Does Anyone Really Live Happily Ever After?


marriage5Recently my husband and I have had several people comment on what a great marriage we have and how we seem so happy with each other. This has prompted me to share a few things that we’ve learned along the way and to dispel some myths regarding our marriage.

The truth is, sixteen years ago (after being married only 5 years) we were not happily married. We were on the verge of divorce and were miserable and without hope in our relationship. We were headed straight toward the 50% of couples whose marriage ends in divorce. But at our lowest point we made a decision to do 3 things that changed our marriage, our lives and our situation.

First, we eliminated the option for divorce. We decided to work on our marriage and do so with the intention that we would never, ever divorce. We decided that we would not threaten divorce in the heat of arguments, we would not include it as an option for our future, we would no longer assume that if things weren’t working out that we would end our marriage and we would not think about it in our mind. It was simply removed from our lives and our vocabulary, period. And we didn’t do so just so we could be two people who didn’t divorce but were still miserable together. We did it with the intention that we were going to be happy in our marriage, no matter what it took.

marriage6Secondly, we knew it was going to be work and we committed to be lifelong students of marriage. We were at our rock bottom and it was not going to magically change overnight with the wave of a wand. We were going to have to work and work hard for a very long time to repair the damage that had been done and to build the marriage that we both wanted and needed. It’s been 16 years now and we are still working toward that goal. We read books, we get emails in our inboxes about marriage, we go to conferences, we pray together and for each other, we watch DVD’s, we go on date nights, we lead marriage small groups so we’re forced to study the topic of marriage, we put into practice the tools and information we have learned and are still learning. And guess what, it’s not easy and it’s still work but we know now that it has been worth every bit of effort we’ve put into it. We had to decide what our priority was going to be – our own selfish desires and our own unrealistic expectations or putting in the hard work it would require to make our marriage strong and healthy. We made our marriage the priority and it’s paying off.

Finally, and most importantly, we made God the Lord of our lives and the center of our marriage. We realized that everything we were doing was failing and that we couldn’t fix the relationship on our own. We surrendered our marriage to God and asked Him to do what we had been unable to do our own – restore our marriage and renew our love for each other. And as God always does and with the grace and mercy that only He can give, He came through and answered our prayers in a big way. We promised God that if He would restore our marriage then we would spend the rest of our married lives telling others what He had done in our marriage and encourage them to trust Him to do the same in theirs.

marriage7God transformed our lives and changed our marriage. And He placed in us a desire and determination to do everything within our abilities to continue to work on becoming the husband and wife He created us to be for each other. Our marriage isn’t perfect and we never want people to look at us and think so. Our marriage has the same struggles, the same disagreements, the same challenges as every other marriage. The thing that is different in our marriage that is lacking in the marriages of many young couples today is that we removed divorce as an option, we committed to work on it for the rest of our lives and we surrendered it over to God.

We have people tell us “you don’t understand how bad things are, we don’t love each other anymore and we don’t want to be married.” Trust me, you might be surprised just how much we can relate and how much we do understand. The point is, we do not have the perfect marriage. And we don’t for two reasons, #1 – it doesn’t exist so quit thinking it does and #2 – just because we’re in a good place now doesn’t mean we have never been in a bad place and we still don’t have bad moments. We do not have it all together, never have and probably never will. We simply chose a long time ago to not stay there and decided to do something about it.

marriage4So the question is “does anyone really live happily ever after?” The answer is yes but…..it won’t be easy and it’s going to take hard work and commitment on your part. Just like in the fairytales you have a very real enemy that you will have to battle for your marriage and that enemy IS NOT your spouse. And it will take time, commitment and a willingness to trust God to change you (not change your spouse, to change YOU) into the best husband or wife you can be and to study what His word says marriage is supposed to look like and be like. Then you will have to practice – you will fail many times but with practice you will find that over time you fail a whole lot less often. And you must remove divorce from your thoughts, your vocabulary and your options.

If you do these things I promise your marriage will succeed. It’s God’s will for you to live happily ever after (Jer. 29:11). Start doing your part and start trusting God to do His – you deserve the fairytale He has planned for you.

Do Unto Others


Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Remember that one? Anyone over the age of twenty-five has surely heard their parents utter those words to them at some time or another. I know I did – not so sure I lived by them but it’s not because nobody ever said them to me. I’ve always heard that saying referred to as The Golden Rule so I figured it was just some nifty saying that a parent made up to try to make their kids play nice with other kids. It wasn’t until I was a parent myself that I found out that it actually comes from the bible (Matt. 7:12). Surely I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know that…….was I?

