Do you do devotions together?

We get asked this question ALL the time: “Jay and Laura, do you do devotions together and don’t you think a husband and wife should?” The answer is no and no. Now before you go and think we are not spiritual or shallow, let me give you my thoughts on this question.

First, Jay and I both have devotions every morning. We spend time reading and studying. I guess in my rebellious way I do not like the word “devotions”. I prefer study. I believe as Christ-followers in this culture, some of our “christianese” can actually be a detriment when talking to someone who is not a Christ-follower. We all understand what it means to “study” so when someone asks how you spend your time and you say “ studying” the next natural question will be, “ What do you study?” Then the opportunity presents itself to share what you study. If your answer to the question was, “ I do my devotions”, chances are the conversation stops there.

Second, Jay and I study very differently. We enjoy studying different topics and different authors, so we study separately. Do I think that is a problem? No. We can learn from each other’s studying and can talk about what we are learning and what the Lord is teaching us through our study. Do I think a couple should study together?  That is up to you as a couple. What works for us may not work for you and vice versa.

Third, I am always leery when we get asked this question because 99.9% of the time it is a wife asking because she does not feel her husband is doing enough “devotions” for his spiritual walk. As a husband and wife, we can only be responsible for ourselves and our own faith walk with the Lord. We are responsible for what we study, when and how we pray, and the opportunities we give the Holy Spirit to move and speak in our lives. We are not responsible for our spouse.

However if you are looking to do something with your spouse for your marriage on a daily basis? Check out our book: Celebrate Your Marriage: 365 Daily Readings for Couples

Staying Best Friends With Your Spouse

Think back to what it was that first attracted you to your spouse. You may have met participating in a sport, hobby, or class. You may have met on a blind date. Whatever the scenario, marriage resulted because you enjoyed being with each other. You liked each other and you became and remained friends. In order to celebrate your marriage, you have to “like.” Now I know that some of you reading this right now are saying, “Like? Friends? You’ve got to be kidding. We hardly even cross paths anymore with our jobs, our children, our hobbies, and our committee involvements. How are we supposed to be friends?” By having fun together! Most importantly, you must find commonalities; things in which you share an interest.

Think back to when you were first dating. What were the things you enjoyed doing together? Why not experience them again? I cannot think of a better illustration than the process of Laura developing an appreciation for golf, my hobby of passion, although, it didn’t start out so smooth. In Alma, Michigan, we have no less than 15 golf courses within a 30 minute drive. Folks in this locale spend their free time in the summer chasing the little white ball. Laura never had much time for golf. “Stupid game!” she would remark as I watched the Masters Tournament being televised at the beautiful Augusta National on Sunday afternoon. Laura is very social, so her passion was any sport that involved a team. Slowly but surely, she would find the time to play a round with me under the guise of a fun summertime “date.” There is no substitute for good timing, and it all came together when Laura’s friend Beth asked if she wanted to attend golf school. Three days away with her friends was incentive enough for Laura, plus it gave her the chance to hone her skills. Her love of the game was enough incentive for me to shell out the bucks, so off went my little weekend hacker and back came by dream girl! The love of my life now shares my most passionate hobby. Now instead of me begging for “golf dates,” I am given the day and tee time to enter into my schedule. Now instead of dreaming of a golf vacation, Laura has developed specifications for the accommodations which include a view of the greens. It is a tribute to her flexibility and willingness to learn that has given us golf as a common interest. Now she says all I have to do is learn to love to shop! ARRGH!

Declare Your “Interdependence!”

Dictionary.com defines interdependence  as, “The quality or condition of being interdependent, or mutually reliant on each other.” What a great word for marriage! The truth is, so called wedded bliss is never blissful without it! We believe every couple can enjoy the spiritual blessings of interdependence by clinging to Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Blessing One: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 New International Version).

Laura and I say we have one brain between the two of us. It may not be true for everyone, but after 32 years of marriage, we find that we do our best work when we work together. We see things from different perspectives, and that allows us to see the entire picture when facing a challenge.

