Clean: Part 2, For Better or For Worse

Don’s story took me back, way back. It’s amazing what the memory files away when the heart chooses to forgive. However, those files are still there and I still remember those days, but my version is the spouse’s perspective. Sixteen years ago was a tender and difficult time in my life as a wife and mother. I experienced what it’s like to feel lost and alone. I experienced what it’s like to live in fear that my dreams of a strong and happy marriage were crumbling right before my eyes. I also experienced what it was like to have pain so deep that my only prayer for weeks was that of silence as I folded my hands and wept before the Lord—at a loss for words, I was broken.

Don and I met through a mutual friend and had a whirlwind romance, if you will. We met in October of 2000 and married in May 2001. By October of 2001, we had our first child. In less than a year we had made vows to love each other for better or for worse and brought life into the world. It happened quickly, but I was so happy. Around our daughter’s first birthday we found out that baby #2 was due in July 2003. Our family was growing and life was good.

We moved into a new home that had more room for our expanding family. Shortly after we moved, I started noticing some changes in our relationship that were perplexing me. Don’s social circle changed. It started with drinks after work with the guys; guys that had a bad rap in the community. This was strange because we didn’t do the “bar scene” anymore. We gave that up when we got married and started a family.  He began coming home late at night without calling. He never did stuff like that before. We were the couple that updated each other throughout the day, at least 3 times a day. His demeanor towards me began to change and he wasn’t as kind.  He was quick and to the point in conversations and it felt cold and guarded. “Guarded for what?” was my question. We began arguing over the most random things and I would leave the argument thinking, “What on earth was that all about?” Our conversations became few and affections and intimacy slowed down drastically until they were almost nonexistent. I felt the wedge of distance and my heart ached for the relationship that I once had with my husband—one of thoughtfulness, respect, and lots of love and affection.

Foolishly, I thought for a moment that my pregnancy and the weight I had gained was disgusting to him. Maybe he just didn’t find me attractive anymore or maybe he just didn’t enjoy my company.  The most dangerous of my thoughts was leaning toward that idea that perhaps he had met someone else. Whatever was going on was not good, but I just couldn’t figure it out. My heart was breaking and the pregnancy hormones were not helping matters.

One beautiful summer morning I decide to go fishing with my dad to get my mind off things, but first I needed to make a quick stop at the bait store.  While at the bait store something peculiar happed, my card was declined. I knew something was off, because we were doing great financially. Kindly, I asked the attendant to run my card once more and once more the card was declined. Lucky for me, our bank was just around the corner. I left the store a bit embarrassed and waddled my pregnant self and my one year old into the bank looking for an explanation. The explanation was not what I expected; my account was overdrawn by over $800. As if that were not alarming enough, our savings account had been wiped clean as well. Fighting back the tears, I took the bank records and left the bank—my head spinning with confusion.

Once I got to my parents, I went through the bank records and saw check upon check written to men in our community that I knew were drug dealers. I sobbed uncontrollably and couldn’t comprehend how I could be fooled like this by the man that I love? I shared what was going on with my parents and they had a long, hard, heart to heart talk with me. They shared that they had their suspicions of drug usage for months, but didn’t want to say anything until after the baby was born, in fear that it would cause too much stress on the pregnancy. When I arrived home that evening, I confronted Don with the events of the day and the conversation with my parents. He had an explanation for all of it and assured me that he would handle everything at the bank and that my parents were just conspiracy theorists. He was charming and I was smitten, but I wasn’t blind and continued to keep my guard up.

Fast forward 6 weeks later. We have a 3-week-old new baby and he’s perfect. Things between Don and I are still rough and suspicions were increasing, but my children were healthy and I enjoyed them so much that I welcomed their delightful distraction from the chaos of my life. One day Don came home and told me about a woman he worked with that had been murdered in her home. He said that there was to be an investigation at his place of employment. That sounded reasonable to me, except he wasn’t telling me everything and deep down I knew it.

