The best is yet to come.

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On my sister’s phone.

Walking through Target.

Listening to a radio show.

Scrolling on Pinterest.

In the mail.

Think God might be trying to tell me something? ♥


“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 1:6b

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” — Isaiah 43:19

“[The righteous man] is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid.” — Psalm 112:7-8a

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” — Isaiah 32:17-18

Married Monday: My New Wedding Vows

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Dear Daniel,

Remember that sweet June evening when we said our vows under those beautiful trees in Love County? We decided not to write our own because, knowing the two of us, you probably would have struggled to get five full sentences down and I probably would have still been furiously writing after six or seven pages. ;) We’re very different, you and I, but in the midst of all the messes we’ve waded through together, we always come back to those vows. Those covenant promises we made to walk shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand until death separates us. For better or for worse, it’s you and me.

I think we can both admit, though, that saying vows is much easier than keeping vows. Since the moment we stepped off of that stage, we’ve learned that we had and still have a lot of expectations for each other, that sometimes the little things are wayyyy more irritating than the big things, and that serving each other does not come naturally. With that said, I have a few new vows I would like to make to you.


— I vow to keep turning your socks right side out, even when it drives me crazy that you don’t do it yourself.

— I vow to do my best not to use the words “always” and “never” in a fight, because they aren’t realistic.

— I vow to not stick my cold feet on you under the covers when you’re almost asleep.

— I vow to stop judging your Amazon obsession.

— I vow to forget your gross, weird, unattractive moments and keep totally crushing on the sexy beast you are.

— I vow to teach you more about empathy and let you teach me more about logic.

— I vow to try to stop gasping uncontrollably when you go all ‘The Fast & The Furious’ on me in the truck.

— I vow to take your secrets to my grave, including the funny iPhone videos I’ve taken of you when you weren’t paying attention.


I can’t promise that I’ll always love you 100% unconditionally, because I’m a sinner, so I’m pretty much guaranteed to mess this marriage thing up a lot. But I can promise to run toward Jesus with everything I have, to respect you, to apologize when I fail, to trust God’s plans for our marriage, and to love you as hard as I can because He loved us first, and that’s the only way we can love each other in return.

I love you so much, kid. You’re the coolest guy ever, and I can’t believe I get to be married to you. ♥

XOXO,
Your wife

P.S. I also can’t promise that I will stop stealing the covers, because I’m asleep when I do it and literally have no control over that. #sorryyyyyy


This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

When God Answers Everyone’s Prayer But Yours

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Have you ever spent much time in a doctor’s office waiting room? It’s a simple enough place, but it’s full of expectation. You walk in, fill out paperwork, take a strategically-chosen seat that’s a safe distance away from the guy with the hacking cough and the woman with the cranky kids climbing up and down her legs, pull out your phone to pass the time, and wait. You’re there with a purpose, and so is everyone else. Every single person in that room has the same hope: that when the door opens, they’ll hear their name.

When the door opens, everyone looks up with anticipation.

The nurse calls a name.

It’s not yours.

“It’s okay,” you tell yourself. “I haven’t been here for that long. They’ll call me back soon.” 

And you continue to wait semi-patiently as two, three, four more people go in for their appointments. All of them were here before you, and you assume you’ll be next.

But then the door opens again and the nose-blower’s name gets called. Not yours. You’re confused. Haven’t you been waiting longer than him? More names are called. None of them are yours. The waiting room grows emptier, and you’re still waiting.

Now you’re frustrated. “This wasn’t supposed to take this long. When is it going to be my turn??” you wonder. But you’re not really the type to make a scene, and although you are starting to feel forgotten, you know that your name is on the list. So you sit and wait, because that’s all you can do.


Our life is full of metaphorical waiting rooms. Every season presents a new set of crossroads and questions that need answers, like… What do you want to be when you grow up? Where are you going to college? What are you going to major in? What if you realize you hate your major and you want to start over but you have no clue where to start? Where do you want to work? Who are you going to marry? Are you going to have kids? When? How many? What if you can’t have them? What town should you live in? How do you know what your ‘dream job’ is? How much money should you save for retirement?? Is anyone else overwhelmed???

If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably taken at least one of those questions to the Lord in prayer and waited for Him to answer. I have asked all of those questions myself, and it never fails – as soon as I find myself in a season of not-knowing-the-answers and not-moving-forward, I am suddenly surrounded by people who DO seem to know their answers and who ARE moving forward. It’s hard to feel like the only person standing still in a sea of people who are going and doing and knowing.

When we ask God things like “When?” or “How long?”, we hope that His answer will be “Now!” But a lot of times, it isn’t. God operates outside of time, and every single thing He does is done at exactly the right moment. Trying to force God to follow our schedule and demanding an answer from Him by a certain time only leads to our own frustration, because we’re expecting God to behave like a human when He isn’t one. He can’t be manipulated into doing what we want. Waiting on God to answer forces us to slow down, and it’s one of the ways God draws us closer to Him. Choosing to trust Him even though we aren’t sure what’s going to happen next is hard, but that’s the whole point – it’s about putting your faith in God, not in whatever it is you’re waiting for. Waiting is more about experiencing God than simply enduring a delay (paraphrased, written by Wendy Pope in Wait and See).

