4 Keys to Effective Communication in Marriage

Proverbs 12:8

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (NIV).

Throughout my entire life, I have always struggled with my perception of myself. I feel awkward in nearly every social situation, and I don’t feel comfortable expressing myself through speaking. It’s been a constant battle for me. My self-identity was often in shambles because I just couldn’t see myself the way that God sees me. 

That all changed because of the empowering words of my wife. The love and respect she has shown me throughout our relationship continually remind me of my value. When I struggle with my self-image, she knows the right words to speak because she has invested in me. She knows how to communicate with me effectively and reach into my heart. We grow closer to one another every day because we have embedded ourselves in each other’s lives through effective communication.

Communication can make or break a marriage. Our words carry the power to hurt or to heal. Unwillingness to communicate also brings with it its own set of consequences. How can we expect to grow closer to our spouse if we aren’t willing to talk to them? We must foster healthy habits within our marriage that cultivate powerful communication. 

Communication can make or break a marriage. Our words carry the power to hurt or to heal.

Here are 4 keys to developing effective communication within your marriage.

Make Time to Listen

Carving time out of your schedule to hear about your spouse’s day makes them feel valued. That simple act of sitting and listening can show your spouse that you care. The effort you demonstrate by doing this shows where your priorities lie. It helps your spouse to know that they are important to you. So many arguments arise from the fact that someone feels like they are never genuinely listened to. These arguments are entirely avoidable, and so is the hurt that results.

I make sure that every day when my wife comes home, I take the time to ask her about her day. I stop whatever I am doing and truly listen. I love her, and I want to be a part of what’s going on in her life. This small gesture goes a long way in being involved in what she’s doing.

Invest in the Things That are Important to Your Spouse

Show your spouse that the things that are important to them are important to you too. I can’t tell you how much of the conversation between my wife and me revolves around the other’s interests that we have chosen to invest in. We have deepened our relationship by investing in what’s important to each other. 

We have deepened our relationship by investing in what’s important to each other.

Being well-versed in each other’s passions in life opens up new opportunities for conversation. I love hearing my wife pour out her heart about things that she likes. It draws me closer to her and shows me sides of her that I would never see if I didn’t make that effort. 

Ask Questions that Spark Conversation

One of the questions I make sure to ask my wife every single day is, “what was the best part of your day?” This question draws me into her day and gives me a great sense of something that spoke to her heart in the midst of it. From her answers, I learn more about what she is experiencing and what moves her throughout the course of her day. 

Never stop learning about your spouse. Little questions like this can help guide you in going deeper in your knowledge of your spouse. 

ALWAYS Treat Your Spouse with Respect

If you have one take-away from reading this post, let it be this one. There is NO EXCUSE for ever treating your spouse disrespectfully. If you have any desire to have a healthy marriage, you will always treat them with respect. Take ownership of the responsibility that your words carry with you. They have the power to either empower or tear down the person you have committed your entire life to. 

There is NO EXCUSE for ever treating your spouse disrespectfully.

God has brought you together with your spouse. Honor that relationship by speaking healing words into their life. Never deepen the hurt that they feel. It is much harder to fix the damage done by stray words than it is never to have said them in the first place. 

Commit to trying out these 4 keys to effective communication in your marriage today. Pray that God guides you along the way, and send your marriage soaring to new heights!

Breaking Free From Toxic Relationships

John 8:36

If the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed. (NIV).

I was in a toxic relationship for years. It’s not something that I’m proud of. It was life-draining, humiliating, and exhausting. I’m ashamed of some of the things that went down. It felt like that cycle of dysfunction was never going to end.

There were words spoken that broke my self-confidence. It happened all the time. Every moment I built myself back up, I got torn down. In retrospect, I hold myself responsible. I was the one who kept coming back and asking for more. There were multiple times that I could have chosen freedom, but I didn’t. I decided to return to my chains.

Even when freedom is right before our eyes, we have to take that step forward to embrace it. We must be bold enough to make it ours. We are often the ones fueling our own bondage. We continually return to the chains that have held us back for so long.

