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!!! 💞

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.

Thank You!

Instead of making resolutions for the coming year—which I rarely do—I’d like to share the many things for which I’m thankful as we slide from 2015 into 2016. 

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  • First, I thank and praise God for working through me in this blog. To Him be the glory in all of this! I cannot imagine doing any of it without the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help.
  • I am beyond blessed with a wonderful husband who not only supports my writing and blogging, but who is also diligent to make sure I don’t overdo. Thank you, Rick, for always being there for me to lean on and hug, to hold hands with, and to walk this earthly journey with me.
  • I can’t let 2015 end without thanking my friend Pat Knight for all of the devotionals she writes for this blog. In spite of the constant chronic pain she deals with on a daily basis, she has been instrumental in keeping this blog going. Thank you, Pat!
  • A huge thank you to all my readers and followers for hanging in here with me as I’ve tried to keep up with a consistent blogging schedule. I’m still working out a balance in my life so that I can keep up with this blog without hampering my health.

I don’t know what 2016 holds for me, but I do know Who holds 2016! I believe without a doubt that if it is God’s will for me to keep blogging here, He will continue to enable me in this venture.

Beloved,

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. —Philippians 1:3-4

The Marriage Triangle: Friendship

The Marriage Triangle: Friendship

by Anna Popescu

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In my first article in the last edition of TRC, I wrote about how marriage is a covenant with these seven elements:

  1. Two lives become one.
  2. There is a sign to remember which serves as a witness and a memorial.
  3. There is a change in name.
  4. There is a meal shared.
  5. There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
  6. There are witnesses to testify.
  7. There is a covenant partner to defend.

For this edition, I am going to focus on number five concerning friendship.

A Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother

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One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. —Proverbs 18:24

Let’s start by defining the word friend:

  • a patron
  • a supporter
  • an advocate
  • an ally
  • a person attached to another by feeling of affection or personal regard
  • a person who gives assistance

Jesus Christ, the friend referred to in Proverbs 18:24, is all the above. He is the best friend we could or will ever have!

Friend is a covenant term and is beautifully seen in God’s covenant with Abraham. In 2 Chronicles 20, there is a marvelous account of God’s deliverance of Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat. Upon hearing of the enemy’s advance against him, King Jehoshaphat cried out to God, appealing to His covenant relationship with Israel and reminding Him of who He is and of His great power. 1

In contrast, here are some antonyms (opposites):

  • an antagonist
  • an enemy
  • a foe
  • an opponent
  • a detractor

If you are married, your best friend here on earth should be your spouse. So who would you rather have for a spouse?

Someone who supports you or someone who is your enemy?

We all start out in marriage believing we will always support each other. At that moment, when we utter those two special words, I do, we love each other so much that we truly believe nothing will ever change between us. We are absolutely sure that our love will overcome any obstacle that comes our way.

Reality steps in: Jobs, our family and friends, financial problems, a new baby, and health problems.

What then?

These are the times when you need your best friend by your side so you can support each other. But if your relationship doesn’t start out as a friendship, it may be difficult to work through the tough times.

In my first article, I wrote that Rick and I met online. We lived about 600 miles apart so the bulk of our courtship was conducted online. We met in person four months after we started emailing each other, and two months after that, we became engaged. Five months later, we were married in a covenant ceremony. How could we possibly become best friends in such a short time and living so far apart?

One of the things Rick tells people about those months leading to our wedding is that, because we talked on the phone and emailed each other so often, we learned a lot about each other. It would probably have taken even longer if we had been able to see each other on a frequent basis. We shared our beliefs, ideas and thoughts through those phone calls and emails, and we were able to get to know each other well without all the physical “stuff” that often gets in the way.

Real life happened for us as we started to live together as a married couple.

