Easter, Family Life, love, Miracles, The Cross, God’s Faithfulness, wedding

A Miracle


It’s a few days before Easter.
  And as I reflect on the cross and the miracle of Jesus rising from death, I am awed once again.  That the Son of God would die for me and you, is miraculous in itself.  But it didn’t end there, he conquered death and our sin, so we can live victoriously now and forever!! This causes me to reflect on the miracles God has performed in my life .  And really, there are many. Some are big and some are seemingly insignificant to anyone but me.  I have a story that I want to tell that reminds me that to the God who overcame death, NOTHING is too small for him.  I call this story The Miracle Mixer. It’s all because of God’s faithfulness that this story is possible.  I love this scripture, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:19.

 

This story begins in 2009, when I became reacquainted with a friend whom I had not seen in 17 years. Cathy had two little boys back then.  I remember her boys being cute and well mannered and Cathy as a smart mama who sewed and made beautiful things.   The last time I saw her, her oldest son, Witt was 10 and my second daughter, Claire was 5.  I have a picture of our homeschool co-op group sitting on a wall dressed in Medieval costumes and Witt brandishing a sword and looking brave and Claire sitting with her sisters and friends, just past the toddler age herself.  Fast forward 17 years, now Cathy and I each had two more daughters.  My daughter, Nan, and Cathy’s daughter, Rose, became  fast friends in the Bible Study we attended that year.  This was Cathy’s first and only year attending this particular Bible study. I had been going for years, but had decided not to attend this year because I had young teenagers that I was homeschooling and I felt I needed more time at home to accomplish that.  But God impressed upon my heart that I should attend, so I signed up at the last minute.  I’m so glad I did because we spent each Thursday after Bible study, together, eating lunch, becoming fast friends again.  And as you might have guessed we re-introduced Witt and Claire and they fell in love and married a year later.  We could not be more in love with this godly, caring and handsome man and we are so blessed to call him our son.  Nan loves to take credit for bringing Witt into Claire’s life.  

 

And now here is the mixer story. The  circumstances and timing of these previous and next events, that I’m about to tell you, can only have come from our good Father, who sees all and knows all.  I think of the story of Esther in the Bible.  She saw God work on her and her people’s behalf through what seemed like random circumstances. God used her for big things, to save her people.  We might never be called to do anything big like she did, but we are called to be faithful and to bring all our requests and needs before God.  Have you ever seen God work on your behalf?  What seems so random to us, is all a part of Gods plan for our lives. 

 

I told you Claire and Witt fell in love and wanted to get married. Before this, Claire had been a nanny for a missionary family in Paris, France .  While there she took French lessons and applied to culinary school, as her time as a nanny was drawing to a close for she loved Paris.  And she already loved to cook.  She was accepted to the school, but due to many reasons, some financial and some logistical , she disappointedly decided to come home, not sure what God was doing in her life. She finished up her college education at a local University, with a degree in creative writing. It was during this time she met Witt, fell in love and became engaged. 

 

Weddings are exciting and this was our second one with three more weddings to plan one day. We had college educations to pay for, braces, contacts and just the general expense of a large family living on one income.  Someone was giving Claire a kitchen shower and she had on her registry many wonderful things, but one thing she wanted more than anything was a Kitchen Aid Standup Mixer.  The one she had chosen was cream colored, Almond they called it.  It was out of my price range at that time in my life.  I remember praying that God would show me what I should get Claire.  I wanted to get a very special gift for her, one that would be useful but something she really wanted.  

 

