Why your marriage MUST come first

Today is mine and Kevin’s 14th wedding anniversary.  We would never claim to have a perfect marriage (um, there’s no such thing, so stop daydreaming), but if you asked us if we have a good marriage, we would emphatically say yes.  And then if you proceeded to ask us how we’ve built a good marriage throughout having five children, cross country moves, running a business, different leadership roles at a few different churches, hospital stays and sicknesses, etc etc…we would say it’s because we prioritize our marriage.  When I was just driving on the road today, a mini van passed by me that had rust on it so badly that it actually had eaten through the car and had holes in it!  I said out loud to myself, “wow! I’ve never seen that before”.  But that’s what happens to a car that is driven in the Midwest and isn’t taken care of properly throughout those harsh winter months.  Kevin is constantly taking care of our cars by running them through the car wash in the winter because he says “if you don’t get the salt off, the car will rust”.  Just like that car, if we don’t take care of our marriage, it’s going to begin to show holes.  It is going to begin to slowly dissolve away and not be the beautiful marriage it could be.

The most common time to get divorced is when the couple becomes empty nesters.

They held the marriage together for the sake of the children, and when the children are all out of the house, there is no audience anymore to be “playing house” for, so they raise the white flag of surrender and decide to go their separate ways.  The truth is though, they went their separate ways years before.  Maybe it was a quick shift like a tsunami that swept in and destroyed the trust they had for each other, or maybe it was a slow changing of the tide that over the years exposed just how far their hearts drifted from each other.

Either way, it is a sad thing to see.  No one sits by and smiles as they see their friends go through a divorce, even if the party involved claims it is all “civil”, and will “remain the best of friends”.

We know deep within our souls that what is brought together with sacred vows, and “I will love you forever’s” should never be separated.  Yet, we see it happen everyday.

So, how do we not become a statistic?  How do we keep our marriage together even after there is no more eyes watching us each day?  Even more than that, how do we stay in a place of love, adoration, and affection with one another?

Well, I have other posts brewing on this, but for today I want to give you…

10 reasons WHY  your marriage must absolutely, positively take FIRST place.

