Friday, January 22, 2010

the formula for a happy marriage


Recently, Chuck and I invited my cousin Christopher and his wife, Ingrid, over for an impromptu dinner where I cooked parmesan tilapia, asparagus and potatoes, finishing with a yummy (but healthy) pear crisp for dessert. After dinner, we moved downstairs to our family room to play Wii bowling amongst other Wii games.

Throughout the evening, no matter how well Ingrid would bowl, Christopher would compliment her and lift her up. If Ingrid bowled a strike, Christopher would celebrate her achievement. If Ingrid bowled a gutter ball, Christopher would tell her how much he loved her and how beautiful she was to him. No matter how successful or unsuccessful Ingrid's gaming abilities proved, Christopher made sure to extend his full attention to his lovely wife while encouraging her to keep on. And Ingrid, filled to the brim with Christopher's love, responded in like. It was a wonderful relationship to witness.

After the party was over, Chuck and I were reflecting on the evening. I commented on how nice it was to see another husband who openly revered his wife rather than ignore or talk down to her. Equally so, it was wonderful to see a wife receive her husband's love and treasure him without focusing on his faults and/or being discontent with something about his character. In a world peppered with divorce and marital strife, such a relationship is indeed a rarity.

Yes, our evening with Christopher and Ingrid proved delightful and inspiring. It was a small but significant testament to what real love should look like between a husband and wife. In fact, it made me start to think about how I receive Chuck... not only in social gatherings, but overall.

Do I remember to show him respect and honor his headship? Do I make a point to share with him how much I treasure who he is in ways that he can see, hear, taste, feel, etc.? Do I love him more than I love pointing out his sin or finding fault in his character? Am I content to leave his shortcomings aside and give his life over to God to protect and influence? In fact, do I pray for him? Do I support him and care for him enough to frequently point out God's goodness in our lives? Do I share biblical truth with him regularly? Do I set a good example by living and speaking to and about him as my Savior would? Do I inform him of what I need or desire without playing games or complicating matters? Do I choose my words wisely rather than poisoning the air with nagging or excessive talking? Do I manage my emotions and remain fair and non-judgemental in our dealings? Do I intentionally make myself as attractive as possible for his sake rather than others? Do I always receive him and speak romantically to him while actively guarding and warning him against others who may wish to see him fall away from God's grace? Have I taken the time to learn about what he is interested in? Do I care about the things He cares about? Is he the most important person in my life, second only to Christ? Have I sacrificed myself for his sake, just as my Savior did for me? Do I reject and stand against his sin, but love Him more than I love my own self? Am I willing to lay down my own hopes, dreams, expectations in order to help my husband grow closer to The Almighty? And whether he chooses to receive me or not... whether he loves me in return... whether he holds true to his role or maintains his responsibility as the head of our household... do I still show up every day with a holy resolve to be his co-pilot... his helpmate?

We are told in Ephesians 5 to submit to our husbands the same way we submit our lives to the Lord. "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit their lives to their husbands in everything." In short, God clearly instructs wives to respect and submit to their husbands.

Now, I know in reading this, many women will come ready to argue against the men that have failed them in their role as husband. Many will spit venom at me for using the word "submit". But, to be fair, let's consider the husbands role too. Scripture says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself." (Ephesians 5:25-33a)

When I read the Lord's command to husbands in Ephesians, all I see is submission. Husbands must love their wives. They must give themselves up so that they are able to help their wife become more and more holy. They must give her the room to become radiant, dripping in Jesus' beauty. They must treat their wives as they would treat themselves... caring for her, loving her, cleaving to her. Yes, it seems to me that both husbands and wives are bound by the same set of rules in how we are to relate to one another... how we were meant to treat one another... how we are to lay down our lives sacrificially for one another and uphold Jesus as our primary role model - - not only in our marriages... but in our lives.