Two weeks later and many trips to the investigator’s office, I was tired of the run around and gave an ultimatum; either he was going to tell me the truth or I was going to leave. On what seemed like the most unreal night of my married life, my husband confessed his drug usage, drug dealing, and drug addiction. He was visibly scared—scared of seeing life with drugs and scared of seeing life without them. This was his rock bottom and he was terrified. At this point, I was lacking compassion and understanding, but I did have one emotion, anger. Never in my life had I felt so much anger permeate through my body. It was ugly.

One afternoon, I called my sister-in-law and asked her to come over and watch the kids so that I could go for a drive and clear my head. I remember telling myself that I didn’t want a marriage like the one I had and that I hadn’t signed up for all this trouble. On that drive I sobbed and told God that I was going to leave Don. I didn’t know how I was going to make it on my own with two little kids, but I was leaving. I remember having to pull over on the side of the road because the stream of tears coming from my eyes were making it impossible to see clearly. In those next moments I had memories of our wedding day. I flashed back to the marriage vow ceremony where I promised to love him and keep him for better or for worse. These vows gave me pause and God spoke to my heart. Sixteen years later, I believe with all my heart that God reminded me through that flashback that I made a promise, not just to Don, but to Him. I couldn’t break my promise. By the time I pulled back into my driveway I had made a decision to stay.

I didn’t know how I was ever going to trust Don again or if he was even going to stay clean from drugs, but I knew I had to keep my promise. I had to love him for better or for worse and this was the “for worse” part. I wish I could tell you how holy and righteous I handled this situation, but that would be a blatant lie. I was so angry. I was out of control with my speech and withheld forgiveness for nearly 2 years. I also reminded Don regularly how badly he failed me. I sought to hurt him because he hurt me. However, I knew in the depth of my soul that my behavior was not that of a kind and loving woman. I needed help.

I was given the best source of help when I was 20 years old. It was a leather back bible that my parents gave me as a birthday gift. As I began to read through the scriptures, I was rescued when I cried out for help (Psalm 18:6). In time, as my heart changed, my relationship with Don changed too.  God took my cold stony heart and softened it (Ezekiel 36:26.) My problem was that I was treating Don like he was the enemy of my soul, but that was just a lie.

The truth was that my battles, and yours, are not against one another—they are spiritual battles and there is a real enemy of my/your soul (Ephesians 6:12). There was a war raging in my heart, a war to hate my husband –which is not from the Lord (John 15:12). God was calling me to love my husband as Christ has loved me—to see beyond Don’s sin and pardon him even though he didn’t deserve it. God reminded me that he saw beyond my sin even though I didn’t deserve it. He was calling me to true forgiveness. God saw my sin, yet covered it with the blood of Christ and declared me pardoned from all the wrong I have and will commit. God forgave me! He took my filth and cast it away (Micah 7:19).

I have spent the last 16 years trying to imitate that kind of love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace in my marriage. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what saved my marriage and it continues to save it, mend it, and keep it today. I have truly forgiven my husband and I treasure him for the gift that he is to me.

Today, I am thankful for this trial because, through it, God produced in me real spiritual fruit that I may have never obtained without it.

The Faithful Family

The family unit in America is clearly devolving to state a meaninglessness and despair. Marriage, parenting, the discipline of children both formative and corrective, and the flow and function of the family unit are deteriorating and leaving the masses questioning, “What’s happening to society.” Sadly, this is true inside the visible church as well. Author and theologian Douglas Wilson penned these appropriate words concerning the signs of our time:

“A short walk through the marriage and family section of the local Christian bookstore easily demonstrates that modern Christians have a tremendous interest in the subject of marriage and family. But this booming marriage business (books, conferences, seminars, marriage counseling) is really a sign of disease and not health…We are like terminal cancer patients, fervently researching alternative treatments, hoping against hope that something can be done. Desperate for happiness in our relationships and discontent with what God has given us, we are imploring the experts to show us the way out…The foundation of a godly [family] is the same foundation for all godly living—in everything we are to seek the glory of God.” [1]

This is a sobering assessment of the state of the family; even inside Christ’s Church.

