"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
July 29, 2015
Several weeks ago, I read this excerpt from a devotional that someone posted on Facebook:
"A more loving relationship with our spouse (or with other family members and friends, for that matter) begins with us. It begins with the realization that we cannot change anyone -- including our husbands. Each of us can, however, take a look at ourselves and ask, 'How can I become the best wife I can be? How can I approach my relationship with my husband differently? What can I do to nurture a more vibrant, loving relationship with him?' Once we've embraced the truth that a more loving relationship with our spouse begins with us, we may find that our hearts aren't all that thrilled about taking the first steps toward change. In fact, the condition of our hearts is often the first change that needs to take place. Change, like love, is a matter of the will. But it also involves the heart. And heart-level change doesn't happen overnight. It takes time." (by Erin Smalley from Proverbs 31 Ministries)
I find this to be so true for myself. Often I would like for Jon, or a family member, or a friend to change in order to be like I think they should be. It would be so much easier if I could just make up a list of areas they need to work on and improved, then give it to them and they take heed to my suggestions and work on making those changes. But the truth is, they may not be the ones who really need to change; perhaps it is my heart that needs to change.
When our heart changes, then our attitude and outlook changes. Things that used to bother or bug us about others don't seem like such a big deal any longer. In fact, we may realize that they were in the right all along and we were the ones who needed some internal maintenance done!
In the past ten years of our marriage, there have been things about Jon that have irritated me. True story! I've found that when I begin focusing on something that he's not doing that I think he should be doing, then one thing leads to another and if I'm not careful, then I begin to nitpick about other things.
I've had to stop and do an internal examination of myself and ask, "Why is this such a big deal? Are there things about myself that perhaps bug Jon that I could improve upon? What changes do I need to make to become a better person; therefore, a better wife?" When I stop focusing on what I see as Jon's shortcomings, and start examining my own need for improvement, then I realize that I need to take care of myself instead of trying to fix him.
As I recently wrote about in another devotional, I need to get the log out of my own eye, before trying to get the speck out of the eye of someone else. (Matthew 7:3-5) Most times for we humans, it's not a one time only thing. Throughout our lifetime, we may have to do "I" surgery over and over again!
Nurture means: "the process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something". When we nurture our relationship with someone in order to make it more loving and vibrant, it is a process in which we care for and encourage that relationship to grow and develop. It takes time and work.
Sometimes we can become very selfish in seeking change in our spouse, thinking they are the ones who need to improve and work on their faults. We also can have this same attitude towards other family members, friends, and co-workers. We refuse to admit that we have areas in our life that need some work.
One of the things the author of the devotional I quoted from says is, "The condition of our hearts is often the first thing that needs to be changed. A heart-level change doesn't happen overnight. It takes time." That is often the hardest thing for us to work on, because it is a lot of work and it does take a lot of time, and we have to admit that we have a problem and need to change. We also often keep messing up and getting into the same old rut at first, and we become frustrated with ourselves. But if we persevere and keep working on it, and keep praying and asking God to help us, we will get out of that rut and become a more loving person.
Perhaps it is because Jon and I married later in life, but we both used our single years to observe mistakes that couples made in their marriage and relationship. There are things that we discussed before we ever got married and agreed that we were going to avoid doing, because we saw the hurt and embarrassment and decay it caused in other married couples.
We agreed that we would never talk negatively about one another, criticize or put one another down, or say things to humiliate, or embarrass our spouse when we were in public and with other people; even with family. That is something that makes both of us uncomfortable when we hear or see other couples doing that, and we've seen how it brings hurt and division in a relationship.
We also agreed that our personal happiness is not contingent on our spouses ability to make and keep us happy. If we're not happy with ourselves and don't love and respect ourselves, that is not our spouses fault. We cannot put the burden of our happiness on our spouse, because it's unfair to make them responsible for how we feel. We have to first love and respect ourselves, find happiness in life for ourselves, then that will carry over to our relationship and the happiness that is in our home.
Relationships take work; whether it be with your spouse or others. Trying to do it without God as your priority and main focus makes it even tougher. I'm not talking about going to church on Sunday or saying you're a christian or being a good person. I mean making God your first priority, at all times. I've heard it described as a triangle, with God being the top point and you and your spouse (or whomever it may be) being the two bottom points. The closer you get to God, the closer you get to one another. You cannot leave God out of the equation.
Jesus instructed us and said it like this: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT)
If we want to be successful in our relationships with others, then we have to first love God with all that is within us. Then we will be able to love others. When our relationship with God begins to suffer or become weakened or isn't as it should be, then our relationship with others will begin to suffer as well. When we don't love ourselves, then we can't really love others.
When we got married, we also agreed that God was always first. Each other is second. Then everyone else. We trust and know that God would never ask either of us to betray or mistreat our spouse. So we can know we can put God first without a conflict. But if something ever happened (and we're sure it won't) where we had to make a choice, we can expect God to come first for both of us.
After God, we are each-other's best friend. We both know people, and see examples on TV, who have a best friend they are closer to than their spouse. That sounds pretty depressing. Hopefully, you spend most of your waking hours with your spouse. You should enjoy hanging out with them more than with anyone else.
I don't really have much advice for the times it may be hard to see your spouse as your best friend on earth. But I do know there are times I've needed to focus and remind myself that God really is my best friend. I've had times when I was frustrated, and even angry. But I can also remember times when I felt like I really understood that God loved me, no matter what I might go through. In those times, I have to hold on to that memory, and know that even if I can't see God in my life at that moment, it's the darkness or my blindness, not that He has left.
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 quart peaches
dash of salt
1 cup flour
2/3 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt butter in baking dish. Pour peaches over butter. In a bowl mix dry ingredients; add milk and vanilla. Pour over peaches. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
If using fresh peaches, peal and slice in a bowl. Sprinkle generously with sugar and let set in bowl for several minutes to let the peaches begin making their own juice. Follow recipe as directed.
Jon often laughs at what he calls my "Missourisms". What that means is, I will often call things by a different name than what he has ever heard them called or will phrase things differently or have sayings that he, as a city boy, has never heard.
For instance, growing up, we always called the trunk of the car the "turtle hull". The glovebox of the car was called "the dashboard". We said "youns". When asked if we would like to do something or go somewhere and the answer we meant was yes, we would say, "I don't care."
One of my sisters said when she first got married and moved to Kansas with her new husband, he would ask her if she would go do something for him and she'd say, "I don't care" - to her which meant she didn't mind doing it. He thought she meant no, she didn't want to do it. She finally figured out why he was getting upset with her answers and he figured out that she meant yes, she'd do it.
Three things will last forever -- faith, hope, and love.
The greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon