Give Your Spouse a Little Kick

Over a year ago my husband (Gary) and I began a commitment to pray together each day and I wrote about it and challenged my blog readers. You can read about it here. Since that time, my husband and I have made praying together a habit. Sure, we miss a day or two now and then, but for the most part, it’s a part of our regular routine.

Gary and I can both testify that when we miss a day, our relationship almost always suffers.

The other day, fellow-blogger, Joe Pote commented on my last post, 7 Ways to Develop Empathy and Gain Insight into Your Mate, that another “way” is to pray for our spouses. And he’s so right. I have to confess that although I do pray for my husband and our marriage, I don’t pray enough for him.

This conviction makes me want to draw upon the accountability and support of my readers. Would you join me in praying for our spouses for the next 30 days? And not just praying that God would “bless” them or “protect” them—praying safe, generic prayers, but instead praying prayers with “a little kick!”

Recently I read through the book of Ephesians and was reminded of a powerful prayer that Paul prayed for that church. Maybe we could use his example as our template because I believe God does something miraculous when we speak God’s Word in prayer.

So, write out this prayer on an index card and insert your spouse’s name where you find the blanks. Then keep the prayer card in your Bible or near wherever you plan to pray –

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen _________ with power through his Spirit in _______’s inner being, so that Christ may dwell in ________’s heart through faith. And I pray that _________, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that _______ may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

Now, here’s how I’m going to do this:
Each day I will record in my prayer journal what I see happening in my husband’s life, in my life and in my relationship with him. I want to be sensitive and aware of the work I believe God can and will do in him, me and in us as I lift Gary up. Then at the end of 30 days, I will report to you what I’ve experienced. And maybe some of you who plan to join me, can let me know what you’ve experienced too!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

10 Benefits of Truth Telling

I’ve always been an open book—even when I didn’t (and don’t) intend to be. This tendency has become something of a strategy for me over the past 15 years or so. I say “strategy” because it’s something I’ve been very intentional about as I’ve discovered the power of the truth.

Of course, there was a time, when I was too afraid to be completely open about my faults and sins. I’d been hurt by some who I shared my failures and sins with because they were not trustworthy or healthy enough to handle it. After all, there are some risks that come with being authentic …

  • You might lose or distance friends who don’t like the standard of honesty you set in the relationship.
  • You might appear less healthy by those who think “perfection” instead of authenticity is the goal.
  • You might be rejected by those who are too fragile to hear the truth and deal with its implications.

But what if you’re willing to risk all that? What if you want to live in the freedom that comes from truth-telling? Even the Bible promises at least two benefits—prosperity and healing—for those who are good confessors (Proverbs 28:13 and James 5:16).

And here are some personal rewards I’ve experienced with authentic confession –

  1. A closer walk with God.
  2. A greater closeness and trust with my spouse and others.
  3. The freedom to be who I am—warts and all.
  4. Freedom from the shame and fear of hiding.
  5. Humility being built—confession by confession—in my heart.
  6. An ability to hear God’s truth louder and clearer.
  7. A greater ability to discern the counterfeit in others.
  8. A greater ability to help others with what I’ve learned through my mistakes.
  9. A greater comprehension of Christ’s sacrifice for my sins.
  10. A greater ability to forgive others for the sins I recognize and confess in my own life.

If you’re struggling in a messy marriage, I believe this is one of the best places to start working—with a strategy to be humble and authentic with your spouse.  

Let me be clear. This isn’t about blasting your spouse with the truth of how they irritate or offend you. This is speaking the truth about your failures and sins.  

And when you do this, you will build a bridge that allows you to reach a spouse who may be unreachable with any other way.

I’m Beth Steffaniak and my story is not what you might expect from a pastor’s wife and marriage and family counselor. I came into marriage with many emotional wounds and unhealthy patterns that left mess after mess in my wake. Thankfully, that’s not where the story ends! Click on this link: “Beth’s Story” to read more about my messy journey.
I’m Beth Steffaniak and my story is not what you might expect from a pastor’s wife and marriage and family counselor. I came into marriage with many emotional wounds and unhealthy patterns that left mess after mess in my wake. Thankfully, that’s not where the story ends! Click on this link: “Beth’s Story” to read more about my messy journey.

