My Own Worst Enemy.

Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

There are some days that I literally look at myself in the mirror and say, “what were you thinking?”  Or I look behind me to see who my husband is staring at in horror only to realize he’s looking at me…because of something I just said or did.  And I think to myself, “How did that even just happen?”

Have you ever felt like that?  (Please tell me I am not alone!)

Well, actually, I know I am not alone, because the Apostle Paul tells us about something similar in his letter to the Romans.  And I gotta tell you…I really love this verse.  Not because I want to hear that Paul messes up.  Back up…yes, it IS because I want to hear that Paul–the Apostle, amazing follower of Jesus who led multiple people groups to the saving power of Jesus Christ–wasn’t perfect.  He made mistakes.  He did things he didn’t like and didn’t understand why.  Even the great Paul was a sinner….just like me.

I imagine him saying, “I am my own worst enemy.”

(It’s actually the sin within us that is the enemy, but I will get to that)

So, if the things that I do, the things I don’t understand but I know are wrong are coming from ME….then I am the only one that can change them.

If I am my own worst enemy, I–with the power of God–need to choose to change those things.

It’s super easy to look at others (especially those that are in close proximity-like your spouse) and see what they are doing that you don’t understand or things that you hate.  It’s easy to label them the enemy.  We seem to prefer to have other people to blame–scapegoats for our issues.

It’s not easy to look within ourselves and see the things we truly dislike, even hate.  And then, imagine being like Paul and publicly professing it!  What?!

Who wants to admit that they don’t have control over themselves?  Who wants to tell their spouse, or neighbor, or friend that they are doing something they don’t like to do?  It’s not such a fun task.

BUT it’s freedom.  Confession of sin is part of the process of growth.  Admitting our own faults–rather than focusing on everyone else’s–frees us to heal and grow.

We are always going to have sin.  We will always have something we are doing that we probably wish we weren’t.  But when we seek God to identify them, confess them and free ourselves from them, we have greatly lessened our burden and drawn closer to God.    That’s a win, in my eyes!

Sin (those things we hate that we do) separate us from God.

So, technically, I am not my own worst enemy.  My sin is most own worst enemy.  I am a child of God who daily needs to make the choice to kick that enemy out and make lots of room for the God I love.  The more I do that, the more open I am to loving those around me.

What do you do that you hate?  How can you ask God to help you remove it?

 

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It’s just a rental.

We recently moved from South Florida to North Carolina. We decided to rent a house rather than buy in order to take some time to get to know the area.

We have been homeowners for years. Going back into the rental market has been a bit strange. We are also landlords of a rental property, so it is especially odd to be on the other side of the transaction.

Inevitably, whether as a renter or a landlord, this statement is used frequently:

It’s just a rental.

As a renter, we may say….It’s just a rental. It’s not our permanent home. It’s not ours. We are not responsible for it. It doesn’t have the same value as a home that we own. We won’t “gussy it up” cause we won’t be here long.

As a landlord, we may say…it’s just a rental. We aren’t going to treat it like a “real home.” I am not going to furnish it with top notch finishes, because I am not sure the renters will care for it well. Not like an owner would care for it.

So, we have been unpacking boxes for what feels like YEARS. It’s actually been about 2 weeks….but it feels like the boxes will never be empty. While unpacking, my husband suggested that we just keep all our wall art packed up since…you guessed it, it’s just rental.

He rationalized that we are only going to be here for a short while, and why bother hanging up all the photos and artwork just to take it down and pack it up again when we buy a house.

I get it. It’s a lot of work. But empty walls for up to a year seems a bit depressing to me. Even though it’s a rental, I desire to feel at home.

Even so, the other day, I had the choice of organizing something well or just “making do.” I made do….cause, you know, it’s just a rental.

This got me thinking. Both of us, in our own ways, are treating just about everything differently because of our perspective as renters versus owners. It seems that just about every decision we have made, however minor it may be, is affected by the fact that we do not own this house….it’s just a rental.

What if we all viewed our marriages as “just a rental?”

 

What if we went into our marriages thinking in the back of our minds that we may not be here long? No need to care for it because we aren’t sure it will work? Or we can always just break the lease. Or move on to the next rental when this lease was up? Or find a better rental when we are “better?”

Sadly, many people in our society DO think this way. They enter into the union of marriage with a clause, whether written or unwritten, said or unsaid, stating that this marriage may not be permanent. That there is an out. That essentially…it’s just a rental. When we have that perspective, it skews our nearly every decision we make, whether consciously or unconsciously.

 

With the perspective of “possibly temporary,” we are setting ourselves up for a high probability of that becoming a reality.

When we were repairing our marriage after near-divorce, we realized that both of us entered into the marriage with that perspective. It wasn’t discussed. It wasn’t written. But it was there. And it definitely affected the way we interacted in our marriage.

A renter uses. An owner invests.

We need to OWN our marriages. We must go into marriage with an “all in” mentality. Any other perspective is one that will likely lead to despair.

When we began the healing of our broken marriage, we made an agreement that we were both ALL IN for our marriage. There was no out. We decided to OWN our marriage…to invest completely in our newly God-centered union.

So, when we have a disagreement or a season of difficulty, we know that we both will fully invest in working it out. We are fully invested in our marriage.

Think of it this way. Let’s say the sink is backed up in your rental. You might just deal with it. You might throw some Draino down there….you may even call the landlord to tend to it. But you might not be so concerned with the fact that there could be a much bigger problem in the pipes. It’s not your problem…it’s just a rental.

But when you own a home and your sink won’t drain, you tend to get your plumber there as soon as possible so that you can diagnose the issue, repair the problem and be sure there isn’t any other hidden damage. You own the place and you plan to be there a long time. The last thing you want is a plumbing issue that could cause huge problems in your home.

When there is a problem in your marriage, which approach do you take?

Do you find a quick fix solution to the latest problem? Do you apply a band-aid, so to speak, or even completely ignore difficulties, hoping they will just go away?

Or do you actively pursue the root cause, investing and repairing in a healthy way, so that your marriage can continue to thrive and flourish?

