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?

20 Questions for 2017

Before the ball drops and we sing our way into another January, it’s only fair that we take some time to reflect on 2017. Maybe it was an amazing year and all your dreams came true! (And if so, just shut up and enjoy being a Disney princess.) Or maybe this year completely sucked, and you’ve been ready for 2018 since June. Either way, we can’t successfully walk into the future without making peace with our past, whether it was good or bad. Over the last few years, I’ve seen several other bloggers do different versions of this reflection exercise, and I absolutely love it.

What was the best thing that happened this year?
Hmmm…that’s hard!! There was a lot of goodness in 2017. But I think our Alaska trip takes the cake. Glaciers, anniversary pictures, mountains, delicious food – pretty difficult to top.

What was the most challenging thing that happened this year?
To be real? Infertility. I haven’t talked about this publicly at all, and it’s scary to put it out there. But I would be lying if I answered this question with anything else. We’ve been dealing with it for awhile, but it really kicked me in the teeth this year. It’s almost impossible to explain to anyone who’s never experienced it. But we know that the Lord has not overlooked us, and we trust His timing. ♥

Who were my most valuable friendships with?
I consider all my friendships valuable, of course, but the newest friendship value came from our foundation group! We host a group of young married couples at our house every week, and they truly have become our tribe. We’ve seen each other through a lot in just a year.

What are some new skills that I learned?
I learned that I CAN be disciplined about food. Keto changed my life. Seriously. We aren’t doing it currently, but I have never felt as good about my body in my entire life as I did when we went on Keto. I learned how to cook differently and treat food with a healthy perspective, and I’m so thankful for both of those things.

Pick three words to describe this year.
Wait. Hope. Heal.

What was my biggest personal change from January to December?
Probably switching jobs. I finally moved from an entry-level position as a college recruiter to more of a mid-level position as an HR Communications professional. Intimidating, but rewarding, and definitely a big piece of my adulting process this year.

What was the best book I read this year?
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller.

What did I do to serve others this year?
The biggest ways were (1) participating in activities with the young adult ministry at our church, and (2) serving my new mom friends by hosting baby showers, taking them food, and helping around the house.

Name a couple of positive memory-making experiences from 2017.
1. Our cruise to Alaska
2. Colorado with the Simmas
3. My niece Karis and “nephew” Cole were born
4. The MONAT Vegas trip
5. Absolutely everything about our foundation group

What 2017 accomplishments am I most proud of?
Losing 30 pounds on Keto and earning a free trip to Vegas!

What are some things I’ve learned to accept this year?
I don’t know that I’ve fully accepted it…haha…but I’ve learned that I’m not really in control of anything in my life. I try to be, really really hard, but ultimately, everything plays out exactly the way God designs it. My job is not to control everything and make it make sense, but to continue to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus and trust that what He does is always right.

In what ways did I grow spiritually?
I have a deeper understanding of how powerful and purposeful prayer is. It’s not about getting God to do what we want if we cry and beg and plead enough. It’s about communication: talking AND listening. Telling Him our joys and sorrows, asking Him for things while accepting that He may not give them to us, affirming His faithfulness and goodness, and truly being still with Him so He can speak back.

What did I gain in 2017? What did I lose?
Gained = new friendships, new job, and a stronger marriage.
Lost = time. I wasted too much of it by worrying.

Name a difficult situation I overcame.
About halfway through Keto, I hit a weight plateau. Daniel had gone off of it because he met his goal and was still losing weight (the jerk); meanwhile, I was stuck gaining and losing the same pound for more than two weeks, only FIVE POUNDS from my goal. It was miserable. I couldn’t understand why I had stalled, and I just wanted to be done. I finally figured out that I needed to adjust my macros and eat less calories, since I had lost weight, and lo and behold – it worked!! I finished Keto just in time for our trip to Vegas. :)

What is something I want to do better in 2018?
Write more. I get out of the habit and forget what a great outlet it is.

What was the best thing I did with my time this year?
Spend almost every Monday with Dara, Sheridan, Kendra, and Brianna (and their husbands). I really can’t overstate how special these couples have become to me this year.

