Cultivating Your Marriage Relationship

Photo Credit

by Anne Everitt

The year following the birth of our third child was the hardest year our marriage has yet seen.  Our kids were sick all winter… for months. Every time we would plan a date someone would puke or develop a fever or nasty cough; we had to cancel something like 7 or 8 times. The perpetual sickness left us isolated from friends and community. My husband felt extra pressure at work, adding to the stress.  We both felt exhausted, with little energy left at the end of the day to tend to our relationship, and we grew distant. It felt like even finding space to have a conversation about our need to have a conversation, was impossible! In the midst of this it seemed like we were not seeing eye-to-eye on anything… big or small.

In these hard and vulnerable seasons of marriage and parenting, I think the enemy whispers lies to us, something along the lines of “Why did you marry this person? You are so different and have nothing in common. This was a mistake.  Your love for each other has grown cold. You are growing apart and will only grow further apart. By the time your kids are grown you will be strangers.  You’d be better suited to someone else.“  Our culture and media also play into these lies… telling us that relationships should be easy and on fire all of the time or else something is wrong and the relationship wasn’t really “meant to be”.

The truth is, love is a commitment, through easy and hard seasons. When we feel it and when we don’t. And Biblical wisdom never tells us it is going to be easy or effortless, or that we ought to live our life solely out of emotions (wouldn’t that be a roller coaster ride?!). In fact, this is what 1 Corinthians 1:10 says (talking to believers in general—so this applies to all of our relationships, including our marriage):

I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.

In the middle of such a season of marriage, my husband and I desperately needed to re-establish… to cultivate, a life in common. Friends, cultivation implies effort. That can seem daunting when you already feel maxed out, but God wants this for our marriage and He wants to breathe life and provision where we are at our wit’s end. Part of walking that out involves obediently doing our part as the Spirit leads.  The very existence of this command tells us unity and relationships have never been easy. They must be cultivated. Worked at. Planned and prepared for, tended to. A life in common does not just happen on its own.

So how do you cultivate a life in common? The above verse gives us an idea: By being considerate of one another. Considerate…  characterized by careful thought— deliberate; careful not to cause inconvenience or hurt to others; thoughtful of the rights and feelings of others; attentive; showing kindness towards others; having regard for the needs of others.

Mamas, whether we are in an easy season of marriage or hard, these are some questions we can bring before the Lord to help us think deliberately about our marriage:

How can I consider my husband’s needs today?

How can I encourage, pray for, bless, and serve him?

What do I need to let go of in order to build unity in our relationship?

What can I do to cultivate a life in common with him?

What can we do for fun together?

What things did we enjoy doing together when we were dating that we have stopped doing (but could start again!)?

What can I do to improve our relationship?

What lies am I believing that I need to surrender to the Lord?

Do I need to forgive any hurts that have occurred in our relationship?

What things does he love or enjoy that I can do with him?

What can I do to make him feel loved and respected?

What emotions do I need bring in alignment with the solid ground of truth?

In what areas do I feel at my wit’s end? {Take some time to bring this to the Lord.}

:: :: ::

By God’s grace, following trials and triumphs, and with ongoing intentional efforts to cultivate our relationship, we are in a new season. For us healing came as we practiced being considerate of one another—  forgiving wrongs, putting each other’s needs first, letting go of things that were putting a wedge between us, and also making it a priority to have fun together. I thank God that seasons come and go. Little ones grow— even just a year changes everything, and suddenly we find ourselves with room to breathe again.

But for those of you who in the trenches of a difficult season in your marriage, know that you are not alone. Every marriage has these seasons. May the Lord breathe life into your marriage, may He speak to you— showing you specifically how to tend to your relationship, and may He bless your efforts as you walk in His wisdom and ways.

As I head into a New Year, I’m making it a priority to cultivate a life in common with my man. What is one thing you want to do to cultivate a life in common with yours this year? I’d love to hear!

Let Them Drink of Me and Be Filled With Him

Whoever is thirsty, let him come and drink the water of life.

