20 Years of Precious Memories

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.
—Song of Solomon 6:3

Just look at the memories of the past twenty years! Yes, twenty years ago today Rick and I were married in a covenant ceremony. In front of family and friends, we pledged to love and care for each other for the rest of our lives. How these 20 years have flown by!

Much has happened over the years. We’ve experienced both good and not-so-good seasons, but one thing has always sustained us:

God is at the center of our marriage.

The path God has chosen for us as a couple has not always been easy but it is always the best for us because it is His plan for our marriage. I have spent many years enduring chronic pain while Rick has been battling leukemia.  All of this has served to bring us closer together as we take care of each other. And how can we not praise and glorify God through all of it? He is the one who brought us together!

Rick gave me a special ring years ago. It has two intertwining bands that read: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” And isn’t that the very essence of marriage? We belong to each other through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

This image is included in the collage of memories above. We call it the Marriage Triangle and you’ll note that Jesus sits at the top. Rick is on one side and I am on the other side. That symbolizes the fact that Jesus is the head of our marriage. We look to Him for guidance each day and through every situation. And we can vouch for how much closer we have become to each other as we have learned how to walk more in step with Jesus every day.

I am always thankful that God chose Rick to be the other half of my orange. I know that sounds strange but here’s how that phrase came to be a part of our marriage. 

When Rick and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor used an illustration of the orange to show how God created husbands and wives to complete each other. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (instead of cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way husbands and wives work together within marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone. 

This also applies to illness. For example, many days Rick is my caretaker, making sure I do not overdo and going out of his way to drive me on errands that need doing. There are also times when Rick isn’t feeling too well and I make sure he gets enough rest and takes the medications that help when he has a flare-up of his symptoms. 

And let’s not forget about the power of prayer in marriage. Rick and I regularly pray for each other. We pray for our family and friends. We pray together for people we know are in need of prayer. And we also pray before we travel—whether by vehicle or motorcycle—asking God to protect us and our home while we are away. 

Contrary to the belief that marriage is a 50/50 partnership, it needs to be 100/100. Both husband and wife need to give 100 percent all the time. I read this great quote a while back:

Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got! —Dave Willis

To my Rick: Happy 20 years together and may there be at least another 20!!! 💞

Covenant Vows

Today’s post is from Theology for Women, but this article is good for all husbands and wives to read.

Covenant Vows

By Wendy Alsup

A covenant is a binding agreement. Our world acknowledges a myriad of secular covenants, particularly in the financial realm. Financial covenants, like a mortgage or business partnership, aren’t to be entered lightly, and it is good that there are serious consequences to those who break such financially binding agreements. Economies can fail when parties default on such agreements, particularly en masse.

Secular covenants give us a tiny glimpse of the importance of spiritual covenants. The covenant vows of Christian marriage are a serious thing. We stand before God, friends and family as our witnesses, and repeat vows to another person. In sickness and in health. For richer and for poorer. Til death do us part. The ordained minister of the gospel speaks a final word of blessing and warning, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

But in the 1970’s California became the first state to pass no fault divorce laws. What God had joined together became much easier for man to put asunder without Biblical cause or process. Soon, believers who benefit from God’s faithful covenant with themselves began taking advantage as much as unbelievers of the government’s easy path to undo such covenant vows.

Marriage vows are not the only covenants we make with another. My denomination takes the vow of church membership quite seriously. I covenant with pastors, elders, and other church members to pursue the purity and peace of my church. I covenant with them that they can count on me, and they in return covenant that I can count on them.

I’ve made covenant vows to my children as well. When I chose to bring them into this world and not give them up for adoption, I committed, at least in God’s and the government’s sight, to protect and provide for them. My commitment to my children feels a lot like God’s to Abraham in Genesis 12-17. God took both sides of the vow with Abraham. He would fulfill His covenant with Abraham because God was faithful, not because Abraham was. Similarly, I bear the heaviest weight of my covenant with my children. They may rebel, but I will remain their mother. They may run from me, but I will pursue them nonetheless. To do less would be to abdicate my responsibilities in their lives.

We tend to make covenant vows, particularly the marriage kind, in the filtered sunlight of a warm (but not hot) spring day. We make them as the sun shines and the flowers bloom. Loved ones smile warmly around us. And the ones with whom we are entering covenant welcome us toward them.