This is the formula for a happy marriage - a biblical partnership. However, when one party does not hold up their end of submission and sacrifice, it does not mean that God's perfect plan should be thrown out the window. No, God has a reason for every marriage... for every life. To turn from His prescribed way and drop the ball on our covenant to Him and each other (irrespective of our spouse's actions) is unhealthy. Think about it... where would we be if our Savior dropped the ball on us whenever we didn't deliver? No, that is not how Jesus treats us... so it should not be how we treat our mates. No matter what we do, Jesus will ALWAYS seek after His beloved. Jesus loves us. He will always love us and will always strive for us to be with Him. Period. Without Jesus' faithfulness, we would be doomed to death and corruption. Without our Savior, we would be lost and hopeless. No, Jesus clearly hates hates hates divorce and division. Jesus is about building relationships. Jesus is about intimacy and closeness with God and each other. Why else would he emphasize the first two commandments to love God first and to love each other as we would love ourselves? Jesus shows up engaged and at the ready to be our spiritual helpmate. He is on our side always. If we "bowl a strike" and succeed in His Name, He celebrates our achievement with us. If we fall short and "bowl a gutter ball", He still holds true and tells us how much He loves us... how beautiful and precious we are to Him. Jesus' love for us is unconditional and His commitment to us is eternal. Jesus will always help us, encourage us, and teach us how to get closer and closer to The Almighty Father. His is the example we must follow and mirror. When we recognize this... when we follow His way... when we are filled to the brim with His secure love and leadership, we can become living witnesses and showcase His unchanging love to our spouses, our families, our friends, our co-workers, our world.

The questions shown above that both Chuck and I now regularly ask concerning our own marriage, are honest questions that all husbands and wives should biblically seek and sacrificially respond to daily. They are building blocks for each of us to measure our hearts independently and as a partnership while we seek to follow God's selfless way of life.

Ladies, I encourage every married DW to consider how you submit to your spouse. How you love and respect them. Ask yourself, does your husband see Jesus' delightful and inspiring way of life when he witnesses your own words or deeds? Are you a living testimony that represents your Redeemer's sacrificial heart and eternal commitment? Do you love your closest neighbor, your spouse, as you would love yourself? Are you resolved to lay down your life to serve the person you once claimed as your best friend... the one you swore before God to be bound to in marriage while living on this earth? For that is what marriage is - a holy union of two people living as one and representing God's love and union to His church. If you claim Jesus as your Heavenly Husband, should you not mirror His love to your earthly husband?

Please think about it. Please act on it. Please, please follow Jesus way and live it.

Love you all! Blessings!

Blog Post Written By Victoria Anderson
Copyright © 2010 The Devoted Woman, A Non Profit Corporation

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

mancala

Many of you have already visited The Devoted Woman Website and have read my dedication made in loving memory to my dear Grandmother who passed away in 2008. However, I wanted to share with you something that happened as frequent as this past month where my grandmother's life and love once again blessed me.

You see, over a decade ago when Chuck and I first got married, Grandma bought us a beautiful African stone game called Mancala. Upon receiving her gift, my hubby and I thanked Grandma for thinking of us and included it with the many different board games we both brought into our new marriage. However, as the years passed, we never seemed to find the time to play Grandma's Mancala game.

For years, I would notice the box sitting in our family room game cabinet. Sometimes, I would take the game out of it's box and admire the workmanship of it's beautiful base and smooth stones, but never would I actually stop and learn how to play the game. At times, I even considered re-gifting it so that someone else could enjoy Mancala. Fortunately, I could never bring myself to do that... mainly because I knew my Grandmother always bought gifts with great purpose and gave much thought to those that would be receiving her offering. I also knew that back in the day, when my Grandfather was still alive, he and my Grandmother would enjoy playing games together, as a couple, just about every singe day of their marriage. Long before the days of video games and what-not, Grandma and Grandpa always had a new game to recommend. Whether a board game, card game or domino game, our family would take note to learn whatever they endorsed... because the game would always prove to be the most FUN!

Over this past holiday, Chuck and I had to go into the office and wait for an important package to be delivered for one of our key customer accounts. Mind you, it was a day that our entire office was originally supposed to be on holiday. In fact, the business was technically closed between Christmas and the New Year. So of course, neither one of us wanted to return into work. We'd rather be home playing, relaxing. But, since Chuck runs the office, we had to go in and take care of the matter. To make us drag our heels all the more, it turned out to be a day when our area received a few inches of snow. We knew the ETA of our oversees shipment would surely be delayed as our delivery driver would be battling slippery road conditions. With the understanding that we would be sitting there for some time, Chuck and I decided to make it a game/movie day - just the two of us goofing off in the office. My hubby setup a projector to his laptop that would play movies on a white board screen in our conference room. It was clever and fun to grab a few board games, some popcorn for munching, and enjoy a "secret" play day together as we "holed up" at work. As you have probably surmised, one of the games we grabbed was Grandma's Mancala game.

Determined to finally learn it, we sat down and played a few practice rounds while referring back to it's instructions. After a few wins on either side, Chuck and I realized how much we absolutely loved playing the game together. Since that day, Mancala has been given a predominant place of status in the center of our dining table. Chuck and I go to great lengths to find time to creatively fit in a game between cooking times, phone calls, etc. We have downloaded a Mancala application to both our phones so we can also play whenever we are waiting on hold, in line at the bank, passing halftime of a football game, etc. etc. etc. We love Mancala!

Thank you, Grandma!

Yesterday, I was reading the words of Jesus in Luke 18 during my devotions. I paused when I got to verse 17 because it reminded me of this whole Mancala story.

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17)

Now, I know you are wondering, how on earth does that relate to the Mancala story, Victoria? Well, I got to thinking about Jesus words and how a little child receives a gift they truly want. How they rip off the wrapping paper with gusto and start singing and dancing around the room in delight when they realize it is really theirs. How they jump in head first to know everything there is to know about the gift and center all their time around enjoying it. I thought about this, and then I thought about how Chuck and I first received Grandma's gift of Mancala. How we acknowledged it, said thank you for it, but never really got into it. How we allowed it to sit on the shelf and collect dust rather than spend time enjoying it.

Ladies, please think about Jesus words again, "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." This is a very specific way that Christ expects us to receive His gift and follow His way. Like a little child - with enthusiasm, gusto and commitment. As I picture the many children on earth who ripped open a Christmas present this past holiday... who sang and danced around their homes with delight over what they had received... who called all their friends to brag about the great gift they could call their own... I wonder, how do we receive the kingdom of God? How do we receive His word, His truth, His promise? Do we jump in head first and center all our time learning it, living it, enjoying it, sharing the news of it? Or do we simply acknowledge the gift... thank Him for the gift... then quietly place His life-giving offering on the shelf to collect dust?

Only until we actually open it up, rejoice, and make it the central part of our lives... and only until we share our enthusiasm and delight, acknowledging the gift to all others we meet, will we truly be like a little child receiving the kingdom of God. I mean, come on... this is Jesus gift to all mankind that promises eternity in His complete goodness!!! Only until we dust off our Bibles and dive into His word with full-on gusto, consuming every section and enjoying His way of life as our own, will we enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.

Jesus bought us the gift of life with great purpose and gave much thought to those that would be receiving His offering. Let's not thoughtlessly acknowledge Him only to sit Him up on a spiritually dead shelf. Instead, let's receive His Precious Name in our hearts. Let's rejoice in Him being our own. Let's learn every aspect of His eternal words and follow His way of life to the letter. Let's receive His merciful, glorious gift... like little children.

This is the day that our Lord has made... TODAY! Let's remember to receive His gracious, perfect gift TODAY. Let's rejoice in it and be glad TODAY. Let's share it with everyone we meet TODAY. Let's use it, know it, and make it the central part of our life... like a little child - with enthusiasm, gusto and commitment... and let's do so TODAY!

Thank you, Jesus!

I am grateful to my dear Grandmother for this unexpected reminder! I'm sure when she purchased Mancala, she never imagined it becoming a means to bring me closer to my King. Nor would she have ever thought that this simple game would be used by God as a tool to share the Savior with thousands online. How great is our Lord, ladies? How magnificent is His timing?

Today, I am smiling as I picture Grandma rejoicing, singing, dancing in heaven this very moment as I type. I cannot wait to one day share alongside her the greatest gift of all... the physical presence of our Redeemer! The blessing of knowing face-to-face our Almighty King!

Thank you, Jesus, for this hope. Thank you sooo much, precious, precious Lord! Blessed be Your name forever!

Blessings!

~Victoria

Monday, January 11, 2010

filtered lips

Over the weekend, Chuck and I stopped into our local cell phone store to talk with our sales guy, Frankie, about an issue Chuck was having with his cell phone. Mind you, my husband talks for a living on his cell phone. In fact, he cannot easily do his job without it. He sells to customers and communicates to our European partners about engineering specs and technical details just about every single day while he travels heavily throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

However, recently after upgrading to this new phone, every five or so calls Chuck would experience a garbled reception where he could not hear his caller (but the caller could still hear Chuck). Because I also own the same phone but have never experienced this problem, we were both perplexed as to what was wrong. So, as we were out-n-about the other day, I suggested we stop into the cell phone store to see if they could offer some answers.

While there, Chuck began to explain to Frankie his issue and the actions he had already taken on his own to troubleshoot the matter. He rebooted the system. He changed out the SIM card. He updated all software, etc. Still nothing seemed to fix the problem. Fortunately, Frankie had an idea that will likely resolve the issue. So this week, Chuck is testing to see if Frankie's suggestion will fix the matter. Yea. A simple story, right? Hmmmm. Well, let me tell you the part of the story that included my involvement.