Luke’s inspired description of Zechariah & Elizabeth, the faithful parents of Christ’s Forerunner, I believe, paints for us today a model of the faithful family. Clearly, God will use anyone for any purpose that He has ordained. But wouldn’t it be wise of us to place ourselves in the path of God, prepared in advance with the willingness and availability for His use? Of course. Just how did Zechariah and Elizabeth do this and how can I follow their example left for me?

Both Righteous Before God, Walking Blamelessly

Any serious student of Scripture understands that any righteousness that a naturally fallen man or woman has in their fallen state is righteousness not their own. As Martin Luther would come to describe it later, Zechariah & Elizabeth held an “alien righteousness.” These two had been justified by God, declared to be in right standing positionally, by His grace through faith. Notice that this “righteousness” was not a superficial righteousness or a perceived righteousness but they were righteous “before God.” What joy the faithful family can have knowing they “before God,” in Christ, they stand pardoned, relieved of their guilt! If a family is to enjoy intimacy with God, while being used by God, it starts here.

Notice that the faithful family is a family that goes beyond a mere profession of faith but lives out that faith daily. The family Zechariah & Elizabeth’s began when they said “I do” was a family marked by “I do” toward God’s Word and placement in their lives. They were said to have been “walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statures of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). This was a family committed to the daily maintenance of faith combined with daily repentance from sin toward God.

To find Zechariah & Elizabeth being used by God for a great work should be no surprise. The faithful family unit has been ordained by God to be one of the primary mechanisms through which He works. Take for example, Adam & Eve and the protoevangelium entrusted to them; or Noah & his family, their work and God’s salvation through them; or Abraham with Sarah (not Hagar), Isaac (not Ishmael), and Jacob (not Esau); and the list could go on and on. God establishes faith in families, strengthens faith within families, and then works from that faith of families; to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6). However, God has invited us to participate in this process with Him. Just how do we do that? By following in Zechariah and Elizabeth’s footsteps.

Marry Within the Bounds God Provides

Zechariah, the son of Aaron, married Elizabeth, a daughter of Aaron. Simply stated: Believers are not permitted to marry outside the bounds of the believing community. This command is clear from the Old Testament commands of God to the people of Israel not to intermarry with the pagans around them to the New Testament command not to be unequally yoked. Dads, this is primarily your responsibility in rearing up your children. Moms, your role is to support and reinforce your husband’s leading of the children as ,together, you steer your children’s decisions in relationships. That sounds crazy in our culture, but then again most biblical principles will. Pastors, your job is steer mom and dad, preaching the whole counsel of God and shepherding mom and dad as they shepherd their children. This is the foundation of the faithful family, for if one spouse is not in the faith there can be no foundation for covenantal continuity.

Live Within the Bounds God Provides

Zechariah and Elizabeth were walking blamelessly, daily pursing Christ righteousness and kingdom. They were able to do this because the knew Word, lived the Word, and gave their lives to serving the Lord. If the Word of God is not the centerpiece upon which your family is built, currently standing, and to where you turn for direction you cannot expect 1) God to hear your prayers (Luke 1:13), 2) Expect God to use us for great works (Luke 1:15), or 3) Expect our children and their future families to stand firm or follow the Lord (Luke 1:15-17). The faithful family will live within the bounds God has provided.

Live With a Repentant Heart

Zechariah was not a perfect man. Even having been delivered a message directly from the throne room of God Most High (Luke 1:19) he still doubted. And he had reason to doubt if was looking to himself. God promised an old man and an old woman, well past child-producing or child-bearing years, a son. However, after being disciplined by the Lord for his doubting (Luke 1:20), Zechariah was quick to repent when naming his promised, miracle baby boy (Luke 1:57-66), and just as quick to praise the God who gives for His great mercy.

