That dreaded subject! If you are wealthy, maybe this isn’t a problem, I don’t know. But for most folks, we have to learn how to deal with money as a couple. In fact, I have heard that finances are one of the top causes of divorce. Not the lack, as one might think, but the handling of it.
Often, there is a saver and a spender in the marriage. We are wired differently, so it’s no use going on about which is best. I personally don’t think it matters – what matters is how you work together.
Use your strengths.
My man doesn’t enjoy budgeting, paying pills, figuring out how to deal with all that stuff. But I do, sort of! Now, it’s not my favorite thing in the world, mind you, but I can do it. Plus, I have more time to deal with it since I am at home. So I do the paperwork and watch the budget, and he brings home the bacon!
This works pretty good for us. I’m not perfect at it – I have forgotten to pay bills, yikes! But it is what works for us. You may be the opposite. It doesn’t matter who takes care of bills and budget, but someone should! Work together to figure out where your strengths are.
Don’t spend more than you should.
I hear wives doing this all the time; buying things they can’t afford. Please stop this! It is just wrong. You are supposed to be a team, pulling together. It shows a dreadful lack of care and humility, when you constantly overspend! He works hard to provide for you, the least you can do is stay in your budget. Maybe you work and earn your own money. That’s fine, as long as you aren’t running up bills for him to pay, or not paying your share of the bills!
Don’t buy if you have to use credit. Do you really need that new outfit or gadget? Be content with the things you have, Jesus says.
Don’t whine about what you can’t afford. He knows when times are hard, it just makes him feel bad for not being able to give you that new car or house. Be thankful.
DO try to lower bills when possible. Shop sales. Buy off the clearance rack. Just don’t buy as much. Give simple gifts. Try to save some money each pay period.
DO be thankful and grateful for what he provides. Tell him. Be cheerful.When the calves don’t bring much, trust God and keep a sparkle in your eyes. Remind him that God will provide, and you can figure this out – together!
DO pray to God to provide your needs. Don’t complain to your girlfriends, don’t complain to anyone. Just take your needs to God.
To summarize: Trust God to provide, work together on your budget, be thankful for what he provides, live within your means. Honor God in this area, and He will honor you.
Today’s Challenge: Thank your man for working hard to provide for you. If you have been overspending, apologize and humbly ask him how you can be a better support with finances.
How is the challenges going for you? I’d love to hear in the comments!
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Sometimes, I see women who are so sour and long-faced that I wonder how anyone can live with them! Do they blame their husbands, I wonder? Do they blame their marriage for holding them back, or placing demands on them? I don’t know the answer, but I do know this: happiness is a choice.
I hear wives grumble about husbands not doing enough with the kids, not remembering something their wife wanted, not taking off work enough… you name it. I understand. I have been there, sadly. I have had days where I blamed my man for my unhappiness. If he would just do so-and-so, I would be happy! But it isn’t true. We can have the best husband, and still find fault and complain. I know, because I have a pretty amazing husband, and I have complained.
I remember very clearly the day I was driving home with our two small kids, and I was mentally ‘telling him off’. My husband was working on the new house we were building… I can’t remember what I was ticked off about — but I do remember being very upset with him. And you know how it goes; one thing makes us upset, pretty soon it leads to: “He doesn’t really care about me at all! If he really cared, he’d change!”
Well, as I drove down that dusty back road in Missouri, God spoke to me. I don’t say that lightly, either. There have been several times in my life when God has put His finger right on the root of the problem, and told me to change. And boy-howdy, when God tells you to change — you change! He told me that this is how it starts – the bad marriages – by getting upset about little things (and most stuff is little), and allowing myself to brood, argue, or nag. To keep account of every wrong he does. I felt the rebuke in my spirit: “Stop it now, nip it in the bud before you end up like so many other ruined couples. You have only been married 5 years – it will be a long lifetime of misery if you continue down this path. It doesn’t matter if you are wrong or he is wrong – love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
This is why I advocate for soaking in Scripture daily. If you put it in your heart, it will bubble to the surface when you need it.
12 years later and I cannot remember what the issue was. But at the time, I know it seemed huge. When things seem huge, ask yourself “will this matter in 100 years?” (we think our memory will last our lifetime, even though it clearly doesn’t! But in 100 years you will be dead. So will it matter then?)
I know that in many cases, there are real, difficult problems. But, I believe that by the power of Christ, you can be happy in the middle of your trials. Acting and looking like a martyr is not attractive, by the way. If you are in a hard situation, you must begin with prayer and reading God’s word. Ask for wisdom and He will give it! If you feel stuck, find a trusted mentor – NOT a family member if you can help it! Find a Godly married woman who is trustworthy, and ask her advice.
-If your husband is terrible with money, you can choose to be happy that God who cares about every sparrow that falls, will also care for you.
-If your man speaks unkindly to you, you can choose to be happy that Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
-When he pays no attention to the kids, or refuses to be a dad, you can choose to be happy that God is a father to the fatherless.
-When he makes poor life decisions, you can choose to be happy that God makes all things work together for your good.
Yes, many of these things need to be worked out with each other, or maybe you need outside help. But in every situation you can choose to be happy in the Lord, because we have every need supplied through Christ Jesus. Even our emotional needs!