What was the single biggest time-waster in my life this year?
My phone.

What am I most grateful for in 2017?
Two things! First: the chance to travel to so many new places. 2017 was a wanderluster’s dream come true. Second: after experiencing some awful personal tragedies this year, I have never felt more loved by our families and friend community. Their prayer support was overwhelming, and I will never forget that feeling.

What do I want to leave behind in 2017?
My lack of trust in the Lord, (many) moments of failure, fear about the future, and tears shed over all three.

Who do I want to be in 2018?
A woman of wisdom and courage. ♥

I can’t think of a better year to close the book on 2017. Feel free to join in and answer them for yourself, if you want!

Playing Catch Up

It does NOT feel possible that tomorrow is the first day of November. October went by in a FLASH, and boy was it full! I’ve got lots of content planned, but here’s a little preview/life update in the meantime!

This wasn’t technically in October, but I hosted a sprinkles-themed baby shower for my friend Brianna and her baby girl Mallorie, and it was so perfect!! I’ll share more pictures soon. I can’t wait to meet Mallorie in a few short weeks!

Daniel and I got to take a trip to Las Vegas at the beginning of the month, because I EARNED IT. Still doesn’t feel real to say that, even though I’ve got the pictures and everything to prove it. I met some goals in my MONAT business this year and earned this trip, for free. We stayed at the Planet Hollywood resort, and it did not disappoint!

Fitz continued to be adorable, like always.

Speaking of adorable – I got to welcome the most perfect human into the world last week, and my heart still explodes every time I look at this picture. Say hello to my “nephew”/self-appointed secondary child by proxy, Cole Alan! ♥♥♥

I also got to check something off of my 30 By 30 list – throwing someone a surprise party! And what an EPIC surprise party it was. My friend Sheridan wanted to throw one for her husband, Jeremy, and asked me to help. It was incredibly nerve-wracking keeping the secret and hoping it didn’t get ruined, but we pulled it off! Jeremy was very surprised, and we had a blast celebrating with everyone. And it’ll be really hard to top a Stranger Things theme.

What a lovely month it was! Stay tuned for more detailed posts and lots more photos of our October adventures :) 

Married Monday: Better With Age

In the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing about my relationship with Daniel. For one thing, we celebrated our 5-year anniversary in June, which felt like a big milestone. Second of all, we were invited to a TON of weddings this summer, and weddings always remind me of my own. Third, as of August 2nd, we have known each other for exactly 8 years – WHAT. And finally, I’ve been getting lots of “On this day, __ years ago” reminders on social media, including cute cheesy photos from when we were dating. All of these things have made me hyper-aware of how much has changed since 2009.

I started noticing a pattern to my train of thought a month or two ago. Nearly every time, it went something like this:

(1) See a crazy-in-love couple at a wedding (or young D+L in an old photo)
(2) Sigh sentimentally and remember when we were in that season
(3) Start wishing that we were back in that season; that we were still disgustingly sweet with each other; that Daniel still did silly mushy things like drawing me a message in the sand in Haiti: ⇓⇓

Granted: I fully realize that we are not that old (I barely feel like I’m qualified to be an adult) and we haven’t done decades of life together yet, but we have experienced some significant shifts from the beginning of our friendship to now. Some of those changes were good! Some were not so good. Some were just unexpected. Things are not the same as they were 8 years ago. Probably every married couple who is past the honeymoon period can admit to missing the pureness of that “newly in love” season at least once after the routine of married life sets in, unless they aren’t self-aware or are lying to themselves. But is it possible that we’ve missed something in the midst of our reminiscing?

(Hint: the answer is yes.)

I remember with powerful clarity how it felt to be dating, engaged, and newly married to Daniel. True, it was also hard because of how steep our learning curve was, but good grief were we crazy about each other! Truly, wildly, wonderfully crazy. Sometimes, I find myself wondering where those two people went. No one had to teach us to be so excited about each other back then; we just were. Everything seemed to come naturally. We found so much joy in being together, and it was unmistakable (and probably annoying) to everyone else around us. So…if it all came about so easily before, then what changed? What is it that makes those days seem so far out of reach?

