Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Deeper, More Christ-Centered Marriage

I know it’s no secret I’m crazy about this man. I brag on him A LOT, and well, that’s because he deserves it. (Trust me when I tell you he is definitely the better half.) I am forever thankful the Lord allowed my path to cross with his and for me to walk through this life as Mrs. Jonathan Butler. The longer we’ve been together, the more I have come to appreciate the man that he is and the marriage we have.

But, that doesn’t mean it has always been easy. And we still have our struggles sometimes.

We went on our first date back in August of 2006. We dated for four years, broke up for two short periods of time during that stretch, & even dated different people during our “breaks.” In January of 2010, Jonathan was baptized and I saw the Lord REALLY begin to work in his life.

I saw a NEW man, I saw fruits, and although I had always seen his incredible potential, THIS is when I became confident that was going to be the spiritual leader in our home. I knew then I was ready to be his wife & start our life together. (He told me he already knew we were supposed to get married.) He asked me to be his wife on March 6th of 2010

…And we got married in October of that year, so this October will be 6 years of marriage & 10 years together.

We have absolutely been blessed beyond measure & we are so thankful for the Lord’s favor & blessings even when we do not deserve it. That is such a great reflection of the merciful and gracious God that we serve! We’ve got a home that we love and great friends & family. We have started two businesses that have taught us so much & brought some of the best people into our lives. We have traveled to some really cool places & made memories we will cherish forever. We have served together in ministry. And our favorite- the Lord has blessed us with our two precious boys (so far!) that are the absolute light & JOY of our lives!!

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But you betta believe we have been through a few really difficult times together during our almost 10 years. Like Big Jon says, “it’s not all grapes and lollipops.” Unexpectedly losing his very best friend in the whole wide world, my big brother, and his mom (when I was 38 weeks pregnant) were definitely some of the most heartwrenching expereinves of our lives. Those were the three worst phone calls we have ever received. I’m so thankful we were able to cling to Jesus and each other during those times. I can’t imagine not having that as an anchor during those storms of life. (I am also thankful for how Jonathan handles grief. He is a rock and has taught me so much about faith and trusting the Lord’s plans, even when we don’t understand.)

We’ve dealt with some family members battling addictions. Our house has flooded. Sometimes we get in disagreements over silly little things. We’ve struggled through my pride & his critical spirit.  (We’ve had a couple of knockdown drag-outs over that actually.) We aren’t perfect and never will be. I am learning to let go of expectations of perfection.

One thing we have learned from going through the valleys, the mountain tops, and through the growing pains…you have to keep your eyes on Jesus.

That is the answer, folks. Even when marriage isn’t easy. When you have to ‘choose love’ because you just don’t feel like it.

I remember a while back thinking about #marriagegoals and whose marriage I would like ours to look like in 5, 10, 30, and 50 years down the road. It was so sad to me that so very few marriages popped in my head. I can think of some of great moms/parents, but very few marriages worth emulating. (FYI: I truly believe that if you want to be a GREAT mom, you have to be a great WIFE first.) So I decided right then and there that I wanted OUR marriage to be THAT marriage. Genuinely. I want me and Jonathan to be an example to others…to show that you can have a “heavenly marriage.” Not perfect. But heavenly. Joyful. Rewarding. Enriching. Fulfilling. FUN!

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And I knew that meant I was going to have to do some “pruning.” (Because I was not joking when I said Jon is definitely the better half of the Butlers. I’m pretty sure all the people who know us really well would agree.) I knew the Lord was going to have to “undo” some thinking, some habits, & some reactions. Aren’t you thankful we serve a mighty God who can and wants to do that in us?

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To us, marriage is about two imperfect people that God pairs together to be “heirs together of the grace of life.” Our job is to help each other prepare for eternity while drawing others to Christ because of our relationship. “Godly marriages magnify God’s ingenious creation, but few marriages radiate the glory.” (You & Me Forever, Chans)

I feel like we are just now getting into a deeper, more Christ-centered marriage, so I wanted to share a little about how the Lord’s been working in our marriage.

Outside of my walk with the Lord, this is the most IMPORTANT relationship in my life (for so many reasons), so it is so important to me to invest in it and allow the Lord to refine me. Shew, I wish refining was fun…don’t you? My prayer is that He will make me the kind of wife Jonathan needs- a true help meet for him that I was created to be. I want to be a crown to him. I want him to be more respected because of the wife that I am. I want him to rise and call me blessed and consider me worth more than rubies. I want him to cherish me because I am truly a wife worth cherishing. I want to help him live out his high calling by supporting him, loving and respecting him, and taking care of our home. I want to help meet the needs I was designed to meet for him (so he never has to look elsewhere to get them met, if ya catch my drift). I want my boys to grow up to be men like their daddy, so that means I need to be the kind of wife I want my sons to marry. And that means I’ve got work to do because I’m just not there yet.

I make a conscious effort to grow as wife and we are both intentional about protecting and investing in our marriage. We go to marriage conferences, read lots of books, communicate about our marriage goals and needs, observe things other couples do well, and we pray for each other all the time. We have some boundaries also, but more than focusing on that, we just focus on what we can do to be a better spouse to one another. Just the other day I asked Jonathan what I can do to make him feel more respected, and I try to ask him “deep” questions occasionally. (His first answer was hilarious!)

A little over a year ago, I was mentored by a wise woman from our church. I specifically seeked her out and asked for her mentorship because I wanted to grow deeper in my marriage and become a better wife to Jonathan. She is definitely a woman worth following and has the fruits in her marriage and children to back it up. She and I went through Created to Be His Help Meet together & she helped me work through what I feel are some of my “weak spots.”  The whole mentoring session was really more about my relationship with the Lord and I knew growing in that would in turn benefit our marriage. There may or may not have been LOTS of tears during that year of “pruning,” but the Lord did a major work in my heart. Jonathan has told me he has seen a difference in me too and I am thankful for the growth, for her prayers, and for her speaking the truth to me (in love, of course). She helped me change my perspective on some things and taught me what the Word has to say. I still have my moments, but I feel like I have more self-control with my tongue, I am not so easily offended, I catch myself when I am being disrespectful, and I try to think ahead of ways I can serve Jonathan. I also have become more of a prayer warrior for him and work to show him love in HIS love languages. Titus 2, y’all….it’s good stuff. I highly encourage you to find a godly mentor because that was a game changer for me.

(P.S. I first heard about the book Created to Be His Help Meet from Lori’s blog, and she is doing a series on it that is worth checking out. It was one of the most challenging books I have personally ever read because it is so countercultural, but it was so, so good. I am actually rereading it again right now and going through it with an awesome group of young ladies in Bible study. I continue to learn so much from it every time I read it! Anyway, Lori has a lot of wisdom to share and her blog is one of the only ones I read anymore. She offers sound Biblical teaching that is definitely NOT popular with the world, I’m sure…but I do NOT want a life like “the world” so that’s fine by me.)

Another friend recently suggested that I read You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan, and I feel like it very eloquently reiterated some of the most important aspects of a Christ-centered marriage. I needed the reminders & wanted to pass them along.

The goal of marriage is to emulate a picture of Christ and the church. Can you imagine the light Christians would be in a dark world if our marriages were actually different from the world? If the divorce rate for Christians was zero instead of the same as non-believers? If we fulfilled our God-given roles and had JOYFUL marriages? If we took our wedding vows seriously and realized the magnitude of that commitment? If we viewed children as the blessings they are and had homes full of godly children who love and serve the Lord? People would be flocking to us! They would be desperate for what we have. But we don’t. Selfishness, pride, insecurities, discontentment, jealousy, and unfaithfulness tarnish the picture of Christ and his bride, and people don’t want any part of that. I have no doubt the enemy wants to attack marriages because he knows it’s the fastest way to destroy families. But if you’re serious about winning people to the Lord, you first have to model the beauty of the Gospel in your marriage. I truly believe one of the main reasons so many Christian marriages are struggling is because they are not Christ-centered. We think they are. We claim they are. But we don’t live it out.

