Day 7: It’s A Wrap

So much has happened in my heart over the last week; it’s truly amazing what can happen when you choose to shift your focus. I’ve spent this week intentionally illuminating all of my husband’s strengths, and as a result, his faults have diminished in my eyes. He is still human, and of course, makes mistakes just like me. But in choosing to celebrate all of the good he brings to my life, my store of grace towards him has overflowed.

I haven’t really noticed all of the dirty socks I’ve picked up off of the floor or found myself irked at how long he sits on the couch after he’s gotten home from work and there are things to be done. Those kinds of thoughts are just selfishness brooding in my heart. Instead, this week I’ve found myself more inclined to let him rest and feel thankful he has a wonderful job to come home from and that I actually get to see him every day; I’ve found myself more than happy to pick up the socks or wash the clothes to help him out. I’ve found myself more joyful each day that I get to serve and love a strong, kind, loving man and go on this adventure called life with him.

So often the grind of life can edge it’s way in to marriage and erode your joy. But the good news is you can cultivate the discipline of serving your spouse and choosing to magnify their strengths and extend grace over their faults. You can forgive more quickly, say I love you more often, speak words of encouragement instead of passive aggression and be the first one to say I’m sorry, whether you’re wrong or not.

Struggles and difficult seasons are only opportunities for you to grow stronger in each other and rely more on the strength and peace that comes from God. Your bad days now become what you look back on to sustain you in tough times later. Remember all you’ve weathered together already and look forward to the blessings to come.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
Romans 5:3-4 ESV

When you find yourself focusing too much on fault or mistake, I challenge you to physically write a list and meditate on their virtues instead. Shift your focus and then look at them again; you might not believe your eyes.

With Strong Brewed Love,
Ashley

Photo Credit to the amazing Audrey Wolf Photography.

Day 6: He Watches the ‘Chick Flick’

Mark has always been very willing to do things that I want to do. He has such a loving, servants heart and more often than not, he leaves things up to me when it comes to how we spend our time together. There are definitely things we leave to the other person to enjoy alone or with other people, but I’ve always appreciated his willingness to get involved with the things I like just to spend more time with me.

When we were first dating, he read all of the books in a particular series that I loved and then watched all of the movies. He’s seen every episode of Gilmore Girls multiple times and has spent a lot of saturday afternoons walking around Hobby Lobby. He takes me to see the girly movie and holds my hand while I shop; he lets me pick the music in the car and very attentively listens when I talk about book and tv characters like they are real people. This is just one of the many little ways he shows me how important I am to him. He would be willing to do just about anything I suggest to him, as long as it means we get to do it together.

This may seem like something silly to focus on, but in committed relationships, the little things are important. Sometimes I spend my time listening to him talk about a video game or watching an action or war movie, neither of which I would do if I weren’t married. However, that’s what serving and loving your spouse really looks like. Even in the little things, you put their needs ahead of your own. You pick their favorite restaruant when you’re headed out to eat, you see the movie they would want to see, you plan an activity they enjoy and do it together; you go out of your way to take care of things that would make their days easier; you give of your time and your effort without expecting anything in return.

When I can see him putting aside his own wants to serve mine, that’s when I feel loved and prioritized. When I know he has made a compromise or sacrifice to serve my needs, that’s when I feel cherished. It humbles my heart and makes it that much easier to turn right around and serve him back.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV

Try to ask your spouse every day “What is something I can do today to help you?”
Humble yourself and seek to serve their needs above your own, and watch your marriage change.

With Strong Brewed Love,
Ashley

Photo Credit to the amazing Audrey Wolf Photography.

Day 5: He Dated Me Differently

Too many times I’ve seen young girls and women in dating relationships where they aren’t sure what the other person wants, the communication is inconsistent and they find themselves wondering why a boy doesn’t call or want to spend time with them. Myself included. In fact, in two separate situations I began dating a guy and then after a few months they just stopped talking to me-no phone call or message stating their lack of continued interest; they just stopped responding to my messages. No young woman should be made to feel like she isn’t a priority. If that describes your relationship, know you deserve better.

