The Bouquet of God and His People

The Bouquet of God and His People

Amy B

Amy B

God has blessed us with a great big world, and I try to go see it whenever I can!Admittedly, I have an unusual life where I get to teach what I love 8-9 months out of the year and then go travel and serve the Kingdom in my other home the rest of the time:Edmond, Oklahoma and Vienna, Austria. A lot of what I write revolves around what God teaches me through those experiences and I invite you to "travel" with me in those times! Basically, I want to be Rick Steves (the travel writer) and Lysa TerKeurst (Proverbs 31 Ministries) when I grow up! :)

I have a bunch of college "kids" I call my own, 2 dogs named Abby and McGee (yes, I love NCIS) andI get to be "the cool aunt" to 2 beautiful nieces and 3 handsome nephews.They make great play dates!

Given the opportunity, I want to encourage people when I can and remind them of the power of God in their life...or help them find Him in different ways.Fair warning:I'll ask you the tough questions!I treasure deep relationships - especially ones that will allow for "iron sharpening iron."

I love being outside, and I'm a huge fan of turning off the phone whenever possible to soak up God's creation! Actually, I'm a huge fan of turning off the phone in general...as the phrase goes: "Wherever you are, be all there", and if you are where I am, then I'm going to be all there!

I'm flawed, but saved by grace and learning daily to be loved by God.I'm thankful for the times he lets me wrestle with him because he knows my heart of hearts, and I'm ok with my hip being messed up (Genesis 32: 24-26) because growth comes from it.I encourage you to join me in the journey!

Love well...breathe deep....show mercy!
Amy B

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When you look at this bouquet, some might see flowers, some might see weeds, but I just see God and his people.

These flowers came from one of my favorite places on earth: Schwarzwaldeckhaus. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?! Sitting on top of a mountain in the Austrian Alps is a three-story cabin that serves as a retreat center for youth camps, church retreats, and other fellowship times. It is a place that has been very near and dear to my heart for many years.

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Because the house sits on top of a mountain, the views are breathtaking, the cows are entertaining, the sunsets are exquisite, and the stars are indescribable.  The quiet is deafening, but the time there–no matter how it is spent, alone or with others–is refreshing.  It truly is a place to breathe in God and all that he creates for us to enjoy. If God were to have an earthly throne room, I think it would be here, on this mountain top.

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A while ago, I had the honor of taking two dear friends, a son and his “seasoned” mom, up to the house (haus, in German).  For one, it was a time to reminisce about her experiences from her younger days; for the other, it was his first view of the mountains. Like many before them, their reaction was similar to most–awe.

She related memories of being at the haus with college students and how they would walk the mountain trails, breathing in the clean air, and the soul-refreshing moments with God and each other.  But one story in particular caught my attention.  On one of her early morning walks, she decided to pick one flower, and only ONE, of each kind she found growing on the mountain.  By the time she got back to the haus, she had a large bouquet of flowers in her hands.  The week after their visit, I was blessed with time on the mountain by myself (well, and a black lab named Cara) so I decided I was going to test her story myself.  You know what I found? The Church.  I found God.

Cara and I started our walk down the mountain trail and I began to do the same thing my seasoned friend had done those many years before.  I picked one flower of every kind I could find. It was amazing to notice how many different kinds there were.  Although I walked only twenty minutes away from the haus, my hand was getting full of flowers so I decided to turn around and walk back.

I began to really admire all of the variations in my hand: the diverse, rich, and beautiful colors, the different shapes and sizes, and the beautiful intricacies of God’s designs.  It was fascinating!

As I walked back towards the haus, I found other flowers I hadn’t noticed before because my perspective had changed.  And, when I started to REALLY notice ones I had never seen up there before, it made me want to look even deeper into the fields of flowers.  It became a source of joy and reflection of how powerful God’s hands are and the creativity in his creation.

But then, I realized I was putting God in a box by even saying he was “creative”…that was almost too “human” of a word to describe him.  It’s cool to know that he didn’t really have to “think” about his designs–he just spoke the words, and they were!  Admittedly, the designer in me loves to think of God, sitting in front of an enormous marker board, dreaming up every flower imaginable.   A storyboard for every season, every climate, every country.

And, as random as this is, I loved that they all had one thing in common–a green stem.IMG_8707

Cara and I returned to the haus with our bouquet of flowers.  I was curious to see how many different kinds there were, so I laid them all out on the kitchen counter.  There were thirty different kinds of flowers, some with many similarities between them, but they were all still different.