Here are some practical ways to keep trusting in the Lord when you want to give up:

  1. Nurture an attitude of gratitude. You may have a lot of unanswered questions, but there are a few things we can always be sure of. First of all, you are seen, understood, and loved by God. Second, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. Make the intentional choice to focus on those things, rather than spending all of your time thinking about that *one thing* that God hasn’t given you (yet).
  2. Start praying for the other people in your life who are waitingDo you know someone else who is waiting for the same thing you’re waiting for? Take your eyes off of yourself and focus your energy on your friend. Start lifting her up to God in prayer daily, and ask that she would receive her miracle/answer/breakthrough while you’re waiting for yours.
  3. Reframe your situation. Try to stop thinking of yourself as waiting, and just think of yourself as living. Do you really want to spend your entire life on standby? In a constant state of waiting for the next thing to come along? If you have a growing relationship with the Lord, you are already as fulfilled and complete as you’ll ever be on earth, RIGHT NOW. You are not lacking anything, friend. In every season, in every life situation, you can be wholly satisfied in Him. God doesn’t withhold things from us to be cruel. He cares for us and only gives us good things. As we speak, He is working all things together for our benefit, and when we have Him, we already have everything.

You know what else is important? The end of the story. Never, ever, ever forget the end of your story. As believers in Christ, we win! WE WIN! It is guaranteed that we will get our happy ending someday, because the ultimate happy ending isn’t a new job or a spouse or a baby or more money or a cured disease or world peace. The happy ending is spending eternity with Jesus.

Are you waiting for something right now? Do you feel overlooked? Are you starting to lose patience and endurance, wondering just how long you’ll have to keep waiting? I understand, my friend. And you are so incredibly normal. The most important thing for you to remember is this: We are held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. He has not forgotten about you, and He doesn’t run out of blessings. He may be giving that other person a spouse, a new house, or their dream job right now, but that doesn’t mean you accidentally got left off of His list and He won’t have anything left by the time He gets to you.

God loves you, and so do I! ♥

This post was inspired by Kaylie Ragsdale.

How to Know Who Your Real Friends Are

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Making friends when you’re a kid is SO.MUCH.EASIER. than making new friends as an adult. As a kid, pretty much all you have to do is share your snacks, show up at their birthday parties, play nicely together at school, find out what his or her name is, and you’re all set. But once you become an adult, the playground method of announcing someone as your friend doesn’t really work anymore, and over time, your genuine friend group becomes more defined and quite a bit smaller.

I’m the kind of person who believes in “Once friends, always friends.” I hate losing touch with people who were important to me, even though I know it’s inevitable. Sometimes friendships really are forever, and sometimes they are just for a season. But either way, finding true friends is a gift from God, and the friendships I have cherished the most over the years always seem to have the same things in common.

First of all, distance doesn’t diminish them. You may not be able to hug each other’s necks and talk in person as often as you’d like, but no matter how far apart you live from each other, you make a point of keeping in touch, even if it’s just checking in via text every now and then. Technology is such a blessing for this exact reason. Although in a perfect world, all of the people I love would live within 15 minutes of me, haha!

You can also tell a friendship is a solid one when nothing is off limits in your conversations. Marriage, sin, parenting, your past, weaknesses, family problems – it’s all on the table, and you don’t shy away from any of it for very long. You know each other well enough to know the right questions to ask, and you don’t sugarcoat your answers or try to lie to each other. You aren’t afraid to talk about hard things. You tell each other the truth, and the openness and trust between you is refreshing.

For a Christian, some of the absolute best friends you’ll ever have should come from within your church family, and especially from the church you’re a member of. The love that followers of Jesus have for each other is unique, powerful, and very special. Having common interests is a great catalyst for a new friendship, but I have been astounded by how much a mutual love for the Lord and desire to serve Him can bond you with someone, regardless of whether or not your music and movie preferences align.

Another way to know you’re really comfortable with a person is if you can be quiet together sometimes and it’s not weird. If you don’t feel the need to fill an awkward empty silence, that is significant. It’s nice to just hang out with someone without feeling like you always have to have something funny or surprising or intelligent or cool to say. You can just be together. Of course, usually with those people, you want to talk with them. But the fact that you don’t have to is pretty special.

Finally, I’m convinced that the best friends in the world are the people who really mean what they say. When they tell you they will pray for you, they actually do it. And then they follow up with you in a week or two about whatever they prayed for. When you’re sick, grieving a loss, or just generally in need, they ask “Do you need anything?” and actually mean it. They aren’t secretly hoping you’ll say “Nah, we’re good” so they are off the hook. They genuinely want you to tell them what you need so that they can take care of it.

I’ll leave you with two questions:

  1. Do you have friends like that? I’m sure you do, so go tell them you love them. Yes, right now. Call them, text them, write them a letter – but do it now. Time is short. ♥
  2. Are YOU a friend like that? Are you the kind of person people can rely on? Are you honest AND kind? Do you mean what you say?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
— Proverbs 27:17

“But God so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
— 1 Corinthians 12:24b-27

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer. …All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
— Acts 2:42, 44-47

Married Monday: Marriage Advice for Dating, Engaged, and Newlywed Couples

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Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Billy Graham, said, “Love is not only ‘the union of two good forgivers,’ but also ‘the union of two good appreciators.'” Can’t say it better than that!

It’s important to remember that marriage is blending the lives of two sinners together. YOU are a sinner. YOU are deeply flawed and selfish. And you are marrying a sinner who is also deeply flawed and selfish. Getting married doesn’t automatically turn you into amazingly perfect, selfless people.

Sometimes, romance doesn’t look like flowers and fancy dates. Maybe it looks like one of you doing the dishes because you know the other one hates doing them. Maybe it’s finding a heart drawn in the fog on the mirror when you get out of the shower. Maybe it’s just putting your phones away for an hour, sitting on the couch, and talking about your week. Your methods of showing affection will deepen in value, and gestures of love take on brand new meaning as seasons of life change.

Never, ever, EVER compare yourself or your marriage to others, especially via social media. You will end up feeling prideful or resentful, and neither is healthy.

Know that for every expectation you have for your spouse, they will have one for you too. You’ll find out really fast how “stuck in your ways” both of you are. But also know that while both of your expectations may be valid, you both need to bend a little. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect your spouse to do all the changing and adjusting in your relationship while you refuse to adapt a little for them.

Your marriage relationship is a picture to the rest of the world about the way God loves His people. Are you displaying an accurate picture?

You will never completely fulfill each other. I know it may be hard to imagine (partially because movies have given us unrealistic expectations for the things our spouse is ‘supposed’ to do and say), but there will always be gaps that no one but the Lord can fill. Ruth Bell Graham also wisely said, “I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another. It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.”

Guard your heart persistently. There are so many things competing for your attention – romance novels, sex-saturated movies, pornography, flirtatious coworkers – and Satan will use as many as he can to steal your affection for your spouse, in obvious ways and scarily subtle ways. Don’t let him. Protect your marriage.

Don’t forget that you are on the same team! When you face conflict, try to view the situation as “the couple vs. the problem” rather than “the husband vs. the wife.” You are teammates on the same side, not enemies in opposite corners of a boxing ring.

Respect and kindness are gifts. At some point (even if it’s just for one 10-minute argument), your spouse will not deserve them. Give them anyway. They are much easier to give when they are earned, but it is much more powerful to give them when they aren’t.

Learn to pick your battles, because some things just aren’t worth arguing about. Don’t look for reasons to be upset. Instead, think long-term and ask yourself, “Ten years from now, will I be glad I fought for this? How important will it be in a few decades that we didn’t agree about this, or that he did what I wanted?” 

Pride will ruin your relationship. You will become mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy very quickly if you are too stubborn to ask for forgiveness, to accept a genuine apology, or to ask for help when you need it.

Physical attraction and sexual compatibility are a really shaky foundation to build your life on. They are like lighter fluid on a relationship: it will burn hot and bright for a short while, but when there is no other substance underneath to fuel it, the flame will inevitably fade and fail.

Make having fun a priority in married life, not just in your dating life. Don’t let  new responsibilities and schedules and busyness dampen your spirit and spontaneity. Marriage can be SO FUN, more fun than anything else you do, so decide that fun is important and make time for it!

Learn your spouse’s love language as early as possible, and look for ways to show your affection in the way that means the most to him or her – acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch, or words of affirmation.

So often, when someone has a problem with his or her spouse, they talk to everyone else BUT their spouse about it. Don’t do this. If your husband is frustrating you, talk to HIM about it and deal with it together.

The best time to invest in your marriage is before you’re struggling. Read marriage books together, go to a conference, or plan a weekend getaway somewhere specifically to spend time reconnecting. The time and money you sacrifice will be worth it in the long run.

Pray so hard for your marriage. Never stop praying for each other and with each other. Pray as if your lives depend on it, because they do. 


This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

Adulting: Not What I Expected

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Adulthood is different than I thought it would be.

I don’t know where I got this idea, but I think I assumed for a long time that, the older you get, the less mistakes you make. The less awkward you are. The less times you need to apologize and make things right again. Less fighting. Less soul-searching. Less anxiety. Less, less, less.

I guess that kind of thinking would make sense to a kid: more years of experience should naturally lead to you becoming better at *fill in the blank* over time, right? And yet time and time again, I find myself in some of the same places I was as a teenager:

Overwhelmed.
Unsure.
Embarrassed.
Indecisive.
Emotional.
Self-conscious.
Making the same mistakes over and over.

