Is Submission a Four-Letter Word???

I Choose to Submit to You

February is National Marriage Month. So for the next four weeks, I will post excerpts from my book, I Choose You Today: 31 Ways to Make Love Last. We’ll look at submission, commitment, and pursuing your mate. On March 1, I’ll draw a name from all who have commented on any of the posts for a free copy of the book!

“Did you see the reviews on that new movie we’ve been waiting for? The one we’ve been talking about?” my daughter-in-law asked. “I was kind of surprised. I heard . . .”

“Me too!” I cut in. “I was really disappointed, because it sounded so promising, something we’d all really like,” I continued. “The film got really low marks in several areas, like . . .”

Ron gave me a nudge with his knee.

I glanced at him and continued, “The reviews I read said it plodded along and was hard to follow at times. And such a predictable ending . . .”

He nudged me again. I turned to face him, and he gave me the look, along with another nudge.

I rolled my eyes at him. But I stopped talking and turned my attention to Penny. “What did you hear?” I asked. She was eager to tell me.

The next morning, as we lay in bed contemplating the jump from the warmth of the comforter into the start of our day, Ron said to me, “So, did you understand why I nudged your knee last night?”

“Yeah, I got it; I interrupted her and hijacked the conversation. Thanks. You were right. Irritating, but right.”

He laughed; I smiled. That’s how it works most often. After forty years, that’s where we usually land. Usually. Still, it’s not always easy.

I will admit the concept of submitting to each other was a tough pill to swallow when we married at nineteen. Ron and I are both strong willed, opinionated, and unafraid to express ourselves. On occasion, it has resulted in what we call an intense moment of fellowship. Sometimes it’s loud. But neither of us will ever be able to say to the other, “Wow! I didn’t know you felt that way!”

There have been occasions when our spirited debate crossed the line and our expression of love and respect slipped—times when neither of us would yield to the other. On those occasions, we had to seek forgiveness from one another, and from God as well.

Submission can be tough. It has been discussed a great deal throughout the life of the church. I’ve heard some really excellent messages about it, and some that weren’t so great. And by not great, I mean they weren’t based in Scripture.

The Bible is clear: we are to submit to one another. Early on, God said it was not good for man to be alone; he needed a help meet. The word for help meet in the Hebrew of Genesis 2:18 is used nineteen additional times in the Bible, all in reference to “aid in battle—aid that usually came from God. Standing with your spouse against the attacks of the enemy to establish and protect your marriage is an important role. And it’s always a choice.

God created a specific pattern for marriage so that disputes are never left undecided or one-sided: “Wives, submit to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22 NIV). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NIV). God placed the husband at the head of the home, a position not to exalt him but to create order. My mother would say that anything with two heads is a monster. I’ve seen husbands and wives vie for headship in marriage, battling for top spot, and it’s not pretty. Often the monster devours the marriage, and even if the union is not dissolved, peace and unity vanish.

God established the order: my husband is to love me (as Christ loved the church), and he is held accountable as the head of the home. That’s God’s plan, not my husband’s. If I am submitted to God, I will submit to God’s plan. It doesn’t mean I have no input in decisions or the direction for our life together.

“I don’t want a servant for a wife,” Ron says. “A silent partner might work in business, but it’s not helpful in marriage. I need a wife who will pray with and for me, offer insights and ideas, and share her heart as God leads her. I want a partner in making decisions. God knows me, and the world should not be exposed to me without her influence!”

The concept of yielding to one another has become important in our marriage. It ensures we each have a voice. Yielding is a voluntary process, a choice to agree to or accept something that you have been resisting or opposing. The choice to yield may come as a result of influence, position, affection, or respect for another.

There is a second meaning for this word: yield also describes the outcome or result of a choice or action. The farmer’s careful oversight of his crop yields a fruitful harvest. Godly, biblical choices yield a productive and favorable outcome. Insisting on our own way and refusing to submit will produce an outcome too, just not one Ron and I care to live with.

