Preparing for Marriage

As I’ve prayed and prepared for this blog, all I can think of is how blessed I am by my sweet husband. I know that most women think their husbands are the best, but seriously, I win. I’ll explain why.

Before I met Will, all of my previous relationships had pulled me down into emotional destruction, and I was done with that. I knew that it was so important to pray for your future spouse and to guard your heart with your relationships. I chose to be single until the Lord placed my husband in my life, fully expecting it to be years before that actually happened. I asked the Lord for complete clarity on who that would be.

Literally weeks after we met, Will started asking me on dates (to which I was completely oblivious for the most part—for real). I would unintentionally blow him off or decline. Looking back, I can see that he was trying to pursue me, but I was so focused on ‘waiting’ to only date my ‘husband,’ that I didn’t even realize what Will was doing until later, after we had started dating.

Once he finally decided to directly ask me on a date, I said yes and then immediately went to the Lord about it. I wanted to, again, have clarity about this. I didn’t want to date AT ALL unless Will was the husband God had for me. Getting the answer ‘YES’ from the Lord was the clearest, scariest, most amazing thing. I knew—without a shadow of a doubt—that Will would be the man I would marry. And soon after that, he knew the same.

Will is the absolute best, because the Lord gave him to me. Not anyone else. Him. God knew that Will would be my husband, that he would pursue me, and that I would (eventually!) say yes.

 I am his Beloved and he is mine.

Songs of Solomon 6:3

That, to me, was so, so sweet. The meaning of the word ‘Beloved’ is so vital to a relationship. To my relationship with the Lord, and my husband. Beloved means exactly that:

  • To be dearly loved by your husband.
  • To dearly love him.
  • To honor and respect him
  • To cherish and submit to him
  • To treasure and admire him.

And he does the same for me. Just as WE are God’s beloved and He is ours. I am so thankful for my sweet husband, for how he loves me. I am so thankful that I am his beloved and he is mine.

As you prepare for marriage or even if you’re already married, I urge you to press into the Lord. Allow Him to lead you, to minister to you, and to always put the Lord first. It is so worth it.

This post was written by Alyssa Brown. To read more about her, click here

The Words You’re Probably Avoiding

Finances. Budgets. Bills. These are words most couples dread, right?

This topic has been on my heart, so I wanted to share a few principals we follow that I believe bring peace to this area in our finances.

  1. Tithe/Give. If you’re on the fence about tithing, I can promise you it’s worth it to be obedient to the Lord. When we follow His word and do as He asks, abundant blessing follows. Our first couple years of marriage, our combined income was below the poverty level, and yet, we followed this principal of giving 10% of our income to the Lord—and we never went without. God has always provided everything we need.

We’ve always had the mindset that everything we own is God’s, and from the very beginning, we’d ask him, what do you want us to do with your money? My dad used to tell me, even as a young girl, “You can’t out-give God.” How incredibly true! From the beginning of our marriage, we not only tithed, but we prayerfully considered giving to specific ministries every month. At first, we couldn’t give much, but as we were diligent to give away the little that we had, God quickly and immeasurably provided a blessing in return. With every raise we’ve ever had, our question has always been—Okay, God? How much and where to?

  1. Save. We saved enough for a down payment to buy a house within one year of being married on an income that certainly felt teeny-tiny. Want to know how? We save 10% of our income each month. 10%–that’s all. Give 10, Save 10.

We’ve been supernaturally rewarded by being stewards of our money in this way. We’ve been married 9 years, and we’ve paid off roughly $90,000 in debt. Today our only debt is our house, which will be paid for in 13 years or less. I don’t say that to brag—in fact, I was humbled when I started totaling it all up in preparation for this post. But because I know it’s possible to tackle what might even feel impossible, I want to encourage you: it can be done!

  1. Mutually submit. We get paid twice a month, and we immediately tithe and save 10%. We do it on the gross income (though we don’t think there’s anything wrong doing it the other way), so we’re a little more stretched. What’s left after that is the money we live on and the money we give away.

So what do I mean by mutually submit? Every couple has a spender and saver—and sometimes to more or less varying degrees. Whether you’re one or the other, remember that every financial choice you make affects your spouse. You’re communicating love and respect by how you spend your money (or by what you withhold in spending).

If your spouse has asked you not to purchase something or to be conscious of the “leftover” money this month, then honoring that amount is the way you honor him or her.

