Tag Archives: Family

Six Rules to a Rock-Solid Relationship

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Joneses

Robby and me on our wedding day six years ago.

This year, Robby and I celebrated our Sixth Wedding Anniversary! (Hand-clap, please.) Before we were married, our friends and family shared some sage advice with us. We added that to what we had picked up along the way and, before we knew it, we had several great rules to live by.

In honor of our sixth anniversary, I’d like to share with you our top six rules for a rock-solid marriage. Some of these can also be applied to relationships with friends and family, so keep reading, even if you’re not married.

 

1. Pick ‘em Right

Robby and I had great peace when we got married because we knew God wanted us to be together. We started our marriage on rock-solid ground because we promised to keep God at the center of our relationship.

Before you say I Do, make sure he’s right for you! How? Pray earnestly and with an open heart. If He tells you to walk away, then do it, knowing that His plans for you are good. (See Jeremiah 29:11.)

A rock-solid relationship has to be built on God, the one true Rock. (See Deuteronomy 32:2.) God has to be the focus of each of your lives in order for your marriage to succeed.

Marry the one you find the least annoying to be around. – Jeremy E.

2. Treat ’em Right

It’s so hard to find time to just be together, but Robby and I have learned to make it work. We don’t always answer the phone when it rings or get the dishes washed after dinner. Sometimes, we have to go out to eat to ensure we’re not distracted by the demands at home. But we do whatever it takes to carve out quality time for one another.

Your spouse is the one person on earth who has vowed to love and cherish you above all others. Don’t take that for granted.

If you’re having real marital problems, sort them out before they get too big to heal. If you’re just starting out, then treat each other with love and respect, and you’ll avoid a lot of heartache.

Just be decent to each other. – Jeremy E.

3. Watch Your Mouth

Robby is the quiet one in our relationship, and I’m more of a hothead. I’ve had to learn to guard my mouth—especially when I’m emotional or tired—so I don’t say something callous or hurtful.

The Bible says the tongue has the power of life and death, for good and evil. (See Proverbs 18:21.) Make sure the words you speak into your marriage are a blessing and not a curse. Tell the truth, but say it in love. Avoid yelling or saying ugly or demeaning things. You can’t just say, “I didn’t really mean that,” and make it go away.

Also—and this is extremely important—never, ever, ever, say “divorce.” Once you say the D word, it becomes an option. Once it’s an option, it’s much more likely to occur.

Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth. – Unknown

4. Give Him Space

Robby and I are both analytical, and we need time to process our thoughts. After hanging out with friends or family, or spending time in town, we like to go to separate corners of the house to “piddle” (that’s “work on house stuff” for those of you not from the South). Sometimes, we’ll just veg in front of the TV. That allows us to be close to one another physically without draining each other mentally.

Give your spouse the space he needs. When you have room to breathe, you’ll enjoy your time together even more.

It’s a good thing that you have different hobbies, so you’re not always on top of one another. – Jeff M.

5. Mystery Alive!

Robby and I agreed early in our relationship to keep the “mystery alive.” That means we don’t do anything really gross in front of the other person, including belching, passing gas, going to the bathroom, spitting, or picking our teeth. (I still can’t understand why some people do this stuff in front of their spouse. How do they go from gross to intimate? I don’t get it.)

If you want a strong relationship, keep the gross stuff to yourself as much as possible. This isn’t about being fake but about being courteous. You’ll respect each other more, and it’ll be easier to be romantic on a daily basis.

Mystery alive! – Me

6. When in Doubt

I can honestly say I’ve never doubted Robby’s faithfulness. I know he loves me and would never do anything to hurt our relationship. In the few instances when I couldn’t reach him by phone, or he came home later than usual, it never crossed my mind that he was doing something inappropriate.

A strong marriage is built on trust. That means you should always give each other the benefit of the doubt. When he’s late and he hasn’t called yet, or when he doesn’t text you back right away, don’t assume that he’s out doing something wrong. If you really trust him, then you trust his actions when he’s not around you.

Happy couples give each other the benefit of the doubt. – Topic of several studies, books, and articles.

 

What are some rules you live by in your marriage? Please share them here to encourage others. Thanks!

 

 

Called to the Sidelines

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Thanks so much to author Bethany Jett for hosting this week’s blog, Called to the Sidelines, on her site, BethanyJett.com! The following is an excerpt; to read the full blog, click here. For more on Bethany, see below.

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Instead of our marriage being the well-timed relay race I had imagined, it was more like a three-legged race—with Robby carrying most of the weight. Or, on my worst days, he was doing all the running by himself, while I sat on the sidelines. I felt like asking God, “What value am I adding to this marriage?”

It has taken me years to understand what God has been doing in my life….

I no longer take good days for granted, but I don’t worry over the bad days, either. I know that Robby cares more about my wellbeing than what I can do for him. And we both know that God will get us through whatever hardships may come our way.