I remember going to lunch with my husband on a Tuesday , we usually went on Fridays .  Hart worked from home then, so we had made this our special treat. But I grabbed him from his office on Tuesday and said let’s go get some thing to eat so we can talk. We went to our favorite, but inexpensive, hibachi restaurant in our small town.  I remember telling Hart about the kitchen shower for Claire.  He said he wished we could afford the mixer but it was not in our budget.  After our Friday lunches we usually browse Goodwill where Hart likes to look at the books and I wander the store.  So on this Tuesday he asks me if I still  want to go to Goodwill. Sure, I said and headed over to the appliance section. And what did I see on the very bottom shelf, covered in dirt , but a Kitchen Aid Mixer!!  Excidely I pulled it out and called to Hart, we plugged it in.  It worked!   I looked in the mixing bowl and there were all three accessories! We couldn’t believe it!  We took it to checkout and paid 25.00 for it. I remember getting it home and washing it with just hot water and soap.  How surprised and taken aback I was as I looked at it.  This mixer was in perfect condition , not a scratch on it and it was the prized Almond color!!  The only thing missing was the original box!  How did I get Claire’s dream mixer for 25.00 when on the registry it was listed for 399.00! All I could do was to exclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness . When I took my gift to the shower and told the story of God’s blessing  and provision there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

 

I love the many stories of George Mueller, a man of God who prays about everything .  He once said if you receive a parcel and it is tied up in string and you can’t open it because you don’t have a knife or scissors, pray about it and ask God to help you untie the knot.  How I love that illustration about how nothing is too small or insignificant to God .  God knew Claire would need to be in the US so she could meet the man we had been praying for since her birth, that both Cathy and I should attend the Bible study that year and that God would arrange it so I would be at that Goodwill  store, on that particular day, that someone had decided to get rid of a perfectally good mixer.  It’s times like this, that I can always go back to when my days seem hard and I feel like can’t see what God is doing in my life right now. These memories strengthen my faith and I know that God cares about the seemingly insignificant things in my life.  I can be sure he is working on my behalf, my family’s and yours as well. 

 

What are some ways you’ve seen God working on your behalf or your family’s?  I’d love to hear about them, for it gives God the glory and strengthens the faith of those reading it.

 

Have a very blessed and wonderful Easter!  For Christ is Risen, Risen indeed! 

Love, Nancy

Family Life, gratefulness, unselfishness, letting God, love, military, Thanksgiving

Blisters and Bliss

BListers and Breezes

My husband Gabe just left for a five week training in the beautiful state of Texas. Most training missions require a full packing list of items required for the training. Gabe is super good at ensuring he’s got all he needs. He’s pretty particular and organized when it comes to work. He also likes to be on time or early for certain things pertaining to work so he usually gives himself an extra forty minutes. Gabe asked a friend if he would pick him up early in the morning to take him to the airport. He was going to be at the airport 1.5 hours early. His friend persuaded him to arrive only 30 minutes early since this was such a tiny airport and most likely there would only be about 30 people going through security. He didn’t want Gabe to be miserable sitting there for an extra hour. So Gabe agreed and told himself he probably needed to just relax a little. 

So Gabe gets picked up and starts telling this brother in Christ how he needs to put anxiety away. Just then they hear a strange noise and feel something strange beneath the car. A tire blew out. That’s okay! His friend had a spare and the stuff to fix it. They get out the spare and his friend is having some trouble with the pliers. They’re stuck. Gabe gives it a shot and breaks them in half. At this point, Gabe’s time to make his flight is running out. His friend leaves to grab another tool and soon a cop appears. That’s when I got a call from Gabe. “Hey babe! Can you wake up the kids and get over here as fast as you can?” He was only 5 minutes down the road. The cop stayed with his friend’s car and I took Gabe to the airport. On our way, we watched as we saw his plane in the sky, just having taken off. “Gabe, God doesn’t want you on that flight.” Gabe looked at me and he agreed but he didn’t look very comforted by this. He sure wanted to be on that flight. It took about an hour to get the right people on the phone but finally Gabe had another flight scheduled. He called his friend to find out how things turned out for him. His friend was laughing. “So, I finally got the right tool and the spare tire on and then quickly realized this one was almost out of air. So then I went to start my car and it was dead.” Gabe said, “Okay, yeah. God did not want me on that flight this morning.” We had a good laugh about this. I was serious but smiling and laughing still as I told Gabe “Babe, all I can say is you better share the gospel with whoever sits next to you on that plane!” 

When Gabe called me later that night after having arrived and gotten settled in his hotel I found out he definitely did share the gospel with his seat mate who was Nigerian. I thought about all of the persecution the christian nigerians are facing right now. Being killed for their faith. I prayed this seed would take root in this man and grow.

