Support vs Competition #onmyheart

hardship-competition.jpg

Hardship Competition

First of all, I know that God always takes care of me. He always will. I know I’ll always be okay. (And He’ll always take care of you, for that matter!) But there are times in life when the going just gets tough. I’m starting a new series #onmyheart for those times when my (or guest posters!) hearts are heavy and we just need to let it out – writing is definitely very cathartic for me. 

Also, a little disclaimer…this may come across a little whiny. 

As you probably know, I had my first baby in 2015. On New Year’s 2016, me, my husband and baby Oliver moved to Italy. We rented out our condo in the U.S. It was hard to get moved! I thought everything would be a lot easier once we got to Italy, but I was sorely wrong.

I’m actually really glad I didn’t know how tough things would be. Living internationally, every single task seems to be so much more difficult and takes so much more time. Like going to the doctor, for example. Getting my son into the right doctor was a whole process. Everything is just really harder. Some of this stuff I’m sure will get easier over time.

When people ask how I’m adjusting, I say I’m fine because it’s the truth. There’s nothing really wrong. Everything is fine…just a lot harder to accomplish.

Now, that I have that out, the second point of the post…

It is hard enough for me to share this kind of thing with people. Most people don’t know stuff our family has had to go through. I don’t care. I value our privacy. But when I share about something we went through in order to encourage someone else, or if I am sharing just because everyone is sharing…

Why must we make hardship a competition?

Do you know what I mean? When someone has to one-up you with their experience and how much worse it was in comparison to yours.

Why do we feel the need to do that instead of just supporting each other? Maybe this doesn’t happen to you a lot, but I’ve experienced it (or watched it happen) so much recently, whether it’s in real life or on social media.

It’s just the worst feeling when you open up to someone and they shut you down like that. I can totally understand where some people are coming from when they tell you their stories that relate to your experience.

But with some people it’s hurtful when they go on to say, “my experience was so much worse” or “oh, you have no idea.”

I guess I don’t have any idea what you’ve been through, but you don’t have any idea what I’ve been through either! Please don’t try to put me or my experience down. What is the point?

Consider this a request from li’l ol’ me: Can we just respect and appreciate that everyone has a unique situation? Let’s support each other, not compete.

dd-sig

 

 

Continue Reading

God Is Still In The Marriage Business

god-marriage-business

God Is Still In The Marriage Business

 

[editor’s note: This post was originally published on Feb 09, 2016. Due to a recent glitch, I’m just republishing it!]

My husband and I decided to get married because we wanted our lives to line up within God’s order
. It was not because of love, convenience, or social pressures. We made up in our minds that we will be examples to our families of what God can do when you put Him first.

I wanted to share this for two reasons. First, we don’t hear enough. I even have people today that frown up at me when I say it. Secondly, I want to assure you it is possible for God to guide those who want Him to speak to them about their relationships. In return, you have to be willing to open your heart to what He is going to direct you to do.

It was very difficult for me to submit to what God was instructing me to do. It was not that I didn’t love my partner or didn’t want to marry him one day. I wanted to do it on my own time. I realized that at that point there had begun a process of exposure.

Sometimes there are places where, if we admitted it, we don’t want the truth of God’s Word to rule in our lives. My relationship was one of those areas. It was more comfortable to live the way I wanted and not how God required.

I would have continued to live in sin waiting on a grand proposal. I had my heart set on receiving a huge diamond ring. My partner would have recited a long speech about how much he loved me, and there was nothing else he would rather do than to make me the center of his life. Everyone would be totally supportive. Of course, things panned out a bit differently.

We fought constantly about where our relationship would go after I revealed what God said to do. To top it off, people who were very close to us were not on board with it either. Yet, God still impressed on my heart that we were doing the right thing. He wanted better for us than the life we had chosen. The things I was waiting on could never compete with the love God wanted to pour into my life in this season.

The love I have for my husband now is more genuine than ever before.

1 John 4: 7 says “let us love one another, for love is from God”

I can honestly say my love for God and His Word strengthened my love for my husband and myself. I now walk in freedom being confident in the fact that I am even more closer to God without that disobedience in between us. I can witness to people without any fear or internal conflict. God has even begin speaking to me more about things He wants me to do.

Ultimately, God wants us free. Bondage of any kind keeps us from what He wants us to experience. Choose God’s Word over your own advice every time. Here is the place where true love begins to flow out of us and into the world.