Sometimes I am able to influence his heart, and at times he has influenced mine through open, respectful dialogue. We submit to one another. Do we always find full and complete agreement on every topic? Of course not! In those instances, I choose to submit to God’s plan and order and yield to my husband. After all, he will have to account to God for the choices he makes.

What will you choose when the opportunity to yield comes knocking? Will you resist the temptation to bully or campaign to get your own way? Will you demand submission? Or will you create dialogue to allow understanding? It’s not always easy, but it’s always a choice.

Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;                                                                                   and submit to each other out of respect for Christ. – Ephesians 5:20-21


Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship and conflict resolution. A writer and popular professional speaker, Deb focuses on topics related to the family and women. Kregel Publications released her first book in November 2013 entitled, Related by Chance, Family by Choice. Abingdon Press published I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last in June 2015 and Don’t Go to Bed Angry: Stay Up and Fight in June 2016. Read Deb at Family Matters/Deb DeArmond and My Purpose Now.

Find Deb’s books at Amazon   Lifeway Stores and Independent Christian Bookstores.


Someday, We’ll Look Back on This . . .

It wasn’t immediately humorous in the moment. But it didn’t take long to find the funny. Even today, looking back, it makes me chuckle.

Two years ago, my husband and I wrote our first book together. It might also be our last.

Although I’d published two books prior, it was the first time I’d worked with a co-author. Writing friends warned it could be challenging, but I’d waved that off with little concern. We’ve been married more than four decades, and best friends since high school. This was going to be fun.

As we began the work, we looked back over our 40 years. We recalled both the magic and the tragic. It was fun to reminisce. Raising three sons and building our businesses were proud achievements. Helping my parents transition from this life to the next was demanding—but we did it together. Trips to Disney, Little League and PTA, ministry, extended family and great friends. The conversations renewed the awareness of God’s blessings in our life.

Turns out, the process of getting it on the page, however, wasn’t that easy.

We recognized there could be only one pair of hands on the keyboard, so we developed a process for collaborating on the content. Once we’d talked it through and taken good notes, I sat at the computer and wrote the chapters.

I guess as I wrote, my own personal perspective found its’ way to the page more than I realized.

It seems we each have laser sharp memories about our life together. The problem is we often didn’t remember them exactly the same way.

When I completed a chapter, I read it aloud to him. I noted, fairly often, an odd expression on his face during these times. I began to recognize it as a look of doubt or conflict or confusion. But he’d let me finish the read. Then he’d pronounce: “I think we need to revisit that section about . . .” He’d then proceed to correct my memory and substitute his own version.

And that’s when the trouble began.

How could we have such different accounts of life’s moments together? We were both present. Neither was comatose. And yet, totally different memories. Sometimes the conversations got a bit heated.

Did I mention the book was on marital conflict?

On one specific occasion, in the middle of what we prefer to call intense moments of fellowship, Ron held his hand up in the internally recognized STOP position, and began searching for something on my desk.

“What are you looking for?” I was more than annoyed.

“A pen. Where do you keep all the pens?”

“Why do you need a pen?” I demanded.

He snatched a red pen from my drawer. “This is great stuff. For the book, for this chapter. Let me write this down before I forget it. What was it you just said about . . .?”

In the moment, I thought, he’s crazy. This is serious. We’ve got a deadline, and he’s pulling new material from our current conversation. We don’t have time for this.

But then, the absurdity of the moment found my funny bone and held on for dear life. We’re fighting about a book we’re authoring on marital conflict. I began to laugh. Not a ladylike chuckle, but a deep belly laugh.

He looked up from his editing with a “what’s so funny?” expression. And then it caught him. And he joined me in the moment.

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

He was right. This was good stuff. Real stuff. The messy marriage mania that catches us all if we survive long enough. As a newlywed, I would have felt hurt or offended or marginalized. But forty years in the trenches puts things into perspective. And perspective – how we choose to view and assess the world (and the people) around us – is an important skill.

If it’s not a big deal, don’t make it a big deal.