 

After arranging them into a bouquet, I put them in water and enjoyed them the rest of the week…and what God was teaching me.

Faith-Building Moments

I’m sure you can extract your own faith-building moments from the story, but these were some of the things God spoke to me about:

The Lord has no equal and all that he has made is good!

Isaiah 40:14 and 26 says, “Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?  Does he need instruction about what is good? Look up into the heavens.  Who created all the stars?  He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name.  Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing!”

You could say the same thing about the flowers…he created all of them, they all have a name, and they were created exactly for where they belong, and even for the proper season to flourish in.

Now compare that to God’s people and his church!  We are all created differently, each of us with our own particular details and intricacies given to us by God, and that is what makes us unique.

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it!” Psalm 139: 14.

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God has placed us where we need to be to bring him the most glory.

John 17:4 says, “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”

And while he may only put us where we need to be for a season, his ways are always higher.

“Who knows if perhaps you were made for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14).

 

God doesn’t call us to understand the season, he calls us to be faithful!

1 Peter 5:12 encourages us, “…what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you.  Stand firm in this grace.”

And another favorite of mine:  “Now if you will obey me and keep my commands, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.” (Exodus 19:5)

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Perspective is also beneficial as God’s people

We all come from different situations and life stories. Yes, they make up a part of who we are–or at least who we were–but looking at people through eyes of love and God’s grace allows us to see the embraceable differences we have that make up the body of Christ.  “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multiple of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8.

Looking deeper into people’s lives also opens up the door to ministry and sharing the Gospel, as Philippians 2:4 suggests: “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too.”

 

We are unique, we are different, but when we are all put together, we’re beautiful because of Christ! That “green stem” is Jesus.  As a body, we have in common the forgiveness he offers us and the ability to live for him, bringing him glory.  What a humbling honor!  That the God who knows my name calls me to be his own: “…he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself.  And having given them right standing (righteousness), he gave them his glory!” (Romans 8:30)

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Now go pick some flowers!
The Bouquet of God and His People

How Will You Respond?

How Will You Respond?

Ali R

Hey! While most of my life was spent in Colorado, I am happy to now call Oklahoma my home. I am amazingly blessed to have a supportive and God-fearing husband who is also a terrific dad to our four kiddos (who we had in a 3 year 9 month time frame). I love to drink coffee, sing, hear people’s stories and have dance parties. I am passionate about my relationship with Jesus and desire to share that gift with every person that I meet. My hope is that I can encourage someone today with and through the Word of God and His steadfast love. ::psalm 27:4::

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“Baby, you need to stop getting upset at all the small things and reacting so poorly when things get hard.  You have no control over what happens or how people treat you.  The only thing you have the power to control is your response and attitude.  You can let those small things ruin your day and ultimately lead to poor choices, or you can choose to be joyful and know in your heart that you are doing the right thing and actually growing as a person from it.  I know it seems hard at times, but all you have to do is close your eyes…take a deep breath…and ask God for help.  I promise, He is listening and wants to help you. You weren’t meant to do this without Him. You can’t do this without Him…”

The Same Struggles

Each word I spoke scraped several sensitive areas inside my heart before coming out of my mouth.  Here I was, feeling beat down from circumstances of the day, instructing my daughter to let go of all the same little things to which I was tightly gripping. Sure, what I had been struggling with seemed to be on a greater level, but are our battles really all that different?

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“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all…”

1 Corinthians 10:12-13a

You see, friends, when we remove all the smoke and mirrors disguising the core issues, our struggles are no different than our children’s struggles.  After all, fear is fear…jealousy is jealousy…insecurity is insecurity…doubt is doubt…sin is sin.  I think too many times we try to justify our reactions or complicate situations more than they ought to be, when it really just comes down to the struggle between flesh and Spirit.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind controlled by sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

–Romans 8:5-6

A Choice in the Way We Respond

So just as we give our children a choice to do what is right and respond in a Christlike way, God has given us that very same choice.  We can choose to respond in our flesh and in our own strength, or we can “close our eyes…take a deep breath…and ask God for help” because “I promise, He is listening and wants to help us. We weren’t meant to do this without Him. We can’t do this without Him.”


 “… And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

-I Corinthians 10:13b

 “Casting all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7


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Without Grumbling

Without Grumbling

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life.” 

