Friday, April 17, 2009

10 Ways to Protect Your Marriage

By Mary May Lamoyeux

You may have heard about the law firm in Chicago that put up a billboard saying, "Life is short. Get a divorce."

And then there was the recent survey of 3,000 women by Woman's Day magazine and According to it, 44 percent said they'd marry their husbands again while 36 percent answered, "No," and 20 percent were unsure.

Let's face it: We live in an age of discontentment. We are bombarded with ads and interviews telling us that we deserve a new car, a better vacation, a perfect body … a flawless mate.

When I look at pictures from Jim and my wedding, I see friends and relatives whose lives have been shattered by divorce. I've also heard stories of couples who had been married 30, 40 years, and more … only to find themselves apart at the end of their lives.

Jim and I want our marriage, like those of our parents, to last a lifetime. That's why we take intentional steps to cultivate our relationship.

Here are ten ways that we protect our marriage. I hope that you will glean an idea or two that will enrich your relationship with your spouse and make your marriage go the distance:

1. Spend regular time enjoying life with your spouse. My husband loves to tinker with old cars. He's now turning a 1941 Chevrolet into a hotrod. If you are car-deficient like me, this means that he's fixing up an old car with new parts. I love to look at beautiful hotrods, but honestly I couldn't care less about motors, and pistons, and gears. But because I love Jim, I go with him to car club meetings and antique car shows. And I've met so many wonderful people.

Now, my idea of fun is a writing conference—sitting in a ballroom learning about new ways to capture ideas. Jim couldn't care less about writing conferences, but he's joined me at many conference banquets and welcomed my writer friends into our home. He's usually the first person to read whatever I write—and he gives me his honest opinion.

Over the years, Jim and I have also gone on lots of fun getaways together. We've driven through the beautiful Smoky Mountains, sailed on area lakes, and watched hot-air balloons fill the morning sky. Recently we went to a national park high in the Ozark Mountains—away from computers, cell phones, and even grocery stores.

(If you're looking for some creative ideas for getaways, you may want to read Bill and Carolyn Wellons' book, Getting Away to Get it Together.)

2. Add a little fun to your relationship. No matter how long you've been married, notes in lunch boxes, tucked in pieces of luggage, or placed under the visor of the car are always appreciated. And in this technological age, it's so easy to send an e-mail or text message to tell your spouse of your love.

If I make a lunch for Jim to take to the office, I'll often tuck a note inside a napkin or even in a bag of chips. And many times he'll leave a message on my answering machine at work—just to let me know how much he loves me.

Also, you may want to send your spouse on a scavenger hunt. It could end at a romantic restaurant where you will be waiting.

3. Thank God daily for your mate—imperfections and all. When Jim shows me his love despite my crankiness and selfishness, he models the heart of Christ. If he's a little short-tempered at the end of a long day, I have the opportunity to offer him understanding instead of judgment.

Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." A perfect Savior died on the cross for sinful me and for my sinful spouse. Marriage is made up of two imperfect people who are being conformed daily to the image of Christ through life's struggles.

4. Ask your spouse how you can pray for him/her during the day. Jim and I begin and end each day with prayer. Before he heads off to the office in the morning, he'll hold my hand and we'll ask for God's guidance and blessing for the day … for us and for our entire family. Often we'll e-mail or call each other during the day to ask for prayer for a particular situation.

When I was a little girl, I remember walking into my parents' bedroom when they were kneeling side-by-side in prayer. Somehow that picture was etched in my mind and I can vividly see it today. Jim and I now follow their example and end our day on our knees.

(FamilyLife has a practical prayer card guides that can help you lift up your husband or wife before the Lord.)

5. Share temptations with your spouse. Proverbs 16:18 reminds us of this truth, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling." Jim and I have found that being honest about the temptations we face helps keep us from stumbling.

Years ago, Jim's work required him to travel out of town. He would tell me about flirtatious women and invitations to grab a drink at the bar. He'd share with me how he often felt alone when he'd choose a quiet night in his hotel room instead of an evening out with colleagues. I'm proud of Jim for his integrity … he knows that he's not immune to temptation.