Today I overheard a conversation that was quite different from the Golden Rule while picking up some things in the local super center. A lady was on her phone telling who I’m guessing was her friend that she is “tired of always giving and getting nothing in return.” She went on to say that he, whoever he was, “is never going to change” and she’s “done being the only one who gives in this marriage- it’s over.” As I looked up at the woman on the phone I was saddened to see two small children in her cart. This conversation has become so common that it could have taken place anywhere, anytime in any town.

It’s become our culture’s way of thinking – What’s in it for me? Why should I bother when I’m not getting anything out of it? Nobody’s doing anything for me so why should I bend over backwards for them? I don’t care what you want – if you’re not going to give me what I want, then we’re done. You may never have heard the Golden Rule, but I can bet the farm you’ve heard someone you know or maybe even you yourself have said something similar to those comments. Many relationships today are based around this new rule that says “if I’m going to give of myself then I sure as heck better get something in return.” Oh, we want others to “do unto us” and we’re even willing to “do unto them” as long as it’s working both ways. But for many people today, the minute someone stops doing for us is the minute we stop doing for them and start planning our exit strategy. If you are married and you stand any chance of staying that way, you will have to do for your spouse during times when they are doing absolutely nothing for you. It’s a fact and it is guaranteed to happen to us all, married or not. There will come a time in your life that you will have to make a choice to continue to do for someone else who is doing absolutely nothing for you or you will choose to walk away. And it’s in that moment your choice reveals the motive of your heart. If your sole purpose for giving to and serving others is to see what you can get out of it for yourself, then you’ve missed the whole point. It’s not about you.

Jesus hung on a cross for you and me. He was beaten, spit upon and condemned of a crime for which He was completely innocent. He gave His life. And He did it all knowing that He would get nothing in return. The best we can ever offer Him in return for His selfless example of how to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us, is to love Him with all our hearts, soul, strength and mind. And, to do unto others as we truly would like for them to do unto us. Deep down we want others to love us unconditionally. We want them to be willing to give of themselves to us without expecting something in return. We want them to put us above all else in their lives. We want them to not just tell us but to show us how much we mean to them.  We want them to sacrifice things that are important to them in order to spend time with us. We want them to show their love for us by protecting us both physically and emotionally. We want them to have our back and to stand up for us when we come under attack. We want them to lead our homes and our families with honor and strength. We want them to be an example of strong values to our children. We want them to model to our children how to love your spouse sacrificially and unconditionally. We want them to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. We want them to be just like Jesus.

And yet. Why are we not willing to be like Jesus? Why are we so unwilling to love them like Jesus loves them? Why do we see every fault and point out every mistake when we should be seeing their God-given potential and calling out the greatness in them that God created them for? Why are we so quick to accuse and slow to forgive? Why are we so unwilling to give and so willing to take? Why are we so focused on our needs and so incapable of meeting the needs of others when there’s no reward for us? Why do we look to our relationships to meet our needs when we should be looking to Jesus as the example of sacrificial giving. Why do we keep score and ask “what have you done for me lately” instead of doing everything we can to point others to Christ by serving them without expectation of reciprocation? Why are we so quick to remember every wrong of those who hurt us and so quick to forget all Jesus did for us when He gave His life on the cross? Why do we ask God to change our spouses instead of crying out to Him “Lord! Change me!!”? You may never get what you want from whoever you are giving to. But when you serve them with the motive of showing them the same love that Christ has shown you, you will find the strength to continue and your life will be forever changed because of it.

It’s time to stop making a list in your mind of all the things you want changed about the person in your life who you think owes you something. Start asking God to show you His list of all the things in your life that need changing so that you can be more like Him. The Golden Rule is not just a nifty saying made up by parents – it’s God’s wisdom He shared with us through His word because He knew there would be times we’d forgot, times we’d become resentful, times we’d want to give up. And He knew in those times we’d need a reminder – if you want someone to do unto you, the key is to do unto them without expectation and with the motive of simply serving them. And God knew that when we do, just like when Jesus did on the cross, lives will be changed – starting with our own.

Why Commitments Don’t Cut It Anymore


The word commitment is so overrated today. I hear it and I cringe. It’s overused to the point that it no longer holds any value. Think about it. Our President is committed to fixing the economy but the economic outlook is worse than it was when he first made that commitment 4 years ago. Brad Pitt is committed to Angelina Jolie yet 7 years and 6 kids later we barely have a ring and no date is set according to the committed couple. Others are committed to ending the war that has no end in site or fighting obesity as they introduce bacon sundaes as their new summer treat and others offer up single portions that could feed a family of four. How many of us have committed to weight loss as we head out to the movie and eat a 5 gallon bucket of buttered popcorn and wash it down with a 200 ounce soda? Is anybody really committed to anything these days?

