7 Things the Easter Story Teaches Us About Marriage

Monday, March 29, 20201 by Lisa Lakey of Family Life

We hadn’t been married a week before our differences threatened to drive a wedge between us. I can’t recall the reason Josh and I were fighting that night, but I do remember going to bed angry at my new husband. On our honeymoon.


Even then, doubt crept into my mind, making me question whether we were well suited for each other. As a newly-married unbeliever, I didn’t have a clue what the purpose for marriage was back then, or if there was one at all. Now, I know God’s plan for marriage is to reflect the fullness of who He is in an increasingly empty world. And He gives us an amazing example of what that should look like through Jesus’ life—and death—on earth. And this story, the greatest story in history, has nothing to do with jellybeans and rabbits.


Marriage and Easter


This time of year, we reflect quite a bit on the Easter story—the story of Christ’s betrayal, His sacrifice, His death, and ultimately, the Resurrection that changed the course of history and mankind’s relationship with our Creator. But what does this have to do with marriage? More than you might think.


If our marriage is meant to reflect the image of God, we have no better example than Christ, the living embodiment of God’s love. In His omniscience, God knew what marriage would take. Through His sacrifice, He showed us that our love for each other and even for Him wasn’t enough. We needed His love. We need Him.


Here are seven things we can learn about marriage from Easter.


1. Betrayal can come from those we love and trust the most. Jesus knew this all too well. Judas—one of the 12, the few in Jesus’ inner circle—betrayed Him by turning Him in to the chief priests. This man had walked long roads beside Jesus. Sat at His side and dipped bread with Him. To make the betrayal sting a little more, Judas identified Jesus to the authorities with a kiss (Mark 14:44).

Betrayal hurts. When it comes from someone we love and trust, it cuts all the deeper. And some of your deepest pain will likely come from your spouse. Getting betrayed or hurt is a risk we take in marriage. No marriage is immune. But our response to the offense has to reflect the faith and trust we have in Christ. We can choose to love our spouse even when we feel betrayed.


2. We aren’t above betraying the ones we love. Peter was passionate about his relationship with Christ. When Jesus told Peter he would disown Him three times before the rooster crowed, Peter just couldn’t fathom it. “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” Peter told Him. Yet, before the night had ended, Peter “wept bitterly” after he denied His Savior not once, but three times (Matthew 26:34-75).


Matthew 26:41 tells us “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I can relate to that verse. I don’t ever want to hurt my husband. But I have, and I do. Sometimes it’s unintentional: My words often rush out before my brain can catch up. Other times, I know the words that cut deep and allow them to leave my lips without fully assessing the damage they will cause. None of us are above hurting our spouse, no matter how much we try. Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).


3. Others won’t believe your marriage can be saved. As they gazed upon the suffering Christ, the chief priests mocked Him. “He saved others; he cannot save himself,” they said. “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:31-32). The sad irony of their words is that because they refused to believe, they would never see their own salvation on that cross.


Our culture is a brutal place to try to save a dying marriage. Not only do an increasing number of people not believe in the lasting power of marriage, many will gladly take a front seat to watch your marriage die. They’ll mock you and your spouse and say divorce is a better option. Protect your relationship by surrounding yourself with people who encourage your marriage rather than dragging it down.


4. Marriage takes sacrifice. Jesus knew what was coming. He prayed in Gethsemane, “My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Later, before He was nailed to the cross, “they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it” (Matthew 27:34). The wine concoction offered to Jesus was one typically offered to slightly ease the pain of those condemned to death. Jesus refused to numb even a fraction of the sacrifice He was about to make.

It sometimes seems like a no-brainer that we would give our lives for our spouses. But what about in the day to day? Are you willing to sacrifice your comfort, your preferences, even being right for your spouse? On a much smaller level, sacrificing yourself for your spouse is putting their best interests above your own through a series of choices that can seem insignificant.


