Happy Anniversary!

This past Tuesday, my husband and I celebrated 19 years of marriage. (Our wedding anniversary also marks 25 years of officially being a couple.) Tomorrow marks the 6-month anniversary of Struggle to Victory. As I thought about these two anniversaries, I realized how many of the same principles that made my marriage successful will also make my blog successful as well.

  1. Consistency. Consistently forgiving, striving to meet each other’s needs and making God the focal point of our marriage. Choosing to focus consistently on these and other areas creates a strong marriage. When I started blogging, I remember the experts recommending posting consistently. Consistency creates a sense of reliability and trust, elements essential for any relationship, whether face-to-face or virtual.
  2. Commitment. No matter what, my husband and I remain committed to each other. This held true when we struggled through my chronic depression, the colic of our first child, and the journey that comes with adopting an older child. Never give up! Commitment to blogging also means not giving up. I have read more than once that many bloggers give up just before they would have hit the success for which they have been working. Simply never giving up helps ensure success in a marriage as well as in blogging.
  3. Courage. In marriage, courage comes into play with trusting your spouse. This is built and grows over time, and having the courage to keep working toward trust (both giving and receiving) goes a long way in strengthening a marriage. Courage with blogging involves putting your thoughts and ideas on the internet for all to see. It also means risking controversy and offense. Without courage, can one truly be a successful blogger that connects with readers?
  4. Connection. Connecting on a regular basis provides the glue that allows consistency, commitment and courage to truly create a strong marriage. My husband and I make a point to connect every night after the kids are in bed. (We explained to our now teenage son that this was why we insisted on an earlier bedtime than most of his friends, and he now cheerfully goes up to his room at the designated time). We also take a weekend trip together quarterly. This is the minimum, and usually we connect more than that. Connection is also essential in blogging. Connect with readers. Connect with other bloggers. Use the various avenues of comment streams and social networking to connect with others. Connection is the glue to any long-term relationship.
  5. Communication. Certainly a part of connection, communication also involves making sure goals and objectives line up as much as possible. This can mean coordinating weekly activities or focusing on larger goals such as reducing debt or making a large purchase. Communicating needs, wants, desires, etc. and being honest when doing so creates a culture of growth in a marriage. Communication for a blog means creating clear content that shows understanding of reader’s needs, wants and desires. Communication of any sort requires deliberate and intentional focus on a consistent basis.

Following in the steps of other godly marriages, my husband and I employ the above elements to make our marriage healthy and strong. Following in the steps of successful bloggers does the same for my blog. When I first began blogging, two resources provided the bulk of the information I needed. Ghostwriter Dad and ProBlogger got me started with the tips mentioned in this post as well as many others tips and ideas. I recommend them highly as resources for any blogger.

My marriage is by far more successful than my blog, and I hope it always remains as such. Yet, I know that if I employ the same principles in blogging as my husband and I do in our marriage, Struggle to Victory will be close to its 19th Anniversary when my husband and I celebrate our 39th Anniversary.

Sunday Reflections – What’s Your Status?

Does your Facebook status accurately reflect all of who you are? Or, are you only posting about the dramatic parts of your life? Are you hoping people will think you are clever by what you post? Are you displaying only what you feel is socially acceptable? If all someone knew about you was from your Facebook status, how would they describe you? Would they have well-rounded view of who you are?

What about how people would describe you as a Christian? Are you genuine and appropriately transparent? Are you putting up a front and only showing what you think others want to see? Or, are you willing to be vulnerable when necessary? Are you the same person in private and in public, or do you act like a Christian only when others are watching? If people were to describe Christians based on only you, what would that description look like? Would it accurately reflect Christ?

As Christians, our goal is to show the world what Christ is like. This does not mean we need to be perfect. That’s not possible this side of Heaven anyway. It does mean that we need to continually improve, which comes when we pursue holiness. (Holiness means to be set apart.)

Pursuing holiness means doing our best to apply scripture – all of it – to our lives. (We don’t get to pick and choose what to apply and what to ignore.) Pursuing holiness means having a Christ-like attitude that is contagious. In today’s technological age, contagious means viral. Do you have a Christ-like attitude that’s going viral? Or, do you have a negative and critical attitude that others are catching?

Compared to the Facebook status of many people, my life is quite boring nor do I eat enough. Yet, my guess is that what I’m seeing doesn’t present the whole picture of their lives and who they fully are. But I find myself wondering if I am similarly guilty of presenting an incomplete picture of my life as a Christian.