Husband, wife, or both spouses are entering into marriage with unrealistic expectations of their spouse to meet their needs. Hear me on this, friends. Your needs can be met in Christ alone. Can you imagine how fulfilling your marriage would be if both you and your husband were SO FULL with Christ, allowing Him to meet every need and fill every void, that your spouse and family receive the overflow from that? (FYI- there is a HUGE difference between overflow and leftovers. Do not mistake that difference.) I get excited just picturing your cup spilling over with joy, contentment, love, peace, kindness, and everyone around you getting to enjoy that.

Another great takeaway from the book was about emulating the humility of Christ. One of the number one struggles in our marriage is that I insist on being right. God has truly done a work in my heart in this area. (Partially because Jonathan is actually right most of the time, and when I lay my pride down, I can see that. But THIS powerful truth has helped me change my perspective.)

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I also highly recommend watching The War Room if you haven’t already seen it. I think it’s out at RedBox now, or maybe you can download it or get it on Netflix? (I am so not tech savvy, but it’s available. I do know that!) It was  so encouraging and such a great reminder about the power of prayer. It reminded me of what I learned in The Circle Maker. Ladies, we should be covering our husbands and our families DAILY in prayer! If there is something you would like to be different in your marriage, pray that the Lord will either change your husband or change your perspective. (Whatever you do, don’t nag him to death over it.) If all is going smoothly, thank the Lord for that and “fix the roof while it’s not raining” with your prayers. (I wrote a post a couple of years ago about Praying for Your Husband.) Pray God’s Word. Write out prayers and Scriptures. Keep a prayer journal. Have a specific place in your house where you go for quiet time and become a prayer warrior. Your marriage, your family, your future, and your legacy are worth it.

Of course, the ULTIMATE place to learn about your high calling in your marriage is in the Word of God. There are so many Scriptures that clearly lay out God’s plan for marriage and our role as wives. He tells us what a godly wife looks like, and the more you study his Word, the more it will change you. Don’t believe the lie that you can get by and have a rewarding, fulfilling, Christ-centered marriage without knowing and studying the Word.

So, there ya have it. Some real, raw insight into our marriage. And hopefully some tangible resources and actions to help you grow into a deeper, more Christ-centered marriage.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Are You Studying the Enemy?

A few months ago a friend suggested a book to me. I won’t put the title, but it was about the enemy and learning to defeat him. Without hesitation, I ordered it, but when I went to read it, I could not make myself stay focused long enough to get through any of it (and that is very unusual for me). It has been sitting on the nightstand in my bedroom until yesterday, and now it is in the trash can. I’ll go into that a little further in a minute…

The other day I saw another friend post a book they are reading about the enemy, and it hit me. I became so convicted about “studying the enemy” that I threw away the book sitting on my nightstand.  I wanted to share what I have realized through some prayer about this specific issue and hopefully it encourage you while shedding some light on the topic.

I am a pretty big time reader (as I’m sure you can tell from my extensive vocabulary and excellent grammar, right? hahah!!), but over the last few months the Lord has really laid it on my heart to chill out (a little) on reading all of these other books and DIG into the Word. Read the Bible, memorize Scripture, study it, pray it, and read it some more with a hungry heart & desire to be filled with truth. Books are great, & I highly recommend that if you aren’t already, for you to become a reader. (Don’t buy the “lie” that you don’t like to read.) But here is what I know, friends. The BIBLE is our ultimate source. It is the living, infallible, convicting, sharper than a double edged sword, WORD of God. It is our instruction manual and a love letter from Him to us. It is a remedy for every issue we face and a prescription for every ailment. It can give us direction, teach us about leadership, marriage, parenting, finances, and trials. It will teach us how to live like Christ, even in a fallen world.

So here’s the deal.

Make no mistake. We DO have an enemy, and it is important to be aware of him. He is described in John 10:10 as a thief who wants to kill, steal, and destroy. 1 Peter 5:8 describes him as a roaring lion prowling around looking for someone to devour. I am convinced he specifically wants to attack marriages because that will wreak havoc on families and churches, all of which are so dear to the Lord. So yes, he is there, and we must be aware that we are facing an enemy. Ephesians 6 talks about our enemy…

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

However, I think it is unwise to try to study his tactics.