I’m willing to bet that the reason a lot of marriages fall apart within the first few years is because people are chasing that craziness, that *feeling* you have when you’re in a new relationship: fuzzy, romantic, exciting, your heart beating faster and/or skipping a beat, etc. There’s so much to learn, and so much to share! But the longer you spend time with someone, the less mystery (and risk) is involved. You learn each other’s quirks, and not as much surprises you anymore. Of course, no matter how long you’re married, you’ll never know absolutely everything there is to know about the other person. After all, you married someone who will continue growing and changing for the rest of their life and the rest of your marriage. But after years of doing life with somebody, the ‘stones unturned’ are fewer and farther between. For many couples, this is exactly when the seemingly harmless weeds of complacency, comparison, and apathy can begin to sprout. And the longer they are allowed to grow, the deeper the roots.

I wish my husband would…
I remember when my wife used to…
She never ____ anymore.
If only he acted more like…

How many of you have thought something like this before? If you have, it may be comforting to know that you’re not alone. But don’t get too comfortable just yet. Every time you let yourself dwell on a thought like that, it’s like slowly cracking open a tiny window in the very back of the basement of your heart, providing the perfect opportunity for all kinds of filth to crawl inside and build a nest. Ever heard the phrase “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile”? Satan will wiggle through even the tiniest crack in your marriage and immediately start laying traps. Bet on it.

See, the thing about Satan is that he isn’t simply a nuisance. His goal isn’t to try to annoy you like an obnoxious little brother. He wants to destroy you. God created marriage to be THE picture of His love for His people – an unconditional, self-sacrificing love. A healthy marriage is a strong, impenetrable fortress, shining the purifying light of God over a dark, starving world. So, it makes sense, then, that Satan would do everything in his (limited) power to attack marriages and sabotage as many as possible.

I believe one of the biggest ways he accomplishes his sabotage is by convincing us to believe the lie that if things aren’t easy, if things don’t keep coming naturally, if we don’t *feel* the same way we used to…that we made the wrong choice, and things wouldn’t be like this if we had married the “right” person. Let me repeat: THIS. IS. A. LIELiterally nobody is the “right person.” Everyone you meet is radically flawed and eternally hopeless without God, and the salvation and sanctification He offers is our only hope for a good marriage. Those wonderful fuzzy things you feel when you give your heart to someone and receive theirs in return – that is a gift from God, and I’m really thankful we get to enjoy it! But the even better news is that those feelings are just the tip of the iceberg of all that God has to teach us about love. God’s gifts don’t culminate in the moment we get married. We aren’t doomed to a downhill trek off of the mountaintop of our wedding day.

It’s easy to idealize the beginning of a relationship. And yes, it is a really sweet, special season! But when I finally took the time to sit down and think about where I’m at in my marriage, I realized something. I wouldn’t go back. Sure, we were nuts about each other, but we also hadn’t had the chance to prove that we meant what we said in our vows – “in good times and in bad.” In the beginning of a relationship, you’re still trying to impress each other with how awesome you are, and you probably don’t spend much time pointing out each other’s selfishness. Being married for 5 years and together for 8, we’ve gone through some STUFF. And Daniel telling me he loves me means infinitely more now than it did years ago, before we butted heads and hurt each other and experienced real conflict. Now, when he says “I love you,” it carries a much heavier weight. Now, our relationship has a steady foundation of covenant vows. Now, we have a much longer track record of forgiveness and reconciliation, which makes that “I love you” mean more than “I love how you make me feel” or “I love how attracted I am to you” or “I love all these bubbly love feelings blah blah blah.” I have done things that have really hurt him, and the fact that he still says “I love you” and means it, in spite of my bad choices and unkind words…well, nothing can top that.