“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
― Martha Washington
Speaking of emotions, can I put a little note in here for hormones? They are not an excuse for anything. I get so weary of women whining about pms. Yes it is real, it is hard, and it can be debilitating. Do you truly believe the Scripture that says:
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philipians 4:19
This Scripture is glibly quoted — but most women act like it has a clause in there for ‘women’s delicate emotions’. News flash: it doesn’t. Do you need grace for those days every month? He will give it! Believe His Word! I know men don’t have this problem, I know that many of them brush it off without trying to understand, but Jesus doesn’t. He understands, He cares, and He will help you. (He created you, remember? I guess he understands the thing He created!) And can I please, please stop hearing about your pms every month?? If I, as a woman, get sick and tired of hearing about it, I can understand that men get tired of it too! 😀
“Happiness does not depend on outward circumstances, but on the state of the heart.” J.C. Ryle
Isn’t it interesting how the man you are married to seems like a different man than the one you dated?! Maybe it’s just me. In fact, I haven’t heard any of my friends mention this odd phenomenon, so it probably IS just me. But just in case you have felt this too – I am going to include this, anyways!
There was a point several years into our marriage when I just stopped and was like: “this guy is so different than the guy I dated!”
I puzzled over it a while till I came to this conclusion:
He was the same man, but his personality didn’t lead him to the same result or action which I thought it would.
I don’t think most men are trying to deceive their wife-to-be. They genuinely think the girlfriend has a fabulous idea, and they agree that yes, going to India with a mission would be interesting and worthwhile. Maybe they even give it some serious thought.
But just because he agrees that it is a wonderful idea, doesn’t mean he is going to drop everything and rush over there with his young wife! (yes, I am using a personal experience here!) See, I though that when he agreed about stuff being cool, he was essentially agreeing that he also wanted to do it, buy it, or be that way.
Now, some of your couple-dynamics may be the opposite of this. I know wives who are more cautious and it is the husband who leaps into things feet-first! Maybe the wife is like: “Wait, you really intended to DO that? I thought we were just talking about how cool it was, not about actually doing it!” 😀
Either way, we can easily get stuck in the trap of being dissapointed because he doesn’t seem to be the same person that we married.
Two problems that often come up; either we try to change him, or we get bitter.
Neither option is Christlike or healthy. There are so many jokes about trying to change your man, but I am thankful that many men do not change that easily! We need men who have a backbone and stand for what they believe.
And becoming bitter is just ugly. I know your husband may not ‘turn out’ quite as you’d hoped. Maybe he is ‘way off track on how you had agreed to live life. But bitterness is so ugly and unChristlike!
What to do.
Pray. Pray for God’s will to be done. Pray for wisdom and grace. Pray for your hearts to be knit together in God’s perfect calling for you. You don’t believe prayer works because you don’t believe God. Prayer does work!
Change. Not a popular idea, in this day of independant thought and women’s rights. We will fight to the last breath to do what we want, never bowing our head to someone else – especially, it seems, not to our husband. But when we decide to lay aside our ideas and be willing to support our husband, it is amazing how God can change your desires!
Remember the foundation we laid in Day 1? We need to become one, (Genesis 2:24) submit to our husband, (Ephesians 5:22-24) and respect our husband (Ephesians 5:33).
Respect Him. I think we find it hard to respect our man because he is different than us. He doesn’t do things the way I think a husband should, or the way I think a Christian should, or the way I thought HE would, before we married. So I whine and complain and nag. Nagging is not respectful. Will you start taking Scripture seriously and stop nagging your husband? Also; manipulating is not Scriptural, either.
Understand that you have changed, too. I bet you have changed as much, maybe more, than he has! Are you the happy, smiling girl he dated? Do you flirt with him still? Do you hang on his every word? Maybe he thought you adored him, and now wonders why you even married him?! Hmm?
My husband and I haven’t always been on the same page. The India-mission thing was short-lived, but there have been other ideas and plans that we had to deal with. In the end, though, we always want
1. a good relationship with each other,
2. to honor God with our marriage,
3. to have fun and never live bitter.
So we work it out. But I can honestly say that most of the time, if my man thinks it is a bad idea – it usually is. I trust him and his wisdom.
And I remind myself that maybe it isn’t him who changed – maybe I just didn’t know him as well as I thought I did!
Today’s Challenge: Take a minute to think about ways YOU may have changed. Think about how it may have affected him. Pray over your marriage.
Committing to our marriage may seem scary – if we do not feel in love, anymore! You see a lifetime of drudgery stretching out in front of us, and you can’t bear it.
But the thing is, you may not ‘feel’ in love, but that doesn’t mean you will never feel that again. Feelings are so fickle! My feelings can change with the weather, what I ate, whether I had enough sleep, or what day of the month it is. How can I go by my feelings?? How can I trust something so slippery as that?
Problem is, once I get something in my head, then it wants to start spiraling out of control. You know how it goes.. ‘He didn’t install that new light fixture, he knew I wanted it fixed! It has been a week and I am still stumbling around in the dark because he didn’t fix it! …he must not really care about me. If he really cared, he would remember and fix it!‘
Isn’t that about how it goes? We go from annoyance at his forgetfulness to thinking he doesn’t ‘actually‘ care about us, in about 2 minutes flat! Then we start remembering alllll the other times in our marriage when he forgot something that was important to us, or that time he didn’t help, or the little habit he has that bugs us. We build up his bad habits or his weaknesses in our mind, until we can’t see his good points. Soon, we feel like we don’t even love each other and the whole thing was a mistake.
Is it really that bad?
I have heard that you should ‘remember why you married him’, but my problem with that, is that he was – in many ways – a different person back then. Yes, he is still the same kind, loving, Godly man, but we have both changed and grown over the years. My own method is to stop and ask myself if I am blowing this issue up.
