Jill: It all started with a conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about marriage and the topic turned to sex. In their marriage she has a higher sex drive than her husband. Their physical intimacy happens only 6-8 times a year. This is something that frustrates her greatly. When I asked her how she handles the disappointment she said, “I’ve made the decision this is not the framework I’m going to use to look at my marriage through.”
Mark: Wow! Those are some powerful words that deserve some attention. This is a wise woman and we can learn so much from her.
Jill: We all have things that disappoint us in marriage. We all have things we wish were different. Our human nature tends to lean towards looking through the lens of lack in marriage. We see only what we don’t have and become blind to what we do have.
Mark: I did this the first half of our marriage. I was bound by this view and it nearly destroyed my marriage and me personally. How did it affect me personally? I saw all of life through the lens of lack and doing so fueled discontentment. Eventually discontentment becomes disillusionment which led to disconnection. Not only that but when you’re perpetually discontent, you’re ripe for feeling hopeless and giving up.
Jill: The Bible tells us to take our thoughts captive. This friend of mine is living out that truth. It would be easy to look at her marriage through the lens of a lack of sex. She chooses, however, not to worship her circumstances. She chooses not to make sex an idol of her heart. And she chooses to look at her husband and see the abundance in him. There are other areas of life he does well. He’s a wonderful father. He provides for their family. They share their Christian faith together. He keeps the wheels on the bus when she isn’t home or is out of town. That’s not to say that they never discuss the differing sexual desires they have. It’s just that when they discuss it, she’s able to believe the best in him.
Mark: I’m learning to see life and my marriage through the lens of abundance. It’s a daily decision I have to make. In doing so, I’m finding the peace and contentment I always craved. Do I occasionally slip back into only seeing the lack? Absolutely. This often happens when I’m tired or overwhelmed or I’m not being intentional about nurturing gratefulness.
Jill: It’s the same for me. While I naturally have more of an abundance mindset, I can still slip into that critical spirit place that zooms in on what Mark doesn’t do. This is when the slow fade of not accepting begins to pull our hearts apart. That’s why we have to be vigilant about pushing our thoughts in the right direction.
What about you? Where are you looking at your spouse through the lens of lack? Where do you need to move your eyes to see him or her through the lens of abundance? Start today by making a list of all the things you are grateful for in your spouse!
Last year, we didn’t spend Thanksgiving with a single one of our five children.
Did it feel odd? Yes.
Was it the best for everyone? We think so.
Our oldest daughter and her husband alternate holidays with his family and our family; last year Thanksgiving was with his family. Our oldest son lives in California and coming home for Thanksgiving just wasn’t in the budget. Our middle daughter, her husband, and our granddaughter were already expected at two different Thanksgiving gatherings on his side of the family. Our second youngest spent the holiday with some friends, and our youngest and his fiancé would have been happy to join us, but we decided to give them the freedom of no expectations and the ability to enjoy the day fully with her family. Instead of gathering our immediate family, Mark and I drove a couple hours to spend time with our parents.
I love the holidays but I don’t love them more than my family. I love traditions but I don’t love them more than the people I share those traditions with.
Too often the biggest “gift” given at the holidays is guilt. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is give our family freedom.
So instead of turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, and large helpings of obligation on Thanksgiving, we had a family gathering of whoever could come for pizza and games the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Instead of ham, sweet potatoes, and persimmon pudding on Christmas Day, we gathered everyone together on a day that worked best for all after Christmas.
One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to allow change to happen as your kids get older. Their sphere of relationships grows exponentially when they marry and start a new family. These days I’m using phrases like these more often:
“We understand. It’s not the day that’s important. We’ll find another time that works better!”
“Your heart is most important to us. We don’t want to add any additional pressure by piling on expectations. If you can join us, we’ll be thrilled and if you can’t, we understand.”
“I love you. I love you the same no matter what decision you need to make for your sanity and what’s best for your family.”
Want to give a powerful gift this holiday season? Give the gift of freedom. Flexibility. No expectations. Unconditional love.
Today’s guest post is brought to us by Jerusha Clark. Jerusha is an author, speaker, wife, and mom. Her newest book Every Piece of Me: Shattering Toxic Beliefs and Discovering the Real You(Baker, 2017) is a book that reminds us that God never meant for us to focus on whether we are “enough” or whether we measure up. He made us–every piece of us–to be just as He is. She calls us to an identity fixed on Christ alone while leaving behind fear, bitterness, busyness, and toxic thoughts that steal our joy and limit our power.
I’m giving away one copy of her book today. To enter to win, leave a comment sharing one takeaway that you needed to read from today’s post.
