I lost more than a marriage

tin can phone

[Guest Post by Kathy Moore – I have been walking alongside my friend through her separation, and then divorce. It has been especially hard to watch as the gossip train has started, and doesn’t seem to stop. If you are a “Christian” who knows others who have been destroyed by gossip, please forward this to them. If you are one of them — be encouraged by my friend Kathy’s story today.]

I am divorced.  

Out of obedience to the Lord, I have been silent to share my story — until now. Due to continuing gossip, I have felt the Lord’s prompting to speak truth.

Matthew 5:13-14 reminds me as a Jesus follower I am to be salt and light to the world.  Salt, as we all know, flavors, and light reveals. In addition to being a flavoring, salt is a healing agent, though at first it stings like no one’s business.

And light? While we are thankful for all the wonderful gifts it brings into our lives. Sometimes, when we look straight into it — we are blinded. I realize that there is a cost in being salt and light.

I have had my own healing happen through the stinging, cleansing agents of salt. I have looked into the light and been found wanting.  

I have yielded to both the stinging and the blinding, and I have come out stronger for it. I have come out a stronger follower of Jesus, a more compassionate friend, an empathetic leader, and a mom who is able to instill healthy boundaries into her children.

It was not without pain, tears or anger at God. 
God has brought me full circle. 

He took an anger so deep that it turned logic into chaos. He lovingly comforted me as I came to the cross, a 41 year old broken, humbled, beaten woman full of repentance and asking for forgiveness. He has restored my heart, even in my deep brokenness.

It is time to speak up and confront the abuse — spiritual and otherwise — that continues in my life and the lives of my children.

January 2011, my life unraveled. 

I had known for many years that things were not right. I worked and worked to make things right. But. Nothing stuck. Healing did not occur. My husband and I had separated 3 times in 15 years together.

The final time, I sought assistance from church leaders. I realize now they were not equipped for such a large task. I knew that my church did not support divorce, and I didn’t want one — but I knew I could not keep living in a terrible situation.

I was angry.
I was hurting.
I was out of options. 

The problems had started years and years before. I never really had the guts to bring the situation into the light. My husband and I did not fight well. As a matter of fact, the fights often turned abusive. Chocking, hitting, name calling, and being thrown down occurred more than once.

I admit, sometimes I fought back. The last time we fought, my diamond left a cut above his eye. But years of verbal, physical and emotional abuse left their mark on me. All I wanted was out. And so I began swallowing over-the-counter migraine medicine. That one act created a firestorm that led to my eventual divorce. Unfortunately, the firestorm really didn’t hit the true cause of my misery — abuse. It only added to the abuse by adding a layer of spiritual abuse.

When I filed for legal separation, I lost more than a marriage, I lost a church family and the support of those I had counted on.  

I was left a shadow of what I had once been.

What I have failed to mention is all the gossip that has occurred since my separation, and then divorce. Though I filed for separation, I was not the one to check the divorce box. I never wanted divorce. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what was happening inside the four walls was not healthy for me or my kids and it wasn’t getting any better.

I have been called a run-away wife. 
I have been told that he found better women. 
I have been told I am a terrible mother.
It has been said that I’ve slept around.

And who said all these things? Christians. The very ones who turned their backs and didn’t wait around for the real story.

I am tired. 
I am righteously angry. 
And now, my children have gotten caught in the insipid chatter.

Ladies and gentleman, abuse is never ok. Abuse is a symptom of a much deeper issue. 

I tried everything imaginable to stop the abuse. I stayed for 15 years. I loved my husband. I wanted a better future.  I drove those who really loved and cared about me nuts, because I could not leave my marriage. And yet, the marriage and abuse were killing me, slowly.

It is a rare day when I don’t pray for my children’s father.
It is a rare day that goes by when I don’t grieve over my broken marriage.
It is a rare day that goes by when I am not confronted with the damage of divorce. 

On the other hand, rarely am I not thankful for who I have become. I wish I had had this strength when I was married, I believe maybe there could have been a different ending.

I like who I am.
I like who God created me to be.
I like the woman who relies fully on Jesus — for everything. 

God has shown up and continues to show up — financially, emotionally, and with gifts I couldn’t have asked for.

And yet, the gossip continues. People. I am divorced. I left an ugly situation hoping and praying for a different outcome, which still hasn’t come. However, God has come into my life and scooped out the anger and given me a heart of forgiveness towards my children’s dad; a forgiveness I’ve extended verbally to him.

