August: I Do Every Day

August 1

Zoom, Zoom

By Janel Breitenstein

Back when we were living in a run-down neighborhood, I would go on morning walks. Aside from that time when I had to sidestep a dead rat, it was actually one of the calmest parts of my day.

Once, I brought my camera. A heron frequented a nearby vacant lot, and I was hopeful. 

Sure enough: The striking, gray-blue S-curve of its neck caught my breath. I raised my lens, poking it through the chain link fence, and snapped the moment I wanted to remember. 

But paging through the images, I was surprised by what else had made the photo: a couple of old cement volleyball standards, piles of scrap metal. The heron had caused me to overlook the trash and decay. 

I tell you this because in marriage, I’ve found there’s value in my zoom lens. Sometimes, junk needs to be dealt with head on. But at times, I miss sweeping arcs of beauty around me because my lens is focused on the refuse cluttering my specific image of perfection.

How can you know if you should overlook or confront? Consider questions like these:

  • Is this incident a one-off, or a repeated pattern of sin?
  • In light of everything else your spouse is carrying, is this the appropriate occasion to confront? God doesn’t confront every instance of our sin, or we would be overwhelmed
  • If you attempt to overlook, can you keep from dwelling on this? 
  • refrain from talking about it with someone who’s not part of the solution?
  • desire to bless rather than punish?
  • Are you faking peace/avoiding conflict, or do you feel convicted this is the most loving course of action?

Being slow to anger is part of God’s glory (Exodus 34:5-6). Overlooking an offense is referred to as a person’s glory (Proverbs 19:11). Am I ever zooming in on imperfection, creating a marital culture of performance, when there is a heron before me in some aspect of my spouse?

Wonder what’s underneath the conflict that won’t seem to go away? Listen for more.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22)

Action Points: When you next experience an irritation with your spouse, consider whether God might be asking you to set aside your anger. Could you overlook this offense—and possibly help create a culture of unmerited kindness in your marriage?

August  2

And Then We Had Kids

By Lisa Lakey

Before kids, my husband and I went to movies not rated G. We dined at restaurants that didn’t offer disposable cups or booster seats. We spent our weekends doing whatever we wanted, staying up late, sleeping in later.

Then we became parents. And our entire universe shifted. Overpriced, chef-prepared meals morphed into a Chik-fil-A drive-thru. Dinners at home became a frenzied rush to feed an overtired, hungry toddler before we all started crying.

Even simple conversation took a hit. Days would go by without meaningful talks between the two of us. We were slowly drifting away from each other.

The worst part? We didn’t even notice.

It’s a slow fade from connect to disconnect in marriage. It takes effort for couples to stay connected emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Disconnecting is easy—it sneaks up on you while you’re busy doing life.

But for my husband and me to connect as one was God’s original engineering for marriage (Genesis 2:24). Jesus reaffirmed this when the Pharisees tried to trap Him with questions about the lawfulness of divorce. Jesus replied, “Have you not read … ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matthew 19:3-5). 

God knew two would be better than one—and that the two needed to become one. It’s a godward, intentional effort to “hold fast” to my spouse, even during the busy (and temporary) season of raising children.

What will you do to stay close?

Read on for ways to stay connected even during the parenting years.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6)

Action Points: What phase of life are you in right now? Is anything about this phase causing you to drift from your spouse? Discuss ways you can reconnect even when life circumstances threaten to pull you apart.

August 3

That’s Not Really How We Do Things

By Carlos Santiago

I recently heard a pastor describe his family background: Three generations of pastors. Till-death-do-you-part marriages. Kids who all followed God’s call on their lives.

It was a beautiful story, tinged only by my creeping cynicism. 

Must be nice to be you.

I couldn’t even tell you my grandfather’s name. 

While the pastor grew up in a beautiful house on acres of land and played tag in the fields until the sun went down, I grew up in a crumbling apartment in Brooklyn dodging bullets and gang members. 

In his family, faithfulness in marriage was the norm. In mine, it was adultery. 

It’s one thing when the status quo is to seek God. How do you follow Him when you’re doing it alone? 

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. 

When Joshua gave this famous ultimatum (Joshua 24:15), those surrounding Israel had thrown themselves into idolatry, human sacrifices, murder, deceit, and sexual sin. Unfortunately, many of these practices had found their way into the homes of God’s chosen people, too. 

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. 

To follow God meant they’d no longer be able to lay low. Standing with God meant standing out. 

Radical changes like this are hard to hide if you have a background and family culture like mine. 

Even when we go out of our way to be nonjudgmental, accepting, and approachable, righteous living has a way of making others uncomfortable. 

Our righteous acts are like candles in darkness.

Choose with me to serve Someone different. Who will your household serve?

In your home, what matters most? Read more.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served … or the gods … in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Action Points: What have you spiritually “inherited” from your past? How does that help and hinder you? What is the legacy you and your spouse intentionally choose?

August 4

She Was In Tears

By Bruce Goff 

One time, we were in front of a beautiful mountain vista on a gorgeous spring day, and I asked Maria to marry me.

Another time, she found out someone bought the I-didn’t-know-they-could-cost-that-much blender on our registry.

Guess which time made her cry? Go ahead, guess.

I mean I get it—it’s a really nice blender. It’s just that I kind of had different expectations.

When unexpressed expectations are not met, they can pulverize a marriage.

Ever done something for your spouse, expecting a certain response, and not received it?

Maybe you did the laundry, cleaned the kitchen, gave lots of quality time, lots of non-sexual physical touch, and still at the end of the night there was no sex. Come on!

Or on the flip side, maybe you noticed the trash needs to be taken out and you expect your spouse will do it while you’re out. You come home and the trash is still there. Come on!

Neither scenario is very loving toward your spouse. And both can build up resentment over time.

When I do something for Maria so that she’ll do something for me in return, that’s not love. That’s more like a business transaction.

Or when I hold her to an unexpressed expectation in my mind, how fair is that? That’s like leaving a college-tuition-priced blender off of your wedding registry and then getting mad at someone for not buying it for you.

Love, like the kind God shows us, cares about the other—no strings attached (see Romans 5:8).

God loves us by communicating His expectations clearly (through the Bible and conscience) and by loving His people without expectation of something in return (through the cross).

If you’ve been loved that way, can you love your spouse that way?

I’m able to joke about Maria crying about the blender (but not our engagement) because I didn’t ask her to marry me so she’d cry. I asked her to marry me because I love her—even more than she loves our blender.

Was your first year of marriage filled with surprises and unmet expectations?Read one newlywed’s experience. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11)

Action Points

  • Think of a way you can bless your spouse today for the simple joy of doing him or her good.

  • Ask God to reveal any bitterness in your heart toward your spouse for things he or she isn’t even aware of, and ask Him for help to let it go.

