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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Help your spouse find security in your love by caring about the things they care about.
In my last post I emphasized the importance of accepting your spouse for who they are. According to the great new marriage book, Grace Filled Marriage by Dr. Tim Kimmel, this is step one of helping your spouse be secure in your love. 

Today we're going one better. Not just accepting who they are, but actually embracing and celebrating it by caring about the things that matter to him or her. This is number two of Dr. Kimmel's keys to security in love. (We'll get to number three next time.)

When you begin to fully embrace the notion that you and your spouse are one, you learn how important it is to care about the things that matter to each other.

One But Not the Same

I, for one, am thankful NOT to be married to someone who is just like me! In marriage, you and your spouse are one, but of course oneness does not mean sameness.

Even though you and your spouse are likely very different, with different love languages, different personalities, different family histories and different key needs, it is important that you "get" each other. What I mean by that is, if you want your spouse to feel loved, you should learn the things that matter to him or her and do them.

Dr. Kimmel calls this "having a strong affiliation with their heart."

And I don't mean do these things out a sense of obligation or because you know it's the right thing to do. I mean do them because you want your spouse to feel loved and to feel secure and confident in your love. That means that you know who they are, that you love who they are, and out of that understanding, that you do the things that are important to him or her.

Caring and Doing

It's good when you say to your spouse, "I care about the things you care about." Caring is important, but it has to show up in what you do. Jesus explained it to his disciples this way:
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
John 15:9-13 (NKJV)

If you read the broader context of John 15-17, and if you understand that the "commandments" Jesus was talking about are not a bunch of rules and religion, but a relationship (John 15 is all about abiding in Jesus), then you understand that what he was saying is, "If you love me, you'll care about things I care about, and it'll show up in what you do."

The corresponding marriage truth is that it's important for you and your spouse to live your lives fully integrated, as one, and not on separate, parallel tracks. It means caring about and fully engaging yourself in the things that are important to your spouse.

Shared Interests

By talking about showing an interest in the things that matter to your spouse, I'm not proposing that you and your spouse do everything together. That would actually be unhealthy. I believe you need to have some separate interests.

At the same time, however, you want to make an effort to show interest in the important stuff, the stuff that goes to the core of who your spouse is and what they enjoy. You need to step outside your own comfort zone and move toward your spouse in these things.

Still not clear? Let  me give you two examples from my own marriage to illustrate the point.

Mountains and Oceans

I've always been a mountains person. There's something about being in the mountains that feeds my soul. The beauty, the majesty, the quiet, all do wonders for me.

Jenni, my wife, has always been a beach person. Summer beach trips have been a part of her life every year since infancy. She takes on a whole different demeanor when she is near the ocean. A kind of happy calm settles over her, much like what happens to me in the mountains.

We could have handled this key difference one of several ways. We could have done separate vacations, so that we both got to do what we wanted. We could have reluctantly accommodated each others preferences, but still neglected to fully embrace this key difference in our desires. This would have probably have included each of us lobbying for our own way, occasionally giving in with a rolling of the eyes and deep sighs of disappointment. 

Instead, we learned to celebrate the difference by appreciating the way in which these different venues feed each others' souls. I have come to love the beach, though probably not as much as Jenni does, because I see how good it is for her, and I have been able to share in the value she gets from it. The same is true of Jenni and the mountains. We both love doing both, because we value each other's hearts.

Not So Black and White

Jenni is a huge movie fan. Specifically, she loves old movies - really old movies. In her book, a movie gets bonus points if it's in black and white (okay, slight exaggeration). She seems to know all the old stars and what movies they appeared in.

All of this is lost on me. Honestly, I don't get the attraction.

But once in a while, I'll join her for an old movie so we can spend some time together. It's always good for a few hours of snuggling together on the couch.

Jenni will ask after a movie, "Did you enjoy it?" I often say, in all honesty, "I enjoyed seeing you enjoy it." What I mean by that is that I appreciate it as a value to her, and that's enough for me. And she does the same for my interest in history shows and documentaries.

Shared Honor

There's one final component to this notion of having a strong affiliation of your spouse's heart. Dr. Kimmel puts it succinctly in the following passage from the book:
Before I leave this point, let me mention a word you’ll need if you want to build a secure love into your spouse. Honor. This word speaks of the high value you place on the other person. One of the ways you value your spouse is by being interested in the things that interest them. You notice. You care. Honor is also about empathy. When you honor your spouse, you value your spouse so much that you can’t contain the “woo-hoos!” on their behalf in victory and you likewise hurt deeply with them in defeat. (p. 71)

Of your spouse's many interests and attributes, which have you learned to embrace and celebrate even they may not be your "thing" by nature? Leave a comment!

photo credit: original photos S. Means

Get your copy of "Grace Filled Marriage" on Amazon by clicking on the book image to the right. When you buy through my affiliate link, you help support this marriage ministry. Thanks!

