past myself, past his faults (and mine for that matter), and despite whatever temptation, trial, or tribulation that lies waiting. That means that we forgive each other even when we do not feel like it. We serve each other even when we do not feel like it. And we constantly work to get better at being one.

 
3. Difficult times will come. In the beginning, I just knew we were going to have that storybook romance and that our lives would be perfect! We would both work, have our two cars, a house, have a bunch of kids, etc. And then life happened and we lost our baby girl. We were crushed, but our marriage became even stronger. I truly saw that I had a partner in life that was by my side when no one else was or could be.

 
4. Your relationships with others will change. I just thought that we would get married and everything would be the same. Little did I know, everything would change and it would have to change. My priorities and focus is different and my relationships had to evolve to reflect that.

 
5. Without a strong foundation your marriage will easily crumble. Joe and I were blessed to have both known Christ intimately before we got married. We both knew that our foundation would be Christ and He would be the center of our marriage, home, and family. As a result of that we made some decisions while dating to reflect that and to ensure that we kept Him at the center. We also work to surround ourselves with individuals who build us up in our marriage and as individuals. And we are constantly seeking opportunities to strengthen our foundation such as marriage conferences and Bible studies. When difficult times come we know who to turn to… together. When happy times come we know who to give thanks to… together. We are both striving to have a marriage that glorifies God. I did not realize how important that would be until that foundation was tested.

 
What are some things you wish you would have known before you got married?

Marriage Mondays: Encouraging Communication

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I didn’t really realize until Joe and I had been together for a while that I was not the best encourager to him. I always thought I was so effective at motivating him and building him up. Needless to say, I have learned that this was not the case. In reality, I was nagging him, highlighting his shortcomings, and tearing him down.

Of course I think my husband is the most handsome and intelligent man in the world. I know that he is strong and can open any jar lid I pass his way! He is a great protector and saves me from those crawling creatures all of the time! He is a hard worker and shows me daily what it looks like to do work with excellence. Unfortunately, I was not communicating any of those things to him. Instead, I was whining and complaining. I was acting as though nothing was good enough. I would make comments like “Seriously Joe, why can’t you just take today off?” or “We need to be in a house of our own by October 2014!” I was showing him that I was discontent with everything and making him feel as though nothing he did as my husband and the head of our home was good enough.

I suppose the change for me came as I was reading a book, “Soul Detox”. I was immediately so convicted on many things, namely, how I spoke to my husband. It was a harsh realization because as far as I was concerned you could have handed me the wife of the year award at any moment (not really… I have so much to work on!). A familiar scripture came up in that book and I was startled to realize that I was not speaking life over my husband.

Proverbs 18:21,
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits”

So, I am working on that. I am working to encourage him with my words and actions, to appreciate all that he does for me and our family, and to take my worries and concerns to God. What about you? Are you encouraging or do you slay the ones you love with your tongue?