You see, on Saturday, Chuck and I had decided to go out and enjoy a "date day" together. During that time, we planned to run errands, price shop for a new washer/dryer (ours is dying a slow death and will have to be replaced), enjoy some sushi at one of our favorite restaurant while watching football on their big screen TV, perhaps see a movie, etc. Although we had been hit with twelve inches of snow earlier that week (I love Chicago), the roads had already been cleared and the bright sun was inviting us to poke our heads out and enjoy a weekend about town.

Generally, I'm pretty closed lip as an individual. But this weekend, I was so excited to be with Chuck that my enthusiasm go the better of me and made me like a little kid with much to say - rambling on and on without a filter. About thirty minutes into our day together, I realized that I had turned into a chatterbox. However I could not (or would not) stop myself from commenting on any given topic, instructing him where and how to drive, interrupting him, or talking over him (because my stories seemed more important than his to share). Soon, my gracious and patient husband's eyes finally glazed over. Let's face it, the guy stood no chance to get a word in edgewise. In retrospect, I wish I had just shut up. But alas, the ramblings of a overbearing, selfish wife on her day off got the better of me.

By the time we arrived at the cell phone store, Chuck had reached his boiling point. While trying to explain his issues to Frankie, my poor hubby would have to deal with me jumping in and taking over the conversation. (Real annoying, right!?) Finally, Chuck stopped talking, put his hand on my arm, and right in front of Frankie, God and everybody simply and calmly said, "Vic, you need to stop talking. Let me handle this."

Embarrassed. Corrected. Guilty.

If I could only put a lock on my mouth. How often do I forget that my husband also has a voice and, HELLO, is in charge and perfectly capable!? How often do I selfishly rush him through his thoughts so that I can get out what I want to say? How often do I fail to just listen and actually hear this wonderful, intelligent, supportive, hard-working man rather than monopolizing, or even worse, mothering him through a conversation. Who do I think I am?

Later, after the cell phone store... after my apology... after taking a time out break and allowing me to regroup and repent, Chuck said the most profound thing to me. He shared this, "There is a big difference between listening to someone and waiting to speak." Was he ever right. I spend the first part of our day together unfiltered and unkind. I was controlling, selfish and overbearing... allowing my emotions and temporary feelings to drive my conversations, rather than allowing Jesus to rule my words, thoughts and actions.

Instead of being meek like Jesus, I was acting more like Chuck's "trippy" cell phone - forcing only my voice over the airwaves while garbling out all others. No, Jesus would not have selfishly interrupted Chuck. He would not have disrespected Chuck's capability to handle matters. He would not have monopolized or mothered him through simple conversations and trivial matters. Rather, Jesus would be gracious, attentive, loving, calm, content and interested in every word that Chuck had to share. He would have showed up ready to relate, love and help out when necessary. He would have kept a relaxed day off... well, relaxed and enjoyable.

Ladies, how often do we forget to filter our lips with Christ? How frequently do we treat those we love with unwavering respect and interest? How many times do we selfishly demand control or attention without taking care to honor another's capabilities or position? Furthermore, how many times are we too busy waiting to speak, rather than listening to what our Almighty Father is trying to say through other people He has placed into our lives? Are we so caught up in our own selves that we can't hear Him... that we can't respect His authority... that we can't let Him handle things without our meddling or two cents being volunteered?

This Saturday, Jesus reminded me about being meek and quiet. He reminded me how important it is - not only as a person, but especially as a wife. Being meek, means being kind, gentle, humble, patient. It means allowing the peace of Christ to filter your lips, your thoughts, your heart. Although it was hard to hear, I am so blessed to receive this reminder. I am equally thankful for a wise husband who is willing to lovingly help and correct me when I need it. Through him, God continues to teach me, mold me, change me. For this I am grateful.

So, as I continue to grow in Christ... I am equally charged to challenge you to think about your own life... your own tongue. Are your lips filtered with Jesus? Does your character mirror Christ's meekness? Is your spirit quiet and at peace to leave the trivial things in His capable hands? I encourage you to please think on these things.

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. (Proverbs 15:2)

But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. (Psalm 37:11)

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

Blessings!

~Victoria

Saturday, January 2, 2010

submit and rest, putting on love because our God is good

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:12-18)

Recently, Chuck and I were able to pull over from our busy schedules and stop to enjoy a week's vacation between the Christmas and New Year holidays. In that time, we have enjoyed relaxing together, sleeping in, and visiting with many family and friends. We have cooked together, played games together, enjoyed several movies, engaged in long discussions and snuggle sessions, and have even managed to go a few days without leaving the comfort of our pajamas. It has been a lovely time of calmness and replenishment while enjoying time away from our regular day-to-day work and travel schedules.