Ready?! Here we go…

  1. Your spouse came before the children.  Period.  It started the two of you, and at some point it will go back to the two of you.
  2. Your kids need to see a positive marriage modeled for them.  They are going to copy what they see.  How do you speak to your spouse?  They will speak to theirs in the same way.  How do you prioritize the marriage?  That is how your children will prioritize their marriage.  They are absorbing more than you think, so be a good -no, great role model of what a fun, loving marriage can look like.
  3. Kids get their security from seeing Mom and Dad happy together.  One question we ask our kids regularly is “do you think Mom and Dad love each other”?  They usually giggle and nod.  We ask, “how do you know we do?”, and they say, “because you guys always want to be together”, or “Dad is always grabbing your butt”(hee hee! It’s really true), or “you guys are always kissing each other”.  Don’t shy away from showing each other affection in front of your kids.  Now, don’t go overboard!  But, snuggles, pats, and kisses are totally appropriate and heathy for your kids to see!  It will give them security that they are in a strong family that will not crumble.
  4. You want to be happy, don’t you?!  I mean, c’mon, if you are going to be LIVING with someone, you have to put the effort into them.  And when you put effort into someone, you usually like them more.  Liking the person you live with equals you being a happier person!
  5. Your spouse deserves to be living happily too.  I know there are days when you want to sentence your spouse to a lifelong silent treatment from you, but really, they are a person too (the person you absolutely fell head over heals for at one point).  They deserve to be happy too!  If you aren’t prioritizing this relationship, it’s easy to forget that they are a person with feelings just like you are. Don’t be hard-hearted!  Give them a break and try to make their day a little brighter.
  6. The Bible says you are one flesh together.  Genesis 2:24 says “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”.  Matthew 19:5 says, “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.  Ephesians 5:31 says, “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.  And in Mark 10:8 it says, “and the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh”.  Phew!  That’s a lot of redundancy.  But that means it must really mean something to God.  It’s a spiritual law that we don’t see in a physical way, but somehow God sees us as one.  That means if Kevin is bummed about something, I feel bummed.  If he is stressed about something, typically I feel stressed too.  How he feels affects me, and how I feel affects him.  It’s supposed to be that way.  We are intertwined in a deep way that goes beyond our understanding.  So, this tells me that God wants us to be sensitive to each other’s needs because, in a way, we are also tending to our own needs.  What we do to them will eventually effect us if we are still in a place of having a tender heart.  Years of bitterness will harden this, of course, so don’t allow bitterness to come between the two of you.  It’s not worth it, as eventually you will drink the bitter poison of that bitterness yourself.
  7. The world needs more love.  Like the song, “what the world needs now is love, sweet love”, we need to see more loving, committed, thriving marriages! You can do this!!  Put your marriage first so that it can be built to last, and others can be inspired by yours.  The world needs to see love that is real and stands the test of time through sickness, financial struggles, child rearing, job changes, moves, and weight fluctuations.  How endearing it is to onlookers to see an elderly couple walking hand in hand while smiling at each other.  Gosh-it melts my heart every time!
  8. Starting another marriage is a lot of hard work as well.  Don’t be deceived into thinking that all your troubles will go away if your spouse goes away.  Far better to roll up your sleeves and work on the marriage you are in than work on starting a whole new one.
  9. If you don’t put your marriage first, you’ll lose sight of how great you’ve got it.  Being married is fun!  At least it can be if you put effort into it and make it first in your life.  Don’t wait until your spouse puts their best effort into you, you put on your big kid panties and take the first step.  Plan date nights.  Go bowling or golfing together, start taking walks around the block after dinner, pick up a cup of coffee for them and drop it by work unexpectedly, buy them a little gift just because, snuggle up to them while you watch TV in the evening.  Doing these little things will remind you that living with someone and sharing your unique relationship is actually a lot of fun!
  10. And last, put your marriage first because your marriage must stand strong if you are going to get through the child rearing years!  These are tough years!  Raising kids is no joke, and if you are not a team doing it together, those little sweeties will pull you apart under the pressure of all they demand.  Keeping your marriage first will help you tremendously to get through this season without feeling like you are driven over by a truck day after day.  You and your spouse need to be able to connect regularly to communicate about the kids schedules, how to handle the pressures you see your kids going through, and to come up with a game plan when little Johnny wakes up in the night.  Remember, you are a team!  Don’t let the littles pull you apart.  Stay connected so that you can tackle the week ahead of you, instead of feeling like the kids are tackling you.  Kevin and I set aside a couple of hours every Sunday to go through the week ahead, to make sure we are on the same page with our schedule.  We also will send e-mails or make phone calls during this time to schedule things like dentist appointments, signing the kids up for sports camp or swim lessons, and dinners with other families.  That way, we are a team in setting the family schedule and neither of us feel like the other one is running the calendar and all the decisions for the family.  There is also no room for miscommunication.  So, when Thursday evening rolls around and we all need to be somewhere, there is no “who signed us up for this anyway?!” because we did it together, and decided together.

 

Obviously I must state that if one spouse is verbally or physically abusive, you must get help beyond this post.  I am not writing to that.  I simply want to help the marriages that feels as if they have fallen out of “like” with each other because they are barely keeping their heads above the waters of life.  Sometimes, just sometimes, there is a simple solution to the woes of marriage.

Prioritize your marriage.  Make it first.  Wash that salt off with love, tenderness, and fun so you don’t rust out.

You really can do this!  You can take the first step.  Be the spouse that your children need.  And my prayer is that when you do that day after day, you will find yourself not just “in love” again, but “in like” too!

 

Our Family’s Favorite Bibles

In our home, we think it is very important to read the Bible, but if I’m totally honest with you, with five children, it is a struggle for me to rise early and have time in God’s Word by myself before my kids pile into my room in the morning to wake me up. I do try to read the Word or pray scripture right when I wake up while I nurse Jude, but it usually only lasts a few minutes before someone else cracks open the door and asks to come in.  Sometimes I feel like the second my eyes open, the kids are alerted that Mom’s awake and they must ambush her.  I try to remind myself that someday I will miss this (maybe).