I know some of these books are written by some big names in the Christian community. And I haven’t read the books, so I am not saying that there is false information in them. But, I believe when we read them, we are focusing on the WRONG thing. In this case, I think the best defense is a great offense. Rather than studying the enemies schemes, we should focus on efforts on getting to know the know the TRUTH. Getting to know our loving Savior. Getting to know his Word, and knowing the truth so well, that we immediately recognize the lies and attacks of the enemies. (I know this is kinda deep, so I hope you’re following me here.)

I know I’ve shared this analogy before,  but I think it’s worth sharing here because it’s so applicable to this topic. In other cultures, children are taught how to run the family business from an early age. When teaching their children to recognize counterfeit money, they do so by having them study REAL money so very well would immediately recognize a fake.

The same thing is true with what Jonathan and I do in our business. We are in nutrition, but rather than giving people a huge list and teaching them the things they CAN’T eat, we help them focus on, study, & learn to prepare the foods they should be eating.

I also know some people that say things when they’re praying like “Get behind me, Satan.” Friends, I believe it is DANGEROUS to talk to the enemy. Do not even give him a foothold. If you feel him attacking you in some way, pray God’s Word and know the victory has already been won. No weapon formed against you shall prosper.

Doesn’t that make more sense? Don’t focus on the lie…the enemy…or the list of rules. Focus on the TRUTH. Developing a deeper relationship with the Savior and get to know him better. It’s not about rules, it’s about the freedoms you’ll have by being under the umbrella of protection God gives to those in his will.

So…Here is the good news! The Bible clear lays out for us how to defend ourselves against the enemy in those remaining verses of Ephesians 6. We must arise EACH morning and put on the full armor of God. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

I hope that wasn’t confusing.

I know that’s a lot and I’m not sure that I got it out quite the way I wanted. But my whole point is this. Don’t study the enemy or his tactics. Know you have an enemy, and defeat him by saturating yourself with the TRUTH of God’s Word.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sailing through the Caribbean

One of the five ways AdvoCare pays is through incentive trips. It’s a performance- based deal…so the more people you help, the more likely you are to earn it. (It is highly competitive though.) We have earned a few of the corporate incentive trips in the past, but turned down two of them because I was due with my sweet boys around the same time. We are so thankful for the trips though because this is where we’ve had a chance to meet some incredible people & make some great new friends we would have never otherwise has the chance to get to know. We love being around like minded people and we like to travel, so we always go for the trips.

We knew pretty early on we were going to earn the Caribbean trip, but couldn’t decide if we were actually going to go. We are just in a season in life where we don’t like to leave our kids. (We both like our little 1 hour at the gym a few days a week, but that’s about it!) It was a 7 night cruise through the Caribbean on the world’s largest sailing yacht (which did sound awesome!), but that just felt like too long to be away. Plus, I as and am still nursing so that would be 4-5 pumping sessions every day. There was NO way (trust me, I explored every option) to bring the milk home, and pumping and dumping that many ounces is just so sad. Nursing mamas, y’all feel me?

We debated, talked about it a good bit, prayed about it fervently, and even reached out to a few of our mentors for their advice, and finally responded that we were going to go.

One of the main reasons we wanted to go was to have some “us” time. It is so important to us to continue to strengthen our marriage, and that’s something we have to be intentional about. Working from home together means we get to spend a LOT of time together, but we spend most of that time taking care of the kids and house and business (which we LOVE & are truly so grateful for!), so we wanted some unplugged time to connect, reflect on 2015 and talk about goals for 2016. You don’t have to go on a fancy vacation to do that, of course, but because it was an all-expense paid trip to some of the most beautiful locations in the world, we decided it was a good time to do just that. Makes sense, right?