However, during this much-needed down time, I found it interesting that in the beginning of our week off together, whenever I truly started to relax and take a breath, Satan made every attempt to try and convince me that my husband was a disappointment. He began to point out little things that had not yet been addressed in the house... a window shade that needed re-hanging in our bedroom, a doorway transition strip that needed repair, a shelf that needed re-enforcing, etc. etc. etc. He stirred up trouble within me by pointing the finger of blame at my honey, Chuck... who was (in the enemy's estimation) clearly relaxing TOO MUCH. Satan argued that my hubby should pick up the slack and do more chores over our vacation. Of course, the idea that Chuck should be deprived of his time off by a discontent, nagging wife was ridiculous, but still the enemy tried to persuade me otherwise.

Please know that my husband is a very, very devoted man and hard worker. He always steps in to help me (sometimes when I don't even ask) and in truth, I am grateful that he is soooo attentive to meet my needs. There have actually been days where he was unable to move forward because my heart was troubled and his first priority was to make sure I was ok. He is so great.

On an average work day, Chuck is usually awake at a very early hour conducting business over the phone with our day job's overseas sales partners and engineers. He is both technically and socially savvy and uses his gifts to provide electronic testing solutions to companies throughout North America all the while earning enough money to put food on our table, clothe us, and even spoil our family with a few luxuries from time-to-time. The thought that Chuck does not contribute, or the idea that he is uninterested in advancing our family's well-being, is really absurd... but still the enemy came a'knocking and tried to invade my heart - subtly whispering his list of complaints and pointing out things in our home in need of repair or attention.

Fortunately, before we started our vacation, the Lord had reminded me of the verses above from Colossians and had also given me this verse to meditate on: Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. (Psalm 116:7)

And it is true... the Lord has been good to me. He has given me salvation! He has granted me access into His kingdom! What do I need to complain about?

Thankfully, God exposed the enemy's intention to redirect my attention toward worthless issues, and I was able to identify Satan's scheme and pray through any discontentment. The end result: instead of ripping my husband to shreds and ruining his well-deserved time off, I was able to look at him in love while throwing a blanket over his cold feet as he reclined in his chair and watched football (snoozing between plays and unconsciously scratching our beagle's tummy). I was grateful to let go and enjoy a peace-filled time with my family and friends without sweating the small stuff. I chose to keep my focus on my marriage and the health of the man I love... a relationship way more important to me than any possession. Thank you, Lord, for you have been good to me!

Sometimes I loose sight of what is truly important. I hate to admit it, but sometimes my attention is incorrectly directed toward property over people. Sometimes I forget to let peace rule in my heart and fail to submit to the needs of those I should be loving. I'm grateful that the Lord gave me such a reminder this past week. I'm equally thankful that the enemy did not win such a stupid battle... that I was a conqueror because I had God's word in my heart and followed the wisdom of my Master. Because of this, our marriage was strengthened and unified over vacation. In fact, last night Chuck and I enjoyed time sitting together in our living room just being thankful for one another and the lovely, peaceful week God had blessed us with. How thankful I am that I did not sour this time with meaningless issues, discontentment and complaining. Thank you, Lord, for allowing your word to dwell richly in me and teach me to submit to my husband's needs. Thank you for once again clothing my heart with your compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Without You, I would be an ugly, awful wretch. Jesus you are beautiful. I love reflecting your beauty to others.

Ladies, whether single or married, let's not give into Satan and expect the world to revolve around us. Let us lay aside all forms of selfishness and unrealistic expectations over trivial things and worldly trinkets. For all we have... all we enjoy on this earth has been given to us by God and is a gift from our Redeemer. Let us give up our preconceived timetables and expectancies and simply love one another as Christ has loved us. For God has granted us eternal life through Jesus and continues to provide for all our needs. He is always good to us. He is always faithful. Let's strive to enjoy life together and completely relax in the perfect presence of our King. Let's not receive Satan's ridiculous lies that are intended to turn us against each other... for that evil snake is really our true enemy. Instead, let's cover our hearts in Jesus' warm words of love - reclining in His presence and savoring His promise that He is always enough. Vacate with me into the arms of our wonderful Master. Let's allow Him to restore our souls for His Name's sake! Amen, dear Jesus! AMEN!

Blessings!

~Victoria

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