The Honeymoon is Over

It doesn’t matter if you are in your 20’s, 30’s or older when you get married. You both bring to the marriage your pasts, beliefs, behaviors, hurts and emotions. Things happen to all of us as we grow up that color our thinking and actions, good and bad. In a perfect world, we are all brought up with wonderfully nurturing families. We treat our family members with utter love and respect. There is never an angry word passed among us, and all is right in our world.

Seriously?

Beloved, we are humans who do not always get the kind of family we would love to have. That “right” world?

Heaven.

Our earthly lives are filled with frustrations, anger, jealousy and a whole bunch of other not-so-nice emotions. We carry this baggage around with us until we meet that certain someone who is perfect for us. And because we are perfect for each other, we will never have any arguments or differences of opinion.

Reality Check

Oh, if it was only that easy! On this side of heaven, there will always be conflict. It is how we handle those conflicts that makes all the difference.

A marriage is made up of two imperfect people, each with their own idea of how things get done. You may be a very neat person who cannot abide clutter while your spouse is fine with the house being a bit untidy but does not do well with an unbalanced checkbook. You could waste time and emotion arguing or nagging about these things or you could find ways together to compromise so that neither of you is giving up anything.

If you are the one who can’t stand clutter, you might agree on an area in your house that is okay if it is a bit of a mess—such as  laundry room, one of the bedrooms or the garage. On the other hand, if you feel a sense of panic when the checkbook does not balance, you could consider letting your spouse take over that task. These are only suggestions for compromise because there are many other scenarios that you could work out together.

So What is a Best Friend?

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“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” —Author Unknown

Didn’t each of us have a best friend when we were growing up? You know, that person who completely understood you and all your quirks but loved you anyway. The one who let you rant when things were unfair at home. The one who might disagree with you about something but never let that get in the way of your friendship.

Why can’t spouses be that for each other? We live together so why shouldn’t we be best friends?

Awhile back, I was listening to a talk show about marriage. I don’t remember the names of the husband and wife who were being interviewed, but the subject really interested me: how to have a good marriage in spite of the little things that irritate you about your spouse.

I was alone while listening to this interview, but I laughed out loud as the husband said something about how the cute and endearing little things that you love about your spouse while you were courting begin to grate on you after you’ve been married awhile. Two other things this couple said affected me:

  • They compared marriage to being in a canoe. When you’re single and in a canoe by yourself, it’s easy to control your canoe. But when there are two of you in that canoe, every single movement from each person can easily cause the canoe to flip if both people do not work together.
  • We too often grant a full cup of grace to friends and family who do not live with us, while offering only a partial cup of grace to our spouse.

If we consider our spouse to be our best earthly friend, why aren’t we treating them better than anyone else? We can get through sticky situations by talking things out and being open to compromise. If you love each other, it shouldn’t be very difficult to keep in mind what makes your spouse feel more comfortable about a situation.

Here’s an example from Rick and me. When we first got married, I used those air fresheners that you plug into the wall. I placed them in several rooms of our home. Some were not as visible as others, but the one in our bedroom was right under the window and easily seen. Every morning for about a week, I would find that air freshener plug on the floor under the outlet, so I would plug it back in. The first couple of times I thought Rick had unplugged it so he could vacuum in there, but after the fourth day, I began to stew about it. Why did he have to be so mean about something so simple? Maybe he didn’t like the fragrance I chose, so why didn’t he just tell me?

I calmed myself before I asked him these questions because I didn’t want it to be a confrontation. I just needed to know why. It turned out that Rick was worried about those being a fire hazard. When I asked him why he hadn’t just told me that, he shrugged and said he thought I’d take the hint after the first couple of days, and didn’t think it was worth talking about.

After I thought about that, I realized the reasons why he thought the air fresheners could be a fire hazard did not count. What did is that he believed it was a fire hazard, and that was enough for me. So we never used those plug-ins again.

My point here is that even though something might seem irrational or unreasonable to you, your spouse might have a perfectly realistic explanation.  We just need to take the time to find out the reasons before we begin to accuse.

