I grew up learning about God on Sunday mornings and was taught so many amazing attributes of God. I was told, that the God we serve, heals. The God we serve, will bless you financially, if you tithe. That He would give you strength in your time of need and even give you the words to speak in difficult situations. But, when I fell out of a tree and almost died, God didnâ€™t supernaturally heal me. When I was bullied at school and prayed, I never saw angels with swords battle on my behalf. And when I had to do a presentation to get money for college, I froze and got $0. I grew up not understanding the disconnect between what the Bible said and the lack of inheriting those blessings. Why didnâ€™t God move mountains for me? He said He would if I would just believe.
If youâ€™re alive, then you have likely experienced your version of the blessings not coming right away. Itâ€™s likely you have felt despair and maybe even given up hope in God? I sure hope not, but if you have, then take heart. I am going to share how we can at least start to make sense of the disconnect between the Bible stating we have everything we need for life and Godliness, and the reality of where we, the broken vessels, really live.
First, I have a confession to make. I confess that I spent much of my Christian life wanting to believe that God was all about blessing me. That he wanted me to live a comfortable life where I was patient in all circumstances and experienced His constant pleasure. That I was blessed coming in and blessed going out. Now, I have had moments and seasons more like that, but I donâ€™t always live there. I think the proper term for that place is Heaven.
The problem with this way of living was my expectations. I expected life to be easier than it was, and when I suffered, I felt like I was missing the mark. I felt like I was doing something wrong or not enough because I wasnâ€™t receiving my inheritance now.
When I started tithing, I was frustrated because I immediately expected a financial miracle. There was story after story about someone sowing into a ministry or making some obscure investment and then boom. The money began to pour in. I had also heard some suspect teaching that said if I would sow into their ministry I would be reaping a millionaireâ€™s reward.
I bought into the name it and claim it philosophy for a while. The way I believed it was that I could name purity and claim it without all the hard work. That I claim my financial inheritance without working for it because my God owns a cattle on a thousand hills. When I was at Oral Roberts University I tore my ACL in my knee playing basketball. I was prayed for by Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn for my torn ACL to be healed and I still needed surgery. How confusing. I was at the mecca for physical healing, prayed for by two ministers who have seen thousands healedâ€¦but not me?
So, what do we do with all that? I will tell you what I did. I continued tithing and I invested in a financial advisor, so I could save money every month. This empowered me to progressively step into my financial inheritance. Because I had a strong desire to stay pure before marriage, I sought out a high-level accountability. I was so serious about receiving my inheritance that I had to pay money if I chose to sin.
In addition to that, I sought out a Godly counselor and began working through my issues related to rejection and value. And when it came to tearing my ACL in my knee, I had surgery and went to physical therapy every day for three months. I worked intensely to rehabilitate that knee. And God brought healing in His way and in His time. I also had to grieve that God didnâ€™t supernaturally heal me because I really believed He would. I learned that I needed God to adjust my expectations of how I receive the inheritance.
Some people will say that all the blessings come through Godâ€™s grace and we are just to sit back and receive them. As my pastor AT Hargrave says, â€śGrace is not opposed to work, its opposed to earning.â€ť Can you imagine how that would work in parenting?
I also grew to realize that just because God promises us an inheritance doesnâ€™t mean we automatically get it. The Bible tells a great parable about a prodigal son who squandered his inheritance and was starving to death because he received it before he was ready. And when that happens, itâ€™s almost guaranteed to be wasted. King Saul could have been so much more, but he chose to live for this world. He allowed fear and jealousy to rob him of His relationship with God and eventually his life.
What are you believing God for today? Are you expecting Him to bring your inheritance to you, or are you faithfully submitting your time and resources to God, so He can prepare you to receive it in due season?