 

ozellaI’m Ozella Jones, a 26 year old Certified Medical Assistant from Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve been encouraged by other women in Christ to be all that God has predestined me to be. With Christ in my life, I can laugh, love, and enjoy my portion, knowing that things are provided for those who trust in Him! Be blessed and be a blessing to others!

Continue Reading

Companion on the Journey

companion on the journey by Samantha Hanni on Devotional Diva

[Guest post by Samantha Hanni: Trying to conceive, infertility, miscarriages and pregnancy are difficult times and Samantha is right — it’s so important to have a female companion on the journey! God certainly placed someone like this in my life, and what an encouragement she was!]

Luke 1:5-36; 39-45; 56

Elizabeth and Mary. Two pregnancies against all odds.

A virgin birth? A pregnancy after menopause? Medically impossible. Highly unlikely.

Imagine the looks the teenager and grandma-aged lady must have gotten from neighbors, even friends. The suspected immorality. The arched eyebrows and whispered comments behind palms.

How trying and humiliating…to be pregnant is to be already vulnerable, but to be labeled as odd on top of that? I can’t imagine.

However, God in His tenderness didn’t leave these special women to fend for themselves. I believe He orchestrated these two dynamic pregnancies to coincide with one another to provide the support and encouragement the new moms would need.

Elizabeth’s husband, John, couldn’t talk throughout her pregnancy. How hard would that be to not hear the voice of your love, your closest friend for nine months?

Mary was not even with Joseph for a third of her pregnancy, a whole trimester. I fight anxiety when my husband is out of town for the weekend, so I can’t imagine being separated from him for that length of time.

God’s love and care is demonstrated by bringing these two women together under extraordinary circumstances.

They were women who had a unique road ahead of them. The friendship and pregnancy moments shared during those months they stayed together undoubtedly fortified them for the days to come.

Whether it’s in pregnancy, miscarriage or barrenness, God is faithful to provide companions to join you on the journey. You have to be willing to let God accomplish this work, though. Sometimes it means opening up a difficult part of your life. Sometimes it means finding friendship in unlikely places.

Bringing new life into the world and conversely, waiting oh-so expectantly for life to begin in you is a difficult road to walk. And while husbands provide the tenderness and support that few others, even family members, could provide, other women in the same situation understand subtleties of the journey that few others can.

Look around you. If you are struggling with feeling alone and isolated, I am willing to bet God has placed companions in your life who will pray for you, share your burden and join you on the journey of bearing life, or the journey of struggling to understand why your body has not borne life yet.

Maybe God is calling you to reach out to some women in your life.

I had shared with a friend at church that I was due to start my monthly cycle the day before my 25th birthday, and I was dreading the disappointment from another month passing with no change, right before my special day. And Aunt Flo came right on schedule- and that meant my birthday was a very PMS-y day. Yuck. She texted me that morning and later in the afternoon saying she was praying for me that I would feel peace and contentment in spite of the circumstances.

Those words meant the world to me because I knew she understood. She knew how it felt to have another month go by with…nothing. Nothing but cramps and emotions that were all over the place.

It’s the enemy who wants us to feel isolated and alone. He can wreak great havoc on those who are separated from the flock. God never wants us to feel isolated and alone. His word promises He is always with us, and He desires that we find companionship and support in the body of Christ.

Sisters, let us follow Elizabeth and Mary’s example and support one another, during such seasons as these and always.

samanthaSamantha Hanni graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2012 with a degree in journalism. Her passion is encouraging other people and seeing God’s truth make a difference in their lives. She is featured in the devotional book “Big Dreams from Small Spaces” by Group Publishing and blogs at mrshanni.com. Samantha and her husband reside in Oklahoma City.

 

Continue Reading

A Christian Fairy Tale

devotional diva christian love story[Guest Post by La Micia Genova: I’m thrilled for you to “meet” La Micia today because, although our stories are different, La Micia and I both dealt with depression before God gave us our knights in shining armor. I’m all about princesses and fairy tales and this is an awesome Christian fairy tale!]

Do you believe God can give you a happily ever after? I’ve done things my way for 20 years and when I finally came to God, he gave me my fairy tale.

I probably made just about every mistake a teenager and young adult could make, and what’s crazy is I grew up in the Church! From impurity to drunkenness, I was a mess. When I submitted to Gods way of doing things I saw Gods plan for me come to life. 

