Tag Archives: Relationships

To Guard Your Marriage, Guard Your Tongue

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Thanks to Kristen Hogrefe for hosting this week’s blog on her site, KristenHogrefe.com! Be sure to check out her site for more godly encouragement.


 

As you may know, Kristen just tied the knot with a great guy (woo hoo!). Now, I know she’s overwhelmed with newlywed life, and she’s being bombarded with advice she probably didn’t ask for. Still, as the “big sister,” I feel the need to share the following bit of wisdom I’ve learned over the course of eight years of marital bliss:

To guard your marriage, guard your tongue.

Here are a few practical ways to bless your marriage through your speech.

 

1 – Don’t be Ugly

One day your hubby will spill his drink on your beautiful new couch, forget your anniversary, or run over your favorite rose bush with the lawn mower. In that moment, you’ll want to scream at him for being careless, forgetful, lazy, or just plain mean—but don’t do it! Instead, take a breath. If that’s not enough, take a hot shower, put on your comfy jammies, and blast the BeeGees.

Remember that this is your partner in life. You’re on the same team. Then sit him down, make sure you have his attention, and tell him how you feel. Even then, don’t yell or say anything ugly because you’ll regret it later.

“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 NAS).

 

2 – Don’t be Critical

Reality check: your hubby will never cook, clean, or take care of the kids the way you do. He is a man, after all, and men always approach these things a bit different than we do. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t help around the house or that his quality of work should be less than yours. However, when you see him wipe up a disgusting mess on the floor with your dish towel, take a breath. (There’s a lot of breathing in marriage. Go ahead and practice counting to 10 now.)

Start by thanking your hubby for cleaning up the mess. After all, if he were still living alone, it would probably stay on the floor for a long, long time. Then say something like, “Hey, honey, I like to use those towels for the dishes, so it’s probably best not to use them on the floor. Let’s use paper towels next time, okay?”

If your hubby understands why you do things a certain way, he’ll be more apt to follow your lead. But be careful here! If you correct everything he does, you’ll become overly critical, and he’ll start to tune you out. No one wants to be a nag (or live with one), so pick your battles wisely.

“It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman” (Proverbs 21:9 NAS).

 

3 – Keep His Secrets

As soon as you get married, you learn little things about your new hubby. Some might make you giggle—like his penchant for bubble baths after a rough week. Others may make you cringe—like when his frugality leads him to buy frozen steaks from the dollar store. You may feel the desire to share these little secrets with your mom or best friend, but don’t! Marriage is a sacred union of two, and when you share your hubby’s secrets with others, you let them into your marriage…and nothing good comes from that. Enjoy this time as you get to know your new hubby, and assure him that he can trust you with his heart as well as his little quirks.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip” (Proverbs 20:19 NAS).

 

4 – Speak in Love

While it’s important to avoid negative speech with your hubby, it’s just  as important to fill your conversations with positive speech. Is he worried about work? Tell him that you’re proud of him and that you’re praying for peace and new opportunities. Did he spend all day planting new flowers for you? Tell him how much you appreciate his hard work and how great the yard looks (but avoid mentioning the fact that he ran over the last batch of flowers). This isn’t about platitudes but about finding something good, something sweet to say to the one you love.

“A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4 NAS).

 

Those are four different ways you can guard your tongue—but that’s easier said than done. The apostle James had this to say about it:

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:8 NAS).

That’s less than encouraging, right? So what is the answer?

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:1-3 NAS).

The truth is that we can’t control our tongues through our own efforts, but if we submit ourselves—including our speech—to the Lord, He will give us the strength and desire to do so. Here’s a simple prayer you can repeat as often as needed:

“Lord, please guard my marriage by placing a guard over my tongue. Keep me from saying things that would hurt our relationship, and give me the humility to speak in love and kindness. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

7 Life Lessons from Bugs of Fire and Light

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A few years ago, Robby and I had the pleasure of joining our friends Paul and Mary in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was during the month of May, and I was thrilled to experience something that had been on my bucket list for years: to see the fireflies. Since I’m from the South, I’m quite familiar with fireflies (aka lightning bugs), but I had read that these amazing insects would gather by the thousands in certain areas in the mountains. Not only would they signal to one another by flashing on and off, but they would actually blink in unison. I could only imagine what a field looked like with thousands of lightning bugs blinking on and off throughout the night.

