Monday, July 31, 2017

Nine Quick Years

This week, we'll celebrate our ninth anniversary. Reflecting on this has brought me to think just how quickly nine years can fly by. We have traveled, enjoyed life, endured trials, and loved like I didn’t know was possible. 

Ours marriage has only gotten stronger over time, and we are thankful  we get to share what we’ve learned with you. Today, I want to focus on a few truths that I’ve discovered over the past nine years.

Go to the God’s Word for help.  I’ve probably read Ephesians 5 more times than I can count. Paul has so many excellent insights into marriage, and Jesus presents incredible wisdom on the subject too. Check out Ephesians 4 and 5, Matthew 19, and Mark 10.

Second, communicate expectations. Whether this is communicating your expectations of what the other person should do, or communicating what you’ll do or when you’ll be somewhere--do it. It can change your marriage. How many arguments have you been in because one or both of you had a different idea of how an event, time, or aspect of your marriage would play out? This is something that I’m still learning, but even so, it has changed our marriage for the better.

Sex is really important. In my opinion, Christian culture downplays the importance of sex as a reaction to today’s secular culture. While it is important that sex be kept within the context of marriage, it is an essential part of marriage. It can be a big part of what makes a marriage great or terrible. My advice here is to not avoid the subject with your spouse. This should be something that is talked about frequently. Don’t be afraid to pick up a Christian book about this or ask someone you trust. We have.

Lastly, don’t be stubborn. Your spouse will change you over time. It’s okay. Laura and I have grown more alike over the past few years, and we think that’s a good thing. There are things that I like about my life now that I wouldn’t have considered before living with her. People often hold on to their idiosyncrasies and little habits when they get married, as if that is what makes them who they are. Only God defines who you are, not the laundry on the floor or the thing your spouse does that drives you crazy.

I hope these little tidbits blessed you today. I pray that you have many, many years of wedded bliss. An extraordinary marriage is possible; you just have to believe and work at it.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"Let Us Strive to Find Rest"

I’ve been reading about rest in Hebrews 4, studying from different commentaries on this word and its meaning (which is layered). Although the writer seems to be talking about multiple meanings of rest, I’ve been mostly dwelling on this:

“So, then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9-10, ESV).

If God, who needs no rest, rested, how could we not follow his lead? So, I asked myself—what does rest mean to me? What does rest look like?

Sometimes it’s being curled up on the couch with a book or watching a movie or show with Howell or sitting on our front porch, watching the barn swallows. But my favorite happy place?


My dad purchased a few hundred acres of land shortly after I graduated from college about an hour away, and this place has become a little oasis for us. There’s always work to be done, something that needs to be maintained—like shredding roads, spraying mesquites or weeds, repairing fences, etc.—but then we play.

And after we play, we sit. On the porch. On the patio. On the back of a tailgate.

The stars are not veiled by city lights, and the only sounds are the crickets and the distant coyote call.

That sounds like “Sabbath rest” to me.

I’ve always loved Psalm 23—“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

The Lord does it all; I need only follow and submit my heart to His. There’s no other effort.

I actually love the way the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…” (4:11).

Let us work to rest? Let us make an effort to rest?

Seems paradoxical, but it reminds me of Jesus’s words to His disciples: the only work for you to do is believe (John 6:29).

When it’s that kind of effort toward rest, it’s an easy striving.

What about you, my friends? Are you taking time to rest? Do you have a happy place—where your heart finds peace, and your soul is restored?

It’s an effort we’re commanded to make. Let us strive to find rest this week. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Seeking Wise Counsel

Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.”

The Message Version of Proverbs 19:20-21 says, “Take good counsel and accept correction—that’s the way to live wisely and well.” 

Don’t we all want to be wise? Don’t we want to live well?

Listening to advice—namely, seeking wise counsel—is hard, but I’ve found that it’s essential in all areas of our life, especially in our marriages.

Howell and I were having dinner with three other couples a few months ago, all of whom had been married anywhere from ten to twenty years longer than we have. Somehow the topic of counseling came up, and every single one of us shared how counseling had positively impacted our marriages at one point or another.

I’ve been thinking about that since then. Some people might have a certain fear about counseling, especially marriage counseling. Maybe it feels like failure—and they want to keep holding on to the secret that their marriage is falling apart. Maybe it feels too personal—and they don’t want someone all up in their business.

Can I tell you the truth, dear friend?

It’s neither shameful nor scary.

Bringing your “stuff” into the light brings freedom and healing—and wise counsel becomes a balm to those broken places.

There’s something about an outside perspective that helps you see things in your marriage, in yourself, or in your spouse that you couldn’t have seen otherwise. And wise counselors have good tools to help us better understand each other.

Howell and I went through some intense counseling early on, and I genuinely believe it set us up for a solid foundation. We learned so much about ourselves—as much as we learned about each other.

In those first few years of marriage, when we would argue, I would want to leave—the room, the house. Always, I wanted an escape. And Howell would say, “But Mary Ann said we should…”

And for whatever reason, that worked. (FYI: Mary Ann was our counselor. J) It’s not that she had a certain power over us, but when he said that, it would remind me of my behavior, where the root of it came from, what it meant to me, what it communicated to Howell—and I would remember, I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to be the person who leaves in an argument, who can’t settle a disagreement, who can’t listen to wisdom. And so I would stay, and I would talk, and I would listen.

We have the power within us to choose how we behave. I suppose the second step of counseling is application, right?

Wise counsel comes in many forms—not only the professional kind (though it is a worthy investment!). You can also surround yourself with wise counsel—your parents, your mentors, your friends. Always, the Bible instructs us and gives us tools for how to live.

Even now, Howell and I seek wise counsel when we make big decisions, especially financial ones. We have people in our lives who speak truth to us, and we heed their advice.

If you’re struggling today—especially if your marriage feels like it’s failing, I encourage you to seek wise counsel and heed good advice. May it bring healing and freedom and restoration to your relationship.

[This post originally appeared on the Harvest Christian Fellowship blog, Among Friends.] 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When the Enemy Dive Bombs You

Tis the season for nests and baby birds. We love to sit and watch our Barn Swallows from the front porch. Every morning, the babies sing us a song from their nest.

In our backyard, the birds’ nests usually don’t have as much success. Although the massive pecan trees look protective, when the wind blows, they inevitably knock nests to the ground—a sight that always breaks my heart.

This year, one momma did good, and her nest is not budging, even with all the storms we’ve had this summer.

She’s also fiercely protective of that nest, and I suppose, rightly so.

Every time Rizzoli, our Weimaraner, goes outside, she dive bombs her the second she walk out the door. What cracks me up, though, is that Rizzo completely ignores this momma bird that is about three inches from breaking skin on her head with its beak.

Our girl prances through the backyard, smelling for pecans or rabbits—completely unaware of the fiery darts nearing her head.

The other day, as Howell and I were laughing at this scene that we’ve seen repeatedly for weeks now, the Lord reminded me of Ephesians 6, where it talks about standing firm, wearing armor, being prepared for the fiery darts of the enemy.

The enemy wants to mess with us all the time, and most of the time, we get rattled when we see his darts thrown at us.

The Lord gave me the scene with Rizzoli as the perfect picture of what mature Christians should do. We’re not bothered by the enemy. We know he’s not actually going to get us. He might swoop close and make loud noises to distract us, but he can’t really do anything—so we just go about our business.

She’s a picture of someone walking in the authority of God.

So, stand firm, my friends. Put on the whole armor because we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. But be bold and courageous because we know the enemy is already defeated. He has no power whatsoever to harm us, even if he tries.

The only power he has is what we give him.

Take the tip from Rizzoli. Enjoy life, stay on mission, and prance around your territory like you own the place—because all authority under heaven and on earth has been given to us through Jesus.

We are victorious! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Marrying into the Family

This weekend Laura and I kept her sister’s son, which was pretty much the most fun we’ve had in a long time. Afterward, we had a big part of her family over for dinner and some pool time.

It was a blast, and it made me think of something my dad said many years ago. “Son, when you marry someone, you marry their whole family too.” At the time, I thought he was completely wrong, but as usual, he was right. He was saying that to me so I would be wise in my choice of a wife, but I think it also applies after the wedding too. I’ve been very blessed with my in-laws, and they treat me like a true son or brother. Of that, I’m very thankful. I also know that many other people are not as blessed in this way.

Extended families can be the source of many fights, ranging from offenses to someone not measuring up to some unwritten standard or even cross words that everyone regrets later. There was an argument, in my family, that went unresolved for over 45 years when finally, one of the parties sadly passed away. This unresolved “elephant in the room” saddens me to this day. It was the result of a misunderstanding that just never got discussed again.

Being conscious of communication between family members is essential. It’s very easy for people who are thrust together as family and forced to see each other from time to time, but may have different values and beliefs, to develop enmity. However, the choices we make can sway these things. Choosing to be the person who confronts the issue in a Godly fashion, with empathy, is always the right choice. Remember, these people are your family for life.

You may speak differently, make different parenting choices, or even worship differently, but you are family forever. My advice to you is to take care of your spouse’s family as if they are your own, because they are. Be a part, be a light, and be intentional.