Are you fully invested in your marriage, knowing that you are one until death parts you?

Do you OWN your marriage? Or is it….just a rental?

Not Feeling The Love?

Do you ever have those moments where you don’t seem to love your spouse much? Or do you feel like your marriage is a little stagnant or even headed on a steady, downward slope? Do you look at your relationship as if it’s an outdated room in desperate need of updating?

You are not alone. All marriages have ups and downs. All spouses have days or weeks or even years, sadly, where they feel “in a slump” or like they are just making it through each day, without much genuine love or connection. I believe that those who say they have not experienced this are just lying..to us or themselves.

There are a multitude of reasons for marriage to end up in this kind of slump. There are several ways that one can end up wondering how to possible muster up a shred of love for the person they sleep next to every night.

Even though there are a million reasons for this problem, we believe there is only one solution.

When we were in the beginning of healing our very broken marriage, we realized a profound truth that has stuck with us to this day.

The more we love God, the more we are capable of loving our spouse.

If we have become stagnant in our faith, it’s highly likely our marriage is becoming stale as well.

If we are not seeking ways to love God, it’s likely we are not seeking ways to love our spouse.

You see, when we are filling our cups with God’s love, not only are we able to pour that love out on others, but our actual cup is expanded.

It’s like a supernatural expansion of our love space!

Very little room for God in our life = very little room for love of others.

Lots of room for God in our life = lots of room for love of others.

Seeking God is like welcoming an HGTV designer into our dilapidated love space to do a complete remodel and addition!

So, if you are in that stagnant, stale place in your marriage, where you just can’t seem to “feel the love,” may we recommend that you renovate your relationship with God so HE can completely remodel your marriage.

Stop just surviving in your marriage and start thriving!

Side By Side Ministry exists to see ALL marriages God-centered and thriving…including yours.

Nothing changing?

Happy New Year! If you are reading this, you have been blessed with the gift of another day to get it right! Congratulations!

It’s always around this time of year that we look to right wrongs, increase our happiness, or change things for the better. It’s a time of renewal…a new year! But renewal requires change. Things can’t stay the same AND be renewed…it doesn’t work that way. If we want things to be different, we have to change them.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Sit on that statement for a minute. No, really. Read it again. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Are you wishing for your marriage to be better?

Are you hoping your spouse will have more time for you this year?

Are you sick of running the rat race each week with your family’s commitments?

Do you long for time to yourself?

Are you dreaming of a deeper understanding of God’s plan for your life?

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Many times, when we desire change, we are waiting for someone else to change. We don’t usually focus on how WE can change something. It’s SO much easier to see how someone else can change.

Guess what? You can’t change them.

You can only change YOU. If you want change in the new year, you need to make change.

Yep. You.

I am living proof of this concept. I spent the first half of my marriage with a laundry list of ways my husband needed to change. If only he did this. If only he would that. What did that list get me? An ego and a broken marriage. That’s what it got me.

It was not until I was willing to change that change began to occur. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Does this mean your spouse or your circumstance doesn’t need to change? No. They are not off the hook, especially if there are genuine issues that need to be changed and resolved. But you cannot force that change in them. You can only make the change in you first, and pray that God will help them to see it.

You see, change is contagious. When you make a positive change, those around you will see it and, if it truly is a GOOD change, they will want to be a part of it.

BUT…nothing changes if nothing changes.

Change is hard. Change can be scary. And change can be amazing. There’s a great quote, “Be the change you want to see,” and it hits the nail on the head. If you want to see change in your life in 2018, seek God’s guidance, humble yourself and be the change you want to see.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

One more BEST gift to give your spouse this season (part two).

A couple weeks ago, I shared with you HERE about the first of two of the best gifts you can give your spouse. Read more here!

It’s only a matter of days before Christmas is here. Have you gotten something for your spouse? Have you been able to figure what is the “perfect” gift for them? If not, you have come the right place! I have the perfect gift idea for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a wife or a husband that you are gifting. It doesn’t matter if they are the pickiest person on the planet. It doesn’t even matter if you are not a big fan of your spouse right now. With this gift, one size fits all.

So, drum roll, please. Brrrr…..Brrrr….Brrrr….. (does that sound like drum roll to you??)

The best gift you can give your spouse (other than the one I mentioned in THIS blog post) is:

Time.

Give your time.

Yes, you heard me right. One of the best gifts you can give your spouse is your time.

One of the best ways to see what your priorities are is to look at your calendar. What is taking up most of your time? I know, you are going to tell me “well, duh, work…but I have to work.” Yes, a bulk of your time is work. And another bulk of your time is sleep. But what about that time in between. How are you spending that time?

You may “see” your spouse during that margin time…but do you intentionally spend quality time putting them first in your life? (Just being in the same room with your spouse while you make lunches for the kids or figure out the monthly budget doesn’t count). I am talking about time that you set aside to focus solely on your spouse….fulfilling a need of theirs, planning a special outing with them, going out of your way to show them (not just tell them) how much you love and appreciate them.

What does time quality time look like? And how do you gift it?

That is going to be different for everyone. And please do not give me the excuse that you don’t have the money for a babysitter or you don’t have time in your schedule for a regular date night or you couldn’t possibly go out of town for a night because the kids…or the job…or your dog need you and only you. Stop that. You are married. To someone that you really love. Someone that, when you first met them, you couldn’t bear to be apart from.

If you want something to happen, you will make it happen. Swap date night babysitting with another couple. Go for a walk on the beach or a hike in the woods instead of a pricey dinner out. Sit on the back porch with a favorite board game. (Ladies, there are a million cheap date ideas on Pinterest…go nuts!)

Sure,that honeymoon phase may be over, so to speak. But only because you choose it to be so. We all have a choice to put time and effort into our marriages in order to keep that spark going…in order to “keep that love alive.”

In order to stay fully connected to your spouse, you need TIME.

Not fancy gifts. Not a family vacation. Not even a double date with another couple. Quality time for just the two of you.

How do you give that as a gift?

How does “time” get wrapped up and placed under the Christmas tree?

One of Steve’s favorite gifts I have given him is a book of handmade coupons for all different kinds of quality time…things that are meaningful to us and things we enjoy doing together. All throughout the year, he could just hand me a coupon and I would do my best to make it happen as quickly as possible. Important: it included many things that he loves and I could take or leave. It was a sacrificial book of coupons for quality time. (Example: I am not a fan of going to movie theaters, but Steve is, so “going out to a movie” was a coupon.)

If you want to be a bit more extravagant, maybe you can plan and reserve a full day together, doing things that your spouse loves or both of you love. Or plan to visit the place you first met. Or get everything you need to work on a special project together.

If you are really craving dedicated time alone, plan a vacation or even one night away at a place that your spouse loves. And then go a step further and plan out details of your time that are focused on your spouses needs and desires.

If you tend to “wonder where the time went” on a regular basis, may I recommend that you set up several date days or nights in advance, including reserving a table or buying the tickets, so you are accountable to and committed to making that quality time happen.

If you still want to get your spouse the newest gadget or dazzling jewelry, consider attaching TIME to it. So, if you got your husband the latest runner’s watch, perhaps you could plan to run with him once a week. Or if you purchased that special pair of earrings for your wife, possibly you could plan a surprise dinner out with an outfit picked out for her to wear, including the earrings.

There are endless possibilities for you to give time.

You just need to make the choice to give it. If you genuinely have no idea how your spouse would want to spend time with you, ask. Seriously, just ask. Even the act of asking is sacrificial and loving. It’s a great start to connecting with your spouse this season.

We are praying that there will be a whole lotta time wrapped up under the tree this year!!

Merry Christmas!

The best gift to give your spouse this year! (Part 1)

I spent several of the early years of our marriage a prideful, arrogant, self-centered person. What does this have to do with gifts, you ask? Well, in that selfishness, I had very strong opinions of how gift-giving needed to occur in our house. I made it very clear that I wanted us to give each other surprise gifts for birthdays and holidays. My rational behind that…I believed that we should know each other well enough to pick out the perfect gift without the other person telling what they wanted. Yep, that was me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love surprises and I am blessed with a husband who enjoys surprising me. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to be genuinely surprised. But I set an expectation–an unrealistically high expectation–that ultimately set us both up for failure.

But I set up an expectation—an unrealistically high expectation—that ultimately set us both up for failure.

So, every year, we were trying to outdo the last year. Or if we really bombed a gift (for example, the seven-person tent with pet cabin that I received for my birthday when he was the only one complaining about the current tent we used…just sayin’), then we were working overtime to try to make up for it at the following holiday. So, pressure. LOTS OF PRESSURE. At a time that we were supposed to be celebrating. What a drag.

I also set the stipulation that I never wanted to just get a gift for both of us. So, if we both really wanted a new camera but it’s pricey and we can only afford to get it if we forego giving each other individual gifts? No way! I was not willing to “change the rules.” So, no camera….and instead something that has a 50/50 shot of being “just what I wanted.”

What changed?

What caused me to change the rules, so to speak? Well, when our marriage started to get rocky, I read The Five Love Languages. (If you haven’t read this book, please click on the link and get it!).

When I took the test to find out what my “love language” was, it came out as GIFTS. At first I was like, duh, of course it is. But as I continued to read and really think about it, I realized that our current circumstances were actually skewing the results of my test.

Hear me out. I realized that the only way I was experiencing “love” from Steve was when he gave me gifts. At the time, things were rough, and so the gifts–for a short amount of time–made up for the things that were missing in our marriage.

Then I had to go back a bit further…into my childhood. LONG story short, the only “love” that I received from my biological father was gifts. So, as an adult, I was placing an extremely HIGH VALUE on gifts because they represented love when actual love was nowhere to be found.

Bring it home, Lisa….what does your personal childhood journey have to do with a gift for my spouse? What is this BEST GIFT I can give to my spouse??

The best gift you can give your spouse is:

LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS.

If you have a spouse who cares for you and loves you and provides for your needs, you are so loved and THAT is a huge gift. Stop setting standards that they cannot ever reach. Use your heart of gratitude (that you hopefully cultivated during last month’s “attitude of gratitude”) and be grateful for the little things. Be grateful for the moments. Be grateful for all of it. Even the 7-person tent with pet cabin. Because your spouse spent time to pick that up JUST FOR YOU. It IS truly the thought that counts. And if you have a hard time lowering those expectations…then MAKE THEM KNOWN. Don’t be like me in those early years, and expect them to guess what you want or need. Just tell them. (I am especially speaking to you, ladies!).

Don’t be like me in those early years and expect them to guess what you want or need.

And if you are looking to those gifts as the only way you experience love from your spouse, you may want to spend some time in prayer contemplating why that is. Because you may be putting a lot of weight on those gifts because something else–something important–is missing from your relationship. In that case, a diamond necklace or fancy tv will not solve it. Get to the root of that. (Check out Five Love Languages or Rescue Your Love Life)

During this Christmas season, when we are inundated with marketing tactics advertising the “next best gift,” resist the urge to EXPECT that perfect gift. Instead, lower those expectations and focus on more important things….like the Messiah whose birth we celebrate and the wonderful spouse He gave you.

In Everything?

In everything, give thanks.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

In everything?

Really?  In Ev-er-y-thing?  In everything, we should give thanks?  You know you have asked that question.  Especially at this time of year, as we are about the celebrate Thanksgiving, we see this verse…and we probably think to ourselves…well, not EVERYthing.

I mean, how can I be thankful for natural disaster? For death? For illness?  For depression? For loss of a job or home? For my overbearing boss?  For my annoying sister? For my spouse’s annoying habits? For MOSQUITOS?!

The Bible clearly says, IN EVERYTHING.  Sigh.

Check out a portion of an article* from Bible.org about this verse and those surrounding it….

This command means that in every situation we are to give thanks to our sovereign and good God and Savior. In Ephesians 5:20, Paul puts it, “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” Giving thanks in every situation does not mean that we must be happy with every situation or resigned to accept matters without praying and working for change.