The laughter broke the tension, and we hurried to capture what became some of the best moments of the book. Real. Transparent. Authentic.

Life is too short for drama. The old saying, someday we’ll look back on this and laugh is true. I’m still getting mileage out of the memory. But what if we could shorten that timeline, and remember that laughter is the best medicine in the moment?

 Father, help us put things in perspective today. Let us choose to view life through your eyes. Give us strength to resist picking up an offense. It is your command and our choice.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Prov. 17:22 MSG)


Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship and conflict resolution. A writer and popular professional speaker, Deb focuses on topics related to the family and women. Kregel Publications released her first book in November 2013 entitled, Related by Chance, Family by Choice. Abingdon Press published I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last in June 2015 and Don’t Go to Bed Angry: Stay Up and Fight in June 2016. Read Deb at Family Matters/Deb DeArmond and My Purpose Now.

Find Deb’s books at Amazon   Lifeway Stores and Independent Christian Bookstores.



Your 2018 Plan: Is God Laughing?

By Deb DeArmond


Oh, this will be fun!

“Complete the jigsaw puzzle found in your backpack. You have one hour for this task.”

It was the next assignment in a long list of to-do’s. The retreat organizers clearly understood that we needed a break at this point from the intense journaling, prayer assignments, and scripture reading. A full day, alone in the great outdoors originally sounded onerous, but I had enjoyed it – most of it. And now, a puzzle. Fabulous.

I was surprised when I pulled the plain box from the backpack assigned to me. No picture. No clues to what we were creating. Okay. A mystery puzzle. Tough, but intriguing.

I sorted the straight-edged and corner pieces and completed most of the frame. 17 minutes already gone. That surprised me. Gotta move. I began to sort by color, but found few pieces that fit together. Did I mention the pieces were small? Tiny, almost.

I did manage a few multi-piece blobs, but couldn’t fit them into anything already assembled. 32 minutes. Ugh. This is impossible. Nobody could make sense of this. But I kept at it. It looked like a flamingo and a barn might be part of the landscape, but that made no sense. Maybe it’s not a bird, but a Vegas showgirl’s headdress. Not that that’s more feasible.

At the 48-minute mark, I switched my thinking about the clock: Oh, good. Only 12 more minutes of torture till I’m done. I eyed the river and thought about tossing the whole thing in the water. But how would I explain that?

When the alarm on my watch rang, I gratefully slid the pieces into the box, and turned to the journal page I was directed to once the puzzle was complete where I found the following instructions: “Take a moment to ask God the following question and record the response in the space provided:

“What is God teaching me through this activity?”

I had many immediate thoughts (meaning before prayer):

  • Who in their right mind could miss this box with no picture??
  • That’s a lesson in frustration.
  • Thank God that’s over!
  • It’s just a lesson about patience or something!

 Oh. That last one tagged me. I’ve often joked that when gifts were handed out in heaven I thought they said patients, and decided to pass. Let’s say it’s not my gift. I’m working on it.

And then God’s Spirit prompted me to do as requested. I prayed and asked the question: God what are you teaching me through this activity?

 His answer knocked me for a loop: “Trust. I’m teaching you about trust.”

I was stunned. I do trust you, Father! I’ve trusted you for my salvation, my family, my finances – everything.

Then clearly, I heard, “I can’t trust you.”

I felt like I’d been punched. Hard.

And then He gently showed me all the times I had what I believed were all the pieces of a picture God wanted me to complete in my life. Ministry. Career. Kids. Marriage. Finances. And because I felt equipped, I ran ahead of Him, rather than seeking Him for each step along the way. It was almost as if I was saying, “I got this God. Go help someone who needs your direction.”

Tears came quickly. He couldn’t trust me with the full picture because I’d take off without him, running at my own pace, on the course of my choice. Self-reliance at its worst. Confident, but often, wrong.


He brought this experience to me this morning, as I reviewed my goals for 2018 in my beautiful new planner. I love the process of a new year stretching before me on paper and dreaming of the possibilities. I’m a bit of a planner wonk.