“Does he really love me?”
Is he really trying to hurt me, or did he just forget?”
“Am I judging him by his actions, but myself by my intentions?”-Stephen Covey
“Is he being manipulative, or just an unobservant male?” (no offense, guys!)
By far, most of the time I am blowing the whole issue up. If I assume the best of his intentions, it takes away 90% of the problem. Often we still need a good discussion, to get everything cleared up, but once I get my head on straight, the problem diminishes greatly.
So, love is not a feeling. Feelings come and go. What is it then?
What is the answer?
I think you know!
Love is action. Love is a choice. Love is even different from ‘like’. I can choose to love and care for someone who has hurt me, even if I do not like them. If your husband is treating you badly, being unkind or irresponsible – you may not particularly like him. But you can still love him. You can treat him kindly, gently, respectfully.
Setting aside the truly abusive husbands for a minute, lets talk about unChristlike men. They are many. I know that. I have watched and listened to them many times. Jokes about their wives, lazy, sloppy, undisciplined, self-serving, unspiritual. What do you do?
Let me suggest that you be the example of Christ to your family. Not in a patronizing, proud manner, but in humility and kindness. Choose to love him – choose to act in love, even when you don’t feel like it. Don’t feel condemned because you don’t ‘feel’ love. Continue acting in love, day after day being Jesus to your husband. He may change – he may not. But God will reward you for your acts of love to your family.
“Love is always bestowed as a gift—freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.” -Leo Buscaglia
Maybe your husband is a good husband, but you just don’t feel the love anymore. No spark. No warm fuzzy feelings. No little heart-leap when he walks through the door.
We have been married for nearly 17 years, and I still get the warm fuzzies! 😀 Yes, I do. Seeing him walk in the door is the best part of my day! (unless He is home for an early lunch and I haven’t started anything yet! LOL! Then I just feel foolish) Point is, if you are feeling like roommates instead of lovers, you need to change something. Maybe, just maybe, you can revive the romance. (more about that on days 18-19!)
What love is:
Selfless. John 15:13
Focus on what he needs, instead of what you need. It is a circle, but someone has to start. Why not you?
It edifies. 1 Corinthians 8:1
Don’t tear him down with “You always forget!“, etc. Build him up. “Thank you for never yelling at me.”
Undeserved. Romans 5:8
No, he doesn’t deserve your love, but then, you don’t deserve his. We are so quick to say that we deserve hell for our sins, but then we demand so much from our husband. You deserve nothing. Stop requiring it.
Shows preference. Romans 12:10
Do you show preference to your husband? Or do you want him to give you preference??
The mark of a true disciple of Jesus.John 13:35 If you are a true disciple of Jesus, you will show love to your husband.
Treating someone as you treat yourself. Mark 12:31
A debt we owe to each other.Romans 13:8
Did you know that you OWE love to your husband?
Considerate of others’ weaknesses.Romans 14:15
Oh, how we want our husbands to be considerate to us at that time of month! Or when we are tired. Or have a headache. Or getting up at night with a newborn. Blah blah blah. Let’s turn it around!
Tolerates each other’s personalities.Ephesians 4:2
Wow. I so often want to turn my husband into a touchy-feely girlfriend! Ugh! No way. Let him have a polar opposite personality! 😀
I’ll give you an example: I am a social media nut. I love it! I comment, share, and like stuff alll the time. And my husband? Well, he is the same online as he is offline… no comment. Seriously, no comment! No likes, no shares, no updating his profile, nuthin. It used to bug me. “Sweetheart, don’t you like my amazing stuff?” ( I mean, I didn’t actually use those words, but still…) Finally I saw that it wasn’t personal, it was just him. So now I just ask him if he saw such-and-such, and whether he likes it. Easy. He can tell me if he liked it or if I was being a jerk, and I can blush and say thank you. Because of course HIS opinion of me means more than everyone else’s put together. 😉
Ministers to the saints.Hebrews 6:10
Is your husband a saved, born-again believer? Then he is a saint, and you need to minister to him. He is a weak, failing saint, you say? So? Still a saint – still needs you to minister to him.
The perfect bond of unity.Colossians 3:14
Oh, this! This is the goal. To be bound together in perfect unity! I want to cry it from the housetops: “Humble yourself, get on your knees, get help – what ever it takes to be unified as a Christian couple!!” There is truly nothing as satisfying and holy, as two sinners who fall on the grace of God to redeem their stories and bring them together in Christ. Two people with different personalities, different ideas, different baggage – both giving up themselves and serving each other, loving each other.
This may take time. In fact, I can almost guarantee it will take time! But it is worth it! Godly marriage is worth every effort, every sacrifice, every dying to self.
Patient, Kind Not jealous Not arrogant Does not brag Does not act unbecomingly Rejoices in truth Does not take into account a wrong suffered Bears all things Believes all things Hopes all things Endures all things Never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Today’s challenge is two-part:
1.Tell your husband something you love about him, and
2. Start a list of things you like about him. It can be private or public, but write them down. I think I will put my list on the fridge, so everyone can see how many wonderful qualities he has!
Don’t miss any of my marriage posts – go leave your email in the subscribe area, and as a bonus, you will receive a free copy of my devotional ebook for moms!