I have a theory, though.

I’m discovering that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean making less mistakes or feeling confident all the time. Maybe genuine maturity is marked more by your reaction time to whatever is happening. And the proof is all over the place.

Example #1: Marriage will teach you really quickly how awful of a person you are and how much you have to learn about true reconciliation. In 6 years of married life, it’s not that we’ve gotten better at not sinning – we’re still really good at sinning. We’ve just gotten quicker at apologizing and forgiving.

Example #2: I used to sit and stew for hours (or even days) if I made an embarrassing public mistake or had one of those moments where you say something dumb and instantly regret it. But now, I give myself a few pity minutes, chalk it up to being an imperfect human and not a robot, apologize if necessary, and move on with my life.

Example #3: When I was in high school and even into my college years, I was the queen of self-condemnation when it came to my spiritual life. If I went a week without spending time in the Word, I felt like I had to read 7 times as much to “catch up” to where I was “supposed to be.” You know what’s great though? God just wants us to know Him. Yes, reading the Bible and talking with Him daily should be more than a goal; it’s essential. But He isn’t standing there with a clipboard giving us demerits for falling asleep in the middle of reading Proverbs. I’m learning not to beat myself over the head with guilt, because I know that God isn’t.

Maybe adulthood is just owning it. Owning all of it – the good and the bad decisions and outcomes. It means finally learning to truly like yourself. It means allowing yourself to feel a healthy sense of pride and joy in a big accomplishment, rather than being self-deprecating and minimizing your hard work. It means being content in your current season of life, rather than spending all your time wishing you were in another one. It means you stop always shifting blame to other people and playing the victim. It means you take responsibility when you are a terrible human being, admit it and confess it to the Lord, and move forward in His forgiveness. It means that when bad things happen to you, in or out of your control, you spend less time complaining and more time praying.

But mostly? I think adulthood means becoming okay with being imperfect.

You see, we know in our minds that we will never be perfect. We know that. We’ve heard it and said it a thousand times, to others and to ourselves. But deep down, we still expect to be. And we HATE being reminded that we aren’t. Every flaw, every slip-up, every lapse in judgement is followed by the snide, mocking voice of our enemy whispering “Failure” in our desperately weary ears.

Why are we so hard on ourselves?

BECAUSE BEING AN ADULT IS HARD.

Even if you’ve been one for decades and you’ve settled into a routine, that doesn’t make it any less hard. You’re just used to it being hard. But for newbies, it’s overwhelming.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to be/look/feel a certain way already, and then, on top of our own self-doubt and self-hate, we get 500 pounds of cultural expectations dumped on us too. You’re supposed to be able to cook, clean, deep condition your hair, keep plants alive, be a sexy beast but not act overly proud about it, budget, eat organic, go to doctor’s appointments, drink enough water, keep up with laundry, give to the needy, actually put dishes in the dishwasher instead of letting them “soak,” read for pleasure, vote, get rid of your cellulite, call your parents, spend time with Jesus, say no to french fries drugs, take care of your skin, keep track of all the chemicals in your house that are killing you, be a good friend, eat other veggies besides potatoes, remember birthdays and anniversaries, take your vitamins, shave your legs, figure out how to fold fitted sheets, and give 110% at work AND home AND church AND the gym AND your high school reunions. And that’s not even counting all the stuff you have to add when you have children. There are countless, constant reminders of how much we fall short.

But there’s some good news, friend.

As followers of Jesus, we are made NEW. Meaning, we will be aware that we fall short, but we don’t have to hold on to that fact. We can accept it and let it go. We weren’t made new so that we could turn around and keep beating ourselves up about our failures every day for the rest of our lives. Do you realize that every mistake you make is literally in the past the second it’s over? When we accept the Gospel’s glorious good news, we are washed clean! We don’t have to try to be perfect anymore and keep it all together. When we are saved by Jesus, we don’t have to try to be holy; we ARE holy. Spiritual maturity is peacefully and willingly accepting imperfection on Earth, knowing that Jesus was perfect for us.

It doesn’t happen overnight, of course. But the more you focus on what God has done for you and the less you focus on yourself and all the ways you aren’t measuring up, slowly but surely, you’ll see the scale start tipping away from anxious inadequacy and toward calm acceptance. You can feel alllllll of those awkward, insecure teenager feelings as an adult sometimes and still tip the scale. I am! I’m starting to feel more comfortable in this season of life and in my own skin than I ever have before. (Apparently that happens when you get closer to your 30’s?) I’m learning to make peace with myself the way I am and find the balance between self-condemnation and apathy. I genuinely like where I am right now, in marriage, at work, and in our church community. And that feels really, really good. ♥

10 Tips for Young Married Couples

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On this exact day in 2012, Daniel and I stood on a wooden stage in a circle of trees, surrounded by our families and friends, and vowed to each other and to God that we would honor, cherish, and encourage each other for the rest of our lives. As giddy as we were that evening, we didn’t really have a clue what we were saying. We weren’t prepared for how quickly we would be given opportunities to prove if we meant what we said. We have since had to make intentional choices to stick together and press in rather than fall apart during seasons of financial stress, sickness, family issues, spiritual apathy, infertility, the CPA, betrayal, busy work schedules, loss of friendships, bad health habits, and frustration over basic emotional/mental differences between men and women.