I will say that I do love being in the groove of studying God’s Word.  It’s worth the struggle to crack it open.  It is the only book in the world that is alive!

God’s breath comes out of each page infusing us with wisdom, guidance, and love.  

I know my gas tank needs as much filling of this each morning as possible before the day gets going and life pulls all of it’s demands out of me.  If you’re like me, how do we remedy the fact that we know we need God’s power to get us through the day with patience and love, but struggle to find the time to read it?

One of the ways I’ve found is to read the Bible out loud to the kids while we eat breakfast.  No, it’s not that quiet, reflective time in the Word by myself, but it fills me up in a different way.

I get to see my kids eyes opened to the power of God right in front of me.

I try to prioritize reading out loud to them for about ten minutes while we eat breakfast and then we discuss what we read together.  It’s not long, it’s not technical, it’s just reading and discussing.  I ask questions like, “should Abraham have obeyed God in the call to sacrifice his one and only son or not?”, and “although God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, who actually did sacrifice his one and only son”?  I love seeing their eyes light up as they give me their answers and opinions.

Now, before you continue in picturing these perfect morning Bible sessions at my house, let me take a paint brush and color in the parts you may not have in your picture yet…

Let’s see…I’m rushing to get every one seated at the table before they finish eating and are off and running to the next thing.  Once I start reading, I’m corralling the two-year old back to the table about a dozen times as her God-given design is to never sit still.  Simultaneously, one of the older kids is usually up and down getting Jude more food in is high chair as to stop him from screaming.  Although eventually he doesn’t stop screaming which is my signal to be all done.  And, as of recently, Coco the bird is sitting on the table in front of me eating crumbs and whistling “The Adams Family” over me.  No joke.  Not sure whose idea it was to invite him to the breakfast table.

It’s not a perfect picture.  But, it’s totally worth it to me when we are cleaning up the dishes and I hear the kids dialogue with each other about what it must have been like for Isaac in the moment his dad was tying him up to be sacrificed, and how relieved he must have been when all of a sudden an angel spoke and told his dad there was a sacrifice that God provided instead.

These conversations are important to me because I know they are leaving life long impressions on their hearts.

Currently I am reading the kids the book of Acts out of my Bible, and we just read about the first martyr, Stephen, in chapter 7.  We read about how he said he could see Heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God right before they stoned him.  This particular morning, I read the Bible to them in the play room while they played with toys because I didn’t get to the breakfast table in time to read.  We discussed what that may have meant that Jesus was standing.  The Bible says in other verses like Ephesians 1:20 and Hebrews 10:12 that He is seated at the right hand of God.  Jesus even said of Himself that we will see Him seated at the right hand of God in Heaven.  So I asked, “why was He standing for Stephen”?  We discussed how we show honor to people by standing, or maybe Jesus was so emotional about seeing Stephen being stoned for His sake that He couldn’t help but bolt to His feet.  We then wondered about how often He is seated on His throne in His rightful place and how much He is off playing with the kids in Heaven.  We discussed many other ideas which led to other questions and ideas, and so on.  All while they tossed a ball around and played with toys.  I love the wonder that the Bible opens up, not only for children but for us adults too.

These are conversations I love having with my kids.  I wouldn’t trade them for anything else.

This is one of the many reasons we home school.  I don’t want rushed mornings.  I want mornings together, and time to read God’s Word to them.  If the mornings aren’t a good time for your family, then try the evenings before bed.  If I don’t get to it at breakfast, then I try to read to them at lunch or any other time we are all together, but first thing in the morning seems to be the best for us.

It helps me start off my day encouraged and like I did the most important thing already.

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So, I would like to share with you some of our families favorite Bibles and devotionals.  Some of them I have read to the kids in the mornings, and some of them they have read on their own, but all have enriched the kids Bible knowledge.