This gives me great hope for me and my family. Zechariah, the righteous, blameless, servant, doubter, who God used to advance Christ’s Kingdom. May the Lord find me and my family fit for His service as well.



[1] Reforming Marriage, pg. 13, 14

His Love is Better than Life

My wife woke up today to a single long stem Rose, a card, and some Reese’s chocolates hearts from myself and our two boys. Why? Because we want to make much of her, of her love, her care, and her hard work. We want to remind her of how greatly we appreciate all she does for us. We could do this every day of the year in reality but we did it today because it’s Valentine’s Day. It’s our hope she feels loved, cherished, and adored from this. In other words we want to make much of her today.

Do not confuse Valentine’s Day love with how God loves us. The two loves are not the same. Let me explain…

Psalm 63:2-3 says, “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory. Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

These verses in Psalm 63 have always stuck out to me because of the transition David makes within it. In 63:2 David says that He has seen God in His sanctuary and beheld Him in His glory and power. In 63:3 David then says in response “because Your love is better than life my lips will praise you.” A question rises up upon seeing this. Why would David not say “because Your glory is better than life?” Didn’t he see His glory? How does God’s love come into the mix here?

I think the answer is quite revealing about the manner in which God loves mankind as well as revealing about the manner in which man receives the love of God. Here’s what I think is happening in these two verses.

David saw the glory and power of God and he rejoiced in that glory by praising God. Particularly, in praising the love of God. What then is the connection between seeing God’s glory and power and praising God’s love? I think it’s this. After seeing God’s glory and rejoicing in that glory by praising God, David expressed his joy in God’s love because allowing us to behold His glory is the primary way God loves us.

This would mean that God’s love does not make much of us (man-centered view), but God Himself (God-centered view). God is beheld in His glory, God is then praised in response, man’s soul is filled with joy, and God is glorified and made much of. This displays that God is love precisely because He graciously gives the elect the greatest possession they could ever have – Himself!

5 Misconceptions of the Pastor’s Wife

This is guest post by Lauren Chandler and is part of Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month. Lauren’s husband, Matt, is the author of The Explicit Gospel and serves as lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas.

Misconception #1

You have it all together. You’ve worked through all your issues. Sure, you may struggle, but not with anything major (whatever that may be).

Oh, sister, may I encourage you? On this side of heaven, we will always have battle to do with our flesh. Will he give relief at times? Yes! But “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We are off the hook—not to sin so that grace may abound—but to freely live a life pleasing to God that was bought by the perfect blood of Christ, not our own blood, sweat, and tears to “get it right.”

Three years into Matt’s position as pastor of The Village Church, I entered a twelve-step program. Let me quell the questions: it wasn’t because he became a pastor that I “worked the steps.” I needed to recover from the addiction of being a good girl, of performing my way into God’s good graces. I would have said with my lips that salvation is by grace through faith alone. I even thought I believed this at my core. But in my heart of hearts, I functioned as if it all depended on me. With my life I said, “God, thanks for saving me but I’ve got it from here.”

On a Thursday night, in front of people who only knew me as their pastor’s wife, I stood up with others to say, “There’s something the Lord is asking me to surrender.” The weight of what people would think of me nearly glued me to my seat, preventing me from standing.

But guess what I felt the moment I rose to my feet? Weightlessness. Relief. And tears. Lots and lots of tears. In all my worry about what the people of The Village would think of me—the gasps I imagined, the whispers—what I found instead was fellowship. I wasn’t the untouchable and unrelatable. I became real to them.

Really in need of a real Savior.

Misconception #2

Your gifting should match your husband’s.

Although you and your husband are one flesh, you are not the same person. The way God made you is different than how he made your husband. God knew what he was doing in putting the two of you together. he doesn’t make mistakes.

By God’s grace, be the best “you” you can be. Do you enjoy hosting people in your home? Do you love to teach? Do you come alive when you just get to sit across from another woman pouring out her heart?

