Sunday, February 28, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 14: Persevere

Over the past thirteen days, we have focused on a lot of different things, all sharing the same desired goal of improving and strengthening our marriages. Lets do a quick little review just for discussion sake:

- the importance of praying for our husbands, their hearts, their decisions, their work, their choices, their minds, and their faith.
- promoting our husbands self esteem by offering words of encouragement, instead of words of discouragement
- changing our perspectives, and trying to see our husbands through Gods eyes
- providing for their emotional, physical and spiritual needs
- protecting their reputations and giving them honor
- remembering to spend quality time and 'play' with our husbands
- putting what we know into practice
- pursuing a close with with Christ ourselves which benefits our marriages
- forgiveness
- seeking peace through Christ when times are tough
- being our husbands helper
- planting seeds of love, blessing, intimacy, and actions into our marriage gardens
- and focus on the transforming of our minds.

When I look at the list above in its entirety, all on one page, I have to say, it seems very overwhelming. It almost seems impossible to think that we can really implement these practices into our marriages, remember to do them daily and/or weekly, and stay motivated to keep trying even when the road seems hard, long, unchanging, and unrewarding.

So today, my friend, your challenge is to simply embrace perseverance, because there is no doubt about it, marriage is hard.

Marriage can be the biggest blessing in our lives, bring the biggest heartache we have ever known, and be the greatest adventure we have ever been on, all at the same time. It is a breeding ground of emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other, but we can take heart in knowing that God knew marriage was not easy.

He knew we would need guidance and support, encouragement and strength. Even the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:28 that "...But those who marry will face many troubles in this life..."

As a result of the importance of marriage, and the fact that He knew it would not be easy, God chose to make more than 500 Old and New Testament references to the words "marriage", "married", "husband", and "wife".

Marriage was a challenge in biblical times, as it is today, because it is a union of two different, imperfect people coming together in a world that is full of sin. It is the joining of two people who each have good and bad traits, habits, sins, and selfish desires, while trying to become one, coexist, stay in love, and deal with life.

If we only look at marriage by that description though, we will remain discouraged, instead of encouraged; frustrated, instead of hopeful; and disheartened, instead of joyful.

Marriage is one of the important parts of life where God knew we would need His strength, courage, ability to forgive, grace, mercy and hope, and one of the many reasons why He encourages us to persevere if we want to see our dreams come true, our faith come to life, and our marriages be a blessing in our lives.

To persevere means to persist in anything undertaken; to maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; and to continue steadfastly. Here are a few verses that reiterate Gods take on perseverance:

Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Romans 5:3-4 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Perseverance is not always fun, but in Christ, we can do it, and reap the rewards of His love, protection, and blessing as a result. Only God knows the problems or blessings in each of our marriages, and only He knows the future of each relationship. But our role is to continue to trust Him in whatever we are facing, and to persevere through His strength and not our own.

All things are possible with God. Smiles.

Sweet friends, these past two weeks have been such a blessing for me. I have been amazed and awe struck at what God has done in all of our hearts through this challenge, especially my own.

I want to share with you that the day before my devotion Love, Respect and Admiration was published, I had no intentions or plans for a marriage challenge.

As I was writing the accompanying blog post for the devotion, God gave me this 14 day assignment, and I just threw it out there as an invitation to see if anyone was interested. I was blown away by the response.

That afternoon, my husband came home from work, and having read my blog post that day, asked me if I had everything prepared for the challenge. I hesitantly, and anxiously, admitted that I had not written a word, and actually had no idea what I was going to write about for fourteen consecutive days.

But I knew that this was a God-assignment, and I trusted Him to come through - and He did.

As I look back over the posts from the past two weeks, I am literally shocked. God provided every thought, every word, every bible verse, every idea, and every memory of experiences that I have gone through. And it wasnt until the second day of the challenge, that He prompted my heart to consider using "p" words for each challenge. I would have never come up with that on my own! God is so cool.

I only tell you all this, because I want to give God all the credit for this little marriage challenge, and take none for myself. It was all about Him, and what He wanted each of us to hear, and nothing about me. I am truly praising Him today for the opportunity to be a tiny vessel to share His Word, and my prayer is that He has spoken to your heart in a special way through the past couple weeks.

Five to six hundred women every day have been following this marriage challenge, and I stand amazed at how God has moved. I want to personally thank you for all of your precious emails, Facebook comments, and blog comments. I have been blessed and encouraged, and sometimes brought to tears, by all the things you have shared with me. Thank you!

Thank you for being a part of this exciting, yet challenging 14 day journey with me, to strengthen our faith and our marriages.

Even though the official challenge is over, I hope that you will continue to come back and visit me, as we walk together to embrace the adventure of trusting God in every big and little aspect our lives.

Marriage Challenge Day 14: PersevereSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 13: Paradigm Shift

A paradigm shift is a fundamental change in approach or assumptions about a certain subject. It is a change from one way of thinking to another, which we can apply to our marriages, jobs, relationships, homelife, parenting, health, etc.

In most cases, the circumstances or factors involved in a situation in our life are not going to change, but what can change, is how we look at those things, our attitudes towards those things, and how our attitude is shaping and maintaining a situation.

When it comes to marriage, one of the main things that keeps us discouraged is the feeling that nothing is going to ever change. We dont believe that our man will ever change in ways we feel are necessary for our happiness and our marriage, or that situations or problems will change or go away.

Maybe they will, and maybe they wont. Only God knows the future. The bad news we have to accept is that we cannot control certain circumstances, and we cannot control other peoples behaviors, actions or choices. As much as we would love to have the power to change others, we simply cannot! Continually trying to do so leads only to feelings of frustration and defeat and hopelessness.

The good news is that we always have control over our own minds, our own thoughts, our own actions and reactions, and our own choices. We always have control over the attitudes that we carry around in our hearts and minds every day. And we always have control over how we allow those attitudes to affect our life, and our marriages.

A paradigm shift refers to striving for a total transformation of the mind, like a metamorphosis of sorts. Metamorphosis is an even more powerful word regarding change than transformation is, because it means a radical change, from the inside out.

A great example of metamorphosis is the cycle of the butterfly - it starts out as a yucky larvae, then turns into a squirmy caterpillar, then a pupa in an cocoon, into an adult butterfly. Once the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, there is no sign of the old ugly caterpillar anymore, just the beautiful butterfly spreading its colorful wings. It completely changes, inside and out.

In marriage, it is so easy to get stuck in a mindset. Whether that mindset is positive or negative, is up to us.

Positive attitudes dont just happen, they are created.

In the familiar verse found in Romans 12:2, we read "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

The "pattern" of this world, with respect to marriages, is not good. Divorce is at an all time high, even among Christian marriages. Pornography use in marriages is a huge epidemic. Infidelity plagues our TV screens as an accepted practice, in politics, reality shows, comedies, and movies. True love is equated to mushy romance scenes that are unrealistic in most relationships. Deception, lies, mistrust, revenge, bitterness, and so on. These are the patterns of our world.

God calls each of us to be set apart from the world. To live in the world, but not of the world. The only way to do that, is to experience a paradigm shift, a transformation, and metamorphosis in our own hearts and minds - so that we can set patterns in our lives and marriages that are pleasing to God, and only God.

It requires making the choice every day to live God-focused instead of world-focused. To stay focused on what God can do, instead of what it appears He is not doing. To transform just not our minds, but our hearts, our speech, our actions, our choices, our pursuits, our dreams, and our marital relationships.

In The Message Bible, Romans 12:1-2 is written in such a way that it puts a great spin on this topic of transformation, when it says ".... Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out...." Wow! I loved that.

So how do we transform our attitudes to stop focusing on what is not right in the marriage, and start focusing on what is? How can we shift our perceptions about our husbands, and allow God to change us from the inside out, and in turn, our marriages?

There is no easy answer, but a great place to start is to realize that your husband will never meet all of your needs. That sounds disappointing, but it is true, and having that expectation only sets us up for disappointment and failure.

Philippians 4:19 says "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Do we see the word "husband" in this verse? Nope. God didnt intend for our husbands, or any other person or thing in our life, to be able to meet our needs and make us fulfilled and content and joyful. Only HE can do that.

I spent a lot of years feeling like my needs were not being met in my marriage, and I have to admit that at times I still get caught up in those feelings. In fact, just recently my husband jokingly said "You are so needy!", because I was telling him that he hadnt hugged me enough lately or spent enough time with me. I laughed, but in my heart, I knew it was true.

As women, we are needy. We all long for that physical touch, romance, friendship, honesty, intimacy, provision and closeness, from the men that we have committed our life to. But the reality is, that sometimes our husbands just cannot meet all of those needs, and when that happens, our attitudes shift in the wrong direction. And Satan smiles.

My faith grew, my walk with God got more exciting, and my marriage improved - the day I truly accepted that my husband could not meet my needs, or expectations.

The day that my heart latched onto that concept, was my first step towards a better marriage, and a changed heart.

What a relief it was for me to discover that Jesus was the only person who could fill every empty space in my heart. What a gift to my husband, to release him from the expectation that it was his responsibility and obligation to try to make me happy every day.

