God Speaks from a Coffee Cup

by Linda W. Rooks @linda_rooks

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.                                               1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

I was not happy with my husband. The night before, when I started talking about wanting to get some insurance papers off in the mail, he was unresponsive. I continued to prod him, and when he finally replied, his answer seemed dismissive. I felt offended. The rest of the evening, I busied myself with cleaning up the kitchen and avoided spending time with him.

Now it was morning, and a new problem had surfaced in his work. My husband needed to resolve it, and I could tell he wanted to talk to me about it, but I still felt miffed. I took a sip of coffee and looked down at the 1 Corinthians 13 love cup in my hands. My eyes immediately rested on a phrase inscribed on the side, which read, “Love endures all things.”

Humph. I didn’t feel very loving . . .

But I knew what God was saying in this Scripture, and that God was not asking me how I felt. God was just asking me to love. And my coffee cup stated love “endures.”  In other words, love keeps loving even when it’s hard, even when we don’t feel like loving. So I listened to my husband and responded. I was polite.

After we spent some time talking about his work situation, I looked at my husband and sighed.  “I’m still not very happy with you, you know.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling well last night and had so much on my mind. I thought you were referring to the medical insurance forms I’d just received yesterday. I didn’t understand you were talking about the insurance for our trip.”

Oh my – miscommunication unmasked – a familiar marital theme!

Thankfully, however, God ripped away its destructive potential with a gentle reminder. Our misunderstanding could have gone on for quite awhile without resolution—but for my coffee cup reminding me about what it means to love.

I picked up my Bible and read 1 Corinthians 13 again, thinking about loving my husband God’s way—even when I feel offended.

By following God’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 13 on how to love, even when conflict arises we can work through the confusion that often threatens to divide a couple during confrontations and quarrels. When we are patient, we wait to hear what the other person has to say without judging. By being kind and gentle with our words, we show that we care and give the other person confidence that they are being heard. By rejoicing in truth, we work together as a team to find the best answer rather than merely insisting on our own way.

1 Corinthians 13 tells us what to avoid as well. If we are boastful, conceited, or selfish when disagreements arise, we will pull further apart rather than finding resolution. When we get angry or begin bringing up past offenses, we muddy the waters, cause tensions to rise, and thrust what may have begun as a simple misunderstanding into thorny and dangerous new areas of offense.

However, by protecting the hearts of one another, hoping to find resolution, trusting each other’s motives, and persevering until we come to an understanding, love can reign and hurts can mend.

God can steer us through many disagreements in the home when we follow the instructions He gives us in His Word. And sometimes it may help to start the day with the right kind of coffee cup.

God Speaks from a Coffee Cup – encouragement from @Linda_Rooks on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

linda rooksAbout the author: Linda W. Rooks has a ministry of hope for those in broken marriages. Her award winning book, Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated, and her earlier book, Broken Heart on Hold, Surviving Separation walk with those in the midst of marital breakdown to bring hope and practical guidance to those desiring reconciliation. Linda writes for both adults and children, and her stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Focus on the Family and Today’s Christian Woman. She and her husband reside in Central Florida and thank God for the many reconciled marriages they witness through their ministry and the classes they lead.

Join the conversation: What have you found to be helpful in your relationship with your spouse?

Come Alongside

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
You would think it wouldn’t be so hard, remembering your wife’s birthday when it falls just two days before yours. But more often than not, in our early married years, Steve forgot. Many times. It became a thing for us. I was hurt, even angry, each time I ended up having to remind him half-way through the day that it was my birthday.
Finally, one year, I waited to see how long it would be before he finally remembered on his own. The day went by quietly, no gift, no well-wishes. And the next. Finally, on the morning of Steve’s birthday, the phone rang. From a nearby room, I heard him answer his mother’s happy birthday phone call.

“What? Today? Wait a minute…” he rushed over to the wall calendar. “Oh no! Oh no!”  He hung up the phone and cautiously entered the living room. “I’m so sorry,” he said, looking close to tears. At that moment, I knew that Steve’s forgetfulness was not because he didn’t care. He wanted to remember my birthday. But he couldn’t even remember his.

It was to be a great lesson for us in learning to respond to potentially divisive issues as one. We often share that story as we teach marriage classes to illustrate the importance of working together.

It is also an important concept that should guide us in operating as a church. Paul had some good advice for Timothy on dealing with differences. Timothy was a young guy whom Paul sent to pastor the Ephesus church. There were some bad teachings infiltrating the ranks. It was time to clean house.

Paul begins chapter five with these words: “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters…” (1 Timothy 5:1-2 NASB).

There are two ideas worth noting here. First, Paul is contrasting rebuke with appeal. The Greek word translated rebuke was a strong word. It literally meant to strike with blows. (Paul was using it figuratively here, pummeling with words rather than fists.) Interaction between believers should never be done in that kind of spirit. Instead, Paul urged Timothy to appeal. The original Greek is the word parakaleo, the verb form of the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit (paraclete), which carries a sense of comforting and encouraging while guiding. Quite different than striking out, it is a coming alongside to help.

Second, Paul tells Timothy to think of his fellow believers as family: fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. Your family remains your family, no matter what the issues. They are an extension of who you are. Their joy is yours, as well as their shame. So you do the right thing by them, even when it is not easy; this often necessitates sacrificial love.

Steve uses a clever two-part graphic in our premarital/marital classes. The first part pictures two people with a problem between them. The issue is divisive, driving the two apart. The second is the better option. Rather than the problem sitting between them, the two stand together and aim their energies at the problem as one.

I think this concept is exactly what Paul was communicating to Timothy. 

When correction is needed, it can be handled one of two ways. The first is to verbally chastise with a me-versus-you kind of mentality. The end result is insult and alienation, quite the opposite of what should be our intentions.  In the second option, we approach with humility and love. Rather than point an accusing finger, we come alongside and face the problem together. The presenting issue can now serve as an opportunity to develop unity within the family, rather than tear the church apart.

It’s how Steve and I solved the birthday thing. We decided on a strategy that would put us on the same team rather than adverse sides. About a week before the birthdays, I casually mention the coming dates. “What do you want to do for our birthdays this year?” I ask. We make plans together. Win-win. It works for us.

Jesus prayed that his church would be one, and that our unity would show Christ in us to the world (John 17:21). How we deal with problems matters. When we appeal rather than rebuke, come alongside rather than point the accusing finger, we are moving toward that end.

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2 NASB

Come Alongside – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Has someone ever “come alongside” you?  Or–have you had an angry confrontation aimed at you? How did your situation work out? Do you think how we approach someone in conflict matters?

The Secret to Unity

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I am blessed with a happy marriage. Don’t get me wrong-we have our ups and downs. Steve and I enjoy a close relationship, developed over years of great times and laughter, but those years have also been sprinkled with hard times we wish we could forget. We are two very different people: personality tests reveal we are exact opposites in personality type.

Unity in spite of diversity can be challenging. It’s easy to bond with someone who always agrees with us. But it is a supernatural accomplishment to bond with those with whom we have nothing in common–and especially those with whom we vehemently disagree. Jesus told his disciples, “Love your enemies… For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:36 NASB)

My church is an interesting collection of people. From Charismatic to Presbyterian to Baptist to Catholic, our spiritual backgrounds run the gamut. How can such a diverse group of individuals achieve unity and function as one body?

The world would tell us that the answer is “embracing diversity.” Rather than bemoan the theological and stylistic differences that exist between us, they suggest we celebrate them. Sounds good on the surface, but there is one problem with this idea. The focus is all wrong. When we direct our attention away from the Head of this body onto the individuals in fellowship, we are actually moving away from oneness. Moving our focus from God and onto each other is a recipe for unity disaster.

So what is the answer? How do we achieve unity in a relationship with diverse individuals: in a church, marriage, or any other setting?

A.W. Tozer observed that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same tuning fork are automatically in tune with each other. They are of one accord by being tuned to another standard outside of themselves.

In the same way, as each of us sets our mind on Christ, we will be drawn together in heart.

Paul spent a lot of time in his letter to the Romans explaining the appropriate use of spiritual gifts. He begins Romans 12 encouraging a very personal commitment to God, urging us to offer ourselves as individual living sacrifices. Why the stress on individual commitment to God in a chapter dedicated to the church operating as a unified body? When each member devotes themselves to the same cause, unity is inevitable.

This year marks forty years since Steve and I wed. People ask Steve and I if we have a secret to having remained happy all this time (or at least most of it!!). Our secret to obtaining oneness in marriage is absolutely dependent on our personal relationships with God. As we have both individually kept our focus on Christ, over the years that sameness in purpose has inexorably drawn us together.

We can only hope for unity despite differences when we set aside our own agendas and jointly focus our gaze on our Savior. Supernatural unity is a by-product of individuals determined to walk with Him.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you   will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2 NASB

The Secret to Unity – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What relationships do you have in your life where you love despite diversity?

My Secret Love

by Janet Perez Eckles

We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19 NIV

Some months back, two girlfriends and I relaxed in the balcony of a hotel room, chatting about groups popular in the 70’s. We swayed to the oldies, singing the lyrics with the same ease as the year we wore bell bottoms.

We confessed. Each of us back then looked for the true love. Each of us had a list of what we looked for in the husband of our dreams. Back then, all traits on the list seemed crucial. Now, the fact that Mr. Right needed to be built with muscles of a football player echoes with sad shallowness.

But whatever our secret list held, we all questioned. “Did we marry the man of our dreams? Are we sharing the house with the husband who displays true love?

How unrealistic. How immature of us to expect that the true love we sought would be inside the man who said, “I do” at the altar. If any of us were tricked into thinking the perfect man wore that tuxedo beside us, future disappointment was as sure as dirty dishes in the kitchen.

That delusion is the reason for happiness to fade away in the darkness of long nights. And married bliss is lost in the hamper of dirty clothes.

The only true love comes from the man who wore but a cloth and displayed muscles ripped by lashes on the way to Calvary. And when we make Jesus our only true love, our husbands can play the role they were meant to have–our mate, our companion and lifetime friend.

While swaying to the music of God’s divine, true love, expectations sing with joy. The exquisite blend of love and reassurance only Jesus brings echoes nearby. It’s the divine and true formula that brings peace to storms. Brings logic to life. And gives a colorful hue to married life.

And that life shines when we read what was tucked in the Valentine card God signed with His promise: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again…” (Jeremiah 31:4).

Father, when life is broken, desires echo with emptiness, and we wonder how to find true love, your reassuring commitment soothes the anxiety and your reminder brings a new song to my life. Thank you for the love no one else can give and for the promise no one else can keep. In Jesus’ name I thank you. Amen.

My Secret Love – insight and encouragement from Janet Perez Eckles on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

janet perez ecklesAbout the author: Blindness tried to darken her life, but Janet Perez Eckles became an international speaker, best-selling author, personal success coach, radio host and best playmate to her grandchildren. Her books include Contagious Courage: a Thirty Day Journey to Overcoming Stress and Anxiety and Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God’s Fiesta. You can learn more about Janet at www.janetperezeckles.com.

Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: How has living in the love of God affected your relationships?

The Answer is in  Your Cell Phone

by Pam Farrel @PamFarrel

In your distress you called and I rescued you. Psalm 81: 7

It happened again today, a friend, a leader, called to share that their marriage was over. My response was sadness and a little curiosity, so I asked, “You had our cell number, why didn’t you call for help?”

The answers we have received to that question over the years have included:

We thought we could handle it (so at some point you must have realized you couldn’t).

We didn’t want anyone to know how bad things were (but now the whole world knows of your divorce- that seems worse as far as PR problems go).

Only one of us wanted help (but one can often make a difference as it brings change to a relationship).

Our friendship with you is too important to us, so we didn’t want to spoil it by sharing our personal lives (by I thought being “real and authentic” was the definition of friendship).

We thought it might cost money (and a divorce is cheap? Counseling is a small investment, and often in a community free or nearly free help is available).

If you hit a rough patch, pull out your cell phone. Chances are you have at least ONE person with a strong marriage in your world  who would be willing to mentor you, a pastor who would be willing to shepherd you, a therapist willing to counsel you, or a family member willing to walk alongside you. 

Shame wants you to sweep issues under the rug. Shame isolates you from those who love and care. Shame inspires you to make up excuses. Don’t listen to the voice of shame. Desperation is a better voice. Be desperate to find the best, most quality, most experienced, or most caring help you can find. Be desperate like the woman with an “issue” that came to Jesus:

A woman suffering from bleeding for 12 years, who had spent all she had on doctors  yet could not be healed by any,  approached from behind and touched the tassel of His robe.  Instantly her bleeding stopped.

What were Christ’s words to her? Were they filled with condemnation? Anger? Frustration? No. He simply said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace” (Luke 8:48, HCSB).

Show that kind of faith. If your marriage hits a rocky patch, pick up your cell phone and call someone. If you can’t locate someone in your world willing to help, then call a ministry you appreciate. They likely can help you find a clergy member or counselor in your area willing to answer your call for help.

Lord, give us the courage to desperately defend our marriage. Help us combat pride and call out when we need help. Give me the faith to reach out for help trusting you will send someone who cares. Amen.

The Answer is in  Your Cell Phone – encouragement from @PamFarrel on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

pam ferrelAbout the authorPam Farrel is the author of  Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience, as well as books to help couples in crisis: Love, Honor and Forgive and 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make. If you are a couple in Crisis, there is help at Marriage On the Rocks? Try Again blog.

Join the conversation: Have you ever reached out for help when your marriage was falling apart? If not, what stopped you?

Skipping the Valentine Gift

by Michele McCarthy

A wise person demonstrates patience, for mercy means holding your tongue. When you are insulted, be quick to forgive and forget it, for you are virtuous when you overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 NASB

Ah, the cycles of gift giving! The bountiful, countless gift giving options marrieds appropriate. The “Surely if my husband loved me, he’d make a mental note of any gift I might enjoy, say, for Valentine’s Day or our anniversary. He’d remember the earrings, book or CD I mentioned and tuck the idea-nugget away on the gift giving list he carries in his man-card wallet. I just need to allow him to read my mind” cycle. No pressure there.

Then there’s the “no fail, surprise romantic dinner” rotation. But the steak burned or one of the kids got sick or the business meeting ran long, and dinner went cold. Dinner wasn’t the only thing cold that night.

Close behind: the “Let’s don’t give gifts this year” series. Yet one of you breaks the rule, thinking other said person will break the rule. Oops, the spouse with no gift to give feels like a heel.

All kidding aside, we can, at times, put pressure on our husbands or ourselves…wishing for mind readers that enable becoming the perfect fulfiller of our wants, gifts and dreams—much like the characters in a Hallmark movie. FICTION Hallmark movie, mind you. So much can go wrong and can lead to hurt and unforgiveness.

My husband is a good gift giver; it is often me that messes everything up. One time he bought me a special coffee maker and a beautiful white coffee cup. A sweet remembrance of our trip to Italy and our daily coffee “experiences”—always with a white cup. Poor guy, I hated to tell him I had just decided I needed to cut down my coffee habit. As soon as he has me figured out, I change my mind! Yes, I have returned gifts he has spent precious time finding.

This year, I’m skipping the nicely wrapped Valentine gift. Instead, I’ll offer my Valentine a richer sacrifice. I’d like to become (for him) unoffendable. Yes, what if I never again hold my husband accountable for my happiness, my worth, my value…even at Valentines…gift, no gift, thoughtless gift or greatest gift?

Have I matured enough in my walk with Christ? Am I as easily able to be unoffended with my husband as I am with others? I want to be consistently, kindly unoffendable. In our home. Holiday or not.

Jesus lived it. He gave and gave and whether appreciated or not, loved or not, received or not, beaten or not, He never gave an offended response. He loved continuously and unconditionally. Everyday. Everywhere.

Long ago I received the best LOVE gift ever, one that never fails. Jesus. When He took residence in me, His amazing love toward others, in kindness and truth, was to become who I am. I have the pleasure and power of learning to love like Christ.

Can you hear it? Maybe my husband will hum Nat King Cole singing a new song, “unoffendable that’s who you are…unoffendable both near and far…”

I will get my hubby a funny Valentine card to accompany a noticeable shift in my expectations. The key word being my. As I walk out who I am in Christ, I want to increase my love out of the overflow of Christ’s love for me, no gift expected in return or any need to be returned.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB

Skipping the Valentine’s Gift – thoughts from Michele McCarthy on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Michele McCarthyAbout the author: A wife to her devoted husband and a mom of two fine young men, two fabulous daughters-in-law and five beautiful grandchildren, Michele McCarthy has served her family faithfully for years. She is now enjoying attending Lifestyle Christianity University and exploring long hidden talents of writing and watercolor. She has written a children’s book, Daddy and Me, that is currently at the publisher. She loves reading, scrapbooking, deep conversations and talking about Jesus.

Join the conversation: How is that gift cycle working for you?

You Are Not Going to Like It

By Pam Farrel @PamFarrel

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.                                                                                                                                                1 Peter 4:8 NIV

I am an enthusiastic entrepreneur at heart. I take great joy in creating something from nothing and provide quality resources for others while simultaneously providing for my family.

When Bill was new in his senior pastor position at the age of 28, I was a mom at home completing my education. Tuition was stressing our already tight budget, so I attended a seminar on starting a business. The presenter was very persuasive. I bought the magic beans.

But on the way home, I began to feel convicted by the Holy Spirit. I had spent more than I should have; over a certain amount, we had agreed to decide as a team if this was how WE wanted to spend OUR money. I had violated that trust. I prayed for forgiveness and wisdom on the best way to tell my husband.

I walked in, and took Bill’s hand, looked him in the eyes, and with emotion said, “I have something to tell you, and you are not going to like it, but please tell me “I love you and we will get through this together.” As I confessed to my transgression to him, I could see Bill’s anger rising, but to his credit, through gritted teeth he said, “Pam, I love you, I forgive you, and we will get through this together.”

The mercy Bill gave me that day lodged deep in my heart, and my love for him grew even stronger.

Years later, my father passed away and left me an inheritance. Bill was offered “an incredible investment opportunity” by someone, and Bill talked me into investing my money toward our future needs.

Today people are more skeptical of investment advisers after so many financial fraud cases in recent memory. But our investment decision was before all that had happened.

One day, our adviser took our money and ran. Bill was horrified to learn it all was gone. But his biggest regret was talking me into investing it in the first place. My treasured inheritance from my father! He prayed about how to break the news.

Bill came home, took my hand, and with sorrow in his eyes, said, “Pam, I have something to tell you, and you are not going to like it, but I need you to tell me “I love you and we will get through this together”.  As I listened to his news, I remembered Bill’s grace and mercy for me those many years before. In spite of our loss, my heart pushed out the words, “Bill, I love you, I forgive you, and we will get through this together.”

Jesus told a parable about a slave who had a large debt graciously forgiven (Matthew 18:21-35). Soon after, he confronted a fellow slave who owed him significantly less than what his own debt had been. The slave was unable to pay, and the angry man had him thrown into prison. The slave’s owner, who had forgiven him, was furious when he heard. “I forgave you all [your] debt…Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:32-33 NASB)

Jesus’ point: to refuse to forgive is an affront to the grace and mercy our Heavenly Father has given to us. What we have been forgiven should compel us to treat each other with the kind of generous mercy we enjoy from God.

After both of our bad financial decisions, we chose honesty and forgiveness over anger and strife. And because of that, we became stronger as a team. Grace, mercy and forgiveness create an environment where love can accumulate interest just like money in an investment account. In such a positive environment, a relationship can flourish emotionally and spiritually (and perhaps even financially), because you will be functioning as a team, learning to accept each other’s mistakes and moving on from them together.

Lord, we thank you for the grace and mercy you have given us. Help us in turn to give grace and mercy to cover each other’s imperfections. Amen.

You Are Not Going to Like It: the Power of Forgiveness – @PamFarrel on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

pam ferrelAbout the author: Pam and Bill Farrel are international speakers, authors of 46 books including A Couple’s Journey with God devotional and bestselling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. Together they run Love-Wise helping people with their most vital relationships. When they are not traveling for speaking, you will find them at home on their live-aboard boat docked in Southern California.

Join the conversation: How has offering forgiveness made a difference in your relationship? Please share!

Romancing the Empty Nest

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Everyone said I’d hate this phase. That I’d grow listless, depressed. Perhaps even lose my sense of identity.

That, after eighteen years of parenting, when our daughter moved out, my world would shift so dramatically, I’d flounder and fidget and mope. And maybe buy an obscene number of cats. Or chocolate.

The latter part might be true, but I no longer have to hide in the pantry to enjoy it. In fact, I can have ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if I choose. We can eat reclined on the couch, or go out, or do whatever else dating folks do, because in a way, it feels as if that’s what we’ve become—the dating couple. Or maybe the newlyweds, only better, because we have twenty plus years of pushing through the hard.

That kind of love doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t come over night, but once it comes, man is it sweet. And I’ve determined to enjoy every silly, giggly, slightly-cheesy drop in this new life stage.

A couple months ago, my husband and I cleared our schedule, left all the boring aspects of our marriage, like laundry and cooking, behind for a weekend, and took off for the windy city. We chose not to rent a car and would instead travel wherever we wanted to go, whenever we wanted to get there, by foot.

It’d be so romantic. We’d stroll hand in hand through the art museum, watch the Cubbies land a win from our rooftop seats across the street, and we’d end our weekend with the best, gluten free dessert imaginable!

It rained. And not just a little. I’m talking near-Noah caliber. The Cubs game was canceled, and that rooftop experience we’d paid so much money for was filled with loud, beer-sloshing drunks.

We didn’t get to do anything we planned. Except eat. We did a lot of that. And I suppose, sitting in a busy coffee shop watching the sky quite literally “rain on our parade,” I could’ve been upset. Could’ve made us both miserable in fact.

Instead, we chose to enjoy our time together, to focus on every blessing, and celebrate all the ways God has transformed and strengthened our marriage over the years. We chose, as best as we could, to express the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends” (ESV).

Love is patient, longsuffering. It bears all things, including disappointments, a change of plans, and the occasional downpour. It’s not irritable. Instead, it rejoices and celebrates everything good and pure.

But most importantly, love never ends.

I learned something early on in our marriage, something that’s carried me through countless moves, disrupted plans, and canceled events—life, and romance, are what I make them. As fun as the Cubbies and museum would’ve been, those things have nothing on my man. And when it was all said and done, I got to spend two full days and nights with my hero, God’s gift to me.

Perhaps this applies to empty nesting as well. Life is always changing, and our roles will constantly shift, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. To the contrary—our next role or mishap or season could be the most romantic yet!

Romancing the #emptynest – #encouragement from author @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet) 

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the authorJennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to stay up to date with her future appearances, projects, and releases. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: What blessings have you received in your stage of a relationship?

Deep Roots

 by Pam Farrel

You might live in the part of the world known as Tornado Alley. Winds whip through, and trees that have shallow roots are tossed about like toothpicks. But trees with roots deeply embedded into the ground remain firmly anchored in place. It is the deeply rooted trees that survive storm after storm.

God challenges us to have another kind of deep roots:

They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:8 NIV

Jesus warns of the danger of shallow roots in the famous parable of the seed:

“Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”  Mark 4:5-6 NIV

This world needs more people, more marriages, and more families with deep spiritual roots. Strong individuals coupled together build strong marriages. Relationships like this provide stability for families, churches, and communities. But deep roots take a little effort to develop.

We run a ministry called Love-Wise, and couples often tell us, “We want a marriage like yours.” So we explain some of the choices we have made to grow a happy marriage. Good training is available through church attendance, a Sunday School class, or a small group where couples meet together to discuss relationships. Other opportunities for growth are in attending marriage conferences, listening to Christian radio, and other forms of media.

But the really rich work God does is in us as individuals. Spending daily time with Him is crucial to getting His guidance in becoming the best partner, parent, and person possible. Deep roots develop when it is just you and God dealing with your life, your relationship, and your heart. A media-only diet is like a tree with shallow roots. One big wind storm comes and it can topple the tree. Or one hot, scorching summer hits and shallow roots dry up and the plant dies. The best fruit, the sweet fruit, comes when the roots of the tree go deep down into the rich soil.

I join the Apostle Paul and pray for each of your marriages:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph 3:17-19 NIV)

 Lord, sink our roots deep into You and Your Word. Give us the sweet fruit that comes with deep roots built on the kind of love you can give. 

pam ferrelAbout the author: Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of 45 books including best selling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and A Couple’s Journey with God. She and her husband, Bill, co-direct Love-Wise ministry.

Join the conversation: How have you built up your marriage?

Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash

Rolling Your Stones Away

by Janet McHenry

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  Mark 16:2-4

On what we now call Good Friday, Jesus suffered on a cross and died. Scripture says two Jewish council members, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then a stone was rolled against the entrance.

The finality of closing that tomb doubt signaled the end of His life on earth for them. The disciples, Jesus’ family, and those involved in His crucifixion assumed what anyone would: the past three years of His powerful ministry were over.

One earthly tasked remained, however. When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary—the mother of James—and Salome headed to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. However, as they walked, a thought occurred to them. Who would roll the stone away?

That was a good question! Scholars have speculated the stone could have been either a wheel-shaped stone or a giant plug. In either case it would have been two to four thousand pounds in weight. No doubt others, maybe the guards assigned to the tomb, had helped Joseph and Nicodemus move it over the entrance on Friday night. Moving the stone would take more than the combined strength of a few women.

However, when they arrived, they saw it had already been rolled away. Jesus had resurrected from the dead. The power of heaven had come to earth and moved the stone. And Jesus had walked away.

Good Friday can be called good, because the rolled-into-place stone was not the final word. Jesus did the impossible that day. And today He is still in the business of rolling away our seemingly impossible stones.

Many women are in vulnerable positions. Maybe you’re single and pregnant. Maybe you’ve been trying to conceive. Maybe you’re a widow . . . or maybe your husband has been unfaithful. Maybe you’re just wondering how you’ll pay your next bill.

Years ago when working in a law office, I thought I’d type up my own divorce papers—just to see how they would look. I actually worked for my husband, who was often demanding and angry. I felt desperate. I could not live one more day in a hopeless marriage. After I typed up the petition, I looked at it and prayed, Lord, give me one good reason to stay in this marriage.

At that moment, Craig walked into the room holding our young son. It was like a snapshot—one that could have been put into a photo album. I began to think of the future graduations and weddings and grandbabies-to-be. What would those photos look like if we were no longer together?

I thought of the sense of hopelessness that Jesus’ followers must have felt on that Good Friday. They didn’t know Resurrection Sunday was just two dawns away. In spite of how hopeless things seemed in our home, maybe God could resurrect our relationship. So I prayed that Jesus would roll the stones in our marriage away.

And he did! We went to a marriage seminar a weekend soon after that and began to learn how to communicate our needs clearly. We even slipped away from one of the seminars to spend time walking the beach, holding hands, and telling each other what qualities we appreciated in each other.

Is our marriage perfect? Not by any means. But it does stand as a testimony to what Jesus can do for any relationship. We truly love each other more each passing day and have learned that there is always hope when you have faith in Christ.

Ask Him to roll away your stones, to make what now seems impossible possible. As God said in Jeremiah 32:27: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Janet McHenryAbout the author: Janet McHenry is a national speaker and author of 23 books, including the best-selling PrayerWalk and The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus, which will be released June 2018. A former educator, she writes from her home in the Sierra Valley, where she and her rancher husband Craig have raised four children. Janet still walks and prays for her town. She may be contacted through her website, www.janetmchenry.com.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a Prayer Walkwinner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Janet’s book, Prayer Walk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, and Discipline, please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What in your life needs resurrecting?