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

As I grew in my relationship with God, and really applied the “seeking” part of the passage in Jeremiah, I began to see him move in my life in powerful ways. From my friendships, to my family life, and eventually, my dating life.

As a hopeless romantic, I always prayed for my knight in shining armor to magically arrive and constantly asked God for the desires of my heart.

Growing up, what young girl doesn’t want to live out the Disney movie fairy tales? I was no different then the majority of girls my age and I never grew out of this phase. I continued believing this was possible, but heartbreak after heartbreak led me to feel God’s hand was against me.

This all changed in a vacant lot in south side Chicago in 2010.

I was 20 years old and had just given my life to Christ. I was at a conference in Inglewood, Chicago helping our volunteer group clean up vacant lots. I was dirty, tired, and focused on the cause. This was not the place I expected to meet my knight in shining armor. It was cleaning this lot that God intervened in my life for what later turned out to be a fulfillment of one of favorite scriptures in psalms.

            “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”

            Psalm 37:4

I met Patrick G.

At the time I had no idea that this was who God had planned for me to spend the rest of my life with, but as three years went by, you could say my eyes finally were opened.

One night Patrick began to open up to me about his struggle with depression and I felt like for the first time ever, someone understood me, the real me.

I grew up dealing with depression, and felt that no one could really understand.  I was constantly fatigued and didn’t know why. I had so many self-defeating thoughts, I really hated myself, I still struggle with this to this day, but at least I have a name for this monster. When Patrick got vulnerable with me about his fight with depression and how it made him feel, I felt like my feelings weren’t all that crazy.

I realized that I am not in this fight alone and that God has put a guy in my life that could understand me. From this conversation forward we leave off where my book, Becoming Ms. G picks up. I hope and pray you enjoy the rest of the journey that God has taken me on with my knight in shining armor, Patrick.

lamicia genova on devotional divaLa Micia really has a heart for doing Gods work and being a voice for women who deal with depression, anxiety, and self esteem issues. La Micia created a blog called “No Place to Lay”, www.noplacetolay.com this year to share the ways God is working in her life through struggles. You can purchase her book, Becoming Mrs. G here.

photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

Continue Reading

Be Transparent & Get Naked

be transparent and get naked[Guest post by Alicia Gill: I’m usually one to be pretty direct and honest; I have trouble holding in sour emotions. In this post, Alicia’s Sunday school student gives a great example of being transparent, letting it out, and “getting naked.”]

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 (NIV)

A few years ago, I taught a very sweet high school Sunday school class. The girls in there had such a love for the Lord, it was beautiful. Halfway through the year, we had a new girl join the class. To say that this new girl did not want to be there would be an understatement.

It’s not that she didn’t have a heart for the Lord, she did; it was about the fact that her family had just moved churches and she was not happy with that. She did not want to leave her previous church. She did not want to be in our class. She wanted to be back with the friends she loved and was comfortable with at her old church.

One Sunday morning, we had an opportunity to share with one another our feelings, worries, happiness; anything that was going on in our lives. The sweet new girl who never really talked much in class, really gave us an earful that morning. She let us know how unhappy she was, how she was sad about leaving her church, how she felt the girls in our church were just one big click that she was never going to fit in with, and if she could, she would go right back to where she came from.

She let it all out, or, as her sweet momma would call it, she “got naked.”

I felt terrible for how the new girl was feeling, it hurt my heart to know that she didn’t think she would fit in and that she didn’t want to give the other girls a chance at friendship. I was also worried about how hurt the other girls would be to be called a clique. Before class let out, I let the new girl know just how glad we were she was with us; That we loved her being a part of the class and that I hoped she would give us a chance to show her just how much we could love on her.

Being so transparent was risky. The new girl showed us her insecurities and vulnerabilities by opening up in such a raw way. But, you know what? Beautiful relationships were formed from it. The other girls had thought the new girl didn’t want to be friends; that she just didn’t want to have anything to do with them. Opening up like that let them know that they were all feeling the same way. It gave them an opportunity to love on her and show her that they did want to have meaningful relationships with her. It gave her an opportunity to take a chance on new friendships. To this day, they are all very close.

“Getting naked” about who we are is a risk.

But, it is that risk that can help us to establish real, intimate friendships. Friendship is a beautiful thing. The Lord gave us the gift of being able to develop friendships because He knew we would need each other to get through this life. But the only way to really develop those lasting, intimate friendships is to get naked and open ourselves up to taking a risk at forming lifelong bonds. It gives us the freedom to be who we are without having to explain ourselves or hide away any part we are afraid to let others see.

