Archives For marriage

If you’re married, do you get your spouse a gift?

Or do you forego the gift? Because, after all, you don’t really need anything, right? Or…well…this is a time to get other people gifts. Or…our budget just won’t allow it.

Is it really that important to get your spouse a gift? Or can we just skip it and focus on others? Do we really need to focus so inwardly?

Yes. Yes, you do.

If you’re married, you better get your spouse a gift for Christmas. [Tweet that]

I remember in premarital counseling, my pastor told me something about my then-fiance, now-wife. It was over a decade ago that he spoke the words, but I’ll never forget them.

Your spouse is God’s gift to you. They are your treasure. Treat them like they are. – R. Sing Oldham

If something is my treasure, I’m going to do whatever it takes to find, and keep, my treasure. I’m going to guard it. I’m going to protect it. I’m going to go out of my way to value it because it’s valuable! At the end of the day, I’m going to…treasure it.

One thing that I tell couples when I counsel is that a key to remaining happily married is to continue to date your spouse. Look for moments to steal away. Snag a kiss. Go out of your way to make the mundane special. Go on dates. Do little things to show them you love them. Do big things. Do tiny things. Do medium-sized things. But whatever you do, continue to date them. Continue to get to know them. Spend your life getting to know, and love, your spouse increasingly.

I got gifts for Laura when I dated her. I wanted her to know just how much I loved her. Just how much I treasured her. I wanted her to know how special she was to me. I wanted to impress her with the gifts I got. I wanted her to know I knew her well, and that I understood what made her tick and what she valued.

Just because we’re married now doesn’t mean I should want to impress her less. Yes, we’re committed. She’s not going anywhere and neither am I. But if I really love her, I ought to go out of my way to show her.

I ought to get creative. Think out of the box. Listen to her when she says what she likes and what she thinks looks good to her.

Sure, my wife may not “need” anything. She may not even say she “wants” anything. But it would make no sense for me to go shopping for hours, stretching my brain and my budget, to buy stuff for others without buying something for the one I love the most on this earth.

You’d better get your spouse a Christmas gift before you run out of money and ideas. [Tweet that]

I’m not saying you have to get something expensive. Not at all! It has very little to do with a dollar amount, and everything to do with your heart, your motivation, and how well you’ve listened and know your spouse.

Gifts that show you’ve listened well are more valuable than expensive ones. [Tweet that]

And those you love the most should get the best, most thoughtful gifts of all.

What do you think?

 

 

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image credit: CreationSwap user Marian Trinidad

“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” – God, Genesis 2:18

I was a 22-year-old recent-college-grad, who had all of life in front of me, thought I knew the path in  I was headed down, and was fired up about getting married. Also, I was clueless.

Within 3 months, my wife and I would be packing our bags, moving away from what was safe, easy, and comfortable, dealing with broken bones and no money, finding new jobs and a place to live in a city we didn’t know…and figuring it all out as a newly married couple.

I learned a lot in those first few years of marriage. I learned what it was like to live below the poverty line in downtown Louisville. I learned what it was like to make, and enjoy, coffee. I learned what it was like to pull a dual-all-nighter to finish up a couple of term papers.

And though by no stretch of anyone’s imagination do I have married life figured out, there are a few things I wish people had told me before I got married.

4 things I wish someone had told me about marriage

The work/home balance is a doozie (tweet that)

It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, finding a healthy balance between work life and home life is difficult. My cell phone is a wonderful tool…and a tool from the devil. Loving my job is amazing…and a curse. Having extra, outside-of-my-job work is a blessing…and a headache. Finding the balance between work life and home life is tough. And maybe that’s because a balance should never be our goal. For me, it’s come down to prioritizing what’s important. While I’m at work, I work. And when I come home, I try (as hard has I can…and I’m better at it some days more than others) to be home. Present. Active. Undistracted. I want to give my family my undivided best.

Communication will be difficult (tweet that)

I’ve never talked with someone who said, “Communication challenges? Nope, we’re good.” Men and women think differently. Process life differently. And communicate differently. Which isn’t a bad thing. But it can become a bad thing if you don’t notice the differences, and work through them. Maybe even consider working through them with someone else, who’s been down the same road you’re headed. I extrovert my thoughts. My wife introverts hers. So as I’m thinking out loud, she’s processing (read: she’s already processed…I’m a little slow, mind you :)) internally. And when she shares her thoughts, I’m still trying to process out loud what she’s already moved on from.

This was incredibly frustrating our first year of marriage. I felt un-heard. She felt disrespected. Embracing our differences has made a world of difference. It hasn’t always made things easy, but we’ve embraced our God-given uniqueness.

The things you thought were a big deal aren’t. The things you thought weren’t are. (tweet that)

In the big scheme of things, paint color isn’t a huge deal. Neither is where you’re going to eat or what movie you’re going to see. And though in the moment, “You forgot to get the flour!” seems life-shattering, it isn’t.

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam;
so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. – Proverbs 17:14

Neither is what car you’re going to buy or what house you’re going to live in. (assuming you’re purchasing within your means, and seeking God in the process) But things like, “Where are we going to go to church?” and “Are we going to join a small group?” are ones that will shape your life. Questions like, “How are we going to intentionally be generous this year?” and “What are our family values?” are ones that will slip right by you. Year after year. Unless you take the bull by the horns and quit ignoring them. “How are we going to spend our money?” and “Where do we want to be in 10 years?” are huge. Choosing moments to come home early from work. Planning a family date night. Surprising your spouse with a little extra money to spend on something they want…those are the kinds of things that seem small, but in the big picture, are huge.

You’re more selfish than you think you are. (tweet that)

As a single person, your free time can revolve around you. And that’s not such a bad thing. You can work on you. Read what you want when you want. Relax when you want where you want. Pursue the hobbies you want when you want. And because you’re single, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s not sinful. But your free time isn’t your own once you get married. To pursue a healthy marriage, look to redeem your free time in light of your spouse. Yes, you still need “me” time. But don’t abuse that.

Anything you wish you knew before you got married?

 
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image via iStockphoto user contrails

Every couple fights. It’s a reality of living in a fallen world.

But not every couple fights well. Another reality of living in a fallen world.

Couples that learn to grow through their arguments can have some of the strongest marriages on the planet.

I know that 1 Corinthians 13, though often shared at weddings, isn’t a passage just for love in marriage, there are a lot of principles we can learn as they relate to how love acts.

Fighting well, from 1 Corinthians 13

1. Don’t fling old poo.

Stop bringing up past failures. Love keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

2. Listen when the other person is talking.

Don’t just be preparing your rebuttal. Love is patient. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

3. Think before you speak.

Love is patient and kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

4. Always hope.

Assume the best about the other person. Don’t assume their motive was to undermine you. Assume they love you. Because they’ve already told you that. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

5. Don’t threaten to give up.

Constantly threatening with “divorce” and “I’m going to walk away” erodes the health of your marriage. Thankfully, God doesn’t ever threaten us like that. (Deuteronomy 31:6). Love never gives up. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

6. Stop the yelling.

Don’t yell for yelling sake. When you raise your voice and your temper and your emotions, you only escalate things. And you sound a whole lot like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

7. Always rejoice when the truth wins.

Even when Especially when the truth doesn’t land in your favor, and you lose the battle. (1 Corinthians 13:6)

8. No name-calling.

Love does not dishonor the other person by reducing them to a demeaning, offensive name. Love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

9. In kind, affectionate ways, touch each other.

Reach out and hold the other person’s hand. Pat their leg. Put your hand on their shoulder. There’s something disarming about physical affection. And, maybe more importantly, there’s something about physical affection that, in the heat of the moment, you don’t naturally want to do. Choosing loving physical affection helps calm your raging heart. Love does not demand its own way. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

10. Keep the details between the two of you. (and a healthy ‘accountability’ partner, if you have that)

When you fight, don’t run home and share the details with your parents. Don’t share them with your friends. Keep them between the two of you. For health sake, though, you may need to have someone safe, who knows you both, that you can share your heart with. Just make sure this is the same person every time, and that this person loves Jesus and has your best interest at heart. Love keeps no record of wrongs…but outside parties do. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

11. Pray before, after, and during.

Loving someone through an argument is something that can only happen supernaturally. It comes from God. If we’re going to love our spouse well, we must ask the One from whom we received love in the first place.

 

 

 

 

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Just the other day, my son (Rex, 4) was playing with his uncle (Carson, 7). They’ve been playing together a lot recently. And like most boys their age, they play well together. Most of the time.

But there are moments where you think that the house is going to fall apart. That the carpet is going to roll up, the dry wall crack, and the bricks scream in agony because of the noise. Partly because they’re just boys and they play hard. And partly because…well…”He won’t give me back my Batman!”

Amidst the landscape of imaginary fire-breathing dragons, Rex and Carson had their swords, shields, and helmets, wielding each with very, very little precision. Instead of the dragons taking the brunt of their zeal, it was often the door frame, the couch, or our dog. In the middle of the battle, Rex turned to Carson, looked him directly in the eye, and said

‘Don’t forget. You’re my friend.’

As swords and arrows were whizzing by, it would’ve no doubt been easy to forget which team you were on and who the real enemy was, swinging your sword at the wrong person. Chopping off the wrong head. Creating enemies out of friends. This wasn’t a cry of desperation for a friend…it was a cry of “We set this out beforehand. We were clear before things went sideways with the Ogre in the corner. So don’t forget.”

This saying has a sense of camaraderie, rallying hearts, minds, and purposes. Refocusing energy and relationships, energizing what was once dead in the water. This awakens you to old, dusty covenants that need revisiting. Brightens dead corners of your heart.

We need this reminder today, too. And I bet there’s someone in your life that needs to hear this from you. Someone you’ve been treating more like an enemy than a friend. Someone who’s seen your dark side more than your bright side. Someone who really is your friend, but for all intents and purposes looks more like a fire-breathing dragon to you. Or you to them.

Maybe forgiveness needs to happen. Maybe humility needs to happen. Maybe “it’s you, not me.” But it can all start with a simple shift of heart.

4 people who need to hear this today

Your spouse

they are your friend, right? But when was the last time you reminded yourself of this? When was the last time you told them? When was the last time you treated them like the best friend you long to see at the end of the day? The one you tell your secrets, your hopes, and your dreams? Time to remind yourself, and them, of who they once were to you. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 18:22

“Don’t forget, honey. You’re my friend.”

Your child

It’s hard, in the heat of the moment, to remember this. I’m not advocating that parents need to be friends first, and parents second. That’s a lousy way to parent. But in the moment when things get loud, and patiences are being tried, it’s easy to forget that your child is a gift from God to you. That, no matter how they’re acting, they’re looking to how you’ll respond. You represent God to them, whether you like it or not. Will you lose your temper? Will you disengage? Will you abandon them? Or will you show up when they need you, loving them even when it’s hard? “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.” – Ephesians 6:4

“Don’t forget, son. You’re my friend.”

Your friend

You’ve got a friend in your life with whom you’re not as close anymore. Maybe it’s because of something they did to you. Maybe you did something to them. Maybe time and distance have taken their toll, and you’re just not close anymore. Friends are an incredible gift from God, though. “A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17)

“Hey buddy, don’t forget. You’re my friend.”

Those you collaborate with

The people with whom you work can, and should, be your friends. If they’re not, you’ll be miserable, and your organization will suffer. Friends work well together, disagree passionately, and still head in the same direction. You’re all working towards a common goal. One may think that their way is quicker, but in the end you want the same thing. Remind yourself that you’re on the same team. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – Colossians 3:14

“Hey man, don’t forget. You’re my friend.”

 And aren’t you glad we get this message of hope from our King? He is our “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Who do you need to speak this to today?

 

 

Accountability is useless

Ben Reed —  January 17, 2013 — 3 Comments
This is a guest post from my friends, Justin and Trisha Davis. They know all too well the dangers of settling for an ordinary marriage. Their own failure to recognize the warning signs almost resulted in the end of their marriage, their family, and their ministry.
Justin and Trisha are bloggers, authors, speakers and founders of RefineUs Ministries (Facebook). Sharing their story of pain, loss and redemption, RefineUs is igniting a movement to build healthy marriages and families.
They are the co-authors of their first book, Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enoughpublished by Tyndale House Publishers.
The Davises are bloggers and teachers who make their home in Nashville, TN with their three boys.
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image credit: CreationSwap user Kyle Key

When Trisha and I first got married and entered ministry in 1995, I prided myself on being a person that was accountable. I was accountable in my choices: I wouldn’t counsel with a woman behind a closed office door; I wouldn’t give a teenage girl a ride home from church without another person in the car. I wouldn’t do lunch with a female without my wife or another male at the lunch. At all costs I wanted to be accountable.

When we started the church in 2002, I knew that accountability would be of utmost importance. I sought out a guy in our core group and asked him if we could meet each Wednesday morning to “hold each other accountable.”

As a church planter, I had a church planting coach. He and I would meet every Thursday morning and he would ask me questions about my relationship with God. He would ask me questions about my marriage, my struggles, and my weaknesses. He wanted to hold me accountable. I had a group of Elders that I met with once a month that was the spiritual leaders of our church, and I was accountable to them.

What I have discovered is accountability is useless.

Accountability is only as valuable as the transparency you and I offer in the context of that accountability.

We have a unique ability as humans to BS each other. It is easy for me to fake you out. It is easy for you to lie to my face. It is easy to pretend like your marriage is better than it really is. It’s easy to come across like you don’t struggle with lust or that was something “you used to struggle with.” It is easy to offer just enough accountability to make yourself look spiritual. At the same time that partial accountability can be so dangerous because you are not only fooling me, you are fooling yourself.

The truth is you and I can meet every Wednesday and I can deceive you. The truth is that you can have several circles of accountability and unless you are 100% transparent in at least one of those circles, implosion is on the horizon.

I am not saying you should be 100% transparent with everyone, but I am saying you should be 100% transparent with someone. I have two people in my life that if I am asked a question I give 100% of the truth; I withhold nothing. I know if I am struggling or need to confess something, or am in a dark place, I can share that with these two people.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my life, my marriage and my ministry is I substituted accountability for transparency. Accountability without transparency is useless. It is easier in the short term to offer accountability and it seems more spiritual, but you will experience more of the grace and mercy and love of Christ when you offer transparency.

In fact, when you are willing to offer transparency, you will find you don’t need to be “held accountable.”

Maybe you find yourself in a place in life right now that you never imagined being. The walls are closing around you. Your choices are catching up to you. Your half-truths are beginning to be exposed. From one pretender to another can I encourage you that there is a better way? While this way is more painful and it will cost you more, what you will have in the end is the life you’ve always wanted. You can wake up, look in the mirror, and be the person you’ve been pretending to be.

Stop comparing, stop rationalizing, stop B.S.ing and embrace transparency. It is in that moment that brokenness collides with redemption and God’s grace is experienced most.

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Please, pick up their new book. It’ll change your marriage!

Physical copy

Kindle copy

978-1-4143-7227-3

 

Don’t miss out on my “This is awkward” series HERE.

Creative Commons user Marc Wathieu, edits mine

As a pastor, I’m supposed to have it all figured out.

I have a degree in theology.

I have been called to full-time vocational ministry.

I help other people work on their marriages.

I’ve even written blog posts about how to preach a marriage ceremony, for crying out loud.

But I don’t have it figured out.

My wife and I, in seasons of our marriage, have had to ask for help. Shore up some weaknesses. Make our marriage stronger. Get my wife to realize how awesome I am. :)

Does that mean we’re weak? And not where we need to be? And that we don’t have a perfect marriage? And that we don’t have all of the answers.

Yep. You bet it does.

Honest community

And we’re okay being honest about that. In being honest about times in our marriage when we needed help, we’re able to step alongside other couples and say, “It’s okay to ask for help. We have, too.”

There’s a perception that asking for help means you’ve got some sort of deficiency. That some disease has stricken your marriage, and now everybody looks at you like you’re a leper.

If that’s true, maybe it’s time to look for a new community where it’s okay to be yourself, scars and all.

It’s more than “okay” to ask for help in your marriage. In fact, I’d call it “wisdom.”

Time to wise up. Ask for some help from a couple that’s a little further down the road from you.

Ask them how they’ve worked through difficulties. How they’ve grown in their faith. How they’ve learned to argue well. How they’ve pointed their family to Jesus along the way.

Our marriages are too valuable to ignore our need for outside help.

The Spirit of God helps us in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26), and He often does that through others.

There’s no shame in asking for help.

Umm…this is awkward…but can you help me with my marriage?

 

 

 

 

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…you can walk into church without anybody knowing you

…you leave church without anybody knowing you

…you’ve backslidden

…you want to grow in your faith

…you want to help others grow in their faith

…you need a place to serve

…you need a place to grow

…you need a place to belong

…you’re curious about God

…you don’t even know where to start

…you are a new believer

…you are a mature believer

…you are divorced

…you have children

…you cannot have children

…you “have it together”

…everybody else knows you don’t “have it together”

…you have a great family

…your family is rotten

…you don’t have any family

…you have lots of friends, but none that share your values

…you don’t have any friends who encourage you

…you don’t have any friends who hold you accountable

…you don’t have any friends, period

…life has fallen apart

…you know life will soon fall apart

…you have lots of free time

…you don’t have any free time

…you don’t have parenthood figured out yet

…you don’t have marriage figured out yet

…you don’t have singleness figured out yet

…life is tough right now

…you find that living the Christian life is difficult

…you erroneously think living the Christian life is easy

…you can never seem to think of things to pray for

…you have a house (or apartment) that can seat more than 2 people

…your story is still in progress

What would you add to this list?

 

5 years!

Ben Reed —  June 17, 2009 — 4 Comments

Laura and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary together this weekend.  Wow, how time flies!  Here are some things we’ve done that I would consider significant, in random order:

1. Moved five times.

2. Finished graduate school.

3. Bought a car and a truck.

4. Bought a house.

5. Bought a dog.

6. Had a child.

7. Led a small group

8. Learned how to love each other.

9. Laughed together.

10. Cried together.

11. Dreamed about ministry together.

12. Went on a lot of dates.

13. Invested in other couples.

14. Found couples that would invest in us.

15. Cleaned house together.

16. Worked hard to find the best, most unique gifts for each other, instead of only doing that for others.

17. Fell asleep on the couch together

18. Worshiped together.

19. Read Scripture together. (which leads back to #18)

20. Grow a garden together.

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What have you done in five years?

 

I recently posted this to Twitter:

“What activity/hobby have you taken up that helps you & your spouse spend MORE time together? If you don’t have one, why not?”

There are lots of hobbies/activities that I enjoy.  I like to run, bike, play golf, read, blog, and watch 24.  I highlight those things because I do all of those without my wife.  Either they’re solo activities or she hates them (well, lets just be fair…she hates 24…she says it’s like a bad male soap opera…I don’t deny it, but still love to watch!).

In and of themselves, these activities aren’t wrong.  In fact, most of them are pretty healthy…running and biking are good for my physical body, while reading and blogging are good for my mind.  I’m not indulging in activities that are harmul for me or for my family, so why would I ever need to be careful in doing them?

Even “good” things can become a hindrance to my relationship with my wife.

I am not ready to give up these hobbies.  My wife isn’t asking me to, and, like I said, I enjoy them.  In fact, it’s healthy for couples to be able to operate independently of each other at times.  But most couples have the independent part of their lives covered pretty well.  What they need to work on is bringing their lives together more.

I’ve recently taken up gardening.  Though that may sound a bit girly, it’s really hard work.  My wife and I constructed four raised bed gardens and a shade garden for our back yard.  We’re really proud of the work!  Maybe more importantly, though, we were able to work together to get it completed.  We’ve found something to do together that we both enjoy.

Husbands, how can you reach out to your wife and develop a love of something that she enjoys doing?

Wives, how can you stretch yourself to do something that you know your husband loves?

Do you want your spouse to love you even more?  Try loving something that they love.