In John 8:36, Jesus tells us, “If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed” (NIV). Let His words resonate in your mind. Freedom is within your grasp! Jesus is trying to tell you that you can break free from the cycle. You can break free from the pain. Stop believing the lies, and no longer return to your chains.

You can break free from the pain. Stop believing the lies, and no longer return to your chains.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? Why do we do this to ourselves? 

Fear

When we live in a dysfunctional situation for so long, we end up becoming comfortable in it. We are afraid of what’s outside of that reality. It’s fear of the unknown. We start to believe the lie that there is nothing better for us. The most terrifying thought is one of being alone. 

The only answer is to find the courage to break out of our comfort zone and cast aside the lies. We need to embrace Jesus and the freedom He so freely gives. It’s the type of freedom that reminds us we are free to choose life-giving and empowering things. He longs for us to experience this deliverance, but we have the final say on if we accept it or not.

Lack of Confidence

My shattered self-image is what caused me to remain where I was. I couldn’t find it in myself to believe that I deserved better. I took to heart the lies fed to me. I desperately tried to strive towards being something that I was not. I genuinely wanted to please my partner but ended up becoming less and less of who God called me to be.

I devalued myself. I started to become the person that I never wanted to be. My twisted perception of myself started to become a reality. It was a slippery slope, and I couldn’t regain my footing. Ultimately, I was the one allowing it to happen. It took me a long time to be able to see it clearly.

Desire to See Your Partner Change

There is good in everyone, undoubtedly. We see the good in our partner and remember the reasons we connected in the first place. No matter how destructive their patterns become, we want to believe they will change. We desire to be the instrument of that change. Our heart is in shambles because we hate to see our partner in the state that they are in.

If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we realize that it’s up to them to change. That burden is not on you. Ultimately, you don’t have that choice. It’s a tragedy, but something that you must accept. 

It’s up to them to change. That burden is not on you.

Our God is a God of healing. He wants to see you free from anything that holds you back. If you are in a toxic relationship, Jesus wants you to know that freedom is available to you. If you embrace it, there is no need to fear what’s on the other side. He will lead you to true freedom and the chance to retake hold of your life. If you are feeling scared to take this step, let His words in Isaiah 41:10 speak directly to your heart: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (NIV).

Bible Verses on Strength

It requires immeasurable strength to conquer the trials that life throws our way. Thankfully, we are children of a God who is all-powerful! He shares His strength with us abundantly. His desire is that we would thrive in life, crushing every obstacle set against us by the mightiness of our faith.

The following are 10 Bible verses on strength to inspire you today. Pray that God would fill you with the power that only He can provide. Live out your day with confidence because our God is a mighty tower that no evil can topple.

Identity in Christ

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (NIV).

I always struggled with my self-identity when I was younger. The person who I felt on the inside was not who I was on the outside. I was unbearably shy and socially awkward, but on the inside, my soul was ablaze. I never knew how to express the passion that I had inside. This disconnect was what left me feeling confused about myself. 

I tried to express it through music. It helped a great deal through different parts of my life. Ultimately, it wasn’t my answer. Writing has been an even bigger ally on my journey of self-discovery. As an extreme introvert in a world dominated by extroverts, I used to feel weak. But the power of putting words on paper made me feel strong. The pen was the magic wand that allowed me to express what was going on inside. 

Still, it wasn’t the key to my full realization. It was within the pages of God’s Word that I discovered who I am. Through it, I saw how I fit into the world around me. God helped me rediscover my old interests and repurpose them in a way that made them bring value to my life again. Reading the Bible felt like coming home. 

It was within the pages of God’s Word that I discovered who I am.

Strange as it is, it still does no matter how many times I read it. I learn something new every time I open its pages. Not only about myself, but about the world I interact with daily. God’s voice fills my soul with value and self-worth. He teaches me how my passions in life fit into the bigger picture. Through Him, all is clear.