Take the risk: Get naked. Being transparent can be an open door to creating intimate friendships that last a lifetime.

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (NIV)

 

alicia gill on devotional divaAlicia Gill. Type A wife, mom and home manager. I’m learning to see life through God’s eyes as I strive to know Him better and share what I learn with the others. When I’m not blogging, I enjoy running, cake decorating (the reason I run), photography, endurance challenges with my husband & 3 boys, all the while depending on His unending grace, love & forgiveness.

photo credit: flavio.leone via photopin cc

 

Continue Reading

Why I don’t date men who are ‘willing’ to save sex for marriage

why i don't date men who are willing to save sex for marriage

[Guest post by Arleen Spenceley: If you’re an unmarried Diva, this article will give you some pretty hard to argue with advice. Arleen’s writing on chastity is not something you read everyday. Even if you are married like me, this is something we should pass on to our friends, daughters, nieces and granddaughters.]

“There’s something I need to tell you,” I said to a man on his couch in a Tampa apartment. He — then in his late 20’s and interested in me — nodded, and waited for me to say it. I, then in my early 20’s, breathed in before I did: “I’m saving sex for marriage.”

I breathed out while he silently processed what I had said. Then he turned his face toward mine and spoke:

“If you want to wait, I’m willing.”

But waiting had never been part of his world. He agreed to abstain from sex with me because he knew that if he didn’t, I wouldn’t date him. He agreed to behave as if he practiced chastity, but was only bound to nonmarital abstinence by my prohibition of nonmarital sex.

He respected my boundary, until he didn’t — until he mocked my decision to save sex and chalked it up to “immaturity,” in effort to manipulate me into changing my mind. He said “no guy will wait that long,” and begged me to break my promise to practice chastity. Instead, I broke up with him. I learned a lot in that relationship, including this:

I’d never date a guy again who was only “willing” to save sex.

Here’s why:

Because I don’t want a man who acts chastely; I want a man who is chaste. We who practice chastity have apprenticeships in self-mastery. We promise to govern our appetites instead of being governed by them. A man who is “willing” to save sex in order to date me isn’t a man who governs his appetites. He’s a man who makes chaste girlfriends do that for him. If I date him, I govern two sets of appetites, which makes me an enabler: he doesn’t have to practice self-mastery if I master him.

Because a man who doesn’t practice chastity doesn’t define sex the same way I do. We who practice chastity believe sex is a sacred, physical sign of the the commitment spouses made to each other on the altar where they were married, ultimately designed to bond them and to make babies. A man who is “willing” to save sex — but would have nonmarital sex if he had my permission — does not by default define sex the way I do. How can we be united by sex in marriage if we can’t agree on the purpose sex serves?

Because a man who would forsake virtue (his or mine) if only I gave him permission is a man whose standards are too low. A man who is “willing” to save sex is a man whose choice to abstain from nonmarital sex likely isn’t underlain by much other than the absence of my consent. He’d be as content — or more — dating a woman who doesn’t practice chastity. But I don’t want to marry a man who settled for a chaste woman. I want a man who wants a chaste woman, who holds a high bar for me because he wants me to become the woman God designed me to be.

Because men are capable of more than the world around them says they are. “No guy will wait that long” is a lie, and boys who are taught that turn into men who believe it. But I hold up a higher bar than that for men because I think my future kids deserve a dad who can reach one, because I believe men can reach one, because I believe God created them able to do it.

 

arleen spenceley on devotional divaArleen Spenceley is author of forthcoming book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Fall 2014. She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times and blogs at arleenspenceley.com. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. Follow @ArleenSpenceley on Twitter and click here to like her on Facebook.

 

This post originally appeared on arleenspenceley.com and was used with permission.

 photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

Continue Reading

The 3 People You Need to Meet

people you need to meet

[Maggie is on vacation so I thought I’d jump on and encourage you all with the three people you need to meet to achieve your dreams. My newest book, Dream Devotional, just released this month. Pick up a copy on Amazon for only $2.99!]

Dreaming together is important because we are designed, commanded, and encouraged into a loving relationship with God and each other.

I’ll never forget the day I was sitting at the front desk as the office receptionist when a woman walked in for an interview. She thought I was pregnant–say what??–and asked me when I was due.

