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How to Let God Use Suffering to Transform your Marriage

Can suffering transform your marriage? I know it transformed mine, when I quit asking "Why me?" and began asking "God what do you want to teach me?"

Can God transform your marriage through suffering?

My marriage didn’t turn out to be the wondrous romance I expected. I’ll admit, after my proposal, I had pretty high expectations! But, my marriage definitely didn’t fit the Hallmark movie ideal.

At least, not at first. God used some hard things to take us from the brink of disaster to happily celebrating our 11th anniversary today!

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But it was a long road and a lot of rain fell on our parade.

Are you standing in that place? Standing in the sullen and silent stage of a marriage? In which you’re living side by side but the distance between you is palpable? 

Maybe you’re coming up on your wedding anniversary, and you could care less? In fact, you almost pray he forgets because trying to muster up emotions to fake happiness through the evening makes you exhausted just thinking about it?

If you feel like that or ever have felt like that, you’re not alone. I’ve been there.

Marriage can be disillusioning in the grandest of ways.

I thought I knew who I was marrying. I thought I knew who HE was marrying. Turns out, I didn’t have a clue about either one of us.

I thought I was kind and loving and patient before I got married.

Well, being married to someone who is more spontaneous and quirky chaos to my neurotic perfectionism and overly acute sense of organization has made it pretty clear that wasn’t true.

I was really patient and kind when I lived alone and could relegate his mess to his house. I could smirk at his piles and assume that he just didn’t know better. He just needed a woman to help civilize his wild, and teach him to separate his whites and darks. 

Oh, how I laugh at that today! Of course, he knew better. It just wasn’t his priority. And it still isn’t. He prefers our home to feel lived in. I like HGTV perfection. We are so very different in many ways. Yet, we’re both growing. I’ve even learned to wash everything in one temp and let God and Maytag sort it all out.

I had to accept that my idea of love and marriage were based on the world’s views, not God’s truths. My ideas of rights and respect and companionship and priorities were all shaped by my culture, not the immutable, unchanging reality of scripture.

Maybe the purpose of marriage is more than love, maybe it’s for God’s glory.

So, if God ordained my steps before I was born, He planned this marriage too. He knew how to use our differences to shape me to be more in His image, transforming me by degree.

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Once I was willing to embrace those differences and see my husband as greater than myself. And I’ve learned to embrace how these differences are refining me to look more like Christ.

They make me consider how I love him over how loved I feel.

God has crafted the different events and suffering of the past couple of years to reach us as a couple. He can use suffering to transform your marriage as well. We’ve had issues with parents, parenting, finances, appliances, careers, technology, and grief and loss.

God even used a total physical break down to break down the careful walls of politeness we had built between us.

After being married a decade, we had quit talking with each other about intimate issues, deeply held views, and even tragic moments from our pasts that we didn’t know how to share.

Thanks to this military life, we had lived separately for so much of our marriage that we’d gotten really comfortable living this compartmentalized relationship with all the messy human stuff kept in little private boxes.

Turns out, you can’t love someone with your whole heart and hold anything separate from them.

Through my hip surgery, dislocation, and the prolonged recovery, then my husband’s increasing disability due to his military service, we’ve had to learn an increased compassion for each other. We had to communicate about our bodies, our feelings about getting older and recognizing our mortality.

We had to risk and trust like we did in the very beginning. The first time I opened up about how rape affected my marriage was really hard, but my husband was able to really listen to me and not let his own emotions of anger prevent him from just listening.

The past year has opened the door of communication between us. God has used scripture to teach me how to love and surrender in the hard things.

One night, I lay in bed mentally crying out “WHY ME?!?” I almost audibly heard Him say, “Be patient. I’m doing stuff.”

Well, okay then. Show me what you’re doing. Just give me a glimpse.

I almost immediately felt awash with peace. Not healing, I had months of healing left to go (and some still ahead of me), but peace that surpasses understanding calmed me.

Psalm 94:19 ESV When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. 

So I began to watch for the things that God was working in my life. When I stopped feeling like I had been targeted and realized this was God’s grace, not punishment. This suffering was part of making me holier and strengthening my faith!

And I began to see how my injury and need brought out gentleness in my husband. How my need encouraged me to grow in humility to see how God can use my gentleness over my intelligence.