A few years ago, I discovered that no matter what my husband was or was not doing; no matter what situations we were going through; no matter how many expectations were not met; no matter how many arguments we might have.... that I could still have joy. That I could still be fulfilled. That I could still be positive.

I believe that our lives are by-products of our choices, not our circumstances. How we "see" things in our life, will determine what we are able to "see". We can choose to be positive and God focused, or we can choose to be negative and world focused. Whichever choice we make, will determine the level of joy we can expect to have in marriage, in life, and in our faith.

Your challenge today is to consider whether or not you need to embrace the opportunity for a paradigm shift in your way of thinking. Consider whether or not you have been expecting your husband to meet all of your expectations.

Make a list of the things that you "expect" of your husband. Make a list of the needs that you "expected" your husband to fill when you got married. Then ask God to begin helping you see what expectations you have placed on your husband, that in fact, only God can really meet.

This is a tough challenge, because any normal person would be thinking "why should I change? He is the one who needs to change? He is the one who did this/that/this and that. What good does it do for me to change, if he refuses to change?"

Im with you sister. Just remember, we only have control over our own thoughts and actions, but when we change our mindset, we might not only see things in a different light, but we also might become a role model that will inspire others to embrace change as well.

The pattern of this world would be to point fingers, but the pattern of God would be to point to Him for guidance. With Gods help, our life, and our marriages, can emerge from the cocoon, and become a beautiful butterfly. The old will be gone, and the new will take its place. All things are possible with God, and He is the King of transformation.

Here is a prayer to help you prepare your heart for this paradigm shift through the power of Christ:

Dear Jesus, please melt my heart towards my husband. Help me release him from the obligation of meeting all of my needs. But Lord, would you soften his heart so that he will understand my needs, and long to meet the ones that he can meet? You have brought us together for a reason, and I trust that You can get us through hard times, heal addictions, restore our relationship, and rekindle our love. Fill my heart with so much of You, that I do not need anything else, however You know and understand that the blessing of a happy and wonderful marriage is my hearts desire. Help me to experience personal victory in you, so that I can truly change my mindset and transform my way of thinking. Help me to be set apart. Guide my thoughts to good things about my husband, and not just the bad. Help me to forgive, and if needed, help me to forget. Give me the strength to love my husband unconditionally, just as You love me. Fill my mind and mouth with words that will help me achieve a metamorphosis in my soul, from the inside out. Help me to get rid of old thoughts and patterns, and embrace the opportunity to become a more positive person about my marriage. Most of all Lord, please make your Presence known to me. Let me see a glimpse of You at work in my marriage so that I can continue to be hopeful and excited about the changes that are to come. I trust in You Lord, forgive me for doubting that you are bigger than all my problems. Help me to always remember that it Your desire for me to happy and fulfilled in all things."

Great verses which clearly reveal the heart of God when it comes to our relationships with our spouses:

Ephesians 5:21 Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. (MSG)

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (NIV)

John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Happy Saturday!

Marriage Challenge Day 13: Paradigm ShiftSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, February 26, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 12: Plant

My three children have been taught to love each other, however, I would be lying if I said they always treated other with kindness.

On more than one occasion in the middle of a heated case of sibling rivalry, I have tried to help them understand that their actions, and reactions, towards their brother or sister is what they are planting in their relationship. Kindness begets kindness, and hatefulness begets hatefulness, and so on.

I have also been known to remind them that "you reap what you sow", which usually results in some eye rolling and under-breath sighs, but helps them remember that the seeds they plant in the hearts of each other is what they can expect to get in return.

Funny how easy it is to teach our children these important life truths, but forget to apply those same truths to our own life - especially with consideration of what we are planting in our marriage relationships.

"Reaping and sowing" is a pretty easy concept to understand why we do find it so hard to apply its importance in our marriages? Why do we forget to plant seeds that will build up the marriage, but still expect good things to grow? Why do we plant weeds, and then be disappointed when we get weeds?! God has given wives an important job of being a faithful gardener in our marriages.

An attentive and hopeful gardener (aka, wife) knows that what is planted in the marriage, will get harvested down the road.

An attentive and hopeful gardener (aka, wife) knows that the decisions she makes about what to plant, will affect the outcome of what grows in the field eventually.

An attentive and hopeful gardener (aka, wife) also knows that the planting does not guarantee the harvest, because the seeds that were planted, need proper care and attention.

Genesis 8:22 says "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease." What this verse teaches us is that there is always a time for planting, and a time for harvest, so it is never too late to start sowing good seed.

Galatians 6:7 and 9 say, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.; Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." This verse explains how Sowing seed and taking proper care of those seeds, will always produce a harvest, eventually. It is a fact.

The first question to honestly ask ourselves today is, what type of seeds are we sowing in our marriages?

The second question is, what seeds does God call us to sow in our marriages?

The third question is, are the seeds that we are sowing, and the seeds that God calls us to sow, the same?

Lets take a look today at those seeds God desires that we sow, that will result in us harvesting the gifts of a healthy marriage that He wants each of us to have.

#1 Seeds of Love: Unfortunately in many marriages, a woman may feel as if she simply does not love her husband anymore. Maybe she doesnt think he is the same man she married. Maybe he has hurt her and betrayed her trust. Maybe he has not met her expectations. Maybe they have just spent so little time together over the years, that they just dont know each other anymore.

In any case, it is never too late to sow love, and it is never beyond our capabilities to find that love to sow, because Gods love comes from God, not from feelings.

God can pour those seeds of love into our hearts, to reinvest into our marriages, even we cannot we cant find that love anywhere in our hearts - the love that 1 Corinthians 4 talks about, that is patient, kind and selfless.

But if we dont feel it, how we can give it? Upon reading 2 Corinthians 9:8-11, we discover how to embrace this 'loving-him-when-we-really-dont-feel-like-it' concept:

"God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you're ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God." (The Message Bible)

The part I like best about that verse is where it says "...He gives you something you can then give away", which means if we ask God for seeds of love to sow, He will provide them.

For any of you who are finding it hard to sow love into your marriages, even if for very valid and justified reasons, this is the perfect verse to tuck away in your heart, while asking God to give you the seeds to sow that you cannot find within yourself.

For women who are still in love with their husbands, it might just be a matter of examining our actions to see if we are in deed sowing the love that we feel, or do we allow daily pressures and busyness to prevent us from outwardly showing, I mean sowing, those seeds of love.

#2 Seeds of Actions: Over the past 11 days, we have talked about many ways to sow seeds into our marriages through encouraging words, protecting his reputation, praying for him, changing our perspectives, spending time with him, etc. Each time we sow love through our actions and encouraging words, we are planting seeds that will bear fruit in our marriages.

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. (NIV)

#3 Seeds of Blessings: If you are like me, I treasure even the tiniest gift or act of kindness from my husband which he simply gives out of love, more than the biggest, most expensive gift given on a birthday or holiday. That gift is a symbol of a heartfelt blessing, one given out of love, just because.

God gave the life of His son, just because. Not because we deserved it, or because we had a birthday, but just because of His infinite love for us. In the same way, God calls us to bless others, especially our husbands, just because, by lovingly planting seeds of blessing.

Proverbs 11:15 The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped. (MSG)

#4 Seeds of Intimacy: This is a topic that most women want to avoid, especially since it is typically more important to the hubby, than to the wife. But the fact of the matter is that if a wife doesnt plant seeds of intimacy in the marriage, then seeds of discord and distance will be planted instead. Sexual intimacy in a marriage is crucial, and without it, weeds are guaranteed to grow.

1 Corinthians 7:4 The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. (NIV)

I realize this is a very touchy subject, and certainly one that I am not an expert about by any wild stretch of the imagination. However, I do understand the emotional distance that is created when a husband and wife do not make time for intimacy. I do understand the feeling of awkwardness and hesitation to bridge that distance after a while. I do understand the feelings of sadness and neglect when intimacy is missing from a relationship. And I do understand, through my own experiences, that I do not like those feelings at all!

If a wife it not planting seeds of intimacy, and if has been weeks, months, even years without intimacy in a marriage - IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO START PLANTING. The time is always right to begin sowing those seeds of intimacy, even if it requires the supernatural strength and courage of God to overcome those feelings of distance, resentment, awkwardness, hesitation, neglect, loneliness and sadness. And remember, all things are possible with God. Not some, but all.

As seeds are planted, even those seeds that we didnt want to plant, the harvest will eventually begin to grow, and flourish. In time, those seeds that we planted through the strength and grace of God, may turn out to be the exact seeds that save a marriage from being choked out by an over abundance of weeds that had been planted for years. Planting seeds & pulling weeds will always pay off.

2 Corinthians 9:6 says, "Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop." (NLT)

Our challenge today is to take a long, hard look at our marriage gardens, and ask ourselves if we are planting seeds of love, sweet actions, blessings and intimacy, or have we only been focused on fertilizing the weeds?