I was completely shocked and mortified. She felt really bad too when she found out that I was in fact, not pregnant. My boss and I joked that she probably wouldn’t get the job because of her comments, but I’m so glad she did because it wasn’t until after she got the job that I found out she was a Christian and had heard a word from the Lord for me on why she thought I was preggers.

She told me, “God wants to birth a ministry through you — if you’ll let him, not to say that your future husband isn’t important.”

Ouch.

Anyone who knew me when I was single, knew how important my future husband was to me. I desperately wanted to be married, and for whatever reason God prolonged that dream until I was almost 30.

God knew the plans and purposes He created specifically for me. He knew if He brought my future husband into my life too soon — I wouldn’t have risked so many dreams with Him.

Friends, God created you for an individual and unique purpose as well. You have a divine destiny that only you can fulfill.

Don’t believe me? Just read the Scriptures full of men and women of faith who entrusted their lives to God in the most courageous circumstances. Sometimes, we don’t see until afterwards why God gives us the dreams and visions He does because He doesn’t want to scare us or hinder us from fulfilling our mission.

for such a time as thisIt wasn’t until afterwards that Joseph realized why he so arrogantly shared his dreams to all 12 of his brothers…after he was thrown in prison (not once but twice)…and after he was summoned into the courts of Pharaoh — did he see why God placed him in his prison cell for such a time as this.

Friends, you may be the catalyst for someone else’s dreams. If it wasn’t for the many brave women in my life — I wouldn’t be where I am today!

If you are currently experiencing the death of a vision or a dream — I encourage you to partner up with people who believe in you. Seek out trusted partners and ministry relationships to foster the dreams God has placed on your heart because they are strong enough to save not only your souls, but the lives of many others (James 1:21).

If you are wondering what kind of relationships I am talking about, I want to encourage you to connect with three different kinds of relationships to accomplish your BIG dreams:

1. A Mentor in the business — someone who has been there, done that, and can help guide you through the obstacles to become a expert person of business and integrity.

2. A Life or Dream Coach — someone who believes in you even if others including your family does not believe in you. Someone who will stand by you and lift your arms up like Moses when the battle becomes too weary.

3. Prayer partners — someone who can pray for you when you can’t pray for yourself. I never endeavor to write any books or speak at any function without asking for prayer covering. Prayer is the most powerful form we have against spiritual attack, so use it (James 5:16!

I feel like I am at a point in my life right now where I can look back and see God’s hand and His many answered prayers.

Question: Who cheerleads your dreams? Who’s dreams are you currently cheerleading?

Continue Reading

Why I Chose to Marry Young

 

Why I chose to marry young

I chose to marry young — at 19, to be exact.

As some of you may know, I am still pretty young – 22, to be exact.

There’s that Taylor Swift song “22,” but I don’t relate to it at all because I’m married and have been for 2 and a half years. I don’t know if you’ve heard that song, but here are a couple quick quotes:

Everything will be alright
If we just keep dancing like we’re 22

 

And

 

It feels like one of those nights
We won’t be sleeping

Nope, does not describe my life at 22 at all.

I do not dance anywhere, except I did dance at my wedding.

And YES, I will be sleeping because I have things to do tomorrow! Every day I have things to do!

I’m not complaing in any way. I love my life! I just think it’s comical how different my life is from this Taylor Swift song and actually, most of my peers’ lives.

When I wrote about How God Changed the Course of My life Completely, I told you about how supportive my now-husband Brandon was (and still is) and how we met.

But what I didn’t tell you then was how big of a role following my heart played.

Brandon and I have a fairy tale love story – with some major kinks thrown in.

We had a lot of opposition going up against us the whole time we were dating.

For one, I was in a horrible place mentally and physically in the beginning. I talked about this in that post I mentioned, but it really was a struggle. My mom knew that Brandon was the one for me because of how he stuck by me through it all.

I mean, I was in the mental health unit at the hospital (more than once) and he stayed with me. He supported me. He showed me love. I know that I was not able to show him the same kind of love at that time, just because I was going through so much.

And it was a shock to everyone around us when we started dating because Brandon is 7 and a half years older than me.

But we got through all that stuff. I got better. Things were going great, and we were happy.

Then Brandon decided to join the Navy.

At first, we didn’t even consider getting married before his boot camp. But as we went through his recruitment process, marriage actually seemed like a pretty good idea.

I knew I loved Brandon and wanted to be with him forever. He said he always knew that I was “the one.”

