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Are You Up for a Challenge?

Being Married is Like Riding a Bike

Twenty-seven years, two days, eleven hours, and thirty-nine minutes. That’s how long I’ve been married to my husband.

You might think that after more than a quarter of a century, we’d have this marriage thing down pat. That by now, the hard work would be behind us. That maybe we could just coast through the rest of our marriage with the wind on our faces, enjoying the view.

You might also think that writing books on love and respect would so cement those concepts in my mind that I’d no longer struggle with them myself.

But if you thought any of those things (like I sometimes do in my naiveté), you’d be wrong.

Marriage is like riding a bike. You can only coast for so long before losing your momentum and falling over. You’ve got to keep pedaling if you don’t want to crash.

That’s part of the reason I signed up for Revive Our Heart’s new 30-Day Respect Challenge over the weekend.

I’ve been waiting since February for this challenge to be released. That’s when Revive Our Hearts first contacted me about turning my book, 25 Ways to Communicate Respect, into a 30-day Challenge.

I enthusiastically agreed and provided the extra 5 days worth of material they requested, then waited eagerly for their design team to get everything else ready.

The process took several months, but last Friday, on my own 27th wedding anniversary, the project was finally completed and released.

I signed up for it immediately, wanting to experience the challenge myself and thinking it would be a nice review. At least on a subconscious level, I imagined myself being able to check, check, check off each day’s challenge. After all, I wrote the book. It should be old hat by now, right?

Well, the first day’s challenge was delivered to my inbox yesterday morning. It took all of sixty seconds to read, but brought with it something I wasn’t really expecting: Conviction.

Not initially, but within an hour of reading it.

I’d checked my email before church and found the first day’s challenge waiting for me: CHOOSE JOY. Been there. Done that. I’m a naturally happy person, so I marked that off my list and moved on.

Flash forward forty-five minutes, and I was sitting at a breakfast table in a bagel cafe listening to my husband recount how he’d fed the goldfish before we left for church that morning.

We have an unusually friendly goldfish who lives in a bowl on a ledge behind our kitchen sink. He swims to our side of the bowl every time anybody comes into the kitchen, wagging his tail like a puppy and begging for food. My husband, especially, finds this behavior impossible to resist.

But unbeknownst to Doug, I’d already fed the fish when I first got up. And I’d changed the water in his fishbowl, too.

And so I immediately began quizzing my husband on how many pellets he’d dropped into the bowl. And reminding him that if he gives the fish more than three or four at a time, they sink to the bottom faster than Gill can eat them. And explaining that when food sits in the bottom of the bowl, it turns the water murky, which means I have to change it every other day instead of once or twice a week.

Can you sense what’s happening here? I’m getting testy over four extra flakes of fish food! My husband’s been as generous with the fish as he is with all the people in his life, and I’m letting that fact threaten to steal my joy.

That’s how easily I’m tripped up at times.

But fortunately for all of us, that first day’s challenge was fresh on my mind, and it helped me to recognize this situation for what it truly was: An opportunity to CHOOSE JOY. A chance to practice what I preach. A moment that called for grace and love and respect and thankfulness.

And so, mid-way into my exasperated lecture on The Proper Way to Feed a Fish, I stopped and chose to laugh instead.

I smiled at my husband and told him how much I love him. Our family had an absolutely wonderful day worshipping together, sharing meals, and fellowshipping with dear friends.

And the fishbowl was still crystal clear when we got home.

I’m looking forward to the next 29 days of this free 30-Day Challenge. I think it’s going to be a great time of growth for me and of blessing for my husband. Want to join me? You can sign up here.

And if you’d like more than a 60-second synopsis of each chapter, I’d encourage you to get the book. When you order a print copy through Revive Our Hearts, you help support their wonderful ministry worldwide.

Or, if you’d prefer reading a digital copy, you can get it on your Kindle for just 99-cents through Wednesday of this week.

Why I Keep Saying “Yes” to Sex

Why I Keep Saying Yes to Sex | a word to wives from lovinglifeathomeAuthor Leah Holder wrote a terrific post this week for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which she entitled Why I Keep Saying “No” to Sex.