Matt is an exceptional preacher and teacher. I have received and accepted multiple invitations to speak and teach but it is not a burning desire within me. I find myself saying “no” more often than “yes.” To lead worship, on the other hand, is something I eagerly desire to do. It excites me to lead five-hundred people in song. Matt loves to sing but, trust me, you don’t want him leading worship in song.

I am not him and he is not me, praise Jesus.

Misconception #3

You can kiss having close friends goodbye.

There is wisdom in carefully choosing to whom you disclose your hopes, desires, and struggles, especially when doing so sheds light on your husband’s flaws. Not everyone can handle such information with grace and maturity. Don’t buy the lie, though, that you can have no close friends. This will only isolate you and your husband from good fellowship with other believers. Everyone in your church should know that you and your husband are sinners, not because you blatantly participate in sinful acts but because of 1 John 1:8.

My closest friends for the past twelve years have all either been married to staff, on staff, or covenant members of our church. I have dear friends who are also in ministry in other cities, states, and even countries, but there is something special to having day-in, day-out friends. They see the inconsistencies in my life and are able to speak into it.

Have there been awkward seasons and disagreements? Yes! But God’s steadfast love has shone the most brilliantly when we addressed the awkward and generously forgave and loved one another in the middle of the mess.

Misconception #4

You must be friends with everyone.

How is this working for you? Even if you’re not a pastor’s or minister’s wife, how deeply are you able to know everyone with whom you come into contact? It’s impossible to be the same kind of friend to everyone. You can try it but most—if not all—of your relationships will be an inch deep. We are limited! It’s a practice in humility to acknowledge that we can’t be everyone’s close friend and must trust the Lord to meet that need in us and them.

That being said, if your friend circle is so tight that it hasn’t changed in years, do some examination. Is your group of friends hospitable or alienating? You can’t control what others think but you can be warm, amiable, and willing to be flexible, guarding against trading depth for width.

Misconception #5

Your kids are the most sanctified in your church.

Our faith is not an inheritable trait. Although our homes should model what Scripture outlines for a family, our children are individuals with their own faiths. As my husband often says, we can gather all the kindling we can find around their hearts: family devotions, talking of Scripture as we go, modeling forgiveness by asking for it and giving it freely, expressing our own need for the Savior, and praying for their salvation. But, it takes a movement of the Holy Spirit to ignite the flame of faith.

Our kids are like anyone else’s. They are going to fail. They will choose poorly. My kids are at church a lot. They know all the nooks and crannies, all the stashes of mints and crackers. The staff knows them and they know the staff. This comfort factor can often get them in trouble. Unlike most of the non-staff kids at church, they let their guards down. They don’t feel the need to be on their best behavior. Although we train them to be respectful, they have their moments—as we all do. They’re in need of Jesus as much as the next kid.

Lauren Chandler is the wife of Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas and president of Acts 29, a global church-planting network. They have three lovely (and lively) children. Whether writing stories, singing songs, or making her home a place to linger, Lauren enjoys creating beautiful and meaningful spaces where people may encounter the Lord of steadfast love imaged perfectly through Jesus. When she’s not singing, writing, or spending time with her family, she can be found on the back of a horse.

March – Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month!

Pastor's Wife Appreciation Month
This just in!  Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month is a 31-day online campaign to encourage the wives of men in ministry. Show your pastor’s wife how much you appreciate her by sharing the images below on social media with the hashtag  #PastorsWifeAppreciation, and by telling your own stories about how God has used your pastor’s wife in your life and in the lives of those around you.



Click below each image to share it with your friends!






Not Bilbo, Not Frodo, but My Babe :)


Today may be the fictional birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, but that’s not why today is one of the most special days of the year in our family.

Today, 7 years ago, is the day my wife became my wife, and I am eternally thankful and grateful for her. I love you Holly, I’m humbled that God would give you to me, you are the best thing besides Himself He’s ever given me. I’m thankful for these past 7 years, and I’m looking forward to the next 77×7 🙂

All Marriage Begins in Joy and Ends in Tragedy

Insightful piece from Carl Trueman:

When I married a young couple in my congregation a few years ago, I commented in the sermon that all human marriages begin with joy but end in tragedy. Whether it is divorce or death, the human bond of love is eventually torn apart. The marriage of Christ and his church, however, begins with tragedy and ends with a joyful and loving union which will never be rent asunder. There is joy to which we point in our worship, the joy of the Lamb’s wedding feast. But our people need to know that in this world there will be mourning. Not worldly mourning with no hope. But real mourning nonetheless, and we must make them ready for that.

To read the rest, which I recommend you do, click here.

Happy Birthday My Love!

1511175_10100701969355043_1700252073_nToday is a wonderful day!  Today my wife Holly, turns 30.

I have trouble finding words to express what I feel toward you Holly.  The best I can say is you are “home” to me, and I love you dearly.  So much grace, such sturdy truth, such marvelous motherhood, and such a wondrous wife.  You have taught me much just by watching you do life in close proximity to me.  You say what no one else dares say to me, comfort me when I’m hurting, encourage me when I am riddled with doubt, call courage out of me when I can’t seem to find it, and have shown me what it means to trust God, living humbly and joyfully under the shadow of His wings.

For these things I am eternally grateful Holly, I love you, always and forever.  Praise God I get you, and praise Him that we get to dance in minefields together all our days.

Why I Married a White Girl

I need a break from blogging for a bit.  Thus, for the rest of the week I’m going to be posting up some of my favorite blogs I’ve read over the past week.  Enjoy, see you next Monday!

Good post from one of my favorite gospel hip-hop artists Trip Lee over on the Gospel Coalition Blog

Whenever I post pictures of my family on social media, the responses are fun. Most common are “Your son is so handsome!” or “What a beautiful family!” But one of the other frequent responses is “Is your wife white?” People ask me at concerts sometimes too. The answer is yes. My wife is a mix of Hungarian, Italian, and Polish—which to most people just means she’s white. This is irrelevant to some, but shocking or even disappointing to others. I don’t think anyone should be shocked or disappointed by interracial marriages, but I still wanted to address why I married outside my race.

The decision to marry someone from a different ethnic background wasn’t tough for me. I never sat down and wrote out a pro-con list. (Though, if I did, the fact my wife has never seen an episode of Martin would be in the con category.) I didn’t agonize over it or seek counsel about whether it was okay. I was convinced she was the woman for me to marry, even though she wasn’t black.

Some would never consider marrying someone who didn’t share their ethnicity, so let me tell you why I did.


I always expected to marry a black woman. I found women of all backgrounds beautiful, but black girls were my “preference.” When I arrived on my college campus in 2006, though, I wasn’t looking for a wife at all. I just wanted to grow in my faith and get a good education. My first album had just come out, so I had plenty of other things to focus on. But as I met people at the school, a sophomore named Jessica really caught my attention, and we became friends.

We ran in the same circles and ended up joining the same church, so we saw each other a lot. And the more I got to know her, the more I was drawn to her. She really loved Jesus, and she had this childlike willingness to do whatever he asked. Her compassion for needy people challenged me, and she had a humble heart that responded to the Word. Over that first year I watched her sacrifice countless hours of her time serving at our church. On top of all of that, I loved being around her. Our conversation, whether serious or silly, always flowed with ease. So I eventually started to ask myself, Should I marry this girl?


Jessica didn’t look like I expected my future wife to look, but that didn’t matter to me. Don’t get me wrong, I thought she was beautiful from the first time I met her. And I was never opposed to marrying a white girl. I just didn’t think I would. But as I grew in my faith and my heart began to change, my preferences started changing too. My main preference was that my wife be godly, and Jessica was. So I wifed her.

Never for a moment did I feel like I was settling. It feels more like settling to overlook a godly woman merely because of her ethnicity. I never wanted to value my preferences for a wife over what I needed in a wife.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with having preferences, but we have to hold them with an open hand. I know certain people who overlook a potential godly spouse because they don’t fit some random preference. Some of our preferences really don’t matter that much. Some may even be foolish. Needless to say, we have to submit all of them to Scripture.