It soon became clear that we did want to get married before Brandon would leave for basic training.

But I was so nervous about what my parents would say.

I felt like they would disapprove, because I was only 19 after all. Now-a-days, that is young.

It wasn’t like getting married so young was in their (or my) plans for my future.

I worked up the courage to talk to my mom about it first, and she eased my dad into the idea. They were accepting, more than I thought they would be. They supported us.

Brandon formally asked my dad for my hand in marriage in June, and a few days later he proposed to me. In November, we said our vows at my childhood church.

My mom said she felt the presence of Jesus so strongly during the ceremony.

We’ve been married 2 and a half years now, and things are working out for us. We’re happy. I see how God had these plans for me, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I was always supposed to be with Brandon.

I followed my heart and ended up with a great man. But getting married at a young age is not for everyone. Honestly, everyone’s situation will be different. When you find your mate is up to God.

I still get surprised reactions when people find out I’m 22 and married, let alone that I have been married for almost 3 years now. That’s okay, but I wish there wasn’t so much judgment.

It’s not just people who marry young – I know those who wait until their later 20’s or 30’s are judged too.

Bottom line is that everyone has a different path; Let’s get over expectations.

→M

Continue Reading

Practice Patience with Your Spouse

practice patience

[Guest Post by Ashleigh Slater – I always appreciate returning the favor when a fellow author lets me share about my book on her blog. This is Ashleigh’s first book entitled Team Us. I appreciate her sharing wisdom on 4 steps to practice patience with your spouse’s old habits. Enjoy and be encouraged!] 

In the weeks that led up to our wedding, my husband Ted informed our friends, family, and anyone who would listen of his impending death.

“Death?” you ask.

Yep, death. Death, that is, to his single self.

The self that could buy a new Nord Electro on a whim. Or stay up until two in the morning on a regular basis. That guy who worked late into the evening because he didn’t have a wife waiting at home.

Sure, death isn’t the most romantic thing to broadcast prior to one’s nuptials, but Ted was right. Marriage doesn’t jibe well with many of the single habits brought to it. What I don’t think he anticipated, though, was that the death of old patterns takes a while.

In the last eleven years of our marriage, here are four practical ways we’ve learned to practice patience for the old habits as we work together toward the new. You may find them helpful too.

1. We Pick Our Battles

I’ve come to realize that not all of Ted’s old habits are necessarily sinful. Now, before I address a behavior of his, I first stop and categorize it.

Sin means to “miss the mark.” So I ask myself: Is Ted missing God’s mark? Or is he simply missing mine? Is it a quirk I find grating, or is it offensive to God and hurtful to our relationship? If it’s a matter of annoyance, not destructiveness, then maybe I—and not Ted—am the one who needs to change.

Sometimes the bothersome things simply aren’t worth the battle. Often when I choose to move a bothersome thing to the conversational front burner, it doesn’t improve my marriage, it simply feeds my need to have things a certain way. The majority of the time it’s better for me to apply the wisdom of Proverbs 19:11 here, which says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

2. We Have a Realistic View of Ourselves

Sometimes my habits don’t seem as bad as Ted’s do. There are instances when I’m inclined to give myself a break, but not so quick to give him one too.

The problem is, though, drawing comparisons between our habits masks the reality that I’m no better than he is. While, yes, some behaviors are more destructive than others, we can both use growth. When I put my own behavior into perspective, it gives me more patience for Ted in the areas he struggles.

tedsays013. We Sandwich Our Criticism

Ted and I both earned master’s degrees in communication. One of our favorite techniques we picked up in our studies is what’s termed the “communication sandwich.” For those of you unfamiliar with this, it basically boils down to using praise and affirmation to sandwich criticism.

What I love about this approach is that it doesn’t put Ted on the defensive. When I use it, not only do I speak well of him, pointing out the ways I recognize and appreciate him, but I’ve also made it about me. I’ve focused on a “this is how I feel,” rather than a “you did this” approach.

4. We Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

Nowadays, Ted doesn’t buy a Nord Electro on a whim. He also doesn’t stay up until two in the morning on a regular basis. But time management is still an area under construction that could easily leave me frustrated.

But I’ve determined not to focus on his failings, rather on his successes. When frustration sets in, I stop myself and focus on all the ways Ted has grown and improved in this area over the years. It’s hard to be angry when I realize just how far he’s come.

