Dear Mom and Dad: Don’t be a bystander

A few weeks ago while my friend and I were watching our kids at the park, our sons came running over to us. They informed us of a boy who’d called them an inappropriate word while they were playing in their “secret fort” off in the distance.

I told my son the word wasn’t acceptable and unkind and that we don’t say those words to one another. We only want to build each other up. I told him I was sorry he had to hear that and be affected by it. Before I knew it, the boy had left the park and I couldn’t approach him. Weeks passed by, and I forgot about the incident. Until yesterday.

“Mom, there’s the boy that called me the bad word,” my son said at school drop-off. I looked over to where he was pointing.

“Oh okay,” I replied. “I may go talk to him,” I hesitated a bit.

“Don’t be a bystander, mom!” he responded in a singing, encouraging voice.

I smiled and looked at his sandy brown hair and brown eyes. I was challenged by his wisdom.

I looked at the boy and still didn’t feel it was right to approach him. But I had to do something. So I drove home and emailed our principal, received a response immediately, and he handled the situation with the boys involved that morning. He assured my son that he can always go to a teacher or parent if he’s been hurt and to always share what he’s feeling. I felt reassured as a parent that our principal’s first interest is in protecting his students. My son felt more at ease too.

What struck me in this experience was that even though the hurtful word wasn’t on my radar, it sure was on my son’s. He’d brought it up twice. God was prodding me to take more action as the parent.

According to Merriam-Webster.com, a bystander is defined as:

One who is present but not taking part in a situation or event : a chance spectator”

In our parenting journey, we’ll make mistakes and not get it right all the time. We don’t always know what to do in the moment. We’ll come across forks in the road where we have a choice to actively take part in our child’s life or stand on the sidelines. But our children need us as their protectors, nurturers, and biggest fans. If they’re consistently communicating the same messages to us, we need to humbly listen. If they aren’t saying anything, we need to draw out what’s in their heart.

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” – Proverbs 20:5

We need to fight for them in a culture that’s increasingly hostile to truth, goodness, and honoring others. So what are some practical ways we can prevent from being a bystander?

1. Engage. Engage. Engage. Kirk Cameron’s new resource for parents called Engage: Five Lessons for Raising Kids in a Social Media Generation is spot on. We have to be fully present in their lives to know what’s really going on. What’s on their phone apps? Have we set boundaries regarding screen time? Do we really know their friends? Are we aware of the photos they consume, post, and share? We set the rules because we love them. We have the right to know the full story because we’re accountable to God in how we parent. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12

2. Take action when sin has been committed. When a wrong has been done by another child or your own, don’t brush it under the rug as if it never happened. Face it head on no matter the cost. Take responsibility. Acknowledge the sin, work through the conflict and both sides of the story, and aim for reconciliation as far as it depends on you. Training your child to work through conflict and disappointment will be one of the greatest gifts you give because real life will be full of difficult people, let-downs, unfair circumstances, and more. Real life also involves real consequences for our actions. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

3. Love your child unconditionally. Some of my friends who were strong-willed children share how much they deeply love their parents today. Their parents had to be firm and discipline often, but they knew it was for their good. They knew they were loved. We can never outdo love for our children. They are God’s and we have the responsibility to teach them his ways and to obey his commands, that are not burdensome but a blessing. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

Your role as a parent is massive- you’re shaping a life made in God’s image. If you’ve been sitting on the bench, it’s never too late to stand up. Don’t allow any amount of shame or apathy to keep you from starting new. You have much to be thankful for in being able to play an active role in your child’s life.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get in the game!

 

** This article first appeared on Kirk Cameron’s TheCourage.com

 

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

 

 

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Wives, this one desire could be hurting your marriage

It’d been a long day and my husband and I needed to begin our kids’ bedtime routine. While I finished up dishes, he lounged in the recliner looking at his phone to decompress from a busy day. I felt tension and anxiety welling up in me as our kids grew more hyper and silly from being overtired.

“Jeremiah, let’s go. Let’s get them down for bed,” I said.

“Okay,” he replied. “Let me finish reading this article.”

A few minutes later he still sat in the chair and I yelled: “Jeremiah. Come on!”