Life gives you punches, right? Jabs, pinches and blisters. Things just happen. Annoying things. We may get a little beat up by life and sadly often we get deep and painful wounds.

If anyone has lived longer than an hour they already know that life is just not a gentle breeze. 

Yet we just know in the midst of this that God is there. If you find yourself in a plane, experiencing turbulence at first and then find yourself spiraling to the ground, your thought isn’t “everything is going wrong so therefore nobody made this plane.” No, that would be illogical. You would probably be thinking “Something went terribly wrong.” In the same way, we know in our heart of hearts that even though we live in a fallen world, God exists and He made us. 

What if I told you that all of the turbulence is part of His plan? His amazing redemption plan?

God wants us to be one with Him. He loves us. It’s a mercy that an infinite, perfect, spotless and holy God loves us and makes Himself a father to us. Yet we cannot be one with Him or know Him as our father unless we are washed clean. Every one of us is dirty because of sin. Sin is something all of us inherit at birth because our first parents (Adam and Eve) were the first to commit a sin. Nobody teaches a child to lie. It is our instinct. So God’s amazing redemption plan is to bring us home with Him. To make us one with Him once and for all. He sent His son Jesus to live in this sinful world, overcome sin (and death) once and for all in our place. We could never do it. We could never be able to pay the fine that it cost for even one stain, one little white lie, one lustful thought before a holy God who is just. Do you see that? God is holy. One lie is a blemish that prevents us from being one with Him. He cannot partner with sin. He is also a good judge. A good judge does not let the guilty go free, no matter how regretful they are. Yet He is also a compassionate God so He sent His only Son to pay the fine in our place. Jesus took on our flesh and He lived the perfect life (the only one to be able to do this) and He was the last and final sacrificial lamb and He conquered death by rising from the grave. Can you believe that! Jesus stepped away from His glory in Heaven with the Father and took on the humble form of a man who would be tempted, accused and finally beaten and tortured to death. What love!! Jesus said referring to the prostitute who washed his feet with her hair, “whoever is forgiven much loves much.” When we realize there is nothing good in us, when we realize our wretched state, our sin that makes us God’s enemy and repent of this and trust in Jesus, trust that He has taken away our guilt once and for all then we will be one with God and saved from eternal damnation. God made a way! He loves us so mercifully!

And so in Christ life is still not a gentle breeze. Life is actually…WAY harder. And yet…it’s way sweeter. I’ll explain in just a minute.

When we are living as one with Christ and coming under submission to Him, we will be wrongly accused just as He was. We will be attacked by dark spiritual forces just as He was. We will be called to do uncomfortable things for the sake of loving others. 

Evangelism is NOT comfortable. 

Dying to the willing flesh is NOT comfortable.

Giving not only out of abundance but also deprivation is NOT comfortable.

Loving our enemy is NOT comfortable.

Living by the inspired Word of God instead of the world is NOT comfortable.

But these things are just the natural outcome of living as One with Christ. We grow up into these things as we mature in Christ. The more we do, in the most slight of ways in comparison we identify with Christ’ suffering. The more we identify with Christ, the sweeter the fellowship with Him. He becomes our everything. The only thing that really…matters. We’re able to let all of OUR purposes sift through our fingers as sand, like the foundation they are built upon. God’s purposes outlined in His word are our only sure foundation for anything. We long for gentle breezes in our life and yet our time here is so short. We will have gentle breezes for eternity. So what is the purpose for these short years on earth? We must realize that it’s not about us gaining a smooth life here on earth (though we most certainly experience blessings here on earth that are sweet gifts from God). The Bible shows our life hidden in Christ may actually look like what an athlete goes through.

 “Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrew 12:1. 

“You will be hated by everyone on account of My name, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22. (Emphasis, mine).

“Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly. I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-26.

