Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shared Lives. Shared Dreams. Shared Goals – Part 2

For over a week, I played a “you can’t catch me” game with the flu bug. It has been a roller coaster ride, feeling great one day and off-colour the next.  It has also been a battle of will to get this blog post completed. I started writing the second part of the Shared Lives post ten days ago. The feedback I got after I posted the first part and the inspiration from further reading on the subject, fired my determination to complete the post today despite the watery eyes, heavy head and sneezing a thousand per minute. I am persuaded that I have the victory over the flu bug.

Unique and Significant:
My marriage is unique and significant in God’s Kingdom agenda. God has a unique purpose for my husband and me to fulfil. So our marriage is not just about us; it is also about the impact God desires for our marriage to make in the world about us. This principle is true for every couple. It is imperative that we keep this notion in the forefront and as a primary vision for our marriages.

Because God has a sovereign and eternal plan for our lives, we know that every detail of our lives are small pieces of the larger picture God has in mind of our lives. Therefore, our marriage is a significant piece of God’s larger picture and eternal plan our lives.

Therefore, we need to understand that each marriage is unique, and God’s plans and purpose for your marriage is unique. This knowledge prevents me from comparing my marriage with another marriage. My husband and I have our unique individual gifts, strengths, skills, talents, calling, weaknesses, and failings, which combined in our shared lives have given our marriage its unique identity—same is true for you and your spouse too.

Shared Vision:
The Bible says that the people perish without a vision. Without a vision, a couple in marriage will have no target to aim for to keep their passion stirring. We need a vision in order to move with intensity towards a goal.

“…I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.” – Philippians 1: 27b.

The scripture above gives us another impetus for the sacredness of our shared lives as a couple and an insight into God’s eternal vision for us. We are called to stand together as a couple with one spirit and one purpose—united in spirit and united in purpose. Then we can fight together for the faith. Unity in the spirit and purpose is essential for a couple to fulfil God’s plans for their marriage. We need to remind ourselves constantly that we are in this together for the long haul—as long as we both shall live.

An understanding of the eternal essence of our shared vision will give each of us in our marriage a different perspective in dealing with the issues we face as we go on the journey of our shared lives. It will also encourage us to stay true to the course no matter how rough the journey may be.

If a couple has different life goals and values, this will result in several opportunities for conflicts as both will be going in different directions. You can’t be united in purpose and focussed on the same vision or goal if you have divergent values and you are unwilling to change. Hence, it is important at the onset of a relationship, during the discovery stage, to focus on knowing the values you both hold to strongly.

Ask a thousand questions when you are courting. That is your fact-finding season.

Enhancing Oneness:                                                        
In order for each couple to fulfil their unique purpose, they need to grow together as one and be united in purpose.

Sharing lives together is therefore much more than sharing space. It is not enough to be together in the same room; it is important that you give focussed attention to each other. If you are focussing on other things when you are together or when your spouse is talking to you, then you are not giving quality attention to your spouse. It is only when we pay attention to one another that we can find out what is uppermost in the mind of our spouse. You can’t assume that you know your spouse so well that you don’t need to ask them what they want, what they need and what their opinion is. This will amount to taking your spouse for granted. Your spouse’s opinion matters.

Also, the time spent together in a common pursuit enhances your intimacy and oneness. It also communicates that you care about each other’s interests, and you enjoy being with each other.

Communication is vital in a marriage.
Learning effective communication skills can be a marriage saver.

It is also important to be supportive of each other's dreams. But you can only support what you know about. So if you are not sharing your dreams with your spouse, you are limiting the opportunities and your spouse’s ability to support you.

Your shared dreams as a couple have to be strong and vital. It must engage both of you to get you stirred up and motivated. Dreaming together as a couple and planning towards attaining your dreams together is powerful in making your marriage strong and deepen your intimacy. Thus enhancing your oneness.

Since God did not give you or your spouse psychic abilities to read each other’s mind, talking to each other and listening to one another is vital is essential for your shared lives to thrive and remain vibrant. It should be in a language that is clearly understood and without ambiguity.

Be Kind To Each Other:
Are you as kind to your spouse as you are with others outside your marriage? Are showing the same grace to your spouse as you extend to others?