Eventually I nagged some more and sounded like the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet. I was so obsessed with him taking action immediately that I kept reacting out of my impatience. My tone of voice was ugly, controlling, pushy, and disrespectful. My “request” turned into an argument that eventually broke our togetherness. If I would’ve given him time – like other occasions – it would’ve saved us from having an unnecessary blow up in front of our kids.

Where Control Originates

Ever since Adam and Eve indulged in the forbidden fruit and sin entered the world, within us lies this desire for control, to be contentious, and argumentative. The desire is so strong that we’d do just about anything to have it. However, this burning impulse to have all the control no matter the cost is not loving.

Proverbs 27:15-16 says, “A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind…”

Proverbs likens a nagging, quarrelsome wife to the wind- it’s impossible to stop her quarreling once she starts. Her anger, emotions, and frustrations take over, making it impossible to calm down.  As I write this article, the wind is blowing like crazy where we live on the Colorado plains. There’s no way to prevent it from blasting through the trees or blowing my kids over. It comes and goes as it pleases and does not cease.

This kind of contention towards our husbands only causes distance, frustration, anger, feelings of being trapped, and more. My husband said it can make a man feel like he’s dying inside. Now that’s a pretty big deal.

Responding vs. Reacting

My ungodly reactions to him kept moving us toward conflict. My control was further damaging our relationship. In the book, The Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler writes,

“When we learn to respond to each other rather than react, we will move much more quickly in our conflict toward resolution and reconciliation. Reactions only stoke the fires of conflict; responses, particularly godly ones, help us snuff out the conflict.”

How much different would my struggles have been if I gently responded instead of harshly reacted in selfishness?

Eventually, I began drawing the circle around myself and confessed my sin of control. But acknowledging it was only part of the process. I had to turn from it and seek forgiveness and reconciliation from Jeremiah. Yes, I needed his help, but nothing was happening in our home that was earth shattering at the moment and I could wait until he finished reading his article.

I had a choice on how I’d react when things aren’t done on my timetable. My eyes were opened to the fact that I feared something, too: a loss of control, cranky kids, not getting them in bed at a good time, and my own me-time afterwards.

Letting God take the Reigns

Thankfully, Jeremiah and I were able to extinguish the conflict and reconcile. As my husband’s best friend, lover, and helper, I’ll never completely get it right. I will fall in my sinful nature, but I have the choice to do what’s right. The greatest way I can show him respect and love is to let go of the desire to nag and control. When I release control, I let God take the reigns and be his Holy Spirit- he does a much better job anyway.

I begin not just knowing the famous love passage in Scripture but living it out:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Bringing it Home

Maybe you’re like me and control is a huge stronghold in your life. It’s never too late to begin asking God to show you areas that need real transformation. Ask God to change your heart of stone and make it soft and pliable. He is a gracious and loving Father to you. Begin by confessing it, repenting of your sin, and turning to Christ for help.

His desire is for our marriages to look like Jesus more and more as the years go by. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give your husband today is to release your struggles with being a controlling and nagging wife. Simply call it what it is. You may consider asking him if this describes you or how it makes him feel. Begin taking steps toward healing with him.

Conflict in marriage will be inevitable while on this earth, but choosing to respond in a godly way is God’s will- bringing the oneness, joy, peace, and wholeness that you desire in your relationship with your husband. God wants you to enjoy your relationship to the fullest while bringing glory to Him.

** This article first appeared on Kirk Cameron’s TheCourage.com

 

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

 

 

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Learn These Three Questions to Draw You and Your Spouse Together

The furniture looked like something dated from the 70’s. There was no luxury beach out our patio door or even a pool, and we were in the middle of the Garden Isle of Kauai. Instead, I stared at a green rustic cabana with an outdoor tub and shower. Not to mention there was no central air. This was not my idea of a honeymoon and I sure let my husband Jeremiah know.

Jeremiah was hurt. I was disappointed. He became angry. He worked hard to plan the perfect place. We were in a shouting match for the ages. We were terrified that in the couple days before when we stood at the altar that somehow we’d made a colossal mistake. Eventually, he reluctantly took us to a resort and charged an enormous sum to our credit card.