There are powerful words to be found in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (NIV)The tangled mess of emotions that made up the old me is gone. In its place, God has pieced together the original design that He had for me. I am new. 

God loves us the way that we are, but He desires even better for us. He wants to guide us from where we are to something more profound. God placed a multitude of desires in our hearts to lead us in experiencing all that His wondrous Creation has to offer. We are each molded uniquely by His hand so that we can see these adventures through our own special outlook. 

Follow the path God lays before you. On the journey, you will encounter a version of yourself that you’ve never known before.  

Peace Through Prayer

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you (NIV).

God convicted me yesterday. You see, I had my day all planned out. I was going to get 100% caught up on work. Then I was going to write my blog post while enjoying a cup of coffee. My baby daughter was going to nap when I expected her to. I was excited about this day. There were goals to conquer, and I was ready to do it.

It turns out things didn’t go as I had planned. As I failed to follow the worldless directions while building a piece of IKEA furniture, my dog attacked the parts I had organized on the floor. My daughter, who I thought was napping, started screaming out of the blue. The work that I had set goals to accomplish for the day never got done. It was a circus.

At first, I felt frustration taking hold of me, but God stopped me at that moment and asked me to pray. I did. He flooded me with a peace that I didn’t think I would find amid the chaos. 

God stopped me in that moment and asked me to pray.

We grew up believing that we have control of things. Yes, we have free will and can work hard to make things happen for us. Ultimately though, curveballs are thrown at us that no amount of preparation or hard work can help us dodge. 

These are life’s tragedies. We will all encounter them in varying degrees. How we respond to them will dictate the course of our life. They will make or break us. We must find refuge in God’s peace. But what is that peace, and how are we to capture it?

Peace is the acceptance that we are not in control. Achieving this is challenging because we want to have a tight grip on our fate. Not having that causes us great anxiety. But we have hope because we have faith in the One who is in control! 

Peace is the acceptance that we are not in control.

The kind of peace that God offers reassures us that everything will be ok. It pierces through even our darkest moments. It doesn’t mean that we won’t grieve, and it doesn’t mean we won’t feel pain. It is the difference between being broken and having the strength to carry on. It’s the mindset that reminds you of God’s promise that He will redeem all.

Isaiah 26:3 reminds us that all we need to receive this peace is steadfast trust in God. Through our faith, He will continually renew our minds and grant us peace as we’ve never known. This peace will not only carry us through our most challenging trails but also through stressful days, like the one I had yesterday. 

He will continually renew our minds and grant us peace as we’ve never known.

Saturate your day in prayer, and ask God for the peace that only He can provide. Ask Him how to teach you how to keep your mind steadfast on Him, so that you can tackle everything the day brings. 

Introducing Coleen Sykes Ray: Survivor, Author, Advocate.

Isaiah 40:31

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (NIV).

Coleen Renee is the founder and executive director of Bags of Hope Stockton Foundation, a non-profit meeting the needs of any menstruating person with sanitary supplies, resources, and education. She felt empowered to start her ministry in response to her calling to express her gift of healing to reach into the lives of others. God has also called her to be an evangelist, where she thrives on educating families on health and wellness.

She is a multi-faceted leader, helping faith-based organizations establish health ministries, working as a program manager for another non-profit, and running her own small business in her community, Coleen’s Cupcakery. She has written and published two children’s books and published five journals. She is a wife of twenty-two years and a proud mother of three. She believes deeply in an individual’s power to overcome any obstacle in their life, and her passion is to inspire this belief in others to empower them to soar to new heights.

I highly recommend her writing. She is an inspirational woman of God. You can find her books at https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3AColeen+Sykes-Ray&s=relevancerank&text=Coleen+Sykes-Ray&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1.

5 Bible Verses on Healing

God reaches into our deepest needs and brings healing incomparable to anything else we can ever experience. It washes over us, bringing us back to the fullness of life and leaving us renewed. Here are 5 Bible verses to help remind you of this beautiful truth!

For more inspiration on healing, click here!

Faith and Fitness

1 Corinthians 6:19

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (NIV)

Before I was a Christian, and even to a different degree today, I struggled with my self-identity. There was always this enormous gulf between how I evaluated myself at the moment and what I knew I could become. Living in this disconnect left me constantly feeling frustrated and confused.

What they say is true: perception is reality. The perception that I had of myself was flawed. I still struggle with it. We never ultimately arrive at our destination, but I always feel like I should be one step ahead of where I find myself at the moment. That disconnect enters my life again, bringing back those feelings of frustration and confusion.

I have always found that pursuing a greater fitness level has helped me deal with this. Being more in touch with my physical self allows me to bridge the gap between my perception of myself and what I truly am. The change I feel happens for many reasons.

Since my mid-twenties, I have struggled considerably with my weight. I go back and forth between being a relatively healthy weight and being far too overweight for my overall health. When I find myself carrying more weight than I should be, it’s challenging to do the everyday things that I need to do. I don’t feel like myself at all. More often than not, the past few years, this was my reality, and I’ve struggled considerably with it.

I found my most significant victory at the beginning of this year. Between January and May, I lost nearly 50 pounds. During that time, I celebrated my 32nd birthday, but I was feeling more like 22. I felt a rush of self-confidence that stemmed from my ability to thrive in my everyday tasks and feel good doing it. It helped me to focus on a healthier perception of myself.

Since then, I have struggled to maintain the success I had found. In my efforts, I have uncovered new inspiration to continue by seeking the answer to a simple question: what is the relationship between fitness and faith?

Through prayer, God reminded me of a beautiful illustration that helped lead me to an answer. The Jewish temple that once stood in Jerusalem held powerful symbolism in its very architecture. You see, the temple consisted of multiple courts. As you progressed further into the temple, you entered more holy ground. The most sacred space of all was the innermost room, called the Holy of Holies. They found it so hallowed that only one person (the High Priest) could enter the room only one day out of the year. That is because the Holy of Holies was the part of the temple where they believed God’s spirit resided.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul reminds us of a beautiful truth: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (NIV). Does this verse draw striking similarities in your mind regarding what we learned about the Holy of Holies?

Our bodies that God has blessed us with are vessels of the Holy Spirit. Since the time of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon all believers, God’s Spirit resides not in the Holy of Holies but rather within each person that has professed faith in Christ’s name! Through it, He empowers us to fulfill the calling He has placed in our life to do.

Would you neglect or abuse sacred space in the form of your local church’s sanctuary? Why then would we not care for our bodies, which God has deemed worthy of holding the Holy Spirit? The journey that led me to ask myself this question has reinvigorated my passion for pursuing the best fitness I can attain.

When I start to fall away from my goals, I will ask myself those questions anew. I encourage you to do the same. I know I could use an accountability partner if anyone is willing. I am also available if I can do the same for anyone else that reads this. Please message me at Zachary@JacobsLadderCCW.com, and we can help spur each other on to conquer our goals. In the coming weeks, I will reflect on this journey and how it relates to my faith.

Praise be to God, who freely gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit!

God Showed Up When I Needed Him Most: A Testimony from Nina Evans

Note: This is the testimony of Nina Evans, a powerful prayer warrior and woman of God. Her family serves as the Pastoral leaders of Protection Mennonite Church in Protection, Kansas.

Isaiah 34:4

The heavens above will melt away and disappear like a rolled-up scroll. The stars will fall from the sky like withered leaves from a grapevine, or shriveled figs from a fig tree (NLT)

My name is Nina and I’d like to share my testimony with you of how God saved my soul. In January 2003 my husband and I purchased our second home about an hour away from the only town I’d lived in my whole life. We rented out our first house and were excited about the new beginning in our new home and town.

Very quickly things went from exciting and adventurous to deeply depressing and fearful. I’d lost my job at the bank, the renters up and left, and we were on the verge of financial ruin. I went out to fill out applications day after day with no luck, our car got repossessed, and then we had to file bankruptcy. Everything we’d worked for was gone and we were trying to figure out how to get my husband back and forth to work an hour away, how to keep our home, and how to survive.

Then my one-year-old cat suddenly got sick and died, and my little brother got into some serious trouble. It was as if our life was crumbling right before our eyes and there was nothing we could do to stop our world from crashing in around us. I fell into a deep depression, where I wouldn’t leave the house, didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I couldn’t see any way out of this dark empty life I had found myself in.

I couldn’t see any way out of this dark, empty life I had found myself in.

I remember my husband and I were reading the Bible because we both knew of God but didn’t know Him and figured we would give it a shot because nothing else was helping us. Well little did either of us know that would be the beginning of how God would show us the truth of what real success is, what the real dream is.

Usually, I would stay home when my husband went to work, but on one particular day I drove into our old town with him to work and stayed with him. He worked in a gas station on the wrong side of town where the people don’t come into pay but put their money into a tray through a little opening. I sat in the backroom and just talked to him whenever he didn’t have a customer. It was a long day, but I was glad not to be home alone.

It is now 11:15 pm and we are on the way home. It’s a little over an hour away and my husband was driving which was not usual because I did all the driving, but not this night. We’re driving down the long dark expressway where the only lights were from headlights of other cars, just talking when all of a sudden right about midnight the night sky was lighter than daylight. Somehow Dillon manages to stay on the road but I am screaming and crying it’s the end of the world and we are all going to hell because we don’t know Jesus, the man we have been reading about in the Bible.

I remember telling Dillon that I loved him, and I had to call my mom one last time to tell her I love her too. I somehow managed to call my mom, who was asleep, and tell her that Jesus had just come back, we were all going to hell and that I just needed her to know I loved her. While this is all taking place it was dark again: the light was gone just as quickly as it came with no sound. It was just gone. Now while my mom thought I was nuts, my stepdad had just gotten home from his third shift job and seen the light too, so she knew I wasn’t crazy, but saying it’s the end of the world and we’re going to hell; that part she still made her think I was crazy. To me, it wasn’t: I knew with everything I was that it wasn’t by chance we had been reading the Bible.

“The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places.” Revelation 6:14. “The heavens above will melt away and disappear like a rolled-up scroll. The stars will fall from the sky like withered leaves from a grapevine or shriveled figs from a fig tree.” Isaiah 34:4. These 2 verses stuck out so clearly to me, even though I didn’t completely understand what they meant. I knew that if I didn’t know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior all my sins were on me, and if He had come back I was going to be lost, with the only future that awaited me being the fires of hell. There has never been a time in my life where those flames were more real and I felt the weight of all my sins. I felt such conviction that my soul was screaming, “save me Jesus, save me!” That night I knew without a doubt God used everything I was going through to save my soul from the pits of hell! We would find out the next day it was a meteoroid, but to me, God knew that it would take Him lighting up that night sky for this sinner to realize my need for Him.

That night I knew without a doubt God used everything I was going through to save my soul.

It would be years later and many more life-changing steps, but it was all leading to where I am today: a follower of Jesus Christ, pastor’s wife, and mother. God was preparing to shift my mindset from the American Dream to His vision for our life as a Pastoral family, serving Him wherever He sends us with every talent and gift He provides. Helping other lost souls find Him and grow in their personal relationships with God our Father. Loving, caring, and helping others so that our lives are so much more than just what we know here on this earth. We have a place already prepared for us that is everlasting and so much grander than any of us can imagine if we only surrender to Christ. That nothing is too hard or impossible with Him, but freeing and indescribable. So much better than our wildest dreams. I pray this has been a blessing to you to know no matter what you have, are, or will go through. Never forget, God can and is ready to rescue you. God bless you, dear reader, may God grant you His peace and mercy as you seek Him.

Note: You can check out the ministries of Protection Mennonite Church at https://protectionchurch.com/.