The Best Christmas Gift for Your Marriage

My husband entered the room one day last week and asked me this question:

“You like camo, right?”

In my mind I’m thinking,

“Hmm. That’s weird.”

And then I realize, it’s Christmas.

“I like camo, army camo, not leafy camo. No hunting camo. That’s your thing, not mine. And no camo with pink on it. That’s weird. I don’t really like color infiltrating the camo at all, maybe grey or black.”

“What about brown and camo? You like brown and camo, right?

Oh boy. I have to answer this question carefully. He has a little boy hopefulness going on and I have mixed emotions about brown and camo.

“Well, it could be cool. I’d have to see. Do you remember that camo shirt I showed you downtown last week? I like that camo.”

“Ok, good. Yes. Alright.”

Dave leaves the room, while I chuckle over my mug of tea. He’s just the cutest and I love being thought of when I don’t even know it.

There was a time when every year it was an epic decision for us whether we would buy gifts for each other. Pennies were tight, furniture was thread bare, and student loans demanded attention.

But guess what?

Pennies are still tight. Money still needs to be managed. Teenagers eat a lot of food or they die, I’m told. Coats handed down from one kid to the thirteenth at some point wear out, to my chagrin. And all the while my marriage is still there, still constant, still hollering for some attention.

Through changing seasons, locations, and attitudes, I still believe this to be true:

It’s better for your marriage to give your spouse a Christmas gift.

It’s better for your children when you give your spouse a Christmas gift.

Why? I wrote that article for the Concordia Publishing House blog. šŸ˜‰ Find it here:

The Best Christmas Gift for Your Marriage

Gifts won’t solve marriage problems or wave a magic wand over the way your kids view relationships, but they are a place where I think we often ignore our marriages for other things; a place we gloss over as unimportant.

I also know I could give Biblical evidence for caring for your marriage, psychosocial evidence for what it does for your kids’ future marriages, and all that good stuff, but I can’t make money grow on trees and there’s no rules about how to best care for your marriage. So, you’ll also find some practical ideas for making your spouse feel included and thought of this Christmas season, even on the cheap.

You can hear all about my thoughts in this I Love My Shepherd Podcast Episode:

Please share some ideas of your own for others!

How have you gifted and included your spouse at Christmastime?

Fighting against shallow grace: Forgiving well

This past weekend, my husband and I had a three day argument about who was more right.

Worse yet- It’s the same argument on repeat:

“You don’t listen attentively.”

“You don’t talk very nicely.”

We sometimes become magically more mature and remember our “I-statements”:

“I feel unheard when you don’t listen attentively.”

“I feel hurt when you don’t talk nicely.”

After a few days of this argument, sometimes after a few minutes of this argument, we get tired of it, and we move to something that looks like forgiving each other.

“I’m sorry, I know I don’t always talk nice.”

“I’m sorry, I know I don’t always listen.”

We don’t want to hurt each other. I understand that there are marriages and other family relationships that do go for the jugular with each argumentative blow, but that isn’t the dynamic at work between my husband and I, or most relationships each of you have either.

Many arguments end with “I’m sorry.” at the very least and “It’s ok.” or even better, “You’re forgiven.” Save the few extremely loud individuals who love political drama, most of us aren’t trying to duke it out with words to win some trophy, but something eludes us here. There’s a missing piece. We are settling for shallow grace andĀ arguments on repeat.

Lately, I think at our house we’ve managed to get closer to the heart of it, and this stubborn problem…I know it’s mine.

In Pastor Andrew Richard’s book, Christ and the Church, aĀ  thirty-day devotion concerning marriage, he includes a really helpful day on reconciliation. It unmasked my tendency to seek shallow grace…for myself, for my husband, and in other relationships.

Pastor Richard, proposes five simple words to begin reconciliation:

I am the worse sinner.

Where I wanted shallow grace, a quick “I’m sorry” from my husband to keep me happy, preferably without having to say it myself, Rev. Richard cuts to the chase: I am the worse sinner. This is the door to real grace – recognizing my utter inability to talk nicely to my husband. I have a fault and he gets the brunt of it. Who cares if he doesn’t listen sometimes! I’m loosing out on grace by pointing out his issues in order to avoid fully looking at mine.

I have sinned.

That’s where grace starts.

I know this can all circle around and you may be dying to say, “But wait, if you never talk about what bothers you, how will you solve any marriage struggles?!”

Good point! But that is for discussion time, not confession time. Arguments demand confession. Discussion is for another time.Ā In the heat of the moment, we most often need confession.

Arguments, disagreements, harsh words give me the chance to take the log-shaped trinket out of my left eye and let Gospel grace in.

It’s so hard, so against my nature. That tells me it’s more Jesus than it is me, and that’s a good thing.

Christ has forgiven me. I have been awful. I have wandered. I have been selfish. I have been rageful. I have been lazy. He actively forgives me anyway. There is no shallow, “I’m sorry” “No problem” in my relationship with Him. There is

“Chief of sinners, though I be.”

“I shed my blood for thee.”

The Word cuts to my heart and because I see my need for grace, I see my need for Him.

My husband mirrors this for me in my daily life. He mirrors all my deepest issues. Other familial relationships, even very close friendships, may do a little of this mirroring too, because of their intimacy. My husband gets the best of me, but he also gets the worst of me. These intimate relationships that lay bare our messy souls remind us that Grace is bigger than my mess.

I am the worse sinner.

Those words stick a little in my throat coming out. I’m learning slowly that it’s better this way. It’s better being healed, than being right.


Christ and the Church is available for purchase here, or get a free downloadable copy here.

Another great resource on the topic of forgiveness, particularly when forgiveness feels like an overwhelming task, is Donna Pyle’s, Forgiveness.

 

 

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior: Addressing our desire, our value and our worth


I’ll be honest, middle school was not my finest.

It was so difficult for me that when I started coaching a very fine group of 5-8th grade cheerleaders on a whim, I felt like I was stepping back into my 8th grade year and my internal anxiety was through the roof.

Who really wants to walk back into middle school?

No one, ever.

I have a theory that middle school is hard because we desperately want one of two things:

To be noticed or to be not noticed. Or the third option…a little bit of both.

In middle school we don’t know our desires, as girls, as budding women, or as people, but as we grow we begin to identify them more clearly.

We want to be loved.

We want to know we’re valued, worthwhile.

We want to feel safe, physically, emotionally, and relationally.

There’s probably more, but I think those are the big three, particularly for girls.

Some thing weird happens too, sometimes we have no idea where to find them. We start searching, searching, and searching some more…we look every where, but we mostly look at men to tell us, what only God can –

We are loved.

We are valued.

We are safely held by Him for eternity.

A few months ago, I wrote this article for Concordia Publishing House –

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior

It’s about our deepest desires, the problem of sin, the struggle of Satan trying to hide what is good from us, and the weight of expectations in relationships.

As the months passed, I wanted to hash all this out a bit more; to understand why my wild, young, and rebellious heart looked everywhere but to God for fulfillment in this life, and why it’s a struggle still today.

Why do I so often want a man to fill me, when I know good and well that only God can?

You’ll find a few of the answers I found here, in this new podcast episode: Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior.

It present 5 things I think we’re searching for, a few good questions for evaluating our expectations in our relationships, and also offers encouragement, whether you’re single, married, young, old, wild, or tame – to run to God, run. He’s already got you anyway.

You are loved by Him.

You are valued by Him.

You are safe in His arms.

I’d love to hear from you. Tell me your experiences, your thoughts, or send your questions. We’re all figuring our this life together, led, and fully filled up by our Savior.