January: I Do Every Day

January 1

When a “New Year” for Your Marriage Ain’t Lookin’ Good

By Janel Breitenstein 

During our holiday travels (over the river and through the woods, etc., etc.), my daughter remarked how many trees around us were dead. 

Indeed, they did not look lively. If they were people, their lips would be blue. Their fingers would be popsicles. 

“Not dead,” I said. “Dormant.” I thought of the new life curling within the trees, waiting for the perfect season to unfurl in lemony-green sashes.

Psalm 1:1-3 compares a righteous person to a tree stretching its roots deeply for its water source. It has a fruitful season. 

But a tree has seasons where it doesn’t bear fruit.

It’s storing up resources, looking skeletal, exposed, naked. Waiting. It’s winter, a season of its own peculiar, startling beauty.

Marriage can be like that. 

Or maybe you’re lopping your marriage into the “dead” category rather than just “frozen solid.” But does our God not raise dead things? 

He possesses the power to flesh out your life (even your marriage) in lush greenness, though it may not arrive when and how you saw it going in your head. God knows what you need and how to find you, and He is relentless in bringing you near. His version of spring as it needs to happen is coming. 

Grab practical ideas on what to do when you’re afraid your marriage is dying.

Faith + Hope + Love


The Good Stuff: Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18)

Action Points: In what places—in your marriage, spouse, or self—have you given up hope, or left pieces for dead? Confess to God areas where you struggle to believe He will create beauty and goodness. Ask Him to help you release your own version of success and life and to fill you with hope for whatever He wants to give.

January 2

The Best Love Letter 

By Laura Way

Not to throw my husband under the bus, but when I need words of affirmation, I usually have to ask. In fact, a few birthdays in a row, I did ask for my gift to include a heartfelt note. Because with few exceptions, the only times he tells me I’m physically attractive to him is if I express my attraction to him. Or if I ask him about a specific outfit and he happens to like it (since he’s actually honest in his evaluations). 

At one point, this bothered me. I don’t hate hearing I’m not bad to look at or that I’m an enjoyable person to be around without prompting. Right?

But now? It doesn’t bother me so much. Because I’ve learned a couple of things about my husband and how he operates, and I’ve learned to turn up the volume on the ways he does consistently show me how he feels.

He’s the kind of guy who’s quite content to research and read and sit with his thoughts (Enneagram 5, #iykyk). The flip side of this personality is that sometimes it’s hard for him to share his time, energy, and attention. 

When I realized that, his choosing to give his time and energy to sit and talk with me became its own kind of love letter. 

When he initiates conversation with me, listens to what’s on my mind, and wants to be close to me, it all speaks loud and clear: He wants me and cares deeply about me. 

Not to mention the meals he cooks, the coffee he has waiting on the counter for me every morning (dude, that is sexy), the errands he runs, and the countless ways he steps in and serves me and our children—these all speak volumes about the way he’s choosing me, the ways he’s loving me. 

If I don’t have weekly love notes or whispered sweet nothings on the regular, it’s really okay. The daily ways he shows me he’s thinking of me and cares for me spell out a love story that’s actually much more romantic than words on a page or a semi-robotic “Hey, Beautiful.” 

Do you know about “The Three Ms of Love”? Listen to this episode of FamilyLife Today®.  


The Good Stuff: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13

Action Points: How does your spouse show you love? If you catch yourself mentally listing the things they don’t do, make a list (mental or physical) of the ways your spouse considers, serves, sacrifices for you. 

January 3

This Is the Part When You’re Supposed To Laugh

By Lisa Lakey

Early in our relationship, one of us would tell a joke and the other would laugh. No matter how cheesy or not funny it actually was. But you do that sort of thing when dating.

During the newlywed phase, we kindly asked each other to explain jokes we didn’t get. Then we laughed politely. You do that sort of thing when you are newly married.

Yet the other day, my husband (of 15 years) gave me a peculiar look after I made a joke. “I don’t get it,” he said. So I explained it. “That’s not funny,” he replied. Ouch. Apparently, you do that sort of thing when you have been married a while.

To be honest, there have been plenty of times when I have looked at my husband and thought, What on earth was he thinking?! 

To be more honest, he’s likely thought the same about me even more. We just don’t always get each other—quirks, dreams, emotions, jokes (even if that one-liner was hilarious—which of course it was). 

This frustrates me, because I have a deep desire to be known by my better half (can you relate?). Having someone know me fully—not just getting my jokes, but knowing the deeper, darker sides of me—and not run away is the profound kind of love I want to experience.

But my husband is not always going to get me. No matter how close we are, our spouses won’t understand every thought behind every action, every emotion, every joke. Only One can do that.

First Corinthians offers a comforting reminder to those of us who feel discouraged when someone doesn’t get us. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthains 13:12). 

We tend to see each other “dimly.” At least for now, anyway. But if you are frustrated with not feeling known, rest assured. There is One with whom you are “fully known.” And I bet He thinks your jokes are pretty funny. Maybe.

Do you know yourself as well as you think you do? Read “I’m Not an Expert on Myself.”

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:3

Action Points: How could you make a better attempt to know your spouse? Next time you don’t understand where they are coming from, politely and lovingly ask them to explain their point of view. Create a safe space for your spouse to be who God created them to be, quirks and all.

January 4

But I Need Help with the Bacon! 

By Leslie Barner

I can still sing the jingle from the Enjoli perfume commercial: “I can bring home the bacon/ Fry it up in a pan/ And never, ever let you forget you’re the man …”

The commercial became the gold standard of female empowerment, the “24-hour woman.” You could have it all and do it all.

Like many young women, I bought into the message. And that was the woman a lot of men expected their wives to be. They, too, had bought in.

I tried so hard to be that 24-hour woman—pulling 40 hours, juggling the needs of a husband and four active little girls, looking for recipes, clipping coupons, playing driver and chaperone, cutting out crafts for Sunday school lessons, and trying to make 10 loads of laundry smell like a Caribbean breeze. 

I felt so empowered. Until one day, I just felt … exhausted.

I realized while I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan, I needed help! The 24-hour woman was no longer so attractive. She was just a fantasy.

No woman or man is capable of having it all and doing it all. 

The Bible tells us “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV). 

Teamwork helped lighten my load significantly. Working together helped our home—and my overloaded reality—move to a much healthier, stronger, happier place. 

Being the help your spouse needs might mean you have to put down the cell phone, TV remote, or gaming controller. But it goes a long way in communicating, “I see you and all that you do. And I care enough to help, because I care about you. We are a team, and when you win, we both win.”

Curious about how to give and receive the help needed to keep your home, family, and relationship working well? Check out the article, “Who Does the Housework?”

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff:  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18

Action Points: Take a sheet of paper, and each of you write a list of areas in which you need help. Then brainstorm ways you can work together to benefit your marriage, family, home, and individual well-being.

January 5

First Class or Coach?

By Jim Mitchell 

So I flew first class recently. What a waste.

