Mark: Yesterday at church, our pastor, Mike Baker, preached on Genesis 12:1-9. It’s the story of when God told Abram he needed to leave where he was to go where God wanted him to go. It was an 800-mile, 8-10 year journey where Abram had to depend upon God to show him where to go and what to do.
Jill: Mike shared that the journey of faith is a constant leaving from where you are and walking towards where God wants you to go. That’s what growth and maturity looks like in real life.
Mark: While God may ask us to physically “leave” and “go,” often what he asks us to leave are our hurts, habits, and hangups, as they put it in the Celebrate Recovery ministry. These are the things that get in the way of us being about to move forward in life and relationships. They keep us from reaching our full potential as a person. They knock us off course and headed in the wrong direction.
Jill: What struck Mark and I was how much yesterday’s message applied to marriage. You see, our marriage is strengthened as we grow and mature personally. As we personally reach our full potential, our marriage experiences it’s full potential as well!
Mark: So the question we need to ask ourselves is: What does God want me to leave today? Here are some thoughts to get you started thinking in the right direction:
Hurts: abuse, rejection, fear, mistrust, self-protection, anger, unforgiveness, dysfunctional family of origin, or personal vows (“I’ll never let another man hurt me.” Or, “I’ll never let another woman control me.”)…
Habits: Pornography, steamy (erotica) novels, laziness, selfishness, drugs or alcohol, smoking, criticism, lying, workaholism, spending issues, all types of control…
Hangups: Thinking your way is the right way or the only way, greed, impatience, lack of self-control, procrastination, pride, perfectionism, people-pleasing, materialism, lack of faith in God…
Jill: At some point we need to drive a stake in the ground and say, “Today’s the day I’m getting serious about this.” Sometimes it’s just a decision that needs to be made and followed through on. Other times it will take extra effort like counseling, asking for accountability, or even attending something like Celebrate Recovery.
Mark: I remember when I knew I had to leave my affair relationship in order to go where God wanted me to go which was a restored marriage and family. It wasn’t easy because I had to die to what I wanted in order to experience what God wanted. What He wanted was best for me and I can now fully attest to that, but making that decision required a “leaving” and a “going.” It also required counseling and accountability.
Jill: I remember the day God convicted my heart of criticism. I was reading Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you see the speck that is in your husband’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your husband, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your husband’s eye.” Yes, yes, I know…that verse doesn’t say “husband.” It almost always says “brother.” But that day, I read it as husband and God took the plank in my eye and hit me over the head with it. I made a conscious decision to “leave” criticism and “go” to grace. It’s been an imperfect journey for sure, but one I’m glad I’m on.
Mark: We never stay where we’re at when we’re truly following Christ. So, for the sake of your marriage, what do you need to leave today?
Mark: Jill and I are in South Bend, Indiana today doing a television interview on No More Perfect Marriages (the interview starts at 8:23 if you watch it online!) It’s a 24 hour road trip, but it gave us time to talk on the 3 hour drive from our Central Illinois home.
Jill: We both brought our calendars and determined to figure out our plan for date nights this summer.
Mark: We chose Thursday nights. We talked about the fact that, because we’re in a tight financial season, we won’t be going out to dinner very often, but we’ll plan to do something after dinner each Thursday like take a motorcycle ride, enjoy a walk around a local lake, or even try out a new arcade in town (skee-ball anyone?)
Jill: Date nights don’t have to be weekly–they just need to be regular. On the calendar. Protected fiercely.
Mark: We also talked about taking a short 15-minute walk after dinner each night and maybe reading a marriage book aloud over the summer (still discussing that!). These efforts will help us connect daily.
Jill: When the kids were all home, we would often do 15 minutes on the porch swing after dinner. Now we have the freedom to take a walk since there’s no one we have to be home for!
Mark: “So what’s our plan for investing in our marriage this __________ (fill in the season)?” This is a question we’ve learned to ask at the beginning of each “season” where new routines are created: Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Jill: Have you asked that question for summer yet? If not, put it on the table! Because if you don’t plan, it won’t happen.
Mark: Oh and by the way…how about putting “Attending the No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in your plans? You can find more info and register for the July 15 event in Illinois at seminar.jillsavage.org! We’d love to have you join us!
What about you? What are your plans to invest in your marriage this summer? Share your plans in the comments so we can inspire one another!
Jill: Summer is just around the corner and it’s likely our routines will experience some changes as we head from one season to another.
Mark: Longer days in the summer allow for different ways of connecting as a couple. Jill and I enjoy sitting on the porch in the evenings or taking a walk after dinner.
Jill: It’s easy, however, to find ourselves at the end of June without a plan in place for utilizing the warm weather and extra daylight hours for our marriage. So now’s a great time to talk about our plan for the summer!
Mark: Yesterday Jill and I were talking about our routines, our pace of life, and changes we need to make as we head into summer. It’s not a finished conversation…we’ll keep talking over the next couple of weeks.
Jill: What are your strategies for connecting as a couple this summer? Here are some ideas to put on your marriage bucket list of summer fun:
- Lay on a blanket and look at the stars (download a stargazing app to help!)
- Take a walk.
- Go to the drive-in movie.
- Picnic in the park.
- Have dessert by candlelight outside on the porch.
- Take a bike ride.
- Play putt-putt golf.
- Fly a kite together.