Blessing Two: When One Falls Down

See if you recognize this blessing of interdependence, “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10 NIV). One winter, I (Jay) contracted pneumonia. I slept all week so I could travel the next weekend for our Ultimate Date Night shows. Gratefully, Laura took care of everything around the house. She handled both her weekly duties and mine. There is no doubt in my mind that without her help, I would not have been able to keep my commitments each weekend.

Blessing Three: Keeping Warm

Here’s another blessing of interdependence, “Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:11 NIV). While this passage certainly applies to cold winter nights (and maybe not so much summer ones), we also think it suggests the importance of having someone alongside you through the “cold days” life can throw at us. A spouse can speak encouraging words during tough times. A spouse can remind another spouse of God’s faithfulness in the past. And sometimes just being there,“alongside,” is enough and no words are necessary.

Blessing Four: Three Strands

A final blessing of interdependence, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV). When we stand together, whether the issue relates to the kids or a life decision, we can stand strong. And when Christ is at the center of our relationship, it makes us even stronger. He is the third strand. Keeping Christ as the focal point of any marriage does not mean hardship will not come, but it does mean you and your spouse will have the strength to fight the battle together.

Let’s declare Interdependence in our marriages.

4 Phrases Your Husband Needs To Hear

Women, here are four phrases your husband needs to hear from you that will make him feel loved, appreciated, and honored.

1. I’m Proud of You

From the earliest memories men were imprinted with a proud mom when he’d walk or learn to tie a shoe or clean his room.  While you are not his MOM, as his wife you need to understand the way your approval lifts him up.  Does it have to be the word “proud?” No, but here are some examples of what I mean:

  • “Honey, I love the way you keep my car cleaned and gassed.”
  • “Thanks for going to that job I know you don’t like, it takes genuine character.”
  • “I love how you play with our kids, it makes me proud to be your wife.”

Hearing these types of phrases from you will help your husband bond with you on an emotional level.

2. I Need _________ From You

Your husband wants nothing more than to make you happy.  However, he is not a mind reader and he doesn’t get subtle hints or innuendoes…oh and one more thing…he doesn’t “just know.” It’s not how God wired him.

What he needs from you is clear and concise communication.  For example, if you say, “Honey, will you take out the trash?” To him that means at some point in the future he will take out the trash, it just may be tomorrow!  If you want him to take out the trash now, then the proper way to communicate is to say, “Honey, will you take out the trash now?”  Then he will answer “yes” or “no.”

Communicating in a clear and concise manner accomplishes two outcomes: 1) He feels like he’s making you happy and 2) You can get tasks accomplished in a timely manner!

3. I Want You

Yes, we’re talking intimacy, AND yes it’s that important to him.  We know that for most marriages (80%) the husband’s sex drive is higher than his wife’s.

I (Laura) remember one night early in our marriage when the evening was progressing romantically.  Jay leaned in and whispered, “Are you in the mood?” I said, “Sure, I’m willing.” Jay recoiled back and was disgusted by my response.  He said, “I don’t want you to be “willing,” I want you to “want” to be romantic with me.”

I learned something very important that night: Willing = Obligation. Want to = Priority.

Our husbands need to know we will make our intimate life a priority!

4. I Believe In You

While the phrase, “I’m Proud of You” deals with past and present behavior, the phrase, “I Believe in You,” is all about the future.

Every man wants to matter, every man wants to make a difference, every man wants to leave his unique legacy.  And believe it or not ladies you hold the keys!

Most women don’t understand the power they have to empower their husband to be everything God intended them to be.  When you let your husband know you believe in him it empowers him to face the “dragons” in his world.  To work hard for a promotion or to request time off to coach the kids little league team, whatever the case when he knows you are right there beside him, he will thrive!

4 Phrases Wives Need To Hear

Husbands, there are four phrases your wife needs to hear from you will make her feel loved, appreciated and honored.

1. I love you. Laura and I have yet to meet a woman who says, “My husband says ‘I love you’ way too much!” Women love to hear that phrase, and you can say it in many ways.

  • Say it with your words. She really does love to hear it.
  • Say it with your touch. She loves it when you are gentle.
  • Say it with your taste. She loves kissing a clean mouth.
  • Say it with your smell. She loves a freshly showered hubby.
  • Say it with your eyes. Look her in the eyes when you say it.