It would be hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened. Maybe when my kids started school and an invisible hand seemed to press the fast forward button on my life. But that was over a decade ago. My kids are teens now. Shouldn’t I have figured out how to answer the question, “How are you?” with something other than “Crazy!” “Busy!” or “You know…just tryin’ to keep up?!”
At some juncture, most of my mommy friends went from answering cordial, “How’s it going” queries with a polite form of “I’m fine, thank you,” to using the opportunity to bemoan how busy our lives had gotten. No matter where I was—at the pick up line at school, waiting for gymnastics practice to end, checking out at Target—I couldn’t get away from one thing: the ever present, ever pressing weight of my own schedule. Can I get an amen from any other mamas out there?!
For a while, I honestly believed it when I told friends and family, “Things will quiet down after ________” (insert here any number of possibilities, including “the holidays are over,” “competition season ends,” “I finish this book,” etc.) But nothing ever changed. And it finally occurred to me: I’m supposedly the master of my own schedule, but I’m actually a slave.
This did not sit well with me. And if you’re even the teensiest bit like me, it shouldn’t sit well with you, either.
Enter one amazing friend and one life-changing conversation.
Michelle told me about a book she was reading. At first I listened with mild interest. A book on rest. How nice. Then the spinning world of my own scheduling came to a screeching halt with these words: “Jerusha, I had the biggest ‘aha’ when I read this: ‘Slaves don’t rest. Slaves can’t rest. Slaves, by definition, have no freedom to rest. Rest, it turns out, is a condition of liberty.”
Rest is a condition of liberty. Rest and freedom are inseparable. If you can’t rest, you’re a slave to something. Christ died so that you and I don’t have to keep going, going, going until we keel over. And long before that, our loving Heavenly Father perfectly modeled the balance of fulfilling work and embracing rest when he made the world and took a Sabbath to enjoy it: For in six days, the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in it, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and He made it holy (Exodus 20:11).
Bottom line, I had scheduled myself out of rest. Sure, I knew how to binge watch Netflix to “detox” from a tough week. But I never really felt rested after that. Okay, so I knew how to plan an amazing getaway or vacation. But I often returned home in need of a vacation from all the craziness of adventuring. Essentially, even though I knew how to be entertained, I didn’t know how to rest. Maybe, like me, you’re better at being entertained or zoning out than actually resting.
But that all changed for me after that conversation with Michelle. I began studying the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus. As a good Christian girl, these claims—e.g. “I am the Light of the World,” “I am the bread of Life,” “I am the Good Shepherd,”—were tucked away in my spiritual subconscious, but I’ll be honest: they weren’t really manifest in my daily life. Looking intently at Jesus as the Good Shepherd helped me to break free of slavery to my schedule. The girl who couldn’t stop began practicing Sabbath.
I know, I know. That sounds so Old Testament. But, sweet friend, I wish you could have journeyed with me as I learned to rest without simply looking to “escape,” as I discovered the joy of tech-free and noise-free moments, as I unwound the tension of my overscheduled mind and heart and found freedom to savor the world God created: good food made and eaten slowly, leisurely love-making, long, unhurried walks that weren’t about getting my sweat on, but just about enjoying. Um, why had I waited so long to embrace this?
Because I didn’t believe that I could get everything done in six days. Deep down, I worried that something would fall apart if I didn’t keep juggling seven days a week. I fretted about saying no to people—including my kids—who didn’t really understand why mom I started saying strange and mysterious things like, “No, I’m not going to drive you to the mall today; that’s the opposite of rest for me.” I even worried that I’d miss out on something really good because I was “resting” (which, back then, kinda sounded like a punishment).
Perhaps, in reading that last paragraph, you caught on quicker than I did; maybe you realized it was fear that kept me a slave to my schedule. Fear of not getting enough done. Fear of disappointing people. Fear of missing out. Fear, even, that rest (and especially Sabbath rest) would be boring.
But I don’t want to be a slave to my schedule. And I most certainly don’t want to be a slave to fear. So I started small, trying to take a couple hours to rest.
And it was challenging. I felt so restless trying to rest. I didn’t like saying no to things. I’m one of those “activity makes me happy” kind of girls. Slow is not my style. But, interestingly enough, I learned rest didn’t have to be slow. It was so full. So freeing. I felt expanded, not held back.
I’ve discovered that living beyond my limits leads to perpetual exhaustion, not a better life. Living with limits—the limits of rest that I chose (and keep choosing!) to embrace leads to what Jesus described in various renderings of John 10:10 as “abundant life,” a “rich and satisfying life,” “more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
More and better life than you’ve ever dreamed of. If you’re ready, join me in embracing rest. Don’t be afraid. If God can literally create the entire world in six days, don’t you think he can manage your stuff in six days?