At times, it has seemed inconceivable that some of those pesky single behaviors Ted and I both brought to our marriage would change. But we’re finding that we can kill old habits with time. Ted’s not where he was ten years ago, and I know he won’t be where he is now in another decade. He can say the same for me.

Ashleigh SlaterAshleigh Slater is the author of Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). With almost twenty years of writing experience, she loves to unite the power of a good story with practical application to encourage others. Ashleigh and her family reside in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com or find her on Facebook.

(Parts of this article have been excerpted from Team Us by Ashleigh Slater. Used with permission from Moody Publishers © 2014).

Win a copy of Team Us by Ashleigh Slater by leaving a comment below. A winner will be chosen at random.

[photo credit: analogophile via photopin cc]

Continue Reading

Resolved to Surrender

surrender

[Guest Post by Andrea Portilla – Why is it that we try to work harder, give and serve more when all we need to do is simply surrender? I appreciate Andrea’s post, and I hope you will too!]

At the beginning of the New Year I had made a resolution: I was going to take a bubble bath once a week!

A perfect kind of resolution!

The first few weeks into the year I was beside myself, for I came to realize God desired so much more from my life than I had been giving Him. In the midst of motherhood and babies; being a loving wife and intentional mother, I lost the vision for myself.

I lost the desire to dream in the midst of diapers.
I lost the desire to plan in the “to do” lists.
I had lost the joy of the work set before me.

The idea of God desiring to use me for more was daunting and overwhelming. I had nothing else to give. Yet, I was restless and discontent.

One evening I was soaking in my bath tub, enjoying the warm water and quiet hum of the jets as the scent of lavender and peppermint permeated the room and the fizzy bath salts tickled my toes. Candles were lit and soft music was playing.

Despite the serenity of that moment, my heart was shattering. In the weeks prior everything I tried so hard to be “good” at seemed to crumble. My marriage was strained by stress and hard parenting issues. My relationship with my children was strained because of disobedience and strong wills.

I had no words to encourage my husband.
I had no wisdom to parent my children.
I had nothing.

I was desperate. So I took baths and I prayed.

I was crying out to God; angry, scared and uncertain of all I was “suppose” to do.

“Lord, somehow I have lost myself. I was trying so hard to juggle all this stuff. I was trying to keep it all together and instead, everything is a jumbled mess. What do you want from me? I can’t do anything…I have nothing.”

“Surrender.”

The word that had been haunting me for months came softly into my soul, like a soft wisp of wind gathering strength in the valley to flow through the trenches of my heart. In the quiet of that moment, I gave my nothing to Him. I offered all of my lost dreams, desires and doubts to Him.

Every plan I had for my children.
Every formula I had desperately tried in hopes for better.
Every desire I had for my marriage.
Every fear I had for each of those beautiful blessings.

In that moment, with airy bubbles all around, I lifted my hands in complete surrender and said, “I’m done.”

“I’m giving it all to you…all of it. My husband, my family, my life…it’s yours. Do what you want with all of it.”

I was breathless and vulnerable and completely free. My spirit was consumed with joy and overwhelmed with His love. All those selfish desires that were hindering me to live a life completely devoted and in full surrender to His purpose were gone.

In my bath tub full of bubbles and bath salts, I completely submerged myself; baptizing myself to show the Lord I was in.

For the first time in my life I was resolved to live this life with raised hands and open palms. A life emptied of all my nothingness and filled with His everything.

Beloved, He desires to use every part of your life. He desires to empty you of your plans and fill you with His purpose. He desires for you to give Him all your dreams, your visions, your doubts and your fears. He wants to take all you have been called to and every gift that he has given you, to send you out to those who only you can love and minister to because that was His greatest reason for creating you.

Lift your hands up in complete surrender and give all of yourself to the God who called you, so that He can give you the life He purposed and created for His kingdom.

Surrender your life so that He can give you the life He died for — A life worth living.

Andrea PortillaAndrea Portilla lives in Richmond, Texas and has been married to her high school sweetheart for 11 years. She is a mom and home educator to three amazing kids. Andrea writes at www.beautifulcraziness.blogspot.com, loves to entertain family and friends in her home and spends whatever time she has left pretending to be crafty. Connect with Andrea at http://www.beautifulcraziness.blogspot.com, the Beautiful Craziness Facebook page or on twitter @andreaportilla9.

[photo credit: Dennis Wong via photopin cc]

Continue Reading