Before the Lord, I am clean.

I have kept silent about the true nature of my marriage, because I wanted to protect not only my kids, but their dad as well.

I prayed that understanding would come. I have begged and pleaded with the Lord for someone to stand up for me — and yet here I am, with full peace knowing I must stand up now and speak truth.

Truth shines light on wrongdoings. 
Truth exposes sin. 
Truth is love. 

Love isn’t just sappy and happy. Sometimes love hurts. But, what is the outcome? Peace. True, God-given peace. I have walked a very lonely road. Often times the road has left me in the dark, by myself for long periods of time.

I’m thankful for it.
I’m thankful that I know Jesus intimately.
I’m thankful that it’s purely Jesus, me and my kids going down this road.

I continue to pray for the kid’s dad. I pray true, salt and light repentance occurs.   continue to speak truth into my kid’s lives. I continue to love them and have fun with them and all the while encourage a deeper relationship with Jesus. For those that think they are helping by speaking “truth” into my kid’s lives about me or my church or my life — stop it. If you really want to help, confront the sin that is standing right in front of you masquerading as “right” living.

For the rest of you who have so faithfully stood by my side through tears and really, really tough junk. Thank you. I pray one day I can do the same for you.

Kathy MooreI am Kathy Moore, a daughter of Jesus and mom to three. Writing is my passion and encouraging others towards a deeper, more authentic relationship with Jesus is my goal. I’m funny, serious, a bit weird at times, but overall a fun person to hang out with. I’ve been through a lot–just like the rest of humanity and try to use my “a lot” to help others. Connect with me at delivered2thrive.com.

[photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopin cc]

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Our Need For Intimacy

need for intimacy

[Guest Post by Priscilla Cash – When I got an email from a military wife, I had to say yes. Not just because I support our military, but because I know many military wives and moms who can relate. I hope you are encouraged by her vulnerability and courage to share about intimacy.]

It was not just that I was a woman. It was not just that I had seen too many TV shows or read too many novels.

Deep within, I knew I needed intimacy. It is a profound need. We crave it, we seek it, but it often alludes us. And so, as a teenager, I waited, feeling like there was a deep, vacant hole in my soul.

I have journal entries from those days before I was married, chronicling the loneliness. It brought me closer to Jesus. My relationship with God grew as I looked to Him to fill the void. Even so, I knew that God had something more for me.

A man came into my life and I was swept up into a beautiful and tender romance. I had never imagined anyone being so happy. The love and intimate friendship we shared was unlike anything I had ever known before. We were married late in 2010.

For two and a half years, our relationship grew. Sometimes we argued and hurt each other, but forgiveness and love continued to abound. God blessed us. Then in 2012, my husband, a soldier in the Pennsylvania National Guard, was called up to deploy to Afghanistan. We bravely set about making plans. I slowly transitioned into doing everything at home, while he was away frequently for training. We spent the moments we had together as wisely as we could and prepared for the unknown.

In late summer, my husband left for Texas for four months of pre-deployment training. In January he boarded a plane and left for Afghanistan. His residence became a little combat outpost with weak Internet and poor living conditions. My residence was our small apartment, with his empty shoes left by the door.

Intimacy became a long-distant memory and I struggled to maintain a connection to a man surviving in a world dramatically different from my own.

Intimacy eroded over the months that followed.

By the time my husband came home, nine months later, I had changed. As strange as this may sound, I had grieved when he left and it changed me. I became closed, hard, and tenaciously independent. As much as I tried to understand that my husband had done what he needed to do, I still felt like a dear and intimate friendship had been ripped from me. Now I was lost and unsure where even to begin to put the pieces back together

As our marriage began to struggle, I found myself pushing my husband away. I realized that something needed to change, but I could not force myself to engage, try as I might. It only resulted in me feeling angry, bitter, and broken.

So I began to pray, desperately. My husband began to pray. We talked and talked and talked. And as I came to God, broken, having only enough courage to utter the word, “help,” God began to work. But not in the way that I had expected.

I wanted God to fix me and our marriage, to miraculously zap things back to the way they used to be.

Instead, He drew me to Himself.

I found my deep need for intimacy being nurtured and healed by God’s hand. Whenever anger and bitterness rose their ugly heads, I felt God’s gentle calling, “Priscilla, come back to me. I’m here.”