I was putting the finishing touches on the goals when God reminded me of this experience. How much time had I spent in prayer before I recorded these plans? Not enough. Thank goodness for erasable ink.

There is an old Yiddish saying, “Man plans and God laughs.” Kind of harsh, right? I think of Him in the heavenlies clucking His tongue and shaking His head at our self-determined, but poorly informed path. But it’s Biblical: it’s based in part on Proverbs 16:9 that says, “People may make plans in their minds, but the Lord decides what they will do,”(CSB).

As I said. I’m (still) working on it. What about you? You may know where He wants you to go, what He wants you to focus on – but do you know His plan for getting you there safe and successful?  My prayer for 2018 is simple:

I will trust you, Father. Hand the pieces to me one at a time until I develop the ability to rely solely on You. I will seek your face for each and every step, and pray it becomes my supernatural instinct – to occur even when I’m not aware of it. Let it become my new normal in 2018.

Sound familiar? I’d welcome your company on the journey – and your comments along the way!





Curing the Holiday Hiccups

by Deb DeArmond

“Aren’t you just devastated?” my colleague moaned.

“No, not really. I mean, we will certainly miss them,” I replied. “But they are clear that California is where God is taking them. I want them to be where He wants them to be. It was such a gift to have them here for two years.”

I told her about a dinner, hosted by my hubby and I — a gathering for a few family members recently. The purpose of the event was to share a meal and bid farewell to my oldest son and his wife as they prepared to relocate back to the west coast. They were set to leave the next morning.

“Oh, that would just be impossible to think about,” she said, shaking her head. “I couldn’t stand to lose my boys.”

Her declaration of “losing her boys” made me smile. Her sons are in elementary school. I can clearly understand her feelings, even if I don’t share them. But I did at one time . . .

My boys are all grown up with careers, with families of their own – adults. It took some getting used to – that awareness that mom and dad are not the central force in their lives. But we did get used to it—and we appreciate God’s clarity about the concept of leaving and cleaving. “Train up a child in the way he should go . . .” the Word says. Most importantly, Mama, remember they are to GO.

With the holidays approaching quickly, I want to encourage you to remember that God set them apart to stand with their spouses. That can become an issue and a bone of contention when it comes to holiday celebrations. Here are a couple of tips to make the season far more enjoyable for everyone:

  • Communicate early. Make sure you discuss what everyone’s plans or intentions are for celebrating the holiday. Make no assumptions, as it may lead to disappointment for you and them.


  • Be flexible as to what and when and where and how – and you may be surprised with the best day ever! Traditions are great, but if they no longer work, create some new ones.


  • Be fair. You don’t get to have them 100% of the time. They have in-laws, friends, and may decide that this year is not your year. Don’t pout or punish them. Make your own plans and prepare for a lovely time.


  • Celebrate their independence.  It’s a sign you did a great job of prepping them for adulthood. This is what is supposed to happen, and because it did, you can rejoice.


So, don’t hold so tightly to those adult kids that they want to squirm free of your grip. Make this holiday season one of the best celebrations ever.

Check out additional tips in my book on in-law relationships, which can be a holiday challenge: Related by Chance, Family by Choice at


If You Can’t Say Something Nice …

Be QuietToday is National Say Something Nice Day. That would make my mother happy. She lived that theory “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” Easier said than done.

If you’re married, you already know it can be tough duty. Especially in the face of what my husband, Ron, and I call, “an intense moment of fellowship.” When it gets heated, something nice is not always the first thing that rolls off my tongue.

And the tongue is often the problem with conflict, isn’t it? The Word gives us that heads up. “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way,” James 3:2 (NLT).

You mean if I could manage my mouth, I’d also be able to resist the call of Cappuccino Crunch ice cream? Now there’s some motivation!

Over the years I’ve become more aware of the need to be intentional with Ron when conflict arises. Mostly because the Spirit of the Lord has been persistent to point out missed opportunities, little slips, and major mishaps of the mouth. I’m working on it.

