Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Our New Year didn’t come in the way I had hoped. Although our plans hadn’t been huge, New Year’s was potentially the last holiday my husband, Peter, and I had before our son, Judah, arrives in early April. Ideas of games, movies, junk food and laughter were all I had thought about for days.

Instead, there were bowls strategically placed between the bathrooms so  I would be prepared any time my nausea hit. Peter militantly checked my blood pressure, managed my new medications, and gently understood when sleeping seemed better than looking at his face. As miserable as I was, I giggled every time Judah kicked my ribs.

Relief was on the horizon, though. My medical team had jumped into action, and as soon as my body adapted to new medications, I’d be okay. Still, I wasn’t focused on Jesus, joy, or Judah. I was adamantly focused on how God hadn’t given me what I wanted for the New Year.

At some point in my pity party, I heard the Spirit whisper to my heart, “Will you sing me a song? Will you bring in the New Year praising me anyway? You’re obviously miserable. Will you actually let me help you refocus? Or would you rather just hear yourself complain?”

The songs started out quite begrudgingly, let me tell you. Honestly, I started singing out of mere obedience. Before I knew it, though, I wasn’t focusing on my discomfort, missed plans, or even my fears over my health or the health of our son. I was just singing to the Man who first called me Beloved. My thirty-minute, possibly-off-tune worship session ended in joy simply because God had shifted my perspective from myself to Him.

I’m fairly certain we’re all realizing that the strike of midnight on January 1st didn’t make our lives a bed of roses. As Christ has continually challenged me, I extend that same challenge to you: When your heart is filled with what you don’t have and what you can’t control in this new year, praise God anyway.

Even in times of uncertainty, focusing on our First Love is always the answer to finding freedom and living in joy.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

“I don’t know what’s wrong with my husband,” the woman told me with tears in her eyes. “I thought he loved God, but I don’t see any evidence. I don’t see him praying much, or reading his Bible very often.”

Something in her comment hit a nerve. It sounded way too familiar. Those words could have come out of my mouth at one time.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, my husband and I are opposites. I feel closest to God when I’m praying alone; he draws great satisfaction from corporate prayer. He worships best with a whole congregation singing; I prefer to sing at the top of my lungs when no one’s home.

I like to read whole chapters at a sitting; he can mull over the same verse for days. I commune with God best through my journal; he does it on a riding mower or a walk in the woods.

If I judge by my relationship with God, it looks to me like he doesn’t have one. If he judges me by his, it looks like I’m too introspective and self-concerned, maybe even holier-than-thou.

Over the years, I’ve been learning to trust the Spirit of God at work in the man I love. I need to respect God and my husband enough to let them work out what his faith should look like, just as He does with me.

When I back up and look at it from God’s perspective, I’m thankful we are so different. It offers each of us a fuller dimension for our faith.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The other day I had some extra time between appointments, so I stopped at an area park to enjoy the scenery and sunshine. An older couple pulled up in their boat to the pier. The man got out and backed a truck with a boat trailer up to the boat ramp. Then he got back in the boat and drove up the ramp. He fastened the boat to the trailer and drove the truck up a little ways. He then busied himself taking fishing poles out of the boat, etc. All the time the wife sat in the boat.

Finally, he took a small crane-like apparatus out of the back of the truck. He carefully spread out some strips of canvas and the women scooted onto them. He grabbed both ends, hooked them onto the crane, and with the push of a button was able to lift her off the boat and lower her into a waiting wheelchair.

He pushed the wheelchair around to the other side of the truck and helped her scoot herself onto something that looked like a stool. She pushed a button and it slowly lifted her level with the truck seat. Once she was safely in the truck, the man loaded the crane, stool and wheelchair into the truck. It had taken them 45 minutes to go through this process. I’m guessing they did the same thing in reverse when they started their fishing trip.

Their commitment to fishing blew me away. Why would anyone go to so much hassle? As I left for my next appointment, a tender voice probed, “Are you that committed to being a fisher of men?” I’ve been pondering it ever since. 

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~ Written by Pat Ashcraft

Barbara was the youngest of four children. Born in the early 1920’s, she lived through the depression. When she was seven, her mother died and she was raised by her dad and grandmother. She later met and married Bob Mason; together they had five children in six years. Their first child died at childbirth.

Barbara was very intelligent, funny, and outgoing. Everywhere she went, she was the life of the party. She was a good mother, wife, friend and neighbor. At the age of 33, after several years of problems, Barbara was hospitalized for the first time for bipolar disorder.

I know all this about Barbara because she was my mother. I am the youngest of her children.

My mother’s life and our family were greatly affected by her illness. In our house growing up, we never used the words “mental illness.” Our dad would just say, “your mom is sick, try to help out more.” We were all adults before we knew what her diagnosis was. We never discussed with anyone else that our mother was mentally ill.

My oldest sister took over running the household. My next sister took care of mom but also learned to cook at a young age. My brother coped by ignoring everything and keeping busy outside the home. I was the “baby” and was cared for and protected by the older kids. I probably had the most normal childhood, as I was allowed to be a child and not take on adult duties.

