A Happy You Comes Before a Happy Wife

happy wife

[Guest Post by Arlene Pellicane – I just love the question she asks because so many women ask it before getting married. Now that I AM married, I can honestly say she speaks the truth! Don’t be afraid to wrestling with this question yourself, and be encouraged today!]

Have you ever met someone who thought her happiness was dependent on getting married?

I remember being in my twenties, dateless, without a speck of hope when it came to romance.  But I always believed that a happy me preceded a happy wife.

In other words, if I couldn’t be happy alone, I couldn’t be happy with someone either.  I love the story John Maxwell shares in his book Make Today Count. He and his wife Margaret had been married for a few years. He was speaking at a pastor’s conference and she was presenting a session for the spouses. He writes:

During the Q and A time, a woman stood up and asked, “Does John make you happy?”  I have to say, I was really looking forward to hearing Margaret’s answer. I’m an attentive husband, and I love Margaret dearly. What kind of praise would she lavish on me?

“Does John make me happy?” she considered. “No, he doesn’t.” I looked to see where the closest exit was. “The first two or three years we were married,” she continued, “I thought it was John’s job to make me happy. But he didn’t. He wasn’t mean to me or anything. He’s a good husband. But nobody can make another person happy. That was my job.”

A happy you has to exist before there can be a happy wife.

Happiness begins with a choice you make. When you wake up in the morning, you don’t only decide what you are going to eat for breakfast. You decide whether you’re going to be irritable or even keeled, cheerful or melancholy.  An attitude isn’t thrust upon you. You have the great honor of choosing how you will respond on any given day – whether married or not.

Happiness in marriage can be found in some counter-intuitive places. Through serving your spouse instead of waiting for him to serve you. Through seeking God instead of seeking your own good. Through make wise choices instead of waiting for great circumstances.

It’s not up to your husband, your address, or your circumstances to make you happy.

You are the one who ultimately makes the decision to choose joy. When you place your hope in your marriage to make you happy, you will be disappointed. But when you put your hope in God, you will find enough joy in Him to last you a lifetime.

As you look around, you see a lot of people singing the blues about marriage. Becoming a happy wife seems impossible on many days. Yet this desperation is where hope can really shine.

Is it really possible to have joy on a regular basis in your marriage?
Can you really be happy in your current situation?

If you are married to a decent man who is not abusive, I am here to tell you that happiness can indeed start with you.  But you must begin by placing your hope in God.

Question:  Who are you counting on to bring you joy? What unrealistic expectations might you have for what your husband will do for you? 

*Today’s blog is an excerpt from 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife (Harvest House, 2014).

Arlene Pellicane 600x600jpgArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.  You can visit her website at www.ArlenePellicane.com Arlene lives in San Diego with her husband James and three children.

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Forgiving My Rapist

forgiving my rapist

[Guest Post by Amanda Espinoza – I can’t say thanks enough to those who are willing to share about something so deeply personal and painful. I want to personally thank Laura, the first person to share her story of rape on my blog. You can read her story here. Also, my friend Carla who shared her story of rape, and you can read her story here. If any of you are struggling on this topic I encourage you to reach out and get help. Jesus cares and He wants to help you process this painful event.]

It is easy to forgive someone when they sincerely apologize and ask for that forgiveness.

But what do you do when the person who has wronged you isn’t asking for forgiveness? That is a question I have had to battle with multiple times for one single event.

At the age of 18, I was a rebellious teenager who thought I knew right from wrong. I had been a “straight A” student through high school and stayed on the straight and narrow path.

October 31, 2003 is a night I will never forget.

It was a supposed to be a night of fun and costumes.

Instead I was left stripped of my virginity and left to pick up the pieces.

I didn’t speak about it to anyone for more than a month. But when I did, that is when the real pain soaked in.

I praise God I had a family who knew how to support me. My grandmother offered to pay for a counseling session with a woman I don’t remember, but her words of Godly wisdom are forever imprinted in my mind.

I went through four sessions with her.

I truly wanted to be there; I needed to hear her; I needed to find healing in my soul. I had no control over my emotions, I felt violated, confused, and rejected. How could God allow one of his own children to go through this pain?

She helped me see that the focus should not be on questioning God, but to allow Him to mend my broken heart and soul.

She told me to forgive him.

It was as if that would be the simplest thing to do. Forgiving my rapist was far from easy. How could I forgive someone who wasn’t even sorry? He took the only thing that I didn’t want to lose.

