Wisdom for Wives

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks …"

What I Know Now

Rooftop wedding at Seven-Degrees in Laguna Beach, CA

image credit: brides.com, taken by Laura Grier

One day my Prince will come.

It’s the dream of many a fairy-tale reading girl. Something that girls grow up hoping for, if not expecting. (Though apparently not as much as they used to, but I digress.) In junior high, we practice our signatures with the last name of our secret crush. I went so far as to pick out baby names for my over-a-decade-from-being-born children: Champagne and Chablis. (So embarrassing!!) We fantasize about the wedding day, the gorgeous dress, and the home we will share long before the identity of our knight in armor is even known.

As we mature, our longings go deeper than the perfect day and the perfect dress. We look forward to the companionship and intimacy that are supposed to characterize marriage. We may hope for someone to take care of us, to make us feel safe and secure. Or someone to make us feel needed, desired, and loved. For better or worse, our childhood experiences often impact our expectations of marriage. Some of us grew up in loving homes that we plan to duplicate with our own Prince Charmings. Others of us long to find the happy relationship that our parents didn’t have.

And that longing isn’t wrong, is it? After all, God created marriage. Throughout Scripture (including in Ephesians 5:22-32, Hosea, and Revelation), God’s relationship to his people is compared to covenant of marriage. An entire book of the Bible is devoted to the pleasures of marital love. Clearly, in the opinion that matters most (ie, God’s), marriage is a good thing.

So if you are a single woman you may be asking yourself, When will this good thing happen to me? Will it ever happen to me? I certainly asked. Even though I met my husband when I was 18, our ultimately getting married 7 years later was not always a certainty. So if it wasn’t going to be him, Who? I asked when we weren’t in a relationship. Where will I meet him? Maybe I should go on this missions trip because I’ll meet him there! What if he was on that missions trip that I didn’t go on and I missed him?? Does God even want me to get married???

Well, to my great delight, I did get married. 🙂 In November it will be 15 years, and I’m grateful for every single day of those 15 years, even the days I would not like to repeat. But sometimes I think about the single me, with her hopes and expectations of what marriage would be. She thought she knew everything (except maybe who her future husband would be), so she probably wouldn’t listen if I went back in time and told her what I know now. (When I get married, … she would say with authority.) But as it turns out, the things I would say to the single Susan are the same things I need to say to myself every day as a married woman:

1. Find your wholeness and identity in God.
The Bible says that a husband and wife are no longer two, but one flesh (Matthew 19:4-6). And Ephesians 5:23 says that the husband is the head of the wife. But married or not, you—Susan of the past and Susan of the present—are God’s precious daughter. Your last name may change, but you will still be you! I won’t pretend to understand exactly how it works. But I do know, when you stand before before God’s judgment seat, you will not be judged for your husband’s life, nor he for yours (Romans 2:6, Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10). And if you are waiting for someone to complete you, define you, or make you feel significant, you will be disappointed. No man was made for that job. Jesus has already defined you, and He says that you are:

He says that you belong to Him (1 Peter 2:9), whatever your last name. You can be secure in the knowledge that your position in Christ is independent of your marital status or how anyone else feels about you.

2. Depend on God as your provider.
I have to admit, during my engagement, I was looking forward to having a husband take care of me. After we got married, even though I had a job (and had supported myself as a single adult for years), I felt proud that my husband was the primary and very successful breadwinner. To the point that I took little interest in our financial situation. But God is the one who was taking care of both of us, as He had when we were single. And we both had a responsibility for stewardship, whoever was making more money.

When you see your husband (or your boss, or your parents, or even yourself) as your source, all of the pressure is on that person to meet your physical needs. Relying completely on a human being who can’t possibly meet all of your needs can be stressful, disappointing, and even embittering for both of you. But even if your husband is the only one in your family who earns an income, God is your source! God is the one who provides the opportunity and ability to work. Between the two of us, my husband and I have several testimonies of miraculous employments. 😀 In each of those stories, it’s so clear that God’s merciful hand, and not our strength or our brilliant choices, brought the jobs along (and kept them for us) at just the right times.