When you and your spouse are in the middle of conflict, skin tone doesn’t matter. Body type and social status seem insignificant. You want your spouse to be godly and humble. And as my wife and I begin to raise our first child, I couldn’t be more grateful for her. She’s an amazing mom and godly influence on my son—neither of which has anything to do with her ethnic background. It’s okay to prefer certain things in a spouse, but we have to submit our desires to what God wants for us in a spouse. What I wanted and needed most was a godly partner, and that’s exactly what he provided.

Trip Lee is a hip-hop artist with Reach Records and a pastoral assistant at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Good Life and blogs at Can I Brag On My Lord?. You can follow Trip on Twitter.

Confessions of a Nagging Wife

Marci Turner, over at the Resurgence Blog has written an interesting and timely piece on womanhood.  I’ve put it all here for you below.

I was—and even now can be—a nagging wife.

“A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand” (Proverbs 27:15–16).

Solomon laments about the nagging wife and counsels each of us that our behavior can be torturous to our husbands. Like the infrequent and unexpected rain that used to leak through the concrete roof of my house in the Arabian Gulf, the way I would approach my husband overwhelmed him and tested his patience.

See, I was that “quarrelsome” (ESV), “contentious” (NKJV), and “nagging” (MSG) wife. When my husband failed to lead our family in the early years of our marriage, I nagged him to death, thinking that would change his heart. I forgot that only Jesus could. My constant reproach further damaged our relationship. Of course, I never took the Bible’s admonition to correct my own behavior; my husband was the one sinning, and I needed to tell him about it.

This verse makes us bristle because of its truth. And we are tempted to sin in defense by pointing our quarrelsome finger at our husbands and our God. “My husband is not X. He is not doing Y. If I don’t remind him, correct him, challenge him, how will he ever grow?”

What our nagging means

My contentious ways revealed my heart. I doubted a sovereign God and my place in his redemption story. I doubted that my husband even on his best days could lead me or our family better than I could. And although I would never admit it, my nagging revealed my deep-seated and sinful belief that somehow I could change my husband. I had given up on the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. I falsely believed my words had that kind of power.

I nagged my husband to death, thinking that would change his heart. I forgot that only Jesus could.

My quarreling also covered up my weaknesses. Could I be that vulnerable with another human being? Could I trust my husband that completely? I was young and quite full of myself, and my quarreling served as a way to be heard. Not that my husband never asked my opinion, but I was terrified of the possibility that he wouldn’t. So, I was quick to dish out my thoughts and drown him in my opinions.

I was that unrestrained woman. When pushed, we unrestrained women can respond in sin with fight or flight. In those early years, every challenge, obstacle, or question of me was a push, and I fought back with everything I had. Although Jesus had saved me from eternal hell, I was stiff-necked and hard-hearted to relinquish all to him. The fierce independence I so valued damaged my relationships with the two most important men in my life—my husband and my Jesus.

Are you a quarrelsome wife? Do you fight and contend more than you seek peace and consensus? Do you bristle at this verse in Proverbs?

The fierce independence I so valued damaged my relationships with the two most important men in my life—my husband and my Jesus.

Many dislike Solomon’s comparison of women to dripping water. Some think it too demeaning, too sexist. In fact, one translation even changes the wording for wife to spouse to soften the blow. The wording once offended me, and here’s why: when you’re unrepentant, the truth stings.

God redeems our independence

But God saves through Jesus. He changes hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit. Those days of my quarrelsome ways are, for the most part, behind me. God is changing me. God is changing my husband. And my God, who never changes, redeemed and is redeeming my fierce independence and my quick tongue.

Oddly, there is great freedom in what the world calls limiting. In my redeemed, submitted-to-Christ marriage, I am free—free of the fear of failing at roles God never intended for me to play, free from burdens God never intended me to bear. And when I stopped demanding my voice be heard and my opinions considered, my husband turned to hear my counsel even more. Because my words were now void of self and filled with the Spirit.