Today so many people are too quick to give up. They start a new excercise plan in January and by March they’re done. They quit their jobs before they find another one and then don’t have the money to pay the bills. They quit school, sports, clubs and organizations that they were once eager to begin. They try going to church when things aren’t going right in their lives and then quit going when God doesn’t change things fast enough for them. They quit their marriages when things get a little tough and their spouse doesn’t do everything exactly like they want them to.

Committment means that a loyalty and dedication exists through an emotional obligation to someone or something, it is being bound to something or someone emotionally. The problem is that our emotions change and when they do we think it must mean it’s time to end our commitment. We view commitments as something that is non-binding and holds little weight, especially when it comes to relationships. Divorce has become far too common an option among troubled marriages. In many cases one party wants to fight for the marriage and to seek help through counseling to work out the problems. But the other party simply wants out. The collateral damage can be far reaching and long term.

What is needed in marriages today is not for the couples to be more committed to their relationship. What is really needed is for couples to understand fully what they entered into when they said “I do”. Marriage is much more than a commitment – it is a covenant between two people. By definition a covenant is a promise or pledge between two parties to do something specific. It is binding and it is guaranteed. When two people stand before God and recite their marriage vows they are entering into a covenant relationship that is not intended to be broken.

I recently read this quote and thought it speaks to the seriousness of the covenant between a husband and wife. “Jesus had VERY strict standards for marriage. Why? Because marriage represents the covenant relationship between Himself and His church. The husband is meant to be a picture of Christ, His leadership and His sacrificial love for His bride. The wife is meant to be a picture of the church, responding in reverence and adoration to her Groom – following Him with total faith, joy and abandon.” – Peacefulwife’s Blog (www.peacefulwife.com)

If we, as Christians, are to model Christ-like behavior to others, it must begin in our marriages. When we have strong, healthy marriages, not perfect marriages but marriages that fight through the tough times, we become an inspiration to a lost and hurting world. Married couples are like two canoes in a river. Unless you paddle toward one another the current will cause you to drift apart. You must purposely paddle toward each other in order to stay together. How do we do that? We must honor the covenant we made before God and not be so quick to throw in the towel. In humility we must seek help when things begin to unravel. We need to have Godly counsel in our lives to hold us accountable to our vows. We need to stop thinking that it’s all about me and what I want and seek to better understand our spouse and what their needs are. We need to make sure our priorities are right and that God and our spouse come before ourselves. We need to purposely work on our marriages no matter how long we’ve been married by having date nights, communicating with our spouse when things are going well instead of just shutting down, and attending conferences and seminars on how to have a better marriage. We need to pray with and for each other. It takes work but it’s worth every bit of effort you put into it. God designed it that way.

God created marriage to be a blessing and many people act like it’s a curse on their lives. They think that the way they felt when they first fell in love is supposed to last forever and when life sets in and the honeymoon is over then they decide to bail because it’s just too hard and the feelings aren’t there anymore. The enemy wants nothing more than to destroy marriages because he knows that an attack on marriages is a single shot that has many casualities. He begins with causing cracks in the foundation through unrealistic expectations, unforgiveness, mistrust, and insecurities.

If your marriage has cracks in the foundations instead of giving up it’s time to start filling in the cracks and then building on the foundation to ensure your marriage will last. Your marriage is a covenant relationship, a binding promise made before God. It is not a frivolous commitment that can be broken on a whim of emotional disatisfaction. Begin with repenting to God for your sinful attitudes and actions that have been damaging to your marriage. Then seek Godly counsel to begin to restore and repair the cracks in your foundation. Pray to God to bring restoration to what the enemy has try to ruin and then release your marriage to Him. It’s not up to you to fix it. It is up to you to put your faith in God and to trust in His promises. Don’t just recommit to your marriage, make the decision to honor the covenant you entered into with your spouse. God is faithful in his covenant promises, the least we can do to honor Him is to be faithful in ours.

Excuse Me, You’re In My Spot


All companies and organizations have a structure or hierarchy that determines the level of responsibilities and decision-making. An organizational chart is used to diagram the company structure, roles and how they relate to one another. In the military it’s called the Chain of Command. The thing that they all have in common is that there is always a top position. There is someone who is ultimately held responsible for the overall vision or mission and who is in charge of overseeing everyone below them. They are rewarded whenever everything goes well but they are also held accountable when things do not go as planned whether they were involved directly or indirectly. Many times they get the credit for work done by subordinates but they can also take the fall for others’ mistakes. It is a huge responsibility to be at the top of the pyramid.