I remember two times when I shared with Jim that I didn't want to cultivate a friendship with particular couples. I told him that I thought the husbands were very attractive and I didn't want to get to know them well. Jim understood. I know that I'm not immune to temptation.

6. Regularly remember why you married your spouse. What character qualities drew you to your mate? Write a love letter reminding your spouse why you married him/her and express your lifelong commitment. You may want to share this letter over a candlelight dinner.

I was attracted to my husband because he was a lot of fun. I also love Jim because of his love for the Lord and our family. He's a man who sacrifices for others and genuinely cares for people. And he makes me laugh!

7. Expect challenges in life and remember that we're not in heaven … yet. When I got married more than three decades ago, I knew in my head that life would not be perfect. But somehow my heart thought that life would be like Cinderella going to the ball. Wrong!

I didn't expect premature children, miscarriages, cancer, disobedient children, aging parents, financial stress, car problems, and bathroom leaks. But, after more than 30 years of marriage, I now realize that life certainly has its ups and downs.

God wants our marriage to model trust in Him—regardless of life's circumstances

8. Don't go into marriage thinking that it's a 50/50 partnership. If you got up with the baby last night, it doesn't mean that your spouse must get up with the baby tonight. In a Christ-centered marriage, you and your spouse are one as you serve each another. Marriage is 100/100, not 50/50.

I realize that there are times when Jim needs to relax and watch a baseball or football game while I'm cleaning the house. And sometimes he'll fix dinner while I'm on the computer. We don't keep score of who does what. We're partners in marriage and in life who are still learning to be more concerned about one another than ourselves.

9. Don't say everything that you think. I'm still learning this one.

Last Saturday Jim wanted to take a nap at 2 p.m. I wanted to say, "You can't lie down. The grandkids are here [ages 4, 2, and 6 months], and I need help!" But somehow I stopped myself, and instead of making a rude, demanding comment, I asked, "Are you okay?" It ended up that his back hurt from early morning yard work, and he just needed a little rest and relaxation.

10. Sign a marriage covenant. Marriage is more than a contract; it's a covenant—a vow between one man and one woman with God for a lifetime (Matthew 19:6).

Create a reminder of your lifetime commitment to your mate. This could be as simple as dating and signing a sentence such as: "I, __________ (name), promise to be ________________ (spouse's name) husband/wife for the rest of my life." To create a family heirloom, frame the signed statements with a wedding picture.

A signed marriage covenant could also be as elaborate as a custom-made certificate that includes your actual wedding vows and the signatures of witnesses. You could even have a special signing ceremony for close friends and family at home or at church.

The important thing is to create a tangible way to remember your sacred promise of unwavering commitment. My husband and I have a signed marriage covenant that was witnessed by our children. It hangs above our bed and is one of our most prized possessions.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Family Time for Easter

We love family time. We love those little family traditions that make up our family's identity. These special days that are woven throughout the year help us to remember important events, but also teach us about the nature of God and the need for one another.

(For a great article on the importance of family traditions read Family Life Today's article entitled, "Why Traditions Matter?")

We have daily rituals (morning worship, family dinner and bedtime prayers). We have weekly rituals (Friday night family slumber party, Saturday morning cereal and cartoons, Sunday "Good Breakfast"). We observe birthdays, Mongolian holidays, American holidays and Christian holidays. Makes for lots of observances! It also gives our life a beautiful rhythm that keeps us grounded.

We have always celebrated Christmas in a big way. We begin with Advent four weeks before Christmas and end with Epiphany on January 6th. It's a six week long celebration of God-made-flesh around here! In recent years we've been increasingly impressed that we need to give at least equal, if not more, emphasis to Easter! After all, we are commanded to remember His death until He comes! (I Corinthians 11:26)

Because Easter is much less celebrated than Christmas, I thought I'd share some of the ways we add meaning to this time of year, have fun, and at the same time instill timeless truths to our children.

1. We've started to observe Lent. Neither of us are from particularly liturgical backgrounds, so we didn't know anything about Lent when we started. But, we felt the need to prepare our hearts for receiving the revelation about His resurrection. So, beginning on Ash Wednesday we begin to purposefully look forward to Easter.

I got an idea from this website about creating a road map to Easter. The little car stops each Sunday during Lent at a different spot on the homemade map. And we plan activities or crafts for the children to instill in them the virtues of giving thanks, forgiveness, abstaining, charity, prayer and faith.

