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?

One Year Later

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This past weekend marked exactly one year since we learned that we lost our daughter Nia Audrey. Nia was stillborn on April 5, 2013 and it was and still is the most horrific thing I have ever had to endure. The blessing is that we endured it and we are here a year later able to share our experience and testimony. I honestly have been thinking about this post for a few weeks. So many emotions have overcome me in these last few days that it was hard for me to focus enough to sit down and write this post. I have come to realize that blogging and sharing with you all is therapeutic for me. It is apart of my healing process and an opportunity for me to continuously give God glory for what He is doing in our lives.

For a long time, I wondered what God wanted us to see or learn through that experience. I wondered why He allowed us to go through such pain. I wondered how He was going to use what we went through to help others. I still do not have the answers to those questions completely but I do know that Nia was purposed. I do know that if she did nothing else in her short time with us, she changed me. Not only did she make me a mom, but she made me stronger and wiser. Nia gave me a testimony. Through the loss of our precious baby girl I learned what it felt like to suffer. I learned what it meant to give up something and someone that meant so much to you without a choice. I learned how to truly press into God.

I spent much of last summer in tears. I would lay on the floor in the nursery or the living room and just cry out to the Lord. I begged Him to hear my cry. I asked Him to heal me from the inside out. I asked Him to make me stronger. I asked Him to let me smile again, to feel joyful again. I asked Him for total and complete restoration. I discovered that He is so merciful and full of grace. He gave me all of that and more. I found my healing in writing and sharing my story. I found my healing in His word, in the stories of women in the Bible who struggled with pregnancy or the desire to bear children, in the stories of the many men and women who overcame major obstacles because of their faith and trust in God. I found my healing in the face of my firstborn child.

I saw firsthand how Nia’s birth into heaven changed the people around me. I saw my family come together. I have heard the testimonies of healing and breakthrough in the lives of those who heard our story. My relationship with my husband is stronger and our bond deeper. And the love I feel for my son, Nehemiah is powerful. As a result of Nia I will be a better mother and wife, most importantly I will be a better disciple of Christ.

Nehemiah coming into our family has been such a dream come true. Joe and I decided early on that he would always know about his big sister, Nia. When we got pregnant so soon after Nia many people seemed concerned that we were trying to replace her. Anyone who has gone through what we have knows that replacing Nia with another child is impossible. We already speak to him now about his big sister, how she is his guardian angel, and how she changed our lives for the better. He will grow up knowing all about her and the impact she made in her short time with us.
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So, this past weekend Joe and I celebrated our firstborn. I am going to try my hardest for it not to be a time to go back to sadness too much, but to instead rejoice in what this past year has meant for us. I will always miss my sweet baby girl. I will always wonder what her eyes would have looked like, what her cry would have sounded like, what kind of voice she would have had, if she would have been tall like her dad or petite like me. I am choosing to find peace in knowing that she is in heaven with the best daddy there is.

Happy Birthday Nia Audrey! Mommy, Daddy, and Nehemiah love you and miss you so much!

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: 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?

Marriage Mondays: Separate vs. Joint Accounts

ImageSo I want to embark on a little something different called Marriage Mondays. This will be a post that discusses topics surrounding marriage that will hopefully be interesting and interactive. My hope is that you would feel comfortable to participate in the dialogue as we all grow to be the women (or men) that Christ has called us to be. These posts are not designed only for married people, but also for single people who hope to be married someday.

I recently had a very interesting conversation at work about whether or not it is best to have a joint account with your husband or if you should have a separate account. Prior to Joe and I getting married I do not think we thought twice about how we would work our finances. I was completely comfortable with sharing all accounts with him and with him managing our household finances. In that conversation, I was the only one out of five women who did not have at least one separate account. It caused me to wonder if I was truly alone. Over the years, I have heard many debates about this, many of which make perfect sense. Some women have expressed their concerns about their husband having previous financial commitments (such as children from another marriage). They have a fear of the money they have earned being garnished or taken for child support payments. I thought that once you agreed to marry the man, you also agreed to take on his children and they should now be your children as well. Clearly, this mindset is not how everyone feels. I also know of individuals who have gotten married later in life and already had their financial lives established individually. For them, it is easier to continue as they have been in the past and just create another account for them to share. There is also a group of women who feel they need to have an emergency stash in case they need to leave their husband for whatever reason. They view their separate account as a safety net which may be the result of past negative experiences.

For us, it has worked out well. When we married we were young and just out of college (but still in graduate school) so we were broke. There was no worry of what we were bringing into the marriage either good or bad. Everything that we are working with financially we are building together.

People often ask how we get gifts for each other without the other one knowing. The honest answer is that we don’t. We typically know exactly what the other person is getting for a gift and that works for us. I do not have to be surprised, in fact, I do not like surprises. I think that aspect helps us because I am never disappointed with my gift because I picked it out! In the event that we are going to surprise each other we usually have a set amount that we will both work with and pull it out of the account in cash. Nice and simple!

Obviously, my perspective is very different because of our circumstances. I am not sure that there is a right or wrong way to do things. I just know what works for us.

Whether you are married or single, how do you feel about this? What have you chosen to do with your spouse or what do you plan to do once you are married?