There are many who are very tolerant and accommodating of the shortcomings of those outside their marriage who do not extend the same mercy to their spouses. As noted in the blog post last week, the main purpose of marriage is that through your marriage, you become more conformed to the image of God by showing unconditional love, mercy and grace. It is in marriage you learn to pour yourself lavishly on someone who doesn't deserve it or respond appropriately.

I am a strong believer that a couple should be each other’s best friend, acting in the best interest of each other and giving their best to each other. After all, you are sharing lives together with each other in a way you can’t share with another person, and you are bound together by a covenant. Your marriage is a covenant relationship. This also means that right from the onset, the relationship is founded on a solid friendship.

“Your marriage is a living example of what it is like to be in close relationship with you.”
Micheal Hyatt – How To Be Your Spouse’s Best Friend

The following are some of the elements of a strong marriage founded on shared lives;

1. Staying strong and vibrant is important to both of you—a shared goal and dream.
2. You are both willing to work together to stay strong.
3. Being focussed and unified in purpose.

The pursuit of shared goals will promote unity in the marriage and align efforts so that the couple are working together in the same direction. Lack of unity results in decreased marital satisfaction, increased stress and a waste of time, energy and resources. Unity is achieved when you align your values, vision, goals and plans.

Working together to achieve your shared dreams and shared goals requires vital and frequent consultations during which you learn and understand each other's strength, weaknesses and preferences. This information can be used for the mutual benefit of the relationship to avoid conflicts.

When you understand who does what best in your relationship, then you can allow each other to focus on what you do best. You learn to use your differences to complement each other as a thriving team.

Marriage is a test of perseverance:
Good marriages are marked with several milestones of perseverance. God wants us to keep pressing forward in our marriage together, overcoming challenges, obstacles and difficulties as we share lives as one. It is in persevering that we have victory that brings glory to God in our marriages.

Let us not become weary in doing good,  for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatian 6:9

It is by pressing on that we attain God’s best for our marriage. There will be times when you will feel like you are pressing on for deeper intimacy and oneness in your marriage alone. Don’t be weary and don’t give up. Be assured that God is working on your spouse just as much as He is working on you. 

So you just do your part in absolute reliance on God. He has a stake in the success of your marriage because He designed your marriage to succeed.

I pray that you and your spouse will press forward together in your shared lives with determination until you attain God’s eternal purpose for your marriage. Grace to you.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Shared Lives. Shared Goals. Shared Dreams.

Valentine’s Day provides us with a great opportunity to reaffirm our love to those we are in a relationship with. This reaffirmation cannot be a once-a-year event but one that we need to do each day of the year especially those who are married or preparing for marriage. It has to be consistent if we are going to keep our marriage vibrant, fresh and thriving.

It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation; it takes knowledge to furnish its rooms with fine furniture and beautiful draperies.”
– Proverbs 24:3-4 (The Message Bible).

My take away from these verses is that it takes wisdom, understanding and knowledge to build a strong, vibrant and thriving marriage that will last for a life term. It is important for us to know and understand that in building a long-term and lasting relationship, we must understand that it is about sharing our lives together. It is a journey that we embark on for the long term and the long-haul. Simply put, we are doing life TOGETHER. Marriage is designed by God to be a life-long relationship. It is primordial that we jointly as a couple do the work of making it work.

“Marriage is a joint quest for the good, the beautiful and the divine.”
– James E. Faust.

I read recently, in a devotional devoted to encouraging a view marriage as a life-long journey, that the main purpose of marriage is that through your marriage you become confirmed to the image of Jesus Christ. We conform to the image of Christ by learning to exhibit unconditional love, mercy and grace to our spouse in marriage. In marriage, you learn to pour yourself lavishly out on a person who may not respond appropriately. This is what grace is all about.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will share on this blog how we can deepen intimacy in our marriages by focusing on the concept of sharing lives together as a couple. I will look at some of the elements that will enhance our appreciation of our shared lives.

How much do you enjoy being with each other and sharing life with your spouse?