Also during the Lenten season the children gather money (by asking obliging friends and relatives or doing extra chores) for the charity or ministry of their choice. They collect the money in "Thankfulness Jars."

2. On Good Friday we all dress in black to help us to be mindful of His passion and death. I also drape a black cloth on the pictures of Jesus and crosses throughout the house. Here we are worshipping this morning:

3. On Easter morning before the kids wake up, we replace the black cloths with white! We spread a fresh white tablecloth on the table, set out fresh flowers, and all kinds of sweet treats for breakfast! Our first words to each other are, "He is Risen!"

4. On Easter we all wear something new. When money has been tight, this has sometimes just been a new handkerchief that I've embroidered with an Easter theme. In more abundant years, we get new outfits. And the children know that this isn't just to look pretty when going to church. They know that we do this to help us to remember that Jesus makes all things new! And we must choose to put on a new man, too!

5. Every year on either Good Friday or Saturday we watch The Passion of the Christ.

Here are some other things we have done in the past:

Resurrection Eggs by Family Life Today.
An amazing little resource that opens children's eyes to the true meaning and symbols of Easter! Really fun, too!

Resurrection Cookies, recipe here.
This is a great activity that incorporates Scripture into cookie baking! Your kids will remember this message!

Maybe it's too late to do everything you're inspired to do this Easter. But, look ahead to next Easter and to the next holiday your family observes. Be purposeful in planning it. As our children grow they will question these traditions. And the answers will take deep root in their hearts.

"Then your children will ask,
`What does all this mean?
What is this ceremony about?'
And you will reply,
`It is the celebration of the LORD's Passover,
for he passed over
the homes of the Israelites in Egypt.
And though he killed the Egyptians,
he spared our families and did not destroy us.'
" Then all the people bowed their heads and worshiped."
Exodus 12:26

Blessings on your family this Easter!

Gana and Daja

Friday, April 3, 2009

Unconditional Love

Family Cell 4/3/09

Unconditional Love:

How does God show us unconditional love?
- He shows us through inexhaustible forgiveness.
- John 3:16- “For God so loved the world that He gave his
only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should
not perish but have everlasting life.”

Love Creates an Open Atmosphere
- 1 John 4:18- “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out
fear, because fear involves torment.”
- When we have an open atmosphere created by love, we are
able to have transparency with our spouse/children.
-We must work to create an atmosphere where we value and
appreciate each others strengths, weaknesses, ideas, and so on.

Love Can Last A Lifetime
-Romans 5:8- “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we
were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
-Love is not determined by the one being loved, but rather by the one
choosing to love.
-The bible refers to this type of love using the Greek word agape.
-Agape love is selfless and unconditional.
-Agape love says I love you in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, for
better or worse.
-1 John 4:19- “We love, because He first loved us.”
-We will struggle and fail to love if we don’t allow God to fill us with His
-We can’t give away what we don’t have.
-John 14:14- “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
-Ask the Lord to fill your heart with His love and ask Him how to give that
love to your spouse/children. (This should be done daily)
-John 13:34- “A new command I give you; love one another as I have loved
you, so you must love one another.

Love is Learning
-Proverbs 24:3-4- “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is
established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and
pleasant riches.”
-Remember when you first started dating your spouse?
-You wanted to learn all you could about them. You would ask a thousand
questions, speak for hours, and write letters.
-You studied him or her.
-At what point do we stop learning about our spouse? Is it our careers,
our children, our selfishness, or just the daily hustle and bustle of life?
-Difficulties in relating with our spouse can be due to not understanding
them. This also applies to our children.
-Love takes the initiative to begin to learn and understand our spouse.
-Proverbs 18:15- “the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”
-Learn to listen to your spouse. Hear their hearts desires.
-Remember we don’t need to be problem solvers. Just a listening ear.
-Ask God for discernment
-God is a giver of wisdom. Ask God to show you what you need so you can
learn to love your spouse like He loves your spouse.
-Make your spouse your chosen field of study. Learn all you can about
your spouse and your children.
-Learn how to fill your spouses love tank.
-You will reap the investment you put into your spouse.