I truly think our culture takes dating too lightly. It wasn’t until I started dating my husband that I realized what a relationship with intention felt like. He called when he said he was going to and made time with me a priority. He got to know me and he set healthy boundaries for our relationship. He made sure I knew how he felt about me and really let me see what was in his heart. I never had to wonder or speculate about that state of our relationship or ask my friends to decode his behavior. He wholly believed in dating with the intention of eventually marrying and made that clear from the beginning.

This may sound a little cheesy but He’s Just Not That Into You got a few things right. If he wants to be with you, he will make it happen. If he wants to talk to you, he will call. You deserve a loving, sincere relationship without games or inconsistency. Date with intention and clarity and expect the same in return.  Even in your marriage, make sure to intentionally communicate to your spouse your love and commitment to them every day.

Don’t settle for something less than true, honest, intentional relationships.

With Strong Brewed Love,
Ashley

Day 4: Together But Seperate

When two people become husband and wife, they become one flesh in marriage. (Genesis 2:4) But that one flesh is made up of two separate, unique souls with their own minds and hearts. Both you and your spouse should be on the same page about the big things like money, children and serving God, but each of you have your own dreams, talents, interests and passions. Cultivating oneness in marriage is so important, but so is caring for yourselves as individuals.

Up until recently, Mark and I worked opposite shifts so our schedules gave us our own “me” time without us having to try. (We hardly ever saw each other though, and that really wasn’t healthy either.) When we did actually get time together, we had SO MUCH to talk about because we had days of catching up to do. Now that we are on much more of a normal schedule and actually see each other every day (which is just heaven in comparison) we have to actually put an effort into balancing our individuality with our oneness. This was difficult for us at first because we were so used to clinging to each moment we had together like it was gold, but we eventually found a rhythm with our time and made sure to encourage each other to pursue separate interests.

We’re both in graduate school pursuing different Master’s Degrees at different schools and we definitely like to spend our free time differently sometimes. I like to be around people and Mark is a homebody. He likes to read and play video games with his brothers and I like to go to group events and catch up with friends from back home. I’m a morning person who gets up early to get things done, he’s a night owl who works late into the night and then sleeps in when he can. I like to work out in my living room with a yoga mat, he likes to go to the gym and use equipment. We’re both intentional about growing as a couple spiritually, but we also know it’s important to have time alone to cultivate our individual relationships with God, so we do our daily devotions separately.

Any time you spend time alone like this, you breath fresh air into your relationship.You create the opportunity to connect with real, meaningful conversations about what you’ve seen and learned about yourselves and the world around you. You also get the opportunity to miss your spouse, and we all know distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Especially if you’re a parent, you know how good it feels to get a little time to yourself. My husband makes sure I get opportunities to do the things I enjoy pretty often and that makes a world of difference when you are doing life together every single day. Your time together as a couple should absolutely be a priority, but don’t forget to encourage your spouse to nurture themselves too

With Strong Brewed Love,
Ashley

Photo Credit to the amazing Audrey Wolf Photography

 

Day 3: He Doesn’t Sleep On It

There are two very different pieces of marriage advice out there about how to handle an argument or fight that has been going on for a long time:

  1. Don’t go to bed angry or:
  2. Sleep on it

I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with either one, because some problems can’t be solved without rest and time to truly meditate on the issue and look into your own heart. However, pulling away from one another out of anger and letting that distance fester can be dangerous.

Something I truly appreciate about how Mark handles conflict with me is that he always reaches out to reestablish intimacy with me. Sometimes it’s a small disagreement in the car because we can’t decide on something silly, like what to eat, or something more serious and we both end up in separate rooms. No matter what it is, he is almost always the one to break the tension by reaching out to hold my hand or wrapping his arms around me. Physical contact is not a magic cure to a marital disagreement, but it does bridge the gap (literally) between you and your spouse and it turns down the boiler on your anger, allowing both of you to think more clearly.

Our disagreements have very rarely escalated because he is more interested in working through the challenges we run into together than winning or being right. I definitely struggle with this sometimes and he is a lot better at handling our differences and emotions than I am.

He doesn’t let me walk away, he doesn’t let me roll over in a huff and go to sleep angry, and he does everything in his power to keep physical or emotional distance from growing between us. He cares for our relationship with such strength and tenderness, especially in times of high emotion and stress. He is slow to anger and quick to forgive.

The next time distance tries to wedge between you and your spouse, be the first to close the gap; reach out a hand, give a kiss, say I’m sorry and try to view the situation from their perspective. Take time or space if the issue truly warrants it, but come back together as soon as the smoke clears. If you’re wrong, admit it. If their sorry, forgive them.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..” James 1:19 NIV

“A happy marriage is a union of two good forgivers.”
-Ruth Bell

With Strong Brewed Love,
Ashley

Photo Credit to the amazing Audrey Wolf Photography

 

Day 2: His Lips Are Sealed

It’s Day 2 of my #LoveYourSpouseChallenge blog series and today I’ve been focusing on one of my favorite things that my husband does (or doesn’t do, I guess) that truly blesses our relationship.

No matter what we’ve been though or how annoying I can be (me? never) he has never spoken badly about me to others or discussed our problems with anyone but me and God. I love that he is intentional about this because it only reassures me how committed he is to cultivating intimacy and trust in our relationship.

I know that he isn’t going behind my back complaining to others about a fight we had or laying out all of my faults and shortcomings for others to see. By doing this, he protects my honor and shows me respect. Speaking kind, loving words about someone whose upset you is incredibly selfless and softens the heart of both you and the other person.

No good comes from talking badly about your spouse to others. Parents, family members and friends are far less likely to forgive and forget something your spouse did that hurt or upset you.  The only people who truly know all of the details of a situation in your marriage are you and your spouse; speak to each other before you speak to anyone else about it. Our words have a far more profound effect that we realize, and sometimes, we can’t take back what was said.

Your spouse should always have your respect-even in the midst of a struggle, remember that you are in this marriage together. The world can often make us feel like our spouse is the enemy and being right or winning a fight is the most important thing, but no one wins when a marriage falls apart. If you’re struggling to communicate with one another, seek counseling or mentor-ship from a trusted couple but don’t turn away from one another and seek validation from others.

Sometimes the only things people know about our spouses are what we tell them-are you painting a positive image of your spouse to others?

With Strong Brewed Love,
Ashley

Love Your Spouse Challenge: Day 1

If you haven’t already seen it, there’s a “Love Your Spouse Challenge” that is currently all over FaceBook; it’s intention is to promote and celebrate marriage. I love that idea, mostly because I’m super biased and I love marriage.  I love my husband and our life together. I love how much marriage has helped me grow as a person, and really challenged my idea of who I am.

While in my 3 short years Ive only scratched the surface, marriage has taught me to love my strengths and face my faults and shortcomings; I’ve learned to own my selfishness and forgive the shortcomings of another person on a daily basis. I’ve learned to love and be loved more deeply and more securely than I ever thought was possible.

But doing the mundane, everyday life with another person isn’t always easy; harsh words are spoken, doors are slammed and tears fall. No one’s marriage is perfect, but the ones that last are built on thousands of tiny moments of forgiveness, selflessness and unending grace. With every interaction you and your spouse share, your marriage is either growing stronger or weaker. Live each moment, speak each word with the intention of strengthening the bond between you and your spouse.

Instead of a simple FaceBook post, I’ve decided to take this week and really focus on all of the goodness and blessing my marriage and my spouse has brought me. It is so  much easier to focus on what someone is doing wrong versus all of the things they are doing right-in marriage, that couldn’t be more true. I am guilty at times of seeing only my husbands faults, especially if I’ve already had a bad day. So this week, each day I’m committing to focusing on all of his strengths instead; all of the things he does right; all of the ways he loves me more than I deserve.

Today, my focus is on the thing I love most about my husband: that he’s mine. I love that he is the person I can always count on to be there for me, to laugh with me and cry with me and go to the grocery store with me. #butseriously
I love that he is completely committed to me and me alone. He is strong and steadfast in that committment and I know that he meant it when he said “always” at our wedding. He will love and cherish me through all of the ugly things life can throw at us. They way he loves me and loves God constantly assures me that no matter what challenges we face, he would never give up on us.

“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” Song of Solomon 7:10

What are the things you love most about your spouse? Think of one today, and tell them about it. Write a letter, send an email or a text. Write a FaceBook post. Pour out your appreciation and watch your marriage change.

With Strong Brewed Love,
Ashley

Photo Credit to the amazing Audrey Wolf Photography 🙂