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Monday, January 30, 2012

What wife wouldn’t love a day of pampering at a luxury spa this Valentine’s Day? But for many, such a gift just does not fit the family budget.

With a little creativity and boldness, plus a few dollars, you can create your own in-home luxury spa experience for your sweetheart. This one, guys, is a guaranteed hit! And truthfully, even if you have the funds, there are definite fringe benefits to making your own homemade spa, if you know what I mean.

The Presentation

The presentation is important, because it tells her right off that you went to some degree of effort on her behalf. It also tells her that something special is about to happen. I’ll give you a few options in how you present your spa gift to your wife.

First, create your own spa gift certificate on the computer. If you aren’t the creative type, just use a Google images search for “Spa Certificate Template.” You will only have 1.8 million search results to choose from. Of course, you’ll want to personalize it as much as possible.

Print it on the nicest paper you have or on blank greeting card stock, if you have that. You can put your certificate in an envelope, printed with a mysterious image or phrase, or just her name in a nice script. You could also create your own oversized spa-type envelope using some colored file folders and a fancy corded closure, similar to what is pictured here. If all that sounds like too much work, you can always just gift wrap the certificate in a thin box.

However you decide to present the gift, you want the connotation of luxury and indulgence.

Setting the Environment

I’ve never been to an actual spa, but I assume they have a nice, relaxing ambiance. And that’s the environment you want to set.

Start off with a taste treat for her. Take her somewhere that she likes to relax. In any event it should be somewhere besides the kitchen table. Make some tea or coffee and serve it to her along with a small tray of her favorite goodies. Candles and music are a nice touch, or you can save those for later.

Tell her just to relax and enjoy the goodies while you go make the final preparations for the rest of her “spa visit.”

Spoil Her All Over

Exactly what you include in her spa experience is up to you, but be sure to consider her preferences in planning what you do. Here’s a list of possible ideas:
  • A warm bath – Use her favorite bath oil. Offer to wash her back or even all over. Dry her yourself with a towel warmed in the dryer. Bring her a nice robe.
  • Foot massage – options include an exfoliating foot scrub or using some pre-warmed massage oil. Take your time. Include her ankles and calves.
  • Facial Cleansing Mask – These kits are available in most drug stores. You can incorporate this as part of the bath or put in on before you do the foot massage.
  • Fully body massage – use some pre-warmed massage oil or her favorite scented lotion (oil provides longer-lasting lubrication for a thorough massage). Check out Paul Byerly’s (The Generous Husband) great post on non-sexual massage.
  • Face brushing – have her lay on her back and close her eyes. Then use a collection of different sized make-up brushes all over her face and neck and wherever else she might like the sensation of hundreds of tiny, silky-soft bristles.
  • Manicure and/or Pedicure – if you are feeling brave, try to paint her fingernails and/or toenails with the color of her choosing. If it doesn’t turn out (and mine never do) it’s still fun and usually good for a laugh.
  • Sensual massage – The big benefit of doing the spa at home, in addition to saving a ton of money, is that at any time during this spa the experience things can turn into something more intimate and sexually explicit. Paul has a couple of other useful posts on Sexual Massage and Orgasmic Massage that you should check out. 
Remember, you'll want to carry the atmosphere of luxury and relaxation throughout the entire spa experience. Candles, music and soft lighting all add a nice touch.  
    Saying "I Love You" Loud and Clear

    As much as your wife will love the spa experience itself, what she’ll enjoy even more is the way this gift is a living example of your servant-hearted love for her. In a loud and clear way, this gift will make her feel cared for, pampered, cherished and very intimate with you.

    Check out more Romantic Ideas for more inspiration!

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

    It’s Not Too Late!

    There are only six more days left to for entries in our free romantic dinner giveaway! Click on over and see how you can increase your chances of winning by helping to spread the word about Journey to Surrender and by sharing your own romantic Valentine’s Day stories.

    Even if you aren’t interested in the giveaway, be sure to stop by and read the all comments where our readers share their many romantic Valentine’s Day experiences.

     - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

    Did you know that Journey to Surrender now has a Facebook page! It’s got lots of extra  marriage-related stuff like videos, links, news stories, and conversations not found on my blog. Come on over and let’s meet up!
    Saturday, January 28, 2012

    Maybe you’ve come to realize that your marriage isn’t where it should be. There are signs of strain and things aren’t quite what they used to be. That’s actually good, because awareness of what is going on is the first step toward turning things around.

    Maybe you’ve settled it in your heart to grow your marriage, to make it stronger, more intimate, more passionate and full of life. As I encouraged in my last post, you’ve realized that there is so much more in store for your marriage. Good for you!

    Maybe you’ve even take some steps and made some changes that are producing fruit in your marriage. Terrific! I’m excited for you!

    Regardless of which scenario fits your situation, I’m going to offer you some important tools to help you navigate the marital road ahead. These are like a compass (or more aptly a GPS) for your marriage, to help you get from where you are to where you want to go.


    The first, and in some ways most important, of these three marital navigation instruments is watchfulness.

    Watchfulness is really about getting off autopilot. It’s about living your life fully alive and awake instead of dazed, dull and half asleep. It’s about keeping yourself focused and alert.

    You can apply watchfulness to many areas of your life, including your spiritual life. But our focus today is on being watchful in your marriage.

    Watchfulness is the key to transforming the mundane into the marvelous. When you begin to master the skill of watchfulness, you get in tuned into your spiritual, mental, emotional and physical senses and become fully aware of how all that you are thinking, doing and speaking affects your marriage and your spouse.

    To gauge your current degree of watchfulness, consider how often are you really aware of how you are impacting your marriage and your spouse?

    How and What to Watch

    Watchfulness is mostly an internal discipline, yet watchfulness can strongly guide your actions in a way the hugely benefits the entire atmosphere of your marriage. Let’s look at a few key areas to watch.
    • Mental – How well do you control your thought life, particularly with respect to your spouse and your marriage? Do you purposefully think thoughts of thankfulness and blessing or do you tend to focus on what’s missing or what you aren’t getting?
    • Emotional – do you tend to be emotionally reactive or are you able to step back and keep negative emotions in check? Do you watch how you express your emotions to your spouse? Intentionally foster positive emotions of love and intimacy. Stir yourself to be emotionally present.
    • Sexual – Did you know you can also be sexually watchful? Staying attuned to your sexual desires and fueling passion for your spouse can pay significant dividends in sexual intimacy. 
    • Spiritual – stay tuned into what God is doing and saying about your marriage. “Discern the seasons” and direction of things in your own spiritual life and that of your wife or husband. 
    The Habit of Watchfulness

    I realize that there is so much competing for your attention these days that it can be a challenge to remain watchful over your marriage. The constant bombardment of our senses from every direction can actually drive us to want to disengage from them rather than pay closer attention to them.

    But truthfully, learning to keep attuned in your spirit, soul and body in ways that benefit your marriage, as challenging as it might be, is a habit that can be cultivated and strengthened through regular exercise. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

    I’ll conclude the topic of watchfulness with a caution: use it only to focus on the good stuff. Watchfulness is not about nitpicking or finding fault. Rather, its’ about keeping your heart alive in a way that enhances intimacy, passion and desire for your spouse.

    What are the areas where you’ve tuned out and need to be more watchful in your own marriage? What have you done to cultivate a habit of watchfulness and to keep your own marriage off of autopilot?

     - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Some more related thoughts on watchfulness:

    Monday, January 23, 2012
    Whether you view your marriage as a sacred covenant or a simply legal status, your marriage is a living organism.

    That means it is either growing or dying.

    There is no healthy dormant state in marriage; no acceptable status-quo. If you think you are just coasting and that everything is good enough, you are deceiving yourself. If you think it’s all OK, it’s probably not.

    That may sound harsh, but I believe it’s the truth.

    I think settling for OK is one of the most dangerous threats to marriages across the board – more than affairs, financial arguments or porn. That’s a pretty bold claim, I know. I believe it is so because it is that kind of complacent attitude that puts marriages on a path to so many of the other things that ultimately end up getting blamed for divorce.

    Choose Your Path

    You see, you and your spouse are either on the path of intimacy or on the path of separation. There is no middle ground, at least not for long.