And I believe the Lord blesses us, not only when we honor each other with our spending but when we honor Him with our money as well.

I know money isn’t everyone’s favorite subject, but I hope you’ll be encouraged this week. If your bills feel too high, if your savings feels too low—begin to ask the Lord how He wants you to steward your money (and then be obedient! 🙂 ).

His word is true. Psalm 23 begins,

The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not lack.

Believe that, my friends. He will always provide for you!

This post was written by Laura Brandenburg. To read more about her, click here

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Seeing the Goodness of God in Marriage

David and I have been married for almost 31 years…that’s a lot of territory to cover!!  The word God told me to share about our marriage is “testimony.” Revelation 12:11:

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.

Here’s a little bit about our story and the AMAZING goodness of our Daddy!

David and I started out kinda rough.  I found out I was pregnant with Britni at the beginning of my junior year in high school.  We got married that October; I was 16 and David was almost 19.  Going to high school pregnant is NOT fun or easy. David was starting college, while learning to provide for a new wife and baby, so this was also challenging.  We both came into marriage carrying big suitcases of baggage.  I’d been molested for several years as a kid and, while my family was amazing in many ways, there was some unhealthy thinking about life and about God.  David’s parents got divorced, his church split, and when he moved to Texas at 17, he was rebellious, hurt, angry and jaded.  We were two scared, hurting kids trying to figure out how to navigate marriage, parenthood, finances, etc.  So many people told us we would never make it, and there were times WE wondered if we’d make it! Most of the couples around us DIDN’T.

Fast forward to 30 years later.  The GOODNESS OF GOD!!  David and I aren’t just still together, we’re incredibly happy!  We’re pursuing God and what He has for us.  Our lives are so much MORE and BIGGER than we’d ever dreamed was possible.  David never did finish college; it was just too hard on our marriage in that season.  But we’ve been blessed way beyond what we could have ever hoped to imagine financially. And we have amazing kids who are in love with God and pursuing Him!

Here are a few things he’s taught us over the years:

  • Pursue each other. Every year for our anniversary since our 5th, we’ve taken a trip (just the two of us) to invest in our relationship.  Some years we had no money and our trip was two days spent in an Amarillo hotel.  This year it’s two weeks in Hawaii! Make your marriage a priority!  I’ve had people tell me they can’t afford to do that, but they have funds for new cars, going out to eat, toys, hunting, friend trips, etc.  You invest in what you value. Choose wisely!
  • Pursue peace. David is not the enemy.  There is an enemy who wants to steal, kill and destroy, but David is not it.  When we fight, I ask God to change our hearts—to help us line up with heaven and see each other, ourselves, and the situation the way HE sees them.  He’s ALWAYS faithful in that! (James 1:5 says if you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you)
  • Pursue God and allow Him to heal the places that need healing! He’s a healer and a redeemer. He loves you more than you know.  Loving and speaking truth over myself allows me to love others.  If you wouldn’t speak something over someone else, don’t speak it over yourself.

Blessings and abundance over you guys!!

This post was written by Sheila McCay. To read more about her, click here.

Dearly Beloved, We are Gathered Here to Witness…

I am an old married lady. Well…not really old, just old married. A conference I attended a few years ago brought to my awareness the rarity of my marriage’s condition. Apparently, being first-time married 20-plus years and my husband and I both having parents with 45-year first marriages put us in a minority of around 10% of the nation’s population.

I remember celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary at a nice restaurant in Albuquerque. Our waitress inquired how long we’d been married, and when we told her fifteen years, she looked surprised and said, “Wow, that’s a really long time!”

Our culture is becoming increasingly unfamiliar with marital commitment.  I believe we have a unique opportunity to communicate a kingdom message to those around us by building marriages that endure.

If you are like me, I imagine you are not thinking your marriage is your primary evangelistic tool. And, if you are like me, you might even cringe at the thought of how you’ve “witnessed” to others in the past (Thank you, Husband’s 1990’s Wardrobe, for being an all-too-easy prey of wifely jokes). But let me encourage you with the words Jesus spoke to his (very imperfect) disciples in John 17: 20-23:

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one… And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me… May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

If we think about the context of this passage, very few of us would tie it to marriage. Most of us relate it (and rightly so) to the universal body of believers. It is about being unified, and not fighting over nonsense like church building carpet colors.