In that moment, we were more concerned about declaring our opinions about the other person’s failure than asking questions to know the other person’s heart. The prideful path we were starting out on as newlyweds was clearly not God’s plan.

When we reflect back on that time in our life, we laugh now. Life was so different. We were different. By God’s grace, so much has changed for the good. We’ve learned over time the power of asking questions. No matter where you are in your marriage journey, here are three questions every couple should ask that will help bring them together instead of apart:

1.) Will you forgive me?

When hungry-for-answers Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?

Jesus responds, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven.”

I can imagine the look on Peter’s face. Often, we think there’s a certain number of times we can only forgive and then we’re done. Everything in our fleshly nature wants to remain in bitterness and resentment especially when a wrongful act has been committed against us: How dare he commit such an act against me?

It takes the power of Jesus and his word to help us choose forgiveness when everything in us does not want to forgive. But Jesus commands us to forgive, regardless if the feelings aren’t there. And he’s our perfect example who has forgiven us for every sin we’ve ever committed. There is life-change in the question, “Will you forgive me?” It’s the first step to healing, restoration, and being one in spirit again.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”Ephesians 4:31-32

2.) How can I serve you today?

When my feet hit the floor in the morning and I turn on my Keurig to insert that anticipated k-cup, I’m thinking about myself and my needs. It takes a conscious effort to look at the needs of my husband and think about how I can encourage and serve him. I can imagine how different our marriage would look if that was my attitude every day.

When we think about the life of Jesus and who he was to the people he came to save, it’s amazing that he got down on his knees, took a towel, and washed his disciples’ dirty, stinky, calloused, smelly, worn-out feet. He wasn’t thinking about his own agenda, but that of the Father’s. His mission was to serve and he lived it out faithfully.

In marriage, our mission should be to serve. That’s what truly makes you a great spouse. “How can I serve you today?” will help you see what your spouse needs just for today. The answer to that question will help you know how to practically meet that need and in turn strengthen your relationship.

“The greatest among you will be your servant.” – Matthew 23:11

3.) Where would you say we’re drifting apart?  

Sometimes in our “heated conversations” I have to remember that Jeremiah and I are a team even when it feels like the roof is caving in on us. One time it literally did in our first home! We’re not against each other even though it feels like it. The truth is that we have an Enemy and our sinful natures warring against us constantly trying to tear us apart from being one flesh.

“Where would you say we’re drifting apart?” is a question worth asking. Sometimes our bank accounts, weekly schedules, and personal goals can be more inwardly focused and unknowingly exclude the other person. This question helps you pinpoint areas for growth in your relationship. And we all have them! God calls you and your spouse toward oneness and doesn’t want you to settle for less.

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” – Matthew 19:6

These questions aren’t easy. Not one bit. But they’re necessary. Jeremiah and I cannot go back and undo the past. We can only learn from it. We can only wonder how much frustration we would have spared our marriage had we possessed the humility to ask these questions of each other more quickly. 12 years later, we’re still learning how to ask these questions.

We did, in fact, resolve our differences after the dust settled that honeymoon day way back then. We had to do some soul searching. We eventually mustered up the strength to overcome the pride within us and ask for forgiveness. We had to take an other-person-centered attitude in order to learn to become one flesh.

Well, after only having been at the resort for two days, we were sitting at the poolside living out our honeymoon dreams. I looked at Jeremiah and asked, “Can we go back to the cabana? I kind of miss it.”

His face turned beat red.

 

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

 

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Parents, why we need to be praying for our children more than ever

This week, another American flag has been lowered to half staff. Another mass school shooting has hit our land, where two students were killed and 18 injured by a 15-year-old male student with a handgun in Benton, Kentucky not far from Nashville. This tragedy comes shortly after the recent Texas and Louisiana school shootings. Our nation has experienced 13 school shootings this year. Even though the news headlines now seem quiet, the hurt and pain is still greater than ever in that small Kentucky town.

My heart sinks as a parent with two children in school and two preschool-aged children soon to make their way through elementary doors. In light of recent news, I’m reminded more than ever about the spiritual battle at hand and how desperately our children need our prayers each and every day.