2. I respect you. Women need to be respected too. Respect for her simply looks different than it does for a man. I (Jay) vividly remember sitting our son Torrey down when he was 13. He kept wearing his ball cap into the house when he knew his mom did not approve of that. I told him in no uncertain terms that he was going to show respect to his mother or have me to deal with. Respect can be as simple as holding a door or allowing your wife to go first into a building. The phrase “ladies first” is a great example of showing women respect. And it is polite too.

3. I desire you. When it comes to intimacy, she needs to know that your passion and desire are only for her. Women are much more perceptive than men, and they pick up on the little things. Your wife knows when you do not look at her like you once did. And when you steal glances at that pretty coed who serves you at your favorite eatery? Your wife really knows about it then. Keep your eyes for your wife only and communicate how much you desire her.

4. I cherish you. Most men have no idea what the word cherish means. In fact, most men have never even uttered that word. Your wife however needs to feel cherished by her husband. Early in our marriage, I (Jay) argued with Laura. I’d say, “Men know what men want, and women know what men want. Men want women. The problem with relationships is that women don’t know what they want!” After having this argument over and over, Laura finally said, “I know what I want. I want it all!”

And that, gentlemen, is what it means for your wife to feel cherished – when she feels like she has all three of the other phrases all at the same time. When you love, respect and desire your wife, she feels cherished.

3 Keys For Marriage Ministry

As we speak to people about marriage, we find it ironic how quickly they all agree that marriage is under attack in our country. They agree that marriage is the foundation of family, church, community and our nation. They agree the church should be addressing marriage needs. But when we ask what their church is doing for marriage, most shake their heads and say, “Nothing.”

We believe it is time for every church to begin an intentional, viable and ongoing marriage ministry. Ongoing marriage ministry impacts three critical arenas.

The Home. In a recent survey conducted by the Associated Press and MTV, nearly 1,300 young people between the ages of 13-24 were asked, “What makes you happy?” Did they answer iPhones, TV or money? No. The overwhelming number one answer – spending time with Mom and Dad. This survey points to the fact that kids are looking for a home that is a place of joy, peace and contentment. When a church intentionally invests in marriages, we build homes where children and teens thrive.

A survey conducted by the Barna Institute on men in the church found that four out of 10 marriages in the church will end in divorce, which affects 1 million children each year. Divorce is wreaking havoc on our homes. It is time for the church to act.

The Church. Two out of three teens are leaving the church when they leave the home. We are losing our young people in droves. The primary reason they are leaving is that they feel no connection to the larger body of Christ. Parents are a key in making that connection to the larger body. Most parents are struggling with their own walk with Christ, their own lifestyle and their own marriage. They feel ill equipped to model for their kids the basic tenets of the faith. As a result, too many parents abdicate their responsibility to the youth minister.

By investing in an intentional marriage ministry, churches will strengthen and develop youth and children’s ministries by equipping parents to be the primary faith builder in the lives of their kids. This will not only grow the church in your community but also the church at large. Well-equipped kids will impact college campuses, military establishments and workplaces as these teens leave the home. It is time for the church to act.

The Community. Productivity lost from marriage and relationship stress can cost employers some $6 billion annually, according to an estimate cited in a new report, “Marriage and Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business?” sponsored by the Marriage Co-Mission, a marriage strengthening advocacy group in Atlanta. Another study cited in the report found that in the year following divorce, employees lost an average of four weeks of work.

Talk about being salt and light to our world! When a church implements an intentional ongoing marriage ministry, it helps produce healthier, wealthier, emotionally stable employees who will in turn impact their work place for Christ. It is time for the church to act.

İnvesting in an ongoing marriage ministry impacts all of life for the Kingdom of Christ. It is time for the church to act.

Need a place to start? Email info@jayandlaura.com

Why Social Media Is Killing Your Love Life

My (Jay’s) mom has a famous saying: “Sorry, kiddo, there’s no perfection in this world!” Mostly, she said that to me when I was disappointed because my expectations went unmet. Unmet expectations can be a real killer in relationships, and they are exacerbated by our culture and its obsession with social media, comparison and perfectionism.