BUT GOD.

I’m convinced those two words make up one of the most beautiful phrases the Bible contains.

In the midst of ALL of those messy things, God has proved Himself to us over and over. We have experienced unbelievable peace, new friendships, expected and unexpected financial blessings, so much laughter, game nights, date nights, church growth, new homes, spiritual renewal, genuine community, forgiveness, and a deepening sense of safety, joy, and thankfulness for each other. I would gladly go through all of the lows again for the sake of all of those highs.

A marriage relationship is a picture of how God loves His people, and the longer I’m married, the more passionate I become about marriage ministry and making sure that the world is getting an accurate picture of that Great Love. I know quite a few couples who are newly married or about to get married, so in light of our anniversary, I wanted to share a few things we’ve learned over the last six years!

1. Become the world champion of reconciliation.
It’s important to remember that marriage is blending the lives of two sinners together. You are deeply flawed and selfish, and you are marrying a sinner who is also deeply flawed and selfish. You are going to disappoint each other. It’s inevitable. But it’s okay! Perfection is not required of us, thank God, because Jesus’s death on the cross already paid for our imperfection. Pray that God would make your heart more like His, and that you would be quick to apologize and forgive. Bitterness, anger, and a refusal to admit when you’re wrong will poison your relationship if you let them.

2. Always be your spouse’s #1 fan.
It’s amazing what a husband can accomplish when he knows his wife has his back, no matter what! Don’t underestimate the power of your encouraging words, and actively look for ways to praise him and cheer him on. Learn to “speak” his love language. Ask how you can pray for him, grab his hands, and pray over him out loud, right then and there. Be mindful of how you speak to him in front of others, or about him to others – public disrespect is a great way to instantly destroy someone’s trust.

3. Pick your battles.
People say this all the time, but good grief is it ever true. It’s hard to remember when you’re emotionally wrapped up in something, but some things just aren’t worth arguing about. Don’t go looking for reasons to be upset. Instead, think long-term and ask yourself, “Twenty years from now, will I be glad I fought for this? How important will it be that he did what I wanted, or that we didn’t agree about this?” At the end of your life together, you won’t remember that time he dumped hot chocolate in your newly cleaned sink or that she forgot to iron your dress shirt for work. Save your energy for the big things, and let the little things go.

4. Expectations affect literally everything.
Before you got married, you probably didn’t realize how many expectations you had – about food, housekeeping, kids, sex, money, time management, etc. But guess what? Your spouse grew up with his or her own expectations about the exact same things. We usually don’t find out what our expectations are until they are not met, and no matter how flexible you think you are, you’ll find out REALLY fast how ‘stuck in your ways’ both of you are. For every conscious or unconscious expectation you have for your spouse, he or she will have one for you too. It’s unrealistic to expect your spouse to do all the adjusting in your relationship. And it’s also unfair to ask your spouse to bend over backwards for you, while refusing to change or grow up a little yourself.

5. Don’t keep score.
You will absolutely, positively, unquestionably never be happy in your marriage if you do this. Score-keeping leads to comparison, selfishness, and bitterness. If your goal is for everything in your marriage to be equal at all times……I’m really sorry, but those moments, if they exist, will be rare. One person is almost always giving more, and that’s just how it is. Chores probably won’t be divided up 50/50. Neither will child-rearing. Neither will cooking or money-making or nurturing your relationship. And you know what? That’s okay. Marriages aren’t supposed to be each person giving 50/50. The best marriages come from couples who give 100/100. And although your spouse may be giving 45% on one particular day, you still need to give 100%. Why? Because that’s what you promised you would do on your wedding day. You can’t control what your spouse is doing, but you can control what you do. When you said your vows on your wedding day, I’m willing to bet that you didn’t say, “I vow to keep my vows, as long as you keep yours.”

6. Nail down financial habits early.
Did you know that finances rank in the top five things nearly all married couples argue about the most? Money affects every other piece of your lives together, and it’s incredibly important that you figure out what you’re doing in this area. You don’t need lots of money to be happy, but you do need to put good habits in place to prevent problems in the future. And don’t be afraid to ask for help! Pray that God would help you be a good steward of your money and give you wisdom, and find someone whose financial habits you respect and ask them for some advice. Then, sit down and decide together how much you want to spend, save, and give away. Regardless of who is better at budgeting, make sure you both have an active role as far as managing your money and making decisions. For example: Daniel is a financial analyst, so he’s obviously smarter as far as planning for our future and making sure we’re on the right track. However, I am the one who moves money to various places when we get paid – to a vacation fund, to emergency savings, paying extra toward a loan, etc. Long story short, both of you should know what your financial plans are. It’s not wise for one person to just kick back and say, “Ehh, you take care of it; just tell me how much I can spend on Amazon.”