  • Ask God to help you love your spouse like He loves.

August  5

Can I Tell You About My Wife?

By Ed Uszynski 

Holding up the wall next to me is a volunteer, a man probably in his late 60’s, catching his breath from a busy morning. We stand at the back of a hotel ballroom where I wait to speak at the final session of FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember®.

Uninvited, he turns to me and starts talking. Not about the weekend. About his wife. 

“I absolutely love being married to my wife,” he says, and proceeds to tell me how great she is.  

Tells me that on his desk at work, he has a picture of her he shows to folks who visit him and that reminds him to pray for her. He lists off a few of her positive attributes and how much he appreciates the way she’s hung in there with him through the years. 

As he goes on, I realize there’s no point he’s trying to make. He’s hardly even looking at me. He’s just doting on his wife, half talking to himself, half to me. 

Then I feel it. A self-conscious awkwardness hitting me square in the face. 

Two men rarely stand next to each other just to talk up the virtues of their wives, especially if they don’t know each other. 

But I became embarrassingly aware I never do. 

I didn’t have a picture of Amy in my office to pray for her or to show her off. I didn’t have a list of “what I love about my wife” ready to drop on friends or unsuspecting strangers. 

I didn’t intentionally go out of my way to talk her up—ever.

He had cultivated the habit of thinking and talking about the positive impact his wife had on his life and it changed him. It created gratitude and admiration in him that absorbed annoyances and frustrations she created in his life. It gave him eyes to see his life with her differently. 

Completely unexpected takeaway from the Weekend to Remember, but it stuck.

So. Can I tell you about my wife?

Can one weekend really change a marriage? 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. (Proverbs 3:27)

Action Points: Would you consider yourself intentional about honoring and verbally affirming your spouse? (Would your spouse consider you that way?) Over the next week with someone else, attempt to praise your spouse at least twice.

August 6

When You’re the Bomb

By Janel Breitenstein 

It was not one of my finer moments in marriage. We were only about six months in on this whole “together for a lifetime” gig—and we were arguing like it was going out of style. I pity the folks on the other side of the duplex.

But what I actually told my husband? “I didn’t have these issues with my family. So the problem must be with you.”

Yeah. I was just as immature as that sounded. Later, having kids would further reveal that the Bible was right (shocker): Our conflicts were because of desires raging in myself and my husband (see James 4:1).

We both had issues at that point—serious ones. But blaming, it turns out, didn’t solve any of them. 

Did you know that anger is actually considered a secondary emotion? It typically occurs because of another emotion: Fear. Rejection. Disappointment. Hurt. Humiliation. 

It’s a dashboard light: Something precious to us has been trampled on. 

Unfortunately, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). All too often, that activating emotion of rage becomes a force to bring about my kingdom, my glory, rather than God’s. 

Rather than as a scalpel for removing sin, we use anger as a grenade, obliterating anything and anyone in our path. 

We aren’t slow to anger, as God is. We’re a slave to the anger that masters us (2 Peter 2:19). Funny thing is, I could control appearances if I was angry at my spouse and then picked up the phone (“Oh! Hi! How are you?”). 

Why couldn’t I control it for the people I loved most?

And it leaves our spouses, families, and lives achingly vulnerable: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).

Are you making your anger someone else’s issue? 

Get more help on dealing with your anger.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

Action Points: Pray over a period of time about your anger, observing what makes you angry. What’s the primary emotion beneath? What is the primary desire—which may be inflated out of proportion? Ask God to reveal what’s unholy about your anger, and to help you take the next step to getting it under His control.

August 7

My Husband, My Hero

By Lisa Lakey 

I fell for my cute, red-headed hubby for a number of reasons. To name a few:

  • He can fix practically anything.
  • He seemed utterly fearless in my eyes.
  • His physical strength.
  • I happen to love redheads.

He was my hero. Or was he?

It didn’t take long for him to fall off the pedestal I placed him upon—a car issue he couldn’t fix that cost us more than our meager savings. A decision he made I couldn’t understand. Normal stuff every marriage goes through.

But it shook my view of both my husband and my marriage. Why? Because I gave my husband superhero status while forgetting he was just as human as me.

It’s not fair to hold our spouses to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. But we kind of do it anyway, right? When they fail, we wonder why they didn’t try harder … do more … why they can’t get it together, for crying out loud. But when the tables are turned, we expect grace, mercy, and forgiveness to be readily available.

But we only get that from a Savior, not a spouse. And my dear husband, as great as he is, is not that.

When he was no longer on that pedestal, not only could I see him more clearly, but it also gave him the freedom to make mistakes and grow. And it gave me a chance to come alongside him and learn to be a helper.

We learned he didn’t have to be a superhero for us to make a great team. (But he’s still kind of my hero.)

Want to be the spiritual leader of your family but don’t know where to start? Read more. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. (2 Timothy 4:18)

Action Points: Make a list of expectations you have for your spouse. Go through each one and honestly ask yourself—is this something my spouse can live up to?T

August 8

Our First Big Fight … and Why It Never Got Resolved

By Jim Mitchell 

I remember our first big fight.

We were naive newlyweds squeezed into a tiny apartment. Like, “how on earth can you lose your keys in here” kind of tiny. Yet there I was, frustrated and late for work.

Helping me look, she asked the classic question: “Where did you last have them?” Which never works.

Except this time it did. I knew immediately where they were, and I would’ve kept it quiet if she hadn’t been standing right there. That’s when things escalated.

Under normal circumstances, finding your keys—problem solved.

But finding your keys still dangling in the outside keyhole from the night before when you carried all the groceries in one trip and closed the door behind you with your foot—that’s a problem that’s just getting started. Especially when your wife values security.

We had quite the verbal throw-down that day, and much of it has faded. But I do remember a few details. 

I remember her saying we weren’t robbed overnight only because a thief didn’t stumble past our door.

I remember how not-a-big-deal that was to me, and explaining we were never in any real danger because, “We’re on the second floor at the end where there’s like zero traffic.” (Not helpful at all.)

Angered by the undertones of our impasse, I remember smashing our blender’s plastic lid into pieces on the countertop, and then dodging the plate she threw in retaliation.

And I remember realizing for the first time how hard marriage was going to be.

It was a collision of underlying values that I couldn’t put my finger on as a young husband. A collision still happening 25 years later, thankfully without the smashing and throwing.

I still think she needs to relax, but I’m learning to protect and cherish. She still wishes I’d plan more, but she’s learning to flex and trust.

Tension unresolved, teaching us a lot about love that doesn’t always seek its own.