Beloved, marriage can be wonderful… or not so much–depending on how loved and cherished spouses make each other feel. Try to keep in mind that marriage triangle where Jesus is at the top and each of you are at the bottom looking up to Jesus to lead you together.

1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage

 

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The Marriage Triangle

The Marriage Triangle

by Anna Popescu


Does the title of this column seem a bit risqué? Well, it could be but read on to find out what it’s really all about.

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Marriage is a very strong yet fragile bond. That makes it somewhat of a paradox. I’m guessing all husbands and wives enter into marriage with the intent of staying true to their vows, but eventually real life breaks in. What started out as a strong union can begin to unravel, and that’s when it becomes fragile.

Many couples manage to stay married for many years. Barbara and George H. W. Bush recently celebrated 70 years together. It is obvious that their marriage has stayed strong in spite of the inevitable rough patches we all go through.How did they—and how do countless other couples—stay true to their vows?

I have been married twice. My first marriage lasted 23 years and I have two very wonderful children from that marriage. The marriage ended because my ex-husband no longer wanted me in his life. However, in retrospect, that was not really why we divorced. We had a long history of reacting badly to each other.

Let me explain. When one of us had an issue with the other, we did try to talk it out but more often ended up yelling at each other. That kept us at an impasse, and all those impasses accumulated into one big boatload. Oh, we gave the appearance that all was well with us as a couple, but the reality in our home was something else altogether.

I had given my life and my heart to Jesus Christ about 10 years after we were married, but I allowed myself to backslide for many years for reasons best left unsaid here. The huge turning point in my life happened after I was divorced. Almost 18 years after being saved, I finally returned to the Lord, rededicated my life to Jesus Christ, made my public testimony and was baptized. This changed everything for me, and I vowed that I would always live for Jesus.

Wedding photo w-Kathy&AlanA few years after that, I met Rick, and we were married in a special covenant ceremony at the home of a very dear friend. Those are my children, Alan and Kathy, in this photo taken at our wedding. We recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary and are still going strong in spite of some circumstances we never would have predicted. You can read the story of how we met online here.

Here are some excerpts about covenants and the covenant marriage ceremony at preceptaustin.org1, one of my favorite sites:

♥ Covenant as defined by the Scriptures is a solemn and binding relationship which is meant to last a life time.

♥ In ancient times, covenant was the most solemn and binding agreement into which two parties could enter.

♥ In the Covenant of Marriage remember the following truths…

  1. Two lives become one. In covenant, you become identified with the other individual, and there is a supernatural commingling of two lives.
  2. There is a sign to remember which serves as a witness and a memorial. When you enter a covenant with your beloved, the sign is usually a ring which serves as a constant reminder (memorial) of the solemn and binding marriage covenant.
  3. There is a change in name. As the wife takes on her husband’s name, this change symbolizes the supernatural identity and oneness God intended for the partners who had entered the marriage covenant.
  4. There is a meal shared. Biblical covenants were often commemorated with a “covenant meal.” [Husbands and wives] will celebrate your new covenant relationship by feeding each other wedding cake which is a picture that you are now sharing a common life, that two lives have become one.
  5. There is a friend who will stick closer than a brother. Friend is a covenant term and is beautifully seen in God’s covenant with Abraham. “… and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
  6. There are witnesses to testify. In the Old Testament, the solemnity of a “cutting covenant” was often witnessed by setting up a memorial or sign. “So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.” Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar” (Genesis 31:44-45).
  7. There is a covenant partner to defend. Webster’s definition of the verb to defend = to protect a person from harm or danger. To keep safe from attack. To cover. To shield. To safeguard. To shelter. To support someone in the face of an onslaught of criticism (how often do we criticize our covenant partner rather than lovingly defending them from criticism?).

We’ll explore each of these items in more detail in the future.

One of the things that Rick and I talked about during our courtship is crucial to our commitment to stay married no matter what. Rick had never been married before and would say, “I am only going to be married once.” Since I had previously been married, I would reply, “I am only going to be married once more.”