    Why do so many couples seem to wake up one day suddenly asking themselves questions like: “where has the passion gone?” or “why does he always treat me like that?” or “why doesn’t she trust me?” or “why does he leave everything to me?” or “does she always have to be such a nag?” or “isn’t she attracted to me any more?” Maybe these are similar to questions that you’ve been asking.

    For many the path that ends in these questions is a subtle one. You can be on the path of separation for months or even years, all the while thinking that everything is OK enough, before you suddenly realize where you are: in a marriage that lacks the passion, intimacy and trust you want; maybe even the kind you once had.

    The path of separation is an easy road. In some ways it’s nature’s course. That’s why it’s so easy to end up there if you simply settle for an OK marriage. This path is both divergent and accelerating – the longer you are on it the further apart you grow and the faster you grow apart.

    By contrast, the path of intimacy is one that requires a daily choice; actually lots of daily choices.

    The Path of Intimacy

    The first choice is to believe that there is more in store for your marriage than what you enjoy today and that marital degeneration is not inevitable. You have to believe that OK is not good enough, that having a great marriage is not only possible, but within your reach.

    Then you need to do something about it. To keep your marriage on the path of intimacy there are also a few helpful navigational instruments: watchfulness, transparency and accountability. These three interrelated tools are like a GPS for your marriage.

    I’m going to do a post on each in the coming days, but for now here is a quick look at them:
    • Watchfulness fights against our natural human tendency to put ourselves on autopilot, devoid of passion and purpose. It means keeping your spirit, soul and body wide awake to all that is going on in and around you.
    • Transparency is learning to be “naked without shame.” It’s the compliment of watchfulness in that it means purposefully allowing yourself to be seen for who you really are, to open yourself up to your spouse to be “watched.”
    • Accountability includes being accountable to God, to yourself and to each other, but also means including other strong couples in your circle of friends.
    So today I’m encouraging you to shake yourself awake and set your sights on growing your marriage this year.

    I’m asking you not to settle for OK and to do whatever it takes to get or keep your marriage on the path of intimacy.

     - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

    Did you know that Journey to Surrender now has a Facebook page! It’s got lots of extra  marriage-related stuff like videos, links, news stories, and conversations not found on my blog. Come on over and let’s meet up!
    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Many thanks to all of you who have helping promote my romantic dinner giveaway by liking my new Facebook page and following me on Twitter.

    Also thanks to those who have been sharing their romantic Valentine’s Day stories on my giveaway post and on Facebook. Really great stuff! Go check them all out.

    So I suppose it’s my turn again to share about another of our Valentine’s Day celebrations. If you missed Anxiety Cure #1, The Numbers Game, you may want to go back and check that one out too.

    Romantic Balloon Pop

    Installment number two of romantic ideas to delight your wife this Valentine’s Day is little less involved than the 100 things, but it’s still a very fun way to spend the day focused on building intimacy between you and your wife.

    What you’ll need for this romantic idea: a sheet of cardboard or piece of foam core board (part of a cut-open box works fine for this), a dozen balloons (red, white and red, in keeping with the colors of the occasion), and a dozen of something that can fit inside a balloon.

    The “something” is up to you. It can be a dozen fun/romantic activities, a dozen love-coupons, or even a dozen little gifts. Of course the gift doesn’t have to actually fit inside the balloon, so instead, put something small representing the gift, a clue to where the gift is hidden or even just a piece of paper with a picture of it – use your imagination.

    I found it fun to mix it up and include some fun activities (like going to a romantic movie or a walk), some little gifts (like a box of chocolate covered cherries – her favorite), a poem I wrote, and some romantic activities (like a massage for her).

    Whatever dozen things you decide to use as part of this little game, you’ll need to figure out what can go inside the balloons. Stretch the mouth of the balloon open and push the item into the un-inflated balloon, then blow it up and tie off the balloon. Mount the balloons by cutting small x’s in the board and pushing the stem of the balloon through. You can use a heart-shaped pattern similar to that shown in the picture at right, or whatever pattern you want.

    You can also add your own flare to this by decorating the cardboard in some meaningful way: pictures, sayings, Vday decorations, or whatever.