Laura and I love social media. It is a great way to stay in touch with distant friends, to watch their kids grow and, in general, to stay up on what is new with people we care about. Unfortunately, everyone posts their A game on social media. As a result, we never see the real life they are living. For example, if people look at our Facebook page, they see all the fun places we travel to and all the neat people we meet. They may think we have a dream job. And to a certain extent, we do. However, what they cannot see is us crawling into bed at 2:00 a.m., because our flight was delayed or our constant battle with weight because we are on the road all the time where exercise is nonexistent and eating out is the norm.

Looking only at another person’s A game leads to comparison. When we compare, we tend to get stuck on the idea of why everyone else’s life is so much better than ours. Their life is not better than ours; it is just different. Again, we do not know their struggles and challenges. We also do not know their past, and the path they have walked.

Comparison is the thief of joy. When we compare, we rob ourselves of the tremendous joy that comes from knowing God is in control. He has us right where He wants us. When we focus on the blessings we do have, we tend to see our life differently, our spouse differently, and our relationships differently – we are more likely to see them in the light of God and His sovereignty.

And when we realize God is in control we can eliminate perfectionism. Early in our marriage, I (Jay) thought that if Laura was more like me, we would have a perfect marriage. Then she gently reminded me that if both of us were the same, one of us would not be necessary. And I can tell you who that would be!

Ruth Graham once said that good marriages are made up of two great forgivers. Nothing could be truer. When I realize all that God has forgiven in me, it becomes easier to forgive others, particularly my spouse.

Only when we learn to forgive, will we understand why “there ain’t no perfection in this world.” Learning to forgive also helps us focus on progress, not perfection.

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

Divorce is not an option. Does that statement ring true to your heart and mind? Yes? No? Either way, there are habits that will help you to divorce-proof your marriage. So whether your relationship is rolling along smoothly or you are walking through a tough time in your marriage, here are three habits you can begin today.

Fifteen Minutes

Determine to build a habit of scheduling 15 minutes of uninterrupted conversation with your spouse every day. It could be before the kids get up, after they go to bed, maybe even after dinner while they watch a cartoon. It is important for husbands and wives to stay connected through conversation.

I know some of you men are thinking, what will we talk about? What you need to understand is that conversation is like “play” for your wife. Have trouble believing that? Next time you are out for lunch, watch two women who are having lunch together. You will see two women who are having the time of their lives—conversing.

Having meaningful conversation as a couple helps smooth out the plan for the day and helps to avoid surprises in our routine.

Three Hours

Plan at least one three-hour date a month. Our friend Edgar Garcia is the Marriage and Family Pastor at Knott Avenue Christian Church in Anaheim, Calif. Here is his definition of a date:

  • Can’t talk about the kids
  • Can’t talk about work
  • Can’t be just a movie

Garcia’s wisdom is clear. Do not talk about the kids or work; worse yet, do not sit silent in a movie theater. Yes, dinner and a movie count as a date. For us, these three hours keep us focused on our relationship. How are we doing? What have been the ups and downs lately? How can we move forward positively in our relationship?

Not only will you reap these benefits, but dating your spouse keeps the romance alive! The anticipation of spending time with the one you love, connecting in real and meaningful ways, and celebrating your love at the end of a wonderful evening together are all part of divorce-proofing your marriage.

Four Days

Twice a year, every year, plan a two-day getaway with your spouse. Build it into your budget, put it on the calendar and request the days off. Simply put, make it a priority. It does not have to be an expensive getaway. Take an overnight camping trip or spend a night at a reasonably priced hotel. Even a stay-cation counts if you take the kids to grandma’s or a friend’s house, and then return home, fix dinner together and watch a romantic comedy.

The benefits are obvious. First, you build anticipation as you discuss all the fun you are going to have. Second, it creates memories that will last a lifetime, and each getaway will add a cord that will keep your bond strong. And finally, planning the next getaway will fill you and your spouse with excitement as you prepare for another adventure.

Divorce-proofing your marriage is not rocket science, but it does take a commitment to build positive habits into your relationship so you can reap benefits for years to come.

Celebrate Your Marriage In 2017

Most of us establish new goals in January. We begin diets to lose the holiday pounds. We exercise with renewed vigor to keep our heart healthy. We make financial goals.

But have you ever set goals and gained a new vision for your marriage? As the adage says, if you shoot for nothing, that is what you hit. How many of us live our married lives that way, without clear dreams and goals?

Celebrate your marriage in 2017 by setting goals and visions for it. Here are three actions that will help you get started.

1. Dream again. We all have dreams, or at least we did when we were younger. I, Laura, dreamed of being a famous novelist; Jay dreamed of being a rock ‘n’ roll singer. Somehow as we grow older, life squelches those dreams.

What were your dreams when you got married? Did you dream of 2.4 kids, the perfect job, and a house with a white picket fence? Probably not. But maybe you dreamed of owning a business together, traveling around the country, or raising great kids. Where are those dreams now?

Take time in January to get away with your spouse. Even if it is only for a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop, leave the house and go out to recapture your dreams. It may even be time to make some new ones.

2. Take intentional steps. Once you have recaptured your dreams, what steps will help you achieve them? Start small. Make those first steps easy to achieve so you build excitement about the journey.

If one of your dreams together is to go to Hawaii for your 25th wedding anniversary, what will it take to get you there? Do the math and make a reasonable financial plan. Even if that anniversary is 20 years away, you can start by setting aside $20 a month. As time goes by, maybe that amount can jump to $50. Maybe your dream is to start a new business together. What kind of business? Where? How much money do you need to make that happen? Maybe you want to strengthen your relationship in 2017. A simple intentional step might be going on a date together once a month. So get out your calendar and put those dates down.

3. Walk persistently. All too often we stop at action two. We dream of getting in shape. We mark out time to exercise every day. But on day three we have the flu, so we do not feel like exercising. Day 20 arrives and we still are not exercising. Distractions will come, but persistence means we keep walking.

Jay and I want to strengthen our relationship this year. Our intentional step is going on a date once a month in 2017, so we marked 12 dates on our calendars. What will we do if our October date night falls on a night that our son plays football? We will go on our date.

Too often, as parents, we allow our kids’ lives to take priority over our marriage. Walking persistently means we protect our marriage and give it priority so we each can become the husband, father, mother and wife we need to be.

How will you intentionally celebrate your marriage in 2017?

Tell us in the comments below…

Make It A December To Remember

This year make the Christmas season truly memorable. Turn this holiday season into the year you look back on 20 years from now and say, “2016 is the year it all started!” Here are some simple steps to get headed in the right direction.

Start Christmas Traditions

Some traditions involve food. For example, in our house Laura makes fudge on the day after Thanksgiving, then she stingily doles it out over the next month. Another food tradition is Christmas brunch. After we have opened the presents, we dine on Jay’s mom’s sausage-and-rice casserole and Laura’s world-famous cheese grits.

Maybe your tradition is something you do, such as spending Christmas Eve at Grandma’s or driving around after the Christmas Eve service to look at the lights in your town. We make hot chocolate, turn off all the lights in the house except for the tree lights, and talk about the meaning of Christmas and our favorite memories.

Make Time for Your Marriage

Christmas is a busy season, and it can make us forget about the important relationships in our life – especially our marriages. Christmas concerts and parties can have us running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Socrates once said, “Beware the barreness of a busy life.” Do not let this season become so busy that your marriage relationship feels barren. Put a date night or two on the calendar, and then defend them to the hilt. You will not regret it. Those moments will give you a breather from the chaos and make the season shine.

Pick the Right Gift

My (Jay) love language is not gifts. I do not particularly need to get gifts, and I have never seen how they make people feel loved – until I married a woman whose primary love language is gifts. What Laura helped me see is that giving a gift is not about the size or the cost; it is about how much thought went into picking out the gift. The more thought I put into the gift I choose, the more she feels loved.

For me, gift giving is just about getting the next new toy. Whether gifts are important to your spouse or not, do not forget that gifts will always say “I love you!” So get your spouse one that will make their day.

Take these three steps and begin your journey to make this a December to remember!