And now I am supposed to just forgive him?

The counselor told me that should I chose not to forgive him, which I did have that choice, I would be harboring resentment and anger in my heart. That it would eventually consume me!  I was already forever changed from an innocent teenager to a broken woman, but if I chose not to forgive then my heart would begin to turn into darkness.

Growing up in the Christian faith, I knew how important it was to forgive others.

So I listened to her very intently. What she gave me was the gift of understanding that there is always a bigger picture. God will always use me for His glory, as long as I let Him.

Like clockwork, that event crossed into my path every few years as my life changed and grew. I came to different levels of maturity and new ways of understanding. Every time I remembered the pain I had to forgive–again.

Now, I am preparing to get married.

Currently I find myself wondering if this event will affect my marriage and if it will affect my future children. But these questions do not need to be asked. All God asks of me is to forgive that man again, and lean on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

He has asked me to be open and honest on my path of life.

He has given me the strength to share my story with every woman and young adult I meet.

I don’t know how my story has impacted other lives, but I know God will use me for His glory.

See, sometimes I think we try to figure life out. We try to find the big picture. But all God asked of me, was to forgive that man of his wrongdoing.

“Forgive [him] father, [he] knows not what he did” (Luke 23:34).

Ultimately, we must trust God enough to lean on Him so He can guide our next steps.

Amanda EspinozaAmanda Espinoza is an Independent Beauty Consultant and lives to not only help women feel beautiful on the outside, but to see the inner beauty that is within her; giving each woman the skills to let her beauty shine. Through each consultation she is able to show the servants heart of Jesus Christ.

[Photo credit: Shandi-lee via photopin cc]

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My Desert of Singleness

singleness

[Guest Post by Brooke – We met through iBelieve.com a site we both write for. When she approached me with her story, I couldn’t wait to share it with you all. For those of you who feel like you’re in the desert of singleness–please know that you’re NOT alone!!!]

He planned the proposal perfectly—balloons, a trail of lights by the lake, Clair de Lune playing in the background, and him down on one knee asking me to be his wife.

I had waited 33 years for this moment and I had begun to doubt it would ever happen–until I met him.

We met online on a Christian dating site.

I had been resistant to the idea of online dating for years, but God had slowly opened my heart to it. After a recent disastrous date and a huge blow to my self-esteem, I was hesitant to try again. But there was one email that I kept thinking about, one guy that I couldn’t get out of my head. He had simply written, “What do you like to write about?” There was gentleness in his words and a kindness in his eyes that kept drawing me back. I waited several months before answering him, figuring by that time he had surely found someone. After pushing “send,” I went to bed and prayed. I prayed that if I had made a mistake, please God, don’t let him email me back.

Within an hour, I had a reply.

After a month of communicating online, we met in person.

He was easy to talk to and if I’m honest, I was instantly smitten, but at the same time hesitant. I had been single forever, so I could hardly believe this guy could like me, much less ever love me.

In six months, we were engaged. Then just as quickly as we came together, we fell apart.

The marriage would have involved dramatic changes for me.

I would be quitting my job, moving away from my family, friends, and church, and selling my house. For a girl who loves her comfort zone, all of these changes plus getting married had my mind going into a tailspin, but I felt it was what I was supposed to do.

While terrified at the thought of so many changes, I was also excited to begin this new chapter in my life and to see what God was going to do with it. God had been growing and changing me drastically in the previous two years and I felt that He had been preparing me for a major change. I felt He was asking me to trust Him in a way that I had never done before.

In fact He was, just not in the way I wanted.

Instead of marriage, God was asking me to trust Him enough to let go of my desires and go back into my desert of singleness.

God had given me a glimpse of my Promised Land–the dream of being a wife and mom.

Just as quickly as that possibility came into my life, it was snatched away.

I had prayed about this relationship, so why did it end with my dreams lying shattered at my feet? I had asked God not to let it happen if it wasn’t supposed to, so why did I find myself back where I started only now missing a man that will never be a part of my life again? Why was I allowed to hold my dream in my hands only to have it slip through my fingers? These questions ran through my mind as I struggled with the confusion, sadness, anger and pain.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord (Isaiah 55:8, NIV).

As humans, we only see a glimpse of the grand picture God has created.

We can’t begin to imagine the intricate pieces and the interweaving of lives that God has orchestrated. I may never know why I got to experience a love only to watch it fade away, but I know and I trust that my broken relationship is playing a part in God’s beautiful plan however painful it is for me. I know that God will take the broken pieces and restore them into beautiful things.