I mean, I didn’t intend to waste it. I actually hadn’t even purchased a first class ticket and was headed to my normal luxury spot by the rear bathroom.

But as I’m boarding the plane, my travel buddy turns to me at row 2 and says, “That’s your seat today,” and keeps walking.

Confused, but with other passengers waiting, I tossed my backpack into the overhead bin, stepped over a man wearing an expensive suit, and settled into my window seat.

And there I sat, puzzled, the entire flight.

I had no clue that my friend, a frequent flyer, had upgraded my ticket using his loyalty points. Another important detail he forgot to mention—the perks of first class.

To be honest, I didn’t even realize I was in first class, which made it super weird watching the guy in the suit ask for a bunch of fancy snacks, an adult beverage, a Starbucks chaser, and a pillow, all while enjoying his free Wi-Fi.

Must be nice, I thought to myself smugly, unaware that the exact same amenities were available to me for the asking.

The irony of my blunder only sank in after the flight when my friend asked, “What’d ya get?”

I’m like, “A Diet Coke. Why?” 

He says, “WHAT?! That’s all? I’m never giving you my first class upgrade again!”

Yep, I’m the guy who sat in first class but flew coach.

And sadly, I do the same in my marriage most days, and maybe you do too. So many perks available, but so few of them enjoyed.

Neighborhood walks and talks. Private whispers in public that make you both giggle. Encouraging comments that say, “I see you.” Vacuuming the bedroom before movie night just because. A hand held after a deep sigh. Sweet memories shared over ice cream—one bowl, two spoons. Simple prayers (and maybe a backrub) to end the day.

The sky really is the limit with perks to make your very ordinary marriage feel first class.

Unless you’d rather fly coach? I hear there’s a seat open next to the bathroom.

Listen to the “Good News for Unhappy Marriages.”

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38

Action Points: Ask your spouse, “What would make our marriage feel like first class to you today?” Then go above and beyond, because they’re probably used to settling for coach.

January 6

What’s More Romantic than Nasal Strips?

By Judy Burrows

I love chocolate in almost all its forms. Chocolate cake, chocolate candy bars, chocolate pie.

My husband, however, is a specialist. Chocolate peanut butter ice cream every night is his one daily indulgence. It’s the sacredness of this ritual that can help you appreciate a curious turn of events between the two of us.

Recently, I told him his snoring was bothering me. So my kindhearted husband consulted the internet to find a cure. He learned about expensive apparatuses and breathing strips you apply to your nose. He found exercises that strengthen weak throat muscles. He even read that dairy before bed can increase snoring.

A few nights later he asked me if his snoring was better. “Yes,” I said, “I haven’t heard you the last few nights.”

“I gave up the ice cream.”

I was floored. I knew how much he enjoyed his nightly ritual. I would never have asked him to give it up.

I tried to tell him his sacrifice wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. He said, “I might have it once a week, but I don’t need it every night.”

Now that’s romantic.

The next time I went to the grocery store, I sought substitute snacks to thank him.

His generous spirit stirred up attempts at generosity in me. And the love he showed me was far sweeter than any chocolate.

Do you know that love is kind? Listen to Bob Lepine explain this important definition of love.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25

Action Points: Generosity in one spouse can sometimes encourage generosity in the other. In what way can you initiate generosity this week in your marriage?

January 7 

He Had a Skinny Mom

By Ashley Mercier 

The first time I saw a picture of my now mother-in-law, I thought, Oh no, she’s skinny. In my experience, guys with skinny moms don’t like … girls like me. 

Thankfully, my now-husband proved my theory wrong. But his acceptance of me did little to erase decades of self-image issues. My self-deprecation became a filter for our interactions, especially in the early years. 

A new outfit? No-win situation. If he complimented me, I didn’t believe him. If he said nothing, I considered it proof I was undesirable. I consistently overshadowed his actual opinions of me with my own opinions of myself. And in so doing, I showed my husband that his feelings for me didn’t matter.

In marriage, self-preservation defeats connection. 

Our unity, our “two become one,” gives my husband license to speak into my soul and redefine who I am. Self-preservation causes me to reject those gentle whispers of love, in turn rejecting him and causing isolation.

The Bible kicks off chapter 1 with Adam isolated, and God coming to the rescue with a beautiful remedy to Adam’s feelings of loneliness, Eve. The three—God, Adam, and Eve—are a completed triad, a relational masterpiece.

In fact, in that same chapter, God gives us the first mirror: “So God created man in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). 

I see a lot of things in my bathroom mirror—cinched-tight jeans causing unsightly bulges, under-eye luggage courtesy of late nights. That mirror is the wrong mirror. 

Genesis has it right. The mirror of God says I am created to look like Him, to reveal His glory, and my marriage is a reflection of His strength, not our weaknesses.

And that’s the reflection I want to see more of in the mirror.

How can you help your spouse feel cherished the way they are? 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10

Action Points: Find a stunning photo of nature. Make it your home screen or wallpaper so that when you see it, you ponder how the same God who made that waterfall or sunrise or mountain also made you.

January 8

Dollars and Cents Don’t Always Make Sense

By Jorge Rosario

I was walking home from work one brisk Monday evening. But I didn’t want to go home; I was dreading sharing the news with my wife. 

The 15-minute walk ended abruptly at my front door, not allowing ample time to prepare. Then I opened the door to find my wife in the kitchen with tears in her eyes. I asked what was wrong, and she replied, “I got laid off.” 

To which I replied, “Me too.” 

“What are we going to do? How are we going to pay our bills?” she asked me. 

In all of my wisdom, I replied, “I don’t know. All I know is that, He dresses the lilies, and we will both have jobs by Friday.” 

That Friday, God provided us with jobs.

When it came time to pay taxes, Jesus told Peter, “Go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself” (Matthew 17:24-27). 

The provision of dollars and cents doesn’t always make sense. But we can rest assured that God will provide.

It is always good to plan, organize, save, and have conversations with your spouse about spending habits, and I encourage all couples to do so. But while all of these practices are beneficial, they only get us so far. The most important tasks on the list of “Healthy Financial Habits” are to trust and rest. Only in trusting Him and resting in the fact that He provides, will our good stewardship blossom into a beautiful form of worship.

Is money a source of tension in your home? Read “How To Stop Fighting About Money Problems in Marriage.” 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these … will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:28-30

Action Points: Is there an area of your life (either finances or something else) that you have trouble trusting God in? Holding hands with your spouse, bow your heads and ask God to both remove your anxiety and increase your trust in Him.

January 9 

The Girl Who Played with Fire

By Leslie J. Barner

While living in California, I once stood outside my home and watched as a wildfire stalked my neighborhood, flames licking the perimeter. It was terrifying.

What amazes me is it only takes a spark to awaken one.

The Bible says something similar about the tongue: “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:6). 

I watched this unfold in real time once as a woman viciously berated her husband in public. His pain and embarrassment were palpable; he looked like he wanted to disappear. 

Those scorching words set ablaze an inferno fanned over years, eventually causing the death of their marriage and the destruction of their family. From that couple’s story, I learned a lot about the dangers of using my tongue irresponsibly.