7. Never substitute your spouse for God.
The truth is, no matter how great you are together, you will never completely fulfill each other. There will always be a huge, Grand Canyon-sized gap in your heart that no one but the Lord can fill, and it is fruitless for us to try to fill that gap with an imperfect person. Ruth Bell Graham said, “I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another. It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.” When you have a thriving relationship with Jesus, you will also be in the perfect position to have a thriving marriage.

8. Pray. All the time. For everything.
Pray so hard for your marriage. Never stop praying for each other and with each other. Pray as if your lives depend on it, because they do.

9. Protect your marriage with relentless vigilance.
There are so many things competing for your attention – romance novels, sex-saturated movies, pornography, flirtatious coworkers – and Satan will use as many as he can to steal your affection for your spouse. DON’T. LET. HIM. The most effective ways to safeguard yourselves are immersing yourself in God’s Word, praying, and allowing your Biblical community to hold you accountable and help keep a watchful eye out for any potential stumbling blocks. Maybe you set up accountability software on your computer. Maybe you decide that neither of you will be alone anywhere with another member of the opposite sex. Maybe you stop watching certain movies. I don’t know what your boundaries need to be, but quit messing around and put them in place. Other people might think you’re going overboard at times, and Satan might even try to keep you from setting boundaries by making YOU feel like you’re over-exaggerating. But at the end of the day, isn’t your marriage worth protecting at any cost?

10. Invest in your relationship.
Is your marriage really great right now? Keep it that way by making it a top priority. The best time to invest in your marriage is before you’re struggling. Read marriage books together, go to a conference, or plan a weekend getaway somewhere specifically to spend time reconnecting. If your instant reflex is “We just don’t have the time for that right now,” you need to make time. Your marriage has an impact on everything else you do in life, and if your marriage is shaky, everything else will be too. You will have to give up other things sometimes in order to put time and money toward strengthening your relationship, but it will absolutely be worth the investment.

Bonus: 11. Make some really good married friends.
It is so, so good for you to find other married couples that you can share your lives with transparently. A lot of couples go through the same things, especially in their first few years, and it helps so much to know that you aren’t alone in whatever you’re experiencing. Community is invaluable and beautiful, and your relationship will benefit from hanging out with other couples, as well as spending “just girls” and “just guys” time together.

This post is part of a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

He’s In the Waiting

“I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope.”
— Psalm 130:5 (AMP)

In 28 years, I haven’t met a single person who enjoys waiting. I am convinced that patience is one of the hardest fruits of the Holy Spirit to integrate into our lives. We live in a world full of microwaves, text messaging, and fast food, and I’ll admit that I have a difficult time sitting still and waiting for anything. We want things NOW. The God of the Bible, however, does not fit into the mold of NOW. To Him, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousands years are like one day. He is perfectly capable of giving us what we want when we want it, but just because He is capable doesn’t mean He will do it. And that doesn’t mean that He is not good or that He doesn’t love us. In fact, it means exactly the opposite.

God isn’t a vending machine. We can’t view our relationships with Him like a mathematic formula:

[Prayer + Bargaining + Crying + Impatience = whatever we want from God.]

There are several flaws in this train of thought. First of all, if that’s truly what God’s nature is *supposed* to be like, that’s a completely different god than the One I surrendered my life to. The God I follow is the one with the power in the relationship, not me. He doesn’t bend to my will; I bend to His. Second, if God really was like that, we wouldn’t have much need for Him, right? A relationship wouldn’t be necessary or possible, because the only time we would talk to Him would be if we wanted something. Third, consider parenthood. Is someone really a good parent if they just give their kids whatever they want all the time? The kid might think so! But I think most of us would agree that this is not a good parenting strategy. Kids don’t actually know what they want a lot of the time, or they don’t realize that what they want is dangerous or not good for them. In our relationships with the Lord, we are the kids who either don’t know what we really want OR want something that would be harmful for us, and God is the good Father who – in perfect love – does not always give us exactly what we ask for, but cares for us and provides everything we need.

When we pray, God answers our prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, and wait. Waiting forces us to slow down. It makes us think about what we’re asking for and whether or not we really want it. Waiting is also one way God draws us closer to Him when we choose to trust Him even though we aren’t sure what’s going to happen next. Learning to wait patiently is a sign of maturity – as I mentioned before, it’s one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and living proof that God is transforming our lives! It takes hard work to develop, but most valuable things do.