- Snuggle in a hammock.
- Take a shower together after a day of working in the yard.
Mark: Set up time to talk this week about how you’ll prioritize your marriage this summer. Don’t let half the summer pass by without setting a strategy in place!
What about you? What ideas would you add to this list? What regular routines do you do as a couple in the summer?
If you’re a Focus on the Family listener who has dropped by for the first time…welcome! We’d love to meet you…please take a moment to introduce yourself in the comments!
Mark and I are committed to helping marriages in any way we can. Here are some commonly requested resources we offer:
- Looking to bring a No More Perfect Marriages seminar to your church? You can find info on that here.
- Looking to pick up a copy of the No More Perfect Marriages book? You can do that here. (You can find free small group curriculum videos here!)
- Are you walking through the mess of infidelity? Need to know some essential next steps to find hope and help? Jill has written a short, but powerpacked e-book to help you with that. You can find info about that here.
- Want to join the No More Perfect Marriages Date Night community? Registration is currently closed and won’t open again to the public until sometime in the Fall, but we’re opening it up for Focus on the Family listeners only for this week–register by Friday, May 19! You can find that info here!
- Looking to take our FREE No More Perfect Marriages 4 week E-Challenge? You can sign up here for that!
- Want to attend our next No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in July? You can find out info here.
We write Marriage Monday posts nearly every week. You can find some of our past posts here. (And you can subscribe to the blog if you want to get those in your inbox!)
No matter if your marriage is in a great place or a place of pain, we’re here for you and so glad you stopped by!
Let’s stay connected in some way so we can do this thing called marriage together!
Join the No More Perfect Date Night Community today!
Find out more info at www.NoMorePerfectDateNight.com!
Spring Registration is closed but we’re opening it just for Family Life, Heidi St. John podcast, and Focus on the Family listeners until Friday, May 19, 2017!
(Public registration only opens twice a year…don’t miss out!)
Jill: I’m most impatient when I’m overscheduled.
Mark: I tend to take things personally when I am tired.
Jill: My tone of voice has exasperation in it most often when I’m running late.
Mark: I lack the ability to listen well when I’m trying to do too much.
Jill: Just like the margins in a computer document or the pages of a book, the white space arounds the words allow us to read the black typewritten words. The white space is critical to keeping our eyes seeing what’s most important.
Mark: Our lives need margin—white space—in order for us to live and love well. When we get too busy, too overcommitted, or spread too thin, we become too impatient, too self-focused, and too easily irritated than what is healthy for relationships.
Jill: Marriage needs margin. We need to slow the pace to give love space.
Mark: Need to increase margin in your marriage? Here are three types of marriage margin you need to consider:
- Time Margin: Are you overcommitted? Are your kids overcommitted? Do you need to learn to say no to good things so you can say yes to the most important relationships in your life? What do you need to start earlier to allow space for kindness and patience in your communication?
- Energy Margin: Are you giving your best energy away and coming up empty for marriage? Do you need to take a short nap in the afternoon so you have the energy for intimacy in the evening? Do you need to submit your resignation for some volunteer positions so you can be the best you for your family?
- Financial Margin: Are you budgeting for marriage? Setting aside money each paycheck to take regular time for the two of you? Do you have a “getaway dream” trip for the two of you that you’re saving for? Are you trading sitting with another couple to make date nights more affordable?
Jill: A marginless marriage is a slow fade waiting to happen. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll slow down later. Decide today to do whatever it takes to increase the white space in your marriage.
What about you? Where do you need to increase margin for the sake of your marriage?
Oh and one more thing…We’re on Focus on the Family Tuesday and Wednesday this week talking about marriage! If you’d like to catch the programs, you can listen online at www.focusonthefamily.com!
Mark: Jill was telling me about something that we needed to do this weekend. I was busy answering an email on my phone and I absentmindedly said a few “Uh huh’s” to feign interest in what she was saying. When she said, “Mark, did you hear me?” I had to admit that I didn’t. I was listening to pacify her, not listening to hear.
Jill: Mark was telling me how he wanted to lay out the garden this year. As soon as he started to share his thoughts, I began to think about why his way wouldn’t work. As soon as he stopped sharing his thoughts, I began to disagree. I was listening to debate, not listening to hear.
Mark: We all do it. We listen to do everything BUT listen! We’re distracted, tired, prideful, or irritated when we need to be focused, alert, humble, and kind.
Jill: Listening is one of the most important skills in marriage, but it’s one of the least developed skills for most of us. We can debate like the best of them. We can rationalize nonstop. We respond with snide or sarcastic remarks. But listen to really hear our spouse? That doesn’t come so easy.
Mark: Want to become a better listener? Here are three ways:
- Stop, Look, and Listen. Get in the habit of stopping what you’re doing when your spouse (or child) says something to you. Then look him/her in the eyes and listen with your ears and your eyes.
- Respond, Don’t React. Just this week, try to slow your conversations down to respond lovingly instead of reacting impatiently.
- Repeat back to your spouse what he or she said to you. You don’t have to agree with them, just respond with “What I hear you saying is…” This assures them that you really did hear what they said.
Jill: When we improve our listening skills our spouse feels loved, cared for, and valued. Want to improve your marriage? Start by improving your listening skills today.
What about you? Which of the three ways to become a better listener can you use today?