And God’s provision is not limited to paychecks. The Creator of the Universe is the one who keeps those tires going a few miles longer, gives the kids’ sneakers a few more weeks of tread, leaves the providential bag of groceries at your door, and does abundantly more than you can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). It is true when you are single. And it’s true after you say, “I do.” So instead of burdening your (future or current) husband with all of your needs, take them to the Lord and trust Him to provide (Philippians 4:3-29, Hebrews 4:16)

3. Seek companionship in Him.
Marriage is not a cure for loneliness. Even if you marry your best friend, as I did. Even if, as I once bragged, you are his favorite person to spend time with. (Marriage has been a necessary and ongoing cure for my pride! 🙂 ) In the best relationship, you and your husband will probably be apart at times. For 8-10 hours every weekday, for an occasional overnight trip, or even for weeks or months at a time. Back in 2004, my husband’s job required him to travel cross-country as much as one week per month. We had a toddler and an infant, and I could hardly wait for Daddy’s Friday returns. I would wake up and cry, It’s only Tuesday!!

But very often, couples are separated by more than time zones. Your once intimate partner can come to feel more like a roommate; or worse, your enemy. Not feeling close to the person with whom you are supposed to be one flesh, can be harder to bear than being simply alone.

But God’s daughter is never really alone! Ever! Jesus is always with you (Matthew 28:20). You couldn’t get away from Him even if you wanted to (Psalm 139:7-12)!! Nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:38-39). Knowing this has been an incredible comfort during difficult times in my marriage. In fact, it’s during some of those trying times that I’ve felt the deepest awareness of and dependence on God’s presence. Of course, you don’t have to wait until you’re married or have marital problems to draw near to God (Psalm 73:28). Don’t wait. He longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18).

4. Never give up serving the Lord.
It is easier to serve when you feel appreciated. At least it is for me, someone who craves affirmation. And while I am grateful to have a very affirming husband, he can’t do it constantly. My children are old enough to say, Thank you, and they often do. But not when I mop the kitchen floor (which, granted doesn’t happen very often, but still). Not when I tell them to clean their rooms. Definitely not when I correct and discipline them. But I can’t live for anyone’s affirmation or thanks. Those are not enough to get me through yet another sink-full of dirty dishes. They will not give me the strength to keep praying the same prayers for my family.  But when I do get tired, and wonder, What’s the point?, God reminds me that I’m washing the dishes for Him.  I’m praying for my family, not so that our lives will be the way I want them to be, but that our lives would please Him.

One of my absolute FAVORITE verses is in 1 Corinthians 15.  It is a reminder to focus on the One I am really serving.

~~Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). ~~

So if you feel neglected, unnoticed, unappreciated in your service—whether it’s to your job, church, community, or family—remember that God sees all of your work and does not forget it (Hebrews 6:10).

My point in all this? Marriage can be sweet, satisfying, exhilarating, and comforting. It can also be exhausting and heart-breaking. For every problem that you think marriage will solve, there are challenges that are hard to imagine or understand until you actually get married yourself (as married people tried to tell me when I was single 🙂 ). So, rather than looking to marriage as a solution to (or cause of) your problems, look to Jesus. Put your hope in Him. Beyond hoping that He will bring you a husband or change your marriage (which He can do, so ask!), you have hope because Christ’s life, death, and resurrection give us victory.  So even though you are going to have trouble, whether you’re married or single, you can take heart.  Because whether married or single, the greater One is in you.  He is there before you walk down the aisle, and He will be there always.

Thanks for stopping by,

Married Susan 🙂


Review: Mint Budget Software

Mint logoBack in September, I shared how excited I was that my husband and I had had a nitty-gritty money chat.  (The chat itself was actually not very exciting all, but I was very glad once we completed it.  🙂 )  We also agreed to try out Mint for keeping track of our spending. Since it’s been 3 months, you could say that this review is long overdue. Or, you could say that, I’ve had sufficient time to adequately evaluate the product, and this review just in time for a new year and a fresh start with finances. Yes. That is what I will say.

So! First of all, how does Mint work? It links to your financial accounts—bank, credit card, loans, etc.—and downloads your balance and transaction information into one place. (You cannot make any account changes [e.g., withdrawals, transfers] from Mint; you can only view the data.) Then Mint compares your spending, based on the transaction data, to the budget that you enter. There are several pre-programmed budget categories, and you can also create your own, as shown below:

Creating a Budget Category in Mint

Creating a Budget Category in Mint

My husband set up an account at Mint.com, entered all of our account information, and then I entered the budget.  Usually I accessed Mint from my desktop computer, but I also installed the app on my phone. After using the program for several weeks, here are my thoughts:


  • Centralized account access: Mint allows you to see all of your balances and transactions all in one place. I don’t see the word “unlimited” anywhere (maybe I missed it?), but we entered six accounts and we could have entered more. (For comparison, the free version of Mvelopes allows you to enter 4 accounts). Mint even adds everything up to give you a total “net worth” (in quotes because our worth does not come from our possessions, as I wrote in the Where Does It All Go? post). But it’s very helpful to be able to see all of our financial information without having to log in to each account individually. And if you are working on paying off debt, the “net worth” provides an easy way to see your progress.
  • Weekly summaries: Mint emails a weekly summary that breaks down your spending by category, in a lovely pie chart. 🙂 It also tells you—both in numbers and color-coded bars—how much you’ve gone over budget, or how close you are to exceeding your budget in any category.
Sample Weekly Summary Email from Mint

Sample Weekly Summary Email (image credit:  mint.com)

Sample Budget Bar Chart (image credit: mint.com)

Sample Budget Bar Chart (image credit: mint.com)

  • Transaction categorization: Mint was able to automatically assign most transactions to the proper categories.  Wegmans purchases went to the Groceries category, Exxon/Mobil went to Gas & Fuel, and it even has a Coffee Shops category. 🙂 If a merchant is not recognized, you can select a category and Mint will assign future transactions accordingly. You can also change a transaction category that Mint has assigned.
  • Price: Mint is free, which is my favorite price of all! Other programs charge one-time or recurring fees, so Mint is very competitive considering everything that it offers. It does show ads, mostly for financial products and services.
  • Interface:  I really like all the options Mint gives you for summarizing and analyzing your finances.  You can view your spending by category or merchant, or create custom tags for your transactions.  In some cases you have the option to view the data as either a bar or pie chart.
Spending Over Time in Mint

Spending Trends Over Time in Mint (Modified Image)

You can even export the data to a csv file (which you can open in Excel) for all kinds of additional data slicing and dicing.  There are several other features that we did not use, like the free credit monitoring (we are already signed up for a program) and notification of upcoming bills (we have them memorized!). You can read more about the features here and here.  And now, for the


  • Cumbersome budget entry: It takes three to four clicks to enter each budget item. Including monthly bills and discretionary expenses, I had over 40 items to enter. This got tedious after a while. Granted, now that everything’s entered, I won’t have to do it again. But I feel like the process could have been more streamlined.
  • Untimely alerts: You can select to receive text message or email alerts when balances fall below a certain level or when you deviate significantly from your usual spending pattern.
Mint Alert Options

Mint Alert Options

Unfortunately, we usually received such alerts five days after the event.  I was not necessarily depending on the low-balance alerts, as we already receive them from our bank.  But if the irregular spending had been due to fraudulent charges, for example, the alert would not have been very helpful.  And Mint does not alert you when you are close to exceeding a budget category (though you do get that information in the weekly summary).

I am still using Mint because I like its layout and organization so much, but I am on the lookout for a program that is more proactive with the budget alerts. Yes, there is something to be said for having your own self-control, but I need all the help I can get!

Thanks for stopping by,


Thank God for Laundry, Heartache, and Fleas

Female prisoners gathered when the Red Cross arrive at RavensbrĂźck in April 1945. The white paint marks show they are prisoners.

Female prisoners at RavensbrĂźk. Image credit: wikipedia.org

My youngest child has long outgrown his crib, but it’s still in my room serving as a giant laundry basket.  After the clothes come out of the dryer, I heap them by the armful into my son’s former bed.  There, the clothes wait for days, occasionally weeks (OK, usually.  Who am I kidding?), to be folded, hung, or picked up by the older kids to be put way in their rooms.  One afternoon the pile was especially high, but right before a groan came to my lips, I resolved that I was not going to complain about having so many clothes to fold. SO MANY clean clothes, for my whole family, as well as clean towels and clean sheets. Isn’t that a nice problem to have?  Realizing that it is indeed very nice, I turned on HGTV and set to folding.

Actually, I think that was kind of an easy test. Laundry is a chore, but it doesn’t hurt.  It’s a little harder to be thankful for things that hurt, like marital problems, or not being able to pay your bills.

When my husband and I look back on the financial setbacks we faced early in our marriage, we are glad that those challenges knocked down our pride a few notches. Our lifestyle had centered largely on earning and consuming.  But after our income shrunk dramatically, our mixed up priorities were rearranged, and we’re grateful for it.  Now.

And it’s when our relationship has been the most strained that I’ve clung to Jesus as if my life—from moment to the very next moment—depended on Him. It always depends on him, but I tend to forget that when things are rosy and cozy. So, in retrospect, I’m thankful for those days that made me intensely aware of my need for God, and intimately aware of his mercy and faithfulness.  But do I thank God for the heartache at the time?