There is the need for couples to share a common vision or ministry otherwise we will begin to grow apart. Talking about the possibilities of what your lives together hold in the present and in the future is a starting point for having shared vision.

You build intimacy in a relationship through communication, commitment and clear shared goals. Making decisions together will enrich your relationship and deepen your intimacy.

Emotional connection begins to wane when communication is strained and limited. Good communication is important for a healthy and thriving relationship. Improving communication requires multiple and sustained efforts. The more time we spend together as couples, the more we will long for that deep connection. Shared goals create opportunities for an intimate connection between the couple.

Sharing our lives together requires us to have shared goals. Shared goals are things two people in a relationship strongly desire and are committed to accomplishing together.

Three elements of this definition require further attention;
  1. Strongly desire: there has to be a mutual desire shared by the two in a relationship. It has to be something you both want with all your heart. You both agree to have it. If you both have deep and strong desires for your marriage, it will keep you focussed working towards that dream when things get tough.
  2. Committed: shared goals have to be something both of you are willing to commit yourselves, including your energy and efforts, to accomplishing. In a sense, there should be a joint commitment to this cause.
  3. Together: it is something you want to do together, something you are both willing to work towards as a team.

Shared goals and dreams provide the glue that will keep you and your spouse working together in marriage. It provides you a defined purpose for your daily activities. These shared goals will determine which path you both choose to follow. There is the tendency to walk on different paths if you don’t have shared goals as a couple. It enables you to have greater communication as you discuss what you are doing and where you both are in the journey towards accomplishing your shared goals. It encourages greater collaboration and brings about unity.

As couples work together towards accomplishing their shared goals, each person’s role becomes clarified with each one knowing the value and importance of his/her contribution. You cannot accomplish this without communicating. The more you communicate, the more you are better able to clarify your goals and understand the value of our contribution. This will strengthen the bond between you and your spouse and also deepen your intimacy. Shared goals bring both of you a sense of joy and fulfilment when it is accomplished.

Our deepest and strongest desire, when my husband and I got married, was that our home would be a haven of peace, a place where others will come and find succour and counsel. That was what we wanted, and this strong desire still guides us till date. There have been many times we lost track of that vision. I bless God Who in His infinite mercy and grace has always refocused our attention back to it.  

I am grateful that this desire was top on the list of our prayer points when we got married. As I look back over the years we have shared our lives together, I see how God has processed, pruned and refined us so that our home can be a place of succour and peace that we desired it to be. So as we reaffirm our love for each other today, I focus my attention again on our shared vision and ask God to keep us align to it every day we share together as a couple.

I will continue this post next week. In the interim, I encourage you, my married friends, to take time today and in the coming days to review what your shared goals and vision are as a couple. Are you sharing yourself with your spouse as you both work towards your shared goals?

Please feel free to share with us in the comment box how we can do better in sharing our lives together as couples, 

Grace and blessings of God abound to you and your spouse as you grow in the knowledge of God’s purpose for your lives.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Complete. Focus. Consistent.

In December 2014, a dear Sista of mine asked us which word will guide our actions in 2015. I didn't have to think deeply about it. The word jumped right out of my heart. As the month went on, several events occurred that enabled me to concretize the word that became my watchword for 2015. During the last week of December at our family devotion, my second son asked each of us to get ONE WORD that will define 2015 for each of us. My husband clarified this by asking us to meditate on where we believe God wants us to be by December 31st, and what we know the Holy Spirit wants to work out in our lives. He noted that this will help us to define our goals for the year.

I knew that we needed to have a vision in order to move with intensity towards achieving a goal. Without a vision to engage our attention we are likely to vacillate, dissipating precious resources. It is the target we move towards that keeps our passion stirring. So the question for me was, what does God want to accomplish through me and what He want me to accomplish for Him?

I knew without any doubt that the key goal God wants me to fix my gaze on. And it is;


The word jumped right in front of my sight and fixed itself relentlessly in my line of vision. And I knew why.

I looked through my bookshelf and my e-book reader, there were many books I started to read that I did not finish. When I did the same exercise with my beading, I found a number of pieces, I designed and started to work on, but to-date they remained uncompleted. I did not need to search further; I have a major God-ordained assignment that I have yet to complete. I did not need a handwriting on the wall to tell me that God wants all these unfinished projects completed. I knew that I had to engrave COMPLETE on the palm of my hands so that it is constantly before me.