Lifeless words and a depleted posture reflected my soul as I breathed out my cry for relief.  Sharp and cutting, I invited them all to stick their straws in me a little deeper to be sure and suck up the last portion of me allotted for the day.  Downcast shoulders and outstretched arms certainly weren’t a warm invitation in welcoming others to truly come and draw from me.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. 

“Stick a fork in me, I am done” thoughts had been entertained too often.  My flesh believed that all of me was depleted by a certain hour of the day, investments had been made with intentional efforts and more of me could be offered tomorrow.

                Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.

I sit at my Lord’s feet and he feeds, restores, fills and encourages me.  His promise to give me joy and peace as I trust in him is fulfilled in those moments.  He teaches me that my early morning times of feasting on him will never be adequate for the afternoon.  I must return, or better yet, I must keep sitting at his feet, even in my going and doing, letting him fill me.  In my gluttony, his banquet is never exhausted, his hope never depleted and his well never runs dry.  He is always more than enough for me.

                The jar of flour shall not be spent and the jug of oil shall not be empty.

The Spirit within me groans to pour out of me.  When multiple straws pierce me for their portion, I desire to let the life giving blood of Jesus fill them.  Let them drink of me and be filled with him, let them thirst for me because they taste the goodness of the Lord.  I am learning I can only be a filling portion if my own straw is embedded into the core of Christ.

My flesh battles my spirit, friends.   As I finger these words, I’m engaged in a quarrel with my own selfish desires.  The struggle is all too familiar.  In reflection, I know I must sit at his feet more, especially in my going and doing.  If his name and renown are the desires of my heart I must strive to become an open vessel of taking in from him and pouring out into them.  I want Jesus through me to be more than enough for them.

Increase our desires for you, Lord Jesus.  May we breathe soft answers that turn away wrath and speak wisdom that spreads knowledge.  Our hearts long to speak aptly, in season, so our families find joy and grace in us.  May our life-giving reproof be refreshment for their bones, may they gain intelligence and dwell among the wise because of our obedience to sit and drink from your cup.  Fill us up, pour yourself into us.  Let your love flow through us.  Father, fill us up.  May our hearts be cheerful and offer a continual feast for our family.

When You Need a Bit of Warmth to Get Through the Winter {Mom Heart Conferences in 2014 are Just the Ticket!}

bg-collageby Kristen Kill

The pudgy fingers of my toddler clings to my shoulder as I to type this, a bit slower than my usual speed as I listen for the cues in her breath that tell me she is still sound asleep. Her other arm is stretched across her brother. Yes, there are two of them that have taken over tonight, friends, finally sleeping soundly after one of those drag out bedtimes. Its not every night that my children collapse in my bed, but stretching back into a school routine has us feeling rather harried and just plain worn out. I’m weary and find myself wondering if you might be just a bit weary today too?

Ruth and Misty

The lists don’t ever end and as Autumn blazes on, we are already planning for Thanksgiving and then Christmas and up the hill for one final push to get us back on routine once again. The beautiful part about the cold of winter though? Tea and knitting and movie nights with popcorn….and Mom Heart Conferences. Because mamas,  bit of refreshment is in order for our own hearts and souls. At a time when several of us often feel the cold seems the bear the greatest chill and we aren’t sure we are cut out for this life you are carving and crafting at home, there is a place where you can come to be reminded of beauty and friendship. A retreat for your soul to be warmed and to exhale and recommit your heart to being a bearer of beauty and light and Jesus to our families. Maybe When you need a bit of warmth to get through the winter , you’ll think about joining us?

Our band who represent momheart and itakejoy,  love big and hug long and share openly. We’d love to get to know you; because maybe even more important than the rest (I’m talking sleeping through the actual night and eating a full meal and nibbling on chocolates kind of rest), is the linking of arms and gathering of hearts that want to live this life together.

This year, our conferences have some of the most encouraging speakers ever, a beautiful book table that is full of all the Clarkson Family favorites and opportunities to nurture your heart along side kindreds.