What really makes a marriage stronger? FamilyLife President David Robbins and wife Meg weigh in.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: [Love] is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

Action Points: How about you? What are your most common fights? Looking deeper: What values are colliding in those moments? Can you see the other person’s perspective as neither wrong nor right, but different? Discuss together.

August 9

Take It Back!

By Ed Uszynski 

We learned it on the elementary playground. Then it saved our marriage. 

Throughout our first few years together, Amy and I kept setting each other off. We’d get into these wild arguments and not even realize how we got there. 

At some point we started asking, “How can we stop this before it gets started? Is there some way to head it off before it turns into something we didn’t intend for it to become?” 

So we instituted the “take it back” clause.

Let’s pretend I say something that strikes a nerve in Amy. Could be about anything, but it’s causing an escalation of negative emotion inside her. 

And I don’t know it. I’m not trying to start something, but it’s happening. 

Or maybe I do know it. I’m intentionally trying to poke at her and start something.

In either case, Amy can say “Take it back.” That immediately signals to me that I’m going down a path that is not going to end well. 

I can then either reply with “I take it back” or keep plowing forward into the dumpster fire I’m choosing to fan into flame. 

If I say, “I take it back” and really have no idea why she’s getting upset, we can take some time to unpack and explore how I’m making her angry. 

If I say, “I take it back” and I know exactly what I am doing to stir her up, I can thank her and the Lord above for allowing me an escape before plunging into a self-dug communication grave. 

If I recklessly choose to keep going, then we’ll wait for the CSI report to assess the relational damage done. 

It’s a clause we both use as needed. 

Sounds hokey, but it works, and it’s usually triggered by the Holy Spirit in our lives—if we’ll listen. 

Really, “take it back” is just our strategy for living out James’ encouragement to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” with each other (James 1:19). A silly plan that’s had seriously positive results. 

What’s your strategy to avoid conflicts before they become conflicts? Try these six steps. 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14)

Action Points: If either of you start feeling tensions or emotions rising in a discussion this week, take a moment to pause and see if you need to “take back” words you said. If you can, calmly discuss why this might be a hot topic between the two of you.

August 10


By Carlos Santiago 

My surgery was relatively minor—so I was surprised by the number of medical personnel in the room and the complexity of the equipment. Was someone expecting me to bite it in the near future?

A successful surgery takes careful planning, execution, a sterile environment, and good follow-up care—but even then, post-operative complications are real. Among the potential culprits: an infection.

When the doctors were done with me, they explained how a single wayward bacteria could feed on my body and wreak havoc, and how crucial clean bandages would be to keep any hint of them away from my wound.

The Apostle Paul may not have known about bacteria, but he understood how easy it is for sexual sin to fester, consume, and eventually cripple … or worse. He warned against even a whisper of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3).

Most of us are a lot more careful about our outward actions than our inward thoughts. But Jesus said, “… everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

Some Christians bring a porn habit into their marriages, believing that thoughts can be compartmentalized without any effect on their relationships. Others don’t think twice about watching sexually-charged reality television shows or movies. Yet each image, each storyline, is like rubbing bacteria into an open wound.

I’ve learned there are certain mainstream shows I can’t allow myself to watch, certain channels I can’t allow myself to have on my cable lineup, certain magazine racks I won’t look at in an airport shop. A single image or scene can easily infect my mind.

That kind of impurity would waste my time teaching me what someone else finds pleasurable rather than my wife. It would imprint my brain with images of someone else’s body. It would reduce my sexuality to a single, physical dimension.

It would be easy to wind up wanting the fantasy more than my own breathtaking reality.

Be willing to put in place whatever barriers it takes to ensure your marriage stays protected from infection.

How do you protect your marriage in a world that threatens to pull it apart? 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. (Ephesians 5:3)

Action Points: Establish barriers to protect your marriage:

  • Internet safety measures
  • An accountability partner or group
  • A house clean of questionable magazines and romance novels
  • Standards, set beforehand, of what kind of media you will not consume (see Psalm 101:3 and Philippians 4:8-9)
  • Establish boundaries about time with the opposite sex—and keep intimate topics with the opposite sex off limits unless your spouse is present


August 11

Are White Lies Okay to Protect My Spouse?

By Janel Breitenstein 

I was fascinated—no, dismayed—by a manners advice columnist in a popular magazine: “The white lie, used judiciously and with compassion, can be a form of social grace.”


Maybe this is my foot-stomp against the cultural phobia of Making People Feel Bad. But I see it in myself, profoundly: caring more about people feeling good and liking me than I do about gently speaking truth.

I suppose our marriages fall into this pretty easily. 

We say things like,

I’m not tired. 

That dress looks awesome on you. 

I would never look at another person. 

I’m not angry.

But since we’re calling it a “social grace” … is it? God’s grace still tells the truth.

We could go with, I’m tired, but I’d rather help you right now. 

Or, I think the dress is hanging a little funny here. But wear what you love rather than just what I like.

… You’re right. My eyes were wondering. I hate that I gave you reason to feel insecure. Will you forgive me? I want to only have eyes for you.

Yes, I’m frustrated. But give me a few minutes and we’ll talk it out.


Obviously “telling the truth” isn’t a green light for abrasiveness. After all, is it really full truth—full expression of God, who is truth—if it’s not expressed with love?

Is it really brave love if I’m not truthful, and opt instead to keep us both comfortable? 

I am not false—in the intentionally lying sense—but I am not always intentionally truthful. Sometimes, I’m not faithful to the truth. Not courageous.

Rather than handing out half-truths like lollipops, honesty is another opening for true grace to pry its way in. As my husband and I speak accurately and humbly to each other, the culture in our marriage is changing. We are less defensive, less sensitive. This culture says, When we’re honest, this is what we are—both made in the image of God, and totally broken.

Does lying lead to living in fear? Listen to this episode of FamilyLife Blended Minute®.


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25)

Action Points: What’s one area where you tend to not tell your spouse the whole truth? Plan ahead so your knee-jerk reaction isn’t to fudge: What is one gracious way you could phrase the truth to minimize hurt and maximize truth?

August 12

Just Don’t Ask Me to Wash Your Feet

By Laura Way 

When I was writing my wedding vows, one of the things I was excited to include was to seek to do my husband “good, and not harm” all the days of my life (Proverbs 31:12). 

Ten years later, the not doing him harm part still feels straightforward. We’re a fairly low-conflict couple. I usually say please when I ask him for something. I don’t badmouth him to my mom or friends. And I have never once frozen his underwear or spit in his food to spite him.

Pretty good, right?

But the actual doing him good part? That’s a little trickier. That would require going above the bare minimum. And honestly? That takes a lot more effort.

After not quite enough sleep or a day filled with constant requests from our two young children, I’m not usually looking for ways to actively serve and bless my husband. And if I’m not intentional, my autopilot becomes a complicated calculus of “who’s worked harder today.” If I feel like that’s me, then I often feel entitled to be served rather than do the serving.

