WHAT GIFTS ARE YOU BRINGING TO YOUR MARRIAGE?

If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is to be present in the present. Gratefully. —Maya Angelou

On the 31st of December every year my husband and I go on a date. We find somewhere quiet, away from the house, and we reflect on the year past, discuss the year to come and we pray.

This is not so much time for making practical plans, it is more a time to be still, to meditate on God’s word and to invite Him to please continue being a part of our marriage on a daily basis in the year to come.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

We are very aware that unless we have God’s input and His blessing on our plans, we are not going to have a good year.  The bedrock of our marriage is God and if He is not acknowledged in our plans our marriage is going to suffer.

We know that left to our own devices we will definitely make a mess of things.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. —Proverbs 3:5,6

During our 26 years of marriage, we have walked so many crooked paths in our relationship we long for only straight paths!

On the last day of 2018, we went to a retreat center near where we live. There is a tiny little chapel on the grounds and we spent some time together there in silent prayer.

On the door of the chapel was a notice that stated:

Every time you come here you have the opportunity to receive three free gifts – special graces:

  1. The grace of being spiritually at home – of belonging
  2. The grace of inner transformation and change
  3. The grace of a mission – of a purpose and meaning in life

The above gifts apply to marriage as well. We need to be spiritually at home in our marriage, to fully belong to our spouse.

We need to allow ourselves and our spouse the opportunity of inner transformation and change within the marriage.

We need to continually bring a purpose and meaning to our marriages.

I added a fourth gift to give to my marriage this year:

The gift of ‘being present’ — Of making my spouse my priority, of being aware of how he is doing, of consciously respecting him and making him feel valued.

As we give these gifts to our marriages, we also give them to ourselves and to God.

In Jeremiah 29:11-14, God says “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity…”

It is wise to regularly call out to God, to pray to Him and to find out from Him what His plans are for your marriage. As you seek Him together as a couple, He will guide you and if you allow Him too He will lead you out of captivity – captivity to anger, resentment, misunderstandings and hurt that may have become a part of your marriage.

Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future.  It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breath is a gift. —Oprah Winfrey

 So I pray that in all our marriages we will consciously let go of the past and treat every moment we have with our spouse as a gift to be treasured.

Originally written for and published on https://www.startmarriageright.com/2019/04/what-gifts-are-you-bringing-to-your-marriage/

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A WORK IN PROGRESS

Every person on this earth starts their lives as a blessing! In the Bible, we read that “children are a gift from the Lord – they are a blessing” (Psalm 127). Therefore, no matter what anyone tells you to the contrary or how you may feel, you are a blessing.

We are children of an Almighty God, and we need to start believing that and acting accordingly. God says in His word that “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). We need to ask God to share His vision for our lives with us and to find out what His original plan was for our lives before the world got in the way and some of us fell so far short of what God had planned for us.

Before any of us are born God had already spoken a prophetic word over our lives.  He says in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We serve a God who has so much compassion for us. He sent His Son to die on the Cross in our place.  Jesus suffered horrific humiliation, He was mocked and bullied, and His friends turned their backs on Him when He needed them most. God knows exactly how sinful we are, how petty and nasty we can be, and yet, He still chose to send His son to die on that Cross.  It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we can enter into a relationship with God.  He says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Due to a very fractured childhood – divorce, re-marriage of both my parents, more divorces and re-marriages on my mom’s side and constant moving around as a child and teenager, I didn’t develop into the adult that God had created me to be. I had no sense of self-worth; I struggled with feelings of total inadequacy and had built so many barriers around myself for fear of being hurt I am utterly amazed that my husband even took the time to get to know me never mind marry me! We had been married for 21 years when I asked him what he had seen in me that made him want to marry me.  His answer shocked me.  He said he had seen a wholeness in me.  I was a broken person, and yet, God gave him this image, this vision of wholeness, and through the years because of his love and the fact that he has always treated me as a whole person, I have been able to grow into wholeness.  I am still a work in progress! We are all works in progress.

From the time we are born, God sees us as whole people.  If we have accepted Jesus Christ into our lives, if we are committed to living for Him, God looks at us through the image of Jesus Christ.  “God created man in His own image, in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27).

It doesn’t matter what family we are born into or how we are being raised – if we have committed our lives to Jesus Christ, He treats us as whole human beings, full of potential.  We need to ask God what His vision is for our lives, and then, through His love, we need to start living that vision.

Originally written for and published onhttps://christianchildrensempowerment.com/…/a-work-in-prog…/

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OPEN DOORS…

“God asks, “Now, who is willing to consecrate them-self today to the Lord?”
(1 Chronicles 29:5)

If we are serious about serving God we need to spend some time thinking about what our answers will be to the questions God asks us:  “Whom shall I send?”  “Who will go for us?”  “Who is willing to consecrate himself to the Lord”.

If we are willing to volunteer we need to realize that God will shut certain doors and will open new doors for us to walk through.
A friend once said to me:

“I know God is opening doors for me.  I just need to find a new way of walking through them”.  

That resonated with me. I like the idea of finding new ways of walking through the doors God is opening – a new attitude, a new faith, a new hope and a new trust in our Lord Jesus.

Lord, we ask that we will see your hand visibly at work in our lives. That as we seek you with all our hearts we will be aware of the doors you are opening and the doors you are closing and that you will grant us grace to face both the shut doors and the open doors.  Amen

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A NIGGLING CONSCIENCE…

A few years ago, my husband, Steve, took one of the chairs from the church hall to see whether there was a way he could fix the welding that was coming loose on the chair.
The chair went from his vehicle to outside the kitchen door at his work premises…and there it stayed. It was handy to put things on or to sit on whilst one was having lunch.
Quite a few years passed and every time Steve walked past this chair his conscience would niggle. By now the chair was well used and worn and the niggling was starting to get worse.

Psalm 33:4 states “For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does”.
Steve’s conscious really began to bother him as he realized he had not been faithful in seeing whether the chair could be fixed and then returning it to church.

Last week whilst driving to a customer he passed a little antique shop displaying various items of furniture outside it’s door and one of the items was the exact same chair. Steve parked and went inside. He did a double take when the owner told him what the chair was selling for.
R300 – we live in South Africa and that is a lot of money.

The conversation that followed went something like this:

Steve: “That’s a lot of money for a little chair!”
Owner: “I know, but just look at the workmanship, look at how old it is”
Steve: “I don’t care how old it is, that’s still a lot of money. I better take it though”.
Owner: “If you don’t mind me asking, why do you want this particular chair and why are you prepared to pay so much money for it”.

Steve explained the story about having taken the chair from church and never returning it and the fact that it was now too shoddy looking to return so he needed to replace it.

Steve: “God says in His word that in all our ways we need to be honest and to fulfill the commitments we make and my conscience is really getting the better of me now so I need to sort this matter out”.
Owner: “Are you a church goer?”
Steve: “Yes and a follower of Jesus Christ”.
Owner: “Well, I am also a Christian and your story has been an amazing witness to me. I tell you what, you can have it for R200”.

Maybe the owner’s conscience was also beginning to niggle about the prices he was charging being a bit high.

Steve loves the Lord, he wants God to be honoured through the way he lives his life. He is finding that the more he acknowledges God in his daily dealings with people the more God is revealing to him the truth in the following verse:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5,6

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COMMUNICATION…

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

This quote basically sums up the root cause of divorce. We say something to our spouse and we are under the illusion that they have heard and understood what we have said, when in actual fact, they have misinterpreted what was said or were distracted at the time and did not hear properly or what was said triggered an emotional response relating to something in their past and instead of concentrating on the words, they are thinking of past hurts or thinking of a response before hearing the full sentence.

I am convinced that the writer of Proverbs 18:13 had married couples in mind when he penned these words: “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame”.

We have to learn to listen to the emotion behind the words, to observe facial expressions and to actively concentrate on the words being spoken. James 1:19 puts it succinctly: “My dear brothers and sisters (spouses) take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

We also need to listen in context to the history of the relationship.

When we learn to communicate effectively it leads to a deeper intimacy and understanding of each other and this deepens and adds immense value to the relationship.

Communication between spouses stands for so much.

C – commitment. We need to be dedicated to each other. Marriage between two Believers should only end when one spouse dies. Divorce is not an option.

O – openness. We need to allow our spouse access into our thoughts. There has to be total honesty between you.

M – magnify. We need to praise our spouse. Boost their egos and adore them.

M – mutual. We need to share feelings and emotions.

U – understanding. We need to be perceptive, appreciative and aware of our spouse at all times.

N – naked. We need to expose our deepest feelings and emotions to our spouse. We also need to make time to be physically naked and enjoy sexual intimacy with our partner.

I – interested. We need to be responsive, intent and excited towards our spouse.

C – caring. We need to be compassionate, kind and considerate at all times.

A – attitude. We need to work at being positive at all times. We definitely need God’s help on this one!

T – transparent. We need to be straight forward, candid and direct and hide nothing.

I – if. If in a marriage is usually followed by only – ‘if only’. If needs to be banned from our vocabulary.

O – ours. We need to claim the marriage relationship as ‘ours’.

N – negotiate. We need to discuss, debate and consult each other.

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Originally written for Start Marriage Right and published on

https://www.startmarriageright.com/…/communication-is-vital/

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HUMBLED…

This past week I found myself in the presence of someone who literally made me feel as though I was standing in the Presence of God.
She was a Sister of Mercy nun and her face radiated a peace, a sense of well-being, a joy that could only have come from her spending many hours in the presence of God.

Obviously, His Presence had rubbed off on her because she was beautiful – a physical and inner beauty. When she looked at me, I felt that she really saw me – not just as a person but as a child of God.

The care home, a building belonging to the Missionaries of Charity, is in Khayelitsha, a partially informal township, in Cape Town, South Africa.

In 1988 Mother Teresa herself approved the Khayelitsha site with these words:
“We have come to give tender loving care to the poor, to the people who have nothing, the forgotten ones…”

We had gone to visit an elderly friend who has fallen on hard times and is basically bedridden. The Sisters of Mercy have welcomed him into their care home and are looking after him.

A Sister of Mercy must abide by the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and wholehearted free service to the poor. They “love and serve God in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor, both materially and spiritually, recognizing in them and restoring to them the image and likeness of God by nursing the sick, the dying and destitute.”1

“A sister’s few possessions include: three saris (one to wear, one to wash, one to mend), two or three cotton habits, a girdle, a pair of sandals, a crucifix, and a rosary. They also have a plate, a set of cutlery, a cloth napkin, a canvas bag, and a prayer book.”2

The Sister we met was from Spain, she must be in her late twenties and I felt humbled at the thought of how she has physically, emotionally and spiritually dedicated her whole life to the Lord, the destitute, the outcast, the sick, the forgotten…

One of the qualification requirements to be a sister is that you have to be of cheerful disposition.
Our Sister from Spain definitely met that qualification in abundance.

She touched me deeply when she asked me what our friend and we believed. What was the bedrock of our faith? What brought us comfort in our faith?
She asked this because she wanted to know what would comfort our friend.
She explained that it was not the Sister of Mercy’s job to convert anyone to their faith. Their only job was to serve all they met as Jesus served and to trust that in this way the person being served would see God and come to know Him.

References: 1 & 2 http://www.motherteresa.org/active-sisters.html

Photos of Imizamo Yethu Township

 

 

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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PROMISE GOD!

 A week ago, one of our daughter’s, had her life all planned out for the next three years.

She was going to join the Open University in the United Kingdom and study for a BA.

A huge amount of planning and thought had gone into preparation for the next three years and she was all set to commence studying and start the next phase of her life’s journey. She just had to put the payment through…and that was when everything unraveled.

She was informed that she had missed the deadline to register for her course and therefore she would not be able to study but she could reapply again in October.  Due to some miscommunication, her course had not been registered because she had not completed the final application.

To say she, and we, were devastated is putting it very mildly.  We were devastated for her because it looked like her dreams would have to be put on hold for ten months and she would now have to find something to do for that time.  She was devastated because her heart was set on starting studying in March and her whole life for the next three years was geared around her studying and now, she was at a total loss.

Being her parents, the first thing we said was that we would pray about the situation, pray that the University would extend grace to her and pray that she would still be able to follow her dreams.

A weekend of real despair followed with said daughter phoning and sending various emails to the University asking/begging that her application be accepted.

This morning she received an email advising that due to the miscommunication between her and the University they have accepted her application and she will be allowed to start studying.

When she informed me of this earlier today my first response, obviously, was “thank God He answered our prayers.  How wonderful of Him”.

Said daughter is in the process of still making up her mind whether there is a God or not but she admitted that when her application was declined, she made Him a promise.  She promised God that if He made a way for her to be accepted at the University, she would go to church every single Sunday for the remainder of the time she is in Amsterdam.

Well, I couldn’t stop laughing…

This means that because she never breaks a promise, she will be going to church every Sunday for the next few weeks. That is about six Sundays in all.

“Truly, O God of Israel, our Saviour, You work in mysterious ways”. (Isaiah 45:15 NLT)

Written with said daughter’s permission.

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