So I place my brokenness at God’s feet and I pray let Your will be done, for I trust in a Savior who never fails, who never leaves and who always redeems.

Brooke SmithBrooke is a 30-something single woman who loves Jesus and is just trying to follow Him every day. She works full-time in the publishing industry as a managing editor and spends her free time making pretty things, writing and attending as many Vince Gill concerts as she can. You can follow her on Twitter and visit her blog.

[Photo: ghost_67, Flickr]

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The Little Things

the little things

“Our relationships are a blessing from God—something we should take very seriously—even when it comes to the little things.

I believe God wants to bless you and your relationships.

In life, it’s easy to judge other couples based on how they appear on the outside, instead of taking the time to get to know what’s going on inside their lives and their home.

Every relationship takes work, and by God’s design every couple is afforded the same grace. Instead of wishing you were like this couple, or thanking God you’re not like that couple—take some time to do inventory on your own relationships.

If you’re married, pray for your spouse. Set up some time to talk, really talk about things that are important and matter.

If you’re single, pray for your future spouse that he or she would stand strong and not give in to temptation.

Please read the rest of my article on iBelieve called When The Honeymoon Ends. I’d love for you to read more about how the foxes (the little things) can ruin your relationships (Solomon 2:15).

[Photo: Scott Joshua Dere, Flickr]

Be encouraged,

Renee

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My Married Story Has Ended

marriage story

[Guest Post by Sue Birdseye. I met Sue through my friends at Tyndale Publishers about her book When Happily Ever After Shatters. If your story has ended and you feel like a failure because of it–I hope her story will encourage you.]

My story ended and began with these few little words uttered by my husband of 17 years.

“I think I’m going to leave.”

As our 5 children and their friends raced around us, my husband spoke words that changed the course of my life, our lives, and our family forever.

The next few days and weeks were a desperate attempt on my part to convince my husband to stay–even after the revelation of his affair.

I held out hope that God could work a miracle–that our marriage could be even stronger because we had faced this, determined to reconcile and relied on God to work mightily in our family.

Unfortunately God allowed something entirely different to happen.

Although I tried everything I could think of to save my marriage, I couldn’t. 

My husband had already decided to leave. 

I thought we were happy. I’d been blissfully unaware, and now I was blindsided by his betrayal. I couldn’t reconcile what was happening with the man I loved.

And although that was a nightmare and more painful than I think I could ever express, there was a beauty to the way God met me in my sorrow. He showed Himself so real and faithful to me.

While the man who had covenanted with me broke all his vows, my Heavenly Father who had covenanted with me, kept His over and over and over again. Even while I struggled with trusting Him, He remained loving and kind.

I lived grace.

Grace to go through difficulties with a focus on Christ. Grace to love when love was not returned. Grace to fight for something against all odds. Grace to let go of anger. Grace to struggle. Grace to trust.

Grace to forgive.

I believe learning to forgive and be forgiven was the biggest thing. The biggest thing in my healing and the biggest thing in my life.

Forgiveness was a process. 

It began when I asked that God would enable me to forgive. I thought He’d grant me some supernatural ability to forgive my ex-husband, instead He revealed the state of my own heart.

Ugh. 

And yet I’m so grateful He did. 

When I saw my own tendencies to sin, it gave me a measure of compassion for my ex-husband. And with that the process began.

I learned that grace is more than just something I received at the Cross.

It’s something to experience every day–and not just the bad days. God’s grace gives me something I don’t deserve–forgiveness and a relationship with Him. God’s grace also gives me the ability to live each day with hope and peace no matter the circumstances.

As a single mama to 5 children, every day has its challenges.

And I’m continually reminded that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in my weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). Even in my weakest moments–when sorrow, frustration and fear overwhelm me–His grace is sufficient.

I’ve also learned that grace is more than just what I get, it’s who He is.

Grace is a defining attribute of the Lord. 

Jesus is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). 

Grace is part of God’s character and it’s the very reason He offers us grace. 

I want to be a graceful woman–a grace-filled woman.

When I think of being graceful words like wisdom, compassion, and gentleness…kindness, justice, and love. It’s one of those words that brings many ideas to mind–all good.

This grace thing is definitely a work in progress.

I’ll be trying to grasp this concept for quite a while, but I know my God is the originator of it and each day I experience it. And although things haven’t been easy since that sorrowful day years ago, God has been faithful, loving and kind to me and mine.  He’s been graceful, offered grace, and enabled me to walk this path gracefully.