Have I ever said things I shouldn’t have? Yep! Or hurt my husband’s feelings with my words? Unfortunately, I have.

But one thing I hope to resist at all costs is embarrassing Aubrey in public.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” This truth is both a caution and an encouragement about how I should speak to my husband—publicly and privately—to build him up, not tear him down. 

Of course, we won’t always do this perfectly. So make it right by apologizing (maybe even publicly, depending on the situation), and be willing to forgive when a spouse has blown it. 

We can choose to protect “Team Us” rather than our own feelings by resolving our issues privately—no matter how much we dislike what our spouse is doing or saying.

Fire isn’t all bad. Controlled fires, like kind, encouraging, supportive words, are life giving and warm the heart. Wildfires only break hearts. We can choose which type of fire we will stoke. 

Click here to read more about the power of words and how they affect your marriage. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29

Action Points: If there has been a time when you’ve said or done something publicly that hurt or embarrassed your spouse, confess it now and ask your spouse to forgive you. Ask God to help you in finding forgiveness if you have been the one hurt or embarrassed.

Then make a commitment together to protect each otherand your marriageby watching what you say to or about each other in public, and by handling conflict and disagreements in private.

January 10 

I’m Sorry, Sort of

By Janel Breitenstein

If you have kids, you’ve likely had those moments where an apology from them is highly in order.

Say, for that Nike chucked at an unsuspecting sibling’s ear. Or when your child freaked out the UPS guy by catapulting from behind a bush. Or slipped out a word more appropriate for late-night cable.

In those instances, “sorry” might be uttered with all the enthusiasm of, say, doing homework. And that probably means your child is sitting down on the outside, but standing up on the inside.

It was an “aha” moment for my parenting when I read Tedd Tripp’s observation from Shepherding a Child’s Heart: 

A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable. Is it not the hypocrisy that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees?

But, Tripp observes, that’s exactly what we do with kids. We correct their behavior—the symptom—without addressing the heart beneath it. 

It’s just as tempting to attempt behavior-management with my spouse. Can you just do the right thing? Or at least the thing I want you to do, doggone it?

But both marriage (and parenthood) are about more than me getting what I want. 

Loving my husband involves intricate concern for his heart and love for God rather than just slapping on a little well-behaved whitewash. 

Your wife might be great at all the wife things—but struggle with being a martyr, failing to acknowledge her dependence on others, or resting from her work and achievement. 

Your husband might treat all the neighbors and churchfolk like they’re his mother—but hide resentment, superiority, a hunger for approval. 

As spouses, we see (and indirectly steward) our spouse’s heart issues. We could behavior-manage to ease the craziness, treating just the symptom. Or we could look deeper, asking questions to explore and expose what lies beneath.

Will my ultimate message to my spouse be “try harder”?

Or “we both need Jesus”?

“I’m sorry.” Two hard-to-say words that will transform your relationship. Listen to Gary Chapman talk about why. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28

Action Points: Push back a bit when you see your spouse leaning to goodness for the sake of appearance. Without assuming motive, ask heart-probing questions empowering him or her toward personal conclusions about the “why’s” in his or her heart:

  • Why do you feel motivated to do that?
  • On the surface, this looks like a good thing. But can I ask you something, without assuming? Is there a chance you’ve got some [insert sin pattern] going on there?
  • I appreciate your willingness to please me. But I think underneath your action, what I would desire is for you to feel __. I know I can’t force or manufacture your emotion, But I would like your actions to be from the heart: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9). 

Pray not just for your spouse’s behavior, but his or her heart attitudes. Ask God to exchange the “stone” parts of our heart for flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). 

January 11 

Choose Your Own Love Story 

By Janel Breitenstein

We’re all suckers for a good love story. Even when the characters are, say, a couple of anthropomorphic animated trolls.

We don’t just dig the attraction, you-happen-to-be-exactly-the-stone-cold-fox-I-was-keening-for stuff. We listen to the top 40 for two hours, or watch a whole season (or nine) of shows, our spirits pressing the couple together through everything life or a team of writers can throw at them.

Whether it’s This is Us or Gru and Lucy, they’ve all got something in common: death to self. Sacrifice. Overcoming. 

There’s some level of “Give up on this? Make me.”

Paul Miller, author of A Loving Life, believes any good love story (or story in general) follows the breathtaking pattern of the gospel. Like Jesus did, characters descend into some form of loss or death. “As we go downward into death, we are active: active in seeking humility, in taking the lower place, in mindless, hidden serving. This is the journey Jesus took.”

And in a good story, that descent is followed by a “resurrection”—a reality hands-down better than before. But resurrection isn’t something we can manufacture. We’ve just got to wait for it.

Perhaps love stories are compelling because they mirror the real Love Story that God is already playing out: His relentless pursuit. His bridging the gap. His restoring everything we ever lost.

It’s exactly what John says about the true-love test: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Sometimes that death looks like throwing your arm around your mate as you drift off to sleep after an argument. Forgiving after something unspeakable. Deciding your mate will be more important than what’s between you.

In every story of true love played out around the world—every angry word held back or dirty sock picked up out of generosity—God is retelling His own love story.

How’s that for a happy ending?

Can you honestly say, “Whatever bad happens, I choose us”

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff:  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him…Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9,11)

Action Points: Ligon Duncan has said, “People don’t fall out of love. They fall out of repentance and forgiveness.” What could be your next step toward the daily self-death (and hopefully resurrection!) in your love story?

January 12

So I Married a Bank Robber

By Bruce Goff

One time I discovered my wife robbed a bank.

I was driving her car when I noticed a chain dangling from a pen in her visor. Now I’m no super-sleuth, but those chains are put on pens to keep them somewhere. 

I confronted her and she confessed to everything. She had “accidentally” taken it from the drive-thru at the bank and intended to return it.

I told a friend and he said, “So your wife robbed a bank?”

Yes! She did!

Okay, maybe that’s not the most charitable way to frame it.

Uncharitable framing—that’s something I do to her way too much.

“You NEVER listen to me!” 

Really? Never? She’s never once listened to you?

“You’re so emotional. You’re making too big of a deal out of this.”

Really? It’s about some emotional ratio? Not the fact that she’s upset?

Sometimes it’s just how I frame it in my mind. She never gets enough done at home while I’m at work. She’s just lazy and doesn’t respect me.

Really? You do know she’s keeping your two little girls alive on a minute-by-minute basis. Remind me again how much work around the house you get done when watching the girls? (Hint: It’s somewhere around none).

Let’s try re-framing these charitably.

“Hey, I noticed you seem distracted. Is something up?”

“This is really affecting you. Help me better understand why.”

“I’m so thankful to God for a wife who gives so much of herself for our children while keeping our home from burning down.”

There can be resentment underneath uncharitable framing. But the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13 that love (or “charity” in the King James) is not resentful—rather it bears all things and believes all things. 

Marriages need charity.

It’s not about creating excuses for your spouse’s sin, but changing the lens through which you view your spouse. When you want your spouse to change, first try changing your framing. Ditch resentment and choose charity.

It’s possible she just accidentally borrowed the pen.

Is laughter a necessary tool for blended families? 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Action Points:

  • Think of a time when you framed your spouse uncharitably. How could it be reframed?
  • I heard this from a pastor once, try reading 1 Corinthians 13 but replace the word “love” with your name. See if it still sounds true. (If it doesn’t, you’re not alone)
  • Pray that God would make what’s true of love true of you.

January 13

The Power of the Table

By David and Meg Robbins

This week, we’re featuring excerpts from FamilyLife’s devotional book The Story of Us. Click here to order your copy.  

When we moved to Western Europe to do ministry at an elite university, we quickly learned our Bible-Belt upbringing had not prepared us for conversations about faith in a post-modern, secular environment. We had much to learn and little to offer—outside of Jesus. We felt pretty helpless when it came to engaging people in gospel conversations. 

That’s when we learned the power of the table. We began inviting people into our home and sharing a meal, and this broke down all sorts of barriers. We began to build an exponential amount of trust in short order. 

Being a family that seeks to point people to Jesus involves two simple components:  

  • Come to the table
  • Set a place at your table for others

Coming to the table touches us in both spiritual and relational ways. It is where we listen and talk, laugh and cry, dream and plan. And yes, Jesus should often be a topic of conversation—how He loves, what we’re learning of Him, and how our family can represent Him well. 

But the table is not just for “us”; we join God by welcoming others too. Setting a place for guests communicates love, acceptance, and grace. To the hungry it says, eat. To the lonely it says, welcome. To the needy it says, receive. To all it says, God loves you. 

We used to think:

  • What do we really have to offer the people God has placed around us? 
  • What if they really knew our marriage from the inside?
  • Isn’t our marriage and faith too “in process” to be of much help to others?

No matter how underwhelming or unqualified you think you or your marriage are, know that God delights in taking the imperfect—and sometimes ugly—things in our lives and making them into beautiful things that give Him glory.

Do you believe God wants you to join in His eternal purposes? Represent Jesus to your neighbors, beginning with a simple invitation to your table. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Action Points: Do you and your spouse leave an empty spot at your table for guests? What would it take to make the table a place of open invitation in your home? Spend time praying for ways to display the love of Christ through your hospitality.

January 14

Only the Lonely

By Lisa Lakey

This week, we’re featuring excerpts from FamilyLife’s devotional book The Story of Us. Click here to order your copy

A fairly introverted person, I tend to relish time and space to myself. I enjoy those rare, quiet moments where I can be alone with my thoughts. Yet, it caught me off guard when, right in the middle of marriage and kids, I began to feel a profound sense of loneliness.

It wasn’t that I felt alone in a physical sense. But deep down, I felt no one really saw me.

Loneliness is a bit of an enigma that way. It’s similar to walking into a crowded room full of strangers. And loneliness doesn’t have to make sense to be devastating. The further it grips you, the further it isolates you from those you love.

King David knew a thing or two about loneliness. Who would have thought being a king could make one feel so alone? Yet in Psalm 25, his cry to God stated he was “lonely and afflicted” (verse 16).

Often, as the pressures of life pile up—kids, crazy schedules, work, and more decisions than anyone wants to make—instead of turning toward each other, we tend to pull away. We isolate our thoughts, emotions, and even our affections from those we love most.

But unlike my own struggle with loneliness, David goes on to say in verse 20, “I take refuge in you.” Instead of pulling away and hiding in his grief, he takes comfort in the One who sees him.

When I finally fessed up to my husband how I had been feeling, he shocked me. “I’m lonely, too,” he said. Maybe you’re battling something similar. Maybe your spouse has hinted to you they haven’t felt connected.

Here are four things to remember when loneliness hits:

  •       Feelings are just feelings.
  •       You have to fight strong emotion with truth.
  •       You need to discuss these feelings with your spouse.
  •       Reconnect with the One who is always with you.

Just as David took refuge in God during his darkest moments, remember He is ready and waiting to be your refuge as well. And He promises to “never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). No matter how lonely you may feel, you are not alone. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. (Psalm 25:14-15

Action Points: If you struggle with loneliness, confess it to your spouse. To fight against the loneliness, commit to reading Scripture together every evening to grow your connection with God and each other.

January 15 

All He Heard was “Boooooo”

By Ann Wilson

This week, we’re featuring excerpts from FamilyLife’s devotional book The Story of Us. Click here to order your copy.  

One morning, Dave and I were speaking to a group of young moms at our church. Dave began telling the women what almost every one of their husbands probably experienced growing up. “He most likely had a relative cheering for him, ‘Good job!’”

Then he brought me into the story. When I said yes to his marriage proposal, he explained, I was shouting, “Of all the men in the world, I choose you!”

And then he lowered the boom.

“But ladies, after we have been married awhile, all we hear is ‘BOOOOOO!’”

On the ride home I defensively asked, “You think I boo you? I’m not booing you—I’m helping you.”

“It doesn’t feel like help,” Dave quietly said. “You are constantly critiquing the things I do or say.”

I began to ponder what things would be like if I were to constantly cheer for him. I was concerned this wouldn’t work, because he would think I was satisfied. And that wouldn’t be good, right?

I went on like this for several days until I felt God tugging at my heart, calling me to surrender this situation.  

So I prayed. Father God, forgive me. I have not been respecting Dave; I’ve been nagging him and criticizing him. I give up my control of trying to change him.

A few months later, our family sat down for dinner. I said, “I want to stop for a minute and say thanks to Dad for working so hard every single day to provide every meal for our home.” Then I turned to Dave and continued, “It’s easy to take your hard work for granted. You are a really good man.”

Later that night, he told me that my words were the best thing that had happened to him all week. All he heard in that moment was applause.

Over the next months, as I began looking for things in which I could encourage him, I began to see God changing me. This doesn’t mean I lost my voice and never criticized Dave. But my anger and bitterness started going away, replaced by a heart of peace and joy.   

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11

Action Points:  Would your spouse describe you as their cheerleader or critic? Consider surrendering yourself to the Lord, and ask Him to give you eyes to see your spouse the way He does. Think of specific words of encouragement to tell your spouse this week.

January 16

Happily Married

 By Scott Williams

This week, we’re featuring excerpts from FamilyLife’s devotional book The Story of Us. Click here to order your copy.  

My wife, Ellie, and I have been happily married for more than 30 years.

Well, I say “happily married” because we’re still married. Yet that doesn’t mean we’ve been happy for our entire marriage.

I can’t begin to count the times I have been a huge drag on our marriage. And there have been more than a few times when the love of my life has not been the least bit lovable. As we’ve trudged our way through those storms, we’ve learned to cling to God for strength and to each other for support … and that makes us happier. 

I’m reminded of the Bible’s account of the night preceding the last day of Jesus’ life. His disciples were arguing about which of them was the greatest. (Or to put it in the context of a marriage, they were squabbling about who was the most right.)

Jesus had every reason to bail. Instead, He quietly and happily took on the role of a servant, washing the feet of each disciple—including the one who would betray Him to death.

After bathing the last set of feet, He said, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:15-17). 

When we seek our own happiness in marriage, we claim we’re the most important. But God never designed marriage to be a competition for love and happiness. 

When Ellie loves me in spite of my times of weak leadership, my bad attitude, and any number of other faults I’m so often guilty of, she’s choosing agape love—love that gives without considering what you’ll get in return.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:17

Action Points: Talk together about a time your spouse loved or served you when you didn’t deserve it. How did that increase happiness in your home?

January 17

“Come Here, I Want To See You”

By Brian Goins

This week, we’re featuring excerpts from FamilyLife’s devotional book The Story of Us. Click here to order your copy. 

When Alexander Graham Bell uttered the first words over a phone, “Mr. Watson, come here … I want to see you,” I doubt he ever imagined that we would carry his creation around in our pockets. Ironically, the invention he designed to increase communication and decrease space between humans has now turned into one of the greatest sources of isolation.

When I got married, I envisioned a relationship that looked like the first four minutes of the Pixar movie Up. 

Unfortunately, rather than loving my wife well, I’m far more like the dog from the same movie who constantly interrupts the conversation when he sees a squirrel. How many conversations with my wife do I have where I’m looking intently in her eyes, feel my phone vibrate in my pocket, and think, “Squirrel!”

Someone once defined love as focus. It’s not enough just to hear words coming out of someone’s mouth—real connection is truly seeing someone and understanding their heart. The psalmist says we have a God who has “searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:1-2).

God knows us because He pays attention to us. When we call, He listens. God never interrupts our prayers to like an Instagram post.

One of the greatest compliments you can give one another is your undivided attention. James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, “Let every person be quick to hear” (James 1:19). The more we wire our brain to be attuned to our spouse than to our attention-deficit-inducing devices, the stronger our connection is.

Do you ask our spouse on a regular basis, “Are you feeling noticed?” We focus on what we truly care about. If our spouse doesn’t feel like we are paying attention to them, marriage will drift toward isolation. 

It may be time to put down the device and say to our spouse, “Honey, come here, I want to see you.”

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff:  “I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy . . . therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)

Action Points: Try implementing a consistent technology Sabbath, whether for certain hours of the day or days of the week. Notice how your attention redirects itself on your spouse.  

January 18

Just the Two of Us?

By Leslie Barner

This week, we’re featuring excerpts from FamilyLife’s devotional book The Story of Us. Click here to order your copy. 

Most couples go into marriage thinking they alone will shape their marriage relationship—that from the wedding day forward, their marriage experience will be influenced solely by the two of them.

But is it really just the two of us?

The truth is, every couple enters the marriage relationship with an idea of how marriage should work. They’re influenced by many factors—the culture, entertainment, the media, faith, and more. Some couples may be influenced by a previous marriage. But more than anything, couples are influenced by their models of marriage growing up.

I realized this truth during a conversation with our daughter Tiffany who was engaged and had come over to discuss her wedding plans. She let out a long sigh of exasperation and said, “Well I may not know much about planning a wedding, but I certainly know how to be a good wife, because I learned that from you, Mom.”

Her words moved me to tears. I never really thought about how much our four daughters were learning about marriage from Aubrey and me over the years, and how influential our marriage would be in their lives.

Whether the marriages modeled for the two of you were good or not so good, because they were modeled by imperfect people, not one of those models was perfect. The good news is, there is a marriage model that is perfect—Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church.

This is the model that God intends for us to reflect: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). 

Let this be your ultimate marriage model. If you’re willing, it could influence you in ways that will help you build a marriage that is healthy, strong, loving, and lasting.

Remember, others are watching you, including the next generation. What will your marriage model for them?

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Action Point: Write down a list of things others probably see when observing your marriage. Assess how you would like the Lord to shape your marriage model.

January 19

Can I Talk to my Best Friend, Please?

By Carlos Santiago

This week, we’re featuring excerpts from FamilyLife’s devotional book The Story of Us. Click here to order your copy

It seemed every time my wife and I had a conversation about my mother-in-law, drama would soon follow. If I expressed my frustrations about her mother’s actions, she would get defensive. If I kept my mouth shut, she would notice my silence and get defensive anyway. I couldn’t win. 

As the months went by, we learned to identify off-limits topics and steer clear of them. While this worked on one level, I could sense a growing separation between us. 

In desperation, I tried something new. 

I told her, “You’re my best friend, but you’re also my wife. Sometimes I need to be able to say things to a best friend that I can’t say to my wife. Can you not be my wife for a moment, and just be my friend?”

Intrigued, she agreed. Then I proceeded. 

“My wife’s mother is driving me crazy. She …”

When I finished speaking, there was an eerie silence. I braced myself for the inevitable reaction, but what my wife said next changed the course of our marriage forever. 

“It sounds like your mother-in-law is nuts. Have you been able to tell your wife any of this?”

“I’ve tried, but I don’t think she can hear me. I think she thinks I hate her mother,” I said. 

“It kind of sounds like that.”

“I don’t hate her,” I said. “I like that my wife has such a close relationship with her mother. I just want us to be able to establish our own family and traditions. But I don’t feel like we can.” 

“I didn’t realize,” she said. 

When we were done talking, it was like a weight had been lifted. Our situation hadn’t changed, but we found a way to talk about it without getting into a fight. Knowing she understood made a huge difference. 

It might feel weird at first, but this technique does a few things: 

  • It prepares your spouse to hear something difficult. 
  • It puts you on the same side. 
  • It reinforces the idea that you are still friends. 
  • It helps you slow down and listen. 

The next time you need to have a difficult conversation with your spouse, try asking permission to talk to the “best friend” version of your spouse instead.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)

Action Points:  Identify a conversation you’ve been putting off for fear of your spouse’s reaction. Give this “best friend” technique a try for yourself this week. 

January 20

Shouldn’t He Know What I Want from Starbucks?

By Janel Breitenstein

My boyfriend at the time set himself apart from all the other college dudes in a curious way: He wasn’t all that impressed with me.

Well, I take that back. I sensed his deep respect (and still do). I sensed his quiet pride in me, in my accomplishments. But they weren’t what snagged him.

Somehow, he received the message I wished everyone else could read, even when I didn’t read it myself: I’m so much more, and remarkably, less, than what I do. 

This is probably one of the reasons I married him. 

Maybe it’s the same reason it’s not a big deal to me that he doesn’t always remember my shoe size. Because he could know my favorite Starbucks drink (actually—he does), but space out on the reasons, healthy and not-so-much, why I’m hurt by our son’s attitude. Or am weirded out by that interpersonal situation at work. 

He could excel at loving the “me” on paper more than the hard work of loving me in person.

Don’t get me wrong. Details matter. They can communicate, “I see you. Your details are something important.”

But then again, you could know how your husband likes his apple pie, but not understand why his shoulders slope lower after work. 

You could know her favorite shade of lipstick and what box to get when she needs to color her hair—but not care why she exhales at the whiskers left in the sink. 

You could know exactly what to get him for his birthday, but miss out on the insecurity he feels about being a dad.

I wonder if Jesus felt a shade of this. The Pharisees accomplished it spectacularly: They knew God on paper like no one else, but totally missed His heart. 

They missed it to the point of not recognizing Him when He showed up in the flesh.

More than knowing all the little things today? Know and love your spouse.

Are you loving your mate as God loves you? Listen to Tim and Darcy Kimmel explain your mate’s three driving needs on FamilyLife Today®. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Let love be genuine. (Romans 12:9

Action Points: Today when you see your spouse after work, take a brief moment to hear about his or her day and truly empathize. Express your compassion and sincere interest.

January 21

Watch Out for Bedbugs

By Lisa Lakey

One night, as the hubs and I were snuggling up and watching TV, something fluttered near my head. I tensed, sensing what was about to happen. Seconds later, it attacked. A giant (sort of) June bug flew straight at us. I dove left, and my husband dove right.

When we looked back, the flying offender was comfortably resting in our seats. And there we were, now at opposite ends of the room. We went from snuggling to fleeing in 0.7 seconds.

But flying bugs aren’t all we have to worry about. Ever heard of bedbugs?

No, not the things you worry about when staying at a not-so-5-star hotel. “Bedbugs” are all those things that get in between you and your spouse’s intimacy—kids, phones, entertainment, stress, etc. Anything that stops you and your spouse from heading to the bedroom for some private moments.

So how do you check for bedbugs? First, you have to know they’re there and identify them for what they are. For example, it’s hard to flirt with your spouse when your eyes are on your phone. If this is the case, your phone might be a bedbug.

After you have properly identified the source of the infestation, it’s time to exterminate. I’m not talking chemicals (although it might take a hefty dose of patience and an ibuprofen). 

If a phone is your bedbug, set a time limit; no phones in hand after 8 p.m. Television? Turn it off after the kids are in bed a few times a week. Kids (yes, they can be bedbugs, too)? Tuck them in bed early a couple of nights, put a cup of water beside their bed, put an extra nightlight in their room, sing one more song … whatever it takes.

Don’t let these bedbugs come sneaking in between you and your honey. Instead of flying apart, see how fast you can come together.

Your bedroom should be a place of marital refuge. Read “10 Ways to Create a More Romantic Bedroom.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom. (Song of Solomon 2:15)

Action Points: What are the bedbugs in your marriage? Sit down with your spouse and identify any infestations. Then discuss any ideas to stop them from getting in the way of your intimacy.

January 22 

Not a Marriage Counselor

By Carlos Santiago

There was nothing left to do but wait for the doorbell to ring. But as we waited, my wife’s eyes filled with uncertainty. 

“I’m not a counselor,” she said.

Our pastor had asked us to meet with a new couple from church. Their marriage was in trouble, and he thought we could help. Our stories were similar, but I didn’t have a clue what we were supposed to do.

Maybe a marriage you care about is swimming against a riptide and you feel unequipped to help. That’s ok. Our job is not to fix people’s problems. Our job is to help people connect with the One who can. 

If you find yourself sitting across the room from a marriage in trouble, try the following.

  1. Listen.

It’s easy to observe a marriage from afar and assume we know what’s happening. But people’s lives are seldom that simple. We must listen well. 

  1. Pick the right side.

You’re naturally going to want to side with one or the other. But even if you can relate better to the pain one spouse is experiencing, you must make it clear: You’re on the side of their marriage. 

  1. Never lose hope.

The problems you encounter probably won’t evaporate in an hour over coffee. They may even seem hopeless. But no matter how big their problems seem, God is bigger. Your sincere belief in their ability to pull through can help them hold on for one more day.

It turned out our pastor knew what he was doing when he set up our meeting with that couple. We didn’t have all the answers, but we were able to listen, offer a shoulder to cry on, and point them to the God who has helped us in our own marriage more times than I can count.

Grab more tips on how to help a marriage in trouble

The Good Stuff: His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6

Action Points: Is there another couple God is calling you to help? Discuss your feelings with your spouse. Is there something in your own marriage you feel this couple could benefit from?

January 23

The ‘Man’ in Manipulation

by Jim Mitchell

You know that nauseating pit in your stomach when you realize you’re being manipulated?

Author Tim Kimmel says there’s a reason this behavior, whether intentional or subconscious, is so toxic:

God never intended one person to control another. He didn’t wire us to respond well to it, either. In each of our hearts is an innate aversion to a person or persons from the outside compelling us to do things that primarily benefit them.

Yep, ugly stuff. Ugly in marriage. Ugly when she does it to me, and ugly when I do it to her.

Uglier still when I rationalize it, which I’m good at doing in predictably man-ish ways.

Putting the “man” in manipulation, I’ll take one of my typical trifecta of desires (food, sex, respect) and pout when I don’t get ‘em.

Then as the rift grows, I’ll rationalize with truisms like, “Men are just visually stimulated” and “Doesn’t the Bible require a wife to respect her husband?”

And at that point, something important has shifted. Desire has grown into demand. And my spouse has shrunk from person to a means-to-an-end.

Again, the desire itself may not have been wrong. But desire achieved through manipulation is wrong.

Lord, forgive me. Not for my desires. But for the ways I go about satisfying them.

Click to hear why the simple physical act of sex carries such emotional weight for your husband. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)

Action Points: Does your marriage suffer from “man”ipulation? Get honest about it. Grab her hand, bow your heads, and confess to God. Then ask for help finding a healthier, more honest approach.

January 24

The “S” Word

By Leslie J. Barner

When I first heard that Christian wives are to submit to their husbands, it was like hearing a four-letter word. 

I’m the oldest of four girls. I was used to being the leader. “Submission” was not in my vocabulary.

For the first several months of our marriage, little decisions could turn into major battles. Then one of those battles went nuclear. I had a complete meltdown. But Aubrey remained calm and loving even as he stood his ground.

Wanting peace and harmony in our relationship, I decided to find out more about biblical submission.

One attitude-changing truth for me was discovering that God wasn’t calling me to be inferior to my husband. We’re both His image bearers (Genesis 1:26-27). We are equally loved and valued and have equal access to Him (Romans 8:17). He just calls us to different roles.

The husband’s role is as a servant first—loving his wife sacrificially and with humility—then as a leader who is in turn following Christ’s lead (see Ephesians 5:25).

The wife’s role is that of a helper (Genesis 2:18). To lead well, a husband needs his wife’s help—her advice and her involvement in their relationship, home, and family life, including the decision making. 

I also learned submission isn’t just for wives. Both spouses are called to submission. Ephesians 5:22-29 tells me I’m to willingly yield to my husband’s authority out of obedience to God. And my husband, too, surrenders to authority—the authority of Christ.

I came to understand that submission was not being dominated or controlled. The authority God gives husbands reflects Christ’s relationship with the church—for whom He laid down His life. 

With an understanding of what biblical submission is (and isn’t) and a desire to obey God, Aubrey and I went from all out war to becoming a united team.

Listen to how men can experience spiritual growth that is both compelling and compassionate. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)

Action Points: Wife, knowing what biblical submission is (and isn’t), what might it look like for you to yield to your husband’s leadership (for instance, supporting a decision he has made even if you disagree)?

Husband, what might it look like for you to be a servant leader to your wife (laying down your life for her)? 

Then together, Identify some hesitations you might still have about submission, and some possible solutions for addressing them. For instance, if there is a lack of trust, talk about some ways you can rebuild trust together.

January 25

“I’m not sure I want children”

By Ashley Mercier

I kissed dating goodbye. I donned the “my beloved is mine” ring. Youth camp was my jam. Revivals, evangelism training, acoustic worship sing-fests lasting well past midnight. 

I was a career Christian who did it all right. Especially dating. With a few bumps in the path, I walked a (somewhat pious) straight and narrow road that I hoped would lead right to the altar.

But like the Israelites, I did more circling than forward movement. And at 33, still single, I’d had it with God’s way. I wanted algorithms, matches, dimensions … something!  

A couple of years and seven men later, I found the guy. He can’t sing, didn’t read any dating books, and didn’t wear any rings. Yet God showed me that He was mine—clearly.

It was our second date. Hypothetical children were the topic. He said, “I’m not sure I want to have children…” 

Shock, panic, doom. 

Then quietly, “It’s just that there are so many children in the world already who need parents. I think that’s what I want: adoption.”

I swooned a little, but had no understanding of the foreboding of that statement.

We’ve adopted now. Two precious children. It’s a great story made greater by the revelation that I cannot have kids. I didn’t know this eight years ago when we had that second date. But God did.

God, in His mercy, provided me with a husband whose resume I would have never written. His singing voice pales in comparison to the nurture he offers as a father. Being his first “I love you” embodies the real meaning behind that beloved purity ring. 

Like any marriage, the minor points of the story are riddled with character development (read: character building!), but the table of contents demonstrates God’s intention in our union. 

The span between second date and two adoptions was defined by one word: Wait. The same word that defined my first 33 years has followed me since. Life is full of waiting—for a friend to be healed, on children, for agreement in marriage, for a job, for finances to straighten out. It never ends. 

We pray and trust our way to each next milestone, so we can look back and see God’s faithfulness.

Do you find yourself in a season of unknowns? Read “7 Lessons I’ve Learned From Waiting.” 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Action Points: Sit and write a timeline of your life. Hit the major milestones, focusing on God’s faithfulness. Do you see patterns? How has He provided in the past?

January 26

Of Nubs and Nuggets

By Bruce Goff

My 2-year-old daughter stared down and began to grab a nice sized fry. But she quickly put it back and with precision picked a pathetic nub of a fry.

I had asked her to share a fry with her mom and that’s the one she chose.

A dinky nub.

How often do I do that in marriage? What’s the bare minimum I can give my spouse to make sure I’m doing what God asks of me?

Like when I give my spouse a nub of a conversation. “How’re you doing? Good? Good. Glad we had this talk.” And now back to watching basketball highlights on YouTube.

Or when I give her a nub of grace. What?! You didn’t do [insert no big deal] exactly how I thought you should—again?! RAAAR!!!

To give and serve someone that way is to doubt Jesus when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

When I intentionally love my wife big time, it blesses me. The joy I get after a real heart-to-heart that blesses her is better than any dunk highlight or victory in a trivial argument.

It’s like C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity: “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”

Similarly, love aims at another’s good and gets joy “thrown in.” Selfishness aims at personal joy and misses everything.

God delights to love me big time (Ephesians 1:3-8). And because I’m made in His likeness, I’m made to do the same—to love God and love others, which certainly includes my spouse. And even if she doesn’t respond like I hoped, loving her honors God, and there’s joy in His design. 

Later on during dinner, without being asked, my daughter offered to share not a fry nub, but an entire chicken nugget. Now that’s big time love—the kind I want to show my spouse.

Are you giving your time to your spouse? Read why it matters

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: “As the Father has loved me, so have I 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 be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:8-11)

Action Points:

  • How are you tempted to give less to your spouse?
  • What’s a simple nugget of love you can give your spouse today?
  • Ask God to help you believe that giving is better than receiving.

January 27

Gold Stars

By Lisa Lakey

In college, I took copious notes, and studied them meticulously before every test. Each “A” was like a little gold star in my heart.

At work, those little gold stars took on the form of a promotion. Or a simple, “Good job.”

As a new parent, I beamed with pride when my daughter started speaking early. Potty trained before age 2? More little gold stars.

But when I tried to apply this aptitude to marriage, my efforts fell flat. Homemade meals meant to impress were burned. I lovingly washed his laundry only to shrink his shirts. Even the “helpful” advice I gave him turned out to be less-than-helpful. I missed my gold stars.

I’d like to say I was motivated by my profound love for my husband. But I’d be lying. Oh, I loved him alright, but my actions were motivated by something much more selfish: my need to succeed.

At an early age, I bought into the lie that success = value. That I was “less” if I failed, if someone didn’t like me, if I wasn’t the best. So I held on dearly to each little gold star, be it figurative or literal (God bless elementary teachers!). Each one a life buoy to hold me over until the next one. And in between? Lots of non-star-worthy moments.

Maybe this is why I didn’t accept Jesus until I was in my twenties. I just couldn’t fathom a world where, “the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16).

But can I share something I’m still learning? Marriage is no place for gold stars.

My husband needs a wife motivated by love, not one obsessed with achievement. And I want my husband to feel he can come to me when he falters a bit, not scared of whether or not I will hold him to some unrealistic standard. Our value in this marriage is not determined by our successes, but upon the love and forgiveness Christ has shown each of us.  

No gold stars here. But love, hugs, apologies, and second chances? We have lots of those.

Read more on Giving Your Spouse the Freedom to Fail..”

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. (Isaiah 43:4)

Action Points: Motives can hide in unsuspecting places. Like in the desires we have for our marriage … and our spouses. What motivates your actions toward your spouse? Did you clean the dishes after dinner because you wanted to lighten their load? Or was it to prove a point — do to help around the house! Today, attempt to examine your motives in each interaction with your spouse. Pray for God to reveal any that might not be driven by love.

January 28 

Ham Sandwich vs. Chicken Curry

By Aubrey Way

My wife finds generosity attractive. I appreciate this extra incentive to live generously, and according to Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). 

But one thing I find interesting about His words is how often this verse seems to be recited versus how seldom it’s believed (including by me).

I don’t have any trouble believing that being generous is the right way to be and being greedy is the wrong way to be. But believing there’s more blessing to be had in giving than receiving—that giving is better for me than receiving? That can be tough.