I still have a long way to go, but seeing God’s hand in my life, touching me deeply where I have needed it the most, has been a life-changing experience for me. No one wants to go through hard times. No one knows exactly how they’ll handle those times when they do arise. But God is always there, touching and healing in intimate ways.

I fear we try to “fix” things much more often than we’re meant too. When we’re supposed to be leaning on God, we’re running around trying to force things to happen and make our lives perfect looking, while deep within, our spirit smothers.

I’ve found that God addresses our need for intimacy by drawing us to Himself first.

Only then, when we’re nestled close to Him, are we free to begin to engage fully in other relationships. If you’re going through something similar, I’d ask you, dear sister, to kneel where you are and hold up closed fists to God. Slowly let your fingers open and give your burdens, one at a time, into His hands. He’s gentle with the sorrowful and the weak and the worn out.

He loves you.
Rich intimacy awaits.

Priscilla CashPriscilla Cash is married to an Army National Guard Soldier, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. She spends much of her time caring for their precious toddler son, keeping their home running and trying to better her skills as a wife, mother, friend, and follower of Christ. When she’s not engaged in the above, you’ll find her reading, freelance writing, crocheting, and bookmaking. You can find her on her blog at priscillacash.blogspot.com.

[photo credit: loungerie via photopin cc]

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When it's Easier to Declare Defeat

declare defeat

[Guest Post by Mara Rose – I am so encouraged by her story because someday if my husband and I decide to have kids I will have to go off my medications, and that will not be easy. I love what she says that God still performs medical miracles. Believe it! Be encouraged today my friends.]

Sometimes it’s easier to declare defeat prior to trying, rather than to try and fail later.

There are so many things that we can worry about in life. And our worries can be amplified when we decide to have children. This past summer, my husband and I decided that we felt ready to start a family. Unfortunately, my ability to carry a child was still questionable.

My issue with doubt and self-defeat stems from 15 years of chronic pain and a questionable reproductive disease known as Endometriosis. I’ve spent years on medications to try and help me function “normally”.

I have often thought that my body should come with an instruction manual. Thankfully my Maker knows the number of hairs on my head, He knows my fears, He knows my desires, He knit me together in the womb, He knows it all.

Yet, I still had doubt.

What would happen to my body if I went off medications? What would happen to my pain if I got pregnant? Not only that, but statistics say women with Endometriosis can take up to 1 year to get pregnant and some aren’t able to conceive at all.

The answers were uncertain — which is when we took a leap of faith and gave it a try.

My first thought after reading the positive pregnancy test was, “Holy cow! This is a miracle.” My second thought was, “I need to talk to my doctor”.

Joking aside, it is incredible to know that despite my doubts and fears — God blesses us anyway!

In the first several weeks of this pregnancy, I was gripped with anxiety and uncertainty. I felt better after speaking with my doctor about how to treat my pain while pregnant, but I still had fear.

One day I was overcome with emotions (and hormones). My husband lovingly took my hand and said, “You aren’t the first person to have chronic pain and be pregnant. Trust God to take care of it.”

Even with the blessing of this miracle baby growing inside me, I was focused on trying to control my pain instead of giving it over to the Lord.

Our baby isn’t here yet but I am already learning so many things about myself through this pregnancy. Everything has improved since my first trimester. There are still challenging pain and energy days, but I’m learning to cope with it. Most importantly, I have to say that my faith in the Lord has grown immensely. He showed me that His Plan and His Power is far greater than any statistic or prognosis.

No matter what your doctor has told you, medical miracles still happen every day! Believe it.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:4-7, NIV).

Mara_RoseMara Rose is an up-and-coming author and Christian writer. She has endured years of chronic pain and strives to be a light for Jesus even on the darkest days. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Jonathan, who serves in the military and is an OIF Veteran. You can read more from Mara on her blog,wordsbymara.com, or on Twitter @MsMaraRose.

[photo credit: lanuiop via photopin cc]

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When Your World Comes Crashing Down

when-your-world-comes-crashing-down

[Guest Post by Rochelle Frazier – I met her through the Top 10 Blogs for Christian Women post I compiled. She was nominated for the list, and when I looked at her blog–I knew I had to have her share! For anyone who has seen their picture perfect like come crashing down, this is for you today. Be encouraged! You are not alone.]

Is it possible to arrive at the place where you stop asking, “Is there more? Should I be more?”