Ephesians 6:12 says that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Parents, we are not fighting a battle that is merely flesh and blood, but a spiritual one. We’d be foolish to think we can fight the battles that are upon our children today with merely physical armor. These battles can only be fought spiritually through our prayers.

In prayer, we plead with Jesus to bring refreshing rains of healing and restoration to our nation again– to the hearts of families that desperately need a Savior. On our knees, we cover our children in God’s protection, love, and security. In calling on our Redeemer, we humble ourselves and turn to the One who is able to do far more than we’re capable of with our finite hands.
Parents, we have the tremendous privilege, by the shed blood of Jesus, to regularly go to the throne of grace in confidence that God will hear us when we cry out to Him. May the healing in our land that we long for first start with us. And even if our prayers are broken and our words are stuttering, make no mistake, that is still a beautiful thing.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Wake us up from our spiritual slumber, oh God. Forgive us from our apathy and transform us into praying parents who are on the battle lines, engaged in the war at hand not idle to the enemies tactics.

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” – Ephesians 5:14

Raise up people who will lead prayer groups inside the walls of our schools, in our churches, communities, and all over our nation. Raise up people who will mentor hurting children and who will love children living in broken homes who need to know how accepted and loved they are by our heavenly Father. Raise up teachers, administration, and students who are serious about following you. Help us to listen to you if we are to be that very leader in our community.

Dear God, raise up a generation who will not turn to guns but to the Word of God for their ultimate hope and rescue. May we as parents allow the gospel to pierce the darkness and bring its saving light. Turn our hearts to seek you first and fill our schools with joy, peace, love, kindness, and hope once again.

In your name we pray, Amen.

This article first appeared on Kirk Cameron’s, TheCourage.com


Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

 

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Dear Children: Why Your Words Matter

Before bed time a few days ago, my nine-year-old son John told me for the first time that he wanted to go on a mission’s trip to Africa. My husband went last year with our church to a village our church body supports in Uganda. My heart filled with joy that John had a desire to venture to a world different than his own and experience the joy that both my husband and I have had visiting the beautiful continent at different times in our lives.

Then the next day, news headlines were filled with the derogatory remark about other countries which I’m sure you’re familiar with by now. This isn’t a post about our president, politics or the context of those words, but as I watched the writing on the screen, I felt a pit in my stomach.
Ouch.

I was hoping John wouldn’t see the headlines and ask questions about it. He hasn’t yet, but regardless, I want my kids to know why our words matter so much. I need the reminder too.

First, I’ll say we’re no perfect home or family. Words fly carelessly around the air at times unbridled and we have to harness them back in. As a mom of four with emotions and a strong-will, I’m reminded daily of my need for Jesus in controlling my tongue. We’re on training ground every, single day in our home. I fall short and need him desperately. I think of Psalm 141:3: Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. 

Dear John, Rebekah, Hannah & Will, you must know this about your words:

The book of James dedicates time talking about the power of your tongue. Scripture says it’s a small member of your body yet boasts great things. Your tongue can even direct the course of your life like a rudder that turns a ship. Your words also have the potential to cause a forest fire of trouble by only one tiny match. Can you imagine that?

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)

Words have the ability to pierce like a sword and wound unlike anything in this world. What springs forth from your lips matter because God’s word says so. Your words don’t go without consequence. If you want to live the good life, an abundant life full of blessing and peace, you must do what Scripture says and avoid evil.

If you want to see good days ahead, you must keep your tongue from evil and deceitful speech (1 Peter 3:10).

Your words mean something because they matter to God – for the sake of his name and others. They matter because when you carry and claim the name of Jesus, you represent him. Take seriously that others are made in his image and are to be valued and honored. When you fall short from doing the right thing, confess and turn away from your sin promptly.

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created him (Gen 1:27).

Your words matter because God loves all ethnicities. God has a heart for all nations to know and love him just as he loves them. He can use your words to reach those far from him. Strife, lying, bullying, perverted speech, gossip, slander, and rage are not a part of God’s plan and won’t bring goodness and blessing in your life. Use your words to show compassion, kindness, understanding, and build up the heart of another.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Your words matter because they reveal the true condition of your heart. Your heart is desperately sick without a Savior. Jesus says that it’s not what goes into someone’s mouth that defiles him, but what comes out of his mouth (Matt. 15:11). Be mindful of what’s really going on inside your heart (frustration, jealousy, anger, pride, etc.) and seek to deal with it before you speak.

