Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4 NASB
Sigh. Sometimes it’s hard to find and feel the joy.
Consider it all joy?
All of it? Really? Joy in all the trials – seen and unseen? Consider joy? Those trials in your head – the ones that wake you at 2 AM, and the trials which seem insurmountable, even if you’re the one that created them? Consider joy?
What if you woke tomorrow with only those things for which you are thankful today?
33 years to be thankful for…
We’re thankful for 33 years of marriage – today. May 27th.
Even though we’re thankful, finding and feeling that joy isn’t always easy. Marriage and life haven’t always been easy. Boy-oh-boy, have there been some trials. And thirty-three years together as husband and wife doesn’t give us a “pass” to get out of the current or future trials, either.
However, we have a promise. Those trials testing our faith produce endurance. Endurance is a gift for which to be thankful… and if we practice that endurance, we will be complete. We will lack nothing. There are gifts along the way. We’ve seen them already and we have faith there will be more, according to God’s will.
In this “not easy” season we’re holding onto that promise of lacking nothing – with both hands, all four hands. We’re trusting. We’re exercising our faith.
Gifts in this “not easy” season…
What are some gifts in this season of marriage that’s been less than easy?
Our adult children are gifts.
Consider the joy of children. At first, becoming parents on our 1st wedding anniversary was a trial. Oh, yes. That wasn’t easy. But joy has come from being parents to those children. Adult children are the best gift! They are our sparks of joy and watching them serve the Lord is a truly joyful gift.
Our grandboy is a gift.
Consider joy. Everyone predicted grandparenting would be a joy. (Frankly, I was skeptical. It was just a crying, poopy baby, after all…) Today, a year and a half later, we are unable to truly define where this overwhelming joy in the grandboy comes from… it must come from God. It must! Rob has been saying that “If God loves us the way we love our grandchild, then we’re golden!” Yes. That’s a gift. A gift filled with joy.
Friends are a gift.
In the midst of our trials, friends have reached out. A kind word. Prayers. (Oh, you have no idea what a gift it is to know that friends are praying for you and with you!) Encouragement despite ongoing circumstances is a gift of joy. We’ve received gifts – both monetary and physical. Every. Single. Friend. Is. A. Gift.
Consider joy – yes. There is joy in knowing you’re surrounded by the Godly love of friends who are also ministers. There’s joy from family, of congregational members… and friends who unknowingly provide gifts. In this time that’s not been easy, we’ve been surrounded with those who give without measure and without any hope or expectation of repayment.
We’ve been learning the art (and gift) of humbleness. It’s not always an easy gift – but it’s priceless. And there’s joy in it.
The gift of Endurance
We are learning endurance – and it’s having its result. I hope. Our faith is increasing. We have no other choice but to have faith. And we’re already feeling that promise that we lack nothing.
Because when you really think about it, all our hope lies in Jesus. In Jesus’ sacrifice. And the future His sacrifice and God’s grace will provide… is already providing. That’s ALL joy.
Consider it all joy – friends – when we all encounter various trials. That testing of our faith does produce endurance. And if we let it, endurance can have its perfect result. We will find ourselves perfect through God’s grace. And we will find ourselves complete, lacking absolutely nothing…
Are you going through a time that’s not easy?
We can relate. (As you might guess by this post.) Not all years in marriage are easy. It’s hard to encourage each other when it’s been a while since you’ve felt some joy. (Rob says that encouraging an “encourager” is really hard.)
So – as a gift for you… and us too…
As an anniversarygift, one we can all enjoy – and spark some JOY – we’ve created something.
93 simple, quick and mostly free activities for you and your spouse – for all of us – to spark some JOY! (Why 93? That’s part of a longer story you can read when you click HERE.)
We will be right beside you! We are doing this too!
Those who sign up will receive one email a day with one simple and quick action to take together. Each action is easy – and where it might feel like a stretch, we’ve given you some help. And if you really hate the idea, or physically can’t do it, then there’s the option to pull a different idea from the JOY JAR…
This is our gift to you – a gift to spark some JOY!
Infertility, special forces and the love and faith to get through it all. Love. + Hope. + Faith. + Prayer. + Action. = Encouragement. The guest post below has it all!
I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Nina. We met many years ago in Texas, and our friendship has blossomed. Nina writes over at Millions of Peaches and her first book is out this month. I wanted her to tell you her story…
I should’ve known that saying “yes” to a man with baggage would lead to an interesting life. It wasn’t always easy, but we quickly found that supporting each other instead of blaming each other worked much better in finding resolutions to problems.
Because of his military career, my husband couldn’t always be present. As a matter of fact, he missed more holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries than I can count. While he was gone all things like finances, yard work, household chores, parenting, and more was on me. However, when he was around I always tried to include him in all tasks and make sure he had things to take care of, so that he would feel like he was part of our little family.