    Playing the Game

    Present the board to your love along with a pin or something else sharp enough to pop the balloons. There are several fun ways of playing the game. The great part is that you get to make up the rules!

    If you want the balloons to be popped in a certain sequence, number them with a permanent marker. If you want it to be a total surprise have her approach the board blindfolded and see if she can pop one. You can raise the suspense level and say she’s only allowed to pop one balloon per hour, stretching the game out all day long..

    As with V-Day Anxiety Cure #1, the whole point of this game is to make your wife feel loved, cherish and adored. Relax and have fun with it, but make sure she knows how much you care for her.

    If you end up giving this one a try, I’d love to hear back from you how it goes!

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Journey to Surrender is excited to announce a contest in honor of the upcoming holiday of love.

    The winner of the random drawing will be able to celebrate with a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for two, compliments of Journey to Surrender, using a $75.00 American Express Dining Gift Card.

    If you are looking for some other ideas for your Valentine's Day celebration, check all our Romantic Ideas.  More ideas coming soon!

    Also be sure to check the stories in the comments below for some more great romantic ideas from our readers!!

    There are a bunch of ways to enter the drawing, each of which increases your chances of being chosen in the random drawing, and each of which helps get the word out about Journey to Surrender. Use them all!

    1) Did you know that Journey to Surrender now has a Facebook page!  There you'll find extra content like marriage-related videos, news stories, and conversations not found on my blog.  So head over and like Journey to Surrender on Facebook for one contest entry. (Click on the "Like" button at the top of the page next to the header.)

    2) If you don't already, you can Subscribe to Journey to Surrender by Email for another entry in the contest (new subscribers only). This year I'll be offering some occasional bonus content just to my email subscribers.  But don't worry, your email address will NEVER be shared with ANYONE.  Be sure to validate your subscription via email from Feedburner.

    3) Follow me on Twitter @MarriageJourney.  Click the button below for one entry into the drawing. Sorry, new followers only will be entered.

    4) Tweet about Journey to Surrender and this contest to your friends and followers by clicking the button below:

    Tweet the contest as many times as you like, but only one entry per person per day will be registered in the drawing.  (Note: if your tweets are protected, I won't see them unless I follow you on Twitter. I will make a return follow request to as many new followers as I can, but there may be a delay.) 

    5) Bonus #1:  leave a comment below telling us about your own romantic Valentine’s Day experience and get five entries in the contest.  One comment entry per person.  Anonymous entries will not be entered in the contest.

    6) Bonus #2: leave a comment on the wall of our Facebook page telling us about your own romantic Valentine’s Day experience and get five entries in the contest.  One Facebook entry per person. This can be the same story or a different story as Bonus #1.

    Contest closes at midnight, February 5th and the winner will be announced here on February 7th.  The winner will also be contacted by Twitter direct message, Facebook Message, or email, depending on where the winning entry came from. 

    Spread the word!!

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    You may be trying to ignore it, but doing so won’t make it go away.

    I’m talking about Valentine’s Day, that annual romantic holiday that so many men often find daunting and completely intimidating. We are exactly four weeks away today, so there’s still plenty of time to plan how you are going to delight your spouse this year. And to me, that’s what Valentine’s Day is really all about – delighting my wife with my love and taking delight in hers.

    In keeping with my promise to do more Romantic Idea posts this year, I’m going to try to help you take the fear factor out of this Valentine’s Day by giving you a bunch of sure-to-please romantic ways to celebrate this important day. (If you don’t happen to observe this particular holiday, then these ideas can be adapted to fit birthdays and anniversaries just as well.)

    Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be offering a series of romantic Valentine’s Day ideas. These are all things that my wife and I have done ourselves, so they are test-driven, so to speak. Importantly, they can all be scaled to be more or less involved and all can be adapted to suit the particular desires of your own spouse. That's REALLY important.

    Although I’m going to write these as if it is the husband doing the planning, these can also be turned around and be given by the wife.

    So on with Romantic Valentine’s Day idea number one.

    One Hundred Things

    You’ve probably seen on various blogs the “100 Things About Me” lists. It’s intended to provide a snapshot of who you are using a simple bullet list of random facts. This romantic idea is a variation on the 100 things notion: “100 Things I Love About You.”