When leftovers from last night’s dinner provide lunch for only one, it doesn’t seem better for me to spend part of my morning packing a lunch. Nor does it seem better for me to eat a cold, boring sandwich while my wife enjoys hot chicken curry over rice.

I get the feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

But think about what life would be like if everyone believed Jesus’ words. Imagine a negotiation at a used car lot where both parties are vying to be givers rather than receivers, “I absolutely won’t accept more than $5,000!” The world would be unrecognizable.

What if we genuinely believed that generosity was good for us—like vegetables and exercise—and that greed was bad for us—like deep-fried Oreos and doomscrolling?

How would things be different if we fully believed showing generosity toward our spouses was not only good for them, but also what’s best for us? That would be life-altering for a marriage… the kind of belief that could make a ham sandwich as satisfying as chicken curry.

Are generosity and finance touchy subjects in your home? Check out our online course, “Financial Freedom for Couples.” 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors. (Proverbs 1:19)

Action Points: Consider what the day will hold for your spouse. Think of one way you can show generosity toward your spouse that will be a blessing to them today—even if it’s just letting them have the coveted leftovers.

January 29

A Date with Reality

By Judy Burrows

Since we’re facing a cross-country move, dates out with my husband have become more practical lately. We’ve found ourselves spending weekends finding stuff to sell and making decisions on what to keep and what to toss.

This led to an unexpected date with reality.

Someone wanted to buy my mother’s handicap ramp. Our “date” that day was to deliver the ramp to a house-bound widow an hour away. As we drove, we talked about details of our upcoming move and where we might live. We dreamed about what our new place might look like.

Upon arriving at her humble home, however, all our dreams took on a new outlook.

It was a rainy night and her present ramp was in bad shape. She explained how she had slipped on it many times. 

Then with an endearing pride, she described how her late husband had made it for her many years ago. He had done a great job, but our humid climate had been hard on the wooden structure. “If he were still living,” she said, “it would still be spotless and strong.”

As Jim and I drove home after the sale we asked ourselves, “Should we even have taken her money?”

Suddenly all the details we were talking about on the ride up didn’t seem as important. We realized that whatever housing situation we chose in our new location it would be safer and stronger than that precious widow’s deteriorating home.

That was a humbling revelation. While we might want certain perks in a new home, we don’t need that much.

I am so glad we met that sweet widow that day. She reminded us of what is really important. A house should be a shelter over our heads, not a way to show off to others.

I was also reminded that while our marriage may not be “spotless,” it is strong. And the fact that I get to live with my husband in whatever house we end up choosing is what will make it a home.

And that’s a reality I’m happy to live with.

Are you holding a grudge in your marriage? Dave Wilson talks ways to let it go. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have, for he has said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) 

Action points: Have you ever taken the time to look at all you have instead of all you don’t have? What do you possess that is beyond monetary value?

January 30

When You’re Saying “Road Closed”

By Janel Breitenstein

The past three weeks, the road around my house has been a traffic-coned circus. I can spot an excavator from my window. Even when I can’t see the jackhammer or the circular-asphalt-saw-thingy, I can still hear them. 

It’s got me thinking of the “road closed” signs we tend to toss up in marriage, their silent blink warding off any potential violators. Even if you live here.

What habits keep us from finding our way home to each other? Our relational traffic cones tend to fall along at least three lines. 

  1. Self-sufficiency. Perhaps in the past, we’ve learned we can’t trust others. So we subtly (or not-so-subtly) communicate, “I don’t need you.” Nothing signals “stay away” like “you’re just a bonus to my independence. You offer no real contributions to my self-reliance.”

But God has created us to need one another, as different parts of a body. None of us would want our pancreas taking off on its own. Without others, each of us is just about as effective (see 1 Corinthians 12:19-21).

  1. Selfishness. Rather than just desiring our needs get met, we demand—and like our mutual enemy—steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). It’s often because we can’t see our spouses. We have trouble visualizing their needs before we visualize our own. Talk about a roadblock.

Frankly? In those instances, we love ourselves more than our spouse. Sometimes we just need to trust God to provide for us. Or maybe we can try asking our spouse for what we need rather than just taking it. 

  1. Self-hatred. Sometimes we’re humiliated by our own neediness, which causes us to withdraw. We may undermine our spouse’s efforts to come toward us; to embrace us as “naked and unashamed”—emotionally, physically, and spiritually

But God liberates us by reminding us that because of Jesus, we’re no longer condemnable (
Romans 8:1). 

What’s keeping the two of you from freely approaching each other?

Do you really need your spouse? Consider these nine reasons you might. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:19-21)

Action Points: 

  • If you struggle with self-sufficiency, explore the experiences in your past which have led to your difficulty to trust, need, and depend. Explore how you came to associate your need with fear, inadequacy, or ___.
    • Work to express one way you need or appreciate your spouse each day this week. Make sure your spouse knows they’re far more than a happy bonus.
  • If you struggle with selfishness, start by acknowledging the times when you allow your needs to trump that of your spouse. (If it’s hard to see specifics, your spouse might have a few examples.)
    • Work to choose your spouse over your own needs at least once each day this week.
  • If you struggle with self-hatred, recognize God created us as needy: “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna…that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Explore how you came to associate your need with shame, or __. 
  • Work to express one way you’re thankful to depend on your spouse each day this week.

January 31 

Fighting Skunks with Bacon

By Scott Williams

My brother and sister-in-law have one of those energetic Australian cattle dogs. Roux lives a fairly docile life indoors but expends all her pent-up energy in their spacious backyard. She especially loves to chase any cat in view.

Or anything that looks like a cat.

One evening, we were sitting in the den when Roux barked to come in from one of her backyard jaunts. As soon as the door opened, we knew there was a skunk in the yard. Less than half a second later, we knew there was skunk all over Roux.

My brother whisked her up to give her a bath, employing every home remedy known to man to minimize the odor. I say minimize because the smell was still there. And strong.

The next morning, I was overcome by a strong, familiar smell coming from the kitchen. Not an unpleasant one, but one that rescued my senses. No longer did everything in the house smell like skunk, but like bacon.

I know it’s not kosher, but I couldn’t help but think about 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 when I smelled the bacon.  

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

There can be a lot of rottenness in the world, and marriage isn’t immune to its stench. At times, it’s so obvious and undeniable it’s nearly enough to knock you for a loop.

As followers of Christ, our presence should hint at the presence of Christ nearby. Not just to the world, but to our spouses. I’ll remind you we never saw the skunk, but we never had to. It was there.

When unseen powers of this world threaten to overwhelm my wife, I should radiate the aroma of Christ. And vice versa. Our words, attitudes, and actions never stay with us, but end up filling our home and affecting our mates.  

The world can be stinky enough without us adding to it.

Read more on fighting the stench of this world with the aroma of Christ. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Action Points: How do we overcome the aroma of skunky death with the aroma of Christ? By introducing the good to overwhelm the bad. How can you be the aroma of Christ to your spouse? Through the help of the Holy Spirit train yourself to find the good things, to bathe in them, and then to let the goodness waft toward your spouse. 

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