Yikes. That doesn’t exactly reflect the Jesus we see washing His disciples’ feet and laying down His very life for His beloved (see John 13:1-20). I’m barely willing to lay down five minutes of “me time” some days.

Doing my husband good all the days of my life probably isn’t going to mean laying down my actual life. Most days, it’s found in small choices to bless him—meeting his eyes and greeting him intentionally when he comes in, making a point to affirm him verbally, clearing off a surface I know he enjoys seeing tidy, or offering him 20 minutes after work to decompress without expecting something in return.

A little effort goes a long way in loving our spouses well, and in the end, we’ll find Jesus’ words ring true: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In a one-flesh marriage, blessing your spouses blesses you, too. 

Looking for more ways to bless your spouse and your marriage? Check out “15 Ways to Refresh Your Marriage.” 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff:  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:11-14)

Action Points: 

Read Psalm 139 and make it your prayer for God to know you.

Consider one way you can show your spouse today that you know and love him or her.

August 13

Two Bucks Worth of Commitment

By Lisa Lakey 

My husband and I love bargain hunting. Flea markets, antique stores, even our local Goodwill equals a good time for us. But our approaches to purchasing an item are completely different. 

My husband sees a price tag as the base point for negotiations. One day, we came across an old, chipped wooden headboard.

I loved the detail, but I wondered if the bargain-basement price tag reflected the time and sweat I would put into fixing it up. In my head, there was some sanding involved, a lot of painting in those weird places where I’d have to crane my neck. I figured the price included a couple of Saturdays and at least one evening where I’d rather be watching Netflix. 

My husband walked up to the counter and offered them $2 for the headboard. He said, “If we end up just storing it in the garage, at least we didn’t pay much for it.” 

I was shocked and a bit embarrassed. Who was this guy?

I was more shocked when the manager said, “Go for it.” 

I can’t help but see a metaphor in there. 

It’s tempting in marriage to settle for two bucks worth of commitment. We’ll take it as-is, but maybe we aren’t sure if we’re ready to slog through what it takes. 

So maybe it’s better to stick with something we can toss if it gets too much. 


I’ve often given just enough to get us to a comfortable place, but don’t seem willing to put the elbow grease in to make our marriage all it could be.

Jesus showed us the real definition of commitment when He answered the rich man’s question of how he could have eternal life (Luke 18:18-23). Jesus’ answer was simple—leave your stuff behind and “come, follow Me.” I don’t think that rich man was a bargain shopper, because he didn’t like that answer.

So what does a committed love relationship in marriage look like? Our best example is how Jesus lived on earth: living, loving, healing, forgiving, and sacrificing. All for fixer-uppers like

Does this feel unrealistic? I get that. But giving my husband more than just two bucks of commitment lets him know I’m in it for the long haul. (Hey, I’m willing to pay full price for this guy, even with the occasionally mortifying bartering!) No matter the mutual elbow grease. 

How do you work on your marriage when your spouse won’t? Read more. 

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant … and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. (Philippians 2:6-8)

Action Points: How can you show your spouse you’re in this for the long game? Could it mean never mentioning divorce as an option? Voicing your commitment when your spouse has blown it? Forming Plan B for your future when Plan A implodes? Remember, actions speak louder than words.

August 14

Let Milo Open the Door

By Ed Uszynski 

Back in college, I constantly overheard a roommate singing to himself, “Let Milo open the door.” 

He sang loud and bold, the way someone does in the shower when they are confident and completely give themselves over to the lyrics. 

Finally, someone asked him, “Who the heck is Milo?” 

Turns out, he was mis-singing Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door” and just assumed for years someone had been freezing our boy Milo out. Who knew?

Facing the embarrassment that always accompanies those moments, he needed to decide whether to go on with his version of the classic or let the humility of the correction get him on the right track. 

He could stubbornly keep singing his own take or get aligned with the author’s actual words and intention. 

Decades later, I find every day of our marriage my wife, Amy, is teaching me songs from her life. Songs about conflict. Sex. Good vacations. About fear, longing, hope. 

Frequently, especially in the first few years, I had the lyrics entirely wrong. 

I thought I was right. Thought I’d read her accurately, thought I had the right notes and words to go with her message. 

Then some crash-and-burn moment revealed that I was belting out “Milo” while the entire time she had been talking “My love.” Total mess.

Cue humility. Embarrassment. Frustration. Stubborn pride. 

And now a choice. 

Stick to my version or study the original lyrics? Ask more about what they mean, or plow ahead with what I think they should mean, how I think they should be sung? 

It goes both ways. I’m introducing her to a completely different genre of music with my own songs. 

She’s got work to do, too.  

Turns out, one kind of work in marriage is studying each other’s lyrics and the meaning behind them. Who knew?   

Knowing where you slip up is important. Read why your emotional intelligence might determine your marital bliss. 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)

Action Points: Take the initiative to ask your spouse: What’s one way I don’t often “get” you? Restrain yourself from defensiveness—and start asking good questions to start understanding.

August 15

All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go … Woo-hoo!

By Bruce Goff 

I picked her up at 8:00. She looked stunning.

She had her hair in curls, makeup done just right, and she was wearing a white jean jacket with a pretty dress.

I had on a red tie and was looking not-too-shabby myself. We took a stroll to our reserved spot for our date.

The living room.

A box of cereal and a Nintendo game awaited (I promise we’re older than 7).

With a 3-year-old and an 11-month-old, this was our most romantic night in a while.

If you’ve got little ones and the idea of paying for babysitting makes your Dave Ramsey budget tremble, consider a “stay date.”

Now I don’t mean just streaming something while you both scroll through your phones until you fall asleep.

I’m talking about creativity, fun, anticipation, and intentionality.

My wife and I decided to take turns planning. On my first turn I bought a used video game that was easy enough for a beginner* (Kirby’s Epic Yarn, if you’re curious). I put on an old-timey jazz station. And I found a recipe for hot chocolate made with cereal, which we made together.

We laughed, we kissed, we indulged in amazing hot chocolate (among other things), and remembered we liked hanging out together. And we didn’t talk about the kids … too much.

That worked for us. Whatever you do—plan it, get excited about it, and make it fun. When it was my turn, I thought about the details in the days leading up. I mean, I even got those little cinnamon sticks for the hot chocolate.

So if you’re in need of a date night or a little bored with how things are going, try a stay date.

And hey, together you might even save the universe from some evil cartoon villain.

*If the world was Princess Toadstool and my wife was Mario, we’d all be doomed. That is to say, my wife is video game challenged. But I still love her.

Need some ideas? This article can help with your stay date.