    Now if 100 seems like too large a number, use 50 or 25 or even 10. The important thing, regardless of the number you choose, is that you convey your heart to your wife. These don’t have to be “big” things. In fact they shouldn’t be. One of the reasons I liked using a larger number is because it let me include a lot of random little things that otherwise might not ever get mentioned or noticed, things she might not even be aware that I admire about her.

    Start by brainstorming. Don’t try to organize it or filter your list yet, just dump it all down in a jumble. Think of every little thing about your wife that you love: things she does for you, physical attributes, things you do together, spiritual things, her personality, her gifts and talents, cute things she says, idiosyncrasies, and habits that make you smile. You get the idea. Nothing should be off limits if it’s something you admire. If your wife is sure not to see it, keep the list in your wallet or on your phone so you can jot more things down as you think of them.

    Get Creative

    The fun part of this gift is coming up with ways to spread the presentation of the 100 things (or however many) out over the entire day. The idea is that everywhere she turns, all day long, she is coming face-to-face with your love. Not just love in a general sense, but specific reasons why she means so much to you.

    If you have the budget, you can also include some of the items with small gifts that represent the particular thing you love. The gifts shouldn’t be the central thing, however, or distract from the main message of “I love you and here is why.”

    Some Specific Ideas

    Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave everything up to your imagination. To spur your creative juices, below you’ll find an excerpt from my own list of things I love about Jenni.
    • I started things out in the morning with a card explaining the 100 things idea. You don’t have to. In some ways it might be more fun just to let it unfold and keep her guessing what this is all about.
    • Messages on heart-shaped post-it notes were stuck to her bathroom mirror to greet her in the morning. “Watching you sleep.”  “Your beautiful brown eyes”  “How you look so great with or without make-up”
    • Note attached to a bottle of perfume left on her sink for her to find as she stepped out of the shower. “The way you always smell soooo good.”
    • Left in her car: a cheap little drug-store stuffed velvet heart that said “You still melt my heart” along with a note that said, “the way your smile still melts me.”
    • I burned a CD with a recording of my voice, which was left in her car. When she started her car the recording announced items 28-34, including “The way you believe in me even when I don’t believe in myself” and “Your excitement and encouragement when I play you a song I’ve just written.” You could also use your cell-phone voice-memo recorder for this.
    • At her work, a kindergarten classroom, I had snuck in ahead of her and filled the room with a dozen or so things from the list. This included a framed picture of Jenni with her kids that said, “your amazing gift with children,” and balloons with notes written in sharpie marker, including one saying “the way your hand feels in mine.”
    • Several printable magnets were stuck to our refrigerator.  One contained a picture of her with her friends in England said, “That you are such a good friend.” It’s actually still on our fridge. You can buy a sheet and cut it down or use pre-cut ones.
    • After lunch she found a note stuck to an old Gene Kelly movie I bought that said, “Enjoying you enjoying old movies.”
    • Notes pinned to an outfit I bought for her to wear to dinner (or you can just pick something you particularly like her in from her wardrobe). Let’s just say the notes mentioned some of my wife’s favorite physical attributes.
    • A text message saying “When you fall asleep with your head on me.”
    • As things got closer to bedtime, I got a little more explicit with my list. The tamest of which was a note by a lit candle that said, “Making love by candlelight.”
    • Okay, time to stop. You get the notion. I’ve left off all of the ones that were beyond PG-13, but you’ll have to use your own imagination for those. Sorry.
    • Finally, as a “bonus” I left number 101 for her to find the next morning. It was a little 3x5 frame with a printed note that simply said: “I love that you are mine. I’m the luckiest man alive.”

    Advertise Your Love

    If your wife wouldn’t be offended by you proclaiming your love in a public way, use Facebook or Twitter to announce some or all of the items from your list – at least all those fit for public consumption. If you can sneak a few in at her place of work or school, it will let her know you are proud that she is yours. And it will make all her coworkers madly jealous! Depending on her plans for the day, you can possibly engage her friends to help too. Ditto on the jealousy thing.

    Have Fun

    Of course this kind of thing does take a little more planning than does a box of chocolates or a vase of flowers, but it will pay huge dividends in your relationship. Speaking your love out loud all day like this is a great way to build intimacy and for your wife to feel cherished. If she is like most women, this is something she really craves and one of her biggest needs.

