In our living room is a symbol my husband, Dale, and I used in our wedding. It’s a three-fold cord of red, white, and gold. It symbolizes that the commitment we made to marriage wasn’t just between the two of us. The covenant is between three of us, with God at the center. Scripture says “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). That’s how we want our commitment to be, and that takes making daily choices to keep our commitment strong.

Of all the major decisions in life, making a commitment to marry is one of the most important and for some, the hardest. Hopefully, this decision is far more important than buying your first car or house or deciding where you’ll go on vacation.

A commitment to marry is more than just signing a contract. Marriage is a sacred covenant, a plan God created for our benefit. In the Bible, God made covenants with His people, but others made covenants, too—like Jonathan to David and Ruth to Naomi. They were committing to love, serve, and care for each other. Covenant promises are unconditional—there is no escape clause or money-back guarantee. It’s made on the foundation of faith and love—and it’s permanent.

Permanent is a word seldom used today. In our culture, everything seems disposable—even relationships. Commitment wavers when it’s based on what makes us feel good or is convenient for us personally. God’s plan is so much bigger. Just as He has never left us or forsaken us, even in our worst sinful state, so He wants us to know and enjoy the permanence of an intimate relationship with our mate.

We all know couples, maybe even our own parents, who divorced. Maybe they grew tired of each other or one of them “found someone new.” Whatever the reason, they broke the commitment they made, and the painful consequences of their choice affected many others.

That’s not God’s plan for any of us.

We also know couples, married for decades, who are happy, despite the challenges they’ve faced. Our friends just celebrated fifty-five years together! Bob and Gayle love each other dearly. They are the closest of companions and deeply committed to each other. Dale says, “When we grow up, let’s be just like them!” Couples like them give us hope for our marriage. As you journey through your marriage, find one or two couples who model what marriage should look like, especially if healthy marriages have been rare in your life.

Who are your role models for marriage? Tell them what a blessing they are to you. I’d love to hear about how they made a difference in your marriage.

Adapted from Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2013, all rights reserved.

Susan Mathis is the author of The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and four other books. She is vice-president of Christian Authors Network. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

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Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. It will affect every aspect of your marriage. It can help you inform, explain, influence, and build intimacy with one another.

Good personal communication is the act of revealing yourself—your past experiences, present feelings, and future dreams. It’s sharing your fears, needs, and desires carefully and honestly. Communicating well is also about setting boundaries, confronting problems, admitting when you’re wrong, and extending grace to another.

“Honesty is paramount,” Ben says. “Authenticity—being who we really are no matter what—is critical. I experienced the lack of it in my first marriage, and I didn’t want that again. I’m so glad that Jennifer is the same person whether she’s speaking at a conference or sitting on the front porch with me. And I want her to know who I am. I believe that real love is knowing someone with all their faults and loving them still.”

When Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the communication they had with their Creator and caused isolation from Him. They covered up and hid; they were dishonest and ashamed. God never intended that, and He knew that a life of dishonesty and hiding would be painful and counterproductive. That’s why God delights in His people overcoming negative communication patterns and learning to communicate in healthy and loving ways.

“Be proactive in revealing who you really are,” Ben says. “Learn to be authentic in every area of your life. Allow your mate to know you completely and get to know him or her completely, too. And when you’re communicating about something, let your mate know what your thought process is, not just the decision you made. Let her see how you got there so she can understand how you think and how you make decisions.”

How have you learned to reveal yourself to your mate? We’d love to know.

(Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved.)

Susan Mathis is the author of The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & HappinessCountdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, and four other books. She is vice-president of Christian Authors Network. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

 

 

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Practicing Patience

By Susan G Mathis

My husband has Parkinsons disease, so I am learning to employ a good deal of patience—the very thing I taught in my children’s picture book, Lexie’s Adventure in Kenya: Love is Patience —while we adjust to the challenges of such a terrible disease. God is never finished teaching us patience, so to that end, for all of us who need a bit of encouragement as we learn patience now or in the future, here are a few inspiring quotes that may help:

“God’s way of answering the Christian’s prayer for more patience, experience, hope, and love often is to put him into the furnace of affliction,” Richard Cecil. Yup, I think surgery might be my furnace at the moment.

“We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world,” Helen Keller. What a woman she must have been!

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait—it’s how we behave while we’re waiting,” Joyce Meyer. Very true. I’ll remember that when I have physical therapy. Smiles.

“Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses, and disappointments; but let us have patience, and we soon shall see them in their proper figures,” Joseph Addison. Hmmm. Got to ponder this one.

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience, and to respect the fury of nature,” Paulo Coelho. Interesting.

“Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character,” Heraclitus.

When all is said and done, may you and I be found with a new measure of patience and stronger, more godly character that will bless others, especially God.

 

Dear Lord, Help us learn patience more and more each day. In Jesus name, Amen

 

About the author: Susan Mathis is the author of The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and four other books. She is the vice president of Christian Authors Network and the Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine and former Editor of 12 Focus on the Family publications. She has written hundreds of articles and now serves as a writer, writing coach, and consultant. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

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My husband Dale and I have experienced medical challenges—cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple surgeries, hospitalizations, and illnesses. We’ve had challenges in our adult children’s lives—financial stresses, unemployment, school struggles, health issues, and major moves across the country and the world. We’ve had life challenges—job changes, aging parents, home and car repairs, and so much more.

Yet all these circumstances have actually brought us closer together because we’ve chosen to lean on each other, to draw strength from each other. You can, too.

Sometimes your marriage will be easy. But other times the potholes or detours of life, the circumstances and the challenges that come your way, will test your marriage and your faith. Yet if you embrace the wisdom of God, He will lead you and guide you through the tough times. He will even carry you over those treacherous mountain passes and through the valleys of hard times . . . if you allow Him.

Especially in the tough times, remember that your marriage is so much bigger than just two people joining forces to journey through life together. It’s even bigger than your family, although that is definitely big!

It’s about how you love each other God’s way. Dale and I make sure we keep this in mind as we make life-decisions.

How have your marriage challenges brought you together? Leave us a comment; we’d love to know.

(Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness, by Susan and Dale Mathis. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved.)

Author Susan G. Mathis

Susan Mathis is the author of The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and four other books. She is vice-president of Christian Authors Network. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

 

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Spiritual Needs 

By Susan G Mathis

It’s always good to revisit your spiritual needs—individually and as a couple—and discuss how each of you can help meet those needs. As we grow and mature, our needs often change, so it’s good to adjust to them accordingly.

First, if you haven’t already, find a church and commit to attend regularly. Next, be sure to pray together. For some, this isn’t easy, but start by saying a prayer before meals. Then you can learn to pray at other times and for other things—for safety on a trip, for God’s will, and for His plan for your marriage. If you’ve let either of these fall by the wayside, reignite your commitment to prayer and fellowship.

Third, plan to grow spiritually together. If you aren’t in one, find a Bible study or small group with other couples with whom you can “do life” together. If your church doesn’t have a group, start one!

Fourth, find another couple and ask them to mentor you. Meet with that couple every few weeks or monthly. Be honest, transparent, and inquisitive. Ask them how to deal with issues you’re encountering. Seek their advice on struggles you may have. And be accountable to them for your walk together as well as individually.

Fifth, but possibly the most important, maintain your covenant commitment to God and to each other. Choose, daily, to maintain and develop your walk with God through faithfully growing in His ways. It’s not always easy, but who expects that everything should be easy?

Finally, realize that, as you grow and mature spiritually, these needs will continue to change. Life is ever changing, and so is your spiritual life.

 

Dear Lord, It’s easy to get so busy we forget grow together spiritually. Help us draw closer together by making You the very center of our lives. In Jesus name, Amen

 

Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness  and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved.

About the author: Susan Mathis is the author of The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and four other books. She is the vice president of Christian Authors Network and the Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine and former Editor of 12 Focus on the Family publications. She has written hundreds of articles and now serves as a writer, writing coach, and consultant. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

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