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)

Action Points:  Run the idea of a stay date by your spouse. They might love the idea, or it might not resonate with them. Don’t assume either way. If your spouse is up for it, volunteer to plan a stay date.

Get creative! Make it fun!

August 16

Getting Away Without the Kids

By Carlos Santiago 

On our “babymoon,” we leaned over the railing of the cruise ship balcony and realized life as we had known it was about to change. 

To that point, we had enjoyed five wonderful kid-free years of marriage. Would this be our last getaway alone? 

The reality and responsibilities of parenthood can be overwhelming. Is it okay to get away without the kids and enjoy time away as a couple?

This is what we’ve  discovered. 

  1. Your kids aren’t the only ones that need attention. 

Marriages need attention, too. A strong relationship will likely handle a short season of neglect, but you’ll need a plan to ensure that season doesn’t become the new normal. A marriage left on autopilot too long will eventually crash.  

  1. Happy Marriage = confident children.

It’s hard to hear our children cry for us as we walk out the door on vacation. But contrary to how it seems in the moment, when children see parents loving each other, it provides security and comfort.  

  1. Kids learn it isn’t all about them.

A critical truth to learn in life is that the world doesn’t revolve around you. They may not like that you are going away without them. But what you are doing is ultimately in their best interests.

When we disembarked from that cruise ship, we knew that our life would soon change, but we were determined that our commitment to each other would not. 

And after 25 years of marriage, I still can’t wait to spend time with my wife.

Read more on who comes first … spouse or kids?

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff:  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

Action Points: When was the last time you got away with just your spouse? Sit down with your spouse and plan something in the near future. Even if it’s just asking Grandma to take the kids for a night at home, it’s a win for your marriage.

August 17

What Lies Beneath

By Carlos Santiago 

We have a squirrel feeder. At least that is what we have come to call our apple tree. Each year we watch in anticipation as hundreds of beautiful flowers bloom, each representing an apple that we never get to taste. 

Without fail, the tree is stripped bare by an army of squirrels before the apples ever fully ripen. So even though I have my very own highly productive apple tree, each year I find myself picking apples from the local farm. 

I’m annoyed that I have to pay for something I should be able to get for free, but I can’t help but be a little awestruck by God’s design. To my knowledge, the squirrels have never (yet?) hacked into my wireless network in order to access the latest forecast, nor do they have a calendar hanging somewhere on a tree. 

The sun is bright. The trees are green. The air is sweltering. 

Yet they know that summer won’t last forever. They know their survival rests on how well they prepare for the long dark nights of winter. 

I can learn a thing or two from these sworn enemies: They prep for hard times during the good times.

In our nearly two decades of marriage, my wife and I have learned that life is made up of seasons, and seasons change. We’ve experienced it all—sickness and health, richer and poorer, better and worse. 

And there is a direct correlation between how well we manage the hard times and how many preparations we made during the good. 

So how do I prepare? 

I start by loving my wife the way Christ loves me—extravagantly. By serving her, dating her, and giving her my full attention, I can store up a deep well of goodwill. 

And hopefully, like a squirrel’s nut hoard, it will sustain us the next time the seasons change. 

Need help “loving extravagantly”? Read on for tips on writing a love letter. 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8)

Action Points: Think back to when you first started dating. Make a list of the creative ways that you have shown love to your spouse. Pick one way each day for the next week.

August 18

Don’t Let Her Be a Non-Person

By Janel Breitenstein 

While my husband-to-be and I dated, I’d been so ready to cheer him on as a leader. 

But the way I went about this was admittedly curious. To me, it looked like some equivalent of, “Whatever you want, dear! I just work here!” I was so very adept at pleasing people! I was the perfect vanilla ice cream: Will mix with anything. 

So when my then-boyfriend asked me where I wanted to eat out, I chirped, “I don’t care! You decide!”

And I didn’t. I had become excellent at not desiring or opining. 

But he’d pull over. “No problem. We’ll wait here until you know what you want.” (See what I was dealing with here?!)

This was indicative of the path our marriage would take: My husband refusing to take the leash I’d wrapped around my neck. 

At times, I have been guilty of suppressing the image and voice of God in me in order to please people and look like the ideal wife. There have been occasions when I have not done the hard work of flourishing under leadership, but rather lapsed into passive personlessness. But my husband’s advocacy has shaped me into an ally rather than an underling. I work confidently and competently alongside him rather than beneath him.

My husband saw his leadership as a call to mine the image of God out of me rather than use his position of authority to lord over me or control me. He wanted to be my fiercest advocate. 

I see that, now, in Jesus: giving His own life so God’s image could be restored in His bride, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor” (Ephesians 5:26-27).

I’m humbled God gave me a husband who didn’t let me slide into being his shadow. Instead, my husband’s leadership makes me more capable and strong, and more beautiful in God’s sight.

Are you missing the point of marriage? J.P. Pokluda weighs in on this episode of FamilyLife Today®.

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:28-30)

Action Points: Husbands, what’s one practical way you could empower your wife to flesh out God’s image in herself? Wives, in what way have you used submission as a shield to keep from exploring the image of God in you?

August 19

The Parade We’re All In

By Justin Talbert 

In 2020, my wife and I purchased season passes to Silver Dollar City in Missouri.

That was a lot of fun. Not. With social distancing, all theme parks were closed down. 

Our family loves Silver Dollar City for numerous reasons, but topping the list are the parades. We maneuver our schedule and strollers to see every single one. Something about the celebration, liveliness, colors, and music makes the kiddos irrepressibly giddy. 

I think my soul resonates with these parades because I’m in one. All Christians are. The Apostle Paul pulls back the curtain on our Christian lives in 2 Corinthians 2:14: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge him everywhere.” 

Right now—yes, right now—in vibrant array, Jesus is parading you around this world. Your workplace, grocery store, kid’s soccer practice, home, and even marriage. And He does so with a purpose: to spread His fragrance, His culture, to others … through you. 

What’s this mean for marriage? 

Jesus is using you to elevate His glory by transforming you into a spouse that feels (or, following the biblical wording, smells) like Jesus to be around. In other words, Jesus’ desire and labor is for you to so closely resemble Him that when your spouse is around you, it’s like they’re around Jesus.

God’s ideal is an impossible task with a parade of motley humans. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t called to it! As spouses, we are to radiate the very culture—or fragrance—of Jesus Himself. 

He longs to help us. Ask Him.

The beauty and liveliness of that kind of marriage will dim the glory of any parade–even Silver Dollar City’s!

We’re called to be salt and light, but can others see Jesus in us? Listen to more on this episode of FamilyLife Today®


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 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. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

Action Points: As you ask Jesus for help in this momentous journey, bring to Him your most obvious flaws. That is, confess where you know you’re not acting like Jesus and take simple, yet radical steps to see it changed.