5. Marriage takes forgiveness. Jesus’ sacrifice guaranteed God’s forgiveness for those who love Him. Even through the pain of the cross, He called out on behalf of those who crucified Him. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do'” (Luke 23:34).


Forgiveness isn’t just something we’ve been given, it’s also something we, as followers of Christ, are told to do. In Colossians, Paul says, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (3:13). Your spouse is going to mess up. A lot. You are too, perhaps even more. A good marriage involves a lot of asking for, giving, and receiving forgiveness.


6. Marriage takes faith. After the tomb was found empty, Jesus appeared to His disciples. Thomas wasn’t there. And when the others told him they had seen the Lord, Thomas was skeptical. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” A week later, Thomas found himself face-to-face with Jesus, who offered his hands to Thomas. “Do not disbelieve,” Jesus told him, “but believe” (John 20:24-29).


There have been times it was a struggle to find the good in my marriage. It was like trying to find a match in the darkness. I couldn’t see things getting any better, and to be honest, I didn’t always want to. Holding on when you want to let go takes faith. Even a little. When the disciples couldn’t heal a boy, Jesus told them it was a faith issue. “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).


Which brings me to my last point …


7. We all need a Savior. The apostle John recorded the last words Jesus spoke on the cross to be, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Finished was His atonement for our sins. No one else could have paid the heavy debt we carried but the Son of God.


Marriage is a blessing, but make no mistake, it’s hard at times. You and your spouse can’t do it on your own strength and determination. Much like the criminal hanging next to Jesus who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42), we need to recognize our need for a Savior. And much like the disciples who were standing before their risen Lord, we need Him to breathe life into us (and into our marriage) with the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).


Your spouse needs Jesus as much as you do—no more, no less. Remembering this can help you view him or her differently. If your spouse is a believer, then they are no longer the sum of all their sins. If you are married to an unbeliever, then never stop praying for their salvation.


God used the death and Resurrection of His Son to restore our relationship with Him. Do you doubt He can restore your marriage? Remember, the Easter story isn’t one of death and defeat. No, it’s a story of overcoming death in victory. With God, your marriage story can be one of victory, as well.


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5 Calm Responses for When Your Child Digs Their Heels In

March 22, 2021 by Rachel Norman

I bet you’re no stranger to power struggles in your home. If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some tried and true responses for when your child doesn’t want to do what you say. 


Recently things started to get out of hand with my 3-year-old. You see, it seemed like every day was Opposite Day.


I wanted him to eat breakfast, but he wanted to play. 

And, I wanted him to go to bed, but he wanted to stay up. 

Let’s go for a walk, I say…but he wanted to run ahead.

I wanted him to pee in the potty, he wanted to pee on a bush. 

I’m okay with him peeing on a bush… no thanks, he’ll pee in his undies. 

I think you get the picture…


I knew something was going on with this defiant behavior. After that, he’d started feeling tender about every single thing, so I kept digging around to see which of his needs weren’t being met. 


Was he not feeling connected? Was he feeling powerless or being treated like he was younger than he was? 


All possibilities…

Obviously, I wanted to explore all this. But, in the meantime… we were having battles. 


From this experience, I have written FIVE secrets to avoiding power struggles. Read on to see how. 


5 Secrets To Avoiding Power Struggles

Note: With 1, 2, and even 3-year-olds OBVIOUSLY we can simply pick them up and make them do what we were requesting. 


This post is based on the idea that at a certain point, we can’t physically force our kids to do what we’ve asked, and we need some tools in our toolbox that lead to cooperation without sacrificinggreat nurturing family relationships. 


1) Intervene Early

A month or two ago I heard one of the best pieces of parenting advice ever. First of all, this is one of the obvious things that – after you hear it – you immediately recognize as true though you’ve never verbalized it.


Here it is: Intervene Early!


Without a doubt, if you know your child will not respond favorably to a rule or routine change in your home, don’t wait until you’ve got a full blown war on your hands to intervene. 


As moms, we usually know when something’s about to escalate, and waiting until someone (or multiple someones) are on the warpath will have less than successful results.


Intervene Early to Avoid Power Struggles

  • Discuss beforehand | If you know your child will not like what’s coming up the pipeline and they are old enough, have a direct talk. First, State the rule and ask if they have any ideas for making it happen. Kids will surprise us with their creativity and if they “own” their part there’s a lot smaller chance of power struggles.
  • Give ample warning | Some kids do not respond well to Out Of The Blue or All Of A Suddens. They just don’t. So… ease transitions with reminders and choices like, “We’re going to leave soon. Would you like to leave in 5 minutes or 10 or do you have a better idea?” Then, your child might, for example, say “after another 5 slides!“
  • Jump in before escalation | If two siblings are getting riled up, don’t wait until someone lands a punch. If it’s a toy they’re fighting over, jump in and ask for suggestions on how they can handle it. You’ll see, if the kids come to an agreement on their own (if they are preschoolers or up, of course, and able to do this) they will both honor it. Helping kids learn to navigate win/win scenarios is one of the most rewarding things.


Read: How to Avoid Parenting Battles the South African Way


2) “Push Them Back”

Recently Lauren and I did a Fresh Start Bootcamp with a bunch of moms and she gave this great advice to moms whose children are refusing to do something.


Push back to the real issue.


Obviously, there’s no point in telling our kids not to feel what they feel because that won’t work. 


Futhermore, telling them to just stop crying or be quiet or get over it also won’t work. Plus it erodes trust

.

So what can you do instead? Push back TO the real issue!


Let’s do an example:

Child who doesn’t want to start homework because it’s “too hard”

“You don’t want to even start because you don’t think you can do it. You are SURE you won’t be able to do it and you hate failing at things. You’d rather not do it than get it wrong! 


What you’ve done there is get to the actual issue. Not wanting to start homework, in this example, was a great way for that child to avoid feeling like a “failure” if they didn’t really know how to do it. But still… the homework doesn’t do itself. So then you state the rule…


“The homework must be done, and you don’t want to do it if you can’t get it perfect. Must be something you can do that would help you feel ready to start?”


At this point your child feels totally understood. You pushed back the presenting behavior (refusal to start homework) to get to the real one: not wanting to mess up and feel bad. If your child feels heard and understood they’ll likely come up with some ideas on their own. Even silly ones like… “I’ll feel better if I can eat veggie sticks while I do homework.”


[This approach – validation of what is happening, plus stating the rule, then turning the problem solving over to the child with “there must be something you can do” – is part of the Language of Listening® approach.]


Read: Got A “Disobedient Child?” Start With These 4 Things


3) Use Choices Or Options That Make Sense


We are never out of choices. 

This is a true statement.


However, when it comes to kids, we need to be mindful we aren’t giving them ridiculous choices. Furthermore, a ridiculous choice is one that has a complete winner and loser. 


Examples of “Choices” that don’t make sense: 

  • “Do you want to come inside for dinner right now or spend the night outside?”
  • “Do you want to share that toy or have me take it away forever?”
  • “Would you rather eat this piece of broccoli or have no dinner?”

Look, we’ve all been there


It should be noted that these types of choices make kids frustrated and leave them feeling angry and exposed.


Of course you’d want your child to come in for dinner, share a toy, and eat a vegetable… but don’t make it a choice if it really isn’t a choice. 

Instead, you’d want to create a choice that actually helped your child feel they have a bit of power. 


Remember: when children feel powerless, they behave in ways that you will now like. Also, we each have God given free will, when we perceive that to be taken from us… things get ugly.


Examples of Appropriate Choices to Overcome Power Struggles

  •  “It’s time to come inside. What do you need to do before you come in?” My children surprise me with very creative weird answers. Yours will too.
  • “You want that toy and your brother wants that toy. What could you do to take turns?” Sometimes kids are even more strict than you are and may respond with something like, “Me for 5 minutes, then him for 5 minutes“
  • “In this house we eat some vegetables. Do you want to eat this broccoli or have a carrot? Or do you have a better way to eat veggies?” If they suggest something you are okay with, do it.


Read: What’s Really Happening When Your Child Is Defiant


4) Keep The Boundary/Rule and Let Them Do What They Need To Do

There is actually great freedom when you know your boundaries. An example from Boundaries with Strong-Willed Children is this:


I don’t want anyone to stain my couches. I am 0% okay with them getting jacked up.


Instead of creating a hard and fast catch all rule that would take a lot of enforcing (no eating on couches) I explained my boundary. Now, the kids know which foods they can or cannot eat on the couch. If we’re having pizza and movie night, they’ll eat the pizza on top of a sheet on the floor (cause I also don’t want my rug jacked up).


Within the boundary (not messing up the furniture) they are free to roam. Veggie sticks? Sure. Water? Fine. Blueberries? NO. If in doubt, they’ll ask. 


How to Find Your Boundaries

  • First, ask yourself this… where am I not consistently keeping rules in our home?
  • Then, Notice when you start to feel bitter and resentful… ask yourself WHY you are feeling that way. This will reveal a lot.
  • What situations cause you to yell? Why?
  • Lastly, Think on the things that seem to matter most to you in parenting, dig a little deeper.



Read: How To Be An Empathetic Mom Without Being Soft On Boundaries


5) Don’t Be Afraid To Start Again

If you find yourself in a big power struggle and wonder where it all went wrong… you are not alone.


One joy of children is that they’re forgiving, resilient, and ready to mend any relationship breaches.


Truly, families were wired to love one another.


So if you find yourself locked in a power struggle, back up. Sometimes it’s worth “losing” a power battle just to figure out what was behind it. Have a do over, if you will. 


Be willing to lose a battle or two to win the war.


Back to my runner…

Little by little, we got there.

I made my boundaries clear, but gave him freedom within them.


By intervening early, I avoided a lot of push back. 

I realized I wasn’t reallllly on his side… so I got on it. 

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Fasting During Lent

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 by Lisa Streu and Pope Francis

During lent, many people fast from food or technology. Here are some other ideas that will really change our hearts and minds.


Fast from:

-hurting words and say kind words

-sadness and be filled with gratitude

-anger and be filled with patience

-pessimism and be filled with hope

-worries and trust God

-complaints and list your blessings

-bitterness and fill your heart with joy

-selfishness and be compassionate

-grudges and try to reconcile

-words and be more willing to listen


Let us know your thoughts by clicking here.

A Prayer for Monday Morning

March 1, 2021 by Amy Green

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” (Isaiah 40:28-29)


It’s another Monday.


By now, you’ve successfully pried open your eyes (no matter how many times you hit “snooze”), and even that probably feels like an accomplishment. If you’re like me, the first whispers of coherent thought in your waking mind weren’t that great. Worry about your job. Dread of the unending loop of weekly tasks. Frustration with a family member. Or just plain weariness.

 

On some Mondays, it can be hard to believe that you matter, that God is listening, and that it was really worth getting out of bed.


It’s time to replace those lies with the truth—truth about who God is, who you are, and what you’re doing here on this earth. These verses aren’t some kind of cosmic pep talk… they’re reminders from a God who loves you that he made you for a purpose. That means no day is wasted, not even a terrible Monday.


“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)


Promise: Even when we don’t see the results of what we’re doing, God is always at work. He can give us the strength for the mundane tasks of life.

Remember that this day is a gift from God.


This week, don’t look first at your crowded calendar or messy house or burdens or the list of ways you’ve failed and fallen. Look first at Jesus and at his Word. 


Read these verses, and read all of Romans 8. It’s the summary of everything God has promised to believers. It reminds us that it’s okay to grieve the brokenness of the world, reassures us that the Spirit prays for us when we don’t even know what to ask, and restores the hope we have as victorious and beloved children of God.


And that’s the truth that makes it worth getting up in the morning, no matter what day it is.


To listen to this devotional, or others click here or click here.


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7 Staycation Ideas If Coronavirus Canceled Your Spring Break Plans

Monday, March 8, 2021 by Alexandra Dubin

Families, here are a few ‘Staycation’ ideas for this Spring Break. 


COVID-19 has squashed travel plans and large group gatherings, but it doesn't mean you can't mentally escape for some fun with your family. Consider one of these safe staycation alternatives for kids of all ages.


Last March, the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on spring break plans. Families were forced to cancel their previously scheduled itineraries—sometimes involving international flights, cruises, or theme parks—because of stay-at-home orders and threats to public safety. And now, one year later, the pandemic is still still raging across the country, putting a pause on spring break plans yet again.

 

Are you desperate to shake up your quarantine routine during your kids' time off from school? Consider these alternative ideas for staycations that can still cheer them up and keep your family safely entertained.


Take a road trip.


While far-flung travel is out of the question right now, road trips could be a fun alternative that gets the family out of the house. Load up the car with sing-a-long music (and plenty of hand sanitizer) and hit the road for a destination accessible from your region. You don't need to gather among crowds on your getaway: Stop at curious roadside attractions, even for photo opportunities from afar. (No admission tickets or interaction with others required.) Admire scenic coastline or mountains and enjoy the peace of the open road.


RELATED: 50 Ways to Get Through Coronavirus Cabin Fever



Make it a spa-cation.


Keep out of the crowds with a staycation structured like a spa experience for a bit of family pampering and self-care. Set up an air of luxury at home with robes for everyone. Create stations for nails, skin care, and hair services—a la mom, dad, or a sibling with skills. Pick up some goodies like Insta-ready sheet masks, so even if you're not getting the family photos you expected this spring break, you'll still have indelible memories of the silliness you shared when the going got tough.


 

Plan family games.


Are you dreaming about hitting a major theme park like Disney World or Universal Studios? You can still recreate some version of the experience with this clever idea. Of course you can gather all your board games and puzzles for cozy family time, but you can also get creative with more structured ideas like an obstacle course, water balloons, or DIY human Twister in the yard. You could even organize the troops under your own roof for an extended Olympics-style set of competitions. You might not get Splash Mountain, but you get some fun and levity in an environment of healthy competition.


RELATED: 17 Fun Indoor Games and Activities for Kids



Hit the beach.


If you live near a region with a beachy coastline like Florida or California, now's a great time to get outside. You'll feel more comfortable being in an outdoor environment, where crowds are dispersed widely. Bring a picnic, a beach blanket, and games. Not only will kids have fun, but they'll have a chance to get physically active—while spiking a volleyball or chasing a frisbee—if they've been otherwise cooped up in the house.



Plan an artists' retreat.


Not only does art inspire creativity, but it's also a well-documented form of therapy. To adapt your vacation plans with an art staycation, assemble age-appropriate art materials and let your group go wild. Or scour Pinterest for some more organized projects for older kids with longer attention spans. Protect your indoor environment with plastic drop cloths if weather doesn't permit outside art making.


RELATED: Stuck at Home? These 12 Famous Museums Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch



Go camping.


A local campground is a smart alternative to a trip involving a cruise ship, flights, or an overcrowded environment. Being in nature soothes rattled nerves, and it provides a chance to escape crowds in an open-air environment. Bring musical instruments, s'mores for roasting, and a sense of adventure. This may not be the far-flung trip you usually plan for spring break, but it will be one you'll never forget!



Set up science camp.


For curious kids, try a staycation that includes an element of learning. Facilitate STEM instruction in a playful way by creating an at-home science camp. Scour Pinterest for projects like glittery slime or rainbow-hued bath bombs that keeps their brains engaged. Here's some more inspiration:


23 Fun STEAM and STEM Activities for Kids

10 Easy At-Home Science Experiments for Kids

3 Easy Science Experiments for Kids



What are some of your ideas and plans for Spring Break? Let us know by clicking here. We'd love to hear from you.