Even in the middle of rough moments over the past months, God has put people and even street signs in my path reminding me that He hears me. When the brake store sign read, “God hears your cry” on the roughest night we’d had in a long while, I almost began sobbing in the car. Thank you, Lord.

I am patient knowing that God has always worked everything together for my good, just on His perfect timetable, not mine.

2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When I look to Christ, I am content with insults and hardships. That is so incredibly counter-cultural! I know in my weakness, God’s hope has shown brighter in me. When I could face calamity and say, I trust God, it changed me and the people around me.

It’s been incredibly beautiful.

Just this week, our septic system backed up. What would have been an unimaginable crisis when we didn’t know how to talk to each other was merely a tiny irritation, and we ended the evening holding hands snuggling on the couch.

Our marriage isn’t magical. It’s far from perfect, but we’re better today than yesterday, and I’m counting on God to use the blessings and challenges to keep directing our steps.

How did we get here from there? I got into my Bible everyday. I began to see my first mission field as my husband and family. I let God’s Word and Spirit be active and transformative. I couldn’t just read words and hope on them. I had to LIVE them.

Let God change you and you will see Him transform your marriage through suffering and in blessings. You cannot become more like Christ and not see fruit blossom in your life. Just know that it doesn’t always look like we think it will. But in a Kingdom-mindset and eternal economy, you’ll begin to see how our light shines brightest in the dark.

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Will you take the BOLD 30 days without complaining challenge?

Going without complaining has been my annual November challenge the past few years. Nothing sets my heart on thankfulness more than going without complaining.

30 Days Without Complaining???

Going without complaining is hard enough to do for five minutes much less 30 days, but I’ve learned that the secret to thankfulness is changing my heart from the inside out.

Between October 30 and November 1, already the thankfulness and gratitude challenges have begun popping up in my newsfeed.

While there’s nothing wrong with having gratitude or doing thankfulness, I’ve found that people post about being grateful in one post a day, but spend the rest of their day complaining.

Posting one #Grateful #Blessed #Thankful post a day wasn't changing anyone's heart. Click To Tweet
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Posting one #Grateful #Blessed #Thankful post a day wasn’t changing anyone’s heart.

I wanted to do more than spend five minutes considering what I’m thankful for.

Being thankful comes out of a true sense of humility regarding the gifts that God has given us, which sometimes, include suffering because it is preparing us for eternal glory in Heaven.

2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

In recent years, I’ve learned a lot about different kinds of suffering: financial struggles, physical challenges, marital difficulties. And I’ve learned that being thankful in the midst of all my challenges changes how I face them. People around me see what’s happening in my heart and my life and are encouraged.

Just today, my friend Rebekah shared my episode of her delightful podcast about Trusting God in Adversity.

020: Trusting God in Adversity with Jennifer Defrates

The past few years I’ve been doing this 30 days without complaining challenge I started it in 2014. It has become my annual November tradition.

Will you take the bold 30 days without complaining challenge?

Pledge to go 30 days November 1-November 30 without complaining. Ask your spouse and besties to hold you accountable. Ask your kids to hold you accountable. My seven year old is on it!

WHY take this challenge? 

When I cannot complain, I find ways to choose joyfulness that I might not if I weren’t taking the challenge.

Going without complaining helps me be more intentional with every word I speak. Intentionality really changes the tone of my home. In fact, doing this challenge for the last couple of years has been a tremendously helped in changing the way I speak, think, and feel in general.

God has used this challenge to convict and restore me to a gentle spirit. And, it’s been a very powerful in my family as we celebrate the harvest season and prepare our home to celebrate Christ’s birth.

So what does it look like to go without complaining?

I take it to a really extreme level. For example, I do not say things like I am hungry but that I would like to eat. By making positive statements instead of negative, I am being proactive rather than reactive.

Going without complaining makes me aware of how often complaining is the first attitude I have. This morning, half awake, I stumbled out of my bedroom door. Looking around the disarray leftover from a busy couple of days I said, “This house is a mess.”

I quickly clamped my hand over my mouth. My husband asked me what I had said. Chagrined, I replied, “I need to straighten up today.” Shoot, I didn’t even make it to the coffeepot.