Is it possible that your restless heart could actually find rest right where you are?

Satisfied?
I dare to say “Yes!”

I don’t have the story of overcoming an addiction or a broken, battered, and abused childhood. I not only grew up in church, but you could find me there whenever the doors were open. My story was more on the line of the over-achieving, people-pleasing perfectionist. Everything in order and perfectly decorated, even my children.

From the outside, it appeared I had it all. And according to the “American Gospel,” I had every reason to believe that I did. You know the gospel that teaches us to be all that we can be, to own, possess, and claim what is ours, to climb a ladder that is placed on the wrong mountain and burst through the ceiling that has no eternal significance. And do it our way! This same spirit even carried into the way I served the church.

So when my perfectly orchestrated life left me empty searching for something more, I had no idea it was Him that I was missing.

I had it all together, right? Believing I was spiritually full, I offered my little teacup to the world asking… will you fill me?

But it didn’t come as I expected being a wife or a mother.
Nor through my perfectly decorated home waiting on Southern Living to arrive.
Nor from improving my figure or my social agenda.
Nor from becoming the top of my industry.

And then when my perfect little world came crashing down in 2006, broken and believing irredeemable, I turned to the very things I had avoided in my pursuit of perfection to see if they would fill me. But nothing satisfied the deep longing of my soul.

And then I finally came to the end of me, and because I needed God so desperately I would finally fill the calling of Jeremiah 29–not the one that I had worn on t-shirts and pasted on journals claiming that He has plans for me, but the rest of the verse that says,

“When you seek with your whole heart, I will be found. And bring you back from captivity.”

I was praying for captives. Quick to point out the captives. I had even prayed for God to open a door so that I might visit the captives in Africa. And then reality hit that I was a captive. My heart would become restless trying free other captives who, like me, bought into the wrong gospel.

So how did I come to this place?

There was a year that changed my life. Our community was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, a few months later I would be diagnosed with congestive heart failure delivering twins, and while seeking to beat all odds against me, I would become a single mom.  I was told I may never work again, and with my three precious angels and a healing heart, I offered up a prayer,

“Would you give me an idea that would change my life?”

And He did. I began writing what is now the children’s series, Sweeteas, and these precious little characters would absolutely change my life. However, what truly changed me was that He answered that prayer.

A collision with the fully present God who I had enthroned in eternity wrecked my life. I was never to be the same. He became a reality and my life had to adjust to the true Gospel. The Gospel that says,

“You will find your life when you lose it” (Matthew 10:39).

And I did!

Sweet friends, when your world comes crashing down your heart has tasted eternity (Ecc 3:11). It will be restless until you return to His love. But when you do, you will find that the longing of your weary soul is satisfied!

Rochelle FrazierRochelle is a storyteller by nature infused with undeniable markings of a true Southern girl: charming accent, gracious hospitality, and her passionate and infectious faith. She is the author of the children’s series Sweeteas and He Gave Me Pearls and journeys with women daily through her blog “Living with Divine Purpose.” Her story is one of inspiration birthed at a time of desperation, and gives hope to women that He still brings beauty from ashes. She is the mother to a beautifully blended family of seven including her husband Todd, and children Joy, Jadyn, Holland, Houston & Jackson. She is currently finishing her newest book, Something More: Daring to Live on Purpose. Connect with Rochelle at http://www.rochellefrazier.com.

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Having a DTR with God

dtr-with-God

[Guest Post by Jaimie Bowman – I always love it when a fellow blogger becomes a fellow author. She just self published a devotional for mom’s and I can’t wait for her to share one with you! BTW, check out her post she wrote for her own site about her publishing process and how to get the book inside you OUT!]

In high school I had a best friend who was a guy, and at some point our relationship began to take a turn. 

I still remember the bench that we sat on when we had the infamous “D.T.R”- a Defining the Relationship talk.  It was there that we both, rather awkwardly, expressed our feelings and whether or not we wanted to take things to a deeper level.

Fast-forward eighteen years, and I felt like I needed to have another talk like that. This time it wasn’t with a boyfriend, it wasn’t with my husband, it wasn’t even with a friend. It was with God himself.

Have you ever had a DTR with God? 

It goes something like this: God pulls at your heart somehow — maybe through a worship service, through an experience with Him, possibly through a verse, maybe even through a song, and you know that He loves you. You know that He wants you to be closer to Him. Your heart flutters a little, because you are reminded that He saw you in that moment.