When he was deployed I always listened to what he had to say before I would go down a list of things I had in mind. Missing a phone call was detrimental and sad because I never knew when he could call again. SAT phones aren’t very reliable not to forget time differences and hazardous locations.
I picked up the slack when he couldn’t. Nevertheless we always supported each other’s wishes and dreams. It was my dream to travel the world, get a college degree, deliver babies and eventually have a child of my own. My husband made sure that we always had enough money to pay for all of these wishes and dreams.
In turn, it was his dream to become a U.S. Army Green Beret and later a Physician Assistant. I made sure he had time to train, study, and prepare for his chosen path. I supported and helped where I could through hidden notes, weekly goodie bags, home cooked meals, being present when there was a ceremony or promotion, watching him jump out of airplanes and helicopters, picking him up or dropping him off at the airport, sending care packages to let him know I miss him, keeping all added stresses away from him, and always making sure that our bank account was in better shape than when he left.
Yet, I can’t forget the times we spent praying together. Praying for his safe return, for guidance in co-parenting his children, and for a child – one that we could keep forever. At first, we chose days of the week when one of us would pray. But because his job required him to be away from me often, we prayed separately as well. We prayed with our rector from our church. We prayed while snuggling in bed, on our knees, in church, in the car, in airplanes, at airports, and our kitchen table. Praying is definitely something we take seriously as a married couple.
The Path Forward – with LOVE and FAITH through INFERTILITY
And it is because of our faith and the strong belief in prayers that we have come to this point in our life where I was lead to write down our path in “Love, Faith, and Infertility – A Story of Hope and Special Forces” – the struggles, the good and the bad, to show that our God is good and no matter what my life or yours entails with Him nothing is impossible.
Nina was born and raised in Germany, and is a medical assistant, doula, lactation counselor, and Reiki practitioner by trade. She has earned a baccalaureate degree in management studies from University of Maryland University College while she lived in Germany and the United States. Her husband served in the United States Army for 20 years before retiring and becoming a Physician Assistant (PA). He has two children from a previous marriage and together they have one rainbow baby and three angels in heaven. You can read more from Nina on her blog Millions of Peaches, Her View From Home, and Huffington Post Deutschland.
Opening Our Hearts
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Nina and I have known each other for a number of years. I had a small view into her life as a stepmom to children who didn’t (always) live with her. I knew she loved them with a mother’s selfless love, regardless where they resided. I also could only imagine how difficult it must be to see them come and go, with no control.
Then Gary and Nina’s little rainbow baby entered the picture. He’s the boy pictured on the front of Nina’s new book. I had a tiny, infinitesimal understanding of how difficult the journey was to holding this little son in their arms.
Yes. WE. All of us -those who have never experienced infertility, parenting step-children, living as a military spouse, and adjusting to a new country, have no idea the havoc (and joys) these events can play on a life – on a marriage.
Many people will not experience a miscarriage, infertility, a military marriage, step-parenting and relocation to another country. And yet we encounter people every day who do. We might think we understand… but we don’t. We do not have a clue.
Read this book for them. And yourself.
Read this book so you can have a kernel of understanding and to try not to say something to shoot an arrow into their hearts. (Unintentionally, of course.)
Maybe your daughter or daughter-in-love has experienced infertility and/or a miscarriage? You need a view into this grief, desire, and fight for a child that is beyond what many can imagine. Nina’s story will give you insight and hope.
Is there a friend who is longing for a child? Read it for her. And him.
Do you know a military spouse? Read it for him or her.
Do you know women going through medical procedures to get pregnant? In-Vitro Fertilizations, Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injections, frozen embryo transfers and all the other physical aspects of trying to become pregnant?
Is someone you love grieving over a miscarriage. Read it for them.
Think of all the step-parents you know – read this book for them and their children.
Do you write to encourage? Then this book will open your heart in new ways.
Are you in ministry? Or do you know a pastor who seeks to understand step-parents, those longing for a baby, military spouses, and parents grieving over a miscarriage? This book is for you all.
There are many reasons why this book will be a journey of discovery – of yourself and what you believe. You’ll probably cringe when you remember some of the phrases that have come out of your mouth. (Yeah. We’ll be together in that.)
What if you have experienced any of these life-altering experiences? Why should you read this book?
Read this book because it will fill you with hope.
(I just want to say thank you to Nina for gifting me a copy of her book! Yes. Even though we don’t collect many physical books because of space issues in our little-house-on-wheels, I’m so thankful to have a physical copy!) 😉
While you’re waiting for that vision – that purpose in your life… while you’re building that meaningful life as husband and wife, do you have restraint?
Where there is no vision [no revelation of God and His word], the people are unrestrained; But happy and blessed is he who keeps the law [of God].
Proverbs 29:19 Amplified Bible
In our fourth mid-marriage video, we talked about vision, mission and values. All these could be seen as human endeavors, and almost useless unless God has revealed where He needs us to focus.
Asking God to reveal…
Sometimes it takes years of prayer – asking, seeking and knocking – to understand why God has set the two of you together, and what He wants from you.