Have you ever had a time in your life where you were doing amazing? A time where you may have been in a great spot a work, with your relationships, and you felt closer then ever with God. And then you werenâ€™t there. I can remember being a senior in college and breaking my ankle at the beginning of an indoor volleyball tournament. I was devastated. I was the captain and we were hosting the tournament. All the hard work and practice wiped out in one ankle injury. I was literally sidelined. That event spiraled me into a low season where I felt left out and to make things worse, I lost a relationship with a girl I was dating. My physical injury revealed an even greater brokenness in my soul. My dry season had begun and I was coming apart.
I went on to discover that its in our dry seasons we discover if we really believe Godâ€™s love is enough. Just like when a pond dries up and you can see whats on the bottom, in a dry season you can see what your life has been built upon. I came crashing into the reality that I had built my life on counterfeit affections. Instead of looking to God alone, I sought the attention from women, good grades, and popularity. Other counterfeit affections are addictions, compulsions, escapism (Facebook, Netflix, sports, pornâ€¦), busyness, kids sports, hyper-religious activity, and equating busyness with happiness just to name a few. In a dry season, these counterfeits fail to comfort.
What if these dry seasons are Godâ€™s mercy? What if they are an expression of His love to draw us back to Him. Think of your last dry season. For you that may be right now.
Consider the following questions as a catalyst to making sense of your dry season.
* What counterfeit affections are you tempted to run to in place of God?
* How can switching your focus from things of this world, aka counterfeit affections, back to God impact your life?
* What is the potential cost of not pursuing God and believing His love to be enough.
* The Israelites literally had to die before entering the promised land. What in your life needs to die in the wilderness so that you can enter your promised land?
Part 1: The Letter
In counseling, I talk a lot about how to value your spouse. I thought it would be helpful to move from talking to showing you one way that I do it. What follows is my effort to highlight my love for my amazing wife in a way that she can receive it, written communication.
Happy 15th Wedding Anniversary.
Today is the day our lives forever changed by a choice and two words-â€śI doâ€ť. I remember when we first met at a Life Church event. I was slurping a Dr. Pepper and inviting you to my â€śsinglesâ€ť life group. Wow, how much we have changed because I canâ€™t imagine drinking a Dr. Pepper and Life Church only had one campus. Oh, and of course the single life seems eons away :).
Over the last fifteen years we have seen friends come and go, family meet Jesus, created two incredible children, two dogs, lots of different fish, mammals, churches, multiple houses, career changes, and wave after wave of ups and downs in our marriage. But through them all, we have walked hand in hand seeking God all the way. Looking back, we can see His movement and how close He has been even though many times He felt so very far away.
Thank you for never giving up. For refusing to stay down when you fall. For always taking my hand and continuing the journey into the risky and faith-filled business of following God no matter the cost.
On our special day I want to make sure you know, and pray you never forget, one thing. I believe and am living out that you are truly Godâ€™s best and my always and forever love.
When we first met, you captivated my eyes and my attention and then you went on to capture my heart. Tanda, when I hold your hands and look into your eyes I can see the next 60 years of my life. I can see grandkids, a house on a lake or ocean, loving people and changing lives.
So, take my hand and letâ€™s press on toward the Celestial City. Letâ€™s run with a passionate love that shows the world that God is real and His love never fails!â€ť
I left this letter for her on the coffee machine and posted it on Facebook to remind the world of how amazing she is and how thankful I am to God for her and our life together. What I didnâ€™t know, is that very night she and the kids had written their own letters to share. They had also given me gifts that were well thought out and a cologne that was more money than I could see myself spending on smelling good. So, either she really loves me, or I just smell really bad :). That night went great and my mom was able to join us in celebrating our 15 years. But, the following Friday is when we would embark on our special adventure out of town.
Part 2: Embracing Joy through the Imperfect: The Trip
I have been asked countless times how to make marriage work. But recently, there have been more people interested in how I, personally, make my marriage work. There are so many strategies, resources, spiritual disciplines, and people who love us that have contributed to our success.