So when Paul and Mary asked us if we wanted to share their cabin for a few days and join them in watching the lightning bugs, we jumped at the opportunity!

Now, the park in which the fireflies congregate has worked out quite a system. You have to park a couple miles away, take a shuttle to a designated area, and then walk about half a mile to the clearing where the fireflies perform their nightly ritual. The tours were well-organized…and advertised. By the time we tried to purchase our tickets, all of the tours were booked. And since the lightning bugs only perform their dance for a few weeks out of the year, it looked like we were going to miss them entirely.

We were so close and yet so far from those illusive fireflies.

Not to be outdone, though, Paul and Mary asked around. The locals told them about a different, lesser-known spot, on the other side of the mountain where the official tours took place. We just had to drive there and walk up the mountain a bit. No big deal.

I should mention that Paul and Mary were in their 70s, and Paul had hurt his knee earlier that week. I was a bit concerned for them when I heard we had to do some walking, but they assured me they’d be fine.

With restrained excitement, we drove to the park’s back entrance right before sunset. As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw something else on my bucket list: a big black bear. I’d wanted to see one in the wild since I was a kid, and this one was lumbering through the picnic area only a couple hundred yards away. I was thrilled to see him so close, but it reminded me that bears called this mountainside home. And we were about to walk right through that home…in the dark. Sure, we had flashlights, but we couldn’t see the fireflies with our lights on, so we’d be feeling our way up the mountain road.

I was slightly disconcerted, but we were not to be dissuaded. So up we went. Fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes. And still we walked. Paul and Mary did fine, but my knees were starting to feel the strain. And it was dark…really dark…on the side of that mountain. My imagination ran wild as I wondered if every sound was a bear poking its nose through the trees to get a better look at us. Although the locals supposedly knew about this place, no one else was around save for a handful of intrepid climbers. I began to wonder if someone had played a trick on us…or sent us into a trap. And yet we continued to hike—for now it felt like a full-on hike.

The humble lightning bug by day.

To make matters worse, we only saw a few lightning bugs here and there. They were nice, but there was hardly enough to create the blinking-in-unison effect I was looking for. There had been rumors that more fireflies were higher up the mountain, though, so we continued to climb, and I prayed that our adventure wouldn’t end in disappointment.

Finally, at the site of an old abandoned cemetery, we saw what appeared to be lightning bugs, but they behaved differently than the ones I was used to. Instead of flying around in the air, blinking on and off, they stayed “lit” for a long time and hovered just a couple inches above the ground. Their light was a soft glow, slightly green in color. As they circled around the brush and crumbling tomb stones, I imagined so many miniature creatures, going about their evening tasks holding tiny lanterns to illumine the way. Although this wasn’t what I had longed to see, the site was surreal and lovely, and I was glad we had made the trip.

Finally, we started the long trek down the mountain. As we turned a bend, suddenly the sky lit up with hundreds of little white fireworks, each a cluster of dozens of fireflies. They danced above us in the trees. They floated down the side of the mountain, which dropped precipitously into a creek below us, once invisible but now seen in the crackling light of the lightning bugs. They even flew up to us, curious about the visitors who dared the night to join them in their dance.

I looked down at my feet and saw the same greenish lights I had seen in the cemetery. They crawled along the grass and played along a short wooden bridge that connected the path.

Solid green lights below us and brilliant flashes all around us. It was if we were floating in the darkness of night, surrounded by living stars that danced to a song only they could hear. This was more than “blinking-in-unison.” This was better than seeing fireflies from a distance. This was more than we could have hoped for or imagined.

We were speechless as we stood in awe of the magic of it all.

Since then, I’ve thought about researching the types of fireflies to learn more about the ones we saw that night. But it seems that knowledge would only detract from the mystery of the experience. So now, I like to think of the ones with the greenish light as fireflies and the ones that blinked with such enthusiasm as lightning bugs. I feel honored to be able to make such a distinction.