And friends? Right now, we are Giving AWAY a ticket! If you register before midnight on October 31st, you’ll automatically be entered to win a drawing on November 4th. If you win, your ticket price will be fully refunded- how cool is that?! Check out the details for the conferences below and visit www.MomHeartConference.com to register.

Mom Heart Conference 2014

Denver, Colorado- January 24-25, Denver Marriott South

Irvine, California- February 7-8, Irvine Marriott

Irving/DFW, Texas- February 21-22, Dallas Marriott Las Colinas

Click on the image below to see all the details about this year’s conference locations and speakers!

and this poster is printable or downloadable to share with your support group or blog!

MHC2014-PDF-PosterHOPE YOU CAN COME! WE WOULD BE SO PRIVILEGED TO HOST YOU, PRAY WITH YOU AND HAVE YOU IN OUR MIDST!

Would you help us please, and share with your friends on facebook, twitter and in your support groups? Thanks so very much! And please leave a comment and let us know if you have been to a momheart conference and how you enjoyed it!

 

These Few Sheep

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In the midst of raising little ones, a mother may find herself at odds with the future. Often, dreams and gifts are shelved in preference of little people with constant needs.

Conflict ensues between the privileged nature of motherhood and the long pause in what was a productive, somewhat predictable life.

How does a mother measure success?

Some say life is made up of defining moments. A typical Sunday revealed itself as one of those moments for me. While the speaker expounded on the life of David, I did not expect to be singled out by the Lord. No one around me suspected the arresting that took place that Sunday morning – of my mind, will and emotions – held captive by a thought which transformed into a desire to take the Lord at His word – at home.

Mothers of young children can feel overlooked in the church setting. From the pulpit we hear of mission trips, service opportunities, small groups, worship bands and all sorts of public endeavors. But with a van full of car seats and nap times looming – I was in no place to serve in public. I knew it – but needed affirmation from above.

The speaker described in vivid detail the life of David. Not David the king, but David the shepherd. As the sermon unfolded – time stood still for me. I felt all alone – in a good way – personalizing the story.

David’s brothers mocked him for having such a small job – tending to his ‘few sheep’. They were fighting the big battles, had the upfront positions and represented little brother to the world. David had no voice for public ears. His thoughts were relegated to the mound of sheep off the beaten path of real life and no one expected more of him.

But David sought the Lord in his isolation. He used the years of serving and protecting his ‘few sheep’ as an opportunity to know God. He did have a voice – and an audience of ONE. On the backside of a mountain David learned to pray – not in the, ‘I’m asking for things’ kind of praying but in the, ‘Lord, I want to know your more ‘ fashion. He turned his thoughts into songs (Psalms) which soothed the sheep and brought heaven to earth.

David fought off lions and bears – archenemies poised to steal, kill and destroy his flock. His sheep knew his voice and he knew their limitations.

While David was being faithful in the little – God was training his hands for war and capturing the shepherd’s heart for His own. Culture would eventually be shaped and history rearranged by the actions of this unassuming sheep herder.

I remember the Sunday service, like it was yesterday. I left church with my pile of notes – and mulled over the facts, chewing on the hard truths of God’s ways.

Little becomes much – Up is down – The backside of the mountain is in the presence of the King.

My eyes were opened to the possibilities. What if?

What if I embraced this role of mom/shepherd tending to my ‘few sheep’ with everything I had? What if I learned to know God during these busy, quiet years? What if  I was all right with being misrepresented without a voice?

Fast forward a decade, or two, and this shepherd/mom is in a whole, new place. The little lambs are strapping men and lovely ladies. Some days I long for the season when life was simple, kids were little and God was so near.

I’m  thankful for a church leader who ministered the word of God in a timely fashion – fitly spoken for my hungry heart in need of a defining moment.