August 20

Stop Hugging Yourself

By Ed Uszynski 

Saw a short video the other day encouraging me to “hug myself.” 

I get it. We all need a little affirmation in the midst of hectic daily life. 

Self-care? Hugely important. Not neglecting my own physical, emotional, and spiritual health? Of course. 

But I’ve spent two decades of marriage trying to hug myself less. The last thing I need is encouragement to make sure my needs get met today.  

In our first few years of marriage it hit me: I wanted to be a married guy living like he’s single. 

When single, I came home at the end of a day, only talking if I felt like it, doing what I wanted when I wanted, thinking about how great it’d be if I had a wife. 

What “married” meant to me was getting all sorts of selfish desires met, thinking as little as possible about anyone else. 

Basically doing what I want, but having someone to do it with. Throw in some sex to go with it all and we’re rolling.

(I guess you can look that up. Basically the definition of selfish.) 

I can hardly think of a marital problem that didn’t rise up as a result of me wanting what I want and Amy wanting what she wants and the stalemate that creates.

We’re just refined versions (and sometimes not so refined) of the self-absorbed, bratty kids in Willy Wonka—I want what I want and I want it NOW. 

Crazy irony: Jesus says if I want to find fulfillment today I need to die to myself, not hug myself (Luke 9:23).  

So thanks but no thanks. “Hugging myself” sounds great but won’t really help me today. 

It will only get me thinking about what other needs I have that I perceive aren’t being met, and that’s not usually helpful in my house. 

Self-Care or selfishness? Learn the difference in this FamilyLife Blended® Minute. 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff:  Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Corinthians 10:24)

Action Points: Plan ahead. What’s one way you’ll die to yourself for the glory of God today?

August 21

Highway Hypnosis

By Lisa Lakey 

I make the drive home from work so often it seems I go into autopilot. Whether I’m listening to a podcast or enjoying the (rare) silence, before I know it … I’m home. Scary, right? But there’s a term for it.

Highway hypnosis. You can actually turn the wheel, accelerate, decelerate, all while in a semi-conscious state of mind.

The same thing can happen in marriage. I can go through all the twists and turns married life requires—a peck on the cheek before we both leave for work, make dinner, pay the bills, plan a weekly date night, kiss goodnight … and start again tomorrow.

But when I’m operating in this state of marriage hypnosis, I often miss things like a downcast look telling me my husband needs some encouragement or prayer. Or an opportunity for that kiss goodnight to head into something more. I can also miss some serious warning signs (Danger Ahead!), and before I know it … we’re someplace I don’t want us to be.

So instead of cruising on autopilot, I want to be deliberate about where I’m going in my marriage. I want to be fully in each moment, not blindly going through the motions.

Like when he’s had a long week, the weight of his work bearing down on him and he just needs me to take his hand. Or those lingering looks that tell me exactly what he’s thinking. Even moments where I just need to slow down and enjoy being beside him, no agendas, just us.

Because those are the moments that make a marriage last.

Does love have an exit strategy? Depends on your definition of what real love is. 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise. (Ephesians 5:15)

Action Points: Sit down and think about your day-to-day interactions with your spouse. Which ones were you intentional about? Which ones were you in “marriage autopilot”? Decide on two ways you can be intentional today.

August 22

On Wanting to Be That Wife

By Janel Breitenstein 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to be appreciated, loved to achieve, loved to be a good example. I make a fantastic firstborn.

Nowadays I don’t call it a “good example” in my mind. It looks more like me wanting to be that person. 

You know, that person: The one who’s a good listener. Or the one whose kids behave. Or the one who is thoughtful, remembering to text after praying for a prayer request. 

Or that wife who is supportive and compassionate and there when he fails.

Of course it’s good to establish goals for the kind of woman I want to be and take real-life steps. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a good mom or wife or friend and following through!

But let’s imagine you’re my husband when I hand him a lunch I packed so I can be that wife.

Instead of loving my husband as my first goal? I’m loving me just a bit more.

My ambition and lofty thoughts of myself drive me more than my love for him.

And honestly, that’s what my problem with trying to be a good example was really about, too. I was often cleaning up the outside in lieu of cleaning up the inside—which Jesus loathed (Matthew 23:25). Most of my horizontal problems with being an “example” are first vertical problems.

My husband sometimes calls me out on ways I’m shooting for “good wife” points (like spending my time on a meal before he leaves, rather than spending time with him). 

It takes work to see and love my husband … rather than the idea of my best self.

(Would you like a packed lunch with that?)

What if you suspect your problem in marriage … is actually your spouse? 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart. (1 Peter 1:22)

Action Points: In what ways do you get caught up with being a textbook spouse … rather than loving your spouse specifically and sincerely? 

Ask God to expose ways you’re tempted to “love” your spouse in order to maintain your own image rather than give genuine affection with no ulterior motive.

August 23

Can You For Once Stop Being So Selfish?

By Leslie Barner 

I never realized how selfish I had been in my marriage until, wait for it … the planning of our 25th wedding anniversary. 

I don’t mean selfish in the big things. I loved my husband more than words could say. I enjoyed doing things for him, making him happy, spending time with him, and so on. 

I mean selfish in the little things. 

Every date we went on, every family activity, every vacation had always been where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. 

But even the little things matter. Whether it’s how and where our time is spent, how small decisions are made, what directions we follow on a road trip, or how the household chores are done. It shouldn’t always have to be my way.

As we sat down to plan a vacation for our 25th anniversary, I discovered my husband wanted to go on a cruise. That was the last thing I was interested in doing, for many reasons. Most of them were related to fears. 

What if we got stuck in the middle of the ocean? What if the ship lists? Or sinks? What if someone puts a bomb on the ship? 

Crazy thoughts, I know, but they were making agreeing to a cruise almost impossible.

I began talking about how much I’d love to go to an all-inclusive resort on a tropical island. It wasn’t hard at all to convince him. He was used to doing the things that I preferred to do. 

And then it hit me how selfish I had been. I realized how much joy it had brought him over the years to see me happy as we did all the things I wanted to do. 

I asked myself, “Can you for once, stop being so selfish, and do something that he wants to do?” I was reminded that real love is not self-serving, nor does it insist on having its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

We went on that cruise. And he was all smiles the entire seven days. It was one of our best vacations ever! 

We even renewed our vows on the ship, with the captain performing the ceremony. It was a very special time that spoke so much love and value to my husband, and drew us even closer together.

Click here to learn more about defeating selfishness in marriage. 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Action Points: Think about your relationship. When you do things together, is it usually what you want to do? When was the last time you did something with your spouse that he or she wanted to do (even if it isn’t your thing)? Share with each other some things you’d each like to do together. Then make two dates and take turns doing what you know will make your spouse happy and feel valued. Commit to making this a habit.