James 1:2 exhorts us to count it all joy when we face all kinds of trials.  The “when” catches my eye, because it doesn’t say “after.” It doesn’t say “five years later,” or “after the sting fades.”  But while it’s happening!  Why should we rejoice? Because the testing of our faith produces patience.  And why did Paul delight in weakness and hardship? Because he had learned that Christ’s power was made perfect in his human weakness.  “For when I am weak,” Paul confessed, “then I am strong.”

One woman who appeared to have mastered joy “while it’s happening” was Betsie ten Boom. Her sister Corrie wrote about it in The Hiding Place.  I read this book in high school (Junior high maybe??  Both were a long time ago.), so I had to refresh myself on the details. But to this day I still remember, “Thank God for the fleas.”

The “fleas” incident took place at the RavensbrĂźk concentration camp in Germany.  The sisters’ long journey there began in the Netherlands, where the Nazis had arrested their family for hiding Jews in their home.  Corrie and Betsie had been transferred to a barracks that was swarming fleas, and Corrie cried, “How can we live in such a place!”  Betsie’s response was to pray.  Then, remembering what they’d read that morning, Betsie asked Corrie to read it again.

In the feeble light I turned the pages. “Here it is: Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbrük.

“Go on,” said Betsie. “That wasn’t all.”

“Oh yes: …Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

“That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. Give thanks in all circumstances! That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!” I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“Such as?” I said.

“Such as being assigned here together.”

I bit my lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!”

“Such as what you’re holding in your hands.” I looked down at the Bible.

“Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”

“Yes,” said Betsie, “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!”

She looked at me expectantly. “Corrie!” she prodded.

“Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.”

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for–”

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted.“It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Days later, the sisters learned how they had been blessed by the fleas.

There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.

One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” I told her.

“You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well–I’ve found out.”

That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t,” said Betsie. “She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”

My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.

Thank You for the fleas!  It’s practically beyond my imagination how Betsie was so grateful in the midst of their hellish circumstances, or how Paul wrote letters from jail about rejoicing always and giving thanks at all times.  But surely if God commands us, it’s possible.  And I can start by thanking God for my own trials, however big or small.

Thanks for stopping by,



Praying “At” Your Husband?

Silhouette of a woman in a hard hat hammering a board

image credit: microsoft.com

If you have been married any length of time, you have probably heard a sermon, read a blog post, or purchased a book encouraging you to pray for your husband.  Five years ago, I met with a group of ladies every Saturday morning for a few months to pray for our husbands.  If you search the New King James version of the Bible, you will find over 300 uses of “pray,” “prayer,” “supplication,” or “intercession.”  Prayer is essential, and that includes praying for your husband.

But do you ever find yourself praying at your husband? What do I mean? Well, I imagine praying at your husband to be kind of like looking at God and saying, “You and me, God, we’re here.  We understand each other.  Can You help him get with the program?” Or maybe, “Fix him, Lord.”

Perhaps you would never utter such words in prayer. But I’m talking about a very wrong attitude you can have in your heart, even while doing a very good thing like praying for your husband. This attitude is also characterized by:

Being more concerned about what your husband does (or doesn’t do) for you, than about his spiritual, mental, and emotional welfare
Priding yourself on your “spiritual maturity,” while overlooking the areas of your own walk that require “fixing”

And how do I know so much about praying at your husband? I have to admit, I’ve had lots of practice.

For a picture of the right attitude, let’s look to Jesus.

~~ Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:3-7) ~~

But what if your heart is too hurt, too angry, too tired? What if all you can manage is attitude prayer? Should you just not pray at all? How can you shift to truly praying for your husband?  Again, God’s Word has the answers:

1. Confess.
Speak to God honestly, from your heart. There’s no point in lying to Him anyway. 🙂 Confess your anger, pride, and bitterness. And ask Him to reveal to you the issues that you don’t even know about.  Whatever is, lay it all before Him. He has good news for you.

~~ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) ~~

I have also confessed my pride to my husband, but I wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know from my words and demeanor.  (Even when we think we’ve disguised those attitudes really well, sometimes they seep out anyway.)