God, who never changes, redeemed and is redeeming my fierce independence and my quick tongue.

I still have moments of relapse. For some of us who are mothers, our nagging is an unconscious failure to turn off our mom switch. Most of my days, I’m reminding someone to do something. “Brush your teeth.” “Clean your room.” “Get ready.” “Finish the science project.” “Put your dirty dishes up.” And on and on and on. When my husband reenters our environment at day’s end, my “mommyness” can overpower.

So here are five effective habits I’ve learned along the way. Keep in mind that this list may be equally challenging for men, as these are not just women’s issues, but human issues:

1. Watch what you say and how you say it

In sin, I say words I shouldn’t. I choose harsh words, destructive words. I speak before I think, and my mouth reveals my heart. Other times, my words lack provocation, but my tone gives me away. At our house, we joke that while we all may not speak in tongues we can, unfortunately, speak in tones. If you struggle with word choice, tone, or both, when speaking to your husband, ask Jesus to sanctify your mouth and take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). If your mindset leans toward critique, think on the good things about your husband and your life in Christ (Phil. 4:8).

2. Remember “two stars and a wish”

We are our spouse’s helpmate (Gen. 2:18). Immediately following his description of the contentious wife, Solomon says, “Iron sharpens iron and so one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:16). We know our husbands in ways no other person ever will, and we have great influence over them. My husband and I each want to make the other better. One of my daughter’s teachers coached her kids during a writers’ workshop to give “two stars and a wish” in response to another’s work—two things they liked and one suggestion for improvement. When my husband asks me to evaluate his decisions or even edit his writing, I give two stars for every wish.

3. Ask a question

When I need to remind him of an appointment or commitment, I ask my husband a question. “Will you be able to pick up from soccer tonight?” comes across better than “Don’t forget to . . .”

4. Say it with a smile

My dear friend often offers opinions contrary to her husband’s with a smile and a chipper tone. Of course, I rarely see her in public without a smile and a chipper tone, but I’ve realized that even if I have to force a smile and upbeat attitude, it helps. And my husband sees right through it because he knows that’s not my way. “You’re sounding like her,” he’ll laughingly say. And he appreciates my awkward effort.

5. Bide your time

There’s a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccles. 3:1). There’s a time to offer advice and a time to wait. In the early years of our marriage, I didn’t know this, and I would say the right things at the wrong time with either no effect or disastrous ones. How do you know when is the right time? What is work like for him right now? What pressures does he face? Look in his eyes and read his mental and emotional state. You will know if it’s not the right time.

This much I know is true: the right time to offer advice or critique is never during the heat of the battle. Your role at that moment is to stand by him in unity. Your husband needs to know that in the thick of the fight you are fighting with him, not against him. The time for analysis and constructive comments will come days, weeks, or months later when the crisis is behind him.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1, NIV).

For My Holly – I Love You Babe :)

Today is Valentines day, but all of you know that. What most of you don’t know about is that it was this day back in 2007 that I asked Holly Harrell to marry me, and she said yes!

In these five and half years we’ve been married we’ve had astonishing highs and horrendous lows. The highs were better than we’d ever imagined, and the lows have been lower than we’d ever dreamed possible. Through both these highs and lows God has smiled upon me by giving me Holly, and I can honestly say that because of our marriage I know God better, I know Holly better, and I know myself better, three things for which I am eternally thankful.

In honor of my beautiful wife on this valentines day I want to dedicate a poem to her. I love you Holly.

Although the fig tree blossom not,
And all the vines of our small plot
Be barren, and the olive fail,
The sheep grow weak and heifers frail,
We will rejoice in God, my love,
And take our pleasures from above:
The Lord, our God, shall be our strength
And give us life, whatever length
On earth he please, and make our feet
Like mountain deer, to rise and cleat
The narrow path for man and wife
That rises steep and leads to life.

Thank you for everything babe! I love you always and forever….