Have restraint as you wait… but…
What to do in the waiting?
I think the secret of what to do in the waiting for that Divine revelation (in whatever form it’s given) is found in the second part of this proverb: “But happy and blessed is he who keeps the law [of God]”
How well do we, as husband and wife, follow God’s laws?
Jesus has summed up His Father’s laws into this:
and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.’
This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30,31 Amplified
Restrain Yourself. Love God.
Do you demonstrate your love for God?
If your children or adult siblings, friends, co-workers, or parents were asked, “How does this couple demonstrate their love for God?” how would they respond?
Does your behavior as husband and wife bring glory to God? We’re not talking about grand gestures. Every day – how does your behavior as husband and wife glorify God?
and the second part:
Restrain Yourself. Unselfishly love your neighbor.
Do you begin this loving unselfishly — with your spouse?
Encouraging your spouse when everything is too much – how do you do that?
Too much? What’s too much? Do you ever feel like your life is filled with white-water rivers, mine fields, lava flows, rising flood water, hurricane winds, rotted floorboards, bottomless pits, shark-infested seas… Everything is beyond what you or your spouse can control.
Where do you go from that spot?
Unity matters when everything is too much.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
~ Genesis 2:24 NIV
Remember – you’re not alone. Husband & Wife. Together. As husband and wife – “one flesh” – you can leave everything else behind to be united against an outside threat . Individual control no longer matters or makes sense.
There’s strength in unity. Are you tapping into that strength?
Encouraging your spouse when everything is too much starts with focusing on unity between you and he/she, and inviting your loving Heavenly Father – who wants what’s good for you both – to take control.
Invite God to take over. (Yes. We know how difficult letting go of control is…)
Remind your spouse that he or she doesn’t need all the answers.
Have faith in God when everything is too much.
Unbelief puts our circumstances between us and God – Faith puts God between us and our circumstances
During the greatest trials and most trying circumstances is when we’ll see the power of God working for and in us -provided we look at our circumstances with the perspective of faith.
3 Actions – Encouraging your spouse when everything is too much:
1 – Listen to each other. Be attentive when your spouse speaks.
Two ears. One mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk. And if your spouse isn’t one to chat easily, perhaps it’s time to cultivate some meaningful questions? Try this Pinterest board for ideas on questions to ask.
… be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
~ 1Timothy 4:4
We know – it’s hard to be thankful when everything feels like it’s too much. But try. Begin small. Start with the easy stuff:
you have each other, even if neither of you are perfect
Jesus knew the pain He’d endure, and He still decided you and your spouse were worth it.
God loves you, even when it’s all too much. He’ll never leave you. He’s always with you.
3 – Pray together. Invite God into your “too much”.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
What if you don’t know where to start to pray?
Prayer can be a simple “thank you”. The prayer that Jesus taught His disciples (and us) is found here. If you want to go deeper, listen as other people pray and develop your own prayer life. Sometimes resources can help…
Rob and I have been reading and putting into practice what’s in the book The Hour the Changes the World. It’s a prayer plan that divides an hour into twelve 5-minute sections. Each section focuses on a different point of prayer. If an hour seems like too much, you can use the idea for 12 minutes – focusing on each of the 12 sections for one minute at a time.
Here are 31 videos if you want to go deeper into exploring prayer with your spouse. They’re less than 5 minutes each. They’re hosted by Dick Eastman, President of Every Home for Christ. and author of the above book. Watch them together with your spouse and do one a day for a month… It’s something to unite the two of you and most days it’ll take less than 5 minutes…
Everything for a time.
Nothing is so constant as change. This “too much” time will shift and change. Encouraging your spouse when everything is too much will only be for a time… Learn to work together through it all and leverage the blessing the Lord has given you both: each other!
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Take action to encourage. Why? Encouraging your spouse, especially in a time of uncertainty and overwhelm, has more of an impact than praise after a success. But sometimes you don’t know where to start.
2 – Search for a mentor/role model to take action to encourage.
What you’re going through is not new – someone else has had these moments/hours/days/years of trial and anguish. There is nothing new under the sun. You’re not the first person to be overwhelmed and overcome…
Maybe the “someone” you find for inspiration and consolation isn’t close – or even alive. You don’t need to intimately know a particular person – it’s possible to use a stranger as a role model.
Dig into this person’s life to understand their values, their strengths (and weaknesses), what actions they take when under pressure, who they admire and from where they get their encouragement.
Don’t forget to look at Biblical role models as an example.
Those people in the Bible were real people – like you and me. Their stresses and discouragements might not have been outwardly shaped like yours or mine, but they had the same root – and the same liar tried to tear them down and separate them from their Hope – their God. How did they react when faced with disaster? From where did their help come? Who surrounded them?
Who are you most like – behavior wise – as a Biblical persona? What about your spouse? How can you know? (Robert and I are exploring this concept right now using this tool. The exploration has prompted some interesting discussions.)