2. Consider who your husband is in Christ.
A few years ago, my husband and I took a video course based on the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. During the third session, Thomas says, “Your wife isn’t just your wife, she is God’s daughter … If you want to revolutionize your marriage, think of God as your Father-in-law.”  When you go to God in prayer for (or at) your husband, you’re talking to God about His son, too!  (Why was this mind-altering to me? Isn’t it obvious??)  This doesn’t mean that you should sugar-coat or “spiritualize” your prayers.  Again, be straight with God.  He cares about your heart’s desires. But He cares about your husband’s just as much. You are—both of you—precious to Him. And if you both confess Jesus as Lord, then you are both His chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, and special possession (1 Peter 2:9). Meditating on that is bound to change the way you pray for him.  I encourage you to download this PDF and meditate on more things that God says about His precious son and daughter.

3. Keep praying!
I hope I haven’t given you a complex about praying at/for/about/around your husband!  We really don’t have to wait to “get right” before we can pray.  We are invited to boldly approach God’s throne, where will receive grace and mercy.  He can change our hearts, work miracles in our relationships, and give us indescribable peace.

~~ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, underline added) ~~

Just remember when you pray, that it’s not you and God against your husband.  He loves both of you very much.

Thanks for stopping by,



Where Does It All Go?

Budget Notebook

image credit: wikihow.com

As I discussed in last week’s post, a personal financial picture consists mainly of:  what you own (assets), what you owe (liabilities), what comes in (income), and what goes out (expenses).  If you have a good idea of these four things, I would say that you know pretty well the state of your flocks. I also talked about what net worth is (the “owned” minus the “owed”) and what it isn’t (the value of your life).  But even though, as the Bible says, life is not about our possessions, it does matter how we manage them.  So this week I will talk about the more dynamic duo out of the four: income and expenses.


This probably seems pretty obvious; for most families, it’s the paycheck(s).  But there’s more to your income than how much goes into your bank account each week or month.  (If your family’s income is seasonal or sporadic, you can calculate a weekly or monthly average.)  It’s also helpful to know how much is withheld and deducted for taxes, health insurance, and other benefits.  How could that knowledge help? With some research (consult your HR, tax, or other professional as needed), you may be able to give your cash flow an immediate boost, or make changes that have a longer-term benefit.  For example:

  • If employer-sponsored health insurance is available to both you and your husband, are you enrolled in the more cost-effective plan?  Some employers impose a surcharge for covering spouses who can get insurance from their own employers.  Would there be any benefit in switching from one spouse’s plan to the other?
  • Are you contributing to your retirement savings plan to receive the maximum employer match?  Or, is it possible that you are investing too much given your current situation?
  • Could you benefit from increasing or decreasing your pre-tax contribution to your health savings account (HSA)?
  • Are you withholding too little or too much income tax?

If you and your husband don’t typically talk about money, these questions could be great conversation starters.  Or, if you’re like me, you like to say, “Hey! Look what I found!”  In that case, go ahead and gather all the facts and figures, then present your marvelous, well-researched suggestions to your husband.  🙂


Knowing where your money goes every month can also boost your cash flow or impact the future for the better.  So-called “fixed” expenses like rent/mortgage take a little more effort to change, but they don’t have to be permanent.  Have interest rates or your credit score(s) changed significantly since you first financed your home or car? Would a re-finance be worthwhile?  Does it make sense to sell a car, or to relocate?  These are decisions you and your husband would make together, but you might have ideas that haven’t occurred to him (or that he doesn’t realize you are willing to consider).

If you do most of the family’s shopping for food, clothing, etc., you know that those expenses really add up.  So you can make a big difference in the monthly balances.  An important first step is keeping track.  Spreadsheets have been my tool of choice for years.  I have many times professed my love for spreadsheets, and there are links below to some real cuties (all Microsoft Office Templates).  Have you ever heard anyone refer to a spreadsheet as a “cutie??”

Monthly Budget with Bar Graph
12-Month Budget with Trend Chart
Simple Monthly Budget
Budget with Pivot Table and Pie Chart

But my husband and I are actually trying something new right now.  We’ve signed up for the free mint software and I’m in the process of entering our budget.  It is great for me because I can see all of the details, and my super-tech-savvy big-picture picture husband appreciates the UI (fancy IT term for layout).  After using it for a month I will come back with a review.  (I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am that we are budgeting together!  Miracles do happen.  :))  But you don’t need a fancy app or adorable spreadsheet to start keeping track of your expenses.  And if your relationship is not in a budget-conversation place right now, that needn’t stop you either.  When I kept track of what I spent on food alone, it was both humbling and eye-opening.  Start with what flows through your own hands.  Whether big or small, you can make a difference.

Thanks for stopping by,



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