Instead of giving you my Top Ten list, I thought it would be helpful to give you insight into my recent anniversary. It has been 15 years and boy do I have stories to tell! I am going to pull back the tapestry and invite you into our personal space. I do this in hopes that you are inspired to press on even when you feel like you just canâ€™t go on. And I hope you can enjoy a laugh or two along the way.
On our fifteenth anniversary, I wanted to go big. I wanted my darling Tanda and our kiddos to know how much I love her and how faithful God has been to us. I asked some folks for ideas of how I could celebrate Tanda and the amazing gift she has been to me. The suggestions were all over the board. I had someone go all in for me surprising her with a trip to Paris, to someone who thought rubber gloves and a mop bucket were the way to go. One would break the bank and the other would have me sleeping on the couch for months. I thought it wise to try something different.
I had researched and believed I had discovered the perfect bed and breakfast. They had an amazing restaurant, beautiful views, and hiking trails on the property. To alleviate her anxiety of the unknown, I spilled the beans of our destination, and she was elated. I like surprises, but she was getting stressed because she didnâ€™t know how to prepare for our weekend. And, I have been known to be quite adventurous in my surprises and not all of them turned out the way I had hoped. So, to the keep the peace and create excitement, I told her.
What happens next is pretty much a great synopsis of the life of the Maguire’s. The day we were to depart, the temperature dropped to what felt like twenty below zero. When she rushed and rushed to meet me at my office, I was 27 minutes late. Then we had two more stops to make before getting there. And it turns out, I was wrong on directions and we were going the opposite wayâ€¦uh oh. Running two hours late, this was not a great start to our Anniversary weekend.
When we arrive, we are given a tour of the grounds and I am thinking, SCORE! The place was top notch. That is, until we are shown our cabin. Then I was thinking, â€śHouston, we have a problemâ€ť. It turns out, the cabin I was told was their â€śbestâ€ť was decorated in the Dark Ages and had all the windows blacked out. The porch was open however, and had a nice view of a white wall. But, you would be proud of your counselor, I kept my thoughts to myself. The tour guide, however, observed my unspoken displeasure and offered to show us another room. The guide left and said we could call if we wanted to see another cabin. After the door shut, Tanda noticed the obvious centerpiece and said â€śWow, what beautiful flowers.â€ť She picked up the card and it said â€śHappy Birthday! Love, Ralphâ€ť. I had the same thought cross my mind that would likely cross yours â€śAhh, wish I would have sent the flowersâ€ť. I think you know by now that my name isnâ€™t Ralph and we were not celebrating a birthday. I was wanting to check out other cabins anyway, so I used this as an excuse to call the tour guide to tell her about the flowers and ask her to show me another cabin.
Because it was so frigid, and my lovely wife does not like to feel like she is a burden, I went alone to the cabin. When I saw the newer and cooler cabin I thought, this is where we need to be. It had a great view, more light and a much better feel. It was more like Florida sunshine than a Medieval dungeon. On the drive back to my current cabin, my guide received a call. She said that it turns out that this cabin wasnâ€™t available. And because I had told her about Ralph and the birthday flowers, they discovered they put us in the wrong cabin. For those of you who donâ€™t know my wife, these scenarios can be very stressful for her. She loves to keep the peace as much as possible and I sensed that I would somehow be blamed for this because I tried to move. I thought, great now I have to tell my previously relaxed and grateful bride that not only is the newer cabin not available, but now we have to move. At this point I am laughing nervously and hoping this doesnâ€™t turn our trip to the dark side. And not just because of how she would respond. I mean, I made a lot of effort to find the right place and the right cabin. Thankfully, she handled the move graciously and didnâ€™t blame me.
The guide drops me off to pick up Tanda and our belongings and asks us to follow her. As I am backing out of the gravel driveway, she drives off. I am backing straight out of the driveway and looking behind to find her and canâ€™t. And thenâ€¦Bang! I backed into a tree. It turns out that the driveway backs directly into a tree if you go straight out. That is why the gravel veers slightly to the left. Oops. Thankfully, it appears we sustained no permanent injuries, but my car has a bald spot on the bumper where the tree gave it a kiss.