So Rick and I started out with the right foundation, but still butted heads from time to time as all married couples do. We would fall back on the illustration of the orange given to us by our premarital counseling pastor. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (versus 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 the husband and wife work together within a 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.

Rick and I love the example of the orange, and have remembered that image many times. We have a great marriage but we are no different than countless other married couples. We still sometimes struggle with some silly, sometimes stupid, ridiculous things that can build up to cause a heated discussion or argument. The single greatest thing we have learned is that to have the best marriage possible, we need to remember that we are each at the bottom corners of a very special triangle in which Jesus is at the top. We call this The Marriage Triangle.

It is very easy to get into a fiery argument by focusing on our own selves and our own agenda. We’ve all done this. We get so involved in what we’re trying to communicate to our spouse (maybe very loudly?) that we forget what brought us together in the first place.

LOGO-Official-MarriageTriangle-smaller--AMP

The triangle image above is a great way to show that husbands and wives are to keep their eyes focused on Jesus rather than just on each other. What happens because of that is the more time we each spend focusing on Jesus and His will and plan for both of us, the better and closer our relationship with Jesus will become. And the closer we walk with Jesus, the closer we get to each other.

Rick and I know this to be true in our marriage, and are absolutely thankful for this truth. It has also helped defuse many an argument when we stop to consider that Jesus is watching and listening to every single word that pours out of our angry, frustrated mouths. And even when we forget to look up to Jesus, it is only because we have become closer to Him that we still remember—most times—to stop and take a break. There is a lot of praying and thinking that goes on during that break, and we always come back together by asking forgiveness for speaking so carelessly. After that we are able to calmly continue the discussion until we’ve figured things out.

Beloved, God wants us to live in a harmonious marriage. He created marriage to be a man and a woman. He knows everything, so He also realizes that the inevitable problems will arise. However, He has provided us with ways to help our marriages become stronger in spite of the hurdles or difficulties.

That’s what this column will be all about, and I’m looking forward to writing about the ways in which God can help all of our marriages become even better!

“The first secret to loving others is to immerse yourself in a love relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—and abide there.” —Anne Graham Lotz

1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage

 

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Another Born Day Celebration [repost from 2012]

Today is my Honey’s birthday. Yep, the day after mine!  We met online 14 years ago because our back-to-back birthdays were a super coincidence that I couldn’t ignore. Plus it was a great way to start a conversation with Rick.

And here we are, all these years later, still celebrating that God-incidence that placed us together.

So, Rick, if you’re reading this…

HAPPY BORN DAY!

 
Love always from your…

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Happy Anniversary to my Beloved

Wedding photo w-Kathy&Alan

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I can believe 15 years have passed since Rick and I promised our lives to each other in a covenant marriage ceremony. To me, it feels like yesterday. In the photo above, my son Alan is on my right; my daughter Kathy is on Rick’s left.

So much has happened in these 15 years. As most marriages, we have had our highs and are thankful for all God’s blessings in our marriage and in our lives.

Because of the shadow of chronic illness over us, we have also experienced enough lows to last a lifetime. But we have always tried to remember that God is at the head of our marriage. And as long as that is true—and it definitely is!— we know without a shadow of doubt that He will continue to guide us as we keep looking to Him for His will in everything we do.

If there is one lesson I can share with you about holding tight to your marriage vows, it is this: be kind to each other! To me this involves:

  • thanking each other for everything, even the little things
  • cutting the other person some slack at times because all of us have our “moments”
  • forgiving each other for those “moments”
  • keeping your love for each other alive

I know there are more but this is all my mind could come up with right now.

Popescu Wedding Photo

To Rick, my Beloved:

You are such a huge blessing to me! I thank God every single day for the blessing and gift of you in my life. Here’s to the next 15 years… and beyond!

Ephesians 5:21-33:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

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AnnaSmile…..

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