Philippians 2:14-16 

An Invitation to Go Without Complaining

I invite you to take a moment to meditate on Philippians 2:14-16. Do you feel you are following this instruction in your day to day life? Would others describe you as blameless and pure? Does your life stand out in this sinful generation we find ourselves in? Are you holding firm to God’s word?

A few weeks ago we read this scripture in our bible class and I could feel my heart freeze. I immediately remembered the way I huffed out of frustration when my daughter wouldn’t leave my feet. I thought about how I often lamented over the stress of motherhood and the envy I’ve often felt in my heart toward my husband who goes off to work around other adults, and finds himself with 60 minutes of commute time each day to listen to whatever he wants.

As I thought about my tendency to grumble, my chest grew tighter as the Sprit continued to convict my heart.

I love staying home with my young children. It is my first choice, but I admit, the enemy has still found footholds through the challenges that come with my day to day life.  The temptation to grumble is not reserved for stay-at-home moms. The enemy hits us all with deceptive ways, no matter our age or circumstance.

And oh, do we grumble.

Scripture gives us a different way to live.

Scripture tells us to live without grumbling. Why? So that we might shine like stars in the world for the purpose of bringing God glory. 

Do you know anyone who is always able to find joy no matter the circumstance? A couple of different people come to my mind. These sweet friends of mine are the brightest lights. They radiate God’s love. I’m always so refreshed after spending time with them. It is not that their life is easy, without any strife.

To live without grumbling is more than just ignoring one’s burdens, it is living with the joy of the Lord inside their heart. Philippians 2:16 says this happens by holding firm to the word of life. We must know God’s word, believe it, and put it into action in our lives. In God’s word, we will find two beautiful characteristics to lace our hearts with.

A Heart of Service 

Matthew 20:28 says “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”  Grumbles often stem from entitlement. Christ, on the other hand, displayed a very sacrificial way of living. We must reflect on our life circumstances and look for the opportunities to serve and bring God glory.

A Heart of Gratitude

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings; name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Embracing a heart of gratitude and continually looking for the blessings in life will not only help us to live more joyfully, but will also align our lives to God’s will.

As I’ve reflected on my tendencies to grumble these last couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded to embrace the season I find myself in, and to serve my family patiently and joyfully. I know that I will continue to grumble from time to time, but I pray that God often leads me to this passage in Philippians. In a world that feasts on entitlement and selfishness we will surly shine like stars from the joy of the Lord, if we serve and love those around us without grumbling.

So go ahead, jot down Philippians 2:14-1. Put it in a place where you will see it often and be reminded of a better way to go through your days!

 

Just Ask Joseph: Running from Sin

Just Ask Joseph: Running from Sin

Tracy Watts

Tracy Watts

Wife, mom, daughter, teacher, blogger, crafter, organizer - but most and best of all, I am a Christian. I am passionate about my family and my God. I am married to my best friend and am blessed with a one year old son who keeps me busy all the time staying at home with him. And I am glad to be in the service of our incredible and awesome God.
Tracy Watts

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Joseph is such a vibrant character in the Bible. Reading the end of Genesis, his life is exciting, terrifying, depressing, and inspiring in turn.

In Genesis 39, we see him as a slave in Potiphar’s house, put in charge of essentially everything Potiphar owns. And then he comes face to face with temptation: Mrs. Potiphar.

The Story of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

As you read the story, you get the idea that Mrs. Potiphar is not just some old lady. She probably isn’t covered in warts or plump, jolly, and wrinkled.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” (v6-7)

And as she spoke to Joseph day after day… (v10)

…she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” (v12)

She’s at least young enough to catch young, strong, in the prime of his youth Joseph by his garment. And she apparently is attractive enough that he can’t just “laugh” this off.

Neither does he stay to try to “reason” this out with her. What does he do?

RUN!

But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. (v12)

Joseph has cut his losses and is booking it out of there! He has no pretense. He knows that this would be a sin against God. And he is willing to do whatever is needed to get him out of that situation.

He runs out of the room.

Learning to Run from Sin

I think we have a lot to learn from Joseph. So often we try to justify our sin. We make it out to be something “little.” Something “not as bad” as other sins–instead of seeing it for what it truly is:

How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? (v9)

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If we approached our own lives with such dedication to living for God, we might have to get rid of some ugly parts. We might have to feel uncomfortable. We might even have to run the other direction.