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:25-26
In my last Journey of Faith post, I told you how I overcame discouragement and loneliness. And how we found out that my husband would lose his job in a few weeks…
It was early January, cold and snowy. We were living in an old, drafty farmhouse that was hard to heat. (we had moved from the trailer house into a farmhouse in the country, in October) We put a blanket over the staircase, moved the kids’ beds downstairs, and heated only the living room and kitchen. Propane was costing us 450.00 every 4-5 weeks to heat our house – it was eating up our small budget too fast. I remember at one point wondering how we were going to survive the winter without begging for money!
But I learned once again that God never fails His children! He is always faithful to supply our needs. We trusted Him, Cliff worked hard, I tried to be as thrifty as I could, and we always had food to eat. One time a man came to church – just a visitor – and after church he took Cliff out to his vehicle and gave us bags and boxes of food. Produce, mostly, and some dried beans. All from his garden! He said he had ‘way too much garden veggies, and wanted to bless someone with it! As far as I know, he never came back to church – I am certain he was an angel. We ate squash, potatoes, carrots, beans, and many other good vegetables for weeks. Sometimes there would be an envelope in our mailbox with a little cash in it. I wish I knew who felt prompted by God to give – we never asked for money or talked about our finances. I would like to thank those dear saints for being sensitive to the Holy Spirit in their lives!
Well, back to the lay-off… When we heard that we’d be out of a job in a couple weeks, we honestly were stumped. What does a person do who gets laid off in the middle of winter with literally no savings, no college degree, no nothing?!
God answered our prayers in a powerful, amazing way!
My sister and her husband used to work on a ranch near Cheyenne, WY, and we used to visit them there. Through them, we learned to know a young man who ran cattle on a couple ranches in WY. Well, when we were considering what to do for a job, Cliff remembered that young man, and decided to call him up.
When Cliff asked him if he had any job openings, the man answered: “Yes, I just leased a new ranch this month and need a another guy to help run it. You can start next week.”
We were blown away! God had lined up the perfect job for us at the exact time we needed it. I tell you, friends, God does things like this all the time. We aren’t special or anything. But I have trained myself to see God’s hand in everything. You can do that too. Write it down. Or tell someone. Don’t say: “Well that was pretty neat!” and forget about it. Notice when God works a miracle for you. Praise Him! Thank Him!
“…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Matt. 6:8S
So on Monday morning, Cliff packed a sleeping bag and a suitcase and drove up to Wyoming to start his new job. I stayed in CO and started packing. I packed up all our belongings as best I could between caring for three little ones. (the kids were 1, 3 and 5) On Saturday, Cliff came home and we loaded most of our belongings into our trusty pink horse-trailer and headed north.
On Monday, I took the kids and drove down with the truck and trailer for the final load. My sister came along to help, since she was visiting for awhile. She helped me clean the house and pack up the remaining things.
Ranch life was good. Cliff enjoyed the work, the salary was better than we had ever enjoyed before, (that’s not saying much, but while you won’t get rich on a ranch, at least you have a house!) and we all loved the wide open spaces of Wyoming!
Three short months after we moved to Wyoming, our faith was tested in a very different and difficult manner. Our youngest child, Andy, was playing near the irrigation canal and drowned. It was by far the most trying circumstance we had to face. But as always, God brought us through that, too. I am thankful for the grace of God that is give in every situation. I did struggle quite a bit with guilt over Andy’s death. Then I had to learn to graciously respond to people’s ignorant but well-meaning comments. Each part of the trial forced me to lean on God more, and dig deeper in His Word and His wisdom.
If you want to read the story of Andy, you can find it here. Andy
That was ten years ago. We have been living in Wyoming and working on ranches and we still like Wyoming! It is our favorite state, despite the brutal winters and mosquito-laden summers. We lived on that first ranch (the X-Bar) for 4.5 years, then moved to a ranch north of Cheyenne for 5 years, and currently we are on a ranch in the mountains west of Laramie.
Our children are blessed to grow up in this wonderful ranching community, learning to rope and ride and care for animals. Cliff still enjoys ranching, he also owns a small leather business on the side where he makes saddles, chaps, and other gear for working cowboys.
After our son died, I started reading about foster care, and slowly my heart was drawn to the amazing work of being a safe place for kids who are removed from their homes. After 5 years of my reading and dreaming, we were licensed as a foster home, and received our first placement in May, 2015. Foster care was never Cliff’s dream, but he supported my dream. After 7 kids coming through our home, I can say the honeymoon period is over, haha! but I still have an incredible burden for these kids and this work. Even when it is the hardest, I am reminded how precious each child is to our God, how much He cares about them.
Our life looks so much different than I ever thought it would, but God’s plans are always best. So many things He said “No” to, and that was best. Then He said “Yes” to many wonderful things that I could never have dreamed of! I am learning to take each experience from His hand of love, and be thankful.
If this series has blessed or encouraged you in any way, I would love if you leave a comment and tell me why! Thank you to all who have replied to my stories and encouraged me to write it.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. James 1:13
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
When Satan holds out a tempting sin with which to trip us, God comes alongside and offers an alternative – a way of escape.
It’s a bit like branding. There are ropes swingin’ all over the place; the calves are getting caught and tripped up every couple minutes. Dozens of them are caught. There seems no way of escape. This one calf sees the roper comin’ his way, and he knows he’s next to get caught! But then he sees a hole in the fence, and out he squirts! He’s free! He found the way of escape.
The analogy breaks apart after that – I mean, any cowboy worth his salt is gonna run that calf down. But you get the idea. It doesn’t matter how impossible it seems, God always does provide a way of escape from temptation.