I am certainly not advocating that people air every detail of their lives on Facebook. Some topics and details are simply meant for face-to-face conversations, IF they should be shared at all. (Some things should simply be kept between you and God.) But I’m also not advocating an in-your-face Christian who forces his beliefs on others. Instead, I am promoting that we purposefully decide to present who we are accurately and honestly by the lives that we live, whether virtually or face-to-face.

In other words, do your best to be real. As a Christian, that means letting the character of Christ in you be your status as a Christian. Let the Holy Spirit present opportunities to be real – flaws and all – in a way that shows the grace and mercy of Christ. That means that in being perfected, the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness and self-control) continually increase in our lives. No, not perfectly, just as no one’s Facebook status can accurately present a perfect life. Instead, with a sincere heart, do your “best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) A worthy status whether on Facebook or as a Christian. Come to think of it, shouldn’t these two status’ be one in the same anyway?

DISCUSSION: What adjustments can you make in your status starting today?

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Related Posts:

Are you an “All-In Oddball” Christian?

Go Against the Flow

Attitude Upgrade

Do You Have Broad Shoulders?

Football players, especially running backs and linemen, usually have physically broad shoulders. They’re very strong and able to withstand a lot of force without moving much. Some of this ability comes via genetics, but most of it is developed through hard work, strength training and consistent practice. Their example gives us a framework for developing broad shoulders of our own, not physically, but in a way that allows us to better reach victory in life’s struggles.

What does having broad shoulders mean? It means not being easily offended or at least letting go of an offense easily. It means keeping short accounts and simply not letting offenses linger (Mark 11:25). Having broad shoulders means becoming increasingly aware of the grace and forgiveness freely given us (1 John 1:9) and then willingly extending that grace and forgiveness to others (Matthew 18:21-22; Colossians 3:13).

How do we develop broad shoulders? Developing broad shoulders involves using our strengths to stand up under and even prevent offenses as well as allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our weaknesses to help us struggle through offenses. Broad shoulders also come through disciplines similar to what football players use to become physically strong and skilled.

  1. Build on natural ability. Know your personality and temperament and build on the strengths that come naturally. If talking out a frustration helps you let go of offenses, find a safe person to listen. If writing them out helps, do that. Maybe physical activity such as running or tennis helps you let offenses go. Find what works to release tension, and then employ it regularly to ward off lingering offenses.
  2. Discipline your thought life. Deliberately choose where your thoughts dwell. Instead of thinking about a person’s intentions, consider that you may not know the whole story. Consider that you may be operating under false assumptions. And realize that a bad day, a headache or a poor night’s sleep might be all that’s at the root of the offense. Discipline yourself to give the benefit of the doubt and chose to dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” and anything that is “excellent or praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).
  3. Strength train regularly. Becoming stronger only happens through challenge and initial breakdown, just like our muscles only become physically stronger when we break them down through exercise. Don’t avoid life for fear of confrontation and difficulty. Rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you through the struggle in a way that allows you to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18) as much as it is up to you to do so.
  4. Practice consistency. This step involves visualizing what may happen in an upcoming situation and then reviewing (debriefing) after a confrontation. Deliberately chose to learn from every situation and in this way “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
  5. Be a spotter. When lifting especially heavy weights, spotters need to be present to assure safety. In a non-physical sense, being a spotter means seeking to meet others needs rather than focusing on having your own needs met. Look for ways to serve rather than be served.

Within all of these steps, always rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We can develop broad shoulders only so far on our own to possibly achieve the world’s standards. Going beyond what the world considers acceptable and doing what pleases God rather than man requires supernatural intervention. This happens by moving forward even in fear and committing your way to the Lord. It happens by realizing weaknesses and allowing God to be glorified as He makes the impossible happen.

Jesus was all about relationships when He walked as a human being on this earth, and He is still all about relationships. Having broad shoulders strengthens relationships as we realize that we are all human, and we all make mistakes. No one truly deserves forgiveness, yet our Heavenly Father freely gives it to us anyway. This can motivate us to develop broad shoulders for the sake of fellowshipping with believers and witnessing to unbelievers.

DISCUSSION: What can you do to develop your “broad shoulders”?

Please take the time to read 15 Words That Will Change Your Relationships by Barb Raveling at Beyond the Sinner’s Prayer. This post relates well to the development of broad shoulders.