I ran cross country in highschool for a short time. Cross Country races are 3.1 miles. It’s not a fast sprint. Some races flew by and others felt 10 miles long and I wondered if the race would ever end. I had to really play mind games during these races to keep myself going. In a race, you are always pushing yourself to go faster. It’s not a gentle jog. To keep up a certain pace, I would find comfort in the uncomfortable. I would focus on my breathing, or focus on my feet hitting the ground seconds apart. A gentle breeze would occasionally come and dry some of the sweat off my forehead. But you know what really made me happy and run with endurance? When my sister Nan would run with me. I love my sister! It was a joy to run along side her. She would not only would encourage me but she literally was acquainted with my current pain and guess what..I knew she would win. She always won. She always always always won! If she was running with me I knew I could make it.

In the same way, as we endure this broken world and live as missionaries here, we have the blissful and amazing comfort of Jesus’ presence! He personally knows our pain and He has won! He gave us victory! So we keep running to the end of our lives, cheering our brothers and sisters on, warning anybody and everybody of the danger at the end of life if they do not have Christ and giving Jesus the glory that we are able to run and run with endurance and inherit the kingdom! Jesus is bliss. Jesus is sweet. Jesus is with us. Far too often than I want, I just mess up. I want to give in to desires that are not Godly. I want my OWN way. Yet the giver of gentle breezes is worth far more than the breeze itself.

Family Life, foster care

How You Can Support Foster Families

One night this week I was overcome with anxiety. Getting in my car seemed a little dramatic so I left the baby with my husband and ran downstairs to the garage. A room I particularly loathe due to the abundance of camel crickets and lawn equipment.

I crouched down and held onto the side of the old stroller and sobbed. At times my breath came in gasps and I wondered if I was having a panic attack. I remembered how last year I would gag with nausea when things got particularly stressful as a foster parent. We were going through a difficult time with a teenage foster son.

I hadn’t felt nauseous in a while but I did that day after court for our foster baby. And as I sat on my ankles in that damp room, with the stacks of Bob Dylan CD’s and the rows of paint cans, I cried out. God. Don’t forsake me. Don’t hide your face from me. I cried until there were no more tears left.

Then I went back upstairs, got the baby ready for bed and read books with my daughter. I had felt like I couldnt breath but I took the next breath. And so the night went on.

I wrote the above last summer on my blog when we were going through a particularly difficult season as foster parents and I never published it. Maybe I didn’t want anyone to think I was losing my mind, though those closest to me knew how greatly the court case was affecting me. How much I cared for this little baby and what happened to him. I wanted him to be safe and I didn’t have that control. It’s a hard place to be and it can feel all-consuming.

As I write this today our foster baby is still with us and his case has greatly improved. So it feels like we are in a much better place. But for the past few years it’s been tough trying to fulfill this calling to help children in need.

Maybe you’ve thought about being a foster parent but you aren’t in that place right now. You might know how great the need is and want to help but aren’t sure how you can. I wanted to share three ways you can support foster families. Hopefully these ideas will give you a little insight into what a family in your group of friends, church or community might need.

1) Throw A Shower

Often foster families are licensed for more than one child or have decided they are open to receiving placements of different ages. So it’s nearly impossible to plan for every child who may come into your home. Often children arrive with nothing but a trash bag of clothes and sometimes they come without anything. We picked up our baby from the hospital and went home with only the outfit he was wearing and a bag full of blankets hospital volunteers had donated. We spent over $1000 that first week just getting basic things we needed. I was SO grateful for friends who gave me bags of baby clothes from their attics or sweet relatives who sent clothes or dropped by with an outfit or bottle warmer. We had less than 6 hours from the time we got the call to the time we brought baby home. So that’s not a lot of time to prepare.

Yes, maybe it feels strange to throw a shower for a child who could leave at any time. But foster parents are required to send anything bought for the child with the child if they leave- so not only are you helping a foster family but you are also helping a biological family in need. And, the stipend for foster care is low. Many assume it covers everything and foster families are set. Families who want to truly provide for the child in their home end up spending A LOT of their own money. As you do with your kids. And when kids are coming and going this can really tax a budget.

And isn’t every child worth celebrating? Hosting a quick get together is such a sweet and supportive way to show you care and are ready to embrace this new child. Don’t know the family well enough to give a party? Handing them a gift card is also a wonderful way to show your support. And is so appreciated.