Sometimes it isn’t easy. What about the temptation to tell a ‘white lie’? That can be a pretty strong temptation! It isn’t going to hurt anybody, but it will save me disgrace or embarrassment. The way of escape may actually be choosing to tell the truth, and being humiliated! Sometimes we need those experiences to keep us humble. At any rate, we can choose if we will tell the lie or tell the truth, even in very small matters. We must be truthful, if we are to defend ourselves from Satan. Ephesians 6:14
Temptations come in all forms and sizes. Temptation to steal, cheat, to be unkind, to be hurtful, to overeat, to lust, to gossip. We are bombarded daily with temptations from Satan. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, can we escape. God promises that we CAN escape! Do you truly believe God? Why can I not seem to escape the temptation?
Perhaps because the Holy Spirit is not welcome in my life. If I live a half-hearted Christian life, careless with words, not studying Scripture, and just living for myself – then God cannot help me. If I am humble and desperate for the power of God in my life, I will surely receive it!
Every time we are tempted, we have a choice. We can choose God’s way or our way. The window for choosing is tiny – split seconds, at times. But we all know the power of split seconds in roping or rodeo, right? A split second can win you millions or break your neck.
Especially in the beginning, we react to events or feelings and barely recognize the moment as a temptation. But as we grow and become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s voice in our conscience, we will start ‘seeing’ that way of escape.
The key is to stay soft to the quiet whisper of God’s voice. Don’t harden your heart and go ahead with that sin – no matter how small it seems. In that split-second; choose the right way. Choose righteousness. Give no place to the devil. It is easy to brush off that quiet Voice in the moment of temptation. But, every time you resist temptation – your spiritual muscles grow stronger.
Ask God today to show you the way of escape from every temptation you face!
“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24
When one lives in far-flung places, it is very easy to skip out on Sunday meetin’s. The reasons are valid, or at least understandable. There are pressures and responsibilities that people who work 9-5 just don’t understand. Agriculture has unique challenges that make getting away difficult.
First, it’s too far. Well yes, it is. You may need to spend lots of time and money to drive to a church. You may not be able to sleep in Sunday morning; you may need to get up while all your city buddies are still snoozing. This can seem like too much to ask, but we all know how early we rise, and how far we drive to a branding or a great bull sale, am I right?!
Secondly,we always have something urgent to do. This one is my personal enemy. I have heard this excuse (not from my husband) and I dislike it. Yes, there will always be something to do. There always is, when you live on a ranch. There are 101 things that need our attention, preferably yesterday. But you gotta choose, okay? That ditch can be dug on Monday, that bunch can be moved later. (unless they’re in the neighbor’s pasture – then get it done now!) Trust me, most of the pressing stuff can wait. It’s a mindset. Trigger warning: what I am gonna say next may make you upset!
We love our life and we’re happy to sacrifice everything for the ranch. But that’s not so healthy, really. We need to have friends and interests that include things off the ranch. This is one reason so many kids are running away from the ranch when they turn 18. They want nothing to do with our obsession. I can’t blame ’em.
Third,we do try, but then get stuck. This one can be comical, like the time we were headed to church one Sunday morning and noticed one of our bulls standing inside a round-bale feeder! We tried to tip it up, but that bull wasn’t standing around to allow that! He hightailed it up the hill, feeder bouncing along!
I could tell more stories of how we’ve been held up last-minute from church or other plans. It seems the ranch knows when you want to leave. It finds all sorts of weird delays to throw at you. You have to be careful what you allow. It will suck you back into the craziness if you let it. Before you go saddle up or start the tractor – stop! Think; is it a matter of life or death for livestock? If not, it can probably wait a few hours.
Fourth, there’s mostly hypocrites in church anyway. Sadly, there are many hypocrites in church. Churches also often have some gossips, cliques, power-grabbers, and lazy back-seat warmers, too. Which one are you? Are you on fire for God, willing to serve your brothers and sisters in the church? Or are you just wanting to get your blessing for the week and go home? The problem starts with us. How often am I a hypocrite? Have I ever said “I’m praying for you!” but forgotten to actually pray? Hypocrite.
Have I ever acted or talked like my marriage was great, but we actually argued on the way to church? Hypocrite. Have I pretended to be a faithful reader of God’s Word, but actually only read the verse of the day? Hypocrite.
Sadly, the church does seem to bring that out in us, I don’t know why. But the fact is, there are hypocrites everywhere, so don’t blame your staying home on that. Yes, Christians should live higher lives than celebrities or actors or sports people. They should. But they often don’t. Because the church is US, folks. Just ordinary people like me and you. And if I am a hypocrite – even once, then others can blame it on the church. If you are a ever, ever a hypocrite – even once – then someone may be using you as their excuse.
Lastly, I can worship God here on the ranch, surrounded by His nature. This one sounds so good. Anyone who has watched the sunrise over the hills, or walked though a fresh-cut hay field, or stopped to listen to the call of a bird on a warm summer evening knows the sense of awe that comes over you.
But friends, that isn’t church. Yes, Jesus preached on a hillside. When you have a crowd of 5,000 following you, feel free to have church on the hillside.
Church is about fellowship with other local believers. Encouraging one another in the faith. Speaking truth from different view points, so you stay balanced. Support in difficult times, and praise together in the good.
You just can’t get that alone. You can learn many things from God while you are alone on the ranch. Many lessons in nature, many neat truths from Scripture. But those cows aren’t gonna ask you how your week has been. The pony isn’t going to say: “Hey, let’s pray about that thing in your life.” The dog, much as he loves you, is never going to say “Come over and eat tacos with us tonight.”
There are so many blessings you can get from being a regular, committed part of a church. I know – many churches aren’t functioning correctly. In the effort to not step on toes, they have made everything bland and generic and unhelpful. But go anyways. Ask God to lead you to a place where you can go and find fellowship. Even if it is 1-2 other people in your home, who also love the Lord and have a vision to grow His kingdom. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”Matt. 18:20
We need other faithful Christian friends to keep us sharp.
Bonus: we have nothing in common with those city folk. Well, Jesus came from Heaven, and yet He found a way to fellowship with us earthlings! So… I guess we can manage to get outside our little world and find fellowship with people who live in the concrete jungle! Seriously though, it is great to be with other ranch folk. But don’t pick a church by the clothes the pastor wears. Find one that sticks close to truth. Cowboy church is great – IF it’s great. But slapping a hat on your head does not mean your theology is sound. Be wise.
You may feel like it isn’t worth the effort, but I can tell you that if you find other like-minded Christians to fellowship with on a regular basis, you will grow. You will be encouraged. It will be worth every commitment and sacrifice. Give your best to God, and He will bless you spiritually.
What are some obstacles you face, that make it difficult to make to church?
It was around 4 pm when our sweet daughter entered the world with that special newborn cry. I, who had never been too baby-crazy, looked down at her scrunched-up face and fell in love – as all mothers do! I was pretty sure I could feel my heart swelling with love, and the enormity of my emotion was overwhelming.
We took her back to my in-law’s house, and surrounded by family, we discovered the joys of night-wakings and first smiles. We were living in one bedroom, and my husband worked with his father during this time. My mother-in-law and the teen daughters operated a small bakery/sandwich shop, and I stayed home with my baby.
It was during this time that we started going to the same small church that my in-laws attended. It was a 2 hour drive one way to church. Not because there weren’t churches closer; this was the Bible Belt, after all. But this small country church had something the others didn’t: it had life. We drove to church every Sunday morning and home every Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, the folks at church were extremely hospitable, and we rarely left without a dinner (lunch) invitation. And usually a supper invite as well. Or more often, the dinner would stretch out to afternoon popcorn and games, then on into supper.
This church was pastored by a man whose teaching I hadn’t heard before. He preached often about the power of the Holy Spirit. Not about jumping and screaming and being slain in the spirit. But the power of the Holy Spirit… the power in a Christian’s life to overcome sin. I hung on every word. I hadn’t heard such life-changing stuff since Youth Bible school!
Some of the biggest lessons I learned there were:
—Temptation is not the same as sin. Satan puts thoughts in your head, and that is not sin. But if you yield to those thoughts, that is sin. Wow! That was life-changing for me! It took away all guilt I had for not being able to stop thoughts from popping in my head.
—To have power in your life, you must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 I prayed specifically to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day, and I learned to ask for His help in each moment of temptation. I fell a lot in the beginning. But over time, as I followed the Bible’s teaching and grew in understanding, my ‘new man’ grew stronger and the ‘old man’ became weaker. Romans 6:6, Eph. 4:22-24
Two rules I learned that helped me overcome sin; 1. sincerely repenting each time, and 2. asking forgiveness each time the sin involved another person. My biggest problem is sinning with my tongue, so I had a lot of uncomfortable conversations with people! But when you go to the person and ask forgiveness, the very awkwardness of it will help you ‘think before you speak’ in the future.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is simply the third Person of the Trinity: the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:9
We moved to the community where this church was located, several months after our daughter was born, and we lived there 4 years. During that time, the pastor became a true spiritual father to us. He taught us many truths from God’s Word. He shepherded us as a young married couple, being an example with his life. His wife is a godly woman who taught me many things about living in a Christlike manner. I watched her ways, her speech, and her example. To this day, I text or call her when I am feeling overwhelmed! What a need there is for godly women to teach and mentor the younger women!
There were several very Godly women in that church who took me under their wing, and taught me how to mother, how to be a wife, how to cook and clean and be a better sister in the church. Sometimes I look back on those years and wince, as I remember all the dumb things I did and said as a young wife and mom in her early 20’s. Oh, goodness. So much immaturity! But no one chided me; they simply loved me and cared for me and gently taught me. My mother-in-law was one of the most important. I am so blessed with the mother I found in her! She was there when my own mother was far away, and I learned so much from her.
Thanks for sticking with me on this journey of faith. It has been good for me to go back and remember all the goodness of the Lord; all the mighty things He has done for me! There is nothing good in me – ONLY in Him!!
At last I had begun to see what a real relationship with Jesus was like! It started simply; by talking to Him throughout the day, about everything. I was purposely, consciously, training my mind to constantly turn to God during the day. To ‘set my mind on things above, not on things of this earth’. Colossians 3:2 I was not finished struggling against sin, but I was starting to see growth in several areas. I finally had hope. I had the promise of help and victory.
Day after day, I pored over the Bible and prayed earnestly for God to help me gain victory over my anger, selfishness, and discouragement. Up until now, the Bible had been quite dry and boring. It seemed almost sinful to admit that – and I wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone. But now! Now the Bible was like fresh, cool water on a parched desert. It came alive in my hands, and I feasted hungrily on the Bread of Life!