All of us had various issues that affected our schooling. It wasn’t until 12th grade that anyone asked me if there were problems at home. Even then, I didn’t tell the principal that life was a total upheaval at times because of my mother. At that point, I was soon going to graduate and leave home, so it seemed like a moot point.

When I was 16 years old, my mother was having a very bad manic episode. She hadn’t slept or eaten or stopped talking for about five days. She was totally confused. She would pick fights over the smallest things. We were all exhausted.

My dad decided to put her in the car and drive her to the hospital. She knew that meant another stay in the psychiatric ward and didn’t want to go. I was helping my dad get her shoes and socks on and helping with her coat. She was fighting us every step of the way. I was thoroughly disgusted with my mom. I had had enough of her and all we had to live with. I was tired and angry that I didn’t have a “normal” mom. I said to my dad, “How can you stand this?” He stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said, “I don’t ‘stand’ anything. I love your mother. And when you love someone, you take care of them. Don’t you ever say anything like that about your mother again.” Wow, what a lesson in love.

When my mother was at her worst, her least attractive and most difficult to deal with, my dad chose to love her. What a picture of God’s love for me! When I was at my worst, ugly from sin and full of pride, God chose to love me. He sent His only Son to save me. That’s unconditional love at its best!  

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~ Written by Viki Rife

When I admit to people what my hobby is, they laugh. Even if they’re too proper to laugh out loud, I see one side of their mouth curl up for a moment before they gain control. I’ve tried to come up with another name for my hobby, but haven’t found one that works—one that makes people nod their heads in understanding. 

Experts tell us that hobbies are good for us; they refresh and invigorate us. So what’s wrong with my hobby being something that helps me have fun? It’s the bright spot of my week; my greatest indulgence in the midst of a busy life of ministry and parental caregiving. 

Every Thursday at 3 p.m., I take a break to enjoy my hobby. First, I pick up a seventh grader and an eighth grader from our church. Then we drive, with a mix of prayers and chattering, to the public school near our church. There we meet up in the science lab with other volunteers. Soon, about 30 first-through-sixth-grade girls come streaming in. We play games or do crafts. Then we move to one of the classrooms for my favorite part. I get to tell them about The Teacher.  

This is where my hobby comes into play. I love tailoring the truth about The Teacher to their needs. Some of these girls have only heard the name Jesus used as a swear word. Others have picked up the culture’s negative attitude toward Christians. But they are growing to love The Teacher. Each week we tell them “clues” about who The Teacher is, and they get to add them to their list of clues. Some have figured out the name, but their understanding of the real Jesus is badly distorted. 

In our small groups after the story, we leaders have a chance to pour into the hearts of the girls. We hear the challenges of their young hearts: everything from sick pets to broken homes and imprisoned parents. We have a chance to give them a glimpse of hope. 

There is nothing as satisfying as helping someone fall in love with Jesus. It is especially satisfying with these girls whose hearts are still tender enough to respond. So for me, my hobby, my break in my busy week, is SMM (Sisters Mentoring with a Mission). I give myself the luxury of watching God work in their hearts. 

Laugh at my hobby if you wish. But I hope you find one for yourself that’s this rewarding! 

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~ Written by Cindy Shuler

“So, what did you do this weekend?” The question was asked knowing that my husband and sons were at the annual men’s retreat with our church. I answered that a friend and I spent Saturday on a prayer retreat. 

Responses to my answer varied. Some said, “Oh, that’s nice.” Others gave me a look that said, “Really?” My daughter responded that she’d probably run out of things to pray for after two minutes. These responses didn’t really surprise me. After all, I would have reacted in much the same way until recently. 

Three years ago I was invited to spend an evening praying for our son. I accepted with fear and trepidation. It was the Christian thing to do. But inwardly I wondered how I could pray for an hour, let alone three! What would I say? What would the others think of me? Needless to say, I survived. It wasn’t that bad. Still, I was relieved when it was over. 

Now I laugh when I think about it. I’m amazed at how the Lord has changed my perspective. Prayer isn’t a duty. It’s a privilege, a conversation with our Abba Father. I now look forward to these times dedicated to seeking God’s face, to worshipping Him and to laying my requests before Him. It refreshes my soul. 

And sharing it with a friend is an added blessing. This particular day was enriched by time spent outdoors, surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation. We offered up praise and we worshipped. We prayed for one another, our families, our church and Women of Grace USA. At the end of the day, our hearts were lighter.  

How do you respond to the invitation to pray? How would our families, our churches, our ministries be affected if we devoted ourselves to prayer? Next time you have some free time, grab a friend or two and have a nice, long conversation with your Father. You’ll be glad you did. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

After five-year-old Frances Slocum was kidnapped in Pennsylvania in 1778, her family spend 59 years looking for her. They finally found her living among the Miami tribe in Indiana. They wanted her to come back with them to live in “civilization.” She had become accustomed to her current life, and she refused to leave it.

She knew she wouldn’t belong any more.

As believers, we find ourselves having to choose where we belong. Are we citizens of earth or citizens of heaven? When Jesus taught about the kingdom of heaven, He presented us with an entirely different mindset from what this world accepts. Citizens of heaven care about the good of their own country, and don’t get involved in the politics and customs of the earthly country they are living in. They invest in furthering the interests of their own country.

What does it mean to you when you pray, “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? What would that actually look like? What are we willing to do to make that happen? We are called to live in a way that gives a taste of heaven on earth.

We need to understand that it is how we handle suffering that furthers the kingdom of God most. . Pray for God to keep changing your perspective so you can live the lifestyle and mindset of the kingdom of heaven.

It’s where you belong!

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~ Written By Cindy Bushen

It is finished…finally. 

What was meant to be a beautiful memento of my daughter’s wedding became a pile of signed fabric squares sitting on a shelf in my craft cupboard. Originally, I envisioned creating this wedding quilt masterpiece as soon as the wedding leftovers were put away. I was even hoping to present the happy couple with it when they returned from their honeymoon. But the fabric pen hadn’t worked right, names were smuggled and notes ran off the edge of the fabric. Every time I looked at this project, I was discouraged. 

How could a beautiful memory quilt come from these imperfect blocks of fabric? This became a project that loomed over me for years. From time to time I would pull it all out and attempt to start sewing, only to stuff it back up on the shelf. With the passing of time, I determined in my mind that my daughter probably wasn’t all that interested in a wedding quilt and the quilt had been more about showcasing my creative sewing skills. 

However, more recently my daughter began to ask about the quilt and expressed a desire to have it completed…after all, her 10th anniversary was approaching. I again pulled out the pieces and examined the signatures. Memories of the people that had come to make her wedding day special came flooding in. There were names of people who had now passed on, as well as children who were now young adults and people who have continued to encourage my daughter in her marriage. 

Now the signatures were precious and my heart thrilled with the thought of piecing them together. Getting the quilt done didn’t necessarily come easily. There was still pattern planning, measuring, cutting, pinning and hours of sewing to do, but now my heart was in it. The time was right. This was no longer just a project but rather a labor of love that only I could complete for my daughter. 

As I finished my “masterpiece,” I thought about a friend who is battling an addiction. I desperately want to rush in and treat her as if she is another project of mine to complete. I want to quickly put all the pieces together and have her life working again. But I have come to see that she is God’s masterpiece, not mine. I am thankful to be part of the thread that is helping stitch her life back together, but only in God’s timing will her life be complete.

People are God’s masterpiece. I look forward to someday saying, “It is finished…perfectly.”   

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~ Written By Viki Rife

It happened again today. I sat down to read a book on the calling of God in a woman’s life, and soon felt my heart sinking. The book outlined a woman’s calling: marry a good Christian husband, support him in his ministry, fill some position in the ministries of your church, and pour yourself into your children so that, as adults, they’ll listen to you. 

Done. That’s it. 

My heart sank even more when I read the last part, in which the author describes each of her three children and how well the formula worked. I found myself wondering what percentage of women will pick up this book with great hopes, only to find they don’t qualify. They don’t have a husband. Or they have a husband who isn’t godly, or who wants nothing to do with God. 

Maybe they don’t have children. Maybe their children have rebelled against everything they taught them. Or maybe, as their children were growing up, these women didn’t know God themselves well enough to influence their children for Him, and now they feel hopeless to win them back. How many women feel that if a model family is their calling, they’ve missed it? 

Personally, I’m tired of these A + B=C formulas: marry right + raise your children right = happy ending. It does seem to happen for some people. I’m happy for them. But never, ever fall for the lie that the proof that you have obeyed God’s calling on your life is a happy ending. Just read Hebrews 11 to see what really happens when we follow God’s calling. 

Wife and mother are high callings for women, but God’s call to us can never be reduced to a formula. 

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~ Written by Cassie Harris

I’ve been a tomboy almost all my life. I vaguely remember big bows, fake heels and flowery dresses, but that stage didn’t last very long. I’m a woman who would define herself as more comfortable with the salty dogs rather than tea-sipping women.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized femininity addresses a much broader spectrum than those two extremes. You can enjoy hunting and still like make-up. You can be tough and still need a shoulder to cry on. You can be a woman and still stand on your own. You don’t have to sacrifice being a woman in order to be somebody worth respecting.

To some, it is ridiculous to point out such a concept. Of course all those things can encompass being a woman. However, needing each other, learning it’s okay to need one-on-one time with a girlfriend, can still blow our minds. If you’re anything like me, you try to hide the fact that coffee with a girlfriend is feeding your soul almost more than alone time in the woods ever could.

If that’s you, I have a challenge for you. Accept that “girl time” as a gift from your loving Father who knows your soul’s needs more than you do. Be okay with needing a knowing glance when you admit to a struggle with your spouse or your self-worth. Don’t deny God the privilege of answering your heart’s needs through another woman.

Sometimes, it’s the otherwise unnecessary gifts like time with a girlfriend that remind us God sees our smallest needs. If He can answer the small things our hearts desire, we have proof that He can answer the big desires as well.

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