“120 Bible Stories” is my favorite one.  I’ve been reading this to the kids for five years.  I usually read it in order, one story from the New Testament and one from the Old Testament. When we finish it, then we start again.  What we love about this one is the pictures on each page are paintings that are very realistic. The kids are glued to the pictures while I read and I like that it helps them identify with the characters because they look realistic instead of like cartoons.  There are questions at the end of each story to ask your kids as well. I highly recommend this Bible.
I like “The Children’s Illustrated Bible” because it has realistic illustrations as well as pictures of Israel peppered throughout that pertain to the story.  My kids really like looking at all the pictures and they spur a lot of conversation about Israel and what life was like during Biblical times.  Because of this, I would say this is my second favorite one.

We like “Friends With God Story Bible” because the illustrations are really good.  It is also written differently in the fact that the stories are told from the perspective of the person. So, Abraham tells his own story from his perspective and so on.  There are also character qualities woven within and questions after each story to ask the children to reflect on.  I have found on several occasions my oldest daughter reading this to my seven-year old at night because they both really like it.

“My ABC Bible Verses” is not a Bible but every page has a Bible verse on it for your family to memorize together.  There is a Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet.  I keep it with whatever Bible we are reading so that we can open it up and recite a verse together on days where I have a little more time.
My two year old likes her own Bible board book, “My Favorite Bible Storybook For Little Ones”.  It has a handle on it for her to carry around, and has hidden flaps to open on each page to keep her hands busy.

This “Jesus Calling” is a devotional that your pre-teens can read on their own.  My son was ten when he read through it at bedtime and he really enjoyed it, and I’m going to have my daughter who is ten begin reading through it as well.

The illustrations in “For Such a Time as This” are absolutely beautiful.  My ten-year old daughter keeps this book in her room.  Every story is about the women of the Bible and is told from their perspective.  She really enjoys it.

“Princess Stories” is another one of stories of the women of the Bible.  I began reading this to my oldest daughter when she was seven, and now she keeps it in her room to look at herself.

“The Big Picture of What God Has Always Wanted” is a really great book for explaining in a simple way the entire Gospel so I wanted to include it.  It explains to your children why Jesus had to come to redeem us and how all God ever wanted was a family. I highly recommend making this a regular read with your kids.
Although not a devotional, “Heaven is for Real” is a great book for getting kids thinking about Heaven.  Told from the perspective of a boy who went to Heaven, my kids enjoy when we read through this together and looking at the pictures. It is a great spring-board for conversation about all the wonderful things and people awaiting us in Heaven.

I thought I would include this one because although I don’t own it yet, I will soon because I think the pictures look wonderful.  I have such a love for well illustrated books!

Well, I hope this list will help get you started with some good Bibles and devotionals to read to your children or grandchildren.  Or possibly as a gift to your niece or nephew at their next birthday, or maybe the perfect baby shower gift.  Whatever the occasion, the investment will not be a waste!  Get those kids started early with a love for God’s Word.  You are sowing seeds that will produce a harvest!

Please let me know some of your favorites too!  Blessings to you and your family!

My Favorite Stress Buster

Sometimes life can feel HEAVY. There are days I feel like a balloon that with each stress throughout the day I inflate a little more.  Can you relate?  I hope you can’t, but if you can…

 What if I told you that I found something that will decompress that stress within thirty seconds?

And the great news is it’s free and so fun.

Let me introduce you to a little thing called dancing. Hurray for dancing!!

Such a simple thing, but I am telling you it has the power to deflate stress, soften a hard countenance, mend a rift, lighten the mood, and make you feel great. Children absolutely love it. They were born to wiggle and bop to music, and they love doing it with their parents.

My two-year old is a dancer at heart. Which is not surprising to me at all because before we got pregnant with her, I prayed that we would have a girl, that she would look like me, and have my personality. I wasn’t even thinking about dance when I asked God for her to be like me, but He’s always into the details. I grew up dancing off and on, and to this day, I absolutely love to dance. I tell God that I will be the one dancing before His throne in Heaven.  I’ll have boundless energy, and I just may never stop!

My man also likes to dance. He’s a mean swing dancer and can toss me around the kitchen floor like a rag doll. He’s also not afraid to jump around in silly ways to make the kids laugh. So if Dad is home, we are all dancing.

We break out in dance parties almost every day at our house. Usually when we are making meals in the kitchen or doing dishes. I always have music playing in the house, but when we are congregating in the kitchen, it’s natural for someone to say to the Echo, “hey Alexa, play…”. Even our two-year old knows how to boss Alexa around.