I don’t know if any of my family or friends could tell a difference. I’m sure Mom could – poor mom had to put up with me during my hard, temper-fraught years. As God changed my heart, I grew to respect and love my mom. I started trying to make life easier for her, instead of trying to get by with as little work as possible. I still flew off the handle at people, I still had a sharp tongue and a scornful attitude, often. But I saw these for the wicked sins they are, and began praying about them and fighting Self.
The next three years I attended the same Youth Conference. Each year I learned more about Jesus Christ, and more about how to walk by the Spirit, and not the flesh. Each year I came home determined to be a light and example to my friends, to help them see the wonderful new truths I was learning. But each year I came home and realized that we were not on the same wavelength, so to speak. The church I attended put a lot of focus on our Christian heritage, and a good moral life, but they didn’t have power! Or if they did, I never heard about it. Every Sunday it was the same testimony of struggling with the same old sins. They preached that Jesus would forgive your sins (and He will!) and that each day was a new beginning (and it is!) but I wanted more! I saw people who had real joy on their faces and testified of changed lives! That’s what I wanted.
So I kept on seeking, learning, reading. I also became disillusioned with the Mennonite culture in general. I loved my church – I really did! But they didn’t seem to be able to offer me much. And frankly all their rules and expectations were grating on me. Not that they were hard to keep; I had no problem keeping them. I never got into trouble with the leaders; I was a ‘good kid’. But the rules were not in Scripture, and the only thing they accomplished – as far as I could see – was burden people with unnecessary loads, and turn away those raised in a different culture. OR, they attracted people who saw it as some sort of ‘Laura Ingalls’ idyllic lifestyle. The reason given for the rules was to keep us from danger. To keep us from falling into sin. But there is a wonderful verse in Jude that says God can keep us from falling! How wonderful it is that anyone anywhere can be kept from falling by the power of the Holy Spirit within us! We don’t need to depend on man-made rules. (verse 24)
Of course, Mennonites are just like any other culture: There are wonderful people who love the Lord, and there are some who have wicked, unrepentant hearts. The problem I saw, was that if your heart was evil, you could still be a good Mennonite. You can hide heart stuff real easy when the church focuses on your appearance. Human beings are wonderful hypocrites. We are all pros at putting up a front! I include myself in this, by the way.
In 1998, my oldest brother died, about a week or two after Youth Conference. I was devastated. It was my first taste of death. But God ministered to my heart in such a special way, that it became a cornerstone for my Christian life. Ever since, I look back and remember how loved I felt at that dark time. You can read about that experience here: This Day in my History.
Well, when I was 18, my family took a 3 month visit to Belize, a small country in Central America. To give a bit of history, my mom is related to some Mennonite missionaries that run several missions in the southern part of the country. When my parents were younger, they went several times to the mission to help while the missionaries were on furlough in the States. The last time they went, I was 4 years old. I had vague memories, and my sister – who was 6 that time – she also had a few memories. But we wanted to go again and see the mission as adults. My dream was to be a missionary like Amy Carmicheal, so I think my dad was trying to give us a mission experience without us leaving him to get it! 😀
A village school in Belize.
Our family planned to road trip through Mexico to Belize, and there was this friend of the family who decided he wanted to go along. He’d spent almost a year at the same mission doing volunteer work, and had friends down there. So one cold January day, we headed to Belize.
What does this all have to do with my faith? Well, two things. 1. It opened my eyes to the problems that come when you try to impose Mennonite culture on 3rd world natives. (doesn’t work very well) and 2. That family friend who went along, asked me to marry him! 😀 Yes, it was Cliff, and it was in that hot, tropical country that we started dating. And we started dating because one day we had a long talk about Christianity, churches, and our longings for a church that taught more. We both had the same longings and desires, spiritually, and we were both kind of unsure where we wanted to be.
When we went home 3 months later, my church was going through a major church split. Caught up in my new romance, I never did get all the details, and I really didn’t care. I had been wanting to leave the Mennonite church, and here was the perfect opportunity. I gave a letter of withdrawing my membership, and, considering the confusion that church was in at the time, I guess it didn’t get much attention. I didn’t go to church the Sunday it was read publicly, so I don’t really know how that went down. But anyways. I want to say again how much I loved my church. It was real hard for me to leave it. I had close friends there who had poured time into my life. Friends who I am still indebted to, and whom I respect. But it just wasn’t meeting my deep heart cry for life and growth.
Our wedding day, year 2000. I was 19, and Cliff was 22.
At our wedding reception.
Cliff and I got married in November. (can you hear the happy church bells pealing? 😉 ) And we honored my mother by having a traditional Mennonite wedding. But when we got back from our Arizona honeymoon, we began attending a little non-denominational church. Most of the members were former Mennonites, so we felt comfortable, yet it had some life that we had been missing. We attended that small church for a few months, then circumstances forced us to move in with my in-laws several hours away. We started attending their small church and eventually moved there.
Our first home.
I want to share another major, life-changing truth that I learned there; next time!
“This fog is terrible. Can’t see a thing,” my brother muttered as he peered into the gray darkness. The road was barely visible in the beam of his headlights, the winding mountain road seemed to go on forever through the dark trees and murky darkness. Occasionally, we would see the dim taillights of a vehicle ahead of us, which gave some depth perception to the haze that blanketed the road.
It was November, 1997, and I was riding in the backseat of my older brother’s Mazda pickup. My sister was along too, and we were headed to Pennsylvania to attend a youth conference. Actually, I wasn’t even riding on a ‘seat’, really. My brother loved his music, and he’d removed the backseat of his pickup in order to fit in a giant subwoofer box. 😀 There was a space beside the box for one person (me!) to squeeze in. My knees were in my face the whole trip, but other than that it was quite pleasant, really.