I want to leave you with one final thing to think about today, for wherever you are in your own wait. Have you ever thought about how many people in the Bible had to wait for something? Jacob waited for his wife for 14 years after he met her. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, and many others waited for a baby, and Sarah in particular turned 90 years old before God gave her Isaac. The Israelites waited for 40 years for God to lead them into the Promised Land. David waited to become king, spending at least 15 more years in the pasture as a shepherd after he was anointed by Samuel. There are countless other examples, but my point is that although many of those waits lasted for decades, God was never late, and every single one of His promises was fulfilled at exactly the right time in history. We can take encouragement from these true stories of God’s faithfulness and know that as He was faithful to those early believers, He will be just as faithful to us.

“Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting
Hold unto your hope, as your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing, He’s never failing”
— chorus from “Take Courage” by Bethel Music

“I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good.”
— Psalm 52:8-9 (ESV)

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

A photo by Matthew Wiebe. unsplash.com/photos/tBtuxtLvAZs

I’m convinced that once you graduate high school, your life afterward is just one big question mark after another. Do you go to college, or not? What kind of job should you look for? Do you stay close to home, or venture off somewhere new? How do you decide who to marry, when to have kids, when you’ve had enough kids, how long to stay in a particular job before moving on, how much to save for retirement, and where to grow old with your spouse? I struggle with remembering what day it is sometimes, and I’m expected to figure all of that stuff out?! Sheesh. I can’t believe I wanted to be an adult when I was little. I want to go back  to nap time and someone else cooking all my meals for me. Only half kidding. :) But seriously, adulthood is hard. There’s no manual for it. Everyone’s life path is unique, and all of us are faced with difficult choices from time to time. And your twenties are extra intimidating, because the choices you make during that season will literally direct the rest of your life.

So…what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Think about what you DO know.
There may be a lot of things up in the air, but I’m willing to bet there are still a few things that you’re sure of. No matter who you are, one thing will always be certain: You are seen, known, and adored by God. This knowledge alone should bring all kinds of motivation, joy, and obedience if you are a follower of Jesus. As believers, we know that regardless of our marital status, age, financial position, knowledge level, or career path, we are all called to do two things: (1) love God and (2) love people. Nine times out of ten, when I feel like I just keep running into a spiritual or mental wall, it’s because I’m not spending time with God and I’m not serving others with a kind heart. So if you’re in a rut, ask yourself – are you doing those two things? Are you genuinely growing in your love for the Lord? Are you actively looking for ways to love others around you?

Remember who is in control of your emotions.
Emotions were created by God, which makes them GOOD. It’s okay to feel, and to feel deeply! This is one of things that makes us human. God didn’t create us to be robotic, dragging dully through life with our eyes glazed over like zombies. On the other hand, however, emotions were not created to carry us away like a rushing current. I struggle with this a lot. It’s easy to be overtaken at times by sadness, anger, or fear, but in those overwhelming moments, you have to dial it back. Take a breath and ask God to give you a clear mind. YOU are in control of your emotions. They are not in control of you. Don’t give Satan a foothold.

Talk out loud to God.
Few things in my life have strengthened my relationship with God as much as this has. It might feel weird at first, especially if you’ve never done it before. But just try it! You might be surprised by what comes out of your mouth – or what doesn’t. I’ve been made aware of sin in my life because as I was talking to God in my car, He brought something to my mind and I didn’t want to talk about it out loud. Verbalizing your prayers is also a great way to keep yourself from getting distracted. I know I’m not the one who has done this: “God, thank you for your grace today…thank you for my husband…thank you for our home and our friends…oh crap, I forgot to text Ashley back…I need to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner tonight…”

Take some time for yourself.
Having “me time” or “alone time” is really hard for some people to do, especially if you’re an extrovert, a parent, or a people-pleaser. Sometimes, though, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to just take care of yourself. If you spend all your energy pouring out but never allow yourself to be poured into, you WILL wear out. If you’re tired, worried, or stretched too thin, set aside a day, an evening, or even just an hour to do something that’s just for you. Take a bath; watch something funny on Netflix; take your dog for a walk; do something crafty; bake your favorite dessert. And maybe try that talking out loud to God thing while you do it. Spending time with the Lord and doing something that brings you joy is an easy way to fill your empty cup back up.

Surround yourself with encouragers.
This is a big one. We were not created to go through life, including the hard parts, alone. We need each other, and God designed it that way on purpose! Whether you find it through family, friends, your church, or elsewhere, community is both healthy and necessary. Daniel and I have experienced some truly awful heartache in the last year, and I can confidently say that one of the biggest reasons we survived is because of our foundation group through our church. Having people around you who pray for you, grieve with you, and help meet your needs is life-giving. It is so much easier to carry a heavy burden when you have multiple pairs of hands (Galatians 6:2). If you don’t like to let people in, pray that God would give you courage and willingness to build relationships with solid people. If you aren’t plugged into a community, find one. If you don’t know where to find one, email me. :)

Learn to be okay with waiting.
Lately, I’ve been reading this fabulous book by Wendy Pope called Wait and See, and one of the things she talks about is learning how to be patient in your pasture, using David from the Bible as an example. He was just a young shepherd, tending sheep, and God sent Samuel directly to him to anoint him as king when he was only ten years old. But that didn’t mean it was time for David to take the throne immediately. God kept him in the pasture a little while longer, and while David was there, he learned how to truly, deeply love God and recognize His voice – two things that were absolutely vital for him to know to serve as king later on. Patience is not only a virtue; it is a skill, and one that can be learned. There is a purpose for every pause. As Wendy so beautifully put it, “The wait is more about experiencing God than enduring the delay.”

To my friends in a season of waiting and decision-making – I hope this encourages you. ♥

Married Monday: Purity

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“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)

For years, I, Laura the good little Christian girl, associated the word ‘purity’ with one thing: sex. Therefore, being ‘pure’ ultimately meant one thing: don’t have sex before you’re married.

I went through True Love Waits.
I wore a silver ring with a heart and cross on it.
And I didn’t have sex before I got married.

But did that mean I was really pure?

(I’ll give you a hint…the answer is “NO IT DID NOT.”)

The biggest problem with my teenage view of purity is pretty straightforward: it communicates that purity is just physical, and that once you’re married, you don’t really have to worry about being ‘pure’ anymore because you’re no longer a virgin. This assumption completely misses the point of why we are encouraged to keep ourselves ‘pure’ in the first place. “Purity” and “virginity” aren’t synonyms. Purity isn’t not having sex, or only having sex with the person you’re married to. Obviously, the details look different for singles and married folks, but there’s so much more to it than just the physical stuff. You might be a technical virgin or you might have only slept with your spouse, and you’re thinking, “I followed the rules! I’m good!” But if your mind is consumed with thoughts about making out with attractive guys, or your obsession with male celebrities’ bodies? Come on now. That’s not purity. Your thoughts are just as important as what you do with your body.

Paul went so far as to tell us in Philippians 4:8 that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, is there is anything worthy of praise, THINK about these things” (ESV; emphasis mine). THINK about these things! Use this verse as your guide for purity, not what the world tells you is acceptable. Proverbs 16:25 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (ESV). We are in major trouble if we start looking to pop culture for advice about purity. Culture would tell you, “Do what feels right! It’s okay to flirt with that guy you work with, even though you’re in a relationship – you know it’ll never go anywhere; it’s all in fun. And that daydream you had about kissing the guy from your gym? Don’t feel guilty, it’s no big deal. Everybody does it. Oh, and go ahead and watch that movie – those sex scenes aren’t really real, and who cares if they pop into your head later? Besides, *male actor* is SO. HOT.”

Am I stepping on any toes yet?

Let’s get real for a hot minute: guys are not the only ones who struggle with lust. Can I just squash that myth once and for all?? The verse that women love to quote to men about lust applies to us too:

“Everyone who looks at a [man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with [him] in [her] heart” (Matthew 5:28, ESV).

I don’t care if you are single or married: your mind soaks things up like a sponge. If you constantly fill it with graphic descriptions from books like 50 Shades of Grey, sex tips from magazines like Cosmo, and scenes from movies like The Notebook (even if they ‘don’t actually show anything,’ which is honestly a stupid thing to say), you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you’re honest, you know those things don’t lead to a clean thought life.

In the same way that I wish someone had told me why you wait until you’re married to have sex, I wish someone had explained genuine purity to me before I got married. I had no idea that I would still have to actively work on purity of heart and mind while being happily married at the same time. But I didn’t build protective habits into my thought life as a single girl, so why did I expect that things would magically fix themselves after I got married?? Silly Laura. Marriage does not fix you. Only God can fix you.

Ultimately, the reason we should desire to maintain a pure heart, mind, and body is because God asked for it and deserves it. Purity is required of all of us, whether you’re single or you’ve been married for 30 years. As followers of Jesus, we are set apart on purpose; we’re called to something higher, something better! We are supposed to think and act differently from people who don’t follow Jesus, not get swept up in the current of ever-changing cultural norms.

So what are some practical ways to make purity a priority?

If you’re single: Don’t read or watch trash! Fill your mind with good things, not things that make you wish you had someone to be with. And remember: it’s not enough to remove the damaging stuff from your life. You’ve got to replace it with Truth. Dig into the word, and pursue your Creator with no agenda. Don’t build a relationship with God assuming that He owes you a relationship because of your obedience to Him.

If you’re married: You’re not off the hook! Same advice goes for you; don’t read or watch trash. Your eyes should only be for your husband. He is your standard, not Channing Tatum. Watch your husband with intention, and point out the things you find attractive about him. If you just can’t find anything attractive, pray that God would soften your heart and remind you of why you picked him.

Both teams: Keep a vigilant watch over your heart, and take EVERY thought captive, like it says in the verse above. Just because a thought comes into your head and it “feels right” doesn’t mean it’s from God or acceptable to God. Test everything with the Word of God, and be obedient to Christ. Your heart and mind are too important for you to be lazy with them!

This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?