To read the full blog, click here.

 


More on Bethany Jett:

I met Bethany at the Florida Christian Writers Conference in 2015, and she blew me away with her contagious joy. She’s the kind of person you just want to be friends with. A few months later, I joined her Serious Writer Academy, and she helped me get prepared for the 2016 writers conference (not a small feat). I then read Bethany’s book, The Cinderella Rule, and I wished I had read it when I was younger.

If you know any teenage girls, you definitely want to get them The Cinderella Rule. If you’re married, you may want to follow Bethany’s blog where she posts about faith and family. And if you’re a writer, check out her writing resources, from her Academy to the Build Your Brand program.  This is definitely one author you want to know.

Lessons from a Big Sister

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I watched a silly movie this weekend called Center Stage: Turn it Up. It was about a young dancer from Detroit named Kate who’s trying to get into a prestigious dance academy in New York. Of course, it’s not that easy, and when she doesn’t get in she decides to give up and move back home.

My little sister, Madeline, and her little dog Nora.

My little sister, Madeline, and her little dog Nora.

But when her little sister Bella comes to visit, she encourages Kate to try out for an open audition and – spoiler alert – she gets the lead part in a big production. There’s some boyfriend drama throughout the movie, too, but it’s the little sister who deserves the credit for pushing and prodding her big sis to be a big success.

As a big sister, this resonates with me. I know what it’s like to have someone look up to me and truly believe that I can do anything and be anything I want. Like in the movie, I think my little sisters and brother deserve a lot of credit for pushing me to be who I am today.

But I got to thinking – do these life lessons as a big sister have an application to my spiritual walk with God? I think so!

Church Family

The Bible frequently refers to believers as being members of the same spiritual family.

Mark 3:32-35, NKJ   And a multitude was sitting around Him [Jesus]; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

Within that spiritual family, we are all “middle children” because there are always people around us who are more mature in the faith (our “big brothers and sisters”) and those who are less mature (our “little brothers and sisters”).

We are taught to love all our brothers and sisters.

1 John 4:21, NKJ  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

We also know that should we respect and learn from those who are more mature in the faith than we are. You may have heard these people referred to as “spiritual fathers,” but we could just as well use the term “big brother” or “big sister.”

But what about those who are younger in the faith? Surely, we shouldn’t look down on them because they’re not as mature as we are. You wouldn’t expect a 4-year old to know how to act in a swanky dinner party, would you? No, because that’s beyond his years. Just like in the natural world, spiritual maturity is a process that takes time and builds on a person’s experiences.

Paul (a spiritual big brother if there ever was one) teaches us in Ephesians that the church should support all its members, lovingly helping one another to grow in maturity so that we might mirror Jesus:

Ephesians 4:11-16, NAS (emphasis mine)  And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.  

 

Lessons from a Big Sister

So, if we’re all spiritual brothers and sisters, what can we learn from our natural siblings? I’d say quite a lot.

My little sister, Janet.

My little sister, Janet.

Here’s a list of seven lessons I’ve learned being a big sis (aka a “Big”). I’ve added notes on how we might apply these lessons to our spiritual lives, specifically with how we interact with those less mature (aka our “Littles”).

  1. Lesson Learned – You don’t get to choose if or when you’ll have Littles. Much to your chagrin, this is totally up to your parents.

Spiritual Application – God picks the people in your life, whether they’re Littles or Bigs. Trust that He has His reasons.

  1. Lesson Learned – No matter how cute they are, or how much you train them, Littles are not dolls or pets. They have a mind of their own and they will do what they want when they want.

Spiritual Application – Ditto.

  1. Lesson Learned – Littles are, by definition, younger and less mature than you. They cannot go to school or work with you or hang out late with your friends. They may not understand everything you say, and they may actually embarrass you from time to time. In short, they may not be cool like you.

Spiritual Application – Littles are less mature than you, so they may not always act in a way that you consider “proper” or “appropriate.” That’s alright; they’re just not there yet.

  1. Lesson Learned – Due to reasons stated in number 2 and 3 above, Littles may eventually tear up your favorite shirt / game / computer / phone / entire room. No matter what, your parents will not allow you to sell them through a newspaper ad, give them away to your neighbors, or lock them out of the house.

Spiritual Application – Littles may do things that hurt you, themselves, or others, but they are still your Littles. Remember number 1 above: God put them in your life for a reason.

  1. Lesson Learned – For some reason, your Littles may think you can do anything from winning the spelling bee to becoming the youngest millionaire in state history. They may also think that you are perfect and can do no wrong.

Spiritual Application – Littles can look up to you to the point of idolizing you. Beware of this. Only through your humility and transparency can you help set them straight and refocus them on the One who is really perfect, Jesus.