The tunes start playing, someone turns it up, and we all start shaking our tail feathers.

It’s an AMAZING stress buster! All the things that were pressing on my mind…gone. Any tensions between me and another child…gone. The to-do list…gone. I’m telling you, it’s like medicine to our souls.  Yeah, some of those stresses come back, but at least I got a much needed break from them!

The most magical part is even conflicts between children begin to float away, like we’ve hit the reset button.

“But I don’t like to dance”, you say (gasp!). Well, I would encourage you to break out of your mold a bit. Try something new. It doesn’t matter how you dance, just move to the beat a little. Your kids may raise an eyebrow at you when you first start, but as you get going, they will probably jump in…maybe not some of the teenagers, but that’s okay. At least they are seeing you have fun.

Which leads me to another point…never underestimate the importance of your kids seeing you having fun.

No matter what age they are, they need to see Mom having fun. Bonus would be if they get to see Mom and Dad jumping around laughing together. Those memories leave deep impressions in their minds.

All you have to do is Google stats on how dancing effects health and you will see a long line of benefits including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, while boosting body image, self-esteem, and overall confidence. Wahoo!

My heart behind this post is to encourage you to lighten the mood in your home.  Make your house a fun place to grow up in.

Dancing is a really easy way to make this happen.  You’ll not only bust some stress, you’ll burn some calories, and get a really good laugh while doing it too (and don’t even get me started on the benefits of laughter)!

If you are all alone at the house or live alone, well, there is no reason not to dance your heart out.  Making dinner and doing dishes is so much more fun with a little hip swaying.

I hope I’ve nudged you enough to begin bringing dance into your daily life.  To get you started, here are some of our favorite songs to dance to…

The soundtrack to “The Greatest Showman”. We are listening to this everyday right now. So good!

“Bulletproof” by Citizenway.  The lead singer/songwriter, Ben Calhoun and his wife introduced Kevin and I. Our kids would not exist without Ben and Alison!

“Happy Dance” by Mercy Me. Alison, my friend who married Ben is the lead dancer in the video, so another shout out to the Calhouns!

“Love With Your Life” by Hollyn

“Feel It” by Toby Mac. The music video has fun dancing in it too. My 12-year-old son loves all of Toby Mac’s music. He’s great in concert too!

“Backseat Driver” by Toby Mac & Hollyn  This has been my two-year olds favorite dance song for a year now!

“I Feel So Alive” by Capital Kings.  Honestly, any music by Capital Kings. My 12-year-old son plays their music whenever he’s on dish duty. It helps him move a lot faster, and have fun while he’s working!

“Count Your Rainbows” by 1 Girl Nation.  My 10-year-old daughter likes this band. They are a great example of female artists.

“The Cha-Cha Slide” by DJ Casper.  I’m sure you’ve danced to this at weddings. All my kids like to follow along to this one. He takes you through different dance instructions that are easy to follow, like “left foot stomp, right foot stomp”.

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. Pull up the music video if you want some dance inspiration!

Here’s some oldie but goodies that will be sure to get you moving.  Toddlers seems to love oldies music:

“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets

“Great Balls Of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis

“All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley

“The Twist” by Chubby Checker

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin

“Chantilly Lace” by Big Bopper

“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

“Sherry” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Our two-year old tells Alexa to play this multiple times a day. Even though it has a slower beat, she loves to dance to it.

And what about disco, 80’s, or show tunes? There are so many songs to choose from! Whatever gets you moving!

If you don’t own an Amazon Echo, I would highly recommend it. That is all we use for music in the house anymore. I can just say, “Alexa, play me “Bulletproof” by Citizenway”, and it starts playing! I can play radio stations, as well as ask her lots of different questions like “give me the news briefing”, “what’s the weather like outside?” or Kevin can ask “how long is my traffic commute today?”

But for music, it’s our go-to. If you don’t have one, you can buy one here…

So, what are you waiting for? Bring on the stress buster! Your kids will love it, and I guarantee, after 30 seconds of moving to some beats, you will too.