    Despite the extra effort, it’s important to have fun with this. If your wife sees that you are really getting a kick out of doing it and enjoying yourself, she is more likely to receive your lavish love more graciously and to have fun herself.

    Finally, don’t get caught up too much in the execution, and don’t worry if some of the surprises don’t work out exactly as planned. If your list is long and things are presented in a bunch of different and creative ways, some of them aren’t going to come off as you hoped. No big deal.

    Remember to keep the main thing the main thing. You want your wife to feel overwhelmed with your love.

    Check out these other Vday Anxiety Cure Posts:

     - - - - - - - - ANNOUNCEMENT - - - - - - - - - 

    Big announcement coming tomorrow about our

    Win a romantic dinner, courtesy of
    Journey to Surrender

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Through a comment she left on one of my posts, I recently discovered Robyn Gibson’s marriage blog, Up With Marriage. I always love discovering like-minded marriage bloggers and seeing what they have to say, because I always seem to learn something new.

    Case in point: in one of her recent posts, One In Marriage,  Robyn wrote about something in Ephesians 5 that I’d always seen but never given much thought to. The verse in question is one I’ve referred to many times and is central to what I teach about a bridal paradigm marriage.
    "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
    Ephesians 5:31-32 (NKJ)

    The word that Robyn pointed out in her post, the one I’ve previously read right past, is the word “great.” The NIV translates it as a “profound mystery.” AMP says it this way, “this mystery is very great.”

    Beyond Knowing

    The Greek word here is “mega.” Among the definitions in the Greek Lexicon are “things esteemed highly for their importance,” and “Importance of things which overstep the province of a created being.”

    In other words, the mystery of marriage and its reflection of Christ and the church is something that is beyond our ability to fully grasp. It’s a mega-mystery. It’s like a mystery novel that can’t be figured out in advance. It has to unfold one clue at a time, step by step. We gain revelation a little at a time through the circumstance of our own marriages.

    Personally, I’ve been trying to unpack this mystery for a quite a while now, years even before I started blogging about it, and I still feel like I only have a partial picture of it.

    The pursuit of understanding this mystery strikes me as very similar to our pursuit of understanding the love of Christ. A few chapters earlier, in Ephesians 3, the Apostle Paul prays that we would “gain an intimate, experiential knowledge of the unknowable love of Christ.” Is it a silly prayer to pray? After all, if it’s unknowable, how can we know it? It’s so vast, so infinite, such an other-worldly-beyond-our-full-comprehension kind of love. Yet, as we open ourselves up to it, as we study it, ponder it and dwell in it, we continually gain a deeper and deeper understanding of it.

    Non-stop Pursuit of Understanding

    So what’s the point of this mysterious discussion?

    I want to encourage you not to dismiss as “old hat” the important marital principle that your marriage is to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church, or on a more personal level, between you and Jesus. It’s much more than a nice saying or a trite metaphor.

    There’s more here than we can ever know.

    I will never be able to claim a full understand the great mystery of my marriage being a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church. It’s as unknowable as the infinite love of Christ. This mystery is not something I will be able to fully get my head around on this side of heaven, yet I will not stop in my pursuit of comprehending all I can about it. It’s my lifelong pursuit.

    I encourage you to do the same.

    Has your attitude toward this foundational marriage truth become somewhat casual?

    When someone mentions that your marriage should be a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church, have you ever thought to yourself “I know that?”

    Have you ever really considered the spiritual principles that are to carry over into your marriage in a major way?

    Saturday, January 7, 2012
    I spent the last two posts (here and here) talking about the highlights of what’s been going on here in the last year. Overall it was a great year: I learned a lot, deepened relationships in the blogging community, and grew my readership by about five fold.

    I feel like I've really settled into this whole blogging thing and have discovered that I love it!

    Today I want to spend looking forward. I want to talk about my plans for the coming year and ask you for some help.

    Sex and Romance

    If you read my Hot Topics of 2011 post, you know that my relatively few posts that dealt directly with sex and with specific romantic ideas were among the most popular posts from last year.