Fighting for Your Marriage

Did your holidays bring home more than just irritating in-laws? Sometimes the stress of the holidays can magnify problems in your marriage that were on the backburner until now.
Perhaps you feel as if you are in the fight of your life to save your marriage.
First off, let’s consider …
3 Common Reactions to a “Messy Marriage”
1.  Attack the Partner
When things go wrong, we look for someone to blame. It’s a simple law of nature that began as early as the Garden of Eden. We are drawn like a magnet to blame our spouse for the problem and overlook our own missteps and offenses. This is a slippery slope that once you’ve entered into it, it becomes increasingly more difficult to avoid. 

2.  Hide from the Problem
Second only to attacking the partner is hiding from the problem. This also involves a generous dose of denial. You’re afraid of conflict, so you lull yourself with the idea that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Or perhaps you see small improvements here and there and ignore the bigger problems that ravage the marriage foundation. At some point, you will not only feel that you’re hiding from the problem, but also your partner. You’ll avoid them at all costs, but this proves to only widen the chasm.

3.  Run from the Partner to a Substitute Partner
I’m not just speaking of affairs here. As humans we are quite resourceful, latching onto just about anything that brings pleasure. This includes everything from workaholism, alcoholism, materialism to over-parenting or even over-involvement in church, just to name a few.
If there’s a passion in your life that pulls you away from the passion you should have for your spouse, it needs to be surrendered or brought back into balance.
The 3 reactions above are unhealthy. Instead we need to “respond” to our marriage problems by …
Fighting the Problem. In other words, we need to …

Fight for our marriages

Indalo Rainbow Warrior
How do we do that?
We become like any great warrior from the Bible. Let’s take King David for example. He did certain things that kept him or got him and his country back on track.
1.  He prayed before going into battle.
Ask Christ to help you to stop seeing your spouse as the enemy and see the problems as the true enemies. Ask Him to reveal what those problems are. You may think you know, but you probably don’t see the problems you bring to the table. This requires humility and surrender, even as you fight.

2.  He brought in godly advisors and counselors to help guide him.
Remember Nathan the prophet’s pointed words to David? (2 Samuel 12) He listened and took in the rebuke. 

3.  He took responsibility for his sins.
After Nathan’s corrective rebuke, David confessed his sin and changed his ways. He didn’t blame Bathsheba for tempting him with an alluring rooftop bath. He didn’t blame Uriah for being too busy for his beautiful wife. He simply accepted his responsibility and the painful consequences that came with his wrong actions.

4.  He didn’t give up doing what was right, even when the battle was painful and confusing.
You’re going to feel weary of fighting for your marriage, but don’t give up and never quit relying on God’s strength to get you through to the other side—to victory.
Do you see yourself reacting in any of the 3 ways that I described above? If so, begin to respond this New Year by fighting for your marriage! 

Photo by Indalo Art (Flickr)

Today’s Post is Linked to –

Mixed Feelings on My Boys, Marriage and Milestones

Today’s topic on Marriage Monday is Children and Marriage.
This seems like a timely topic for me, since I’ve found myself reflecting back on those many years of raising my three boys due to some milestone moments of late. And not only have I reflected on the past, but I’ve also looked ahead to my three son’s futures, asking myself, “How well have my husband and I prepared them for life and marriage in particular?”
Honestly, I feel a bit sad when I look either direction—past and/or future.
As far as the past is concerned (ugh!), it’s a mixed bag. I still have pictures all over my house of when the boys were small.
I love looking at those pictures! (“Memories, like the corners of my mind …”)
I remember my boy’s sweet, child-like innocence. I remember the cute little things they used to say and do. I remember how they all gave that trademark squinty-eyed, big, happy smile to the camera. They could be such hams, when all three of “the bros” were in the pic!
I miss those days (sigh) …
And since my middle son just graduated from high school and is now a college freshman, I feel that ever-familiar twinge of grief rolling over me like it did when my oldest, now a college senior, left for college in ‘08. And that, of course, means my oldest is graduating college in May (Yicks!). All these milestones, remind me that the empty nest is just around the corner (2014 to be exact!), which brings me to …
… The future (double UGH!). Here’s where I struggle with worry about how my messy marriage and messy mothering moments have shaped their hearts.
So I always pray that:
  • With life-experience, maturity and God’s refining influence, they would gain perspective about the many mistakes and messes they observed in me in my husband.
  • God would use every relationship they have—married or not—to mold them into His image.
Unfortunately, I know what praying that second one means for them. It means I’m not exactly praying for easy, non-messy lives (Close to tears!). Any loving parent knows how hard it is to watch your children experience pain. We want so badly to protect them.
But I KNOW that pain is the tool God uses to develop character, strengthen their faith and … make them good and Godly marriage material!
So I trust in God’s ever-faithful transformation. After all, that’s exactly what God has done and continues to do for me and my husband in our messy marriage moments. He redeems the Messy—even the Messy Married!
Yay, God! (Smile!)
“In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.” –Isaiah 63:9 (NLT)
“Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.”  –Isaiah 36:17 (NIV)

Messy Motherhood?