If it turns out that we recognize a need to start sowing seeds from God into our marriage gardens, instead seeds of our own choosing, lets challenge ourselves to start a fresh harvest, and get excited about reaping the fruits of a new harvest.

Whether your marriage is thriving, or hanging on by a thread, it is always a time for planting good seeds, and the sooner you begin to sow, the sooner your harvest will begin to grow.

2 Corinthians 9:6 says this, "Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." (The Message)

So many times we pray for miracles in our marriages, but arent willing to do what it takes to make the soil fertile for a great harvest to grow.

I challenge you today to be willing get on your knees, get your hands dirty, and start doing some planting that will reap a bountiful harvest.

Marriage Challenge Day 12: PlantSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 11: Partner

Partner: "a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor; sharer; associate; a person associated with another in a joint venture, usually sharing its risks and benefits; a player on the same side or team as another."

Companion: "a person who is frequently in the company of another; a person employed to accompany, assist, or live with another in the capacity of a helpful friend; a mate or match for something."

Helper: "a person or thing that helps or gives assistance, support, etc.; aid, assistant; supporter, backer, auxiliary, ally."

The day we profess our commitment to our husbands on our wedding day, is the day we become his partner, helper, and companion in Gods eyes. The definitions above exemplify what God calls a wife to be - but sometimes filling these shoes is much easier said, than done.

In Genesis 2:20b-22 says, "But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man."

God created Eve so that she could be Adams companion, helper and partner in life. But considering the fact that we live in an entirely different world than Adam and Eve lived in, with an entirely different set of issues and problems to face and overcome - and considering the womens liberation movement of todays society - does God still call us to be our mans helper?

In fact, is it even still relevant for us to consider ourselves a "helper" to our husbands, in the 21st century, when women are considered equal to men?

You may not want to hear this answer - but absolutely! Gods Word Was, and Is, and Is to come.

If He proclaimed it then, it still matters now. His Word never changes in meaning, implications or applications for our lives, regardless of how much time passes, or how much society would like us to believe that His Word is irrelevant.

But lets make it crystal clear that being a mans helper does not mean being subservient, less than, or controlled. It does not mean surrendering or accepting any type of abuse, or considering yourself inferior to your husband as a child of God.

In my opinion, being a helper means giving your husband your very best and making him a priority in every area of your life, so that your marriage can thrive.

Yesterday in my bible study reading, I was reading the passages in Leviticus about the many sacrifices and holy practices that the Israelites were required to do in order to stay in Gods favor.

These Old Testament passages can be very hard to get through, due to all the information about bloody sacrifices and exhausting details about everything.

I also think they are hard for us to understand today since we no longer have to engage in those practices due to the sacrifice of Jesus.

But in Leviticus 23:9, the Lord said to Moses, "..... When you enter the land I am giving you and you harvest its first crops, bring the priest a bundle of grain from the first cutting of your grain harvest."

This particular verse stuck out in my mind when I was reading it, but it wasnt until after visiting my friend Wendys blog, where she discusses her interpretation of the daily readings, that I understood why. Wendys discussion of the "first fruits" made it clear why God had highlighted this passage in my heart.

The reason that God asked for the "first" fruits of the harvest, is because He wants the best, not the leftovers. We are called to put God first in all that we do, in our faith, our marriages, and our commitments to our husbands.

Wendy encouraged us through her vlog to consider whether or not we bring the Lord our first fruits - our very best. Unfortunately, I would have to honestly answer no to that question. There are days when I give Him my very best and my full attention, but there are plenty of days when I do not do that.

Her second question posed for us to think about, was whether or not we give our first fruits to our family? Once again, I would have to honestly answer no, not always.

I read a story in my friend Melanie Chitwoods book "What A Husband Needs From His Wife", that went like this:

"What are we having for dinner?" When I said that we were having macaroni and cheese with hot dogs (again!), I was sharply convicted of my wrong priorities. I had put someone else... ahead of my own family. I had gone many extra miles to make the meal I was taking to someone I had never met, but I was throwing together something quick and easy for my own husband and children. In short, I was giving something to someone else that I had not first given to the people closest to me!" (this is a great book on improving marriages - click on the book title above if you want to purchase it!)

I can only speak for myself, but I could certainly relate to this story. I have put others needs above those of my own family at times. I have given my sweetest attitude to others outside of my family, while exhibiting a lack of patience and tolerance to my own husband and family. I have been willing to go out of my way to help someone else before, but then felt resentful when I had to go out of my way to help my husband do something.

As a helper, companion and partner to our husbands, I think God calls us to give our first fruits to Him first, but then also to give our first fruits to our husbands.

God calls us to put helping our husbands at the top of our priority lists; to be someone he can share life with and enjoy the blessings that come from that togetherness; to be a helpful friend; to be their mate; to be someone who gives assistance, support and acts as their ally.

I am the first to say that life, attitudes, hurts, resentment, frustrations, pulls for my attention, busyness and so on - often prevent me from being the partner/helper/companion that God calls me to be for my husband. To be the type of helper that helps him achieve his emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs.

But todays bible verse has helped me remember the importance of Gods command when he says that we must put Him first, and then our husband second.

The challenge today is to consider whether or not you are you giving God your "first fruits", and secondly, are you giving your husband your "first fruits". Are you giving God your very best, and are you giving your husband your very best, despite emotions, feelings, circumstances and things that have happened in the past?

Is there anything in your heart that is preventing you from being able to offer those first fruits? Have you ever given any thought lately to the importance of being your husbands helper, companion and partner - the roles that only a wife can fill.

Sometimes it is hard to give selflessly, especially if that help/companionship/partnership is not being given in return. But I do believe that if someone takes the first step, other steps will follow by both people involved.

Pray about taking a first step today if needed, and ask God to help you remember to give Him, and your husband, your very best.

Marriage Challenge Day 11: PartnerSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 10: Peace

Peace. It is something we all want, but is often very hard to come by.

We want peace in the mornings, when the house is crazy because none of the kids are getting ready for school on time.

We want peace in the evenings, when sibling rivalry seems to be at its peak.

We want peace at work, when the deadlines and stress are running rampant.

We want peace in our finances, when the bills outweigh what is left in the account.

We want peace on the highway, when traffic is crazy and we are running late for an appointment.

We want peace in our hearts when the storms of life seem to be pouring down.

We want peace in our marriage, during times when disagreements and conflict seem to be at the core of every interaction.


Is it realistic to ever think we can really have it? Can we really have peace while living in a fallen world, filled with sin, conflict, betrayal, temptations, chaos and busyness?

Can we really have peace in our marriages when the sanctity of wedding vows has become distorted and devalued as a result of the self-centered, me-focused, culture that we live in?

I think the answer to that question depends on what kind of peace we are really looking for, and most importantly, where we are searching for it.

Just out of curiosity, I searched the word 'peace' under Google images. I found infinite pages of pictures of peace - but not one picture of Jesus. There were lots of hippy-type peace signs, two fingers held up, groups holding hands in a circle, people hugging, and even a picture of guns with an 'x' through them.

What I did not find, were pictures of Jesus, Bibles, bible verse references, crosses, heavenly clouds, praying hands or even a beautiful sunset over the ocean. The closest thing I found to resembling peace found through faith, were some pictures of doves, but even that can be interpreted as worldly without accompanying bible references.

Strangely enough, all of the images that fell under the category of peace, were of worldly perceptions of what peace is. A peace found in other people, symbols, and tangible things.

This spoke volumes to me about why so many people are stressed beyond belief, living in daily conflict in their homes, struggling in their marriages, drowning in a life full of disappointment and unmet needs, and unable to find any real peace.

The reason for this, is because people are looking for peace in people, places and things where it cannot be found.

True peace cannot come from anything that we can touch or see. It cannot be portrayed through any silly, creative symbols or made up depictions of what someone thought would signify peace.

Peace also cannot be found through simply having better marriages, better children, better jobs, better finances, less problems, or better traffic. We think that if those things get better, that we will have peace, but anything found outside of Christ, is nothing but temporary.

There was a time recently when I was struggling to find peace about some things going on that felt like they were choking the life right out of me. Problems that seemed way too big for me to handle, and certainly beyond my ability to control. A time when feelings of despair and hopelessness had invaded my heart, making me wonder if joy would ever return.

It was in the middle of that hard time that I wrote a Proverbs 31 devotion, which some of you may have already read, that was called The Day I Sat In Gods Lap. I want to encourage you to link over and read that right now, then come back and finish reading this post. (You may also want to read the accompanying blog post for that devotion.)

Now - for those of you who did link over and read those writings, you know where my heart was then, and you know where my heart is now.

On that day, sitting in Gods lap, I discovered peace. Real peace. Not a fake symbol or an empty fictitious picture of peace. Not temporary peace. Not a peace found through a hug or even a phone call from a precious friend - but real peace - a peace that was found in the holy lap of my heavenly daddy.

In John 14:27, Jesus is trying to comfort His disciples, when he says, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (NIV)

There is a key word in that sentence that sticks out to me - and that is the word "my". Jesus said, I give you "my" peace. Not just peace, but His peace. Not human peace, but holy peace.