But being willing to take this challenge does not mean that you will be perfect. It means that you will strive to reduce your complaining. Changing your vocabulary is only the beginning.

Spending time in praise and reading God’s word will change the overflow of my heart so that my default emotional position becomes one of praise and thanksgiving in a powerful way.

Can you think of a better way to begin the holiday season this year than celebrating a true heart of thankfulness, recognizing that life is difficult and challenging and yet it beautiful and wondrous gift?

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Are you looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations?

Looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations, but not finding much left on the shelves? Don't Stress - Here are some of my favorite ideas & where to find them! 

Looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations, but not finding much left on the shelves? Don’t Stress – Here are some of my favorite ideas!

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Today, I went shopping for Thanksgiving decorations. I had a coupon for the local home decor store, and I was so excited. All week, I’d been looking forward to this shopping trip.

Walking in, I was prepared to spend a decent amount of money I’ve been saving since my birthday. But wasn’t prepared for the explosion of snow, holly, and evergreen.

Looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations, but not finding much left on the shelves? Don't Stress - Here are some of my favorite ideas & where to find them! 

Apparently I missed the memo that even though Halloween hasn’t happened yet, it’s already Christmas.

I was so frustrated. 

My family is coming to visit for Thanksgiving. I’ve never hosted the family for Thanksgiving, and I just wanted to add a few touches of warmth to my home.

I picked up a couple of items at Kirkland’s.

Are you looking for cute Thanksgiving decorations last minute? Here are some really cute ones I found!

But I really wanted bright vibrate foliage and flowers. No such luck! I’m going to have to turn to Amazon and Hobby Lobby!

Being Sunday, Hobby Lobby will have to wait until tomorrow, but Amazon . . . my sweet Amazon is always open!

Here are some adorable shelf sitters or table decor. I love the bowls that would be great for leftover Halloween candy (if yours survives the weekend!)

We don’t get a lot of fall color where we live, so adding some in touches at the doorway brings the sense of fall, even if I can’t count on the weather to feel like fall.

I love the light up trees and pretty leaf garland for the entry way.

I’m trying to decide if we’re going to go formal with my china for the main meal or use fancier paper plates. I might get some decorative paper plates for hors d’oeuvres and leftovers for the days following Thanksgiving.

Using my nice china and glassware is fun and fancy, but when my family is visiting, the last thing I want to do is spend an hour at the sink instead of spending time with them.

Growing up I always felt like my mom missed the best parts of the after-meal story telling around the living room. Cheeks flushed with the warmth of too much sugar and turkey, we would laugh and tell story after story.

While we would help her clear the table and load the dishwasher, she still spent so much time cleaning up. I don’t want to miss the stories. My husband always pulls out a new story for company, and I hate to miss them. He is just the best storyteller!

Using disposable plates is one way to keep the clean up a little simpler! Especially if you’re going to be having family staying with you for the days surrounding the holiday. I usually use some cheap foil pans for baking and cooking as well. They can go from freezer to fridge to oven to trash.

Let Earth Be Filled with His Glory – Throw Pillow

from: DaySpring Cards Inc

Since, we’ll be using our spare bedrooms for family, I’m also trying to decide if I should add a few pops of color to the guest room. Maybe some harvest or fall themed throw pillows for the guest beds.

Of course, the harvest theme is HUGE right now thanks to Fixer Upper.

I love the farm theme especially for Thanksgiving decorations!

Celebrating the harvest season reminds me to be thankful for God’s wonderful provision in my life. When I only wanted to be a mother, God answered that prayer. When we needed food on our table, God answered.

Can I just say that it’s totally unfair that my two favorite holidays are so close together! I would totally decorate for Thanksgiving and leave it up way longer if Christmas season didn’t start so soon afterward!

Well, my birthday money won’t quite stretch far enough for all these things, but I certainly found some adorable deals. And I’ll start baking any minute . . .

Can you smell the pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls yet? I hope you love these cute Thanksgiving decorations as much as I do! And find that they warm your home this Thanksgiving season!

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Why and How to Celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Your pastor may get a lot of attention on Sunday morning, but what he really does is mostly behind the scenes.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Your pastor may get a lot of attention on Sunday morning, but what he really does is mostly behind the scenes.

Sometimes, people think pastors just preach on Sunday morning. Who wouldn’t like a one day a week job?

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However, in addition to sermon preparation which takes hours of writing, researching, editing, and practicing, most pastors are responsible for leading the staff, organizing events, ministering to those who are sick or hurting, and making a multitude of decisions each week about everything from children’s ministry to plumbing problems.

While your pastor’s Sunday morning sermon might be the most visible thing he does each week, it is probably the smallest portion of his actual responsibilities and an even smaller portion of his ministry.

This fall, my online ministry has become more physical as I’ve been recovering from my surgery and better able to be back in the land of the living. I co-facilitate a marriage group at PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel).

We are reading a book that is extremely convicting and challenging, but will produce amazing fruit in the marriages of these women. I know just from a discipleship standpoint, it has helped me find places for growth.

However, I’ve learned tangibly that leading a ministry is more than just showing up once a week. In addition to teaching preparation, there is real need for ministering to the wives inside our class. Prayer requests that break my heart seem to come daily. I’ve been up at 2 a.m. messaging women in crisis several times.

I can only imagine the challenges of ministering to even a small congregation and truly taking the time to be present for people, even just on the phone, via email, or prayers takes real time and energy.

Our pastors give so much more of their time and heart than we ever realize. They drop family plans in an instant to tend to a hospitalized congregant or tend to grieving families. Our pastor even spent the night in Atlanta in order to take a member of our church to have surgery because she needed a specialist.

So celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month by recognizing the depth of his ministry.

He is doing God’s work in ways that consume his time, energy, and emotions.

How can we celebrate our pastors?

Check out free tools and tips to help you celebrate Ministry Appreciation Month in DaySpring’s #ReturntheBlessing campaign.

Prayer – take up the challenge to pray for your pastor specifically every day through the month.

Volunteer – While we’re all in different seasons of life, try to find a place in which you can serve. I don’t know any churches that don’t need more volunteers!

Thoughtful gifts may also be appreciated. Try to think of things that remind him of his purpose, remind him that his ministry matters to you.

Is he an avid reader? I know I can’t have enough money for books. I bought three books on apologetics this week! And I’ve got a wishlist a MILE long. There are so many great books by deep thinkers and amazing theologians. If you’re not sure which authors are his favorites, a gift card is a great way to support his reading habit.

You can also ask which books he likes to use for pastoral counseling and purchase a few for the church.

Does he spend a lot of lunches at the church and would appreciate a mini-cooler? Would he appreciate a coffee mug? Would your worship pastor like fun guitar picks?

By the way, I love this husband-wife set for the pastor and his wife. What a cute way to remember that she serves too. While she may take more or less of an active role in the church depending on her gifts and season of wife/motherhood, she graciously gives of her husband’s time.

Remember the wives during Pastor Appreciation Month

Much like a soldiers’ wives,  pastors’ wives sacrifice so much family time, but they accept this as part of their family’s service to God. However, that doesn’t always make it easier emotionally. Plus she may often feel isolated because people put so many expectations on her that she struggles to make friends.

Finding time for hobbies is hard for most pastors because there is so much important work to do, but ministry takes a lot of energy. And recharging is crucial. You can’t refill others from an empty cup. If you know your pastor well enough, try to support his hobbies.

Our pastor spends what limited time he can playing golf, sometimes with people who wouldn’t normally come to church. He sees them where they are and loves them. It’s amazing how just living Christ’s light can draw people.

Gift cards towards his hobbies are a great way to encourage him to take the time to enjoy himself. Pastors can really struggle with spending money on non-essentials, especially since most of them do not make large salaries.

Our pastor also does woodworking part-time. While I wouldn’t know what to get him for his shop, a gift card to Lowe’s is always a good idea. And I like the idea that our pastor is a carpenter and so is his boss!

But most of all, take a moment to truly just thank him (and his often unsung wife!) for all they do for the church. Kind words go a long way to encourage and uplift.

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Creative Ways to Have Extra Christmas Money

Wouldn't a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical and a lot less stressful this year? And focus our hearts on Christ in Christmas

Wouldn’t a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical and a lot less stressful this year? While giving gifts isn’t the main message of CHRISTmas, we do want to show people how loved they are! But we don’t always have the funds for what is in our hearts.

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Every year, I promise myself I’ll actually enjoy Christmas with all the delicious baking and warm family times.

But the stress of the holidays often gets in the way. One way to take that stress down a notch is to remove the worries over money.

Wouldn't a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical & a lot less stressful this year? And focus our hearts on Christ in Christmas

Are you guilty of treating Christmas like a surprise?

Christmas is the same time every year, but often we start scrambling to afford gifts come October or November, which is really too late. Then we plunge into credit card shopping only to dive deeply into debt. No one wants to start a new year paying off the last one.

Don't treat Christmas like a surprise! Plan ahead to have extra Christmas money now! Click To Tweet
  • DOES this seem like a strange post for me? It might, but going from two good salaries to one has made me realize how much stewardship is involved in properly handling our money. God has been gracious to provide for our family in many ways, but these are a few ways I’ve been thrifty and stretched every dollar!

We’ve been able to have Christmas paid for before the gifts were wrapped and under the tree for several years. Want to know how?

Tip #1 – Take $50 off the top.

Call your bank and have $50 a paycheck/$100 a month directly transferred to a savings account each month. This builds your savings without thinking about it. And gives you $1200 for extra Christmas money if you need to dip into it.

If you think I can’t afford $100 a month for savings, see if there are luxuries you can do without. Living beneath what you can afford makes money stretch.

Tip #2 – Find creative ways to EARN money!

Taking surveys, opening emails, watching advertisements isn’t going to make you rich, but it is a way to make spending money while watching television. I use several sites and redeem my points/cash expressly for extra Christmas money.

My Points is awesome! It’s a website that sends marketing emails. Each email you open is worth five points, some are worth more if you make a purchase or sign up for a service. Also, you can earn points for donations to the Red Cross and animal welfare sites.

Why I love it!

This year, I’ve earned points for up to $100 in gift cards. I can redeem my points for gift cards to many national chains including Amazon, The Children’s Place, Bass Pro Shops, Home Depot, Sears, Kohl’s, Old Navy, even Papa John’s!

Another similar site is Inbox Dollars.

I earn a few cents a day just opening emails. They pay in cash and offer surveys too. I have earned $35 in just a few months. That’s a Christmas gift or movie date night!

SAVE Money on Groceries!

One of my favorite ways to earn extra Christmas money is through the Ibotta app!

Ibotta is like reverse couponing. I scroll through the app after making my grocery list. After shopping, I scan the items I purchased into the app with a copy of my receipt. I’ve earned $182.65 using the Ibotta app so far.

Walmart Savings Catcher is another easy app. Every time you shop at Walmart, scan your receipt into the Walmart App in the Savings Catcher section. I’ve saved $190 using the app. It literally takes seconds as I walk to my car! I deliberately don’t use those dollars until Christmas and can transfer my credit to the Walmart Pay section of the app to pay for gifts.

Wouldn't a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical & a lot less stressful this year? And focus our hearts on Christ in Christmas

Do you shop online?

I shop online through Ebates – I can shop for Christmas while earning extra Christmas money! This year, I’ve earned $120 buying things I was purchasing already!

I just go to their site or app and shop, earning money back on homeschool products, website subscription services, Amazon, Wayfair, Overstock!

They even have a browser extension that pops up and reminds me to activate their service if I’m shopping a site that works with Ebates.

Last Tip – Shop smart & start EARLY

Shopping smart won’t earn you extra Christmas money, but it can save you enough to be worth doing.

I’ve already begun stock piling gifts.  I usually start in September. If you are saavy, watch for great sales now. A lot of catalogs count on Christmas to make their year, prices right now are often lower than they will be later.

Shopping early lets you have plenty of time to shop around for the best price and take advantage of early sales.

I make a list of everyone I need gifts for and begin keeping an eye out for just the thing that will make them laugh or smile or be really useful. Especially for my husband!

If nothing else, I can earmark all my planned gifts for Cyber Monday and be ready to snag the deals, having my budget set and Ebates locked and loaded.

Plan ahead, budget wisely, use some creative ways to earn extra Christmas money and this might be the most stress-free holiday season yet!

Bonus Tip

Plan ahead to be generous. Set aside some of your Christmas money to give to charities that matter to you.