Not only did I have a memorable adventure, and I crossed off an item on my bucket list, but I also learned a lot that night.

  1. Make sure you have friends who are older and more stubborn and adventurous than you. They’ll encourage you to shoot for your dreams when you would otherwise give up.
  2. Life is still beautiful and breath-taking, but sometimes you have to seek it out.
  3. The most amazing experiences are often just around the bend, but you have to make the effort to get there.
  4. When life is the darkest, a single light is all the more brilliant and inspiring.
  5. If a little bug can light up the world, then so can we.
  6. The difficult, little-known path—where fewer people dare to tread—is where all the amazing things really happen. So forget the bus and take the hike.
  7. Yes, there are bears in the woods. Say your prayers, keep your distance, and keep on trekking.

Perhaps the ultimate lesson is that God is not afraid to give us more than we can imagine. He’s not a stingy God. Instead, He’s an over-the-top, wild, fully-alive, fun-loving, merriment-making kind of God who created little bugs that flash in the dark. And this is the same God who rejoices over us. Make sure your heart aligns with Him, then pray for your heart’s desire. You’ll be surprised what He can come up with!

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NAS).

No Halfs or Steps About It

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Sister Meets Sister

I met my younger sister Janet when I was 17.

I remember being nervous as I got out of the car and looked up at this beautiful, vivacious 15 year old. What do you say in such an auspicious meeting? Would there be tears or resentment? Would we even like each other?

Janet and me in our first meeting.

I think I said “Hi.”

She didn’t skip a beat. “Hi! Ooh, I like your nail color!”

I looked down at my purple frosted toe nails. Then I noticed her nail color in a similar hue. “I like yours, too.”

We both smiled. We hugged. We visited for hours.

I don’t remember everything we talked about that day, but we agreed we wanted to be in each other’s lives. I was happy to have another sister, and—as it turns out—Janet had always wanted an older sister. (Go figure!)

Thankfully, someone took photos of our visit that day. It’s amazing to see us standing the same way, sitting the same way, and laughing the same way. There was simply no denying that we were sisters.

 

Mom Meets Sister

Janet and I share the same father but have different mothers. And though my mother is full of grace, accepting your ex’s daughter into your family is a bit of a stretch for anyone. Would Mom be okay with me hanging out with Janet? Would it be best to not talk about Janet in front of Mom? I was in uncharted territory, and there didn’t seem to be any good answers.

Not long after I met Janet, we were all together at some sort of family function. I can’t even remember what the occasion was, but I do remember the outcome: Mom turned to me and, with some emotion in her voice, said of Janet, “How could I not love her? She reminds me so much of you.”

My mother’s compassion and love for me is not limited to me alone; it extends to those I love. From the day Mom opened her arms to Janet, our entire family has embraced her, and now we welcome her husband and children (which makes me an aunt!). We also welcome other relatives who aren’t really related to us at all, from the families of in-laws and step-parents to just great friends. That’s because Mom has set a standard that the rest of our family follows. We don’t say “half-sister” or “step-father;” we’re just family, no halfs or steps about it.

 

Redeemed Meets Redeemer

Acceptance—true acceptance, filled with love and genuine affection—is a hard thing to find. It makes me think of the time I rededicated my life to the Lord.

I imagine the day my spirit stood before God, the darkness of my sins and rebellion replaced with the brightness of the Holy Spirit in me and the robe of righteousness covering me. I imagine the Father turning to the Son and saying, with great emotion, “How could I not love her? She reminds me so much of You.”

That’s how salvation works. When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice, we are made alive. And as we live for God, His brightness in us testifies to others that we are His. There’s simply no denying our relationship with Him.

As if that weren’t enough, God then welcomes us into His family, not as interlopers—not as “the girl who doesn’t belong” or “the guy who doesn’t deserve to be here”—but as full-fledged members of God’s eternal, holy family.

We are more than redeemed; we are accepted, and we are loved!

Have you accepted Jesus into your heart? Then rejoice that you belong in God’s eternal family…no halfs or steps about it!

 

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