But the shining starts of our covenants aren’t the point of these covenants. They aren’t the reason for these covenants. The vows we make in front of God and family in our white dresses and tuxes, with filtered spring sunlight illuminating our pictures, aren’t for these days. The sweet days of filtered sunlight and happy smiles don’t require binding agreements to keep folks together. No one has to twist your arm to love your spouse, care for your child, or persevere with your church on such beautiful days glowing with the warmth of new hope and promise for the future. No, covenants aren’t for those days at all.

Read the rest here.

5 Bible Verses That Can Change Your Marriage

This article from The Isaiah 53:5 Project has some good advice about marriage and goes along well with my Marriage Triangle series of articles which I write for TRC (The Relevant Christian).

5 Bible Verses That Can Change Your Marriage

Here are five Bible verses that can change your marriage.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

– First Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is more than a feeling. Love is a verb–it is what you do! Look at the cross to see that. Jesus died for us while we were still wicked sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10). So how can we not love our spouse in this way, being kind and patient, bearing up, hoping the best, and enduring it all? But here’s what love is not: envious, resentful, arrogant, or rude. This verse is frequently used during wedding ceremonies. Why not look at these verses again and study them together as a couple (if that’s possible). It could strengthen your marriage.

“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Read the rest here.

The Covenant Relationship

This Bible study article by Jack Kelley from GraceThruFaith goes along well with my Marriage Triangle series which is published at The Relevant Christian Magazine (TRC). You can also read the articles here.

The Covenant Relationship

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. (1 Samuel 18:3-4)

The making of a covenant was serious business. It was the strongest bond known to men, and had both business and personal applications that extended even to the descendants of the two parties involved. A covenant was typically solemnized by great ceremony and ritual, some of which is mentioned in the passage above. All in all it went like this.

First, several animals were cut in half and arranged along a path. Their purpose was to symbolize the penalty for breaking the covenant. The two men entering into a covenant relationship walked between and around the animal parts in a figure eight. (An eight on its side is the symbol for infinity.) This was to show that they understood and accepted the penalty and that the agreement committed them forever. (When God entered into His covenant with Abraham, promising him an heir and giving him the Promised Land, He was the only one who walked between the animals. This meant that only He was bound to the terms. There was nothing Abraham had to do. In fact, God put him to sleep so he couldn’t participate. The land was given to Abraham and his descendants unconditionally and in perpetuity (Gen.15:9-21).

Read the rest here.

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THE MARRIAGE TRIANGLE: Two Lives Become One #lovewins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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In the Old Testament, God created the covenant to be a binding promise between two parties. A person in a covenant becomes identified with another person, and there is a supernatural co-mingling of two lives.¹ In the marriage covenant, the two separate lives of the man and woman become one as they are pronounced husband and wife.

Marriage as instituted by God

In the Old Testament, we read in Genesis 2:23-24:

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates this covenant message in Matthew 19:4-6:

Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

God created marriage to be a covenant—a bond—as the way to fully unite man and woman as husband and wife. They are to stick together like Super Glue!1

Genesis 2:24 could be paraphrased as follows:

For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall stick like glue to his wife (forcibly intimating that nothing but death should be allowed to separate them) and they shall (become one flesh as they) enter into a covenant relationship.²

What does this mean in practical terms?

When two people commit to spend the rest of their lives together in a covenant marriage, they are in effect promising to do more than their best to serve each other. Did you get that? More than their best.

Contrary to the belief that it is a 50/50 partnership, marriage needs to be 100/100. Both husband and wife need to give 100 percent all of the time. I read this the other day and really like it:

Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got! —Dave Willis

Life is hard–much can happen on any given day, like work, family issues, sickness, and money problems. All of this “stuff” can easily take our focus off of the Lord and therefore off of each other. Marriage is not the easiest thing, but it is so satisfying when both the husband and wife are trying their best to give 100 percent of themselves.

Some days the wife may need to serve her husband more than on other days because his day isn’t going so well. Something happened at work that he feels is threatening his job. Or maybe the car needs some major repair work done and he is worried about finding money in the budget to get it fixed.

On other days, the husband may see how his wife is having a difficult time with something so he needs to give more of himself by trying to help her. Maybe one of the kids got in trouble at school. Perhaps she received the test results back from the doctor that confirms a serious health problem.

Any of these issues are difficult and can easily cause such distress that we either internalize our feelings or we can lash out at our spouses in frustration. Keeping the details to ourselves can be a huge problem because if we can’t say out loud what is bothering us, our spouse may think they have done something to bother the other. If we treat our spouse harshly because of something that is bothering us—and that “thing” is nothing your spouse has done—your spouse will start resenting you for that ill treatment.

This is where the 100/100 concept comes in.

When either husband or wife is feeling low about some situation, the other spouse can be supportive just by listening, even if it takes time away from another thing that was planned or needs to be done. Sometimes just talking about the issue out loud takes some of the pressure off. Other times some brainstorming between the couple helps focus on a point that wasn’t considered before because of the stress of the situation.

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Let’s not forget that there is one more party involved in our marriages: our Lord Jesus Christ.

How great would it be if the first thing husbands and wives did was pray together for wisdom and discernment to figure out the situation as God intends? This doesn’t mean that God will zap an answer to you right away, but the process of prayer can de-stress you so that you can think about things less passionately, more rationally.

Empathy and understanding can help alleviate stress about a situation. Humor can also be used at times. I read a great article at the Focus on the Family site titled, Bringing Laughter into Your Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott. This is an excerpt from that article:

Let’s face it, no spouse is immune to stress. We all feel like we’re coming unglued at times. And wise experts agree that the best way for anyone to cope is with a good laugh. “Humor makes all things tolerable,” said preacher Henry Ward Beecher. “Laugh out loud,” says Chuck Swindoll. “It helps flush out the nervous system.” On another occasion Chuck said, “Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.” Arnold Glasgow said, “Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.” The point is that even when you’ve had a tough day, or should we say especially when you’ve had a tough day, you need to laugh. It will help wash away the stress and keep the two of you together when you’re coming unglued. So help each other to find something funny even when it’s not easy.³

The orange theory

When Rick and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor used this illustration to show how God created husbands and wives to complete each other. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (instead of cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way husbands and wives work together within marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone.

Let’s take a look at this in practical terms, using one of the examples I wrote about above. A husband tells his wife that their car needs some major work and he is worried about finding money in the budget for the repair. These days the first thought is usually to just use a charge card to pay for it, however, this couple has agreed to use cash whenever possible.

After praying together about this, his wife suggests several ways they can save enough money. She will buy groceries only on sale for a time. Or maybe she has been stocking up on sale items so that now she can prepare meals with what is in the pantry and the freezer. He might suggest carrying his lunch from home for a few weeks rather than buy lunch out, and even eliminate their once per week dinners out. Perhaps they have been able to afford manicures or frequent hair appointments for her, but she offers to stop those for a time, thereby putting that money toward the car repair.

Did you see how well the jagged edges of their orange fit together? Because the husband’s thoughts were initially so centered on the situation, he couldn’t immediately see how to handle it. After praying together, husband and wife together came up with good and workable ideas to save more money.

How not to keep score in your marriage

It is natural for us humans to keep score. Most of us want to know that we’re not the only ones putting forth a lot of effort. Husbands and wives need to avoid keeping score as to which one is getting more and which is getting less. Some days the husband will need to give more in serving his wife, while on other days the wife will need to do more to serve her husband.

Alvin, married 63 years, said, “Don’t consider a marriage a 50/50 affair! Consider it a 100 percent affair. The only way you can make a marriage work is to have both parties give a hundred percent every time.

And Kay, married 54 years, said, “… anybody that goes into marriage saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be 50/50,’ it doesn’t happen. You can’t live in the same house with the same person all those years and always divide it down the half.4

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In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he reminds them to:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:3-4

I think all married couples would do well to keep this in mind as they learn to give of themselves, their time and their God-given talents to helping each other.

One plus one equals one may not be an accurate mathematical concept, but it is an accurate description of God’s intention for the marriage relationship. —Wayne Mack


1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage
2 CovenantMarriage.com: What is a Marriage Covenant
³FocusOnTheFamily.com: Bringing Laughter into Your Marriage
4 FamilyLife.com: The 50/50 Myth

 

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17 Years and Counting

As you know, I’ve been trying to keep my computer/online time to a minimum for several months. Today is Rick’s and my 17th anniversary, so I’ve chosen to repeat last year’s anniversary post with a few pertinent changes.

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Today marks 17 years since Rick and I were married in a covenant ceremony. Like all married couples, we have had our ups and downs, but through it all one thing never wavers: the love God instilled in us for each other. He brought us together and only through Him are we complete. You can read the story of our meeting and courtship here.