A peace that is completely His, and only His to give, because it was bought with His blood and purchased by His sacrifice. It is His legacy to His people, and we are the recipients of that legacy.

This legacy of peace is a gift from Jesus that can be opened, unwrapped and enjoyed time and time again - but if we do not ask, we will not receive. A gift that can help us see beyond the problems, and instead see the problem-solver, and trusts with our full heart and mind that nothing is impossible with Christ.

Your challenge today is this: if you feel like peace has been missing from your life, your heart, your mind, and even your marriage - or if you have been desperately searching for peace and happiness in places other than Gods Word - then take some time to sit in Gods lap today, like I explained that I did in my devotion.

Trust me friend, I know, that there is great power in the lap of a Holy God.

Now for some of you, I realize that this whole 'lap-sitting' idea may sound a little too "religious", "out there" or "over the top" - and I want to share with you that just a few years ago, I would have felt the same way, because I was not comfortable with outward worship, and did not have the faith level to really understand how important fervent prayer was in my relationship with God. In fact, I could not even comprehend that level of prayer and worship - but oh, how I wish I had known. How I wish I had let down those barriers, and surrendered it all.

I cannot help but wonder about the blessings I missed out on, the heavenly intervention that I prevented from happening, the problems that could have been avoided, and the peace that I could have embraced, had I focused on my faith, stepped out of my comfort zone, and surrendered to worship above all else.

I have come to realize over the past few years that when we toss out our personal inhibitions, and allow God to take over from the inside out, we begin to see Gods power working through every aspect of our lives, including our marriages.

If you are interested, you can copy and paste the treasure verses from the treasure box that I provided in a follow up blog post to that devotion, then simply insert your name into the verses, print them out, and spread them out all around you. If your heart is ready to experience God in that moment, you will.

If you have time to do that, then simply sit down with Gods Word. Get on your knees, literally. Pray. Ask Him to guide your hands to verses that will speak to your heart, and guide your thoughts to passages that will remind you of the peace that is available through Him. And God to help you release those feelings of hurt, hopelessness, and confusion, and replace them with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Peace has to be in your heart, before it can be in your marriage.

God can help you face and deal with the challenges in your marriage, and help to strengthen our marriages every day. But just like any other blessing that we desire from our Lord, we have to ask to receive.

Upon the asking, God begins the giving and we will find a freeing peace like we have never known before - not because of an absence of problems, but because of the presence of a King.

Marriage Challenge Day 10: PeaceSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 9: Pardon

A few years ago I went through a situation like no other, which I hope I never have to go through again.

I was involved in a leadership role capacity for a particular organization, and although I had planned on the time and energy commitment, I was not at all prepared for the negativity, backlash, vindictiveness, and just plain meanness that ensued from a former leader.

Months went by, with each day bringing new challenges, new shock over things that were taking place, and new frustrations over how my co-worker and I were being treated. The issue got to such an escalated level, which was completely out of my hands to control, that I began losing sleep, becoming anxious and upset, and waking up every day with a feeling of dread about what was going to happen next.

One day I was at the end of my rope, when some seriously harsh words were yelled right in my face, and I just broke down into tears …. for three hours! Obviously that was not a day when I woke up and put on my girl big panties, but even a big girl can get beaten down after a while.

The more it appeared that the situation would not improve, and the worse things got, the angrier I began to get. That anger and resentment and frustration took root in my heart, and with each passing day, my outlook and my spirit waned.

Then one day as I was in prayer, complaining and whining to God, yet again, about this trying situation, my heart became aware that God was speaking, saying, “Tracie, I have called you to forgive; the unforgiveness and bitterness you are holding in your heart, even though you were treated wrongly, is robbing you of the joy that is available through me. Lay it down, forget about it, just love me and I will take care of the rest.”

Then my mind quickly wandered to the verses Roman 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11, as God prompted me to remember that He had a purpose for my situation, even though I could not see it, did not understand it, and certainly did not like going through it; and secondly, that He also had plans for me that were good, in fact, better than good.

The problem was that while I was drowning in my hurt and self pity and anger and frustration, I lost sight of both of these promises. It wasnt until I laid the problem at His feet and washed my hands, and my heart, of unforgiveness, that I began to make strides toward healing and forgiveness.

Looking back, I am surprised at myself for not seeing what that resentment and unforgiveness was doing to my heart. I now realize that I was not willing to pardon the sins of others, which prevented me from seeing God working in the situation, or teaching me a valuable lesson.

It was then that I realized I had allowed this situation to drain the joy right out of me. I got on my knees in that very moment, and chose to forgive. I am not exaggerating when I say, that immediately, it was as if the weight was lifted, and the chains that Satan had wrapped around my heart, fell to the floor.

You see, I had to pardon the sins of others, so that I could focus on the One who pardoned my own. Eventually, the situation improved. My heart healed, and my joy returned. Forgiveness, and obedience, had set me free, literally.

This experience taught me a great lesson about forgiveness. I cannot begin to tell you how hard it was to forgive that person and a few others who were involved, not just with my mouth, but with my heart. It was only through God that I was able to do that, because nothing in my soul wanted to.

Micah 7:18 says “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

The meaning of that verse is simply this: God is God, and we are not.

We are not capable of forgiving, without His power dwelling within us. We cannot show mercy, without His compassion in our hearts. And we can never have the desire to forgive, without His help and intervention in our hearts.

It is hard to offer forgiveness to anyone who hurts us, but it seems especially hard to forgive a husband. Why? Because we love them. We married them. We committed to them. We may have bore their children. We had dreams that included them. We honored them. We trusted them.

So when a husband hurts our feelings or betrays our trust, it cuts deeper than any other - but through forgiveness, the blow does not have to be fatal.

Understanding how hard it is to forgive, but also how necessary it is in order to have a strong marriage relationship, is all the more reason to desperately pursue Christ, as I mentioned yesterday. That pursuits equips up to do things that we are not humanly capable of.

Forgiveness is not for wimps. It takes great strength.... strength that we cannot muster up on own, but strength that is there when we hold up our hands to the One with the strength, and simply ask for it.

God did use that difficult situation to His glory (as always!), and through it He changed my heart. He strengthened my ability to forgive. He helped me to see the toll that unforgiveness can take on our spirits, and our relationships with others and with Christ, not just with the one who hurt us.

He prepared my heart and spirit to be able to forgive my husband when needed, and to recognize the importance that forgiveness would hold for our future as a couple.

Your challenge today is to think of the things that your husband has done that may have hurt you, and then ask yourself if you have truly forgiven him.

If God impresses upon your heart that you are still holding on to unforgiveness, then bow at the feet of your King, and pray with all your heart. Ask God for the strength to forgive him, and then, do it. Not because he deserves it, or even because God tells us to do it, but because of the deadly toll that it will have on our own hearts, and your marriages, in the long run.

Maybe your husband has deeply wounded your heart. Maybe he has betrayed you. Maybe he has an addiction that seems hopeless to overcome. Maybe you just need to forgive your husband for little things, or recent words spoken in anger. But regardless of whether the thorn is big or small, forgiveness is the first step towards reconciliation, restoration, and rekindled love.

Regardless of how big or small the problem is, our God is bigger. Our God is capable. Our God is more powerful than any strongholds. And ftrue orgiveness is only possible, through Him.

I believe that forgiveness brings amazing healing, but not always overnight. It may take days, weeks, even months, of seeking Gods strength to forgive, but eventually, God will heal, hearts will mend, painful memories will fade, and the door will be opened for Jesus to get to work.

When you surrender those big and small hurts to God, and allow Him to fill that gaping hole with love, mercy, and compassion, you will take a huge leap towards rediscovering the joy and happiness that we all long for in life, and in marriage.

Marriage Challenge Day 9: PardonSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, February 22, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 8: Pursue

If you are visiting my blog today as a result of linking over from my devotion on Proverbs 31 and Crosswalk, then welcome!

Today we are right in the middle of a fourteen day Marriage Challenge on my blog, which hundreds of women from across the country have been participating in to strengthen and enhance their marriages over the past seven days.

If you have not been participating, it is not too late to join in! I would love to have you hop on board with this challenge - just review the posts from last week, and then come back tomorrow!

Today’s Proverbs 31 devotion tells about a unique situation where Jesus made His presence physically known to me on a day when I was extremely about my dads health situation.

In the devotion, I explain how Jesus “appeared” as a man in the fog, and you can read the full story here if you have not read it.

On that particular foggy morning, when I felt as if I had looked into the eyes of my King, I remember feeling nearly overwhelmed at the thought of actually being in the Lords presence. I also remember the feeling of peace that came over me of which I could hardly comprehend in the face of fear of the unknown.

As my dad was wheeled out of the room for surgery later that morning, tears filled my eyes and I felt that lump of fear creeping into my throat, but then I felt God speak to my spirit, and say "it will be okay, trust Me".

The surgery went well, and the biopsy showed that all the cancerous cells were contained in the tumor, thus negating the need for any further treatments. I believe, that God healed Him.