The gist of the article is this: She says “no” because she is not yet married.

Sexual purity is important to her because it is important to God, and she has therefore made a commitment to save sex for marriage, however unpopular or difficult such a decision has sometimes seemed.

The Bible is very clear in its stance regarding sex outside of marriage. (Colossians 3:5; Hebrews 13:4)

The reason we have the skyrocketing rates of STDs, abortion, divorce, and single-parent families we see today is because far too many people have ignored God’s guidelines in the area of sex for far too long.

But there is a flip-side to the coin: The Bible also speaks clearly about what our attitude toward sex should be once we’ve walked down the aisle. (1 Corinthians 7:2-5) Sex between husband and wife, says God, is a good thing. (Genesis 2:24-25; Genesis 1:28, 31)

Sex within the context of marriage is part of His perfect design. That is why I keep saying “yes” to sex within the context of mine:

  • Sex is Protective
  • I’ll be honest. I didn’t fully appreciate how vitally important sex would be to my husband (and to my marriage), until after I’d married him. Like the vast majority of men, my husband likes to have sex. Often. After my early attempts to lower his expectations concerning frequency failed to convince him, I did what I should have done from the start: I changed my priorities to match his. Sure, I could have stubbornly insisted he wait for the weekend. He married me for better or worse, and — being a man of integrity — I believe he would have honored his vows regardless. But much of the joy and happiness and satisfaction and delight that comes from fully embracing God’s purpose for passion in marriage would have been forfeited had I done so. And it would also have made it far more difficult to resist the many, many, many temptations that daily present themselves in this sexually-charged culture, if he didn’t have a wife at home who is ready and willing to take care of his needs. To deny your husband physically is to leave him vulnerable and unprotected. (1 Corinthians 7:5) It is foolishly shortsighted. Why would any thinking woman do it?

  • Sex Promotes Good Health
  • There is not a vitamin, supplement, or herb on the market that benefits our bodies as much as monogamous sex in a loving relationship: It boosts energy and immunity; increases longevity; decreases the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease; alleviates stress, anxiety, and depression; strengthens and tones muscles; improves mental and emotional health; promotes deeper, more satisfying sleep; and fosters a more youthful looking appearance… just to name a few. Want to know more? The first 11 chapters of my book, Love Your Husband/ Love Yourself, discuss in detail the studies that support these and myriad other blessings that come from prioritizing sex in marriage.

  • Sex is Pleasurable
  • My husband took me out for a hibachi dinner date a couple of nights ago, and the other people at our table complimented our deft use of chopsticks. Where did you learn to do that? they wanted to know.The answer? We first visited a hibachi grill on our honeymoon, and my husband thought it would be fun to eat the entire meal with chopsticks, so we did (albeit very awkwardly). With every bite, more food fell back to our plate than made it to our mouth. But after 27 years of practicing every time we go out for Asian food of any sort, we’ve steadily improved so that now we’re both very comfortable and adept at eating with chopsticks. You may not realize it, but a similar thing happens with sex. Sex may be novel and new on your honeymoon, but it just gets better and better with practice, so don’t give up or quit too soon. I can testify that after 27 years, sharing physical intimacy with my husband is more pleasurable than I ever imagined possible when we were first getting started. What was fun but fumbling and awkward in the beginning, is still fun but has become more natural and easy over time.

  • Sex is Procreative
  • I love babies, and sex makes babies, so that’s just one more reason to love sex! While it is true that God intended sex for marital oneness, that’s only half the story. He also intended it for fruitfulness. And one of the advantages to embracing this aspect of sex is that it makes for greater spontaneity — no pills to pop or scrambling around in the heat of the moment for a misplaced diaphragm. Of course, being open to children does not automatically guarantee you a Duggar-sized family — we’ve known lots of couples who would’ve loved to have lots of children, but were only blessed with one or two despite never doing anything to prevent pregnancy. Still, there remains an obvious link between having sex and having babies, and the more comfortable you are with that fact, the easier it will be to fully enjoy the physical part of your marriage relationship.