My married story has ended–although maybe I should say that chapter has ended–and a new one has begun.

One filled with grace. 

And that is a beautiful thing!

sue birdseyeAfter seventeen years of marriage, adultery, abandonment, and divorce changed Sue Birdseye’s world forever. But God made beauty of ashes, gave her the ability to find hope and humor even in difficult times, and blessed her with a sweet ministry to others facing challenging circumstances. As a writer and speaker to women’s groups around the country, Sue comes alongside those who find themselves on a similar path—helping them to find joy in the face of shattered dreams, trust in times of great trial, and the ability to extend grace on very little sleep. Sue is a single mom to her 5 wonderful children, one in every stage of development—proving God has a sense of humor.

[Written by Sue Birdseye, author of When Happily Ever After Shatters, releasing from Tyndale House Publishers March 2013]

[Photo: Brandice Schnabel, Creative Commons]

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Dreams Change

dreams change

[Guest Post by Shannon Roy – I met her through StartMarriageRight.com an amazing site for building godly relationships. She and I have stayed in close contact ever since, and I can’t wait to meet her in person when I travel to Chicago later on this year. Also, I am excited for her and her upcoming marriage!!]

A riddle for you to ponder: What is better than experiencing your greatest dream come true?

Before–my answer would be a “few” dreams, but dreams change.

The clouds darkened overhead the bright green fields spread out before us. Our SUV radio buzzed as we listened to the coordinates of the brewing storm. Our entourage flew down the open dirt road; we were determined to get ahead of the storm. If we could just get close enough to perform our test, our information could help us predict the course of a natural disaster, like a tornado.

The towns could alert people earlier and lives could be saved.

Our mission was important and we weren’t afraid.

The winds started to pick up and my adrenaline increased. The tires squealed to a halt on the pavement and we jumped out of the car, anchored to the vehicle with rope. This was the moment of truth; we either performed the test correctly or watched 1 million dollars be tossed into the quickly approaching twister—no wonder Jan de Bont created a film out of this life style. I must say, Helen Hunt played the part well.

The winds began to move and my dreams changed.

The thrill of racing through the fields of North America’s tornado alley faded as I became curious about the rest of the world.

Sweat trickled down my forehead and onto my linen shirt. The helicopter approached the launching pad not far from the Congo River, formerly known as the Zaire River, and the deepest river in the world.

I’d been studying this region of Africa, particularly the DRC post-Second Congo War—thought by some to be the deadliest war since World War II. Many people lost their lives, not only to combat, but from preventable disease.

I hopped off the copter and buddied up with my guide. I was thankful for my studies in Paris the year before; my novice French would be an asset here. We hopped in a jeep a sped off into the rainforest. I needed to find people who were touched by the war; I wanted to hear their stories and reveal them to the world…and I would need to do it quickly.

My deadline was in three weeks.

That dream came to an abrupt halt because my emotional, spiritual and physical health needed attention.

For the first time since I could remember, my chest wasn’t tight with anxiety. I could focus on the moment; and what a relief it was. My hand resting on my abdomen—I laid in bed knowing that deep sleep would come soon. I slept like a rock and woke up incredibly refreshed and ready to start the day.

Breathing in deeply and then out, I could feel my stomach rise as my lungs filled with air and then sink down again. I thanked God for a working body, and that was healing after having done damage to it—a healthy diet turned into a destructive eating disorder.

It gave me some sense of control and security amidst a competitive and fast-paced lifestyle.

But that was my choice; I’d forgotten that I had a choice.

I was no longer, actually I never was, very good at calling the shots in my own life so I gave it completely, with abandon, over to God.

I found Him.

After a few months on rest and rehabilitation, my body was stronger, my face was washed with color again, my anxious thoughts ceased, breathing came easy and my thoughts slowed down from a race to a pleasant trot.

Mugabe and the White African, my dream project as a book publicist back home in Chicago. The press release was perfect. Press kits went out to my carefully crafted media lists. Media alerts scattered the nation. NPR was even going to do a segment on the title! Wow–this was big. The office was buzzing as the other publicists worked hard on their own titles. Every week marked a new deadline and the end of the month a big push. All of the planning carefully timed to gain the maximum amount of exposure for the title. This was a story that could reveal new information to readers and had the potential to stir up conversation.The idea that I could have a part in disseminating this message was exhilarating–a real chance at success.