But stretch your minds for a moment with me:  the context of marriage is definitely “becoming one” and living in unity. Therefore, we have a position to communicate a message through our marriages.

As an old married person but with limited space here, I’d like to offer one pointer for marital harmony and improving our kingdom witness: Speak kindly ABOUT your spouse TO others.

Years ago, before Lyle and I married, we decided there are enough people in the world who tear others down, so we needed to build each other up, especially when we’re in conversation with acquaintances. We all know how easy it is to unload on a friend about your husband’s pile of dirty socks, but do we realize the detriment that can do to our kingdom impact?

In Titus 2:5 (Amplified Version), Paul asks wives to honor their husbands so that the Word of God would not be dishonored.

People of the world often only see the Word through how we handle life. If we, as wives, speak praise of our husbands, we will honor our men, and thus help create an enduring marriage.

Who will be witnesses of our message?

This post was written by Shelli Jarvis. To read more about her, click here. 

Seeking Wise Counsel

Proverbs 12:15 says,

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.

The Message Version of Proverbs 19:20-21 says,

Take good counsel and accept correction—that’s the way to live wisely and well.

Don’t we all want to be wise? Don’t we want to live well?

Listening to advice—namely, seeking wise counsel—is hard, but I’ve found that it’s essential in all areas of our life, especially in our marriages.

Howell and I were having dinner with three other couples a few months ago, all of whom had been married anywhere from ten to twenty years longer than we have. Somehow the topic of counseling came up, and every single one of us shared how counseling had positively impacted our marriages at one point or another.

I’ve been thinking about that since then. Some people might have a certain fear about counseling, especially marriage counseling. Maybe it feels like failure—and they want to keep holding on to the secret that their marriage is falling apart. Maybe it feels too personal—and they don’t want someone all up in their business.

Can I tell you the truth, dear friend?

It’s neither shameful nor scary.

Bringing your “stuff” into the light brings freedom and healing—and wise counsel becomes a balm to those broken places.

There’s something about an outside perspective that helps you see things in your marriage, in yourself, or in your spouse that you couldn’t have seen otherwise. And wise counselors have good tools to help us better understand each other.

Howell and I went through some intense counseling early on, and I genuinely believe it set us up for a solid foundation. We learned so much about ourselves—as much as we learned about each other.

In those first few years of marriage, when we would argue, I would want to leave—the room, the house. Always, I wanted an escape. And Howell would say, “But Mary Ann said we should…”

And for whatever reason, that worked. (FYI: Mary Ann was our counselor. :)) It’s not that she had a certain power over us, but when he said that, it would remind me of my behavior: what the root of it came from, what it meant to me, what it communicated to Howell. And I would remember: I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to be the person who leaves in an argument, who can’t settle a disagreement, who can’t listen to wisdom.

And so I would stay, and I would talk, and I would listen.

We have the power within us to choose how we behave. I suppose the second step of counseling is application, right?

Wise counsel comes in many forms—not only the professional kind (though it is a worthy investment!). You can also surround yourself with wise counsel—your parents, your mentors, your friends. Always, the Bible instructs us and gives us tools for how to live.

Even now, Howell and I seek wise counsel when we make big decisions, especially financial ones. We have people in our lives who speak truth to us, and we heed their advice.

If you’re struggling today—especially if your marriage feels like it’s failing, I encourage you to seek wise counsel and heed good advice. May it bring healing and freedom and restoration to your relationship.

This post was written by Laura Brandenburg. To read more about her, click here

*Note: If you and your spouse need to see a trusted marriage counselor, please contact the church office for a list of referrals. 

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The Birth of Peace

Five years ago, after three years of trying, we became pregnant with our sweet miracle Jude. From the very beginning we had complications with the pregnancy. I was always in a constant state of fear. We waited so long for this baby and our hearts ached for him.

At 34 weeks, my placenta ruptured. I found myself in the middle of the floor, and Bret called 911.  I started to replay my night. Did I feel him move last night? Fear crept in. I started to doubt, thinking, Did we make it all this way, and we are going to lose this baby?

The ambulance arrived within minutes. I was put under anesthesia and rushed for an emergency C-section. When I woke up I had an empty belly and a 6″ incision. As I waited to see Jude, anxiety and fear overwhelmed me, crippling me into multiple anxiety attacks. That anxiety and fear basically became a part of me and ruled the next year.  I would be so distraught with Bret leaving the house or simple day-to-day tasks. It took many months of constantly calling that fear out before I felt “normal” again. There was no way I was going to have another baby. Why would I knowingly put myself or my family through all of those emotions of another pregnancy?

Fast forward to almost a year ago. I said that the only way I was going to get pregnant was if we had a “Mary” kind of moment, where she wasn’t planning on having a baby but God had better plans. There was still so much fear that surrounded being pregnant, anxiousness for whether we would have the same pregnancy with bed rest, or if we would have an early baby, or an awful post-partum that included emotional and physical stress in our marriage.

At the beginning of January, I was in such denial that I could be pregnant that it took a friend coming over with a test and a Starbucks to actually confirm I was pregnant. I took the test(s) and…  No fear, no stress, no anxiety. Peace. God gave me this immediate and overwhelming peace over the pregnancy.

At 32 weeks Bret and I hit our knees in prayer about home birth. In my mind, I thought I was crazy for even pondering the idea of giving birth at home, but it was around this time I had a dream. The dream took place in our home with worship music in the background, and during each contraction I was on my knees with my hands lifted high, giving glory to God. It was after that dream that each time I thought of having Scarlett at home, I thought of that God-given word… peace.

The night that Scarlett came the lights were dimmed. Worship music was blaring in the background. As each contraction passed Bret would pray and proclaim over the labor, me, and Scarlett. We sang worship songs through contractions, words like “It’s your breath in our lungs.”

Not an ounce of fear ever swept in. That spirit of fear was replaced with boldness and peace. Scarlett made such a fast appearance it was unreal. This baby girl took her first breath in the most peaceful, spirit-filled way I could have imagined. The Holy Spirit was undeniably there. He transformed a birth that was surrounded by fear and anxiousness into a birth of peace and boldness.

I pray that by sharing our story, it can bring someone hope during the trials. God is eagerly ready to release us from whatever it is, fear, anxiety, or shame.  He hears our prayers and truly wants to give us our heart’s desire by giving us power through His Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 41:10 –

So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Romans 15:13 –

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This post was written by Kendra Huey. To read more about her, click here. 

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Starting by Resting

…He who has entered His rest has himself (herself) also ceased from his (her) works as God did from His.  Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest.

Hebrews 4:10-11

I have been an over-achiever since I was a child.  I came from a home that was very poor, with an alcoholic father.  My way of coping was to do everything better than anyone else. I dreamed that I would get out of the life I had as a child, get married, have 2 or 3 kids, and live “happily ever after.” The common denominator in this is “I.”

Of course, living with a fighting mother and father, I didn’t know how to be a good wife; I didn’t have a good example. But I was determined. In 8th grade, I went to a church with a friend, and stayed for 21 years.  My feet hit the floor running. I volunteered for everything. I could do it all and I could do it with excellence. There is the “I” again.

I grew up, graduated, and got married. Again, my hands and feet went into action. I bet I had the cleanest house of any one, and that is not an exaggeration. I was obsessed! Then it was time to have those children. They would be the prettiest, most well-mannered, and the BEST. But there were no children…It was a downward spiral that wouldn’t stop. And then divorce.

A baby learns to sit first before they crawl, walk or talk. The Christian life should also start this way. God “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). How well we work depends on how well we sit in His rest because of the finished work of Jesus.

The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because they didn’t sit in His rest. I wandered in the wilderness for many years because I did not learn to sit in His rest before I learned to stand and walk in His presence. I was not taught the finished work of Jesus was all it took.

As most of you know, I am now married to Dewitt, a man after God’s own heart. And he is a true servant. We just had our 21st anniversary last week, and our life together is good. We do rest in the Lord together. Has our married life always been great? No…we didn’t start our life as we should have, serving the Lord. But since we have been at Harvest, we are growing leaps and bounds in our walk and in our marriage. We still do volunteer, but I have said “no” also. It has been a struggle, but we are so happy and enjoying a blessed life.

If I can be of any help to anyone that is just starting their lives together, that is my prayer.  Don’t do the way I did. Start in His rest.

So today:

If you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…be diligent to enter that rest.

Hebrews 4:7,11

This post was written by Debbie Crosby. To read more about her, click here.