We drove for hours through the foggy night. Finally we drove out of it, and then made it to our host’s home. It was dark, the family was all in bed. We tiptoed up to our rooms and fell into bed. In the morning we ate an early breakfast and headed to the church. The parking lot was filling up as we drove in, and I was nervous to meet all those strangers! My mom had taught me how to meet people though, and I’d had lots of practice from all the churches we’d been to. But I still didn’t enjoy it when I walked in and the foyer was a crush of strange youth. I managed to hang up my coat and squeeze through the crowd to to the sanctuary. My sister was 2 years older than me, and her personality was more outgoing and friendly. She led the way to an empty bench. Directly behind us sat two girls – clearly sisters – and we’d barely sat down when my sister promptly turned around and introduced herself to the older girl. I shyly introduced myself to the the pretty younger girl seated next to her; never realizing that we would end up lifelong friends! (we now attend the same church and she is still one of my best friends and one of the prettiest people I know!)
Anyways. Getting long-winded here…
So we spent a week at this conference, along with 400 other youth. We listened to two sermons every morning, had prayer groups in the afternoon, and choir, then another sermon. In the evening they opened it up for a family meeting where we again listened to a sermon.
I soaked it all in! I took copious notes, I shared my struggles with my prayer group, I re-committed my life to God. One speaker in particular really captured my attention. He was a tall, kind-eyed man from South Africa. He had a way of speaking – a way of using stories and illustrations – that I had never heard before! He spoke about being hid with Christ in God. About the Holy Spirit. About counting the cost of discipleship. He asked searching questions, and thundered warnings. He told funny stories and laughed with us. He also prayed. His prayers sounded like they were going somewhere. I hung onto every word.
Another speaker, white-haired and much less dramatic, spoke softly but gave me new ideas. He talked about victory over sin, living a life filled with the Holy Spirit, and practical christian living. He also gave me a gift that would unlock the biggest blessing in my life to date. He gave me this little book by A.W. Tozer. Now, Tozer is not light reading for a teen who never finished 8th grade! I had to read and re-read some of the paragraphs multiple times to understand what it meant. But that book was where I finally learned what it meant to have a real relationship with Jesus.
“Believing, then, is directing the heart’s attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to “behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives. At first this may be difficult, but it becomes easier as we look steadily at His wondrous person, quietly and without strain.Distractions may hinder, but once the heart is committed to Him after each brief excursion away from Him, the attention will return again and rest upon Him like a wandering bird coming back to its window… When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. The sweet language of experience is “Thou God seest me” (Genesis 16:13). When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in,heaven has begun right here on this earth.” -The Pursuit of God
After youth conference, I went home and read a little piece in that book every night, along with readings from the Scripture. I read the book several times. It was eye-opening. I decided that this was it. I was tired of my failing, floundering attempts to live right. To please God. This new life that Tozer talked about – this was amazing! I was in for the long haul. None of this half-hearted Christianity, no more laziness of heart; I was ALL IN!
The first test came quickly. I worked on my father’s sawmill, and I hated that job. It was boiling hot in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter. I remember walking out to the sawmill one dreary wet day that winter. It was cold and damp and miserable. Normally I dreaded the job so badly that I would feel sick. But today, new-found faith firmly in hand, I was feeling almost cheery! I decided that if Tozer could fix his gaze on Christ, so could I! And so I began praying as I worked. I prayed silently – just ‘thinking’ prayers, but of course those kind are as good as any. I prayed for everyone I knew of who needed prayer. Then I prayed for myself, all my stryggles and questions and besetting sins. Then, as it was still early in the day, I started just talking to Jesus. I told Him how I felt about the weather, what my dreams were, how I wished I could serve on a mission… my mind wandered, (just like Tozer said!) but each time I would bring it back to talking with Jesus.
My dad’s small portable sawmill where I spent many hours stacking lumber.
Now, stacking lumber is a rather mindless task. Hard, yes, but repetitious and brain-numbingly boring. So I did a lot of daydreaming. And in the days that followed, I still daydreamed a lot. But each time my thoughts would wander to frustration or anger or discouragement, I would start telling Jesus all about it. At first it felt awkward and stiff. But after a few days it seemed natural to tell my new Friend all my deepest thoughts and fears.
And so I began to grow in my relationship with Him. As I cried out to Jesus for deliverance from my sins, and found a safe refuge where I could pour out my heart – I started gaining victory over my besetting sins. I was no longer angry about everything; I could tell Jesus! I was no longer depressed; I could tell Jesus! I wasn’t ‘fixed’ overnight, of course. It was a gradual growth, just like a tiny seedling growing, stretching toward the light, drinking in water and nutrients. So I started to grow; little by little, so imperceptibly that even I didn’t realize it.
I continued reading my Bible, soaking it in large portions at a time. I devoured it! I prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I asked God for victory over sin, and, most importantly, I now believed He could give it to me! I also started feeling unsure about the church I was a member of. Why had I never heard these things before? Why did they focus on outward appearances, yet left the heart issues go untouched? Why were rules held above all? I was confused, and unsettled about it, but I didn’t know what to do. I wanted everyone to know about this new life hidden with Christ in God. I did try to talk to my parents and friends about it, but some brushed it off as conference enthusiasm, and others didn’t understand what I was talking about at all!
Come back next week and see how I left the Mennonite religion.
If you missed the first two posts, you can find them here: