In other words, he grows grapes. The vineyard he planted is among fertile fields of northern California, surrounded by miles of thriving nut orchards. My husband and I love to visit, taking time to quiet our hearts and nourish our souls in the scenic farmland. Sometimes, while walking through the property we jokingly caution, “don’t drop a bean, or a beanstalk will sprout and climb to the clouds!”
When we return home, we find an opposite-world. We consider our Colorado property a small slice of paradise but compared to the lush greenery of our “California home” our residence resembles more of a desert. Ours was among the first divided parcels and new home construction in a once-rural area more than 50 years ago. I reason that a farmer sold the least fertile ground first. That’s where we live.
Wisdom from the Vineyard
When it comes to developing a green thumb, I study and try to learn as much as I can from my in-laws. My mother-in-law sends me seeds harvested from her own gardens. Some years when I plant them, they surprise me with stems and leaves and flowers. Other years late freezes add to my gardening struggles, or pesky weeds take over.
My father-in-law freely shares the wisdom and knowledge he’s acquired as he’s learned the craft of vine dressing: careful cultivating, nourishing the vines, and most importantly, thoughtful and meticulous pruning.
Nourishing our Spirits
The lessons we’ve learned from our time in the vineyard go far beyond agricultural and point us to the spiritual, too. Biblical references to pruning and tending vines reach deeply into our lives. They encourage us to nourish and care for our spirits by staying closely connected to our Source of sustenance, Jesus. That’s the place where we find unshakeable joy.
If you’re married, you’re going to make relational mistakes. You’ll say the wrong thing. Maybe you’ll sigh at the wrong time, or hold your eyebrows in the wrong expression, or worse. However it comes about, there is 100% certainty that you’ll disappoint your spouse. Since no marriage nor individual is perfect, disappointment is inevitable.
The good news is, we can quickly overcome these times of disappointment if a marriage receives proper care and focus. Then, we can more quickly set aside suspicious or selfish thoughts with the assurance that there’s no ill-intent involved. On the other hand, when TLC of marriage is neglected, challenging times can seem nearly impossible to conquer.
I’ve seen too many of what appear as unbreakable relationships (marriages, friendships, and family relationships) crumble from lack of attention. The hard reality is, we can’t strengthen a relationship while simultaneously neglecting it. No relationship is protected from breaking down without intentional effort to build it up.
One of the most memorable seasons of neglect in our marriage came as we lived through shift work. As a patrol deputy, Mike rotated onto an annual 4-month period of swing shift (5 pm – 3 am) and our schedules were completely opposite from one another. That’s tough on a young family, yet typical in law enforcement lives.
When I’d get up for work, he was just reaching his deep sleep zone, so it was me, alone, getting myself and the kids ready to face the day.
I’d arrive home from work after he was gone for the night. It was me, alone, picking up kids from their caregivers, preparing dinner (often resorting to drive through), helping with homework, and getting ready for bed.
Much of the time I felt like a single mom. It wasn’t fun, but we knew it was temporary so we determined to muddle through. We had amazing kids, great careers, and above-average income. We had good friends who shared at least one evening a week with us. Truly, we believed we’d “arrived.”
We didn’t know we needed to take time,
just the two of us,
to cultivate our marriage.
And so we didn’t.
The more time we spent disconnected from each other, the more selfish my thought life became. Selfish thoughts bred more selfish thoughts that worked in opposition to a healthy married life.
And then, some of those relational mistakes hit us. Some big ones. While we used to easily talking things out, the neglect of our relationship had weakened our trust. We weren’t communicating effectively and had each become too self-centered. We needed to discover how dating could transform our marriage.
It took us several years to get back on track. We had to make some significant change, letting go of things we valued in order to protect what we valued most. Eventually, with the Lord’s help we brought friendship, trust and balance back to our marriage. If I can name one thing—in addition to prayer—that had a monumental impact, it was prioritizing our date nights.
It can sound so “high-school” to say we’re dating our spouse. But consider the history of your own relationship. When did you get to know your spouse? Did you have one 10-minute conversation over coffee and realize this was true love? Was a quick hello and kiss on the cheek enough to develop a longing for life-long commitment? We get to know each other by spending time together. By talking, laughing, planning and even dreaming together.
Saying “I Do” shouldn’t mark the end
of a dating relationship,
but the promise to continue it.
No More Excuses
Sadly, dating our spouse is one of the first things that ends when the honeymoon is over. Pressures of life (careers, kids, finances, and many others) often distract us from prioritizing marriage. The reasons for NOT dating are many:
I see him /her all the time. I need some “me” time.
We don’t have a good baby sitter.
We feel guilty for leaving the kids after working all day.
Who has time for a date?
Cash flow is too tight for entertainment.
These are valid concerns, but also easy to overcome. The value of dating is not entertainment, it’s the investment of time into our relationships. It’s growing closer in friendship, trust, and communication. It’s the process of showing that you value and esteem each other.
How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage
After years of a very rough road in our marriage, a breakthrough came when we learned to laugh together again. We considered ourselves friends anew and romance sparked from there.
Dating remains one of our go-to marriage solutions. When communication begins to misfire (and it still does), we carve out time to spend alone. Our schedules remain untraditional and hard to manage, so we get creative with our time.
We meet for breakfast or sit outside to share morning coffee. We squeeze in lunch together whenever possible. A date can look like dinner out or a few hands of a card game at our kitchen table and can occur at any time of day or night. When Mike isn’t due home until very late in the evening, I take a short nap during the day so I’ll have the energy to spend time with him. Part of the fun of dating is finding inventive ways to sneak away together.
Dating is transformational. It reconnects us. Investing time in each other breaks down any walls of ill assumptions. It helps us re-center our focus on what matters most: God and our family. If Mike and I weren’t willing to continually invest in strengthening trust and connection, we’d have given up long ago. Instead, a series of dates helped (and continues to help) change our thought patterns and transform our marriage. I believe that with the right mindset and a focus on honoring the Lord, dating is effective enough to bring positive strides in any marriage.
I encourage you to get creative and break down the barriers that have quenched your old dating habits. Schedule a date night and spend some time laughing and connecting with your spouse. You’ll find the investment will pay priceless dividends.
Adultery is something that happens to other people. I never dreamed that it would find its way into our marriage story.
I certainly never imagined that it could be me who stumbled.
In spite of early convictions to never stray, I’d misjudged the strength of the enemy of our souls who constantly prowls. He moves with stealth precision, looking for someone to devour, for unsuspecting souls who think they’re immune to temptation.
I gave him an easy target.
That was over a quarter century ago. By the grace of God, our marriage survived. In fact, it did more than survive, it has thrived and provided my husband, Mike and I with more than three decades of strength, joy, satisfaction, and partnership.
Surviving Infidelity in Marriage
In one of the most miserable seasons of my life, I’d lost all hope for our marriage and asked Mike to move out of our home. He obliged. The pain of separation was colossal, bringing a hollow emptiness where despair ricocheted rampantly.
God met us there, in those long weeks of anguish.
Alone in separate beds, without the other knowing, we each turned to prayer. I was untrained and uncomfortable in intercession. Mike was rusty at best. But in the dark of night, we cried out, asking God for His direction and help. We prayed for our marriage, for each other, and for healing within our own hearts.
When we mustered courage to look into each other’s eyes, we recognized that neither of us were ready to call it quits. Over the weeks and months that followed, the Lord helped us re-establish a friendship and even find laughter. We began attending church and responding to our Savior as He drew us closer to Himself.
Eventually, we started to feel safe in each other’s presence. Our cracked foundation of trust was gradually mended by rekindled companionship and devotion.
Confessing the Secret
But I still held a secret that threatened to destroy it again in an instant. The affair had been over for years by this time, but God was actively pressing in, bringing conviction and prompting me to confess.
Today Mike and I share our story in the #IStillDo marriage series, Contending for the Covenant. It’s a truly remarkable collection of hope and encouragement for marriage. I hope you’ll take the time to read about our journey and many others who have flourished through the fiery trials of marriage.
Marriage is difficult but it can become easier with deliberate action and intentional practices. One of the practices I recommend most when seeking a stronger marriage is prayer.
Last summer, I released a prayer devotional with a specific emphasis on praying for your marriage. I’ve heard from a number of readers who immediately saw changes in their own hearts and eventually experienced improvements in their relationships. That’s because prayer is powerful and effective. (See James 5:16).
Prayer is Powerful and Effective
When we speak to the Lord, when we pray, God’s Word tells us that He hears (see Psalm 55:17). And not only does He hear, but He takes action. I think of the blind man who cried out to get the attention of Jesus as He walked by (see Luke 18:35-42). Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” When the blind man asked for sight, the Lord granted his request.
Make no mistake, Jesus already knew what the man desired, but He wanted to hear it from his own mouth. Just as we often know the needs of our own children before they ask, we prefer to hear it from their own mouths. We wish to discuss it, to spend time with them, to hear their hearts, and to deepen our relationship with them. I believe God feels the same way. He adores when we seek Him in prayer and share the burdens and the joys of our hearts. He cherishes our attention and the ways that we draw near to Him. Then He, in turn, draws near to us.
Because God unleashes His power when we pray, we must keep seeking, keep asking, and keep petitioning for the needs of our man. Our prayer helps our husband. While he’s away at work, or on the golf course or traveling for business, or coaching little league, our prayers sustain him. They encourage and strengthen him—whether he knows that we’re praying or not.
