How to Make Marriage Beautiful

I have been deeply thankful for the gift of marriage in my own life–and also deeply challenged by it, as well. If you’ve walked with me for very long, you know that I have a lot to say (and write!) about marriage. This is why I am so thankful to have the privilege of interviewing a fellow author, Dorothy Greco, in this space! I was able to get an advance copy of her recent book release, Making Marriage Beautiful, and it is a thoughtful, balanced, helpful book about the ins and outs of marriage–and how to navigate the ups and downs from a healthy, Biblical, hopeful perspective. I definitely recommend it!

I’m grateful to welcome Dorothy to my blog!

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Ann: Dorothy, why did you write this book?

Dorothy: Everyone who says “I do!” wants a great marriage. I truly believe that this book will help husbands and wives achieve that goal. There’s no such thing as too much support or encouragement when you’re married. We all know, creating and sustaining a great marriage requires time, intentionality, and sacrifice. After doing more than twenty years of pastoral care and being married for twenty-five years, it was obvious to me that married couples are hungry for help, hope, and wisdom. I addressed these needs as I wrote Making Marriage Beautiful.

To clarify: I did not write this book because we have a perfect marriage or because I am a marriage expert. I wrote the book because my husband and I needed it. Due to some circumstances beyond our control, life got very difficult four years ago. As we struggled to love each other, I started thinking about what differentiates a joyful, dynamic marriage from a frustrating, unhappy one. Ideas started flowing and I broached the topic with Christopher. It would have been awesome to write the book together but he works two jobs and is finishing his graduate degree so that was not going to happen. Instead, I brought his voice in for most chapters.

Ann: So, how is your book different from other marriage books out there?

Dorothy: I’m so glad you asked this question! Making Marriage Beautiful is truly unlike many other marriage books. First, it’s written by a woman to both men and women. This is almost unheard of. Adding Christopher’s words and the eight other husbands ensures that men are well represented. Second, the book contains very vulnerable, real-life stories. Most authors who write about marriage tend not to be as honest as Christopher and I chose to be. I think readers will easily engage and trust me because I’m choosing to trust them. Finally, I refuse to depend upon cliches or formulas. There’s no chapter titled, Ten Steps to a Perfect Marriage! Marriage and transformation is a process and my goal in writing this book is to help men and women navigate that process well. For the long haul.

Ann: What hopes do you have for the book?

Dorothy: I believe that the healthy marriages are important for so many other aspects of life: raising children, stabilizing communities, helping us to mature, etc. Though the divorce rates continues to drop (contrary to cultural narratives that tend to decry the ever-rising divorce rate), many of us struggle to deeply, consistently enjoy our marriages. It might be hubris, or it might be faith, but I hope that this books helps couples all over the globe who are hungry for guidance, encouragement, and hope.

Ann: One last question, Dorothy. Why, in your opinion, should couples keep working on marriage when it’s so hard at times?

Dorothy: Indeed, marriage is hard work. It’s the most difficult, and the most rewarding endeavor that I have ever embarked upon. When things get hard, and especially if they stay hard, most of us find it easier to give up, resign ourselves to a mediocre marriage, or in some cases, to sever all ties and hit the restart button. Any of these choices are understandable (and in the case of abuse, it may be advisable to separate or divorce). However, choosing to stay and work gives God an opportunity to change us. To help us mature. As this happens, we learn how to love more fully and truly, and this is a beautiful and profound thing. When we learn how to love others, perhaps especially when they are difficult, it allows us to become more like Christ.

Please do yourself–and your marriage–a favor and pick up a copy of Making Marriage Beautiful, available now everywhere!

17 Ways You Can Pray for Your Husband

17 Ways to Pray for Your Husband in 2017 at www.annswindell.comI had the honor of getting to write for Way-FM recently about one of the topics I love the most: marriage! The start of the article is below; you can read it in its entirety here!

As wives, perhaps one of the most important things we have the opportunity to do in 2017 is to pray for our husband. No one knows him as closely as you do, and this offers a unique chance to come before the Lord and ask him to guide and protect your husband in a powerful way.

Still, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start or how to focus our prayers, and so, below, you’ll find 17 ways to pray for your husband this year. You can pray through the whole list at once, or pray for specific aspects on different days of the week or month. Even if your husband does not yet know the Lord, you can pray these prayers for him, trusting that the Lord hears you and he loves your husband even more than you do.

1. Pray for your husband’s relationship with Christ.

No other relationship in your husband’s life is as important as his relationship with God—not even his relationship with you! The good news is that as your husband grows in closeness with the Lord, his love for Christ will start to spill over into every other relationship in his life, including his marriage. So, pray that your husband will be motivated and excited to spend time with the Lord, praying and reading the Bible.

2. Pray that the Lord will give your husband godly friends.

We become like the people we spend time with, and so your husband’s friends have a huge influence on his life. Ask God to give your husband close friends who are also pursuing Christ, and that they would “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

3. Pray for favor on your husband’s life.

Your husband has already received favor in having you as his wife, for “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22)! Now, pray that God will increase your husband’s favor with bosses, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances!

4. Pray that your husband will thrive in his job.

Few things matter more to a man than knowing he is making significant contributions in his work. Pray that God will give your husband joy in his work and breakthrough in any difficult situations at his place of employment.

Read the rest of the article here, at WAY-FM!

Looking for more marriage encouragement? 
Read 10 Ways to Grow Spiritually with your Spouse!
Read Cultivating a Joy-Filled Relationship with your Spouse.

 
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What I Want My Single Friends to Know About Marriage

Michael and I just recently celebrated our tenth anniversary, and this article seems timely in its publication; friendships between marrieds and singles are necessary, beautiful, and valuable in the Kingdom of God. You can read the article in its entirety here, at Today’s Christian Woman.

What I Want My Single Friends to Know About Marriage. Great insights for marrieds and singles!

When I got married ten years ago, there were certain things I expected—things like love and struggle and joy and pain. But what I didn’t expect was that those emotions might not only occur within my marriage, but also between me and my single girlfriends. As I learned what it looked like to be married to Michael, I was also trying to learn how to re-build friendships with the women in my life.

It wasn’t easy. Suddenly, I was in a different stage of life than they were, navigating different questions and concerns. Our seasons of life were different, and we had choices to make: Would we stay connected, work for deeper friendship even in the midst of life change? Or would we slowly fade apart?

Five Honest Admissions

Here are the things I wish I would have said ten years ago to my single friends—and the things I still may need to say to my single friends. Because friendship in any season is worth the time and intentionality it requires—even if it does get a little awkward as we figure things out along the way.

1. Sometimes I don’t know how to relate to you. I know that sometimes you feel like you can’t relate to my life situation—and I actually feel the same way about you. Our seasons of life are markedly different, now, and I’m not always sure how to connect.

Maybe it’s because I was the first among my friends to get married, and it was as if an invisible wall went up in some of my friendships—a wall I didn’t know how to break through. Some of my friends were jealous; some were unsure of how our friendship would shift now that I was a Mrs. It made me gun-shy, and I felt the shift. I worried that I would misstep in my friendships with single women.

How do we relate now? Singles and marrieds--building a strong friendship is worth it. #marriage… Click To Tweet

What I’m saying is that I’m not sure what stories you want to hear from my life. Should I avoid all of the stories about our marriage? I don’t know how painful it feels for you when I bring up my husband in conversation. And I have no idea if you want to talk about your singleness of not.

I might need you to tell me; I might need you to open up the conversation and share where your heart is with singleness, with marriage, with Jesus, with the church. And I might need to share with you about my marriage. We might just need to work through the awkwardness together. Because I want to love you well, just as I want to be loved well by you. But I’m not always sure how you want me—and maybe even need me—to relate to you. Please tell me. I won’t be offended. I’ll be thankful.

2. Yes, it really is wonderful. And yes, it really is hard. Even though I’m not in your shoes, I know that being single can be really, really hard. What I need you to hear from me is this: sometimes marriage can be hard, too.

Yes, I am grateful that I have someone to come home to, to lean on, to process life with, to live alongside. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Michael’s sharpening and loving presence in my life. But marriage is not all sunshine and roses. It is a daily choice to keep our communication open, our love pure, our dreams shared. We are two different people with sometimes markedly different views of how we should live, eat, work, and parent. And it can be exhausting to try and work things through one more time, when it would feel easier to throw in the emotional towel.

So there are going to be days when I need you to help me cherish my vows, and days when I need to help you trust God’s promises, too. I think we can help and love each other in these places if we can make room for each other’s struggles, no matter how different they are.

I need you to help me cherish my vows, and I need to help you trust God’s promises, too. #marriage… Click To Tweet

3. There are days when I envy your singleness. I relinquished a lot of freedoms at the altar because the marriage vow necessarily requires tethering: I can’t up and go whenever I want, I can’t choose a new job based only on my personal desires. I’m not free to spend money any way I want, or use my time solely in the ways I see fit. Those were freedoms I traded in order to have a healthy marriage. And while I know we are all called to shape our lives around Christ and live accountably to him and his church, there are days when your life seems very alluring to me: You don’t have to make decisions with someone else, or shape your life around another human. Some days, your freedoms sound luxurious to me. I know you might be rolling your eyes right now, but it’s true.

Paul warns about this reality in the Scripture—it’s not like I went into marriage blind:

I want you to be free from anxieties. . . . And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32, 34-35)

I made this choice when I got married—to have, to a certain degree, my attentions divided between Jesus and my husband, my family. I seek to keep Christ at the forefront of my life, and often serving Jesus means serving my husband and family. But there are days when I feel torn in my attentions, and I look at your life with longing.

Read the rest of the article here, at Today’s Christian Woman!

Embracing Change: The Pearl of Joy

Embracing Change at www.annswindell.com

This is the start of my newest article for (in)courage.
You can read the entire article here!

This last year was a whirlwind of change for me. Our family uprooted from the city we had lived in for over a decade—the city where my husband and I fell in love, the city where we found our first jobs, the city where we figured out life as newlyweds, the city where we navigated serious sickness and struggle, the city where our daughter was born. We had a home there, and not just a physical one. Our community, our church, our jobs—we had a place that we knew, and people who knew us. We were settled.

And then, God.

God opened a new door for us, one that we knew we were meant walk through. My husband had the opportunity to go to graduate school, and that meant moving to a new state, finding a new home, and starting a new life where we hardly knew anyone. It meant, essentially, change.

For me, change has always felt gut-wrenching, difficult, gear-grinding tight. I have never loved change; I have usually avoided it.  

But this past year felt like a gift unwrapped for me, given by my heavenly father. Because I found, for the first time in my life, that I was not terrified of the unknown. What I experienced this past year, as I prayed for help to accept and embrace the changes we were facing, was grace.

Read the rest of the article over at (in)courage!

And sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!

Seeing the Year with Thankful Eyes: 2015 Highlights

Seeing the Year with Thankful Eyes: Choosing Gratefulness. www.annswindell.com

‘Tis the season for year-end round ups, lists of favorites, and reflecting on the last year. I love this time of reflection between Christmas and New Year’s Day–it’s a short window in which many of us take time to think about what’s happened in the last twelve months and start to dream about what’s ahead.

And I love this week. Why? Because before we set our sights on the new year, it is very important to thank God for all that has passed–for his presence, his goodness, and his faithfulness to us for another year. We need to do this, not because God needs it, but because our souls need to recount all that has done.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. [Psalm 9:1]

When we recount the Lord’s goodness, it moves our soul to thank him–fitting praise for our Creator!

When we recount the Lord's goodness, it moves our soul to thank him. Click To Tweet

For me, this blog post is one of the ways I am recounting his wonderful deeds to me and our family this year. We have to much to praise him for!

The past year was a year of change for our family, and it was hard in many ways. But it was also very good–and I am thankful for all of it, because it drew us to Jesus.

We moved to another state for my husband’s graduate work.

I left my teaching job at Wheaton College.

We endured serious sickness but emerged healthy.

Michael and I celebrated nine years of marriage!

God provided for our family in miraculous ways.

I signed my first book contract with Tyndale House!

I launched my online writing course, Writing with Grace (class starts in January!).
I also had some writing highlights that I’d love to share!

One of my pieces for RELEVANT reached a very wide audience and was their most-read article the week it was published.

My honest piece about parenting was named as one of Today’s Christian Woman’s top articles for 2015.

I got to write for the Redbud Post–the publication of the Redbud Writers Guild that I’m honored to belong to.

I wrote one of the pieces I’m most proud of for Today’s Christian Woman, about how I’m learning to accept my own body by teaching my daughter to love hers.

I was able to write for (in)courage a couple of times and always love sharing my words there.

Thank you for joining me here in this space. I’m grateful for all God has done and I look ahead to all that he will do in this coming year! What are you thanking him for?

The Unhappiest Year of My Life: The High and Holy Calling of Motherhood

This is the start of my newest article from Today’s Christian Woman.
You can read the whole article here.

Everything about having a baby is touted as happy: the rounding belly, the cute maternity clothes, the baby showers, the adorable tiny clothes.

Yes, pregnancy can be difficult for some women (for me it was very hard), but the overarching sentiment is that having a baby is an amazing, wonderful thing. And it truly is. The miracle of life, the gift of a child, the hope of a growing family—these are all amazing, wonderful things. Beautiful things. Happy things, even. But for me, the first year of my daughter’s life wasn’t very happy.

Actually, it was the unhappiest year of my life.

I knew that having a child would change things; many of my friends had already become parents, and I had watched them go from women with time for coffee dates and professional lives to moms who were worn out and frazzled. I didn’t expect the transition to parenthood to be easy. I didn’t expect that I would sleep much or that I would have a lot of extra time.

Still, I did expect to be happy. I thought that having a baby—a baby that we’d hoped and prayed for—would bring happiness in the midst of sleep deprivation and the transition into life as parents.

How to Make it When Motherhood is Hard. www.annswindell.com

But I wasn’t happy; at least not for a good while. Don’t get me wrong—I was thankful. Ella and I were both healthy, I loved her immensely, and seeing my husband as a father was incredible. But the combination of exhaustion, the lack of time for myself, the shift in my identity to becoming a mother, the change in our marriage relationship, and the depth of responsibility I felt for my daughter, all combined with those powerful postpartum hormones, left me feeling very, very unhappy.

I missed my old life. It’s not that I didn’t want to be Ella’s mom; I loved her more than I thought was possible. But I missed the freedom and rest that I realized I would never get back. I missed being able to put myself first, something that felt increasingly impossible. I missed who I was, and I had the realization that I was never going to be that woman again.

Read the rest of the article here, at Today’s Christian Woman!