Marriages and families are like a company in the sense that someone is ultimately in charge. The person at the top of the org chart of a family may rely heavily on their support staff such as their spouse, their children, or extended family. But there really can only be one Head of Household, at least according to the IRS. And just like in the corporate and military worlds, sometimes the lines of responsibilities may be crossed or the 2nd in command may have to step in and take the lead for a period of time due to certain circumstances. But in all families there is typically one person who is considered the man or woman of the house.

In Ephesians Chapter 5 God describes His org chart for a spiritual head of the household when He says “for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body.” In a marriage God defines the role of the family CEO as belonging to the husband. However, there are many obstacles that can come between a man taking his designated role within his family. Sometimes he may unwilling or may not be equipped to lead the family spiritually. But in other situations the husband cannot occupy the position that God intended for them to be in because there is someone else already occupying that role. I was one of those people – I complained that my husband was not being the spiritual head of our home yet I was the one standing in the way of his promotion into the position that was created for him. There can only be one CEO or Commanding Officer and until that position is vacated then no one else can be promoted into it. It is the same in a marriage. There can only be one spiritual head of the home and while there are many reasons why the husband may not be operating in that role, in my case the problem was me. I was attempting to possess something that was never intended to be mine in the first place. But my husband was too much of a gentleman to just “put me in my place”. He waited and allowed the Holy Spirit to bring conviction upon my heart.

You may be in a situation where you are the spiritual head of your home because your husband is not willing or able to occupy the position. Or if your spouse is deployed or travels with their job and is unable to operate in their role for much of the time then you may have to step in and be that position until they can and will assume it for themselves. But if you are constantly battling with the question of why your husband is not acting as if he is the spiritual head of your home even though he is equipped to do so, ask God to show you if the position is available to him. It just may be that it’s already occupied and your husband cannot be promoted until you are willing to humbly step aside. There will always be difficulties within a marriage when the husband and wife are not in the role God intended for them to be. If that is your marriage, it may be time to say “I’m sorry, I”m in your spot.”

Follow Your Heart


The latest news to consume the media world is the announcement by Kim Kardashian that she is seeking a divorce after her short 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries. In her own words she said “it just didn’t turn out to be the fairy tale I had so badly hoped for”. I often see marriages in crisis. I live near a military post and many of my friends and the people I know are active duty. Marriage is not easy even under the best circumstances but when one of the spouses is deployed to a war zone for a year and the other spouse is left behind to run the household and raise the children without their soldier by their side, even the strongest marriages are strained. When I see couples fighting to keep their marriages together because they believe so much in the institute of marriage and the vows to which they’ve commited I am encouraged and my faith is built stronger. But when Kim Kardashian says “But I do know that I have to follow my heart” and ends her marriage after just 72 days I am angry. I’m angry that she is making a mockery of her marriage vows. I’m angry that she says she has to follow her heart because I want to know what she was following just 72 days earlier when she vowed to love and cherish Kris Humphries in good times and bad. I’m angry because there are countless women who watched her fairy tale wedding on TV and who want so badly to be like her and that now think it’s ok just to give up on a sacred vow made before God just because it wasn’t the fairy tale they thought it would be. I’m angry because there were millions of dollars spent on a wedding yet there is not enough government funding to provide adequate marriage counseling for those who sacrifice for our country and for education on how to divorce-proof a military marriage. I’m angry because every day I’m telling women “hang in there, don’t give up” and Kim Kardashian is telling women “I had hoped this marriage was forever, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned”. The whole problem with “following your heart” is your heart cannot be trusted. Our heart is where our feelings are and our feelings change based on our circumstances. When the circumstances are good, we are happy. When they change and things start to get bad, we are unhappy. If we make major life decisions based on how we “feel” at the moment we may make a huge mistake that affects not only ourselves but others as well. There may be children involved who will be forever affected by a choice we make based on how we felt at the moment we made that decision. If given time and opportunity, our circumstances many times can and will change which means our feelings can and will change. Don’t make decisions based on how you feel at the moment and whatever you do, do not put all your trust in your heart. The only place to put your trust is in Jesus Christ. He is unchanging because He is not affected by circumstances. Unlike our feelings that blow about with the winds of change, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). It is time to put your trust where it won’t be affected by ever-changing circumstances. Put your trust in and follow Him.