This has been a place God has really been growing me. If you follow me on social media like Instagram or Facebook, you’ve seen more sunsets, pics on the beach, and time with friends and family. That’s because I’m intentionally balancing out my work with rest. I’m slowing down and savoring, refusing to be a slave to my “to do” list.
You can find practical ways to start embracing rest in “The Unforced Rhythms of Grace,” Chapter Seven of Jerusha’s new book, Every Piece of Me: Shattering Toxic Beliefs and Discovering the Real You (Baker, 2017).
For a chance to win a copy of Every Piece of Me, leave a comment sharing one takeaway that you needed to read from today’s post.
Jill: Years ago, Mark and I made a decision to not exchange physical gifts at Christmas. Instead we try to give our marriage time, energy, and focus in some way.
Mark: So what are you getting your marriage for Christmas? Seems like a silly question, doesn’t it? Yet it’s really something to consider. Your marriage is the foundation of your parenting. Your marriage is designed to last a lifetime. Your marriage is one tool God uses to grow and mature you.
Jill: We spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on weddings, yet we struggle to prioritize the time, energy, and finances to keep the marriage fresh and growing. We set the cruise control on our relationship, never stopping to fill up the tank, schedule preventative maintenance, or fix the things that are broken.
Mark: That’s why Jill and I created No More Perfect Date Night. When you’re a Date Night member, you’re reminded to stop and fill up your marriage tank with our weekly short, but power-packed content. You’re learning about things like stopping the slow marriage fades with marriage-changing God-tools. You’re also learning about communication tools that make your marriage emotionally safe for both of you. And those places where you have recurring conflict? You’re digging into the root of those issues to better understand why they happen and how change can take place.
Jill: If you enjoy Marriage Mondays and aren’t already a member, we want to invite you to become a No More Perfect Date Night member! This is a resource we only offer once or twice a year so we can spend the rest of our time giving our members our very best! Membership is only available THIS WEEK and will close at midnight next Sunday, November 12.
Mark: For the first time ever we’re offering a FREE 7-day trial so you can experience all that No More Perfect Date Night offers you! Your membership is RISK FREE and you can cancel at any time. We don’t think you’ll want to though! We share even more of our own journey, plus we pull back the curtain on other marriages to better understand the challenges all relationships face. We also provide monthly creative date nights, offer a monthly live webinar, and bring experts like Dr. Gary Chapman, Dr. Juli Slattery, Greg and Julie Gorman and dozens others into your living room!
Jill: So what are you getting your marriage for Christmas? Make it a Christmas to remember. Put No More Perfect Date Night underneath the tree so you can make 2018 the year you found the marriage you were looking for!
Hop over and learn a little more about No More Perfect Date Night today!
One of the ways we took care of our speakers at our Hearts at Home conferences was to provide them with their own PA—Personal Assistant. This person helped them get to where they needed to be, always made sure they got their meals, kept them hydrated with water, ran back to the hotel room to grab a powerpoint remote left in a suitcase, and anything else the speaker needed. This freed up the speaker to be fully able to love on the moms they came to encourage.
My friend Bonnie has been my PA at Hearts at Home many times over the years. Even though we no longer live in the same city, sometimes she’d travel to help manage my book table and sometimes she was my personal assistant, making sure I got where I needed to go and had what I needed to have.
This past Sunday Bonnie’s daughter, Bekah, was married. Mark officiated the beautiful ceremony in Lake Mary, Florida and I got to be Bonnie’s P.A.!
As I served Bonnie on Sunday—helping with her hair and makeup, safety pinning her dress so undergarments didn’t show, helping decorate the facility, snapping pictures throughout the day so she’d have some on her phone, and helping to clean up and load the cars—I got to thinking about how important it is for the Mother of the Groom or the Mother of the Bride to have a personal assistant.
There are so many details when it comes to weddings and without someone to help, you can miss out on ENJOYING such a special day!
Your kids may be years from getting married. If so, just tuck this little piece of wisdom away for when you need it someday. Or maybe you’re like me and you have a wedding right around the corner! Just like the Bride has a Maid or Matron of Honor, you need the same. Who could you ask to be your helper for the day?
Bonnie and I have been “momming together” for 30 years! This past weekend was no different. We “mommed together” on Sunday as her youngest stepped into married life.
What a tangible reminder that we’re better together for sure!
If you heard today’s Focus on the Family program, I’m so glad you dropped by to say hello! This is a safe place where we talk about all the wonderful and messy stuff of life. If you would like to stay connected, please subscribe so you can get the posts in your inbox.
We also have a new marriage resource No More Perfect Date Night that allows you to invest in your marriage without leaving your home! Membership only opens once or twice a year and it happens to be this week! You can learn more and start a free 1 week trial today!