We laughed and reminisced around a camp fire on a warm Indian Summer night, telling stories about God’s good work in our lives.

This would be the last time that I would see some of them over the next two years. I would be leaving the next week for a mission across the world. The journal that I would keep was contracted to be published upon my return. Maybe I could even write a children’s book based off of it. Marshmallows turned carefully over the orange and yellow flames and I watched my beloved family and friends smile, the light dancing on their faces. I would miss them more than anything but knew that the Lord had important work for me.

The grand opening of my children’s international book store was a great success.

Floods of children and their families from all over the world came for our first story time. They heard a beautifully illustrated tale called Miss Rumphius, who wanted to make the world beautiful. The children listened to the whole story; the storyteller was incredibly engaging and even dressed up just like Miss Rumphius. We served tea and treats and handed out flyers about the English conversation event that would take place each week in our cozy café.

The waiter poured us each a glass of red wine and he shared his greatest dreams with me—a smile flashed across his face—I couldn’t wait to help those dreams come true. We were celebrating a very special occasion. Last night, you see, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. Our joy made evident by the glow on our faces, we thanked God for bringing us together to do his work as a team. Our dear friends gathered around us now for the occasion, we toasted over small plates of winter comfort food, and took turns telling the proposal story over and over. I never tired of being asked.

So what, in my opinion, is better than experiencing your own greatest dream come true?

Helping someone else’s dream to come true–and then walking with him as it unfolds.

As I wrote these anecdotes, some of them based on true events from my life, I realized how many of my dreams have come true. I also realized how much God’s love changed my dreams. He has blessed me abundantly–and yet I’m still grateful for the little girl in me that dreams up wild adventures and tender moments.

With a BA in Public Communication and certificate from the Denver Publishing Institute, Shannon has worked in book publishing for 5 years and also works in children’s ministry at her church. When she’s not at work, she serves with World Relief Chicago. Shannon is grateful for devotional time, coffee dates with friends, laughing over kids’ books with her teacher mom, early morning swims and dance classes. She lives on Chicago’s north side and is getting married on June 1, 2013 to her best friend and fiance, Joe. Follow Shannon on Twitter.

[Photo: border.garaku, Creative Commons]

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Should We Live Together Before Marriage?

should we live together before marriage

[Guest Blog by Pam and Bill Farrel. Pam is my mentor and has gone above and beyond to help me publish my first three books. They are also one of my upcoming speakers at Quarter Life Conference. Don’t forget to register here.]

Should we live together before marriage?

The whole area of how to know you are in love, how to know if this is Mr. Right or Ms. Right, then how far to progress sexually at what commitment level seems to be a grand mystery in today’s world. Often couples today are opting for a live-in, cohabiting arrangement.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, cohabitation increased 533 % from 1970-1992.

Many states are even seeking to legitimize these domestic partnerships with laws giving them the same status and privileges as married couples. But is living together really the same as marriage? Before packing your bags and moving in together, consider these startling facts:

Children ARE affected.

40% of all cohabiting couples also have children living in the household with them. 27% of all births are to couples co-habitating rather than marrying.

These kids are at risk. 84% of non-parental abuse upon children are committed by the mother’s boyfriend. According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, girls living in a home with a boyfriend (not a step father or father) are at a much higher risk for sexual abuse.

It’s not a safe place for a woman. 

During a one-year period, 35 out of 100 cohabitating couples experienced physical aggression.

Domestic violence is twice as likely among live in couples as compared to married couples. In one study by the Journal of Family Violence, 48% of couples living together experienced domestic violence, compared to19% of married couples and 27% of those divorced or separated. There seems to be a correlation that the less societal and relationship commitment is expressed, the more violent the relationship becomes. The marriage license does seem to be a shield of protection for many married women—most likely because the man in her life valued her enough to take the steps to express his commitment to her in a marriage ceremony.

Cohabitation sets you up for divorce.

Those who live together prior to marriage are twice as likely to divorce if they do get married.

And the longer the cohabitation—the more likely divorce is, according to sociologists at the University of Wisconsin. Those who live together separate more often if they do marry and they also regard the relationship as a less important part of their life. It seems cohabitation trains couples to disregard the love relationship—just the opposite of what most couples would cite as their reason for living together.

Studies show that other problems usually accompany a live-in relationship.

According to a UCLA study, cohabiting relationships are also more likely to be plagued with the problems of adultery, alcohol, and drugs.