God has shown both of us the depths of His love for us, which is the only thing that allows us to love each other well. Loving someone because of what they have done to make you happy is shallow and worthless compared to loving someone because of what God has done for you. And even though I will always look back on our past with fondness, I would much rather have this kind of love – deepening, perfecting, maturing, secure – than the giggly, consuming, emotion-driven feelings from years ago. It makes me teary-eyed to think of how I’ll love him in 10, 20, or (God willing) 50 years.

The goodness of marriage has nothing to do with how you feel about your spouse at any given moment. Love is an action verb, a daily choice. Much like anything else really worth having, marriage requires effort! It’s more than just sharing a bed, a refrigerator, and a mailbox. It’s more than changing your name and including another person in your plans for your life. Marriage costs you. It will cost you yourself, absolutely everything you have to give. That shouldn’t really come as any surprise, though, because God sacrificed the most precious thing He had – Jesus – to make us holy. In doing that, He set the example for how we should act in our marriages: willing to sacrifice the things we hold most dear, putting “I” aside for the sake of “we.” Whenever my selfish flesh tries to buck up and fight for its rights, I find comfort in remembering that our God is a good God, and when He created marriage, He called it very good. Meaning that each season of our lives together – the “truly, wildly, wonderfully crazy” part and the “new parents” part and the “mid-life crisis” part and the “retired grandparents” part – every single season is a good gift from a good God, and we can trust that His grace will sustain us through it all.

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?

Alaska Anniversary Photo Shoot

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When Daniel and I took our Alaskan cruise, one of the most exciting parts of the trip was meeting up with one of our wedding photographers in Juneau for a 5-year anniversary shoot. And honestly, the whole day feels like I dreamed it. There were a few mishaps, like the fact that our original location was covered up by clouds and it rained on us a lot. But it really didn’t matter because we had the most incredible time wandering around Mendenhall Lake with Catie, and I will treasure these pictures forever!

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Nugget Falls. Aka, the waterfall of my dreeeeeams.

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Cool story – see that glacier behind us? The adventure excursion we took later that day included paddling across the lake, hiking up on top of the glacier, and exploring the ice caves underneath!! AH-MAY-ZING. Pictures from that part of our trip are here.

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In this next little mini segment, Catie told Daniel to cuddle up close and whisper in my ear. So naturally, he did this: ⇓ ⇓

Catie: “Whisper sweet nothings!”
Daniel (seductively): “I love asparagus…”

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Man, I like him.

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The pose above has almost become a “signature” for us – we have an engagement picture and a wedding picture posed and positioned exactly like this, so I asked Catie to take one like them to keep the accidental tradition going.

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SIGH. I seriously want to take a photographer on all our vacations now. So dreamy! Thanks again, Catie! ♥

 

 

Five Years.

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Five years. We’ve been married for five whole years. Five is a “milestone” year, right? It feels like one. We aren’t in the glorious throes of parenthood or figuring out what it’s like to be middle-aged yet, but we’re not exactly newlyweds anymore either. We’ve laughed a lot. We’ve traveled a lot. We’ve stumbled, fallen, and helped each other up a lot. I earnestly hope that God allows us decades more of doing life together!

Daniel – I love you more and most. Thanks for embracing my crazy and not running away. :) Happy Anniversary!

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?

Vacation Reveal: We’re Traveling To…!!

Image result for princess alaska cruise

…..ALASKA!!

WE’RE CRUISING TO ALASKA!! I can barely breathe every time I think about it! Both of us have wanted to do this for years, and it still hasn’t sunk in yet that we’re actually going. We’ll be cruising with Princess, a first for us – our only other cruise was with Royal Caribbean, and we visited Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel. For this cruise, we have four ports of call in Alaska and British Columbia, and we’ll be doing some scenic cruising through Glacier Bay. We even get to explore Seattle for a day or two to bookend the trip!