Also, we don’t need to feel thankful before we give thanks. When God takes us through hard trials, we don’t feel thankful. But by faith we can say, “Lord, I trust that You are good and that You know what You’re doing in this difficult situation. I submit to Your sovereign hand and purpose, knowing that You will work it together for my good.” So, like rejoicing always, giving thanks in everything is often a choice to believe God in difficult circumstances.

When we are connected to God and trusting Him and His plan for our lives, we are able to have gratitude in all circumstances.  (Read more about my “attitude of gratitude!”)

So many times this past year, I have looked at a difficult circumstance and saw a situation devoid of anything worthy of being thankful for.  My humanness, my flesh, my sinful nature could not see past the weight of the circumstance.

Then the Holy Spirit intervened.  Gratitude began to replace fear…or hurt…or dismay.

God is above all circumstance in life.  God knows.  He sees what we are facing.  And He knows the outcome.  These truths alone are things we can easily be grateful for!!

We have a God who loves us, knows what we face, will protect us, and ultimately has ALREADY saved us from the worst.

When we believe in the saving grace of Jesus and His defeat over the grave, we can be grateful IN EVERYTHING!

Not FOR everything.  (We don’t really need to be grateful for the mosquitos, ok?)  But, as believers, we can be grateful IN this life, even in the darkest moments of this life.

Our challenge is to truly have a heart of gratitude in those difficult moments.  It’s easy to be thankful when things are going well.  It’s so challenging to be thankful when they aren’t.

Guess what?  When we are able to grow our gratitude, we change the way we view those moments.  A heart filled with gratitude doesn’t have room for fear, anger, and resentment.  Rather, it opens us up for things like joy, peace, patience, forgiveness and mercy.

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”

In this life, I don’t think God expects us to be grateful FOR everything…..but He does ask that we be grateful IN everything.  And because of His love for us, we are able to do just that.

In everything, give thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

www.sidebysideministry.org

*Read more on this subject through the link below.

https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-20-three-impossible-commands-1-thessalonians-516-18

Attitude of Gratitude?

Is it really November already?

Is it already time for the busy holiday season?  I don’t know about you, but when November rolls around, I sometimes feel like a bull in the ring, blowing smoke out of my nostrils, and kicking up dust….readying myself to bust through the next two months of gatherings, events, shopping, and doing, doing, doing.

Even just writing that, I am exhausted.  I would venture to say that many of us feel this way, if we are honest with ourselves.  There are even songs written about the craziness of the holiday season.

It’s not shocking that our attitude would be like that of the bull, ready to charge!

Let’s look at the two main holidays that we are about to celebrate.  Thanksgiving.  A holiday where we gather with family and friends to show our thankfulness for the bounty that has been given.  A time to take stock, so to speak, on the blessings we have received, not only as children of God, but as citizens of a free nation.  A time to show those around us that we love them…by sitting shoulder to shoulder watching a sporting event, or chatting over pumpkin pie.

And then Christmas.  A holiday that has been taken over by commercialism, but is meant to be the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  A time to love God and thank Him for sending the Messiah as a babe, to one day save each and every one of us from our sins and bring us to be with Him in eternity.

In the next two months, we have been given the gift of time to worship God and love His people.

We can be grateful for that gift.

Are we? Coming into the “holiday season,” do we have an attitude of gratitude?  Or are we getting ready to charge through it HEAD FIRST (not HEART first!) so we can just “make it through?”  Be honest with yourself.

In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is.  This is his reply…

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We have been given an opportunity to:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love our neighbor.

In the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are being handed a platform in order to do the greatest of the commandments!  What a gift! But do we have an attitude of gratitude?  I’ll go first….I don’t!  I can sometimes go into this season with a dread of what is to come.  And that mindset-that dread-will color all the things I do and all the encounters I have.  What a shame.

I don’t want to do that this year.  I want to change my attitude!

I want an attitude of gratitude!

I want to be grateful for the time that I have been given to do God’s will….to love Him and His people.  I want to truly worship Him for what He has done in my life.  I want to wake up in the morning with a grateful heart and a yearning to love the people around me, even and especially the ones who are so very unlovable!

Will you join me?

Let’s do this!  Let’s enter this holiday season with an attitude of gratitude!

In the comments below or on our Facebook or Instagram page, share with us how you will make that shift in your attitude.  Let’s help each other…spur each other on, encourage each other to have an attitude of gratitude this season.

www.sidebysideministry.org

 

 

 

3 Important Ways to Prepare for a Storm.

So, in case you hadn’t heard, Hurricane Irma paid us a visit last month.  Only shortly after Hurricane Harvey made a devastating visit to our friends in Texas.

Storms happen.

Plain and simple.  Storms are a part of life, literally and figuratively.

Now, I could write for days on how to prepare for a literal storm, since I just spent hours and hour researching about what we needed to do in preparation for Irma.  But I feel called to focus on the figurative storms in life.  The ones that have nothing to do with “mother nature” and everything to do with our heart.

How can we be prepared for the storms of life?

Is it even possible to be prepared for a storm when you feel blindsided by one?  I believe it is possible.

So, here are three questions to ask yourself in order to see if you are prepared for a storm:

1.  Where is God?

Is He the center of your life?  Is He the one you turn to when things go wrong?  Are you making decisions in your life based on what He tells you through the Bible?

Be honest with yourself.  You are not preparing yourself well by fooling yourself.  If you are a Christian, you “know” the right thing to say here. But is is a fact in your life?

Or is God being placed lower and lower on your priority list?  Are you having to remind yourself to spend time with Him, only to find at the end of a long day that you “couldn’t find time.”

When your relationship with God is solid, that is a firm foundation that no storm can destroy.

Having God placed at the center of your life is VITAL to being well-prepared for a storm.

2.  Where are you?

Look around you.  Are you in a “good place?”  When I am not doing well mentally, I will say to Steve, “I am not in a good place.”  What I mean is that something is off…something in my life is causing everything to falter.

So, where should you be? What is a “good place?”  Well, that is different for each of us.  I will dare to say that much of my good place depends on the answer to my first question, Where is God?, in my life. But there are other factors, too.  Is there a sour relationship occurring?  Do I have work piled up that I have ignored or been too busy to get to?  Have my husband and I had quality time together?  Is my time being spent wisely? Am I surrounding myself with like-minded, godly people?  Do I feel mentored as a parent or wife or ministry leader? Do I have people in my life that I trust and am accountable to? Am I enjoying life, truly enjoying it?  Are my healthy desires being met?  Am I achieving goals?  The list goes on and on.

Think of it this way…if you are going to have to stay in one place for an extended period of time while a storm rages outside, you want it to be a nice spot.  No one wants to hole up in the gas station bathroom during a storm.  Ick.  We’d all prefer to be in a comfortable home, preferably with a huge generator and a stocked pantry.  It changes how you experience the storm.

Where YOU are–good place or not so good place–changes how you experience the storm.

Don’t stay in the “gas station bathroom” place.  Make the changes necessary in order to be in the fully stocked comfortable home when that storm hits.

3.  Are you ready to do what it takes?

This is huge, friends.  Are you ready to truly do what it takes to not only make it through the storm, but thrive in the middle of it?  This takes grit and determination.  It takes humility and grace.   It usually requires forgiveness and sacrifice.  It always requires faith. 

The answer to this question is also dependent on the answer to question #1 and even question #2.  With God, all things are possible.  Without God, it’s super hard and even impossible.  And if you are in a bad place BEFORE the storm, it’s even more difficult to rally strength and perseverance once the storm hits.

When a storm comes, there is so much to focus on.  You need to brace yourself, expect the unexpected, protect yourself from danger, protect others around you, and so on.  Then after the storm, the focus is different but still all-consuming.  So, though you may be tempted to do a quick clean-up and move on, I encourage you to stay focused on the details of the storm and what it takes to completely heal, live well and even be better than you were before the storm.

Doing what it takes requires focus and sacrifice.

When preparing for Irma, my usual schedule went out the window.  I couldn’t possibly focus on all my normal daily tasks while also taking on the added stress of preparing our family for what could have been a catastrophic storm.  Don’t get me wrong, I did the things that HAD to get done, but any extras or those items that weren’t necessary were removed.

The same thing applies with a figurative storm.  You have to dig your heels in and hyper-focus on the task at hand.  You can’t expect to keep status quo on all the other areas of your life while you are trying to battle an enemy in one area.

We speak to couples in crisis a lot.  And we have experienced many couples that have a difficult time accepting that repairing damage in a marriage requires sacrificing in other areas of life.  In this day and age, we are all so busy and lives are filled with schedules and appointments and tasks and jobs and lists and this and that.  Something has to give, friends!

And sometimes it’s the things you really like or the things your kids really like.  If your marriage counseling sessions are scheduled during baseball practice, then it might be that your child needs to skip this season.  Or maybe you need to step down from that leadership team while you sort out a family crisis.  Maybe your spouse needs to change jobs in order to be home more while you battle an illness.  You cannot continue at your usual pace and with your usual priorities while a storm is wreaking havoc on your life.  You just can’t.

I know of a couple that sold their beautiful home and moved their family of five to a small apartment in order to reduce their spending so they could get out of debt.  It is a big sacrifice for their entire family.  But the sacrifice is nothing compared to the peace they are experiencing in the decision to rid themselves of the weight of financial burden.

Prioritize.  Be ready to do what it takes.

God will lead you.  The Holy Spirit will prompt you to what needs to go or stay.  Listen to Him!  Lean NOT on your own understanding, but in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your path. (Proverbs 3:5-6, my emphasis)

In the storms of life, we need to:

1. Keep God at the center.

2. Create a life of peace, love and joy.

3. Be prepared to prioritize and sacrifice.

Hurricane Irma was the largest hurricane in recorded U.S. history.  But I felt safe.  I trusted God and His plan for me.  I was in a “good place” where there was no room for fear.  And I was prepared for extreme sacrifice.  May it be so in the next storms in my life…and yours.

 

 

 

 

Say YES to joy!

Have you ever said to yourself, “When THIS happens, THEN I will feel joy.”  Or “once we get through this tough time, I will feel better.”  It seems nearly impossible to experience joy in the middle of a tough time.

How can we even consider being joyful when the stresses of life are whirling around us?

Here’s How!

The joy of the Lord is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

Friends, having joy is what actually helps you get through that tough time!  Yep, it’s true.  The joy of the Lord is your strength!

We tend to think that joy comes AFTER a tough time.  But, according to the Bible, joy needs to be present at ALL times in order for us to experience the full strength that God is offering us.  We tend to get it backwards.

It’s the joy of the Lord that will carry us through a tough time, not what we receive after the tough time.

I am not talking about happiness.  Happiness and joy are two different things.  Happiness is circumstantial.  Joy is way deeper than that.  Joy comes from God.  The stronger your relationship is with God, the more and more you experience His joy, even in the middle of difficult seasons.

Don’t wait until the storm passes to experience joy.  Praise God in the midst of trouble.  Open your heart to His goodness even while you may be suffering.  The joy of the Lord is your strength!  Memorize this verse, so that you can repeat it to yourself whenever you are tempted to let that joy slip away.

Say YES to joy!

What are you reflecting?

Driving with my 4-year-old as a dark storm brewed above, my son asks me, “What are those flashlights on the road?”  I respond, “reflectors.”  As any innocent seeker of knowledge would respond, he asks, “Who turned them on?”

I began to explain to him that no one turned them on, that they are actually reflecting the light off of my headlights.  Of course, he asked me WHY. (If you are a parent, you know that this conversation was FILLED with “whys.”)  I explained to him that it was to help me see where to drive while it was dark.

The idea of reflection was very puzzling to him.  So I began to find other examples of reflection in order to help him understand.  With full credit to the Holy Spirit, here is the best example I gave him:

Our car’s headlights are like God.  They are shining love and light into a dark world.  We are like reflectors.  We soak up God’s love and light, and then shine it out to others.  When they see God’s love reflected through us, they are able to see God’s path better. 