Young mom – use these tender days to watch over your little ones. Learn the dynamics of spiritual warfare by protecting them and get to know your God while in the quiet place on the backside of the world.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

When Life is Too Overwhelming to Ask for Help

Pam

Thankfully there are only a few times in life when things become so overwhelming, it seems impossible to ask for help. I know I need support but crises are coming like rapid fiery darts. As my being shifts from one difficulty to another, the thought rests in the back of my head to reach out for help. Yet, dodging the darts seems to occupy every second.

I think about sending out a prayer request email but quickly decide that the circumstances of my life presently sound like a bad soap opera. Realizing it would take forever to draft the email, I resolve to “lift my eyes unto the hills….where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth”.  I mouth the prayer believing it in my head while counting on it to make it’s way down to my heart.

My conversation with my Heavenly Father goes something like this, “Lord, I believe you are sovereign. You are aware of my problems. You have even orchestrated them. …(Well, I probably wasn’t ready to admit that at first, even though I knew it to be true)…. Father, I need some help but can’t get it together enough to even ask. Lord, I think I need about five Aarons and Hurs to lift me up. Father, I don’t even know who they are right now. But I believe I need about five. Would you send them?”  Then I just proceeded to dodge the next dart. He is still patiently waiting on me to embrace the fiery darts and welcome the trial as James admonishes us to do as believers.

Remember when Moses was fighting the battle of the Amalekites (Exodus 17) and as long as Moses held up his arms, the Israelites were winning. But as soon as he dropped his arms, they began losing the battle? So Aaron and Hur each held up an arm of Moses in order for the Israelites to win. I knew I needed some women friends holding my arms up.

I could go into details about the nature of our family’s problems to try and help others know things can get really bad even when you follow Christ. But then the problem gets glorified.

Or I can expound on what God continues to do in spite of my problems. And He gets glorified rather than our problems.

My situation bottomed out on Friday. But on Saturday, at my son’s football game, an old friend approached the bleachers. She did not even have any children playing. She simply came to support a mutual friend’s child.I jumped up to say hi and give her a hug not realizing I would fall apart in her arms. She listened and encouraged me but did not stop there. The following week she showed up at the store with flowers and a card letting me know she had been praying for me. My friend Kelly, who I only see sporadically at surprise times, became an Aaron for me.

Later in the week my first night of community outreach was to begin. Because of circumstances, I was feeling quite disqualified. Yet, God placed me here as leader. I took a deep breath and glanced over the parking lot as women and children arrived. A new attendee named Kay popped out of her car. I was so excited to have her even though it was a surprise.

I could not help but laugh out loud when I actually realized she was my next answer to prayer for an Aaron or Hur. As my story unfolded for Kay, she realized it was divine intervention for her to be there. Kay is the mightiest prayer warrior I know. Because it was our first night of outreach we were able to spend the full time in prayer.

One after another, the Father brought me my five…each a tangible expression of God’s loving kindness and care for his children. They were not the usual ones I reach out to on a regular basis. I was paralyzed. But they were the ones God desired to use.

Once the five prayed me through the first week, I was able to reach out online to long distance prayer support from women who have practiced being intentional to cultivate a relationship even if long distance. We share a common love for God and a common desire to see Him high and lifted up in our homes.

Sisters, NO MATTER your walk in life, your problems or pain, we need a support system, a community of believers to walk through life with.

I believe suffering is inevitable. God uses it to conform us to the image of His son as we depend on Him. And He is so very faithful to be present in the darkest times of our lives. Do you sense Him near you, caring for you, sustaining you during your times of difficulties? Would you ask God to send you an Aaron and Hur? And, like me, even if you don’t know who they are, God does. Ask Him, look and wait for Him to send them.

The battle you are in is not yours friend. It is the Lords, the maker of Heaven and earth. May our Maker be glorified in and through each of our trials.

Arms Held Up,
Pam

***The 24 hours of the .99 on Amazon is now over, but as an almost full length book, I think you will enjoy it and be blessed at the normal price of $4.99! We were so happy that we were able to do a 24 hour deal for so many of you. Thanks for making the launch such a wonderful blessing to us, who work on the blog and books just for you! You were amazing!

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