I'm giving away a free copy of "Grace Filled Marriage." I'm selecting from among all those who newly "like" my Journey to Surrender Facebook page. If you already like my page, you can also enter by "sharing" or leaving a comment on any of my Grace Filled Marriage series wall posts (on my FB page).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our love grows far more secure when we accept the things about our spouses that make them who they are.  (Grace Filled Marriage p. 66-67)

I'm digging into part of Tim Kimmel's great new book, Grace Filled Marriage. (Click the sidebar link to buy it on Amazon and at the same time help support this ministry!)

In this short series we are looking at one chapter of the book, a chapter that explores how the human heart longs for security. Specifically, we want the security of knowing we are loved and accepted. (Read the introductory post here)

Can you imagine what your marriage would be like if neither of you ever doubted each other's love?  It would no doubt fill your marriage with more intimacy, trust and passion.

But how do you help your spouse to become secure in your love? Dr. Kimmel proposes three key ingredients:

  1. Acceptance of who they are at the core of their being
  2. Caring about the things they care about - shared interest and shared honor
  3. Consistently show affection

All three of these have their roots in grace, and I'll be addressing each one in separate posts.

We'll start with how grace compels us to accept each other for who we really are.

Accept the "Me" in Me

Dr. Kimmel explains:
We feel insecure when our spouse refuses to accept the things about us that are simply us. I’m not talking about weaknesses that can stand improvement. Nor am I talking about bad habits or unacceptable behavior. I’m talking about the things about us that aren’t right or wrong but just are. They’re our personality quirks, mannerisms, physical abilities, and body types . . . to name a few. They’re the things that make each of us one of a kind. P. 66

God uniquely crafted each of us.  While we can agree with that in principle, most of us have things we wish were different about our spouses. The problem is that when these things are not just annoying little habits but part of who your spouse is, it creates and/or reinforces deep insecurity in your spouse. Worse, it causes them to be insecure in your love.

It requires grace to accept that your spouse was created as he or she is for a purpose! Even the dimensions of their being that we might perceive as weaknesses, God can use for his glory and for his Kingdom. He can even use those same things to bring blessing to your life. His grace not only covers us, but redeems our every shortcoming. (No, I'm not implying that you should just overlook sin or wrong behaviors!)

Help Me See the "Me" in Me

We have the opportunity (I would add the responsibility and the privilege) in  marriage to display the grace and love of God to the one we are pledged to for life. Part of the redemptive role of marriage is to help your spouse see themselves as God does, to be a God-mirror to them. It's part of helping him or her become all that God intends them to be.

But to be a good God-mirror for your spouse requires two things. First, you must understand and know for yourself the very nature of God's love and grace. Second , you need a revelation of how God views your spouse. These are lifelong pursuits and require a continual revelation by the Holy Spirit.

Appreciating the Value of Opposites

Chances are, at least from my observations, that you and your spouse are pretty different. Even setting aside the vast differences between men and women in general (and yes, these are real, regardless of what feminism may purport), it's true that opposites attract. I know it's true for my wife and I. Though we share many core values in common, our personalities and strengths are quite different from each other. And I love that.

I love how her outgoing nature and people skills help bring me out of my shell and enjoy people more. I love how her gracious optimism counterbalances my innate skepticism. I enjoy everything we do together more because of how she embraces life so enthusiastically. She just makes everything more fun.

I can choose to view our many differences as a hindrance or I can view them as a blessing. Therein lies an important choice for every husband and wife. By valuing who she is as a person, who God made her to be, instead of denigrating her over these things, I accrue the benefits of our union, our oneness. .

And it goes both ways. I am equally secure in her love, because I know that she makes the same choice to value me for the areas where I am quite different from her..

The truth is that the two of you together are much greater than either of you as individuals. Lean into that reality and communicate it to each other regularly. 

By the way, we get the same kind of benefit when we choose to embrace our gender differences in that same way.

So tell me, what are the differences between you and your spouse that you deeply value? When was that last time you communicated this to your spouse?

I'm giving away a free copy of "Grace Filled Marriage." I'm selecting from among all those who newly "like" my Journey to Surrender Facebook page. If you already like my page, you can also enter by "sharing" or leaving a comment on any of my Grace Filled Marriage series wall posts (on my FB page).

Monday, October 21, 2013

How would your marriage be different if your husband or wife never, ever doubted your love?

 During my recent travels I have been reading one of the best marriage books I have read in a long time. Grace Filled Marriage by Dr. Tim Kimmel. This guy really gets grace! You need to get this book. (If you click on the book image at right to get it through my affiliate link, you'll help support this ministry)

There are too many great things about this book to share in a single blog post, but what I can say is that Dr. Kimmel does a masterful job of linking the grace we receive in Christ to the grace we should live in marriage. It's a concept I wholeheartedly believe in but that I've struggled over the years to make clear. He does a great job explaining it in clear and simple terms.