We aren’t the ones leading them…God is.  We have an important job, though.  We have a choice: we can receive God’s light and keep it all to ourselves, not letting any of it out.  Or we can receive His love and then share it with those around us.  God wants us to share it!

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6

I have to be honest with you…lately, it’s been easier for me to receive God’s love and light than to share it.  Sometimes it feels risky sharing God’s light, because people have a choice to ignore it or ridicule it or refuse it.  As a Christian, it can feel like a personal rejection when someone rejects the love of God we are trying to reflect to them.  It’s not an easy task…being a “reflector.”

This is where obedience comes in.  That little reflector on the road isn’t responsible for making sure I, the driver, am looking at it.  It’s simply responsible for reflecting light.  That’s it.  Our job is not to change people or save people.  Our job is simply to reflect the light of God to all whom we encounter.  God, in His infinite wisdom, will do the rest.

Are you reflecting God’s light to those around you?

 

There’s no hope.

“There’s no hope.”

Have you ever found yourself saying that?  Have you ever found yourself in a circumstance where you truly believed there wasn’t an ounce of hope to be found?  Maybe you are experiencing that right now.  Maybe you are watching a friend or loved one wallow in that statement.

I have experienced that.  I remember, when we were experiencing rocky times in our marriage, and I had just started going back to church, I felt hopeless.  Odd, right? Why would I feel hopeless when I was just re-introduced to the God of hope? Well, I hadn’t yet fully committed my life to God, so I was partially blind to His extreme power….and to His grace.

My hopelessness came when God started to show me, through His word, all that I was doing against His will.  It was a super humbling time for me.

Shame took over.

I was so ashamed at how I had been living my life that I couldn’t see past it.  I was only focusing on the mistakes I had made and not on the grace and forgiveness that God was freely handing me.

I looked at what a terrible, disrespectful wife I had been and my husband, who had one foot out the door, and I couldn’t see hope…I only saw failure.

(To this day, I continue to work on my very black and white view of things… I am hard-wired to wrongly believe that if I am not “perfect” that I have somehow failed.  Those thoughts DO NOT come from God)

Even in those days where I felt hopeless and I thought that my marriage was a “lost cause,” I continued to seek God’s guidance through His word.  This verse came up:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13

How was I going to experience hope? In believing!  See how that is worded? Let me break it down in the way God revealed it to me.

He is the God of hope.

He wants me to have joy and peace.

I will have joy and peace by believing.

When I fully believe, the power of the Holy Spirit will be in me.

Through the Spirit of God, I will experience overflowing hope!

Bottom line??  When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, there is ALWAYS HOPE!  When we place our hope in Him, we experience joy and peace.  He does this through His Spirit, which lives in all believers.

Now, if you are like me, you might be saying…..yeah, yeah, I know all that….BUT this circumstance is really hopeless….THIS MISTAKE is too terrible…..THIS person is beyond repair.

Friends, I get it.  Sometimes what we are going through fills our minds completely and there is no room for God’s truth. 

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I picture it like this….when you are taking a photo of a beautiful landscape and you accidentally put your finger in front of the camera.  There is a huge, gorgeous world waiting for you to capture it, and your little finger has now completely covered it.  Your finger looks “huge” because it’s taking up the whole shot….but in actuality, it’s small, just a finger…and not nearly as vast and majestic as the landscape you were about to capture.

Our hopeless circumstance seems huge, but it’s just a little finger compared to the majesty of our God.  Don’t let the circumstances of life, no matter how hopeless they may seem, rob you of capturing the majesty of God and carrying it with you all your days.

Shame was that “finger” for me.  It covered the beautiful landscape God was placing before me.  Eventually, through sticking with Him and continuing to strengthen my faith, I was able to see that His forgiveness and love and grace was there even before my shame took over…I just had to see it and accept it.  Once I did, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I was overflowing with hope!  That hope carried me through even darker days ahead.

Placing your trust in God and receiving His hope doesn’t mean that hopeless circumstance is going to get “fixed” in the way you desire or anticipate.  Remember, God is in charge.  Trust Him.  He knows you, He knows what you truly need.  And He loves you with a love you can’t even imagine.

May you abound in hope, friends!

15th Anniversary Fundraiser Event Recap + Testimonials

Have you ever been on a road trip and looked around at all the other people in cars and thought to yourself…where are they going? Or where have they been? Sometimes, I will look over at a car and see that it’s the same person that was in line next to me at the last rest stop.  Or I will see that someone I passed earlier in the day is now passing by me.  We are all on a journey, seemingly going along on the same path in the same direction.  But when you look closely, though we travel along simultaneously, we are having vastly different experiences at varying paces.

Recently, we shared Side By Side: Our Journey From Hurt to Hope at our 15th Wedding Anniversary Fundraiser.  Nearly 150 people experienced our story and learned more about the future of our ministry, Side By Side.

 

Looking from the outside, you would see many people in the same room having the same experience.

But each and every person in that room was in a different place in their own personal journey.  So, their experiences were completely different.  Just like the cars on the road traveling next to you.

In the days following our event, we have heard comments from many of the people that attended.

It’s amazing to hear how they receive the story of our journey based on where they are in their journey.

The story we tell is “our journey from hurt to hope.”  Well, the people that came to see Side By Side are all over the spectrum of that journey from hurt>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>to hope.  People tend to gain different insights from our story based on where they fall on that spectrum.

From a godly couple that has come to Side By Side three times:

“Our marriage is better since being introduced to Side By Side.”

From a couple that viewed it on video when headed for divorce (and now have seen it live, too!):

“If it weren’t for Side By Side, we wouldn’t be married.”

From a couple that has been married over twenty years, and seen Side By Side twice:

“God shows me something new each time.”

From a ministry leader seeing it for the first time:

“It’s like Christian Broadway!”

From a couple experiencing marriage difficulties:

“This was life-changing.”

From a single woman:

“I can apply much of what you talk about to any of my daily relationships.”

Every person at our event was in a different place in their journey….all over the spectrum from hurt to hope.  As we shared how God has worked in our lives, He was working in theirs.  He uses our mess, on a daily basis, to speak to people and show them that He has a beautiful plan for their life, no matter where they are on their journey.

So, how did our event go? (People have asked us that a lot in the last couple weeks!)  It went exactly as God intended it to!  We shared our journey and, through God’s providence, spoke directly to each person in the way they needed to hear it.  For some, God used our story to make radical changes in their lives.  For others, God helped people to see how they can support Side By Side.  For us, He faithfully reminded us of His goodness and His love and His grace.

Thank you to each journey that was represented that night.  We pray that we are all journeying on God’s path toward the HOPE that can only come from Him.

 

 

Wait. Why do you do this?

People ask this question quite a lot.

Why do we do this?

Meaning…why do we publicly share very personal details of our lives with absolute strangers?  Why did we start a non-profit organization?  Why do we revisit a very painful time in our lives over and over and over again?

Continue reading

Real marriages are being saved!

Side By Side Ministry was created out of our mess.  Our marriage was broken and headed for divorce.  Miraculously, God restored our marriage.  And we began the difficult yet amazing journey from hurt to hope.

In our desire to inspire and encourage couples to do the same, we created Side By Side, a musical storytelling experience, in which we share the details of our journey and support it with faith-based music.

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Since Side By Side Ministry was created, over 800 people have viewed it live.  Two people have committed their life to Jesus, hundreds have made significant changes to their marriages, and at least 4 marriages have been saved!

God is restoring marriages through Side By Side!

Between live events, we have sent a video of Side By Side to hurting couples.  Guess what?  Those couples were deeply changed by God’s story.  Some made significant changes to their marriages, some felt convicted to seek further counsel, and…

MORE MARRIAGES HAVE BEEN SAVED!

This got us thinking…what if couples could view Side By Side whenever they needed to? What if they didn’t have to wait for a live event? What if they could just do an internet search and find our story of hope?

What if thousands upon thousands of couples could see Side By Side with a simple click?

It is our deepest desire to see ALL marriages God-centered and thriving.  If hearing our story can help couples make the choice to go from surviving to thriving, then we want EVERY couple to have the opportunity to view Side By Side!

Here’s the plan!  We will professionally film our Side By Side presentation.  It will be high-quality, eye-catching, intimate and inspiring.  It will include all the same content as the live event.  It will be available for viewing on our Side By Side YouTube Channel, where couples will also have access to accompanying reflection questions, bible verses, and additional resources.

Side By Side is blessed to have a team of professionals that will strategically market the video online, so that it will be very simple for a couple to find our story of hope.

Just imagine you are a hurting or frustrated spouse searching the internet for direction and inspiration….and up pops Side By Side, leading you to follow God’s design for your marriage!  Sometimes all you need is a little mustard seed, a glimmer of hope, a story that inspires you to keep on keepin’ on or convicts you to make a change. 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Pray.

First, pray for us! This is a huge project and we need God’s guidance and provision.  Your prayers are so important.

Tell.

Please tell people about us!  Invite them to our upcoming fundraiser on July 23rd at Parkridge Church.  Tell them there is a non-profit organization out there that wants to see all marriages God-centered and thriving.  Like us and share our posts on Facebook. Follow us on Instagram. Don’t assume that people know about us.

Give.

In order to create and implement this video project, we need to raise $75,000.  This is a huge project that requires a great deal of resources.  It is important to us that we are able to offer the Side By Side video and resources FREE OF CHARGE to those that need it.  Please consider partnering with us to save marriages!  GIVE NOW.

Friends, we believe this is God’s plan for Side By Side.  We have already been so blessed to see how He is orchestrating this next step for us.  We thank you in advance for being a part of this project.  We believe it is a “game-changer” for Side By Side.  We also believe it is going to save marriages and change lives! 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.                   2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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www.sidebysideministry.org

 

 

Whose are you?

Whose are you?  No, it’s not a typo, I didn’t mean to ask WHO are you.  I am asking, WHOSE are you?  Let me explain why I ask.

We were privileged to attend an adoption ceremony recently.  A family in our church, who have fostered the children for years, were given the right to adopt them last week.

My brother was adopted into our family when I was six, and I was adopted by my stepfather when I was an adult.  So, this adoption ceremony brought back a lot of memories and flooded me with emotion.

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A Strong Foundation: Guest Blog Post by Author Becky Graham

Side By Side Friends, Please help me welcome our guest, Becky Graham.  Becky and her husband, Dave, transplanted to South Florida from the Chicagoland area in August 2015.  They are members of Parkridge Church in Coral Springs, FL.  Becky recently launched her first book, Faithful: An Unexpected Journey to Motherhood.

“I’d like everyone to draw a triangle on the piece of paper in front of you,” the woman instructed the group.

As part of our church’s mandatory pre-marital requirements, Dave, my fiancé, and I found ourselves sitting in a conference room at the church, on a Saturday, along with 12 other couples, for the next six hours. Knowing the divorce rate was 50% of all marriages, they wanted the couples to have a better than 50% chance of staying married. Continue reading

Deer in headlights.

“Lisa, every time I see you lately, you look like a deer in caught in headlights.”  This was said by a friend as I entered the threshold of our third event of the weekend.  I was not at all offended.  She is a trusted friend and I actually really appreciated her statement.  So much so that I am going to write about it today.  Continue reading

And….Action!

Believe it or not, the words “I love you” are not very meaningful for me.  When Steve and I were experiencing extreme strife in our marriage he would still say “I love you.”  At first, it was relieving to hear those words….like, whew, even though he’s treating me poorly, at least he still loves me.

But after a short time, those words were worthless.  Why?  Because they were not backed up with action.   Actually, his actions were the complete opposite of love.  Continue reading

3 Magic Words For Your Marriage!

What are the magic words to help love abound in your marriage?  We know from our last blog post that “always” and “never” are not doing you any favors.  So, if those are the “bad words,” what are the “good words” for our marriages?  Continue reading

3 truths that lead to healing. (Part 3)

“If you don’t even kiss me when you get home, then good luck getting anything more than that tonight.”