Those who live together prior to marriage are more likely to commit adultery both while living with their partner and if they marry. In addition, one study found that cohabitating women were more jealous than married women, and they had a higher emotional dependency on the male live-in partner. Many developed a pattern of few friendships, no job advancement aspirations and few outside interests.

Cohabitating couples, when asked to rate the quality of their relationship, give them much lower marks than married couples. Women in these relationships feel less secure economically and emotionally, and have a much higher rate of depression.

Three out of every four cohabitating couples cited that they thought their relationship was in serious trouble.

Why does cohabitation or living together set a relationship up for failure?

Several studies suggest that those who refuse to make a step of commitment as expressed in marriage do so because they are very individualistic. This is a nice way of saying they are selfish. Those who co-habitate are less likely to express personal character traits that foster a good relationship: sacrifice, humility, flexibility, empathy, and the ability to delay gratification.

In the nearly 20 years Bill and I have worked with couples, we have seen that those who cohabitate usually also have unhealthy priorities, like living together so they can have a huge fancy wedding several years later.

However, if the relationship even makes it that far, later it is plagued by the pattern of money being more important than the relationship. It becomes, the job winning over the spouse, or earning money winning over being there for the children. There also is a lack of decision-making skills which was set in motion because the couple refused to make a decision on the most important areas of life, living to please God, and choosing if they were committed to a relationship enough to marry. Finally, the drawback few people talk about, but Bill and I have seen over and over again, is those who cohabitate prior to marriage are more likely to be discontent or have problems in their sex life. Trust is the most important factor a woman needs to experience total sexual fulfillment and trust is broken rather than built in a live-in relationship.

Cohabitation is the pathway to a broken heart that has become very popular in our modern world.

In a study reported in Adolescence, 24% of males and 18% of females actually cohabitated. But astoundingly, 71% of the males in that study and 68% of the females were totally open to cohabitation despite the evidence of its ineffectiveness. If you are intent on being in a relationship, marriage is much more than a piece of paper—it is a ticket to a happier, more fulfilling life together.

Farrel_394 b p hugBill and Pam Farrel are the Co Founders and Directors of Love-Wise an organization that encourages today’s couples and families by bringing “practical insights to personal relationships” in an upbeat, humorous, and real life manner. They are international speakers, and authors of over 30 books including best-selling Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti. Bill has experience as a Senior Pastor, Youth Pastor and most recently, as Pastor to Small Groups under Dr. David Jeremiah. Pam has experience as a Director of Women, Pastor’s wife, and mentor. She is also the founder and President of Seasoned sisters, a ministry to women 40-65. (www.seasonedsisters.com) Their books have been translated into over 16 languages. They have been happily married for 32 years and are parents to three children, a daughter in law , two small granddaughters and a new grandson. The Farrels live in San Diego, Ca.

[Excerpt from Single Men are like Waffles, Single Women are like Spaghetti (Harvest House)]

[Photo: Patty Maher, Flickr]

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Living Together In The Military

living together in the military

[Guest post by Tracy Steel. We met online (where else?), and quickly became friends after we realized we both shared similar stories of staying single for longer than we both wanted too. Her story is quite touching and I couldn’t wait to have her share about her life in the military.]

Loving and living with a military man is no easy task.

I realize that you may not be married, or living together in the military– yet all of us are called to love the spouse, family, or friend we live with. This is no easy task either!

But based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, here is what living with my military man in a loving way means:

“Love is patient…”

3 months into our marriage, I found out that I was pregnant. Then my husband deployed into a warzone for 102 days. Over the past 5 years we’ve moved 4 times, birthed 2 babies, and endured the declining health and death of my mother.  Patience towards each other is a must.

“…love is kind.”

The stress of a young family, coupled with the demands of a military in perpetual war, begs for a kind touch or a soothing word.  Fixing something festive for dinner or giving a shoulder rub after a long day does wonders for the morale of our marriage.

“It does not envy…”

Some say the grass is greener on the other side, but it is probably because the other side uses a different kind of fertilizer. Seriously, envy breeds contempt. Envy has no place in marriage, or in friendships. I am constantly fighting the urge to compare my marriage to others. But I trust that God has us exactly where He wants and needs us. In fact, the one word God has given me to meditate on this year is: settle. {smile}

“…it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others…”

As one moves up in rank in the military, it is easy to become conceited. However, rank and influence can be gone in a heartbeat. Chad has taken me to gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery, where countless men and women no longer boast. This reminder is the ultimate testimony that you cannot take rank or power with you when you die.