He whispers, “My child, I love you. You are mine. I am with you.”

When you have those moments, you might be reminded of when you first accepted Christ into your heart – the exhilaration, the peace, the overwhelming sense of love that He had for you. For awhile, you feel the feelings too. You want to be close. You start reading the Bible again. You worship with heart abandoned. You respond, “Yes! I want to be closer to you, Lord! I’ll do whatever it takes!”

But then weeks go by, you get discouraged, and you feel far from Him.

I know this roller-coaster life of faith we live. Being a believer for more than 30 years now, I have had my ups and downs of feeling close to the Lord and then very, very far from Him. But I believe it’s time for you and I to have another DTR with the Lord. He is calling out to us each day, wanting us to make time for Him to have that conversation.

How are you doing in your walk with the Lord? 

After I had two children, I found myself far from the Lord. I didn’t know how to talk to Him anymore, how to incorporate Him into this new life I had, other than whispering, “help me!” throughout the day. I stopped spending time with Him altogether, and my Bible started to collect dust.

I felt Him calling to me but I didn’t know how to respond.  I was afraid He’d be disappointed in me. I was afraid He might require more of me than I felt I had to give.

But that’s not what happened at all. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in your weakness.”

Wherever you are at in your walk today, take time to have a DTR with God. 

Evaluate where you are at with Him – are you close to Him or far from Him? Is there anything He is asking you to do that you are resisting? Is there any area of your life that you are holding back from Him? From His view of the relationship, He wants to be closer to you. It’s up to you.

If you are also a mother who struggles with connecting with God during this season, I’d like to recommend a book that I wrote called Breathe: 31 Moments with God {for Moms}.  This is a book of Scripture verses and 10-minute devotions to help you reconnect with God. This also makes a great gift for Mother’s Day, as it can speak to women in any stage of motherhood.

Whatever season you find yourself in, today I hope you are encouraged that Christ wants to be closer to you. He loves you and is waiting for you.

Jaimie BowmanJaimie Bowman is a minister, speaker and writer who lives in Southern California.  She loves speaking truth into women’s lives and helping them find their unique purpose. Together with her husband and two sons (ages 5 and 7), you can often find them stuck in traffic on the 405, trying to find new places to explore.  Jaimie blogs regularly at The Wonder Years and you can find out more about her at JaimieBowman.com.

[photo credit: jessgrrrr via photopin cc]

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Why Not Celebrate?

why-not-celebrate

[Guest Post by Heather Von St. James – When Cameron, Heather’s husband, reached out to me asking if he could help share his wife’s story — I was inspired. I wish all husbands were excited to celebrate life with their wives. Today, if you are struggling with life — why not celebrate? Don’t wait for tragedy to strike! Celebrate today.]

Fear – we’ve all faced a form of it at some point in our lives.

I’ve learned that your fears don’t define the person you are, but rather how you deal with them. Humor is the way that my husband Cameron and I handled one of the most terrifying and trying times in our lives.

In November of 2005, after a series of biopsies and other tests, I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. I was a candidate for a risky procedure called an extrapleural pneumonectomy – this was no routine surgery. It required the removal of my left lung, the pleura (the lining around the lung), the left half of my diaphragm, and the lining of my heart.

I was already overwhelmed and what made it worse was the fact that I was a new mom.

My daughter Lily would be turning six months old two days after my surgery. When I found out my surgery date was February 2nd, I nicknamed my tumor Punxsutawney Phil, or just Phil for short. I joked about when they removed the tumor, asking if it saw its shadow, would I have six more weeks of recovery? It took the seriousness of the procedure and made it not as scary.

Throughout all of this, my sister kept me laughing. Her and I share the same weird sense of humor and we can always make each other laugh with just a silly phrase or sound. My husband and sister started talking about how we should celebrate such a day.

If it was going to save my life, why not celebrate?

Now, we refer to February 2nd not as Groundhog Day, but LungLeavin’ Day — the day my lung left.

The basic idea of writing fears on a plate and smashing them into a fire during LungLeavin’ Day came from my sister, who had done firewalking. In firewalking, you write your fears on a plank of wood, throw it in the fire, and walk across it – very symbolic. We wanted to take a similar approach, but instead of wood, my husband came up with the idea of plate, and instead of actually walking through the fire, we would smash the plate.

From that moment a tradition was born.

On February 2nd, 2007, one year to the day since my surgery, my husband went out and bought two stoneware plates and a sharpie. We spent a few minutes writing our fears on them before venturing outside. It was bitterly cold that evening, but that didn’t stop us. Cams cleaned out the fire pit, and got a nice little fire going. We bundled up and went out to the fire and smashed our fears in the fire. It felt GOOD! We decided right then and there that we needed to share this with our friends and family.

The following year, we made it an official celebration, and every year since then our little party has grown to include over 75 friends and family who come to celebrate life with us.

Within these past few years, Cams and I felt the need to make a difference by using the occasion as a fundraiser for mesothelioma cancer. We donate all the money raised to the three organizations that have been such an important part of our lives. The International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization all played an important role of who we are and what we do.

LungLeavin’ Day is not just for cancer survivors or warriors, but also for everyone.

This year, we wanted to reach out to an even broader base of people, and besides webcasting the event live via my Facebook page, we’ve also created an interactive page where you can go write your fear and smash your own plate virtually.

We hope that you take a moment to be thankful for the simple things, and all that life offers. Even in the face of adversity, something good can come of it, and our LungLeavin’ Day celebration is how we took something tragic, and made it a positive in our lives.

Heather Von St. JamesHeather Von St. James is a seven-year mesothelioma cancer survivor and continues to provide unending inspiration to mesothelioma victims around the globe. She carries out her mission to be a beacon of hope for those afflicted with mesothelioma by sharing her story of faith, love and courage both as a keynote speaker at conferences and through social media. Read more about her and LungLeavin’ Day at http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday/.

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Learning to Pray Together

pray together

[Guest Post by Shannon Kim – I love that the last time she wrote for Devotional Diva she was single and talking about about when dreams change. Please welcome her back on the topic of prayer.]

Before our wedding a short time ago, my husband and I knew the importance of praying together as a married couple.

However, I wasn’t incredibly aware of how intentional we would need to be to make time for it. I thought it would be easy to make time in the morning before Joe left for work, before bed or even to stop and pray during a conflict…my expectations were not met for a few reasons: Joe has a lot of responsibility at his job and has to be at the office early. In the morning, his mind is on getting to the office.

At night, sometimes we were tired and prayer felt forced. Additionally, we found that it was quite difficult to switch our mindsets to prayer in the midst of a conflict. Joe is incredibly consistent at praying before meals, but my mind is usually distracted by what I needed to do to prepare and serve the food.

So how could we make time to talk to God together on a regular basis, and in a focused and intimate way?

Our solution: The 20-Minute Prayer Meeting, which we like to affectionately call the Kim Family 20. Here’s how it works:

1. One of us will read a Bible passage. (about 2 minutes)
2. We will each take a few minutes to share about how that Scripture speaks to us. (about 10 minutes)
3. We will either pray through the Scripture or pray about a specific topic, like our marriage. (about 10 minutes)

A note: Consider your posture. For example, we like to hold hands and sometimes pray on our knees. Another suggestion is to sit separately with your hands folded. There are many postures of prayer and it may take a few times to find which ones work best for you as a couple. Keep in mind that you and your spouse may have different postures, or perhaps your spouse doesn’t have one yet.

We find this method helpful for us because when one of us asks, “Want to have a Kim Family Prayer Meeting?” the other knows exactly what that means: the structure, the time (it’s okay if it is longer or shorter but the time limit provides some common ground), and what is expected of each of us.

While we find that before bed, as well as on Saturday afternoons the best time for our prayer meetings, you could try having a prayer meeting in the mornings or even over a lunch break. If your spouse travels for work, try having a meeting via Skype.

For husband and wives that are intimidated by prayer, this is a great way for you to start. If one is stronger in prayer than the other, perhaps one of you can read the Scripture and the other can do the praying at first. For husband and wives that are both comfortable with prayer but perhaps have different expectations for praying together, this is a great way to establish some common ground. Of course, you can tweak your family prayer meeting however you would like. You could also try giving your prayer meeting a name to make it fun and unique to your family.

Learning to pray together is an intimate way for you to connect with your heavenly Father as a couple.

It helps establish intimacy with God and with each other.

I’m learning that I can serve my husband through laying down my expectations for our prayer life. Praying together and buildings spiritual intimacy together will be a journey that is ever changing.