Another reason we wanted to go was to have the opportunity to be around some of the top leaders we know. I’m not talking about just in the world of AdvoCare. I’m talking about people who are walking the walk, creating true legacies, raising champion kiddos that have become remarkable adults, and are making a DIFFERENCE in this world. Most of these folks have gotten to where they are because they are incredible people and LEADERS, so we wanted to soak up some wisdom from them. Not just business stuff- way more than that. Parenting, marriage, leadership, ministry, business, investments…There was such a great wealth of knowledge, experience, and wisdom on that boat and we are so thankful to have an opportunity to learn from those folks.

The few days before the trip, we seriously almost backed out about 50 times. Even the day before we were scheduled to fly out, Jonathan and I considered calling to cancel (and just pay back the company for our trip) because we were having such a hard time leaving the boys. (Both of us.) I cried. A lot. I don’t know if everyone’s like that or if that seems overdramatic, but neither one of us like leaving the boys and it was not a decision we took lightly.

Anyway, we (obviously) ended up deciding to go and I am so THANKFUL we did! We needed that time to recharge and reconnect, and I don’t think it’s something we would have made time to do otherwise.

My mom and Jonathan’s sister and dad tag teamed watching the boys for us. We are so, so thankful for sweet family loving on our little guys, and I know we are beyond blessed they are always so willing to help out. I know they had a blast too and made sweet memories with Jase and Kade. We want them to have a strong bond because family is so important to us.

Our trip was from Saturday, December 5th through Saturday, December 12th. The yacht was called WindSurf and it was through Windstar Cruises. We’ve been to the Caribbean a few times & it is absolutely gorgeous, but this trip was some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

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We flew into St. Maarten (which was awesome!) & bussed over to the ship.

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Thankfully all of the travel was pretty uneventful. I am still nursing so I have to be careful about what I take. I tend to get motion sick pretty easily, but I wore those wrist bands that hit a pressure point (found them at Walgreen’s I think) and they worked like a charm! I never felt sick at all. I did not do the best job taking pictures this trip. Boo for that!

Here are the places we visited:

  • Philipsburg, St. Maarten
  • Falmouth Harbour, Antigua
  • Soper’s Hole, Tortola, BVI
  • Jost van Dyke Great Harbour, BVI
  • Virgin Gorda, Prickly Pear Beach BVI
  • Gustavia, St. Barthelemy  (St. Barth)

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St. Barth was my favorite!! It was seriously so, so neat. We bought the boys a book & Jase a pirate shirt that has become his FAVE! He asks to wear it every day.

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There were some awesome excursions. We signed up for a submarine tour, a helicopter tour, and a segway tour of Antigua.

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Now I’m just here to tell ya, I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into with that segway business. I almost backed out & almost cried. (TOTALLY overdramatic but I didn’t even care- I was scared!!) Once I got the hang of it, it was easy peasy. But it took me a little while & I was not a natural by any means, so I was seriously thankful for the helmets and elbow pads. (And would have been totally cool with knee pads, shoulder pads, and a cage on the helmet too.) **FYI: Fear is not your friend on those things. Shout out to the mall cops- they’re harder than they look. At first anyway. Jonathan got the big daddy & rode it like a champ. This ended up being one of my favorite excursions! Pretty serious crowd, right?

I think everyone was a little worried for me…shew!

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Meeting one couple in particular was the highlight of our trip. They spoke life into us & shared some things we desperately needed to hear.

It may sound cheesy, but the people are definitely, definitely my favorite part of the trips. The food is phenomenal. They make sure you have some great experiences. You can’t beat the scenery and the weather was pretty perfect. But the people seal the deal for me every.time.

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There is something about the ocean…God’s handiwork is breathtaking, isn’t it?

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When the cruise was over, they took us over to the Westin in St. Maarten & let us hang out till it was time to catch our flight. We had a room where we could relax and take a shower, and we actually ran into my cousin Nicole! Crazy small world, right? They were celebrating their anniversary and it was so great to see them!

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I am so thankful for the opportunity of AdvoCare and for the options it has created for our family. I am thankful for the experiences, for the friends we would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, and for the quality time with Jonathan. It was a trip we will always remember, no doubt.

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