This collage shows only a few of the memories we’ve shared over the years.  Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are ever thankful for each other. Even though my activities these days are dependent on how I feel and how often I can get out to do things with Rick, we still have a strong love and that certain peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). As long as we continue to look to Jesus as the head of our marriage and our eternal Hope, He continues to bless us beyond anything we can imagine!

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To my beloved Rick, the other half of my orange: I love you so much! Your continuous and undeniable love for me are truly God’s gift to someone who has always had some trouble thinking of herself as lovable. 

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine… —Song of Solomon 6:3

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THE MARRIAGE TRIANGLE: Journey or Destination?

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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Life has lots of ups and downs. No surprise there, right? Some seasons have more valleys than mountains, but one thing God has taught me is that the journey is more important than the destination. I believe this can be applied to marriage, too.

The Destination

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Life is a journey, not a destination. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all desire perfect marriages, but that’s an unreasonable expectation. We are human. We make human mistakes. Sometimes, we take things too personally. Other times we react irrationally to something because of other things going on in our lives (or our selfish, prideful human nature gets in the way).

Put together a man and a woman—two sinful, selfish, and prideful people who are prone to making mistakes—and what do you have? A recipe for disaster, unless Jesus is at the helm.

If we start our marriages thinking we’ve already arrived, what happens when the reality of life kicks in? Many of us put so much effort into our wedding that we forget about life after the honeymoon. We go back to work to pay the bills. The car breaks down and needs some major work. We experience job cutbacks, or maybe lose our jobs. How do we pay the bills?

Here’s the thing: The journey is how we get to our destination, which is to love and serve God and each other.

If we truly look to Jesus first in our marriage, He will walk with us through this ongoing, daily journey.

In the same way that you deepen and grow in your relationship with your spouse, you need to mature in your relationship with God. It is more than a journey of feeling. It is also a journey of faith. You are in this for the long-term. Let’s finish this race well! 1

The Journey

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It is good to have an end to journey toward; 
but it is the journey that matters, in the end. 

–Ernest Hemingway

God uses marriage to mold us into His image by teaching us how to serve Him by serving our spouse.

I’ve written before about how much my life has changed since chronic pain and illness came to live with me. Summers are the worst for my symptoms because of the monsoon season and the accompanying barometric pressure fluctuations in Arizona. For me, this means 24/7 migraines for months at a time.

My sweet husband, Rick, does his best to take care of me during those times. Often there is nausea that goes along with these migraines and I just can’t eat much. I certainly do not feel up to cooking a meal. Although Rick doesn’t cook, he is content with freezer meals and entrees that microwave in minutes, or he’ll go get some fast food.

Rick has also gotten used to going places without me, something neither of us love. If we do make plans to visit friends, eat out, go for a day trip on our trike, or even go to church, there are too many times that I’ve had to tell him I just cannot go. He never makes me feel guilty or sad about it either. He serves me well by supporting me this way. We are a huggy couple, and one of his best ways of serving me is to give me a gentle bear hug when I need it most. It soothes and comforts me.

I try to serve Rick the best I can while dealing with these chronic pain issues. I remember to make the bed (almost everyday) and do my best to keep up with the laundry. On a semi-good day, I go to our local grocery store because it’s only about five miles away, and pick up foods that are easy to warm up or microwave. I often cannot do much, but I manage to keep the refrigerator, freezer and pantry stocked.

Part of the marriage journey is to learn more about about Jesus as you learn more about each other every day. You both went into your marriage with high hopes and much love. How does that translate into an everyday relationship?

Husbands and wives, what does your marriage journey look like? Are you truly enjoying learning more about each other each day?

Daily life these days is a rush to get everything done before it’s time to go to bed. It’s important to make time for each other without any distractions, including computers and mobile devices. Turn those off and turn to each other. Learn to savor each moment together. That is an important part of your marriage journey.

In the process of learning more about each other, you’ll find yourselves seeking the wisdom of Jesus as you daily put your trust in Him as the head of your marriage. And that can only improve your marriage relationship.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we who are the bride of Christ wait with great anticipation for the day when we will be united with our Bridegroom. Until then, we remain faithful to Him and say with all the redeemed of the Lord,
“Come, Lord Jesus!”
(Revelation 22:20). 2


Greg Laurie, Harvest Daily Devotion, For the Long-Term.
GotQuestions.org, What does it mean that the church is the bride of Christ?

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