Boasting then has no place in a marriage, except if it is directed at the greatness of your spouse. So honor them with your words, and make ample effort to do so in front of others.

“…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…”

Shortly after we were married, the wife of Chad’s commander told me to direct my frustration over deployments and moves at the Air Force, and not onto Chad. This is the best marriage advice I’ve been given!

Her words have replayed in my mind since we journeyed through a short notice deployment, and a 1 day notice to move our family across 4 states for 5 months of training. These “surprises” ruined my plans. Canceling commitments is pure torture for a type-A gal like me.

But…

I am the one who said, “yes” to Chad’s proposal. I chose the military lifestyle. The stressors of life are not Chad’s fault. Likewise, you also made a choice to live with your spouse or friend. With God’s help, we can overcome being easily angered when “surprises” and “stressors” happen.

“…it keeps no record of wrongs.” 

In 2010, I attended the memorial service for Pedro 66 at Davis-Monthan AFB. Five of Chad’s Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) comrades-in-arms had been killed in action after their HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter was shot down by insurgents. This moment, seared into our memories, taught Chad and I that issues cannot come between us. Let “stuff” go… life is too precious and short.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

Living together makes it difficult to hide our un-lovable qualities. They will surface, and when they do, we must ask God to help us rejoice over whom He has created us to be, and who we have yet to become. Scripture is clear that God is transforming us into His likeness (Philippians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). THIS is Truth we can rejoice in, whenever one (or both) of us is acting un-lovable.

“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”

The motto of the Air Force’s CSAR mission is, “These things we do, that others may live.” Although Chad is trained to pick up downed airmen behind enemy lines, we also mold this motto into our marriage. Chad and I must protect the dignity of each other, place complete trust in each other, hope for one another, and persevere through the tough times.

If we “love” our marriage will not fail. It will not only survive the military, but thrive for “as long as we  both shall live together.”

Tracy is proudly married to Chad, a pilot in the United States Air Force. Whenever they are not being relocated, she loves to drink green tea and watch re-runs of LOST. Tracy graduated from Phoenix Seminary in 2005, and served as the Director of Student Women at Scottsdale Bible Church from 2005-2007. She is also the author of Images of His Beauty, a newly released Bible Study, for young women who struggle with self-image issues and eating disorders. You can find out more information about the study and follow her blog at www.onedegreeministries.com.

[Picture: DVIDSHUB, Creative Commons]

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Living Together Before Marriage

living together before marriage

[Guest Post by Ruth Rutherford] – Picture this, ladies: You’ve been dating an amazing guy for a while now and things are going perfectly.

He is sweet, funny, smart and driven. When he looks at you, his eyes sparkle. When he smiles at you, your heart melts. And, most importantly, he really, truly loves God. You pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming because (deep breath) you think you’ve found the one.

You spend nearly every waking moment together, often falling asleep in one another’s arms while watching the latest Redbox release. Rustled awake by a nearby car alarm, you look at the clock near his couch and it says 2 a.m. You both groan as you slip on your shoes and coat, and crawl toward the door, secretly wishing you could both just crawl into his bed instead.

The subject of your future together starts to come up more often.

You talk about marriage.

You talk about where you might live.

You talk about finances, which turns into quite the Debbie Downer dinner topic.

Between his car payment and your student loans and both your apartment rent payments, money is tight. The math tells you to move in together. You’d only pay rent once, could share a car, and would see each other more often. And, hey, you could even read the Bible together every morning over coffee!

Although you feel a bit uneasy about it, the logic is there.

And you do love him with all your heart, and plan to marry him. So, why not? Why should you abide by some archaic, Christian dating guideline from days of yore? It’s 2013.

Times have simply changed.

And you’d be right to think that–times sure have changed. But that doesn’t mean that many of the guidelines around faith and relationships aren’t still incredibly relevant.

It’s like your mom used to tell you when you got too close to the stove: “Hot! Don’t touch!”

You were curious, drawn to the gas flame like a moth to a front porch light. But you, with your inquisitive streak, just wanted to touch. What your mom knew that you didn’t is this: If you’d just wait a few more minutes, you could taste what was cooking and actually enjoy it…without getting hurt.

So here you are–older, more mature, but with that same inquisitive streak.

The man you love–who you want to spend forever with–is inviting you to live together with him.

In his apartment.

In his space.

In his arms every single morning.

Sigh. It’s hard to resist. The upsides are clear. Yes, you would save money. Yes, you’d spend more time together. Yes, you would learn more intimate details about each other and grow closer. But don’t be blinded by the heat of the moment, by the lure of the flame.

I can tell you with complete certainty–and with many friends’ experiences to back me up–that there are, indeed, downsides. And they are dangerous.

Living together will open the door to experiences reserved for husbands and wives.

The intimacy you’ll share will be beautiful, but will come with a level of commitment that can be scary. And without marriage vows to hold you together, it will be way too easy to simply walk away when the going gets tough, leaving your heart in the balance. And if you’re trying to save yourselves for marriage sexually, you’re acting as your own worst enemy by tearing down all practical boundaries against temptation.

If he’s the one for you, and if you’re the one for him–you both deserve the commitment.

Notice the operative word here is “the”– the commitment, as in marriage. You both deserve to hear that mutual promise from the other, and to act on it.

When it comes to living together before marriage, hear me when I say, in my best mom voice: “Hot! Don’t touch!” Just wait a little while longer.

What you’ll taste in a loving, committed marriage relationship will satisfy any curiosity you have over what kind of toothpaste he uses or whether he wears boxers or briefs in bed. It’ll satisfy your curiosity as to what true, patient, sacrificial commitment is all about.

And most importantly, it’ll protect your heart for the long haul.

ruth rutherfordA freelance writer based in Washington, D.C., Ruth Rutherford (@ruth_rutherford) enjoys blogging about faith and life as a Christian single. She hopes her words will inspire others (and herself) to embrace their place today, instead of obsessing over tomorrow (ikissedmydategoodnight.com).

[Photo: .nate, Creative Commons]

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On Anxiety: Why I'm Not Ready For Kids

im not ready for kids

I’m not ready for kids because I have anxiety.

I never thought I’d share this information publicly, but I never thought I’d be married and dealing with this problem privately.

As some of you already may know, I was single for 12 years, 10 months, and 24 days. That’s a long time to forget about having children. Also long enough to realize I probably won’t have more than one or two kids when I do get married. I’m 30, so it’s not like I don’t time to figure out this kid business.

I never realized my doctor would tell me I shouldn’t have kids.

It’s not enough to know that my husband and I aren’t ready to make that decision yet (we’re newlyweds), but the medication I take specifically says do not take while pregnant or nursing.

My doctor says I have to be off anxiety medication for at least 4 months before I even think about getting pregnant.

This makes me feel broken.

Unsettled.

Ashamed and embarrassed.

I feel like a prisoner in my own body.

I never thought I’d be taking anxiety medication for this long.

I also never thought I’d have to deal with the fact that getting pregnant would be a bad thing. I waited for marriage and so did my husband–shouldn’t this also mean our pursuit towards having kids and raising a family be a good thing?

I recently read a comforting yet challenging article called The False Promise of Abstinence by Alece Ronzino. She said just because you save sex for marriage doesn’t equal perfect sex. I’d like to take that one step further and say it also doesn’t equal the perfect kid.

I’m not ready for kids for a number of reasons.

It just feels like my fault when it’s me that can’t (yet). Sure Obama Health Care doesn’t help (our out of pocket premiums will double with kids). Sure the sucky economy doesn’t help either.

One thing that’s brought me comfort during the first year and four months of marriage is the hope of adoption. Before we got married, Marc and I knew adoption held a special place in our hearts. I honestly thought it would be the easy way out–that is, until one of the adoption agencies said that I couldn’t adopt because I take anxiety medication.

Once again I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

I love this quote by my author friend Ava Pennington. In talking about the pain children can cause she says,

“Zealousness indicates an eager or fervent desire for something. Even if we are eager to restore a broken relationship, however, it is doubtful any of us would be willing to sacrifice one of our children. God, in all His omniscience, knew exactly what it would cost to redeem His people. Still, He was Zealous–eager, fervent–to make it happen, not because He wished pain on His Son, but because it was the only way to restore us to Him. That is how much He loves us” (One Year Alone With God).

Through the process I’ve come into a deeper understanding of God’s heart for children.

His love endured the most incredible pain any parent could endure–sacrificing His own child for the sake of all children.

If I ever have a child of my own someday or not–I know the kind of religion that is acceptable to God is the kind that looks after orphans and widows (James 1:27).

And this is not something to be anxious about.

[Photo: osiatynska, Creative Commons]

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