Rather than giving you a broad overview of the book, I'm going to pick a single chapter and expound in some detail on this critical piece of understanding how grace works in marriage. The chapter is titled, "Grace Gives You a Secure Love."

Three Core Human Needs

Dr. Kimmel explains that every human being is wired for a three basic needs.
  • Security
  • Significance
  • Strength

It's probably not an exhaustive list, and I might have chosen different terms or a different set of core needs, but the author does a great job defending and explaining his choices. Chapter 4, which I'm going to dig into, deals with the first of these needs.

Are You and Your Spouse Secure in Love?

"The primary way our heart feels secure is when we know we are loved. No doubts, no misgivings, no shadowlands where second-guessing and fear play games with our confidence. Among other things, Christ died for us so we can know once and for all that we are completely, ultimately, and profoundly loved." (p. 63)

This is kind of security in love is a tough place to get to in marriage. It's a tough place to get to even with God! So many of us wonder about God's love and grace. Is it really as good and relentless and enduring as the Bible says? Does he really have these powerful positive emotions toward me? All the time? Of course, the answer is an unqualified, "Yes!" Yet, we still doubt.

So much more difficult is it to believe in the unrelenting love of our spouse. But just imagine for a minute what your marriage would be like if your husband or wife never, ever doubted that you deeply loved him or her! What if you never doubted that you too were loved just as deeply? How delightful would it be to do everything out of the celebration of the love you know you already share instead of out of  trying to earn it.

Dr. Kimmel gives three ways in which this need for security in love can be met by each other in marriage.

  1. Acceptance of who they are at the core of their being
  2. Caring about the things they care about - shared interest and shared honor
  3. Consistently show affection

I'm actually going to cover each of these three in separate posts, so be sure to come back and check in the next few days. Better yet, just sign up to get my posts by email.

Meanwhile, give some thought to this idea of how your marriage might be different if you were really, truly secure in the love of your spouse. And what if your spouse was absolutely secure in your love? Wouldn't it do wonders for your marriage?

In the comments, answer these two question: What percentage of the time do you think your husband or wife feels completely certain of your love? What percentage of the time do you feel completely certain of your spouses love?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to stay connected when you are separated by travel

I'm back! Did you miss me?

I just returned from a two-week trip to Europe for business. Before you proclaim your jealousy, let me say this trip involved 6 flights totaling 12,000 miles, 1200 miles by car, and another 400 miles by train. (I could throw a boat into the mix as well, if I included my Paris sightseeing river cruise!) I stayed in 10 different hotels and participated in a total of 18 meetings over the two weeks.  Still jealous?

It feels really good to be home!

During this trip, my wife, Jenni and I remarked how well we were able to stay connected, despite the distance and time-zone separation. It prompted me to write about how we stay connected when one of us has to travel. I would love to get your ideas and tips as well.

Why It Matters

You may think that being separated for a few weeks is no big deal. I suppose if you compare it to over 30 years of marriage, a few weeks is not a long time. But for us, it was too long!

Jenni and I have discovered that we both weather the separation much better when we manage to stay connected through it.

Here are a few reasons I think it matters:
  • It helps the spouse left at home cope with loneliness
  • It helps the traveling spouse stay anchored in the love of the spouse back home
  • It helps develop alternate communication skills and methods
  • It helps maintain intimacy and the emotional connection between you
  • It makes the homecoming sweeter, with less time spent getting back in sync

Connection Tips

There's really no magic to staying connected during times of physical separation. For the most part it just takes a little effort and attentiveness.

Here are a few things we do to maintain intimacy when one of us has to travel.
  • Send a quick text whenever you change venues: "Just got to the hotel in Düsseldorf." "Landed in Copenhagen."
  • Make sure your spouse has at least a short email to wake up to. This is especially helpful across time zones, and helps with those hours where on of you is "out of contact" due to the time change.
  • Ask how you can pray for each other, and do it.
  • Use a private messaging app (We use Couple, but I hear that Avocado is also good). It allows you to send more intimate notes and pictures in a secure and private manner.
  • Clue each other in on your plans each day and report significant happenings.
  • Use Skype, Google Chat, FaceTime or other video chat program for a little face--to-face time when time and your Internet connection will allow it.
During travel times it can be difficult to find the time stay in touch. We've found that frequent short communications is better than waiting until you have time to write a long email or extended video chat. Quick texts, photos and private message go a long way to keep you connected.

So now you know why I haven't posted in a few weeks. In case you are curious, you can click here to see a map of my European adventure.

Do you or your spouse have to travel frequently or for extended periods? We would love to hear how you keep in touch across the miles (or kilometers as the case may be!). Leave a comment!

photo credit: rrraven /

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