Before that morning when Jesus reassured me He was with me, I had been so burdened with worry. You see, I was not only worried about my dads health condition, but also fretting over the fact that he is the primary caregiver for my step-mom (his wife of 16 years), who has been fighting terminal lung cancer for the past two years.

I simply could not fathom that God would allow my dad to get cancer, when he had devoted every ounce of his energies for countless months to caring for his wife and her cancer. As a result, I had thrown myself into a tizzy worrying about the logistics of how we could possibly help care for two people who had cancer, especially since they live three hours away.

But during the weeks prior to my dads surgery, I had been actively pursuing God. I had been pursuing His presence, and His guidance. I had been pursuing a stronger relationship, a stronger prayer life, and a stronger awareness that He was with me, even when I could not see Him or feel Him. I had already felt God moving in my heart, and this situation just affirmed that God had drawn closer to me, because I had drawn closer to Him.

All of those worries about my dad had not prompted my God pursuit, but simply increased it, as I was forced to spend more time on my knees interceding for my daddy. I pursued, God heard, and God answered.

So, this is a great example of how God is still at work and how he hears our prayers, but how does it relate to todays marriage challenge?

The answer lies in the word "pursue", because if we pursue God, we find Him - in everything.

I believe that our willingness to desperately pursue God and His intervention in our problems, whether it be a marriage problem or the health of a loved one, prepares our hearts to depend on God, trust Him, and give Him the credit for anything that happens.

The pursuit of Christ is what gives us the strength to keep striving for something that seems impossible to reach from a human mind perspective.

The pursuit of Christ is what gives us peace in our hearts, when there seems to be no peace in our home.

The pursuit of Christ is what helps us to keep believing that God can work miracles in us, our husbands, and our marriages even when it seems like the problems are too big, the hurts are too deep, and the challenges are too great.

1 Peter 3:11 says “He (she) must turn from evil and do good; he (she) must seek peace and pursue it.”

As I was searching Gods Word about this topic of pursuit, I landed on the verse above. I found it especially applicable for todays topic of pursuit, because it comes on the skirt tails of the passages about how wives and husbands are supposed to treat each other (1 Peter 3:1-7).

In 1 Peter 3:8-10, Peter tells us live in harmony, by sympathetic, love, hold our tongues, and be compassionate and humble - all of the things that we have been talking about over the past week that are important in our marriages.

Peter expresses the absolute necessity for us to practice those Godly traits in our marriages, but then he points out that the only way to achieve those things, is through the pursuit of righteousness.

We could wake up every single morning and commit to having a better attitude towards our husbands, treating them differently, and working towards improving our relationships - but if we are not pursuing a strong and grounded relationship with Christ, and building the presence of faith and unshakable joy in our hearts, then all of our efforts will be in vain.

It is Gods strength within us that allows us to pursue a better marriage, not our own willpower or motivation.

For the past week, we have focused on many things we could do to soften our husbands hearts and improve our relationship with them, and these things are crucial.

So today, lets shift our focus to our relationship with Christ, and how through Him, we can have the power within us to do all those things.

As we pursue Christ, He will make His presence known in our lives. We will feel Him dwelling within us. We will see Him doing miracles, and although it may not be through a cloud of god, we will begin to understand that He truly is walking among us.

Your challenge for today, is simply to ask God to give you an unquenchable thirst for a relationship with Him. Ask Him to give you a hunger for His Word. And spend some time in your knees with Him, pursuing Him, and seeking guidance and blessing on your marriage.

1 Peter 3:12a “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers...”

Marriage Challenge Day 8: PursueSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 7: Practice

If there is anyone who despises having to practice at something, it is my thirteen year old daughter, Kaitlyn.

Kaitlyn is talented at many things, but the things that she has to really work at, or new things she is trying to learn how to do, become huge sources of frustration for her. Then her outbursts of tears and frustration normally prompt yet another discussion about how 'practice makes perfect', 'you cant give up when it seems hard', and that 'Rome was not built in a day'. I call them life lessons, she calls them lectures, but lets not go there.

Anyway, Kaitlyns favorite love of life is cheerleading. That is her sport of choice (and dont even try to argue that cheerleading is not a sport, because you might get hurt.) Recently, she has taken up tumbling again, trying to master all of the normal cheerleading tumbling moves. But even though she loves to envision the days when she will go flipping through the air with the greatest of ease, her heart just does not want to have to work at it! She wants the results, but not the hard work and potential frustration that it takes to get there.

But the biggest hurdle is, that as her frustration builds, her hope dissipates; she gets discouraged and down on herself when she cant meet her goal as quickly as she wants to, and feels like she wants to quit.

We could just mark that up to her being a teenager and at an insecure stage in life... but arent we all like that in some ways? I can only speak for myself of course, but I can get easily discouraged when I keep working at something, or praying about something, or longing for something to happen - only to continue to see things staying the same.

Over this past week, our Marriage Challenge has been focused on challenging us to work at our marriages, in the hopes that through the power of God, and trust in Him, that He can guide our hearts, and our husbands hearts, into a place of renewal, rekindled love, and recommitment.

We have talked about praying for our husbands, promoting them with encouraging words, seeing them through Gods eyes, providing for their needs, protecting their reputations, and spending time with them.

These are all such important things to do, but lets face it - they are time consuming, taking great commitment, and requiring us to put all our faith in God that He will reward our efforts to be a Godly wife.

When I pray about a problem in my marriage, or a situation that is concerning me, I want God to answer it - overnight. Immediately. In my timeline. Dont you?! Who doesnt?! Patience is no longer a virture, its a rarity. Our culture today has programmed us all for immediate gratification, and that holds true in our marriages too. We want things to be perfect, and we want it now!

How easy it is to give up on our marriage, or give up hope that God change our husbands heart, mend addictions, create intimacy, restore friendship, and heal a relationship, because we get so frustrated when things are not happening as quickly as we would like.

It takes practice to keep going when the going gets tough, and it takes practice to take Gods Word to heart when He promises to hear our prayers and act on them, according to His will.

Philippians 4:9 says "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you". The better we understand God's truth and promises, the more we can apply these principles to our lives. The more we practice them and apply to our lives, the better we will become at living a life, and having a marriage, that pleases God.

Last week at tumbling practice, Kaitlyn met one of her goals. She learned she could do something, that she had not been able to do before, and she was excited about her accomplishment! It was one little baby step towards the goal that she is trying to reach, and it was as if a light bulb went off in her head, and she suddenly realized that maybe, just maybe, there is something to be said for practicing after all.

Your challenge today is to practice the challenges from the past week, and have a wonderful day in the Lord.

Marriage Challenge Day 7: PracticeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 6: Play

I bet you are thinking that todays challenge looks pretty easy, huh? Well dont jump to conclusions, because, in all seriousness, finding time to play can be hard.

After all, life is busy; life is chaotic; and life is stressful.... and as a result, couples dont put their relationships at the top of their priority lists because everything else that screams for their attention seems more important or urgent. But eventually that lack of closeness and time together, results in awkwardness, tension, distance, and waning feelings of love. Over time, the lack of time for each other, takes its toll on the marriage.

All work and no play can make a marriage feel like a job instead of a joy.

So many of us get caught up doing life, that we forget to stay caught up in our marriage, in fact, a lack of spending time together is probably a huge factor that leads to the astronomical divorce rate that exists today. Even for couples who deeply love each other, if there is a lack of focus on togetherness, the friendship part of the relationship may begin to fade. If it fades long enough, it might disappear altogether.

I began thinking of some close friends I had from high school, college, former jobs and years past. Friends that I loved and adored and had everything in common with. Friends who had been through thick and thin with me. Friends who were precious and important. But due to living in different cities or states, changing jobs, having kids, and living increasingly busy lives, we grew apart. The phone calls became less and less. The emails got shorter, until they stopped altogether. And eventually, communication ended. Relationship over.

There were no problems in these friendships, I treasured each person and was thankful for their presence in my life. But the lack of focus on both ends, and the pull to more important things in life, resulted in some wonderful friendships simply fading away.

In my opinion, "play" is not something to take for granted at all, especially in marriage.

I tend to think that women care more about spending time together than men, or at least that is my unofficial opinion. It just seems that women, with the nurturing spirits God placed in us, do seem to be more inclined to think about quality time with the ones we love, than men do. However, regardless of who thinks it is more important, or whose fault it is that we may have not been making each other a priority, it is never too late to push time together back up to the top of our priority lists.

If you were to ask my husband to name one thing that I consistently "whine" about, it would be that we dont seem to have any alone time together; or comments such as " I have hardly seen you all week", followed by sniff, sniff, and head hung low.

Michael is a wonderful man who is very involved in my life and our kids lives. He does so much for me and for our family - but, as a result of work, and having three social, busy, and very active children - we are always busy, which makes time alone as a couple a rare thing around here.....and for a girl whose love language is time, I cant help myself but to whimper and whine a little when I am feeling neglected and in need of some of attention!