August 24


By Carlos Santiago 

As I stood to leave the table, the guys I had been playing cards with let out a collective sigh. They wanted me to stay, but my wife wanted me home. Their shaking heads confirmed the general sentiment about my choice to cut the night short even before one of them sneezed out, “Whipped!”

Part of me wanted to stay. But there was something more important at stake than their approval.

Long before that game night had ever been planned, I promised God that I would forsake all others and be faithful only to my wife—and not just by rebuffing others’ sexual advances. I’d say no to others, so I could say yes to my wife.

As verbal pressure mounted for me to stay in the game, I needed to ask myself: Who would I be more willing to disappoint—my friends, or my wife? But more importantly, would I be breaking a promise I made to God?

God takes vows seriously. Deuteronomy 23:23 warns, “You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.”

Out of reverence for Christ and the promise that I made Him, in this circumstance, I needed to submit to my wife’s wishes. I thought of her exhaustion in watching the kids.

“Submitting to each other” in marriage doesn’t mean that we simply give in to whatever our spouse wants! But it does require us to learn how to place the needs of our spouse ahead of our own. 

When I walked through the door, my wife’s eyes beamed. “You’re home early,” she said.

“Of course. I told you I would. Besides. Where else would I rather be?”

Check out “Shock Your Spouse and Kids With This Question.” 


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: … submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Action Points: In a conflict of interests, ask yourself questions like these: 

  • Will getting my way help my spouse or hurt my spouse?
  • Will my actions help my spouse get closer to God or farther away from Him?
  • Am I demonstrating it’s okay not to keep my word?

August 25

Listening to Sam-I-Am

By Ed Uszynski 

With a 10-year gap between our oldest and youngest, Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham has been a mainstay on the Uszynski read-aloud playlist. 

And it’s changed my marriage. 

Remember how it goes? 

The main guy, Sam-I-Am, wants the other unnamed guy to eat some green eggs and ham. 

No idea why. Never clear why it’s so important to him. He just won’t let it go. 

But we learn early and often the other guy has no interest, consistently rejecting the offer. 

Maybe as a kid his mom wouldn’t let him leave the table until he finished them. Maybe he ate them at an elementary school breakfast and threw up later. Maybe he understands—as do most people—eating green meat is generally risky and frowned upon.  

He never reveals the origin of his trauma. He’s just got a narrative he keeps repeating and he’s sticking to it. 

Then he tries them. 

And he likes them. Loves them actually.

Has to completely flip the narrative he’s been telling himself. Could’ve saved us all mind-numbing pages of reading if he’d been open to a new self-narrative earlier. 

But I get it.

I’m a city guy; I don’t do woods and lakes. I hate watching Survivor and anything on HGTV. I don’t eat Thai food. Despise kombucha. Wouldn’t be found dead traveling in an RV. 

My wife, Amy, loves all of it. 

I resisted for years, then at some point thought: “Maybe for the sake of personal growth or relational health you could try ‘x’ without telling everyone in the house how much you hate ‘x’?”

Still hate Survivor, but have actually learned to love all the rest. Complete surprise. 

Drives me a little crazy, but God’s plan for my marriage seems to include letting go of the narrative I’ve rehearsed to myself about myself. 

Turns out I do like green eggs and ham. So thank you, Sam-I-Am—and Amy.

Do you expect your spouse to do things your way? Here’s the problem…

Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. (Proverbs 9:9)

Action Points: In what ways have you allowed your spouse to change you for the better? What’s one area where you resist trying the “green eggs and ham” they suggest? Pray for a heart that’s receptive beyond your comfort zone in amoral areas.

August 26

Avoiding Plug-N-Play

By Janel Breitenstein 

My husband is a human resources guy. So between the two of us, we have probably taken 80% of the personality tests on the planet. (Real ones. Not like the magazines’ “Is your husband a ferret, donkey, or ring-tailed lemur? Take our quiz!”)

It becomes like a weird party trick. He can talk to someone for awhile and make a remarkably accurate guess on whether they’re an Enneagram Six, an ESFJ, a Beaver, a Harmonizer, or a high C on the DiSC.

But here’s what I like. The rule in our marriage goes that these categories can only be used to help us understand, not to pigeon-hole each other.

At the point a personality test—or any label—becomes a way to get someone pegged, it moves out of “help me know you” to “I don’t need to ask. I assume I already know.”

No one wants to be explained away. “Oh, don’t mind her. She’s one of those INTPs.” “Sure, he leaves his jeans on the floor with the belt still in them. He’s a man.”

As a culture, we do this with gender stereotypes too. We joke about men installing the toilet paper roll upside down, or women talking your leg off. But in reality, there are highly detailed men quietly reinstalling toilet paper rolls in bathrooms around the world, and greatly introverted women whose husbands are talking circles around them.

Like a resume, our spouse-on-paper is only a shadow of the person in real life. Knowledge about our spouse can’t ever replace knowing our spouse.

Stereotypes are only helpful if they give us a leg up on loving better.

But can our differences make us stronger?

Read more on living in an “opposites attract” marriage.


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)

Action Points: What’s one way you stereotype your spouse as a “cheaper” way of understanding him or her? Are there patterns you could nix in your house that don’t help people love better—like making jokes about the genders?

August 27

Highly Flammable

By Lisa Lakey 

I can’t win an argument with my wife. It’s frustrating. 

Like some IED expert, she seems to know exactly what to say to defuse a situation. 

Me? My only contribution seems to be sarcasm or digging myself about 10 inches deeper into a hole I created. Instead of defusing, I tend to detonate every single argument. If I had a label, it would read “HIGHLY FLAMMABLE.”

Paul told the Ephesian church to “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)

I often feel Paul wrote this directly to me. It’s sobering to calculate how many of my words to my wife have fit into the “corrupting talk” category. I often forget to guard my tongue, spacing on the impact of my words. I’d guess it’s a little like tossing a grenade over my shoulder and walking away.

Funny thing, though: My words could actually serve to construct something—building the people around me—rather than reducing to shrapnel. In fact, they can have a domino effect, setting the constructive tone for the environment I want to create. …Or vice versa.

Thankfully, God’s message to me isn’t just to get my act together. It’s the Holy Spirit who renews me, taming my heart (and all the true reasons beneath my anger), followed by my tongue, when I’m willing.

Can the right kind of anger save a marriage?


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

Action Points: Matthew iss clear that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). When you’re honest, what lies beneath your tongue’s greatest weakness? If you mess up in this area, don’t be afraid to say, “You know what, that was really __ of me. Would you please forgive me? Can I rephrase that? Because I do care about you.”