Lord, thank you for the gift of marriage and for the unique individual you made our spouse to be. Teach us all how to pray and to put the others’ interests before our own. Help us to surrender this area of our lives to you. In Jesus name, amen.

Shannon KimWith a BA in Public Communication and certificate from the Denver Publishing Institute, Shannon has worked in book publishing and currently works at Park Community Church. She is grateful for devotional time, coffee dates with friends, laughing over kids’ books with her teacher mom, and early morning “urban hikes.” She lives with her husband on Chicago’s north side and loves being a new wife. Follow Shannon on Facebook.

[Photo: Megan Isaacson, CreationSwap.com]

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Marriage Is My Idol

marriage is my idol

[Guest Post by Jessica Dickson – I just love her heart and how she speaks truth over her singleness. When I read this I couldn’t help but want to post it immediately. If you struggle with viewing marriage as an idol — be encouraged!]

I have a confession — Marriage is my idol.

Was my idol.

The worst part? It took me forever to realize it. I thought if I wasn’t perfect, nobody would want me. Few knew, but I hated myself. I thought I needed someone to love me and tell me I was okay. My mind set up a prison that I guarded. It was inconceivable that anyone could love me. God did restructuring in my heart in 2009 that set me up to receive love.

Through a series of events, He showed me my need for change. I was 24, living with fists clenched tightly. Things would go wrong without me in control. My pride whispered and shouted — so I took the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Everything went wrong.

I was in graduate school. Things at work got crazy. There were cancer diagnoses, sickness, and death. Life swirled, and I spiraled.

Cried.
Panicked.
Cried more.
Was anxious.

When I contemplated taking my life, it was time to make a change.

I packed my pride and went to counseling. Through laughter and tears, I was broken there. God broke my Superwoman complex, speaking truth in love through my counselor.

What I believed about God and others changed also.

I left with confidence in myself that came from understanding who God said I am — unchanging because of God’s unchanging love and grace. Now I never have to doubt my beauty or that I am wonderfully made.

Fast forward to last year. I was praying in church and God said: marriage is my idol. It won’t save you because I already did that.

As tears streamed down my face, I was confused. Hearing the joys and struggles from married friends, with counseling, had broken my expectations that it would fix me, I thought.

These thoughts came subtler.

Though I believed the good things that God said about me, I also believed something else. Another lie — that a man would validate (prove the accuracy of) my worth. But who could prove the accuracy of what God says?

God is truth; His word is true.

Recently, I’ve learned the beauty of having my value as a woman affirmed (upheld as true or supported).

Do you know the difference?

Your value is God-given. No father, mother, sister, brother, boyfriend, friend, or anyone can give you worth — but only help you discover God’s truth.

Now I make healthier choices — letting go of a man I had feelings for when he wasn’t into me. Deciding that a “friend” with no loyalty no longer deserved to speak into my life. Standing in what I know to be true, contrary to circumstances.

This process is not without tears.

Saying goodbye to people whose actions and voices contradict the words God sings over me in His goodness is not for the weak. It’s for those made strong by His strength.

It’s why Jesus didn’t give in when tempted in the wilderness. He knew what was true because He knew the source of His identity — The Lord. Jesus had nothing to prove when challenged to save Himself from temptations.

And neither do we.
Nothing.
Ever.

Not that we’re smart or beautiful or light or heavy enough, love-able, or anything. You and I are uniquely made in the image of God.

Handcrafted with deep beauty.
Graven on the palms of God.
Dearly loved.
Strong in our weaknesses.
Here for a purpose.

You reflect God’s glory here. If the people and things in your life don’t scream your value to the world, they don’t need prominence if they don’t agree with God.

You can love them. Pray for them. Point them to Jesus. But don’t look to them for your worth or believe their words or deeds that attempt to devalue you.

Now I walk in love, victory, and peace because I know God, who was, is, and will always be. My worth will not be more priceless, nor life more precious.

If I get a husband tomorrow, I will be no more valuable than I am right now.

God will remove idols from our hearts, but when He gives us the opportunity to destroy them, we should. Your idol might not be marriage or the white knight; but, whatever is can be put in its proper place by a true picture of who God is and what He says about you.

No person or circumstance can steal your identity in Him.

Jessica DicksonJessica works in Student Affairs at a small college in Daytona Beach. Her background is in counseling, and her heart is for people to live emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy lives. She loves cooking and eating delicious food, BodyCombat, being off Facebook indefinitely, prayer, and reading. You can find her on Twitter @jessicaddickson.

[Photo: Thomas Leuthard via photopin cc]

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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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Does it Hurt to Hope?

hurt to hope

[Guest Post by Kelli McIntosh – When she asked to share about her son Kyle with special needs and why she’s not losing hope, I realized that I haven’t had anyone else share about that topic yet. If you struggle with being a mom or feel like losing hope–you are not alone!]

With the intention of taking my mind off of everything, I settled on the couch for a few minutes to read my current novel.

But as soon as I read what one of the characters in my book was thinking, I found myself lost in thought about Kyle. I realized that the book was not going to take my mind off of anything.

The character was thinking: “It doesn’t hurt to hope.” But he dismissed it, discouraged. “Yeah, it does hurt. Hurts a lot.”

I stopped reading at that point and began thinking of my own journey with Kyle, and all that I have hoped for since we first found out that he had special needs. At first, I wanted to agree with the character in my book.

How many times have I hoped for a miracle for Kyle?
How many times have I hoped that a particular test, diet or therapy would fix everything?
How many times have I hoped that my prayers would take away Kyle’s seizures, his delays, his inability to speak?

It’s been seven years and Kyle still has seizures, delays, and no words, and so my initial thought was, this character is right; it does hurt to hope.  (Don’t lose hope in me Readers…read on…)

I didn’t continue reading my book but instead looked down at the ring finger of my right hand, at the simple silver ring with the word hope inscribed on it. I bought it when Kyle was very young, when all I could cling to was hope. My mind then wandered to how I am literally surrounded by hope. It was my grandmother’s maiden name and because of her, one of my cousin’s middle name is Hope. And when I walk into my mom’s house, everywhere I look I see the word Hope–not only in memory of her mother and grandparents with that last name, but for what the word means.

My Bible’s concordance says hope is to desire something with confident expectation of its fulfillment.

I desire that Kyle be completely healed and I am confident that he will be. I expect it. Of course, I would love for the healing to be today. In fact, I would have loved for the healing to be 7 years ago when I first prayed and hoped for that healing.

But does it hurt to hope?
No, it hasn’t.

It is hope that has kept me in prayer, has kept me positive, and has kept me expectant. No, it’s not the hope that hurts. It’s not getting the outcome we were hoping for; that’s what hurts. So, what am I to hope then, to avoid this hurt? That’s when I began looking at hope from a Biblical perspective and found that I must put my hope in God. That is the hope that does not disappoint.

“And hope does not disappoint us…” (Romans 5:5)

“…those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23)

And so I have found my focus of hope changing and it has become a lot less complicated. I simply place my hope in God.

And this is the hope that brings me contentment, joy, and encouragement when I’m in the midst of the reality of our situation. This hope gives me strength, drives my faith and keeps me trusting in God.

My hope is in God and I trust Him and His perfect timing for Kyle’s healing. If the healing is an instantaneous miracle, so be it! If it’s a process over time, that’s fine with me, too. If it’s a healing that will be revealed in heaven, I’m okay with that!

I really am. 

I’m not giving up hope or being weak in faith if I declare my contentment with a healing that doesn’t come until heaven. But how can I be content with that?

Because my hope is in God and God’s perspective is different than mine. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” In II Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul asked God three times to take the thorn from his side. We do not know what this thorn may have been but commentaries suggest it was a physical affliction of some kind that hindered his ministry.

I am sure as Paul prayed, he hoped this ailment would be removed. But God did not remove it and instead said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This is just one example that reminds me that God’s perspective is different than mine. And a few days before Kyle’s 7th Birthday, I listened to our pastor give a sermon on faith, hope, and healing.  One thing he said that stood out to me was this:

“Sometimes the physical healing is not the most important part.”

It may not be His will that Kyle be healed while on earth; I realize that God may have other plans for Kyle’s life. Since my hope is in Him and the purposes and plans that He has for Kyle and not on what I want, I can rest in that hope and trust that the outcome is going to be okay.

Kelli McIntoshKelli McIntosh is a wife and the mother of two children. Her 7-year old son, Kyle, happens to have special needs and as a result, has been on a journey the last 7 years that she never would have imagined.  She blogs at Not Just Anyone in order to share her experiences and how she has learned to accept her son’s diagnosis while still holding on to faith and hope.  She encourages her readers to focus on life circumstances with a positive perspective.

[Photo: photosavvy, Creative Commons]

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