2. Treat a New Placement like a New Baby

When your sister had a new baby you probably brought over a meal. Or maybe offered to babysit her other kids so she could get some rest. No matter what the age of the new foster child coming into the home, foster parents could use some help. Between trauma the child has experienced and getting no sleep because a child is scared of their new bed to signing up for new schools, going to new doctor appointments and navigating home visits, bio parent visits, shared parenting- all in the span of the first week- foster parents are exhausted. We had a couple from our church that we didn’t know well drop off a pot of soup and salad one night after we brought our foster baby home. We so appreciated the effort and thought. Can you become a respite babysitter? Often it just takes a background check and you are approved to babysit so the foster parents can take an evening off.

A call or text means so much and instead of saying, let me know how I can help (we’ll never let you know – it’s too awkward!) just say, I’m thinking of dropping off a pizza tonight in case ya’ll could use a break, is that ok? And this is also appreciated even when the child has been in our home for months. Sometimes that’s when a lot of foster parents can get burnt out trying to care for children from hard places. It often gets better- children get more settled, routines get established- but sometimes it gets worse.

Kids who are now in a safe place step out of survival mode and then the difficult behaviors start up. We’ve all navigated the tantrums in the store- but magnify that by 100 when trauma is involved. It can be hard and we need to know we are doing a good job. Once my sister mailed me a care package with the essential oil Valor in it. Just that name made me tear up. I wasn’t feeling brave- I was scared that foster care was becoming too hard. And her sending that made all the difference.

3) Watch Your Words

This one is hard, because I have had so many well-meaning people say hurtful things. And I know they didn’t mean to be hurtful! So I wanted to tread lightly- but still let you know what’s important to hear and not hear as a foster parent. First, we can’t share details of the bio families. So asking if the baby was born on drugs – or where the parents are- or what they did- it’s best just to avoid these questions. Especially in front of the kids. Even young kids can understand that it’s not normal to not be with their birth families. And questioning the details in front of them makes them feel like THEY aren’t normal. I had someone ask a previous teenage foster son how he liked his “new” parents. Actually, he would much rather have been with his “old” parent, his bio mom, and again- the question made him feel like there was something wrong with him.

I always introduce my foster kids as my sons or daughters. Because at that moment, that’s what they are. So when you are speaking to them or about them, treat them the same way. And let’s avoid the horror stories. The ones about friends who fostered or foster kids you read about in the news. Foster care is nuanced and every case is different. Just because you saw on CNN that a teenage foster child burned down the foster families house does not mean every teenager in foster care would do that.

Another question I get asked all the time is, are you going to adopt so- and- so? The reality of foster care is we often don’t know. And some families are fostering just to foster and not to adopt. Again- saying this in front of the child is a definite no. They know deep down that their futures are up in the air. Some want to be reunited with their birth families and some would like to adopted. But they don’t have a say in the matter and neither do we. So a better question would be, how can I pray for you?

And that leaves me with the last point, which I’ll just leave under this one. Pray! I cannot tell you how thankful I am for ALL the prayer warriors who pray with us and for us. Even people we don’t know well will let us know they are praying for us. It means more than you can know.

Support for foster parents can make all the difference in whether these families continue to foster or give up because it gets too hard. You play such an important role as supporter. I often think of my extended family as a foster family too- because they are helping and encouraging us and that’s a ministry in and of itself.

So thank you!

-Claire

Family Life, Motherhood, soup, wintertime, Uncategorized

Instant Pot Harvest Italian Soup

GSD

In the fall and winter when I ask my family for ideas for dinner I usually get back, how about soup? Nothing is as cozy as a steaming bowl of soup at the table on a cold winter night but I don’t always have time. Soup in my opinion takes a little effort. When all the ingredients are sautéed before liquid is added and when it has time to slowly simmer, I find that brings out the best flavor.

I used to make a lot of soup in the crock pot but I would often get this strange metallic taste. Sometimes the taste wasn’t there if the onions, veggies and garlic were cooked well before being added to the liquid but who has time for that when you’ve just thought of throwing something together before going off to work in the morning?

And at night when I’m trying to navigate homework, baths, babies crawling under my feet and trying to get into the cat food dish, I don’t have time to deal with fry pans and simmering something for an hour.