    So you can expect to see quite a bit more on both of these topics this year.

    Broadening My Reach

    One of the things that really burns on my heart is reaching more church leaders with the message of the Bridal Paradigm and the power of Surrendered Marriage. But more than just getting more pastors and church leaders to read my blog, I want to equip them with helpful tools that make it easier for them to strengthen the marriages in their churches. Research is clear that those who place a high importance on faith have stronger, more enduring marriages than those who do not, but I want to see the marriages in the church so obviously amazing, strong, happy and successful that people flock to the church (and ultimately to God) to see what it’s all about.

    The other group I want to reach more is the young married crowd. Somewhere around 70% of my readers have been married more than ten years. And while I greatly appreciate the longevity that represents and the wisdom that comes from experience, I have a heart to see more young couples embracing what the Bible says about marriage instead of what the culture says about marriage or what the culture says the Bible says about it.

    Marriage-Building Materials

    In line with both of these reach-broadening goals, I am putting the finishing touches on the second edition of a 12-week marriage curriculum that I’ll be test-driving in another small group in my own church. I used the first edition last year in a small group that had couples married between about 5 and 25 years, but I'm hoping for more young-marrieds will sign up this time. My hope is to recruit heavily among the recent influx we’ve had of younger married couples. Once the small group cycle ends, I’ll be polishing off the materials over the summer for the third edition and packaging it up to provide to others. If I can possibly find the time, there may even be a companion ebook to go along with it. All very exciting stuff!!

    You can probably look for some excerpts from the curriculum and/or the ebook here later this year.

    Survey Says…

    In trying to get an understanding of the needs of my readers, I’ve been taking a fresh look at the results of my New Ready Survey. It’s clear that many of you are looking for some more practical, how-to advice for your marriage (82% express a strong interest). While I intend to continue my “Paradigm in Practice” feature,  I plan to also start offering a few simple, practical tips at the end of many posts.

    The same percentage (also 82% strong interest) are looking for how to grow in intimacy. I think more sex and romance posts, as I mentioned above, will help to answer that need, but I also plan to address this topic more specifically. I wrote so much on intimacy in 2010 that last year I kind of backed off from the topic. This important issue probably needs more attention, along with some more practical, “what do I do to build intimacy” tips.

    Help Me Out Here!

    What have I missed? What topics do you feel are too often neglected by the marriage blogging community, by marriage books or by the church at large? Leave a comment with your suggestions as to what you’d like to read more of here. I welcome the feedback!!

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012
    This is the second of two posts reflecting on the past year.

    Rather than simply listing my top posts by the Google Analytics page-hit stats, I decided to take a slightly different tact and group the almost 40,000 page views I had over the year into a “hot topics” list for 2011.

    The five topics are arranged by total page views around a given theme, with the most popular topics listed first. 

    Here we go:

    1.  Submission and Headship

    The popularity of these posts points to the contentious nature of what the Bible says about marriage, specifically the role of husband as head or leader and wife walking in submission to him, which is what I call an ordered partnership.

    My top post of 2011 on this topic was my Wives Only Wednesday post “Love, Respect and Submission,” in which I try to more clearly define the words that seem to stir such strong emotions in many.  (This related post from 2010 also had a lot of traffic over the past year.)

    The post above is part of my “What I Believe About Marriage” series, which also included another top hitter, a Man-up-Monday post entitled “Man Up and Lead with Love,” obviously targeted at husbands.

    Not surprisingly, these two posts were the two most commented on posts in 2011 as well.  

    My belief is that a significant majority of the problems in Christian marriage today is not that wives don’t want to submit to their husbands, but that many husbands refuse to step up and lead in a Christ-like manner. Supporting that claim is the fact that more search engine hits than any other in 2011 landed people on my post from 2010 “What if My Husband Won’t Lead.”

    2. Sex in A Surrendered Marriage

    I don’t write a whole lot specifically about sex, even though I believe a mutually satisfying sex life is one of the most critical dimensions of marriage and one often neglected by the church. Thankfully there are a lot of Christian marriage bloggers who focus almost exclusively on encouraging the sexual dimension of marriages.