I just believe that time is the most priceless commodity that we have, and once it is spent, we can never get it back. How we spend that commodity, can impact our lives, and our marriage, in big and life changing ways.

Your challenge for today is to think of some ways that you and your husband can find some dedicated alone time to spend together. Make a list of things you used to do together, and check out opportunities to do some of those again.

If your husband has been unreceptive to your attempts for 'date-nights' or suggested activities or romantic getaways, my suggestion is to pray for God to soften his heart, and for God to help your husband see how important his time and attention is to you. Just as we take respect for our husbands for granted sometimes, husbands take for granted that we need to feel their physical touch, and spend time with them, so praying for our husbands hearts about this subject is always worthwhile.

If you have a great idea for couples to do together, from the most basic of activities to some suggestions, maybe you could share them with the rest of us. Or maybe you have a sweet tactic for how you got your husband to begin seeing the importance of spending time together, and how he came around to understand your point of view and your need for his time attention. If so, we are all ears!

Happy Saturday!

Marriage Challenge Day 6: PlaySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, February 19, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 5: Protect

Yes, the man is supposed to be the protector of his wife. Men are supposed to be protectors of us women, with their strong hands and overall manliness.

However, today, I want to talk about how we can protect our husband and our marriage at the same time, through protecting his honor. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres", which means to love with a love that protects.

To give a “protecting" type of love means to be very careful about who we share “personal” details of our married life with, especially the sharing of those areas of our relationships that need extra help and Godly counsel.

A man's reputation is a very important aspect of his being, and is what fuels his self esteem, giving him the confidence to be the big, strong protector that God called him to be, and that most of the time, we want him to be.

But what about those times when our men are not acting honorably? When their choices bring heartbreak, consequences, or strife in the marriage? When decisions they make negatively affect them, the marriage, and the rest of the family?

In times like those just mentioned, it is hard to think of honor, instead of revenge. And it is hard to honor someone whom you are losing, or have lost, respect for. However, it can be done, if we seek Gods strength, courage, and rely on Him to help us do what we dont feel like doing at all.

There have been countless times over the past twenty years where I desperately wished that I had a group of friends that I could tell all of my woes too. I have friends, of course, but I have just never felt comfortable spilling all of my problems and feelings onto the table for everyone to see and experience and judge.

But I have to admit, that in the heat of the moment, when my husband and I get into an argument, or when he does something that hurts me, I usually have those same 'tell-all' desires bubble up again every time. We women want to talk, talk, talk - it is how God made us!

So in those times of intense emotion, I immediately begin thinking about who I could call to vent and express my anger to. I kind of just want to talk to someone who can make me feel better, validate my feelings, and tell me that things will be okay.

Then I begin feeling sorry for myself that I dont feel as if I have anyone that I really want to share my most private feelings with, for fear of embarrassing my husband or myself. And even though my mother is my best friend, I dont normally tell her about the big issues either!

But as always, time heals, the argument ends, and in some cases, the issue that caused the situation seems much smaller, sometimes even silly, in retrospect.

Eventually my husband and I make up, hurt and anger subside or at least decreases, restoration occurs and life gets back to normal.

It is in that moment, that I am so thankful that I did not act on my desire to tell other people negative things about my husband, words that were said, mistakes that were made, or harsh feelings that I was holding in my heart.

Had I given in to my desires to share my anger and hurt with others as a way of dealing with my feelings or getting back at him, I would have dishonored him as a man, a husband, a provider, and a friend. I would have skewed the opinion that my friends or relatives have of him, and most likely, not remember to go back and tell them that we made up, and how we fixed things.

I would forget about the situation, and move on with life, while leaving those I vented to with a negative picture, and resentful feelings, about my man.

I think that it is the first inclination for most women, when we are hurt or disappointed in our husbands, to call someone and vent; to tell someone about the negative thing that happened; to hurt them back; to cause them harm and embarrassment; to dishonor them; to have someone validate our feelings and be on our side; and to have someone help mend our heartbreak, by joining in on the husband bashing party that we invited them to.

But in Proverbs 31:11-12, we read "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life."

This verse is such a stark reminder of how important it is that we not only build up our husbands for their good traits, but remember to protect and honor them, even when their bad traits come blaring out.

I believe that we can view this verse as Gods promise that a wife's efforts of forgiveness and self restraint will not go unrewarded, because a husband who has a wife who honors him, will eventually have full confidence in her love, and respect her as a person above any other he knows, because he cannot help but recognize that she does not bring him harm with her words.

Most women look to the Proverbs 31 woman as a role model they could never live up to, myself included. She represents the type of woman that we all want to be, but fall short of being every day, making that type of virtuousness seem like an impossibility in our own lives.

But one of the things that the Bible states is an important trait of a virtuous wife, is to have a husband that is respected.

Proverbs 31:23 says he is "known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land". Anyone, man or woman, has to earn respect from peers, but a woman can provide that respect through her commitment to pray for her husband and honor him in front of other people, and especially in front of their children.

I think the most applicable verse for this topic is Ephesians 4:29, which says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (NIV)

This could be so easy for some of you, but the hardest thing in the world for others. Our ability to honor our husbands may hinge on the relationships we had with our own fathers, how much damage has occurred in the marriage, and many other extinuating circumstances. But regardless of how hard it may be, and how much prayer it make take, I do believe that God calls a wife to honor and respect her husband, and that when he feels honored, he will begin to act honorably.

Our challenge today is two fold:

1. Each time the opportunity arises to say something negative about your husband to someone else, pause, pray, and ask God to help you say something positive, or nothing at all. Ask him for strength to refrain from venting your anger, if that is what you normally do. Try to break the habit of dishonoring your husband to others, so that he will be well respected at the gate.

2. Each time the opportunity arises to criticize your husband to his face, ask God to help you think of something positive instead, or, to simply bite your tongue. Even if he deserves the criticism or a sarcastic response, it really only causes hurt and conflict to say it aloud. Sometimes, silence can be golden.

We cannot control our husbands reputation, his free will, or his decisions, but we can control our own tongues and thoughts. We can control the things that leave our mouths and whether or not we are honoring him with our words, in his presence, and when he is not around to defend himself.

Protecting our husband's reputations is one of the most valuable blessings that we can give to them. And consider this - God will give a man grace and forgiveness if he messes up, but the people whom we have spread negativity to about our husband, may not be so gracious and forgiving, and unlike God, they will never forget.

A wife has the power to help other people respect her husband, by the respect she gives him herself. Today is a great day for spreading some honor.

(PS if you do feel the need to talk with someone about problems in your marriage, which always helps a hurting heart, just be sure to pick someone you can trust, and someone that will become a prayer warrior for you, your husband and for your marriage. God gives us friends so that we do have people to support us, I am merely suggesting that we be cautious about sharing, versus bashing, and that we pick our friends very wisely. And if you need to get professional advice, consider contacting a Christian counselor or Pastor. )

Marriage Challenge Day 5: ProtectSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 4: Provide

Todays challenge is about providing... but wait....isnt the man typically supposed to be the primary provider? Yes, of course, although there are times when the wife is the primary provider or makes more money than her husband, which is perfectly fine as well. However, today I am not talking about financial or physical provision, but about providing the intangible and heartfelt things that make our husbands feel loved and appreciated. The word 'provide' for todays purposes, are about providing for the heart, not for the home.

Lets take a brief interlude here, though, and say what you are all probably thinking right about now, on this fourth day of focusing on our husbands.... "But what about me? What about my needs? What about my feelings? What about my desires? Why is it all about me changing, and nothing about him changing? What about his faults? What about the problems that he has brought into our relationship, or the hurt he has caused me?"

I know! I have to keep trying to push those feelings aside too sometimes, especially as I am spending so much time right now focusing on marriage. My mind is guilty of drifting back to negative thoughts, reviewing my mental lists of his faults and mistakes, and thinking of ways that he needs to change.

Maybe you have some of those thoughts too, which is why I thought it was important to acknowledge that we all have them, and remind us not to be too hard on ourselves. No matter how much we desire to be a good wife, we are only human. In fact, if we didnt have some self focused tendencies, and have some past hurts bubble up, we would not be normal.

And that is exactly why Gods Word says to love and respect unconditionally, otherwise, it might be impossible to come up with our own motivation to do so, especially when heartache and bad memories seem t outweigh the desire to pamper a husband. That is exactly why God calls us to treat others the way we want to be treated, not the way we may actually be treated. But frankly, that can be a real challenge in any relationship - especially in marriage.

Day after day of the same old annoying, aggravating habits can take a toll on a relationship. Extreme betrayal and hurt feelings can take a toll on a relationship. Unforgiveness and anger can take a toll on a relationship.

So if we are not careful, we can become so consumed with what our husbands should be doing better or the things they have done to hurt us or neglect us, that bitterness and resentment can mount high - and these feelings certainly do not do much for keeping a marriage strong and healthy and happy.