I regularly pray Colossians 1:9-10 for Mike. That portion of Scripture says, “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” (NIV).
I pray it like this:
“Lord, help Mike know and understand your will. Give him all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that he can walk in ways that are pleasing to you. Help him bear your good fruit in all he does and grow in His knowledge of you.”
Your prayers, too, are powerful and effective, but be prepared. Before you begin to notice changes in your husband, you’ll most certainly see changes in yourself. You’ll become more patient and even begin to feel less annoyed by those personality quirks that used to drive you nuts. Allow the Lord to mold and shape you and as you strengthen your discipline of prayer you’ll experience joys and blessings that you never imagined.
You’ll also continue to experience hardship. Just because we draw close to God doesn’t mean that He makes our path simple and easy. He desires that we lean on Him through both the easy and challenging parts of life. So don’t grow weary of doing good. Set your mind to pray, then do it—no matter what. Don’t give up.
I’m praying for you as you deepen your prayer walk, asking that the Lord gives you perseverance and that you won’t grow weary of doing good.
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I don’t believe there’s any person in the world who knows my husband as I do. There are many who are close to him, several who spend hours each day with him in a work environment. Family members adore him as much as me, but each shares different types of relationship with him.
I’m the one who best knows the nucleus of his personality, his drive, his insecurities, strengths, and challenges. He shares his heart with me, casts vision, and ponders dreams. I can look in his eyes and sense from his tone of voice when something is bothering him, or when he’s overjoyed or angry. He lets his guard down when he’s home with me and invites me to partner with him in mulling over circumstances and decisions.
Therefore, it stands to reason that I can pray for him like no one else. I have the role and ability to seek the Lord’s help in areas that no one else understands. I can discern areas where he’s challenged by more than situations—where the enemy might be trying to gain access or shoot fiery darts in his direction. When I pray on his behalf, I can share a level of closeness and familiarity.
Mirror and Strengthen Intimacy
Praying for my husband mirrors the intimacy that I have with God as well as with my life-long partner. Through prayer, I can also stand in the gap for him and resist the schemes of the evil one over his life. This strengthens my intimacy with the Lord and in a supernatural, spiritual sense, the closer I draw to the Lord, the more intimate our marriage relationship becomes.
I enjoy praying Ephesians 6:10-12 which says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places ” (ESV).
I pray it like this
“Father, please strengthen Mike in You and in Your might. Help him put on the full armor of God every day so that he can resist and stand firm against the schemes of the enemy. We know, Lord, that our battles are not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces in unseen realms. Equip him to walk in ways that are pleasing and honoring to you.”
When we draw near to the Lord, He draws near to us and we can draw closer to one another as husband and wife. We mirror our intimacy with the Lord through prayer and strengthen our intimacy with each other.
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When we look back, it’s easy to see where we went wrong. Years ago when Mike and I nearly lost our marriage, each of us were so wrapped up in advancing our own careers that we neglected one of our most important gifts: each other.
At the time, we couldn’t see it. We believed that we had a firm grip on things at home and were successfully balancing our careers, our relationship, and the needs of our kids. I’m embarrassed to say we were one of those supercilious couples that sincerely believed we had it all together. And that’s when the bottom fell out of our marriage.
We began taking each other for granted. We wrongly believed we could let go of the wheel and let our marriage drive itself. Each of us stopped expressing appreciation or even acknowledgment of one another. While we were far too close to the situation to see it, we’d allowed our relationship, which should have had a place of prominence, to slip out of position. We let other things capture our focus.
It’s not only work and striving toward separate goals that can take our attention off our husbands. It can be valuable activities and things we share that can misalign our priorities. Such as engagement with children’s activities, or caring for elderly parents, or work out schedules, hobbies, or social calendars.
In this current blog series, we’ve emphasized several urgent reasons to pray for our husbands. So far, we’ve discussed the needs of softening our heart toward him and building him up with our words and actions. Today’s discussion takes us to the third point: giving our husband precedence.
Give Your Husband Precedence
No, we can’t always give 100% of our time to our marriage. That’s not reasonable. And God has assigned us multiple roles and purposes as we live our lives. But we can find ways to actively communicate and express how essential our husband is to us. We can do more than tell him he’s important. We can show him.
One incredible way to do that is to pray for him, often and regularly both while he’s with you and when he’s not. Then find subtle ways to let him know you did.
A go-to verse that I use as I pray for Mike is Psalm 37:30-31 which says,
“The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom;
his tongue speaks what is just.
The instruction of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not falter” (HCSB).
I pray it like this:
Lord, let Mike’s tongue speak with wisdom and share with is just. Cement your instruction in his heart so that his steps will not falter.
By dedicating the time to pray for him and letting him know that I’ve prayed, I am giving my husband honor and priority and establishing the importance of our marriage. You can do likewise. 🙂
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