Thankfully, your words also have the power of LIFE and the ability to crush lies.

Your words can build up, restore, renew, move others toward action, bring hope, heal wounds, rescue from sin, instill joy, and bring forth something that once did not exist. God formed creation into being with the very words from his mouth:

“Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen. 1:3).

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

“Will you forgive me?” are sometimes the only words you need to ask someone. The power of these four words have restored friendships, reconciled marriages, and brought happiness and peace to the playground once again.

Use your words for healing and not towards harm. Don’t let your words be hollow either – if something needs to be said for the good of another, say it. Follow Jesus as your ultimate example. Be children who speak LIFE and live it out by God’s strength working in and through you. 

I love you,

Mom

** You’re welcome to use the letter portion of this post & change the names for your own children for your personal use. 


Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is a regular contributor for Kirk Cameron’s site TheCourage and For the Family. She is also the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

 

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You can give him everything, but you must give your husband this:

A few days ago, my husband and I were going crazy indoors with our kids from the bitter cold temperatures in Colorado. We packed them all in our suburban and headed to a rec center to swim. As soon as their little feet hit the concrete, they were beaming with joy. Splashing, playing pool volleyball, laughing, talking and enjoying themselves instead of fighting was a relief for us.

My husband swam side by side with my four-year-old and shot hoops with my nine-year-old. At one point, I took a rest on the side and just observed my surroundings. Several dads enjoying the pool with their kids. One child in an over-sized red life jacket was throwing a tantrum because his dad was trying to get him comfortable in the water but he was scared. One wife pointed her phone from the bleachers to shoot pictures of her husband and three kids wading in the shallow end.

It got me thinking just how critical dads are in the lives of their children and how I need to do a better job affirming my man as a father. It is too easy to criticize their weaknesses or overlook the daily blessings dads bring to the family. As wives, we also share with our husbands our hearts, our beds and bathrooms. During birthdays and holidays we work creatively to plan their perfect gift. We can share many things and we can give them everything. But our husbands need to know:

1.) They are valued and appreciated in the home.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our husbands is to affirm them in their role– regularly voicing our appreciation for all they do. Often, this affirmation can disappear in the chaos of life or the backdrop of mundane life. Constant criticism, demeaning, and comparing him to others is like deadly poison to a family. Respect, love, patience, encouragement, and kindness builds them up and results in a thriving home. Appreciation for our husbands is one of their greatest needs.

2.) Their role as protector and provider is crucial. 

Husbands and wives are equal in value, but distinct in roles and responsibilities. The burdens that our husbands carry daily (or hourly!) such as financial stability, our family’s safety,  feeling valued in their jobs, and more is much different than what we may carry as wives. Leading the family is a huge responsibility that requires us coming alongside them as a teammate, cheering them on in the difficult realities of life. Their role is an important one that should be praised.

3.) Their presence with their children is life-changing.

My husband doesn’t sit around and think about how awesome he is when he teaches our son how to mow the lawn, hammer a nail, or shoot a BB gun. He just does it because that’s what dads do. But as a wife and mom, I know how huge this is relationally. He is investing in their little life, teaching them new skills, and prioritizing father/son bonding time. All these deposits make our sons who they are becoming and how they will be as responsible adults. As women, we can come alongside our husbands and remind them of how they are changing lives.

4.) There’s no one else that can fill the father role like they can.

One of the greatest lies I believe men face is that they aren’t good enough or have what it takes. These thoughts may be deeply ingrained by the way they were raised, a broken relationship with their own parents, or insecurities from physical or emotional loss (eg. pains that might come from previous physical or emotional abuses, accidents or losses in life). As wives, we can remind them of truth instead:

  • they do have what it takes
  • they’ve been given the gift of leading the family
  • they are wanted and needed
  • and we support them 100%.

No husband, wife, marriage, or family is perfect. We all fall short, but with God’s help and strength working through us, we can remind our husbands through our words and actions just how much they mean to us. As the father of our children, their work and efforts are worthy. They shouldn’t go unnoticed. What are some creative ways you can let your husband know?

 


Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Surprising Word in 12 Years of Marriage

In our early years of marriage, Jeremiah and I served in an apartment ministry where we built relationships with residents and provided meals once a week in order to build community retention. One evening when we were hosting one of our largest meals for well over 100 residents, we got in a fight while he was making his way into the room with dishes and I was working in the kitchen. My blood boiled inside and I launched a wheat dinner roll at his face.

Jeremiah yelled. I yelled, and the incident got really heated before it got any better. We both felt blindsided with pride, and friends were arriving soon. Nothing like two Christians loving each other unconditionally!

The arguments and quarrels we got into our first few years of marriage were pretty silly and petty, but so revealing of our selfish sinful natures as two young lovers. And make no mistake, my sinful nature is still alive and well just as it was then, but with time I feel like something has changed.

I’ve grown to appreciate the man I married for who he is, not who I want him to be or who I think he should be. I’m slowly learning selflessness instead of being self-serving. Especially after a traumatic shooting accident last year at a nearby rifle range where my husband’s life was almost taken, I’m learning to trust God in his sovereign plans for us. Through all this, the word JOY comes to my mind after crossing our 12 year mark on December 17, 2017. According to Theopedia.com,

Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.

It’s amazing that in the trenches of pain, struggle, and challenges of marriage that God can still produce our character and shape us into who he longs for us to be and that if we’d just hold on a little longer our pain can actually birth in us a contagious joy. Joy that isn’t fleeting and temporary like butterflies-in-my-stomach happiness, but is rooted and grounded in the biblical and sacrificial love of the Gospel.

The power of the Gospel

Over time I’ve become even more aware of the areas in my life where I fall short. I’ve come to understand my own weaknesses. As my failures have shown through the years, my experience of God’s grace has grown with equal measure. Through Jesus I have experienced forgiveness. In his shed blood, I have acceptance. He tells me I am worthy when I feel worthless. As he does this for me, he also empowers me to share this gift with my husband. My husband shares it with me. God turns isolation and separation from our brokenness into the joy of redemption and restoration.

I appreciate and respect my husband more than I ever have and it’s all by grace. The love I have for him is much deeper and richer than it ever was. Marriage to him gives me great joy. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the fact that he loves me in spite of the “messy me” stained by sin, baggage, past hurts, and crazy hormones. The other day I was in a cranky mood but he kept wanting me to relax and watch our favorite series. I texted from upstairs while he was on the couch downstairs:

Do you still want me even though I’ve been mean?

Of course. I love you. Come down.

How humbling. It blows my mind that he sees every part of me and still desires me. It is how Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her not because of any good thing she had to offer but purely out of unconditional love and acceptance rooted in God’s character.

Joy has birthed from twelve years of marriage through confessing our sins to one another, doing the hard work of communicating, learning to let go expectations, prioritizing sexual intimacy (yes!), allowing others into our relationship to give us counsel and biblical insight, learning to cherish one another, forgiving faults daily, putting our relationship above the kids, weathering trials together and not against each other, and above all, allowing Christ to inform and direct our relationship.

Thousands upon thousands of books have been written on how to have a thriving marriage, but it’s something that doesn’t come immediately like cooking chicken in your insta-pot. You have to give it lots of time and patience to work– more like a crock pot! You have to be willing to patiently strive for the peace, love, and contentment you desperately desire.

The final (& surprising) word on joy:

If our goal is to first please Jesus and glorify him as best we can in our marriages,  joy is what pushes us to endure the challenges we will face:

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  – Hebrews 12:2

Thankfully, after the flying dinner roll episode in our apartment community, Jeremiah and I were able to cool down, reconcile, and remember why we were there – to serve others. We became a team again. In spite of the painful, hard work, I’ll always remember that special season in our journey. And I’m thankful for the real truths that it reminds us of today.


Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

 

 

 

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If You’re Worried About Your Child’s Future

Sometimes it comes out of nowhere. Sometimes it’s a thought in the back of my mind. But when these words and worries come, they’re fierce and have the ability to hold me captive.

What about the safety of my child, Lord? Will he follow you all his life or turn away? Will he make the right choices and choose good friends? Will he be okay in this ever increasingly evil world?