As I began writing today about providing for our husband's every day needs, I recalled a blog post written by my sweet friend Renee Swope a few years ago (click on her name to read the entire post), which was called "Faith In The Little Things". Below is an excerpt from it:

Sometimes I saw my role as a wife and mother as "average" responsibilities - one-talent kind of assignments. Plenty of people have the same assignments, I thought. Without realizing it, I believed it wouldn't matter much if I were a little selfish, inconsiderate or impatient here and there. But God wanted my willingness in every area of my life - here and now.

Why would God require absolute obedience? Because He wants us to trust Him. He knows that when we're obedient with ordinary assignments we can be trusted with extraordinary assignments. He says when we are faithful with the little things, He'll "put us in charge of many things" and give us a deeper joy than we have ever known. (Matthew 25:21) Author Beth Moore reminds us that "the answers God gives us in our tomorrows often flow from our faithful todays."

I just thought Renee's comments were so perfect for todays topic, because so often, it is not the big things that prevent me from providing for my husbands needs, its all the little things.

Honestly, sometimes I get just plain tired of picking up socks and underwear off the floor, looking at the pile of clothes in the chair beside the bed, and wondering why I am the only person in the entire family who knows how to open the dishwasher, operate the washing machine, or take out the trash.

But I know I can change my attitude and my heart anytime, by focusing on the fact that God has placed me in the position of provider for needs, for my wonderful husband and for my sweet children. This is truly a position of honor and blessing, and one that God has called me to do in this season of my life.

When I begin to get resentful, I sometimes have to quickly remind myself to be thankful for all these little things that I have to be faithful in doing, even if they are not noticed or appreciated - because God has appionted wived to be the heart of the home, and a huge part of that is to meet needs, big and small, of those she loves.

Just think, it could be worse.... if I didnt have a husband, I wouldnt have dirty clothes in a chair; if I didnt have kids, I wouldnt have so many dishes; f I didnt have a home and money to buy groceries, I would never have to worry about cleaning or taking out the trash. And so on.

I would definitely not trade my husband or family for an easier, less-stressful or less clutter-filled day. These are the little things that God has called me to be faithful in, and I am eternally thankful for this blessing of being a provider.

Renee's post inspired me years ago to be faithful in meeting the every day needs of the husband whom God has placed in my life, and to consider him a blessing instead of a commitment. Now, trust me when I say that I do have my bad days at times (just ask my husband!), but generally I am better at keeping this positive mindset than I used to be.

Friends, your challenge today is to think of some little ways that you can show love for your husband, and provide for his need of wanting to be taken care of and doted on. I think one of the favorite ways my husband likes to be 'provided' for (no, its not what you are thinking, but we'll get to that later!) is making him breakfast on Saturday morning... .not just a warmed up chocolate pop-tart - but a big ham and cheese omelet, grits, country ham, and anything else that would fall into the category of a down home southern breakfast. It always makes him smile, and it makes me smile too.

So try to think of some ways to bring a smile to your husbands face when he walks in the door after a long day at work, or when he wakes up on a lazy saturday morning. Think of a few things that you know are important to him, and make an effort to do some of those things today and in the coming weeks. Consider ways that you can bless him, without feeling the need to be thanked for it.

And in your prayer time, ask God to help you be aware of what his needs may be, and to pick up subtle hints that he may give of what he wants and desires, especially if he is not the kind of man that shares his needs and feelings openly. Sometimes their basic or most common complaints can be clues to what their heart really longs for.

Okay friends, I am signing off for now - headed into the bedroom to put up a pile of clothes on the chair beside the bed. Maybe it will go unnoticed, but thats okay, because God blesses our faithfulness as we allow Him to work through us to meet the needs of others.

Matthew 7:12 Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get. (The Message)

Ephesians 4:32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (NLT)

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (NIV)

Marriage Challenge Day 4: ProvideSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 3: Perspective

I was overwhelmed with all the fabulous comments that all of you made yesterday about creative ways to encourage your man. I made a big long list of them to share with you today, but then decided it would be too lengthy - so I have posted them in a note on my Facebook page if you are interested in reviewing them and getting some new ideas to implement in your own marriage. Thanks everyone!

This was so fun, that I decided to draw two winners last night, instead of one, so.... drumroll please...
The winner of the stress CD and notecard set is: Melinda Brown
The winner of one stress CD is: from a blog called shutterhappyhope

So if one of these is you - send me an email with your mailing address. Congrats!


In the first few years of our marriage, my husband and I had different ideas of what marriage was supposed to be like, and when those two worlds of thinking collided, friction resulted.

Although we had both accepted Christ as children, and grew up in Christian homes, neither of us had a very strong faith. In fact for the first years of our marriage, we went to church pretty irregularly. But when our first child was born, we sought out a church home, both of us knowing the importance of raising our children to love the Lord, even though we were not doing a very good job of doing it ourselves.

Even though we were not actively walking in faith each day, I still longed for a 'spiritual leader' in my home, and for years, I had a skewed vision in my heart of what that was .

Many women carry the wrong image of what a spiritual leader looks like, because we look to our pastors and elders of the church as our role models. We see deacons or other male leaders in the church and wish that our husbands were more like them. In the same way, I had that picture in my head of what a spiritual leader was.

I envisioned a man on his knees every morning, maybe even wearing a nice blue suit, with an open Bible, pouring over scriptures and treating everyone in his life with extreme compassion. I had a picture of a perfect husband, who never hurt his wife's feelings, never betrayed her trust, never made her feel neglected, and met each and every one of her expectations.

But one day, I heard something that shattered that mental picture completely.

I was listening to a speaker talk about marriage and faith. I listened intently about what God expected of men and women, and how we should fulfill our roles as spouses and parents. Then she began talking about the spiritual leader of the household and my ears perked up.

I was ready to have my opinions fully validated by this woman, whom I was sure shared my mental picture of mister perfect. I was fully prepared for her to even express some sympathy for those of us who did not have a spiritual leader in their homes.

However, what this speaker said was not what I expected to hear. She did not describe a spiritual leader of the home with the description that matched my mental picture. She did not describe any prince charmings on white horses. And she did not describe deacons in blue suits, pastors or Bible-toting elders.

She simply said, that a husband who is the spiritual leader of his home is one loves God, loves his wife, loves his family, and provides for their needs.

Hmmmm. Wait a minute. What about all that other stuff? What about what I want him to do? What about how I want him to be? What about my need for a Godly husband? What about praying, and knee bending, and bible toting?

Friends, God really stepped on my toes big time with that one. Ouch.

You see, until then, I had only been looking at the churchy-spiritual things that my husband was not doing. I had been focused on the 'Godly-man mold' in my head that he was not fitting into. I had been taking for granted the things that he did do that found favor in Gods eyes, because I was consumed with frustration about the things he was doing that God did not look favorably upon.

Certainly, he needed to strengthen his walk with the Lord, as did I. Certainly he needed to make some changes in his lifestyle, as did I. And certainly he was not living a life that was fully devoted to Christ, and nor was I.

But he was a good man. He loved me. He loved our children. He helped keep the nursery at church. He donated his time and money to people in need. He was a hard worker. He came home from work every night. He provided food, shelter, necessities, and more.

Not perfect, not without fault, not without mistakes, not without room for improvement in some areas - but nonetheless, a leader in our home.

God impressed upon my heart to try to see my husband through His eyes, instead of my own. He called me to see him for who he was, not who I wanted him to be.

I was not able to do that overnight and it took a while for me to embrace that new perspective. There are still days when God has to remind me about that. But after God placed that new mental picture into my head of what a spiritual leader was, I have never forgotten it.

It is probably safe to say that it is the deepest desire of every Christian woman's heart, to have a husband who loves and serves the Lord, and who lives each day as a portrayal of a Godly man, basing all of his decisions on whether or not God would approve. I know that has always been my hearts desire, and it is probably yours too.

I still pray daily for the Lord to draw my husband closer to Him, and to orchestrate things in his life and in his heart that will continue to make him love the Lord more and more. I pray for his faith, and his courage to live out his faith, especially in the face of temptation and important decisions. I pray for him to have the confidence to pray with me, and our children, and for our faith to grow as a family unit.

And many of those prayers have already been answered. The faith of my husband, along with my own, has come a long way in the past few years. In fact, my man was recently elected to serve as a Deacon in our church, and you can just imagine that I was one proud wife!

I feel very blessed to have a believing husband, but I recognize that not every woman has that. In fact, I have some close friends whose husbands are not believers, and it breaks my heart to see the turmoil in their hearts of knowing that their spouses do not know Jesus.

However, spiritual leadership has to begin somewhere, and if your husband is providing for your physical and financial needs, and loves you and your family, then he is halfway there when it comes to meeting Gods expectations of him.

Maybe he does not outwardly express his faith or do some of the churchy-spiritual things we would like, but if he is a believer, and he provides and loves, he is the spiritual leader of your home.

If your husband is not a believer, never give up hope that God can open his eyes and orchestrate events in his life that will help him begin to thirst for a relationsihp with the Lord. The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:1b, "...if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."

Maybe you have spent years praying for your husbands heart, with no signs of him coming around yet. Dont lose faith that God can reach him, and that through your continued prayers, God will help him have the desire to strive to be more, by watching the way you live your life.