In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to give equal time to another aspect of messy marriage—messy moms and dads. Believe it or not, it’s true—very often in messy marriages you’ll also find messy parents. And I’m not talking about the times when your husband leaves his underwear hanging on the headboard.
I’m talking about how our messes and mistakes in marriage often result in messy parenting.
In fact, it’s sort of like asking the proverbial question, which comes first—the chicken or the egg? Or, in this case, the messy marriage or the messy parent? They tend to go hand in hand.

In future posts I will be addressing some of the issues messy mom’s and dad’s face. And here’s where you come in, tell me what you think are some messy parenting issues that should be addressed and you’ll be entered in a contest to win Charlie Hall’s latest CD – “The Rising.”* If you want to comment anonymously, then you’ll need to take the additional step of emailing me your contact info at gobethsteff at gmail dot com.
And to get you started, I’ve been working on one post that is a messy parenting issue – putting your children before your marriage relationship.
So now you tell me what you’ve seen in your marriage or in other people’s marriages that has led to messy parenting.
Oh, and one of the major mistakes that messy married men make is forgetting to honor their wives and mothers on Mother’s Day. So let this be your reminder to make her feel special, and if you do, that will be one less mess you’ll have to clean up. Now that’s something that’ll make any mother smile!
*I will be announcing the winner of the contest on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8th at 7p.m. So get your comments in by the deadline!

Drive-Thru Marriage

One evening, not too long ago, my husband Bryan and I were on our way to our Small Group Bible Study.  Because Bryan had been caught in traffic which made him arrive home late from work, we had decided to pick up fast food and eat it in the car on the way to our group.  
We quickly chose to enjoy Arby’s fine cuisine, and Bryan drove up to the microphone to place his order:  “I’ll have (he placed the family’s order) and a crispy McChicken sandwich.”  
I couldn’t contain myself as my loud laughter overwhelmed the car.  I could hear the Arby’s employee reply “what??” as if he had heard Bryan speak a foreign language.
Bryan corrected his order, and we pulled forward.  Bryan blurted out to me – partly in embarrassment, but mostly in frustration, He KNEW what I meant!”
I’m assuming the Arby’s employee REALLY knew what Bryan wanted, but was it his place to guess?  After all, we were at Arby’s NOT McDonald’s.  I had quite a bit of fun with this and took advantage of every opportunity to razz Bryan over the debacle.  His only real reply to me was, “Junk!” to which I commented “No, Honey, junk is what you get on the McChicken sandwich you ordered at Arby’s!”
Have you ever had a messy drive-thru experience? Sure, I’ve received the wrong order.  Sometimes it was because I honestly ordered the wrong thing or I’d forgotten to verify that I wanted that item PLAIN.  However, most often, by the time I’ve received my bag of goodies handed to me at the pick-up window, there’s been some sort of communication breakdown that has resulted in my bag of goodies being far from my original order.
It’s true; I must say I’m very particular about what and how I place an order in the drive-thru lane.  I am crystal clear about what I want.  I am also super sickening sweet in my delivery to the order-taker.  Let’s face it; I was once an irresponsible fast food restaurant worker who is now painfully aware of what can happen in the kitchen.  When my food is at the mercy of other hands, I take care to be overly nice.
How different is this from our marriage relationships? 
We find ourselves often battling messes because of communication breakdowns.  Results often differ from what we expect because husbands and wives communicate differently.  Girls, our husbands do not read minds.  They don’t know what we want if we don’t tell them.  And, they are far from willing to play guessing games when we think we are dropping sneaky hints their way.  
Why is it that we are clear, concise, and polite with strangers?  Yet, we are vague, demanding and rude with our spouses?  We expect MORE from our spouses.  Let’s give the more in return!
There is a reason that God has commanded us to respect our husbands (Eph 5:33).  Respect takes effort – it does not come easy.  Politely, lovingly express to your husband what you want and need from him.  You will most likely find that he is more than willing to please you when you show him love and respect.  

Thanks goes out to our very first guest writer –  
Stacey Micklevitz!
Stacey finds joy in being the wife of Bryan, and the mom of three year old Ethan and one year old Elijah. In between diaper changes and mommy-do’s, Stacey also finds time to write. Her most current project is a marriage book entitled, Making Home Improvements.

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