Later that evening, we were enjoying a fantastic dinner and we received a call from my daughter around 9:30 pm. She was having an allergic reaction to our friendâ€™s animals and needed to leave, as she was planning to spend the night. This required my mom getting out of bed and driving her back to our house and both of them spending the night. My mom also has a dog that my daughter is allergic to, so my mom had to stay the night at our house. And guess what, we went away with two healthy kids and came home to kids who both had the flu.
This is a typical Maguire trip. We plan for fun and adventure and then the unexpected happens. As part of our time, we talked about the events and how much differently we have been able to handle them after 15 years of investing and working hard. We were able to laugh about the surprise of her almost getting flowers from Ralph for her Birthday; us thinking we were upgrading to a better cabin and then having to move to a smaller one; and the shock of backing into a tree. We were able to laugh until we cried. Oh, and then there was me bringing the wrong camera to take a picture to memorialize our time. I took the new one she hadnâ€™t had time to figure out how to use yet. And, we had to hop and re-hop the balcony to take pictures because I forgot the remote and thatâ€™s where the best light was. You may be wondering that after all that, were we able to enjoy our anniversary? I will say emphatically yes. Yes, even though we were downsized in cabins. Yes, even though a tree bit part of my bumper off. Yes, even though we couldnâ€™t hike because it was horribly cold. How could we, you may wonder. Thatâ€™s a great question with a great answer.
After reading about our quite imperfect anniversary trip, you may be asking how were we even able to enjoy ourselves. The answer is, we saw the events through a unique lens. A lens that allowed for failure and the imperfect. A lens of understanding that these mishaps will actually make great stories we can pass onto our grandkids. We loosened up over the years and made allowance for life to not have to be perfect to be enjoyable. We took our expectations to God and exchanged them for an expectancy. An expectancy that we can find good even in adversity and that together with God we can work through anything. I know I canâ€™t control the circumstances, but I can always control what I focus on and the meaning I give them. And that is a good snapshot into how we make our marriage work.
You donâ€™t have the always have the power to choose your circumstances, how others treat you or what happens to you. You do ALWAYS have the power to choose:
1. What you focus on
2. What meaning you give the experience
3. What you do about it.
I have assembled 5 fantastically small activities that will bless you greatly. Now, this will not happen overnight. They will be easy to do or not to do. The choice and the power is in your hands to shift your focus which changes your attitude which creates better emotions. You can choose this happiness! Do the top 3 every day and shoot for doing the last two at least a few times per week. Happiness research says that if you are consistent you will change over time…they guarantee it.
1. Write down 3 things you are grateful for every morning. Make them different everyday and refuse to settle for writing down the same things
2. Have fun and journal one positive experience you have each day. Doing this gives you a double blessing of experiencing the power of this event twice because a lot of your brain wont know the difference. We do the same thing with the dark side. Think about a time something bad happened and how you felt every time you thought about it. This gives you the power to feel better every day!
3. Do one random act of kindness every day. Write short notes, texts, phone calls to people. Buy someone lunch or share your lunch :). Give a massage, a hug, or a tickle. Give away your smile lots of times every day. Give someone the gift of encouraging words. This invites Godâ€™s to move through you each time you share a kind act with someone else.
4. Move and get some form exercise. 15 minutes would be great but find ways to walk, jog, or join a sport.
5. Daily Meditation: Even just for 2-15 minutes focus on Gods goodness, see yourself succeeding in your day. This distills Godâ€™s peace and centers you and your body in Him.
The tough times are where we grow the most. These daily habits will lead you into progressively more happiness as a way of being. Most people think that happiness comes when you have the big house, nice car and lovely family. In truth, Its actually the opposite. The Bible says he who is faithful with little can be trusted with much. I canâ€™t wait to see how MUCH happiness you are trusted with in the future.
How Premarital Counseling uses SYMBIS Tool to Create an Amazing Marriage
In a marriage relationship, the first 12 months are crucial to the life of the marriage. You see, in these first 12 months you are creating relational habits that will determine the path of how your marriage develops. Whether a highway to the beach or a highway to the desert, these habits of living and relating to each other will take you to different destinations. The couple who is unable to be honest and resorts to blaming and name calling to work through conflict will find themselves on a different highway than the couple who utilizes kindness and listening to work through lifeâ€™s inevitable adversities. This is one reason we focus so heavily on helping to identify future pitfalls and then equipping you with the skills and resources to build your dream marriage.
At New Vision Counseling, our therapists are certified in a premarital resource called SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts). This comprehensive assessment helps bypass much of the premarital counseling fluff and focuses on what you as a couple really need for success. SYMBIS gives us an overview of where you come from, who you are, and the strengths and growth opportunities to focus on. It highlights areas that may be current issues and helps predict issues that could explode out of control in the future. This predictive mechanism is like being given a chance to diffuse a bomb before it explodes.
Consider this, all of us will end up somewhere in our married life, but very few of us end up there on purpose. The destination could be divorce, misery, or marital bliss that grows with each passing year. The great news is, the choice is yours. How amazing would it be to become one of the few who chooses your destination on purpose? That is where we come in. Let us walk with you through this amazing season where you get to choose where you go.
The process can be as quick as a 4-hour intensive (if time is an issue) or spread out over several appointments; the average couple utilizes between 4-8 sessions. However, we value you as individuals and a â€śone of a kindâ€ť couple and will get to know you and make adjustments according to your unique needs. You ask, whatâ€™s the next step? Thatâ€™s easy, reach out to us through phone or email and set up an appointment to get started. This is an amazing time of building your highways and we are excited to collaborate with God and with you in this process. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
If you want to learn more about SYMBIS, click on this link Symbis.com.
Have you ever had a mouse in your home? Whether you live in an apartment or a house, in the country or the city, chances are that youâ€™ve encountered one of these pesky little critters. During the holidays, my sister suspected there was a mouse living in our momâ€™s kitchen. My sister claimed she saw the mouse, but my mom didnâ€™t want to believe her. A few months went by without another mouse sighting, just little suspicions that a mouse may be cohabitating with her. Then, one day, the mouse scurried across the living room floor under her couch. Peeking under the couch revealed piles of dog food the mouse had been hoarding along with other little mouse surprises. That was when she realized there was a mouse problem and that was when she knew it was time for help.
So when do you know itâ€™s time for help? Do you know when you start to have little clues? Or do you wait until you know you have a full-blown mouse nest under your couch?
In life, there are a lot of little clues showing us we need help. It may be feeling sad, unsatisfied, frustrated, or unmotivated. It could even be patterns in relationships or behaviors that you donâ€™t like. But there are also mouse nests. It could be a marriage on the brink of divorce, not being able to get out of bed, or out of control kids, or panic attacks at work. Whether you are experiencing those little clues or the big crises, therapy can help. It doesnâ€™t matter how big or small your problem seems, now is the time to get help.
In my family, we waited. We waited until a mouse or two grew into an extended family. Instead of accepting we had a problem and taking time to take care of it, we let the problem get bigger and bigger. Thankfully though, we did get help. It required finding the source of the problem. We had to determine where the mice were coming into our home. Next, we had to fix the hole. Then, we had to set traps and get rid of the mice already dwelling in our home. We also called an exterminator to help and did a lot of cleaning. In therapy, I want to help you when you are ready to get help. I want to work with you to find out whatâ€™s wrong and whatâ€™s causing the problem. I want to help you fix the problem, which likely means developing some new habits, ending old habits, and cleaning parts of your life that have been avoided or overlooked.
Are you ready to try? Nowâ€™s the time.