  • Sex is Part of God’s Plan
  • God made sex. He made it for a purpose, and He made it good. Even if your marriage isn’t what it should be — or if sex with your husband isn’t what you thought it would be — you can still choose to live in cooperation and obedience to God’s original purpose and plan for sex in marriage. If your husband shows interest when you’re not in the mood, accept his advances anyway. Willingness often precedes desire for many wives, and responding positively and sincerely to your husband’s romantic overtures will put you in the mood in a hurry. If you are interested when your husband is not, initiate sex yourself. Admire him, flirt with him, and encourage him every chance you get, praying that God transform this aspect of your relationship into everything it was meant to be.

In our society today, I know a lot of women say yes, yes, yes to sex before marriage, and a lot of wives say no, no, no to sex afterwards. This is completely backwards. In the end, such practices lead only to heartache, frustration, disease, and constant emotional turmoil. This was never God’s plan for sex.

If you are single, do everything you can to protect this vulnerable side of yourself and save it for marriage, then share it with one person, completely and consistently, for the rest of your life.

If you are married, don’t treat sex like some rare, exotic spice to be sprinkled sparingly on special occasions. Realize, instead, that sex was meant to be a staple for married couples — more akin to bread and water or meat and potatoes — and should be enjoyed regularly in liberal amounts. Doing so will strengthen, support, and sustain your marriage like nothing else.

Life with You is Awesome

The children and I have been working on this little surprise for Father’s Day, based on the theme song from The Lego Movie. Of course, it’s almost impossible to keep a secret in a household our size. Since Daddy already found out about it, I decided to publish a week early.

You’ll have to excuse the audio. Rap music is clearly not the forte of this classically trained soprano, but we had a great time putting it together, anyway… because “everything is awesome when you’re part of a team.”

And for those who are inclined to sing along, here are the lyrics for our version:

Life with You Is Awesome!

Life with you is awesome.
Life with you is cool — I’m so glad we’re a team!
Life with you is awesome, ‘cause we’re living our dream.

Married life is better when we work together.
Side by side, you and I gonna stick together, in all kinds of weather.
Man and wife, I love you, you love me, we’re both working in harmony.

Life with you is awesome.
Life with you is cool — I’m so glad we’re a team!
Life with you is awesome, ‘cause we’re living our dream.

(Woooo!) 3, 2, 1. Go!

Have you heard the news? Everyone’s talking.
Life is good and people are gawking.
Baby’s due, our family is growing.*
We’ve got love and joy overflowing.

Life with you is full of adventures
I’ll love you even when you have dentures.
Food in my teeth? Oh, that’s just awesome.
Next time, tell me when I need to floss ‘em.**
Love is blind — now I know that’s true.
It’s so awesome to be loved by you (be loved by you).

Married life is better when we work together.
Side by side, you and I gonna stick together, both now and forever.
Man and wife, I love you, you love me, we’re both working in harmony.

Life with you is awesome.
Life with you is cool — I’m so glad we’re a team!
Life with you is awesome, ‘cause we’re living our dream.

Marriage vows, wedding rings,
I just named two awesome things.
Pledged my love, said, “I do.”
You know what’s awesome? Life with you!

Clean, fresh sheets upon our bed, a feather pillow for my head.
Let’s go soak in a hot jacuzzi.
Not too long, or we’ll get woozy.

Pools, tools, jewels.
They’re awesome.
Girls with curls and pearls.
They’re awesome.
Boys enjoy their toys.
That’s awesome!
Every day of life as man and wife
Is awesome!

Life with you is awesome.
Life with you is cool — I’m so glad we’re a team!
Life with you is awesome, ‘cause we’re living our dream.


* As far as we know, there are no babies currently on the way, although it is probably just a matter of time, at least as far as grandchildren are concerned!
** This really did happen, although (thankfully) not at the wedding. It was actually on one of our first dates, when I got a whole black peppercorn lodged between my top central and lateral incisors and didn’t realize it was there until the date was over. Doug still claims he never noticed.

I Married a Sinner (and So Did He)

Nothing Else to Marry

What follows is an excerpt from my book, Love Your Husband/Love Yourself. I am posting here at the request of a blogging friend from Thankful Homemaker.

The letter quoted at the end of this passage is a personal one that Elisabeth Elliot sent me in response to a letter I mailed to her over a quarter century ago.

That was in the days before the Internet, when handwritten correspondence was still in fashion.

The ink on that correspondence has faded a bit and the stationery yellowed with age, but the advice Mrs. Elliot gave me therein is as timely today as it was then.

It deserves to be shared and taken to heart — for in a world filled with Hollywood chick-flicks and high expectations and Harlequin romances and (even) homeschool courtships, it is easy to lose sight of reality.

That reality is this: Your husband is human. He has flaws (as do you). And forgiveness will be essential if you ever hope to look beyond those flaws and build a happy, successful marriage.

~ Words of Wisdom ~

We know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but there is a difference between philosophically acknowledging your husband’s inherent sin nature, and experientially coming face to face with a particular offense which affects you. This is where the rubber meets the road, where forgiveness becomes more than a theoretical platitude.

I first grappled with this distinction back in 1986, the year I finished college. Doug and I had met two weeks before graduation and become fast friends. We held so many things in common — values, goals, beliefs, even mannerisms — that my own mother told me she would fear we were siblings had I been adopted as Doug was.

We were soon making plans for the future, determined that our life together should be built on trust and transparency. Against the advice of all his friends, Doug was completely candid with me about his past failings, and I am eternally grateful for his honesty.

Although the events he described had occurred in the distant past, his confession was difficult for me to bear; it consumed my thoughts by day and tormented my dreams by night.

Careworn and weary, I finally wrote to Elisabeth Elliot for counsel. With her permission, I close this chapter with her response, dated September 30, 1986.

Dear Jennifer:

How my heart went out to you last night as I read your letter, just received. I understand perfectly how you felt…. Even God, who forgives the sin and casts it into the depths of the sea, does not undo the effect of that sin, nor can you…. The tears, the nightmares, the unbidden imaginary pictures that torment you — how well I empathize with all of that, and pray for your comfort and healing.

First let me say that Doug is to be commended for not allowing himself to deceive you. He must have been in an agony over the decision to tell you, knowing at least a little bit how much it would hurt.

Second, you suffer not alone, but actually and redemptively with Christ (see Colossians 1:24, Philippians 1:29, 1 Peter 4:12-13, and many other passages). This aspect of suffering is a real life-changer. Study it for the rest of your life.

Third, you suffer quite literally because of another’s sin, which is exactly what Christ did. Because He paid the price for yours, you too must be willing to pay the price for Doug’s — the price of sorrow, heartbreak, the sense of irremediable loss…. Forgiveness means absolute relinquishment of all that. It is a laying down of your life. Your dream of the “perfect” man has to go — it is this man God has given you, another sinner (there isn’t anything else to marry!) — it is this gift you receive in thanksgiving, acknowledging the fact that in this fallen, broken world, there is no place where the heart may be perfectly at rest and wholly filled except at the Spring of Living Water. Drink there, dear Jennifer, and be at peace.

Doug’s admission will always be a reminder to you that he needs your sacrificial, self giving love. When you sin against him, as you certainly will, any wife does, you will then know, when you have to ask his forgiveness, that you are two human beings in need of the Amazing Grace that saves WRETCHES!! You are, as Peter wrote, “heirs together of the grace of life.”

So forgive him freely, utterly, joyfully — for that is how Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32). Bring all those awful thoughts and imaginations under the Lordship of Christ (2 Corinthians 10), and receive this man as your God-given husband, promising to honor, which means, among other things, never to bring up again that which has been put under the Blood.

I know a young woman who steadfastly refused to forgive her husband…. She has, in spite of Christian profession, destroyed her marriage, destroyed her own life, and blighted the lives of others. Don’t refuse the grace of God for your own deep needs, nor refuse to Doug the grace He will give you to forgive him.

Lovingly,
Elisabeth Elliot

I’m not sure what I had expected Elisabeth Elliot to say to me, but — twenty-eight years and twelve children later — I am so very grateful that she gave me the advice she did… and that I had sense enough to take it.

If this is an area of struggle in your life, I pray God will give you the grace to take it, too.


Want to read more? You can find Love Your Husband/ Love Yourself at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and many other fine booksellers. It is also available for Kindle or the Nook.

Love Your Husband/ Love YourselfWhat readers are saying:

“This book is the talk your mom never had the nerve to have with you.”

“I wish I had read it years ago…”

“Don’t miss this one.”

“…a message openly opposed by our culture and sadly sidestepped by the church.”

“…one of the most candid, honest, beautiful books on marriage I have ever read.”

Forever After (Free Printable Subway Art)


Wedding season is upon us: We’ve been invited to three weddings in four weeks, and it’s not even June yet!

What’s more, at least two of those brides are in their early twenties, which gives me hope that the trend toward delaying marriage an extra decade (or forgoing it altogether) may be starting to turn.

That makes me happy.

To celebrate, I decided to create a new piece of subway art.

You can print the design in the original 8×10 size for framing, or if you’re the crafty sort, you may want to print four copies per page, trim, and then mount them on cardstock to make your own wedding cards.

This is what all the brides we know will be getting with their gifts from us this season (along with a copy of my book).
Subway Art Wedding Cards

Emphasizing Your Husband’s Good Points

fill your head with positive thoughts...Pop quiz: Which would you prefer?

(a) That your husband focus his thoughts on your loveliest, most noble and praiseworthy characteristics?

(b) That he ignore your good points completely and concentrate instead on your most annoying and bothersome flaws?

Then do for him as you’d have him do for you….

  • What attracted you to your husband in the first place?
  • Express verbal admiration for those things.
  • In what areas has he grown and matured since you met?
  • Let him know you’ve noticed and appreciate the progress.
  • What things would you miss most if he were gone?
  • Thank him for everything he does for you and your family.
  • Never take him for granted. Live each day as if it were your last.

Dwelling on the positive isn’t so hard, especially when you consider that even negative behaviors can sometimes stem from positive traits. Trace them back to their source.

Case in point: When we were first married, it often bothered me that my husband would make what I considered frivolous and impulsive purchases (back then, it was sodas and candy at the corner gas station, later it would be new cars and cutting-edge technologies).

But I eventually came to realize that my husband’s spending habits go hand-in-hand with his giving habits: figuratively, since he views money as a tool, not as a treasure to be clutched or loved or horded; but also literally, because he usually gives away to some grateful person in need whatever good-as-new thing he is upgrading or replacing.

That lavish generosity, that willingness to share God’s blessings with those around him, that ability to give cheerfully, hilariously even, is something very good indeed. It is one of the traits I admire and appreciate most about my husband. And now I am reminded of that fact every time he buys something I think he shouldn’t.

It’s okay for us to be different. His strengths are not my strengths, and vice versa. Much of this is by design, as God intends for man and woman to complement one another. Different is not necessarily bad. It is just… different.

Emphasize your husband's good points....So don’t focus on the areas where you are strong, but your husband is weak – areas where, in your opinion, perhaps he doesn’t quite measure up.

That focus will lead only to contempt, bitterness, and resentment, which will deal a deathblow to your love and intimacy, if not to your marriage itself. Think instead on the areas where you are weak but your husband is strong, areas where he complements and completes you.

Is your husband flawed? Certainly. He is a sinner. (In the words of Elizabeth Elliot, “There isn’t anything else to marry!”)

But beyond praying for him, that fact cannot — it must not — be your focus.

So look for the good in your spouse. Search for it as you would search for buried treasure. And keep those traits at the forefront of your mind.

If focusing on the positive has been a struggle for you in the past, pray that God will help you see your husband with new eyes.

Praise and admire your spouse verbally and often. Are you glad God brought him into your life? Tell him so! Would you feel you were missing out without him? Let him know it!

Emphasize his good points in your thoughts and in your speech, and you will see more of the same flourish in his character, his life, and his manner.


25 Ways - Book of the Year Award WinnerThis post is excerpted from my book, 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband, winner of CSPA’s 2014 “Book of the Year” Award!

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through fine booksellers everywhere.

9 Ways to Defuse a Disagreement

"Abandon a quarrel before it breaks out." | 9 Ways to Defuse a Disagreement (http://lovinglifeathome)My father was one of the friendliest, most gregarious men I’ve ever met. He loved people — but he also loved a spirited debate. Mom always said Dad would argue with a fence post.

My mother was decidedly not fond of fiery discussions. She has always detested conflict of any sort. Dad would often tease Mom, trying to get a rise out of her, but she would not be baited. He might as well have been arguing with that famed fencepost, for all the luck he had in drawing his wife into an argument.

By nature, I tend to take after my father, but by conscious effort, I try to follow my mother’s example.

Scripture says it would be better to live in a desert or in the corner of a roof than in a house with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife. (Proverbs 21:19; 25:14) My mother’s willingness to “abandon a quarrel before it breaks out” (Proverbs 17:14) made our home a more pleasant and peaceful place to live — for all of us.

Of course, you may not always see eye-to-eye with your husband. When there are areas of disagreement or concerns that need to be discussed, take care to do so in a calm, cool, collected, and consistently respectful way.

Communicating respect to your husband does not necessitate keeping all your thoughts to yourself. It does not mean going along with his every whim, even when serious reservations exist.

Showing respect is not about suppressing your feelings; it’s really more about the tone with which those feelings are expressed.

A disrespectful tone communicates, “Listen, you idiot, let me set you straight on this matter, because it’s obvious you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Of course, we would (hopefully) never actually say such a thing, but our husbands will sometimes hear these words in our tone, even when we don’t utter them outright.

A respectful tone, by contrast, first hears the other person out. It always gives thoughtful consideration to what is being said, even if the speaker isn’t able to articulate his ideas as easily as you yourself might be able to do so. A respectful tone validates the other person by saying, “I see your point,” before continuing, “but have you considered…?”

Many times, our husbands do things in a different way than we would do them, but that doesn’t mean their way is wrong. Go with the flow for as long as possible, then when an issue arises that you really feel strongly about, you will have stored up some goodwill by not having contradicted the two or three dozen choices he’s made prior to the current one. It is easy for our husbands to grow weary and lose patience when we argue and second-guess each and every decision they make.

As for preventing difficult discussions from escalating into angry arguments, follow these guidelines to keep tempers from flaring:

  1. Practice Attentive Listening
  2. Pay attention to what your spouse is trying to say to you. Hear him out. Don’t just pretend to be listening while you mentally rehearse what you plan to say next.

    “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” – Proverbs 18:13

  3. Demonstrate Genuine Love
  4. If you will focus on all the reasons you love this person instead of on the things that irritate you about him, you will be much less likely to say something you later regret.

    “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” – Proverbs 10:12

  5. Maintain Calm Voices
  6. Don’t allow the pitch to creep up in your conversation. Maintain a gracious, soft-spoken demeanor at all times.

    “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1

  7. Use Word Pictures
  8. Well thought-out word pictures and analogies are a great way to communicate a concern without being abrasive and accusatory.

    “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11

  9. Keep Sweet Speech
  10. Let your words be filled with kindness and seasoned with grace; do not resort to name calling or exaggerated accusations.

    “Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” – Proverbs 16:21

  11. Exercise Patient Understanding
  12. Try to see the situation from your spouse’s point of view. Be empathetic. Put yourself in his shoes to better appreciate his perspective.

    “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” – Proverbs 14:29

  13. Remain Cool-Headed
  14. Weigh your words carefully, always and only speaking the truth in love. Don’t be rash.

    “A hot-tempered person stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” – Proverbs 15:18

  15. Show Sincere Humility
  16. Rid your tone (and your heart) of all pride and condescension, neither of which serve any purpose but to stir up strife and discord.

    “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6

  17. Express Earnest Repentance
  18. Show appropriate, unfeigned remorse over any wrongdoing. Apologize for offensive things you have said or done without excusing your actions or casting blame on your spouse.

    “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” – Revelation 3:19

Through her example, my mother taught me that I don’t always have to have the last word; I don’t need to drive home my point; I’m under no obligation to convince others I’m right.

It takes two to argue. Isn’t it liberating to know that? It takes two — and you don’t have to be one of them.


This post is excerpted from my book, 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband. For more marriage encouragement, connect with me on Facebook.