In order for me to accomplish the goal of COMPLETE, I would need to give attention to two important attributes; these are FOCUS and CONSISTENT.

Why is it important to COMPLETE?
It is only those who finish the race that gets the prize. It is not sufficient just to start the race. Paul admonished us in 1Cor 9:24 to run with the intention of winning the race. You cannot win a race that you didn't complete. I once watched a race in which one of the athletes fell down. She didn't stay down on the ground, but she picked herself up, resumed the race, completed and won the race overtaking all the athletes who passed her while she was on the ground.

There are times when you don’t even have to win the gold prize, but the joy of completing the race and having your personal best record is sufficient.

We will not realize or achieve the purpose of an assignment if the assignment is not completed. That is why it is important that we complete every task we set our hands upon to do. The works God wants to do in me and through me cannot be achieved if I don’t complete the tasks He assigned to me.

I cannot but run each of my race to its logical conclusion. I have to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. I have to apprehend the purpose for which Christ has apprehended me.

Be Focussed:
Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; (Proverbs 4:25-27 NLT)

“…but I focus on one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” – Philippians 3: 13b – 14.

I learned that I needed to keep my eyes focussed on the goal if I am to attain to everything that God has called me to do.

Nehemiah refused to be distracted from his assignment—the task at hand. He was engaged in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. It was a great and important work, Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the rest of his enemies called him away from the work several times, but he refused to go to them. “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come to you. Why should I stop working to come and meet you?” (Neh. 6:3-4).

From the above we see how we must respond to every distraction, discouragement or intimidation that seeks to take our attention away from what God has called us to do. Rather, we must work with greater determination in the face of distraction.

I need to keep my eyes fixed on the goal by staying focussed; Refusing to be sidetracked if I am going to COMPLETE my tasks and assignment in a timely fashion. This calls for discipline, determination, and commitment.

The Bible says that whatever your hand finds to do, do it well and with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in grave (Ecclesiastes 9:10), and do it as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).  Doing half-measures or mediocre jobs cannot bring honor and glory to God.

“Heroes are the women and men, who each day, pursue a silent personal victory. A victory over average. A win against mediocrity. And a success above defeat.” – Robin Sharma

Be Consistent:
Since I get easily distracted by the television and I work at home, I resolved several years ago not to put the TV on during the day. But on this particular Saturday last December, my husband left the TV on as he went out, and I didn't bother to switch it off. It was on a sports channel that I felt could not distract my attention from the beading work I was doing. There were a number of championships going on. One of them caught my interest. It was the 2014 World Artistic Gymnastic Championship in Nanning, China.  Oleg Vernyayev, an Ukranian male gymnast, won the gold medal.

The commentators as they discussed Oleg’s performance stated, “You can learn a lot being around World Champions.” They discussed at length one characteristic of Champions; they are consistent. This fact was repeated in several other games shown.

According to Robin Sharma, “World-class performance is less a natural gift and more a daily decision. The best just practice more.”

Consistency is achieved when ability is married long enough to hard work. It is derived from perseverance. Our intention will not get us to accomplish the task assigned to us. We have to go beyond intention and day-dream, to apply hard work with patience on our ability long enough to get the job done.

"What we often call brilliant is the fruit of long, patient and consistent hard work"

However, in fulfilling my God-ordained assignment I need the strength only God brings as I seek Him and rely on Him. We cannot depend on our ability alone. We need the grace and endurance from God to fulfill God’s call on our lives and to complete the tasks He has assigned to us.

Keeping my gaze fixed on the goal; COMPLETE, has enabled me to prioritize my activities and focus my attention on the activities that are essential to take me towards accomplishing my assignments and my dreams. It has limited my options. It has also helped me to cut my tasks into manageable chunks that I can consistently work on each day.

Dear Friends, by the grace of God in 2015, I will complete my assigned tasks. I will stay focussed on the goal. I will be consistent. What about you? What are you committing yourself to accomplish in 2015?