“Why shouldn’t I go out with the guys again? If I am home, all she does is complain.”

“How can I possibly respect you when you haven’t done anything respectful?”

Do any of these sound remotely familiar?  Come on, be honest with yourself…it’s very likely every single one of us has said something similar at some point in our marriages.  In fact, many of us use statements like this daily.  What do all these statements have in common?  They all include Continue reading

Are You Listening?

A couple months ago, I had the pleasure of attending a leadership conference where John C. Maxwell was one of the keynote speakers.

Though his talk was primarily about leadership within the workplace, he made a profound statement that I believe applied to so many areas of our lives, especially marriage.

“If you stop listening to people in your life telling you difficult things, eventually they stop talking to you.”

Read that again. Marinate in it for a moment. Can you think of a situation or relationship in your life where this has happened?

Maybe you shared a concern with a friend and instead of listening to you or accepting your constructive criticism or advice, they chose to step away from the relationship?

Maybe you take difficult discussions very personally and become wounded to the point where you protect yourself from any further conversation in that arena.

Maybe you are “quick to the draw” and want to defend yourself or your actions immediately rather than even hear the person out?

For the first half of our marriage, I had a very hard time taking any kind of criticism from Steve. I would get really hurt or super defensive. I could barely hear what he was saying…and most of the time, I wouldn’t even let him get his words out completely. I felt like I was being attacked, even with the smallest of things.

Eventually, he just stopped talking to me about anything that bothered him. Guess where that got us? In a heap of resentment and hurt that nearly cost us our marriage.

We both know that there were several factors that caused the breakdown of our marriage. But this was a big one. Steve didn’t think he could talk to me about what he believed were problems in our marriage. Much of the reason he believed that was because I was a terrible listener.

It wasn’t until God humbled me and showed me, through so many others with failures in the Bible, that I was a sinful human.  I was going to continue to make mistakes. (and that God has already forgiven me!)   Gradually, I started to see what Steve had been trying to tell me for so many years.  But I needed God’s help to see it.

When we are a true follower of Jesus, we see things differently.

We don’t mind being humbled. (Or at least, not as much). We WANT to see the error of our ways so we can improve and become more like Jesus.

Without Jesus, we are just selfish people who want things the way we want them.

Who are we living for if we are not living for God?

SELF. Plain and simple.

Our selfishness and our defensiveness of our actions comes naturally when we are not following God.

In a God-centered, thriving marriage, spouses can speak calmly and listen well to difficult things. And they keep doing it. They don’t shy away from the hard stuff, because they know that God will equip them to work through it. And they have a strong desire to follow His will for their lives, which includes keeping a loving, unified marriage.

Does this mean you should finally unload all your grievances on your spouse? Should you share your list of “issues” that you have been keeping for the last couple years?

Take it slow. Each of us respond differently to difficult conversation.

A first step? Decide together HOW you want to have this type of conversation.

Steve tends to have a limit on how long these talks can last. If they get too drawn out and lengthy, he fades. So, I try to respect his need for (sometimes several) short conversations, rather than one, long talk.

Next.  Find out WHEN and WHERE would be best.

I have a hard time focusing and listening when there are distractions around. So, Steve will make a point of asking for my full attention or for us to remove ourselves from a room in our home that distracts me.

Don’t forget the WHY.

Why are you having this conversation?

Hopefully, it’s because you love your spouse and you want your marriage to be better….or something along those lines. So, make sure you express that. Remember, you are on the same team! This is not a time to shoot arrows at your spouse. This is a time to help your team grow and learn and unify.

Be flexible.

Guess what? Sometimes, you might be wrong.

Sometimes that difficult thing was just a misunderstanding. Sometimes you are the one who will need to share your faults and even an apology. Don’t sweep any of this under the rug. These are the moments that we grow.

Friends, be prepared to listen. Even to the difficult things. We want you guys to keep talking to each other.

What’s the plan?

People tend to make New Year’s resolutions or set goals for themselves in the new year. It tends to be personal goals like lose weight, get a new job, buy a house, and so on. But what about goals for your marriage or family? Have you set any goals for your marriage?

We didn’t, until a couple of years ago. On New Year’s Day 4 years ago, we sat down for the first time to write down our goals for the year. We each wrote them out separately, using the categories of Faith, Family, Friends, Finance, Marriage, Health, Travel, Personal.

Then we compared our goals and created a document that included those we chose from our two lists. Let me tell you, it was eye-opening to see how DIFFERENT our goals were in certain areas! And I was surprised at how little I knew of Steve’s true desires for the year. For example, he listed under “travel” that he really wanted a vacation away for just the two of us. At the time, we had a baby and I was still a little nervous about leaving him alone. But doing this exercise helped me to see how important this was to Steve. So, we put it as a priority goal for our year (and we accomplished it!).

At first, Steve wasn’t really into my little New Year’s goal setting fun. But when he saw that it allowed us both to express what we truly desired for our year, he was all in.

Setting goals for your family is a great way to start a new year!

Part of setting those goals was expressing our desires for our marriage. It’s a great opportunity to share with your spouse what you wish to see happen in your marriage. Do you wish that you would have more date nights? Set a reasonable goal that you both agree on. Does your spouse want you to join them in an activity you don’t normally participate in? Set that goal. Do either of you want to see a marriage counselor for a “tune up” or take a marriage bible study together? Use this time to discuss what you both will feel comfortable with.

Once you set those goals, its time for a plan!

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

You have to have a plan! It’s one thing to say “we would love more date nights.” How are you going to make that happen? What are the obstacles?

If the goal is one date night a week, an obstacle might be your busy family schedule. Another obstacle may be childcare. Spend some time identifying the obstacles and finding solutions to them. Make a plan.

Your goal-setting will feel very defeating when you don’t attach a plan to it. Don’t just wish for your marriage to get better…make a plan to make it better!

We would love to hear from you about your goal-setting for this year!