  1. Lesson Learned – Depending on age and hormone levels, your Littles may hate you and think that you can do nothing right. This seems to contradict with 5 above – which it does – but somehow these two phenomena can seem to occur simultaneously. Usually, space and time help to resolve the problem.

Spiritual Application – Littles can become frustrated with themselves, you, God, and life in general. Don’t take it personally. Give them some space and let them seek direction from the one true Guide, the Holy Spirit.

  1. Lesson Learned – Eventually, your Littles will grow up, go to school, move out, and have families of their own – perhaps even sooner than you. When this happens, you’ll need to adjust to the way you relate with them. In some aspects they may be your equal, but in others they may have moved past you. You’ll have to humble yourself so you can appreciate all they have to offer.

Spiritual Application – A Little may mature faster than you in some areas. Humble yourself so you can appreciate the knowledge and experiences they can share with you. Above all else, resist the urge to compare yourself to them, which can lead to frustration and envy.

The Parent Lesson

My "little" brother, Ridge.

My “little” brother, Ridge.

As we grow up, we learn that Mom and Dad are the ones in control. They’re the ones carrying the burden of the really hard stuff like bills, putting food on the table, and making sure everyone in the family has everything they need. We know that we can make mistakes because our parents love us no matter what and will be there for us.

Isn’t that why God refers to Himself as our spiritual Father? Aren’t these the lessons He wants us to understand and apply to our relationship with Him? Whether we’re the Big or the Little, we should rest in the knowledge that God has it all under control; He’s orchestrating our very steps; and He’s calling us to grow and mature in our relationship with Him.

 

Romans 8:28, NAS   And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Pretty cool, huh? Now, go call your brothers and sisters and say thanks. I’m sure they deserve it.

[A special thanks to Madeline, Janet, and Ridge – my Littles – for always pushing me to be a better person.]

Don’t Weed Out The Good Volunteers

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Don’t Weed Out the Good Volunteers Sometimes, I lovingly refer to my husband as “Farmer Jones.” He comes from a family of farmers and gardeners, so it’s no surprise that he has dirt in his blood. Although we live in the city, Robby started a small raised garden in our yard last year. He loves everything about farming and gardening, from tilling the land to harvesting. So far, we’ve enjoyed our own green beans, kale, broccoli, cabbage, and carrots; and they were all delicious! I told him if he’ll grow it, I’ll cook it. A week ago, Robby mentioned a tall weed that he had allowed to grow in the middle of the garden bed. A few days later, Farmer Jones announced that his weed had bloomed – into a sunflower! I walked out there with him and, sure enough, the sunflower was about 5 feet tall!

Robby with his volunteer sunflower. (Photo by Ashley Jones, 2015)

Robby with his volunteer sunflower. (Photo by Ashley Jones, 2015)

He was so proud – and I was amazed! It’s one thing to grow what you planted, but it’s something entirely different to grow something you didn’t plant! I knew that Farmer Jones tends his garden daily, and he couldn’t have known it was a sunflower at first. So, I asked him why he hadn’t weeded it. “I thought I’d leave it alone until I knew what it was,” he said. “Really?” He smiled, thinking back to his childhood. “Mom always says that: ‘Let’s leave it alone until we know what it is.’” I’ve loved Mrs. Jones since the first time I met her, but she went up another notch in my book when Robby said that. Mrs. Jones is a wonderful woman who has worked hard for her family for many years, both inside and outside of the home. She learned gardening from her parents, and her mother is still passionate about her garden (at 94!). They all passed on their knowledge to Robby. But more than that, they instilled in him a love for it, and an appreciation that it is really God who produces the harvest. (1 Corinthians 3:6) Mrs. Jones’ garden won’t be found on Pinterest, though. It’s not laid out in a perfect design, tortuously weeded and pruned. No, her garden has a comfortable, welcoming feel to it. If a wayward flower or vegetable is found – which they refer to lovingly as a “volunteer” – it is kept and given room to grow. Family and friends rejoice in even the smallest of harvests. (“I put up 10 quarts of beans this year!”) But it’s those “volunteer” flowers and vegetables that are most precious, as if they are little gifts planted by God. (“But let me tell about our volunteer squash! It just popped up!”) I realized that Robby’s garden is the same. Yes, it had started with a square raised bed, but now the squash vines are pouring over the ground, and the beans have jumped their boundaries. It’s lovingly kept, but it’s allowed to grow as God wills, surprises and all. I’ve learned that volunteer plants make their way to us in different ways: 1. Hitchhikers – Seeds hidden in soil or compost that grow when planted, like our squash that was buried in the soil we transplanted from elsewhere; 2. Leftovers – Seeds or plants that are planted one year and then pop up unexpectedly later on, like the bulbs planted by our home’s previous owners that still bloom for us every spring; 3. Paratroopers – Seeds that fall from above or float on the breeze, like our sunflower that was probably dropped by a bird that had lunched on our bird feeder. In our lives, we often get comfortable with God and begin to assume that we know more than we do…like what God wants to do, what He is doing, what His plan is for us. We build a pretty box around our lives and try to put Him in it. Then, when something unexpected comes along, something that doesn’t seem to belong, we pluck it out, cut it down, or poison it to death. We never realize the joy of the unexpected thing God wanted to show us or do through us. It’s true that, as Christians, we need to be careful to guard our hearts and minds, for not every weed is a good one. However, we should never guard ourselves against God. Are there weeds of opportunity in our life? Are there hidden talents in you that need tending? Have others sowed into your community, leaving you to reap the harvest and see the reward? (John 4:38) Are new opportunities dropping in your lap that you need to take seriously? Are there people around you who need your care? Seek the Lord, and ask Him if you’ve disregarded one of His treasures as a “weed.” If so, seek forgiveness and broaden your view of who God is and how He wants to move in your life. Just as the gardener must wait to see what the weed really is – and may even have to learn how to care for the strange flower or vegetable – seek the Lord and wait for His Spirit to give you knowledge and wisdom on what to do.

Our volunteer sunflower. (Photo by Ashley Jones, 2015)

Our volunteer sunflower. (Photo by Ashley Jones, 2015)

Remember, the sunflower likes to follow the light of the sun. So, too, must we follow the light of the Son, Jesus Christ.


1 Corinthians 3:5-9, NAS What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. John 4:35-38, NAS “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest ‘? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

A Legacy

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A Legacy

My class was given an assignment one day in middle school: to list all the things we wanted to accomplish before we died. I know, it sounds morbid, but it was really fun. We listed things like climb Mt. Everest, bungee jump off the bridge in San Francisco, scuba dive off the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the family-focused kids even said they wanted to get married and have kids. Of course, we all wanted to win the lottery, have amazing jobs, and make millions of dollars. We wanted excitement, respect, and an easy life.

Later, we had another assignment: to write our own funeral eulogies. I don’t know why our teacher was so focused on death that semester, but this one really got us thinking. What would we want people to say about us when we were gone? Sure, we wanted to be remembered for being fun and having great adventures. But in light of the finality of our pretend deaths, that all began to seem pretty small. Instead, we started listing things like:She was a loving daughter and caring mother.

– She was always there when her friends and family needed her.
– She was generous, giving of her time and money to charities that made a difference in her community.
– She always had a smile and a helping hand for everyone she met.
– She made a real difference inventing ___ or curing ___.

I tried to remember this lesson, but it’s easy to forget the eternal impact of a temporary life. It’s also easy to think that we’ll do something grand, or act a certain way, as soon as we feel better, have more money, the days get longer, people get nicer, etc., etc. Then I was faced with this lesson on a more personal level.

I worked with my grandmother at a cookie shop our family owned for eight years. During that time, I saw her give away food to countless homeless people. I also saw her sneak cookies and hugs to the kids she had served during a previous job at a school cafeteria. Given the chance, Grandma saw to it that no one in that mall lacked food, a smile, a hug, or even a prayer.

By most standards, Grandma’s life was simple. It wasn’t until after she was gone that we began to really learn of all the lives she had touched. One particular example always comes to mind, though I heard it second-hand from my grandfather. As the story goes, he was in a barber shop shortly after Grandma passed. The man next to him asked his barber if he had heard that the Cookie Lady (as Grandma was affectionately known) had recently died. They both seemed saddened by the news. The man then told his barber that Grandma had saved his marriage. Apparently, they had fallen on hard times, and somehow he had gotten to talking about it with Grandma at the cookie shop. In her gentle way, she must have encouraged him, probably prayed with him, and ultimately played a part in bringing them back together. My grandfather never told him who he was; he just sat there and basked in the moment, proud that she had been his wife.

Grandma had that way about her. She loved everyone without reason, other than her Jesus had said that she should. She always thought the best of people, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Whenever wronged, she forgave quickly and easily. I have no idea how many people Grandma loved into the Kingdom of God, but I know the ripples of those actions continue still.

Grandma never climbed a mountain, went to Hollywood, or graced the cover of a magazine (though she could have done all those things). She didn’t leave us large amounts of money or jewels or fame. But Grandma did leave us a priceless inheritance: her legacy. That’s something that all of us look up to, aspire to attain, and plan to pass to our loved ones once when we’re gone.


Are you so focused on what you want to get out of life that you’re forgetting to make a difference in it? What kind of impact do you want to make on your world? Ask the Lord what kind of legacy He wants you to leave behind. You’re never too young or too old to start building it today.

Memories fill an empty porch in Sopchoppy, FL. Photo by Ashley Jones.

Memories fill an empty porch in Sopchoppy, FL. Photo by Ashley Jones.