More than anything, I hope the words I shared today brought hope and help your way. I’d love for you to join me in the journey of kicking the perfection infection out of our lives, taking off our masks, having realistic expectations, and embracing God’s perfecting process in our lives!
Mark: Jill and I are in Orlando, Florida today because I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of some dear friends of ours last night. While we were there we had a little bit of fun in the photo booth at the reception!
Jill: As Mark was doing the ceremony he talked about marriage being hard work. I thought about his words a bit and exactly what “hard work” in marriage really means. What struck me is that most of the hard work of marriage is actually hard individual work. Personal work. Adjusting our own head and heart in some way.
Mark: Sure there’s the hard work of communication and cooperation that requires two people to work together, but even those often require hard individual work to work together easier. What are we talking about? Here are just a few individual pieces of the hard work of marriage:
Selfishness to Selflessness: Demanding our own way and not serving each other hurts our marriage. We have to be willing to serve our spouse even when we don’t feel like it. We have to allow our spouse’s likes and dislikes to be considered just as much as ours are considered.
My Way to God’s Way: When we’re in the driver’s seat of our life, we respond and react to our spouse based upon feelings. When God is in the driver’s seat of our life, we respond and react to our spouse based upon truth–using our God-Tools of compassion, love, grace, forgiveness, wisdom, and courage. We do the right thing rather than what we feel like doing.
Loose Lips to Self-Control: When we’re careless with our words we cause unneeded pain and conflict in our marriage. When we learn to measure our words and speak kindly and carefully–even in conflict–it nurtures our relationship.
Criticism to Acceptance: When we only see what our spouse doesn’t do we are blind to what he or she does do. When we use our God-Tool of acceptance and stop trying to change our spouse, our marriage contentment increases.
Jill: These are just a few of the many options of the hard work of marriage we always need to be working on no matter how long we’ve been married! Can you think of anymore you’d add to the list?
So what about you? What hard internal work of marriage do you to do today?
Mark: “I’m just tired and I want to be done.” I’ve heard that from two long-married, currently separated couples in the last month. I understand those feelings. I was there seven years ago, too.
Jill: That’s really how the slow fades work. We put up with things, minimize them, sweep them under the rug, don’t really resolve conflict, resist asking for help, and tell ourselves “it isn’t worth it.” Add to that our tendency over time to only see what our spouse doesn’t do–which causes us to be blind to the good they bring to our life–and we’re set up for “being tired and wanting to be done.”
Mark: Being done isn’t the answer though. You’ll simply leave one relationship filled with challenges and likely someday enter another relationship filled with challenges. When any two people try to build a life together, it’s hard! Another relationship isn’t the answer because it will take about 2.5 years (according to research) for you to find yourself just as frustrated in the new relationship as you were in the old.
Jill: So what’s a person to do when they’re “tired and ready to be done?” We need to BE the change we want in our marriage.
Be kind. Feel like your spouse isn’t treating you kindly? Take a look at how you’re really treating him/her. Be the kind you’re looking for.
Be attentive. If your spouse isn’t “meeting your needs” dig deep and really look at what you’re bringing to the game. Are you attentive to the things that truly are important to him or her? Be the attentive spouse you’re looking for.
Be faith-filled. If you long for spiritual connection with your spouse, take an honest evaluation about whether you’re walking by faith way more than walking in anger, walking in blame, walking in shame, or walking in criticism.
Be grateful. If you’re feeling taken advantage of or not valued, take a hard look at where you focus your thoughts about your spouse. Start a list today of all the positive things your spouse brings to the marriage.
Be humble. Are you waiting for your partner to apologize? Determined that you won’t apologize one more time until he or she does? We’re responsible only for the messes we make. Even if you make 5% of the mess and your spouse makes 95% of the mess (from your perspective), then you need to clean up your 5% regardless of whether your spouse tends to his or her 95% or not.
Be compassionate. Instead of seeing your spouse’s issues as a personal offense to you, see them as a representation of his or her blind spot or lost-ness–especially if he or she isn’t walking with Christ.
Be willing to ask for help. Stop trying to put the pieces back together alone. And if you’re the only one who seems to be willing to tend to the broken pieces then get yourself in counseling, or working with a marriage coach, or digging into your own “junk in the trunk.” You’ve probably been carrying stuff from when you were 12 into your adult years and ultimately into your marriage. It’s time to stop dragging all that around and letting it poison the relationships that mean the most to you.
Mark: When we dig into God’s Word we don’t see quitting as an option. Instead we see commitment, long-suffering, and perseverance being what God calls us to. He doesn’t say that it will be easy…He just promises we won’t walk it alone.
Jill: It’s okay to feel tired and long for something different than what you have. Recognize, however, that you can change that today. YOU can be the change you want to see in your marriage.