Today, it doesn’t take much to become worried and concerned for our child’s safety and overall well-being: terrorist attacks, sickness, mass shootings, sexual abuse, bullying, internet dangers, suicide, pornography, ISIS, unhealthy friendships and the list goes on.

I have found my own heart questioning how my child will grow up in such a world – a culture  lacking in peace, love, and joy. A culture that has forgotten God and has instead made self and sin kings on the throne. I sometimes find myself doubting God’s plan and goodness through it all because it can be so overwhelming.

After watching the delightful and comical movie The Star with my husband and kids last week at our local theatre, I was touched and reminded by all the good that was still happening leading up to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Regardless of King Herod’s evil attempt to hunt down and murder baby Jesus soon to be born, God’s sovereign plan prevailed each and every step of the journey.

The star led Joseph and Mary to the exact place where Jesus was meant to breathe his first breath in the lowly stable. Even in the midst of the chaos and evil in their present day, light had still come to pierce the darkness and bring peace. Man’s feeble attempts to destroy that plan were shaken and overcome. And one day, that shepherd King would sacrifice his life on the cross, providing salvation and rescue for each and every one of us.

Still for today, God’s plans will not be hindered.

When it comes to our own children and our natural concerns for their future, we can trust that God knows what he is doing. He brings light into the darkest situations and provides hope, healing, and restoration. That is who he is and that is what he does. Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

In the Christian life we’re not promised a life of ease void of suffering contrary to some popular theology. In fact, we’re told that in this life we will face hardship, affliction,, and persecution. But we’re promised that God will be with us and will never forsake us. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)

He has plans to give us hope and a blessed, abundant future. We must remember this for our children too. Ultimately, they are God’s and he knows their future before we do. He goes before us. And he will be there before our feet arrive.

Our children will face trials and even darkness, but we have to remember that the light is still among us just as it was that night in Bethlehem. When you’re looking out at the world and the darkness is frightening, look up to Jesus. His light has led you and you can have confidence that it will lead your children too.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

 
* This article first appeared on The Courage. 

 

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is the author of Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

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Why You Should Find Time to do Absolutely Nothing This Christmas

A few days ago, I came home and collapsed on our brown leather couch. I just sat there– didn’t even stare at my phone for the latest news, cute photos of friends’ kids, or even check our bank account. I just rested my mind and body. Prior to that day, I organized a cookie exchange and fellowship for the women in our church, attended a “muffins with mom” at my daughter’s preschool, met several writing deadlines, labeled and addressed Christmas cards, and helped my husband with several work projects. Not to mention being up at night with our kids wetting their beds from the hot chocolate they drank at our town’s parade. Needless to say, I was spent.

That sacred time on the couch being absolutely useless gave me time to think and reflect on life and what was going on around me. I began to actually hear from the Lord and to understand what my soul was craving. It didn’t need the peppermint chocolate Hershey’s kisses in the mason jar next to me or the better-get-it-now Amazon deal, but my heart needed sweet time with Jesus in prayer and His word. My soul was craving what we all have inside us- a hole that can only be filled by God alone. No matter how much we try to satisfy it with what the world or our flesh has to offer, we’ll still be left wanting more. He is the only path to true, lasting, infinite peace and joy.

Honestly, I want to do…

… Continue Reading the rest of this post over on Kirk Cameron’s website TheCourage

5 Words That Could Mean Life or Death to Your Marriage

If you’ve followed my blog for a length of time, you may remember this article I wrote. It ended up going viral in December 2013. Since it’s been almost four years and I have new readers, I wanted to repost it. I pray the Lord will use it to encourage and strengthen your marriage!

A few weeks ago, my friend Charity wrote on Facebook that a photo of her friend’s grandparents had made The Huffington Post. I clicked on the link and saw the breathtaking image of this husband and wife. I was instantly caught up in the beauty and tragedy of it.

I imagined what was going through the wife’s mind as she held the fragile hand of her dying husband. I imagined the memories they shared together—the joys and challenges. I imagined the birth of their first child and raising a family in their home. I pictured his strength and her beauty at a young age.