So my Instant Pot has been so wonderful for this busy working mom. Only one pot to clean and while I still add each ingredient to the sauté feature it only cooks for about 30 minutes. But it tastes like it’s been simmering for hours.

GSD

This is my husband’s favorite. It’s like Italian wedding soup without pasta and the variations are endless. As long as you have a base of mild (or hot if you live on the edge) Italian sausage, white beans, rosemary, onions and garlic with tomato and greens, you can add from there. I like peppers and mushrooms. Sometimes kale sometimes spinach. Red wine or maybe a splash of really good balsamic vinegar. It tastes different each time I make it.

I’m not a big recipe follower and I hope if you make this and if you like it, you’ll do it again a different way, adding what you think might taste good. That’s the fun of cooking.

Of course if you don’t have an instant pot this can be made on the stove or the crock pot. You’ll still sauté everything but simmer on the stove for about one hour. In the crock pot it can cook for 4-6 hours on low. I don’t recommend cooking it on high as rapid boiling will break down the beans and greens too much. 
Here goes.

GSD

Harvest Italian Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 pound ground Italian sausage (I like the sweet variety)
  • 4-5 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 -14 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups shredded kale or spinach
  • 1- 14 ounce can white beans, drained
  • 3-4 drops hot sauce (optional)
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

Pre-heat Instant Pot on the Sauté setting. When it says Hot, add olive oil and diced onion, with a light dusting of salt. Sauté until starting to sweat or becoming translucent. Add celery and green pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. At this point you can walk away to pretend like you know enough about math to help your daughter with her homework.

Add mushrooms and sauté until they start to lose a little water. Add garlic and rosemary and stir just until you can smell the garlic. Don’t let it get any color. Don’t leave the area.

Add sausage to the vegetables and another light dusting of salt and brown the meat. When nicely browned, pour in the red wine and deglaze pan. Be sure to scrape any of the browned meat off the bottom of the Instant Pot so it doesn’t burn during cooking. This can take about a minute.

Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, white beans, kale and a generous amount of pepper. Add more chicken broth if the soup needs to be thinned out. Stir well. Set Instant Pot to high pressure and set timer for 25 minutes. You can now give the baby a bath and wrangle him into his PJ’s. When done, let the steam out and stir in hot sauce (optional).

Season soup to taste with salt and pepper if needed. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with fresh parmesan cheese and serve. Can serve with crusty bread. Also great the next day.

GSD

-Claire

Family Life, marriage, empty nesters

After the Children are Gone

Thirty-five years ago, I married my sweet Hart.  Fifteen months later our first daughter was born.  I was immediately thrust into a lifestyle of babies and toddlers, with three kids within five years. Then we had a five year stretch before our last two daughters were born.  This made their ages span from 1-12.  Soon I was teaching my girls from home.  Life was busy and never dull.  And I loved it.

As children do, they grew up.   One by one they left the nest and soon only one was left at home.  Nan chose to go to a local university and to live at home. Therefore, we had the chance to enjoy each other’s company for a while longer.  We loved to walk together and talk, shop and talk, watch our favorite chick flick and talk.  One day in December, my life changed for good when Nan got married.  She was the youngest. Now all my girls are married and living their lives to the fullest and they are all thriving.  I am so thankful and happy for each one of them, truly I am.  It is only right and natural for children to leave home.  But it does change things, for those left behind. 

Like I said, I married my sweet Hart and we had one year together before we started our family, which means we’ve had thirty-four years of children in our home.  Our love and devotion for each other has never wavered.  We love spending time together and even tried to get away when the kids were young and at home.  We went on fun and meaningful anniversary trips.  We had dinners alone, while the kids were at Grandmother’shouse.  We were intentional as we could be with our relationship.  We count each other our best friend, which is good because we get to see a lot of each other these days!

Hart still walks around the house, in the evening, remarking how quiet it is without Nan here.  I miss having her constant chatter, encouraging words and someone who likes to talk girl-talk and watch those cheesy TV shows.  But at the same time, I am treasuring my quiet and FREE days to do what I want to do and need to do. Hart and I each have hobbies and interests of our own.  We can remain busy doing these things.  Yet something was missing.    After I had a small break down, because in spite of it all, I was feeling lonely and without purpose, we sat down and looked at the issue before us.  There were things we could do that would help fill in the gaps we were both experiencing. We both admitted we could make some changes to our lives that would make our relationship more intentional.  As I said we truly do love each other, therefore we desire our marriage to grow and to become even stronger.  We want to enjoy one another and to make our home full of life, even if it’s only the two of us.  So, we came up with ten ways to make a strong marriage even stronger and more interesting.  Some of these we are already doing, others we are still implementing into our marriage.  They are not in any particular order.

1. Appreciate your spouse.  I love this quote by Terri Guillemets, “do not take anything for granted-not one smile or one person or one rainbow or one breath, or one night in your cozy bed.”  Smile at your spouse and really look them in the eyes and breathe a prayer of thankfulness that you have this moment together. 

 

2. Deeply admire each other.  Hold your spouse in high esteem and regard.  Admire their abilities and qualities.  Thoughtfully think of them throughout the day and show them every courtesy you’d show a guest in your home. 

 

3.  Have something you enjoy doing together.  Hart and I like going on short day trips to interesting places, passed over by most people.  (The home repairs will keep just fine until you get home.). We also play cards together.  We still keep our TV off except for a Netflix occasionally.  Basically, enjoy each other’s company and be grateful for it.  

 

 

4. Romance each other.  Hold hands in public.. and private.  Give long back rubs and foot massages.  Touch each other.  Let your significant other know they are still the one that makes your heart beat faster!  

 

5. Make conversations lively (or not).  Read up on current events or an interesting topic to share at dinner time.  One reason I loved to homeschool, was I loved to learn.  It was fun to brush up on subjects I learned in school, but also interesting to learn new subjects that my girls pursued.  Hart enjoys researching and has been researching Aylen Lake, Ontario Canada, the place where we like to vacation.  He has discovered so much of its history and enjoys sharing it with me.  But on another note, its also good to enjoy the quietness of each other.  Hart and I are not big talkers or chatterers.  In fact, when we drive together somewhere, it’s not unusual for us to not say a word.  I remarked about this to a friend and she wisely commented, “Oh but isn’t it a most contented silence”.  Just being in each other’s presence is enough at times.

 

6. Pray for one another and pray together.  Seek God together, as well as separately.  We have a prayer journal and pray together before Hart leaves for work, but I also spend time praying for him alone.  We enjoy reading aloud to each other spiritual books that draw us both closer to God.  This also makes for good conservation.

 

 

7. Continue to grow as a couple, to learn from each other and other couples you admire.  How easy is it for the older sect to get set in their ways!  With the ever-changing landscape of technology, we must stay up to date or get left behind. Then how can we understand the younger generation of our children and grandchildren?  Try new things and get out of your comfort zone.  

 

8. Cultivate couple friendships.  We both have friends of our own, but we really enjoy getting together with other couples to have a meal together, to laugh together and to do fun activities together.  We want to do this more often.

 

 

9. Motivate and inspire each other in the endeavors each of you undertake.  A few encouraging words go a long way. Hart wants to write a book and with his love of researching, I know he can do it.  I want to encourage him as he works to reach this goal.

 

10. Get rid of useless arguing.  It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong, or who started it or who wins, does it?  In most cases, we let pettiness take the place of the greater good.  If the outcome doesn’t really matter, then why continue or even start a fight?  I am trying to major in the significant issues of life and minor in the unimportant issues.  Does it really matter if he said it happened yesterday, but you know it was really two days ago?  No, it does not and no one listening to you cares either.  I think this goes back to being respectful of each other.  And we’ve seen enough bickering couples to know we don’t want to be like them!  Concede to each other graciously.  Romans 12:18 says it plainly, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (or your wife or your husband). 

 

 

I know there are so many other ways to improve relationships in marriage, but these ten are important to us as empty nesters.  No one has a perfect marriage, but we can come pretty close if we truly desire it and give it our all.

 

What other advice do you have for married couples?  What advice to you have for empty nesters?  Leave a comment, we love to read what you think