We’ll be stopping in:

I’ve been doing so much Googling and Pinteresting and TripAdvisor-ing, and my WORD, the photos!! My heart has skipped so many beats it’s unhealthy. My dream location is almost always a big body of water next to awe-inspiring mountains, so this is basically heaven. And being the organizer that I am, I’ve already been planning everything down to the tiniest detail – even mapping out the route from our cabin to different locations on the ship, making lists of “must-see’s” and good eats at each port, and figuring out how much time we’ll need to walk everywhere. There’s only one thing that I’m unsure of, and that’s what to do with our bags on the last day of the trip.

Here’s our problem: We arrive back in Seattle on a Saturday around 7:00 am. Our flight isn’t until around 5:00 pm that night. We’ll need a few hours to depart the ship, pick up our bags, and go through customs, but we have a big chunk of time to kill, and I’m not sure what we should do in the meantime. I figured it would be nice to try another local restaurant, but do we just drag our bags around with us? I’m stumped. Any ideas?

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As far as general Alaskan cruise advice goes, here’s what others have told us so far:

  • Bring your own binoculars for wildlife sightings on the cruise because the ship will charge you an arm and a leg for a pair
  • Pack clothing pieces that you can easily layer for more warmth or remove to cool off, depending on what the weather does
  • Explore the ship fully as soon as possible so you can find your favorite place to enjoy the view for the rest of the trip
  • Visit the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves in Juneau
  • Don’t spend the extra money on a room with a balcony – there are lots of places to take in the scenery on the ship, and you’ll hardly spend any time in your room anyway
  • Remember to pack a few things you don’t normally need for a Caribbean cruise (rain gear, warmer jackets, gloves, hats)

As the trip gets closer, I’ll share my packing list, travel checklist, and maybe even a peek in my suitcase…!

Oh, who am I kidding; you’ll definitely see the inside of my suitcase.

Have you been on an Alaskan cruise before? I welcome any advice or suggestions!

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Married Monday: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 (ESV)

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV)

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)


The way we view men these days completely breaks my heart. Turn on almost any TV comedy and you’ll find a dumb, idiotic husband or dad parading around and looking completely foolish. Our culture’s treatment of men has drastically affected not only female attitudes about men, but men’s attitudes about themselves. Women have told too many jokes about men loading the dishwasher wrong, to the extent that they’ve actually started believing that their men aren’t as capable as they are. And sadly, many men have quietly stuffed down their embarrassment and gone along with it.

When did it become acceptable to treat men like dogs – something to be laughed at, shooed away, or punished when they ‘misbehave’?? Men aren’t stupid. They aren’t dumb, and they aren’t useless. As wives, we are commanded multiple times to respect our husbands, not love them. Why? Because loving comes naturally to us, just as giving respect comes naturally to men. Yes, women need respect and men need love. But God worded it the way He did for a reason. Men have an innate need for respect the same way that women innately need love. Unfortunately, many people have begun to view respect as something that is only doled out when it is deserved, and that, my friends, is a problem. God didn’t say, “Let the wife see that she respects her husband when she feels like it or when he deserves it.” The irony is that if men held the same view about loving their wives – only when they feel like it or we deserve it – wives everywhere would be outraged. They would riot in the streets! So…why is it okay for us to make light of our command to respect our husbands, while holding them to a higher standard and expecting them to love us no matter how horrible we are? It doesn’t add up.

Let me pause and say that I am not naïve. I snagged a great guy, but I know that some of you have irresponsible, lazy, rude husbands. And some of you may have it even worse than that. Please hear me: if you are being abused by your husband in any way, get out of that house and find some help. I am NOT telling you to just sit there and let him wound you verbally, emotionally, or physically. In any other case, however, although you can’t control his actions, you can control yours. This may not be a popular thing to say, but your husband’s rudeness is not an excuse for your disrespect. 1 Peter 3:1-2 even says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (ESV, emphasis mine). Pray that God will give you endurance and genuine love for your husband. Choosing to repay meanness with kindness speaks volumes more than returning meanness with disrespect.

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?

Guess Who’s a CPA??

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Most of you probably already know from my social media posts, but for those of you who haven’t already heard – Daniel did it! He did it!!! He passed his final CPA exam, and now he can officially put letters at the end of his name. To say ‘I’m relieved’ is an understatement, as is saying ‘I’m proud of him.’ I’ve been mentally planning a party to celebrate his new title for months, and now I finally get to throw it!