    The fact that my number one post from 2011, in terms of page views, was “Sexual Surrender or Sexual Satisfaction,” leads me to believe that maybe I should write more sex-related posts.  This post is the first in a short series on sexual surrender that also includes one for wives, one for husbands  and a concluding post, which Shelia Gregoire quoted in her top 50 Marriage Quotes of 2011 list, which I wrote about in my last post. "Marriage is meant to be more about your surrender than about your satisfaction."

    3. Romantic Ideas

    In December I started a new feature on romantic ideas that, despite its short time in the hit log, contained my second most popular post for the year, “Romantic Christmas Countdown.”  My only other romantic idea post, which was not actually mine but was “My Wife’s First Post,” was also in the top ten for the year.  I’m sure this is a feature which will get more attention in 2012, hopefully including another post or two from my lovely wife.

    4. Body Image

    I believe strongly that body image issues represent one of the biggest intimacy killers among the large spectrum of marital issues. This belief is well-founded, judging by the number of views I received on my post “The Body Image Battle Continues.”  That post, directed at wives, was 4th overall in total views for the year. A related post was 5th overall, called “Pretty Amazing,” which includes a “pretty amazing” spoken word video.

    If you are a husband, you should also check out my 2010 post “The Body Image Battle,” which is specifically targeted to get husbands engaged in the body image battle their wives face daily.  It still gets a lot of hits.

    5. Intimacy

    I spent a lot of time in back in 2010 focusing on the important topic of intimacy in marriage, and many of those old posts continued to get a lot of attention in 2011. One old post in particular, which claimed you can have as much intimacy as you want in your marriage, was actually 3rd in total page views in 2011.

    The topic of intimacy continues to be extremely important to many of my readers, at least according to the ongoing new reader survey. Along that line, there was a top-ten 2011 intimacy related post, “What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You,” which expounds on the importance of knowing your spouse as completely as possible, to the very deepest parts of their being.  After all, I define intimacy as “being fully known and yet loved completely.”

    So there you have the “hot topics” for 2011 according the what people were actually reading here over the year.

    I’ll conclude by mentioning one other important old post for those of you who might be new to my blog. My “Bridal Paradigm Quick Reference on Surrendered Marriage” gives a good introduction to my blog.

    Next time I’ll talk about some of my plans for 2012 here at Journey to Surrender.

    In the mean time, if there are some topics you’d like to see more of this year or some features that you’ve particularly enjoyed, please leave a comment below.

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012
    I’m just getting back into the swing of things after a marvelous extended family vacation over the holidays. I have a few other posts in the queue, but I decided to kick the year off by looking back over 2011 and looking ahead to 2012 over the course of the next few posts.

    I've been recognized recently by a couple of marriage blog lists, but by far the greatest honor I had during 2011 was in deepening friendships with several terrific marriage bloggers whom I greatly respect.  This includes the chance I had to meet several of them in person.

    I’m hoping for even more of the same in 2012.

    Lori Byerly, who runs the cornerstone marriage blog “The Generous Wife,” recently named my blog as a 2011 Grow Your Marriage Award recipient.

    The award was under the category “For Making Us All Think."  Lori describes this category as follows, "These folks regular turn out challenging, thought provoking posts (and I know how much work goes into something like that), kudos."

    If you don't already follow Lori's daily tips on how to be a generous wife, I really hope you'll go check out her blog and subscribe.

    Sheila Gregoire, who writes at, put up a list of her Top Fifty Marriage Quotes for 2011. I was honored to get two mentions in her list:
    Marriage is meant to be more about your surrender than about your satisfaction.
    From my post, “Concluding Thoughts on Sexual Surrender,“ the wind-up post in my sexual surrender series.
    As husbands, I think one reason we have some trouble with Paul’s command to love our wives “as Christ loved the church,” is that we don’t really fully know how Christ loves the church.
    From my post “What Kind of Love is This?” my recent post that retells the Christmas story as a love story from heaven's perspective.

    Be sure to check out Sheila's blog, which is on my own do-not-miss list. And watch for her new book coming out soon, "Girl's Guide to Great Sex."

    I greatly appreciate the recognition by Lori and Sheila. I'm honored to be counted among some terrific blogging company on both of these lists.  I encourage you to go check them all out.

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