Never underestimate the power that a praying wife can have on her husbands heart.

When my husband learned several months ago that he had been nominated to be a Deacon at our church, he prayed about it, and wanted to be sure that was what God was calling him to do, and he also asked for my opinion.

I confided in him that I had been praying hard for years, for God to call him into a position of spiritual leadership and deeper faith. A few weeks later, I heard him telling some other men to watch out for what their wives were praying for, because God listens and you never know what will happen when a wife prays. I thought that was priceless!

Your challenge today is to ask God to help you see your husband through HIS eyes. To look at him with the expectations of what God expects of a spiritual leader, and not the mental picture we may have in our head. To not compare him to other husbands who we think are more spiritual, but to pray for God to move in our husbands heart so that he can begin to embrace his role as spiritual leader, as well as physical leader. To keep praying for his heart if he is not a believer, and trusting that God is working on his heart in ways you cannot see yet.

Also, seek out the Holy Spirit's guidance in seeing the little ways that God is changing your husbands heart, instead of only focusing on the outward, more noticeable changes in behavior or actions. God may be at work, in little ways, that eventually turn into big ways, and it will be well worth the wait.

When a wife prays, God listens, a mans heart can change, and great things can happen. Lets change our perspectives today about the most important men in our life, and "see" what happens. Smiles.

Marriage Challenge Day 3: PerspectiveSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 2: Promote

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** Information about todays P31 Blog Carnival is at the bottom of this post! Dont miss out on some really awesome giveaways at most of the Proverbs 31 blogs today! **

My Proverbs 31 devotion from February 11th, which launched this 14 day Marriage Challenge, primarily talked about the influence that our words have on our husbands.

I once read that marriage is not 50/50 as the old saying goes, but instead it is really 100/100! What a profound statement, because if you think about it, regardless of what we are trying to work at, if we only offer 50% of our efforts, the outcome is not going to be what we had hoped for. If we only give half of our efforts, how can we expect a complete result?

In the book I mentioned in last week's devotion, The Man Whisperer, Rick talks a great deal about this subject of the influence our words have on our husbands.

I think that most of us would admit that if there are changes that we desire in our husbands, it is probably because we genuinely want them to be the best they can be. But regardless of the reason we may want them to change, the truth remains that there is really no way to change them - only God can truly do that.

However - we can give him a reason to change himself, by focusing on what is good, instead of just trying to fix all that is wrong. When we fail to do that, the door is opened for Satan to creep in and begin taking his toll on the relationship. I have fallen prey to that trap myself, and maybe you have as well.

The goal, through prayer and selfless intention, should be to subtly guide and build up a husband so that he can become the man God intended for him to be, and the husband that we long for; to help a man recognize his own self worth, by seeing himself through the adoration of his wife.

The truth is that men have to desire to change, before they will work towards changing....but the good news, is that women can motivate their men to want to change, through using tools of love, respect and admiration, but the key is remembering to say those words when we feel them.

My husband is a General Contractor by trade, and with the economy the way it is, there are barely any buildings out there to contract to build. This lack of work has nothing to do with my husbands ability as a contractor, but when business is bad, he takes the blame on himself, which is what most men do, since they are built with an innate desire to be good providers.

I have told Michael several times in the past few months that he has always been a great contractor, and always will be, regardless of how business is going. I want him to know that I respect his career, his ability, his talents, his skills, and his provision for our family. I want him to know that I still admire him and what God has gifted him to do, even when things are looking grim.

This is just one small example, and I could list many things to compliment my husband about... the trick is, whether or not I actually do it. There have been days when I have been away from Michael, and thinking such fond thoughts of him, such as how much I love him and how glad I am to be his wife, but then when he got home from work, I never mentioned those things, and instead fussed about something not done to my liking.

Why didn't I just share all those loving thoughts with him, instead of voicing the negative or neutral thoughts? The culprit is simply a habit - a habit that needs breaking. I have heard it takes 21 days for a new habit to form; for it to become second nature to us, instead of something we have to focus on doing. Each one of us is in a habit with our words - a habit of tearing down, or a habit of building up. It is our choice.

The challenge for today is to let your man know how worthy of your love he really is. For some, this might be an easy task, but for others it might take some long hard thinking to come up with why he deserves your love. If you cant think of anything, then pray about it. Ask God to prick your memory or bring something to mind that you do admire about your husband, especially if lots of ugly things are coming to mind first.

Make a list of positive things about your husband, and then pick one or two of those things to compliment him about today. Pray for God to give you an opportunity to compliment him, and then if you have not done so in a long time and it seems awkward, ask God to put the words on your lips, and to soften your husbands heart to be receptive.

Last week, a reader sent me a private email thanking me for the devotion, but also sharing a personal story. She stated that her husband was not an emotional or affectionate man, and that their relationship was strained. She was hesitant to try to compliment him, because she did not think he would be responsive or appreciative. But she stated that as soon as she spoke those words of encouragement to him, he "melted like a marshmallow". I just loved that analogy!

I am not saying that all men are like marshmallows, but all men do need encouragement, and need to believe that they are respected and admired. We might be surprised at the response a few sweet words can elicit, and maybe see a side of our husbands that we have not seen before.

Hebrews 10:24 says "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" - a perfect verse for todays challenge.

Many of you mentioned in your comments last week that building up your husband with your words is an area that you needed to work on. So ladies, we are going to put our words to the test!

I will be praying for all of you! Now read below to find out how you can enter to win some really valuable giveaways from the Proverbs 31 family! Click on each link to find out how to enter on the different sites, and good luck! :)

My giveaway today is an audio CD of one of my speaking sessions, called "Overcoming Stress With Extraordinary Faith", and a cool decorative Christian notepad and pen set. To enter to win, please post a comment stating one special way you could encourage, or have encouraged your man recently, with your words.

Wendy Blight is giving away a copy of the One Year Chronological Bible and her book Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God's Story.

Shari Braendel is giving away 3 beautiful jewelry pieces to begin a spring wardrobe with! One for a Glamour Girl, one for a Movie Star and one for a Rock Star!

Micca Campbell is giving away her book An Untroubled Heart, and a cute clutch purse for those fun summer evenings!

Whitney Capps is giving away a $30 Francesca's Gift card, redeemable at

Melanie Chitwood is giving away One marriage conference call (see her blog for details) and a copy of her new book What a Wife Needs from Her Husband.

Lynn Cowell is giving away a prize for mom and a prize for a teen girl in her life - the 3 book series B.A.B.E. series by Andrea Stephens (Beautiful, Accepted, Blessed, Eternally Significant) for the teen and for Mom a $10 gift card to Starbucks along with Lynn's CD "Building a Bridge to Your Child's Heart".

Karen Ehman is giving away a Winter White Basket that includes Skin Milk body wash, a white loofah, Winter White Citrus Bath & Body Works products, white lily linen and room sprays, white hot cocoa, a white mug and white-chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Along with it, a copy of her book on celebrations entitled Homespun Memories for the Heart: More Than 200 Ideas to Make Unforgettable Moments.

Suzie Eller is giving away a webcam!

Zoe Elmore is giving away a journal, a copy of My Heart's Cry by Anne Graham Lotz and a piece of jewelry Zoe style!

Charlene Kidd is giving away a $20.00 Starbucks Gift Card and a copy of Karen Ehman's book: A Life That Says Welcome, Simple Ways to Open Your Heart and Home to Others.

Rachel Olsen is giving away Bread for Life: a hardback copy of The Daily Message: Through the Bible in One Year by Eugene Peterson (which you can read this along with her this year) and the Williams-Sonoma Muffins cookbook.

Wendy Pope is giving away a copy of her book Out of the Mouths of Babes and her CD Yes, No, and Maybe of a Balanced Life

Luann Prater & are giving away an Encouragement Cafe mug and t-shirt at both sites!

LeAnn Rice is giving away a copy of her cookbook Sharing Grace: Recipes- Family Traditions-Gift ideas and a Starbucks gift card.

Susanne Scheppmann is giving away her Birds in My Mustard Tree Bible Study with an I-tunes gift card.

Renee Swope giving away Lysa TerKeurst's "Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl" 6 week DVD set and a copy of Renee's message "Living Beyond the Shadow of Doubt" on DVD.

Lysa TerKeurst is giving away a Mom's Book Club gift pack including 4 copies of Lysa's new book, Am I Messing Up My Kids? and a 30-minute Q&A conference call with Lysa.

Van Walton is giving away her DVD for children - From the Pound to the Palace

Glynnis Whitwer is giving away her book work@home: A Practical Guide for Woman Who Want to Work from Home and a French Country Wire Silverware Basket

She Reads is giving away two novels, Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish and Screen Play by Chris Coppernoll, and chocolate, courtesy of the authors. They will tell the story of how their writing brought them together - a love story, quite literally, fit for a novel!

RadRevolution The Proverbs 31 ministry site for teen girls is giving away a copy of book called Do the Hard Thing along, with a RadRev t-shirt!

Marriage Challenge Day 2: PromoteSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend