The Choice is Yours

Love is not a feeling. It's a choice.Jane Austen once wrote, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” But that doesn’t ring quite true.

Experience has proven time and again that chance has much less to do with happiness than do attitude and outlook. Austen might have more accurately written, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of choice.”

Our success in marriage, as in life, is in large part determined by the choices — large and small — that we make day after day after day

So… what is it going to be? Will you:

 The choice is yours. You decide. 

Quotes - LL - Matter of Choice

Fathers Matter (Every Day of the Year)

Fathers Matter!Last Sunday was Father’s Day — a day for celebrating the parent that goes largely unnoticed and under-appreciated the rest of the year.

Dads are under-appreciated partly because our society is no longer conditioned to hold fathers in high esteem.

Fathers have long been a favorite target of television sitcoms, where the vast majority of them are depicted as inept, irrelevant idiots more deserving of ridicule than respect.

For decades, fathers have been marginalized and emasculated and treated as if they have nothing of value to contribute to their family’s life beyond its economic support (if that).

And to the degree that life imitates art, men must fight against these stereotypes, not only in contemporary culture, but sometimes even in their own homes.

But another reason dads go unnoticed and under-appreciated is because so many of them are absentee fathers — they’re seldom around to attract any attention or appreciation.

This may be due to death, divorce, abandonment, or career choice; regardless of the cause, their absence comes at a high cost to the children they’ve left behind.

Despite what the liberal media might lead us to believe, fathers play a vital, irreplaceable role in the development of their children. Despite the divorce lawyers’ assurances that “kids are resilient and will quickly adjust to life without you,” the children rarely (if ever) escape such an ordeal unscathed. Most will carry scars from their parents’ split for the rest of their lives.
Do Fathers Matter?
And while having a loving, engaged father living in your home, eating at your table, and taking interest in your life is not essential to success, studies show that paternal involvement makes such success a lot more probable.

According to a fascinating new book by Paul Raeburn, Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, the general consensus, at least in the research community, is that fathers do matter. They matter a lot.

Beginning before conception and moving through pregnancy, delivery, infancy, children, teens, and all the way to fathering in old age, Raeburn covers cutting-edge research that gives insight into how fathers shape their children, for better or worse.

The bottom line? When fathers are involved, everybody fares better:

The children benefit.

  • Infants respond most positively to the way their father plays with them, which tends to be more physical and idiosyncratic than their mother’s play. (p. 126) Furthermore, children of fathers who engaged in the most physical and enjoyable play were less aggressive, more competent, and better liked by their peers. (p. 152)
  • Fathers have a huge impact on their children’s language development, even more so than mothers and irrespective of the mother’s education level or how she speaks to the children. (p. 145)
  • Children with fathers who are supportive and encouraging show a boost in intellectual development. (p. 147)
  • They also do better in school, both academically and socially: Paternal encouragement is associated with better relationships between children and their school teachers, as well as better behavior and social skills. (p. 150)
  • Engaged, attentive fathering has been linked to higher IQs in children, lower risk of smoking as teens, and even lower incidence of depression and psychological ailments decades later. (p. 151)
  • Sadly, there appears to be a robust association between father absence — both physical and psychological — and accelerated reproductive development in daughters, increased sexual risk taking, and higher incidence of teen pregnancy and STD infection. (pp. 160-164)

The wives benefit.

  • When fathers are present in the delivery room, mothers are less likely to cry or to require pain medication. (p.111)
  • Supportive parenting on the part of fathers has been shown to improve the behavior of mothers toward their children. When he’s more loving and attentive, she is, too. (p. 147)
  • When couples forge a strong alliance in parenting, their marriage is strengthened, as well. (p. 85)

The fathers themselves benefit.

  • Fathers who are involved with their children have a reduced incidence of illness and mortality. (p. 138)
  • Men who devote more time to fatherhood also have higher self-esteem and lower parental stress. (pp. 123-124)
  • Interestingly, low testosterone is not only associated with increased longevity, but also with better, more attentive fathering (pp. 74-75) — so why does our society push supplemental testosterone on middle-aged men as if it were candy?

And those findings are just the tip of the iceberg. I’d encourage you to read Do Fathers Matter? to get the details on the benefits mentioned above and to discover a myriad of others.

So what does all that mean for us? How should these studies affect our day-to-day lives?

For me — and these are my thoughts, not the author’s — this book serves as just one more reminder of how vitally important it is that I nurture my marriage. The next generation is counting on it!

No matter how much others would like us to believe that marriages are just contracts of convenience that can be dissolved without consequence, that simply isn’t true. When Mom and Dad go separate ways, the children are always affected.

No matter how often society argues that what consenting adults do in private should be of no concern to anybody else, their behavior does affect the community around them — especially the children.

And no matter how emphatically our culture insists that one definition of “family” is just as good as the next, the preponderance of research indicates there is an optimal design, at least when it comes to rearing offspring: that of a father and a mother firmly committed to one another and jointly and lovingly involved in the lives of their children.

The A to Z Guide to Building a Better Marriage

Great article on building a better marriage...If you’ve been married for any length of time, you have undoubtedly realized that some habits help your relationship and others hurt it.

Our goal should be to practice doing the good stuff until it becomes second nature and leave off doing the bad things altogether. To help in that endeavor, I offer the following A to Z guide for building a better marriage.

Putting these principles into practice is the best way I know to spell success for you and your spouse. Attend to these areas, and your marriage will do better than survive. It will flourish.

A is for Acceptance

Accept your husband for who he is. Entrust to God any changes that need to be made. Don’t try to change him yourself — that will only make you both miserable. Only God can mold either of your hearts into what they are meant to be. (Ezekiel 36:26)

B is for Belief

Your husband needs to know you have confidence in him, that you are on his side. Be his biggest cheerleader. Believe in him, and believe the best of him.

C is for Commitment

Couples fare better when they are committed to marriage in general and to each other in specific. They are more likely to stay together when they don’t even consider divorce an option. (Matthew 19:6) Be entirely devoted to one another — for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Honor the vows you made to one another and regard them as binding.

D is for Dreams

The Bible teaches, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) It is important for couples to dream as a team. Discuss with your spouse your hopes and desires for the future. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to dream big. Set and work toward goals together and pray that God will help you accomplish great things.

E is for Encouragement

Be supportive. Speak words of life to your husband. Build him up, don’t tear him down. Make it your goal to comfort, encourage, and do him only good as long as there is life within you. ( Proverbs 31:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

F is for Forgiveness

You should not harbor bitterness or resentment in your heart toward anybody, but especially not toward the man you married. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Forgive him freely, as Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesian 4:31-32; 1 Corinthians 13:5)

G is for Gratitude

Don’t take your husband for granted. Cultivate a heart of thanksgiving. Express your appreciation to him and for him clearly, sincerely, and often. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

H is for Humility

“Love does not brag and is not arrogant.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) Pride is extremely off-putting and will only drive a wedge in your relationship: Humility is the ticket to happiness. Don’t think more of yourself than you ought, but hold your spouse in high esteem. (Romans 12:3, Philippians 2:3)

I is for Intimacy

A marriage is meant to make two people one: spiritually, physically, and emotionally. This will not happen without your intentional investment in each of these areas. Prioritize time together and do not withhold yourself from your spouse or push him away. (1 Corinthians 7:4-5)

J is for Joy

Somebody once said, “Joy is love singing.” If so, we should learn the words of that song by heart and keep them continually on our lips. A happy marriage is largely about attitude — not only our attitude toward one another, but our whole outlook on life. (Psalm 68:3)

K is for Kindness

Marriage is more about what you give than what you get. Be thoughtful and considerate of your spouse. Put his needs ahead of your own. (Colossians 3:12)

L is for Love

Love is much more than mushy emotionalism or sexual attraction. That loving feeling is nice, but it is not by itself enough to sustain a marriage. For a marriage to thrive, you need the kind of unconditional, self-sacrificing love we read about in Scripture: a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… [and] never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)

M is for Maturity

To be mature means to be fully developed. Maturity is marked by the presence of firm, well-established roots and an abundance of ripe, wholesome fruit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — none of which can be authentically produced unless we remain connected to the Vine. (Galatians 5:22; John 15:4)

N is for Nurture

Much of our marital success hinges on the daily decisions we make: Where will we invest our time and energy? If we choose to focus our attention at home, our marriage and family will likely flourish. If we carelessly neglect those key relationships, they will suffer and our love will grow cold. (Luke 12:34)

O is for Offspring

Just as a couple’s children are a blessing to their marriage, a couple’s marriage is a blessing to their children — in fact, that one-flesh union was designed with the next generation in mind. A child’s best chance for success is with a mother and father who are lovingly committed to one another and to the little ones entrusted to their care. Whether biological or adopted, children bring a certain fullness and joy to marriage that cannot be experienced any other way. (Psalm 127:3)

P is for Prayer

Prayer is the key to lasting love. While most marriages have only a coin-toss survival rate (50% will end in divorce), couples who pray daily together reduce their risk of divorce to less than 1%. That is significant. Pray with your husband. Pray for your husband. When you invite Him to do so, God will gladly work to mold your marriage into everything He meant it to be. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Q is for Quiet

Home should be a haven of peace and rest for every member of the family. Do your best to make it so by cultivating a gentle and quiet spirit. Abandon a quarrel before it breaks out, and learn to control your tongue. Let your words be filled with love and seasoned with grace.(1 Peter 3:4; Proverbs 17:14; James 1:26; Colossians 4:6)

R is for Respect

Marriage should be marked by mutual respect. The New Oxford American Dictionary gives two definitions for respect: 1) a feeling of deep admiration for someone… elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements, and (2) due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others. Men especially crave that first kind of respect and are keenly aware of its absence when it is lacking. Admire your husband. Hold him in highest regard. And learn to communicate your respect in ways that are meaningful to him. (Ephesians 5:33)

S is for Sense of Humor

A good sense of humor is an invaluable asset when it comes to living happily ever after. Laughter is good medicine, and the ability to laugh at oneself can help reduce stress and tension like no other thing I know. (Proverbs 17:22)

T is for Trust

Trust is essential for a successful marriage. Prove yourself worthy of your spouse’s trust, express confidence in him as well, and together place your full trust in God whose grace sustains us all.(1 Timothy 3:11; Proverbs 3:5)

U is for Understanding

Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Treat him the way you’d want to be treated. Study him. Learn what makes him tick. Listen to him attentively, with a goal of understanding not only what he is saying, but why he is saying it.(Matthew 7:12; James 1:19)

V is for Virtue

Proverbs 31 goes into great detail on what it means to be a virtuous wife.My dictionary defines virtue as “moral excellence, goodness, integrity, purity, and strength.” Virtue is the opposite of hypocrisy, laziness, and malice. Certainly, goodness and integrity are desirable qualities in both husband and wife: the more virtuous their behavior, the more blessed their marriage will be. (Proverbs 20:7; 2 Peter 1:5)

W is for Wisdom

If your marriage is to thrive amid all the pressures that threaten to destroy it, you will need a lot of grace and wisdom. Fortunately, God promises to provide an ample supply to anyone who asks: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” That’s a promise every couple should redeem regularly. (James 1:5; 3:17; 2 Corinthians 1:12; )

X is for X-citement

Don’t lose your sense of excitement and adventure. You and your spouse get to DO LIFE together, side by side, hand in hand! Whoever said marriage has to be boring? That isn’t the picture Scripture paints of what the love shared between a husband and wife should look like. It uses words like exhilarated, ravished, delighted, captivated, and continually satisfied. (Proverbs 5:18-19, read in multiple translations)

Y is for Yieldedness

Do you want a happy marriage? Learn to defer to one another in love. Don’t demand your own way. A willingness to compromise on non-essentials goes a long way toward building good will and trust in any relationship — marriage is no different in that respect. (Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3; Galatians 5:13)

Z is for Zest

“Being married is like riding a bike: you’ve got to invest some energy if you want it to keep going.” Don’t lose the momentum! Invest your zest! Do everything you can to maintain that energy and enthusiasm that led you to marry in the first place. “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Although, writing as a woman, I have directed this article toward wives, I fully believe that every one of these suggestions should go both ways. And in a healthy marriage, they will.

Although each of these habits and character traits are important for building a marriage that lasts, I know my list is not exhaustive. Which habits have helped you have a happy marriage? What qualities would you add to this list?

Great article on building a better marriage...

5 Great Reasons to Read My Husband’s Book

5 Great Reasons to Read 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife....

Today is the official release date of my husband’s new book, 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife. It’s been two years in the writing, but over twenty-seven in the living.

Of course, I’d love to see every married couple devour this book, together with my companion book, 25 Ways to Communicate Respect.

That’s why this little two-volume set has become my standard wedding gift: I know husbands and wives will both be abundantly blessed when they put the principles into practice.

I can think of a lot more than I’ve listed, but for the purpose of this post, I’d like to share the five main reasons you should grab a copy of my husband’s new book ASAP (plus one possible reason you shouldn’t).

5 Great Reasons to Read This Book:


  1. Because It’s Biblical
  2. This book is absolutely drenched in Scripture. That’s a good thing, since the Word of God is the most solid foundation any marriage can be built upon.

    The reason divorce is so rampant in our society is because we have strayed so far from God’s original purpose and design for husbands and wives. It grieves my heart that Hollywood can take things as wholesome and wonderful as love, sex, and marriage, and turn them into something dirty, degrading, and dysfunctional.

    This book is a clarion call to reject all the contemptible counterfeits our culture proffers and return to the role God established for every husband from the beginning: that of protecting, cherishing, nourishing, loving, leading, and providing for his wife in the same self-sacrificing way that Jesus loves His church.

    Marriage is in trouble....

  3. Because It Works
  4. Nothing in this book is hypothetical. The principles discussed have been tried, tested, and proven, not only by my own husband, but by countless others like him — men who are committed to living by these ideals to the best of their abilities by the empowering grace of God.

    The more successful a husband is at integrating these truths into his life and actions, the more secure his wife will feel in his love. That’s why every chapter ends with a bulleted list of action points, so readers will immediately be able to put what they’re learning into practice.

  5. Because You Love Your Kids
  6. No matter how grossed out your children act when they catch their parents kissing in the kitchen, there is a reassuring calmness that settles over their little souls when they know Mom and Dad love one another and are committed to staying together through thick and thin, for better or worse.

    The old adage is true: One of the best things a father can do for his children is to love their mother. It doesn’t take long to see the damage done to children when Dad is not committed to the marriage or involved in the lives of his kids: the statistics associated with fatherless families are heart-rending.

    If you love your children, you should nurture your marriage and invest in resources that will help you tend it more effectively.

  7. Because You’ve Been Waiting for It
  8. I am always thrilled to hear from women who’ve read my books and have seen the Biblical principles promoted bring positive change in their marriages. That’s an answer to the prayers I poured out while writing the books, and I rejoice over every letter I get that shares such victories and triumphs with me!

    I’ve even received a few letters from husbands, marveling over the changes they’ve observed in their wives’ disposition, thanking me for writing the book, and asking whether we have a similar book for men.

    I’m delighted to now be able to answer, yes, we do! So if you are one of those men who’ve been waiting for it to be publishied, I can’t think of a better time to buy…

  9. Because Now It’s On Sale
  10. Order a copy before Valentine’s Day, and save 25% (and pick up a discounted copy of my book while you’re at it):

    50 Ways to Grace Your Marriage...

And Here’s One Reason Not to Read It:


  1. Because You Think Your Marriage Problems are All His Fault
  2. If you are a wife who is hunting for something to hang over your husband’s head, please don’t buy this book. It was never intended to be used as ammunition.

    If your marriage is struggling, your husband doubtlessly deserves part of the blame — there are two sides to every story, after all — but instead of pointing fingers, I urge you to examine yourself. What changes might you make to improve your relationship?

    Sometimes women are unwilling to do what Scripture calls them to do (respect their husband) until their husbands fall into line with what Scripture demands of them (love their wife). They use their husband’s perceived failure to justify their own disobedience.

    That’s a loser’s game. You cannot make your own obedience to God contingent on somebody else’s performance. You’re responsible for controlling your own actions and reactions — attempts to control his are futile.

    So if your marriage is in trouble and you are trying to fix it without any help or cooperation from your husband, skip getting this book for now and start with prayer.

    Pray that God would open your eyes to things you may be doing to contribute to the relationship problems you’re facing. Pray that He’ll give you grace to make necessary changes, even though you have no guarantee your husband will ever reciprocate. Pray that He will help you see your husband as He sees him, and that He’ll renew your love and admiration for the man you married.

    Get my book or read the blog or sign up for the 30-Day Challenge and work your way through each of the action points. And be encouraged that God can make something beautiful of even the most hopeless situations.

    “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, ESV)

Invest in your marriage. Take the 30-Day Respect Challenge!

The State of a Union

How grows your marriage? The  State of a UnionWhen my husband and I built our house ten years ago, we planted two ginkgo trees on either side of our front yard. The trees looked identical the day we put them in the ground, but since that time one has flourished and the other has floundered.

The tree on the west side of our house gets plenty of sunshine. It is planted on level ground, not susceptible to erosion. Tall and straight, it has more than quadrupled in size. Its leaves are a deep green, its bark smooth, and its limbs symmetrical. Even when my husband accidentally backed into the tree with his truck and gashed the trunk, it managed to survive.

The tree in the east yard has not fared so well.

It was planted on a slope, where water runs off instead of soaking in. Surrounded by larger trees, it stands in shade most of the day. Gophers keep digging tunnels through its struggling root system. It has served as “base” for far too many games of tag and shows visible signs of wear from our little ones whipping the tree back and forth as if it were a stick horse.

Consequently, the trunk is crooked and spindly. Its uppermost branches were broken off at some point, so the tree is severely stunted — barely eight feet tall, as compared to its 45-ft brother. My husband has been sorely tempted to just chop it down and plant another in its place.

He nearly acted on that impulse several springs ago, but I spotted him just in time with the axe in hand and begged for mercy on behalf of the runt. Doug relented, and I did my best to nurture the scrawny thing back to health (a little staking and strategic pruning worked wonders for its appearance).

It’s important to note that my axe-wielding husband is not responsible for this tree’s present sorry state. He was simply responding to the damage already done by its other enemies — the gophers, erosion, and overly rambunctious children.

If I wanted to fault somebody for the tree’s miserable appearance, I should fault myself for not tending to it more faithfully, for not vigilantly protecting it from its various assailants.

No, Doug isn’t to blame, nor does he have anything against ginkgo trees in general. He has no desire to fell the heartier specimen, and although he considers this particular ginkgo an eyesore, he is perfectly willing to replace it with a new one. The presence of the healthy, robust ginkgo in the west yard — and the knowledge that there are countless others like it — reassures him that it is possible to raise one successfully.

But what if the west tree were just as sickly and stunted as the east? What if every ginkgo tree Doug had ever encountered were uniformly puny and pathetic? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that he might be less willing to take a chance growing one himself? That he might decide to plant something entirely different? At least he wouldn’t be pinning his hopes on something with a high failure rate. Would you buy a tree that had, say, less than a fifty percent chance of surviving?

I think the reason some groups are seeking to “redefine marriage” these days is that so many “traditional marriages” — at least the marriages they’ve personally observed or experienced — seem sickly and unappealing.

Although I disagree with their response, I do not consider these groups the enemy. They didn’t cause the problems; they are merely reacting to them.

The damage was done by a much subtler Adversary. Like the gopher that tunneled under my ginkgo, this Enemy attacked marriage at the root, digging away at its foundation, gradually shifting our focus away from God and onto ourselves.

God’s design for marriage — that we mirror the love of Christ and raise children for His glory — no longer seems to be our primary concern. Finding happiness and personal fulfillment is the new end goal.

As Danielle Crittenden observes in What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us, “We may pledge to love each other until death do us part — but we blanch at the first hint of sacrifice.”

How many couples have I heard rationalize their divorce by saying “we’re just not happy together anymore”? I’ve lost count.

More likely than not, these men and women had good intentions of making each other happy (or at least of making themselves happy) when they first married, but if happiness is all they sought, it makes sense they’d be ready to throw in the towel when happiness is not forthcoming.

But should they call it quits? Is unhappiness really a sufficient reason to divorce?

Not according to a report released by the Institute for American Values. Their studies found that two-thirds of couples who were unhappy in their marriages, but stuck it out anyway, considered themselves “happily married” just five years later. In fact, “the most unhappy marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds. Among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of ten who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.”

Even so, many couples don’t persevere long enough to discover this fact. And that’s too bad.
It’s bad for their families, but it’s also bad for society as a whole. Strong and stable families make for a strong and stable nation.

Couples need to understand that happiness springs from commitment. Not the other way around. Allowing something as volatile as happiness to determine whether you stay married or not is a sure way to destroy any chance of building a love that endures.

We must stop treating happiness as if it were a destination we have to trample upon others to reach. In reality, the route to true happiness is through selfless, sacrificial love.

Deep, abiding joy is a disposition that is naturally cultivated as we seek to live for God’s glory. That, after all, is the chief end of man: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

It’s the purpose for which we were created in the first place, and we’ll never find lasting, genuine happiness, in marriage or in any other endeavor, so long as we neglect it.


Love Your Husband/ Love YourselfThis post has been adapted from my book, Love Your Husband/Love Yourself: Embracing God’s Purpose for Passion in Marriage. Packed with Bibilcal wisdom, scientific studies, and humorous anecdotes, it is a must-read for any wife serious about improving her marriage.