 The last few years have been hard for both of us, and I’m really glad this season is over. The whole process was obviously much harder for Daniel than it was for me, but it was an intense learning experience for me too. More than anything else, I found out how much I rely on my emotions, and how much I let them control my decision-making and trust in God. For example, I remember having a ‘good’ feeling when Daniel took his first test, and he passed. And I had the same ‘good’ feeling when he took the second test, and he passed that one too! But when he took the third test, I had that ‘good’ feeling about it and he didn’t pass. I was baffled. I felt like God had tricked me. How could I have the same ‘feeling’ but not get the same result? Did I not pray enough about it? Where did things go wrong?

He took the third test a second time, and the week leading up to finding out his results was…yeah. We spent several days feeling nervous and acting like we weren’t. Scores are usually posted around midnight or 1:00 am the day they are released, but for whatever reason, these weren’t posted until 8:15 am the next morning. Hashtag worst night ever. I lost count of the number of times we woke up. Daniel would stir, reach over to check his phone, and then roll back over and stare at the ceiling. Multiple times, I thought, “Oh no…he didn’t pass and he doesn’t want to tell me.” Neither of us slept at all. Around 6:00 in the morning, I started to panic a little. My heart felt like it was about to beat out of my chest, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t coax my exhausted-yet-frantic brain into slowing down. I was paralyzed by the fear that he didn’t pass and would have to take this horrible, awful exam for a third. freaking. time.

As Daniel got ready for work, I buried myself under the covers and tried not to completely fall apart. He came over to kiss me goodbye, and as he walked down the stairs to leave, I pulled the blanket back over my head, feeling ridiculous for being more stressed out than he was. He’s the one that took the test!, I thought. Why am I the one who’s turning into a basket case?

I knew there was only one thing that would truly take my mind off of everything. I sat up, pulled my bible out from underneath the mess on my nightstand, and held it in my lap. Leaning back against the headboard, I closed my eyes and breathed out the only sentence my mind could form: “Lord…I need you.”

I couldn’t tell you what I read. I don’t remember what verses or even what book, but whatever it was, it made me cry. I kept reading, soaking up every word for the next five minutes until my phone rang.

It was Daniel.

My heart stopped. “…Hello?” Moment of truth.

As soon as I heard the words “Babe, I passed!!” come through the phone with more excitement than I’ve probably ever heard him use, all the air went out of me. I dissolved into instant, uncontrollable, relieved tears. We hung up and I put both hands over my face, thanking God over and over for such a well-timed blessing. It was as if two hundred pounds had been lifted off of my back.

That’s the closest encounter I’ve ever had with anxiety, and I have a feeling what I experienced was only a taste of the real thing. For those of you who struggle and live with it on a daily basis…SO much kudos to you. I can’t imagine how hard it is, and I have committed to pray more than ever for my friends who carry that constant burden.

You want to know the weirdest thing? After all of that, I wasn’t even the slightest bit panicked about his fourth and final exam. I was nervous for him, of course, but the anxiety and fear that had clouded my mind for months was gone. I knew he would pass. He had several months to do it, but I had complete faith that regardless of how long it took, he would do it. And he did it on the first try. I can’t even put into words the overwhelming relief and release we both felt when he got his final set of passing scores. ALL glory to the Lord for Daniel’s unwavering work ethic, for our marriage staying healthy, for my sanity still being intact. :)

I’ve said this several times before, but Daniel is incredibly diligent and the hardest worker, and he deserves this win. After filling every spare second of free time with studying and test prep, I can only imagine how happy he is compared with how happy I am. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who prayed for us, encouraged us, and cheered him on when he wanted to quit most, and praise God for this victory!

Do you know anyone studying for the CPA right now, or any other difficult exams? Email me their names and addresses – I’d love to send them (and their spouse, if applicable!) an encouraging letter. Send them to lahendricks12@gmail.com. Cheers!