From the expression on her face, I saw a woman who deeply loved her man. A woman who fulfilled her commitment and stood on her word to love him “Until death do us part.” I saw the ache in her soul that he was breathing his last breaths and soon, he would no longer be by her side as her protector, provider, soul-mate, comforter, delight, lover and friend.

And my soul began to ache as I thought about my husband and the deep love we share for one another. It made me think of the vows I promised him on a wintry December day in Virginia amongst all our family and friends eight years ago:

I, Samantha, take you, Jeremiah, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

I also thought about the ways I’d failed my husband over the years and how I still have many areas of growth in loving him the way God intends.

Begin with the End in Mind

The five words “Until death do us part” are spoken of at the wedding altar in regards to lasting commitment but the reality of death being the actual end of the marriage is rarely expounded on. After all, the wedding ceremony shouldn’t be depressing right?

But the truth is that in order for our marriages to have the life they need to survive the long haul, we have to begin with the end in mind. Death—no matter how much we try to escape it—is the end and we have made a promise to God, our spouse, and other witnesses to love our spouse until then.

It sounds so easy and simple, but to actually live that out is another story. That’s why so many marriages end in divorce. Contrary to popular ideals, marriage is not a bed of roses, but is a battlefield that demands a daily dying to self.

Because of our sinful, stubborn, selfish natures we inherited in the garden, we continue to bring that nasty nature into our marriages—into all our relationships in fact. The manner in which we relate to our spouses and handle conflict is often broken. Ask anyone who’s been married for a little while and they’ll tell you just how much the molehills become mountains. Often they come out of nowhere and seem impossible to climb.

When we don’t get our way, conflict arises. When our spouse forgets his wallet or keys and makes us late to an important event, we grow angry. When he isn’t fulfilling our needs and desires the way we’d like, we have a pity party. When he doesn’t help out around the house enough, we grow bitter and nag.

When our spouse is short with us or raises his voice, we go on the defense and lash back. When he watches too much football, we tell him to get off the couch and get to work. And the list goes on. Conflict is a natural part of the marriage relationship and if it’s not happening internally at the moment, it’s guaranteed to hit you from the outside in just a matter of time.

Choose Humility & Forgiveness

The hope is that we can still have conflict in the midst of a healthy marriage defined by love. Through confessing our sins, repenting, and seeking forgiveness habitually, God refines those areas where we’re weak. Like iron sharpening iron, God uses our spouse to help change us. We put our hope and trust in God for help and guidance.

It’s having that humility before our spouse to say, “I know I’ve screwed up. But I love you and I’m committed to you every day of my life to make our marriage thrive.”

It’s realizing that, “Will you forgive me?” may just have to become a part of your daily vocabulary.

It’s choosing not to be isolated and asking trusted friends or family to encourage and help you get back on the road to loving and serving one another again.

It’s understanding that even if your spouse is driving you crazy and you want so badly for him to change that you may have to look in the mirror first to see where you need changing. Then you can dig your knees into the ground and pray for him.

It’s remembering that the very act of touching your husband’s hands, sexual intimacy, bearing children, laughing, working, playing, and eating meals together is all an act of grace that should instill gratitude in your heart. All of those life-giving moments are gifts that are not guaranteed or promised forever.

Being able to call him husband is a gift in and of itself.

Fight the Battle Against Sin

Above that beautiful image of the elderly couple, I read that the grandson wrote that they’d been together for 68 years and still kissed 15 times before bed every night.

As the wife sat next to her husband’s death bed, I’m guessing she wasn’t thinking about the times they fought or let each other down, but only the good, sweet, joyful, holy, precious, sacred times God had given them as husband and wife on this earth. There’s no doubt there was gratefulness and a deep sadness in her heart that it was ending.

Life is a vapor, as we know from Solomon in Ecclesiastes, and no matter how much we try to deny it, death is waiting for us and our spouse in the end. So the fight against sin in our marriage is worth it because one day, if we know and belong to Christ, He is going to make all our brokenness whole again and we will be made perfect as He is.

And the words “Until death do us part” don’t have to be brushed over, denied, or forgotten, but can inspire us toward a greater, selfless love for our spouse and ultimately for God.

Blessings to you,

Samantha

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. She is the author of Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

 

 

 

 

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