But in the end, isn’t that better? After all, if you’re running away from sin, doesn’t that also mean you’re running toward God? There’s no better place to be.

Just ask Joseph.

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Continue to be encouraged by these posts:

Unasked Prayers Social Media Friend or Foe Age is just a Number forgivess

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The Grace-Filled Marriage

The Grace-Filled Marriage

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

In a Christian marriage there is a goal to put God first, but I’ll be honest–my husband and I didn’t really know what that meant when we got married. We knew we wanted to honor God in our life together and be part of a church family, but we really didn’t know the extent we’d be called to put God first.

At the beginning of our marriage we were consumed with personal needs. We’d read all kinds of marriage books talking about needs and love languages and respect, and while we tried hard to please each other, we got upset when we didn’t feel the same effort in response.  Now, the lessons in those books are great–but we didn’t have the right mindset. We needed a mindset of grace if we were ever going to really put God first in our lives. Thankfully, over the last couple of years we’ve learned more about how to live a grace-filled marriage and it’s made such a wonderful impact on our life together.

kristin's wedding

Here is the new foundational truth for our marriage:

Our relationship with God is more important than our relationship with each other. This is how we truly put God first in our lives and in our family.

Now, you might not like the way that sounds but hear me out—

Supporting each other on your individual walks with God is the most important thing you can do for your marriage. 

 

When your spiritual life becomes top priority you think differently. Your mission in life is no longer about your happiness on earth but your eternity with God–and this affects your marriage in a good way! When you are focusing on your eternal destination more than your current one you will be a better spouse. How do I know this? Well, focusing on my eternal destination means that I’m striving to be like Christ, and who can love my husband better than Christ? My best love for my husband will be fruit from my relationship with Christ.

 

“Every marriage goes through moments of anger and temporary failures. But you must determine your goal. What matters most: winning arguments or resembling Christ?” – Francis Chan (You and Me Forever) 

Francis Chan

 

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to resemble Christ. That’s way more important to me than making sure my needs and love languages are met. I’m not saying love languages and meeting needs are bad–they can be a very good thing when you are putting your desire to please Christ above your desire to please yourself. Then you will use those methods as God intended–as a way to serve your spouse.

Now, as wonderful as all that sounds we still have a little problem.

Are you still with me? My husband and I have a very tricky enemy working against us and he can use those needs and love languages as a stumbling block. Sometimes our spouses don’t meet our needs and don’t speak our love language and then what?? How will we respond?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The devil is looking to devour me. The devil is looking to devour my husband.

 

When a spouse messes up (no matter how insignificantly), you can bet your bottom dollar that Satan is on the hunt for victory. He’s watching how we will respond. This is why we need to lavish our marriages with grace.

Why? For us it’s simple.

Because the devil will NOT gain victory in our household.

No, he will not get an ounce.

Christ gets all the power, all the glory, and all the victories in our house. 

 

So what do we do when the devil is prowling at our door? How do we let Christ get the glory in our home? Well first, we stay on our guard and know who our enemy is! It’s really easy for me to feel brokenhearted when things aren’t going my way. In return, I can act pretty ungodly, treating my poor husband like he is my enemy. I know that my husband has triggers too, times when the devil is crawling at his feet. There are going to be misunderstandings and times when we mess up and end up hurting each other.

However, Satan is our enemy in these times. It’s not my husband. It’s not me. Knowing that Satan is the enemy makes it easier to extend grace to each other because we know that we are each on the pursuit of holiness. We want to encourage each other on this process, not get in the way. We want Christ to come first in our marriage. This means that we want to be like Christ and we want to show Christ’s love to be fruitful in our marriage. We want God to take the victory, and he does! God takes the victory every time we set our personal needs aside and extend loving grace in His name!

Live a grace-filled marriage.

When you and your spouse find yourself at odds, offer grace. Once you extend grace, you can then demand the enemy leave your home. If you’ve seen the movie War Room, then you remember that powerful scene where Elizabeth Jordan literally yells at Satan to get out of her house–she even yells him out of her front lawn! There is something to be said for verbally voicing Satan to leave. It shows we really mean it and we want him to hear it! Also, then you should pray.

We can’t fight the enemy on our own. We need God’s help. So get down on your knees -together or alone. Beg God to fight the enemy out of your life and your household.

Let God do all the fighting in your marriage.

“God will fight for you; you need only to be still.”- Exodus 14:14

Let God claim the victory in your grace-filled marriage.