August 28

Sprinkles and Downpours

By Lisa Lakey 

I recently attended an outdoor concert with my husband and kids. It was hot, sticky, and humid, but the company of friends and some of our favorite contemporary Christian artists far outweighed the negative of a Southern summer flare-up.

Until it started to rain. What started as a misty sprinkle, quickly turned into a downpour.

“Nope, don’t like this,” I told our group.

It was the final act, so I didn’t hesitate to pack up our chairs and head to the parking lot. By the time we loaded everything into the trunk and dropped our soaked selves into the seats, I was done. Done dripping, sliding, and wiping mascara from my eyes. Ready for a shower, dry clothes, and a little binge-watching.

But the following morning at church, as I recounted the night with another friend, I was taken aback by our wildly different responses to the rain.

When it started to pour, my friend threw her hands in the air as she continued singing with the worship band. “It was like we were all being baptized again … together.”

I guess it’s all about the attitude you choose.

How often have I let my attitude taint the experiences around me? Even in my marriage?

The husband and I have been through more than a few sprinkles and downpours in our nearly 20 years together. But looking back, God was always good. Even what I saw as devastation (financial troubles, betrayals, all the times we wanted to call it quits), God was working in and through us to make us better … stronger.

When rain comes in your marriage—and make no mistake, it will—what will be your posture? Hands in the air amazed at God’s goodness? Or head down, trudging toward the exit?

Sometimes we all need a little help getting back to where we want to be in marriage. Find tools to help at a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.

Faith + Hope + Love


The Good Stuff: Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:18

Action Points: Whatever weather you and your spouse are walking through today, throw your hands in the air in praise of the God who sees your pain and struggle. Ask Him to help change your attitude toward your situation or even your spouse.

August 29

My Wife Didn’t Know Who I Was

By Bruce Goff 

It was a home birth that went right. And wrong.

My wife gave birth to our healthy baby girl, but momma was losing blood. By the time the ambulance arrived she had lost and regained consciousness. As she went by on the stretcher we made eye contact.

It was clear she didn’t know who I was.

What a horrible feeling to look into her eyes without getting that knowing look.

To be known. It’s one of the greatest blessings that draws us to marriage.

Marriage is the most intimate relationship we can have on earth. In fact, knowing each other in a way meant only for marriage is what led to the birth of our daughter in the first place: “Now Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived…” (Genesis 4:1).

But the woman who knows me—the good, the bad, and the downright hideous, and yet somehow loves me—looked at me like I was just some dude.

At the hospital she was soon fine. I was her husband again and not some creepy stranger.

Yet thinking about that moment makes me appreciate her love all the more.

In The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller writes, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”

Being known and loved by my wife is great, but it isn’t ultimate. It’s a sweet taste of a greater reality: In Christ, I am perfectly known and loved by God. May that be my hope and satisfaction.

And may I know and love my wife well so she can have a sweet reminder of the One who knows and loves her far more than I ever could.

For more on being known and accepted in marriage, read “5 Essentials for a Thriving Marriage.”


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff:  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:11-14)

Action Points: Read Psalm 139 and make it your prayer for God to know you.

Consider one way you can show your spouse today that you know and love him or her.


August 30

Lessons From My Least-Favorite Vermin

By Carlos Santiago 

We have a squirrel feeder. At least that is what we have come to call our apple tree. Each year we watch in anticipation as hundreds of beautiful flowers bloom, each representing an apple that we never get to taste.

Without fail, the tree is stripped bare by an army of squirrels before the apples ever fully ripen. So even though I have my very own highly productive apple tree, each year I find myself picking apples from the local farm.

I’m annoyed that I have to pay for something I should be able to get for free, but I can’t help but be a little awestruck by God’s design. To my knowledge, the squirrels have never (yet?) hacked into my wireless network in order to access the latest forecast, nor do they have a calendar hanging somewhere on a tree.

The sun is bright. The trees are green. The air is sweltering.

Yet they know that summer won’t last forever. They know their survival rests on how well they prepare for the long dark nights of winter.

I can learn a thing or two from these sworn enemies: They prep for hard times during the good times.

In our nearly two decades of marriage, my wife and I have learned that life is made up of seasons, and seasons change. We’ve experienced it all—sickness and health, richer and poorer, better and worse.

And there is a direct correlation between how well we manage the hard times and how many preparations we made during the good.

So how do I prepare?

I start by loving my wife the way Christ loves me—extravagantly. By serving her, dating her, and giving her my full attention, I can store up a deep well of goodwill.
And hopefully, like a squirrel’s nut hoard, it will sustain us the next time the seasons change.

Need help “loving extravagantly”? Read on for tips on writing a love letter.


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8)

Action Points: Think back to when you first started dating. Make a list of the creative ways that you have shown love to your spouse. Pick one way each day for the next week.

August 31

When your spouse feels far from God

By Janel Breitenstein 

The headlights of my vehicle wove through a mountain pass as tears dripped onto my jeans. My husband had watched the kids that night while I stood absently in a used book store, seeing but not seeing the shelves. It was hard to remember a time when I felt more spiritually bewildered, where I had strained further to hear something—anything—from God. 

I couldn’t have known it was only the beginning of nearly three years of spiritual regrouping.  Sediment swirled in my heart around a God revealing Himself as mysterious, beyond my grasp in ways holy and troubling.

My husband, however, refused to be rattled by questions neither of us could answer. In that time, he both anchored and harbored me. 

It can feel scary when a spouse seems spiritually distant or listless. But our reactions out of fear can lead some of us to control or to try to force our spouses in a godward direction. 

In our faithlessness, we can lack patience for God’s long game. Rather than gently leading, compassionately listening, and calmly influencing, we can worry, nag, and manipulate. Distance can grow between us amidst the clash of our disparate spiritual intimacy.

What my husband did right? He created a place where I could be emotionally “naked and unashamed,” where I could make the questions of my heart a part of my very worship rather than feeling like I had to hide them

He trusted the Holy Spirit in me. Prayed for me. Believed my wrestling would result in strength. Facilitated encouraging relationships and alone time where I could “be” rather than distract myself with “doing” or appearing “just fine”. 

Like a friend grieving alongside, he sometimes just sat and shook his head about what wasn’t right in this world. 

He did what he needed to create a fertile place for authentic spirituality, and then trusted God with the growth. And now, I’m more beautiful for it.

Read more for ways to support your spouse’s mental health.


Faith + Hope + Love

The Good Stuff: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

Action Points: If your spouse is distant from God, in what ways do you struggle to trust God and His plan for your spouse? How are you “lean[ing] on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6)? 

Ask God to show you tangible ways to receive your spouse and gently lead him or her toward Jesus.