Exodus 14:14

Ten Years Ago, We Fell in Love

Ten Years Ago, We Fell in Love

Elizabeth P

Elizabeth P

I am a recovering Army brat who loves to travel and start new adventures. My handsome husband and I met at Oklahoma Christian University and he whisked me away to Kansas. So, I bought some ruby red high heels and made Topeka my home. I have a rough and rowdy Princess 4-year-old girl, amazing twin boys (almost 3) and a newborn baby girl who all make every day an adventure. We are grateful to be part of an amazing church in Topeka who regularly challenges and encourages our whole family. I have been both a full-time working mom and a stay-at-home-mom and/or both at the same time at one point or another. I am constantly seeking God’s wisdom on “balancing it all” and following His plan for my life, not mine.
Elizabeth P

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Note: Our story is our story; marriages can be quite different and face unique challenges. We just hope to encourage those with what we’ve learned in our life.

Best Decision of My Life

On Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I will celebrate more than ten years of marriage. We were very nearly babies when we wed–I was twenty years old and he was twenty-one. We were very grown up, or so we thought.

Honestly though, despite being young, it was the best decision we ever made. I remember hearing people who had been married for twenty years say they were more in love than ever with their spouse. At the time, that concept made no sense to me. I couldn’t imagine being more in love with this guy.

We dated for three years, half of which was our engagement.  Despite my “plan” to have a career before I entered into a serious relationship, we fell in love pretty early on in our relationship. We attended a Christian liberal arts university and I was bound and determined not to be there for my “MRS.” However, God had other plans for my life.  We married before our senior year of college. After we graduated, we moved out of state so my husband could attend law school in his hometown.

We Fell In Love, Yet I Was Miserable

Year one was a breeze. I thought marriage was not hard.

Year two was the most stretching year of our relationship.

He was in law school, I was in a new town, surrounded by everyone who knew my husband and his family but not me, and I was working but incredibly lonely. What happened to college where all our friends had time to hang out every day and come over any time? How fair was it that I was being a “grown up” starting my career while he was still in school? Why was this town so small and why is there no decent retail? These were all things my twenty-two-year-old self was struggling with daily.  I was married to the love of my life. I worked in my degree field in a job that was a great fit. And yet, I was miserable.

I did not understand why the second year was so much harder. For goodness’ sake, we were in love! We had even gone through two premarital counseling sessions for “extra-good premarital preparedness training.” Because I thought that both of us being believers, doing extra premarital counselling, plus having successfully married parents, made us experts. Oh, and don’t you know, we knew each other incredibly well and had discussed everything under the sun.  (Cue eyeroll…remember, I was twenty-two).

Or did we?

Our new church family became the reason we have the marriage we do today. They challenged us in our own relationships with Christ in new and profound ways. We realized we both had a lot of spiritual growth to do. I realized that as amazing as my new husband seemed (and is), he is a human and will let me down somehow. He doesn’t mean to, but it happens. And I let him down, even though he has never told me as much, but I’m sure I have at some point.  We learned a lot of things about each other, but most importantly we learned how to live for Christ, to die to ourselves, and to grow in our faith more deeply than we had before.

It came down to this: the closer each of us grew in Christ independently, the better and deeper our relationship grew together.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

As it turns out, that’s also a progressive transformation.

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The Secret to a Great Marriage

Over the years, we’ve participated in some awesome and challenging marriage studies with small groups, such as Eggerich’s Love and Respect, John Piper’s Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and Saving your Marriage Before It Starts by Les and Leslie Parrott. Each one provided great tools and things to consider or work on in a new way, but it comes down to your own relationship with God. You will be a better spouse when you are working on your relationship with the Lord. It’s not magic. It all takes time and intentional investment, but that’s the secret.

Ten years and four kids later, I can now say that I’ve never been more in love with my husband. I understand him in a deeper way. He challenges me to be in the Word, and works tirelessly to “fill my love tank” daily (see The Five Love Languages).  He leads our family devotions each night and parents better than I do, and none of it has anything to do with me.  Yes, we both are very different people than we were ten years ago. Little by little, we’re becoming new people in Christ. If we were the same people we were ten years ago, I don’t know if our marriage would have lasted. (I hate to think that, but the selfishness in both of us was unsustainable.)

There are still occasional tough days, and we each still have a lot of work to do. But there are a lot of wonderful days. I can’t wait to see where we are in another ten years.

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