Just remember we do have an enemy, but it’s not our spouse! Marriage is worth the effort and it’s always worth fighting for.

So celebrate the opportunity to say something nice today. Smile  when you say it. A kiss and a hug for your sweetheart can help seal the deal. And if you really want to make an impression – write it down. Slip it in his pocket or tuck it in her purse to discover when least expected. It might just make your honey’s day.

And it will make your Mama so proud!

Want more help on this topic? Our new book, Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! releases June 21. But you can pre-order it and enjoy a 37% discount on the cover price. Find it here: Book Deal  Don’t delay – this special offer is only good through June 20, 2016!

It’s Coming – But You Can Order Now and Save!

Final Cover DGTBA_Are you tired of fighting the same battles over and over again? Ready to use the conflict in your marriage to create greater intimacy and connection in your life? It’s possible – and it’s the topic of our new book. That’s right – OUR new book – this one was co-authored by my husband, Ron. I mean, it’s only fair, right?

Conflict is not the real issue here for most of us. It’s the way we deal with the conflict that creates the problem. Silence, sarcasm, sulking – any of that sound familiar? That’s a short list of manipulation methods, and it’s the stuff that can damage the relationship. But if we learn and use tools that align us with one another and with God – and establish some rules together on how we will deal with conflict, discovery and deeper commitment can be the result.

Forty years of marriage have taught us a lot of lessons, and much of it was learned the hard way. Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! is the fast pass to help you skip daily attendance at the school of hard knocks and move beyond the “he said, she said” nonsense.

The book will officially release on June 21, but is now available for pre-order on any one of several sites. By ordering early, you will receive a significant discount, as much as 35%! So here’s the link to discover a new approach to an old problem. What are you waiting for???

Order Here Link 

Three Tips for Great Family Getaways

vacationA recent girl’s night out included some shared appetizers, cool beverages and tons of conversation. It had been a while since this group had all been together and we had a lot of catching up to do.

Eventually the conversation focused on “what I did for summer vacation.” A big birthday and significant anniversary had been celebrated with a trip to Portland. An upcoming New York weekend, including a Broadway show, was discussed. And two shared their version of the Chevy Chase “Family Vacation.” You know the ones: rock-hard beds in tiny shared quarters where you learn way too much about one another. The kayak river trip in a mostly dried up creek, or the beach trip that featured six straight days of rain. People can get cross with the circumstances—and with one another.

We laughed till we cried, but later I thought about the tradition of family vacations. We laugh at Clark Griswold’s family because we’ve most likely been there at some point. All that togetherness can be a challenge.

Vacations with little ones can be stressful; they’re away from the familiar, routines are disrupted, and the items that comfort them are unavailable. Our own summer getaways when our boys were young were spent in the 113 degree heat of Palm Springs at the Oasis Water Park and Resort. Sounds swanky, right? In the winter, we’d have paid a premium price. But in July, $99 a night bought us a two bedroom condo with maid service and daily water park passes for the entire family. Living big, I tell you.

We continued the tradition as our sons became adults, adding their wives and little boys as they appeared on the scene.  We’ve enjoyed snowy mountains at Christmas, Florida’s DisneyWorld, and the many attractions of Southern California. Each trip offered a challenge or two, but we enjoyed them and recall them fondly. It’s been two years since our last trip, and we’ve added four more little boys to the mix in that time, but we look forward to the next opportunity to do it again.

Traveling with adult children is a very different experience and requires a process that varies from when they were little. And even though the traditional summer vacation season is drawing to a close, three day weekends and trips for the holidays are year round. We’ve gained some insights over the years, so  I’m sharing some ideas that surfaced as we’ve traveled together. Here are three tips we’ve discovered that can make a big difference.

  • Include EVERYONE in the planning process. You might be surprised to learn that your services as travel director and tour guide are not always welcome. You may prefer to hit the beach while others would rather see the museums or area theme parks. Let everyone weigh in; we all like to be heard. Does everyone have to do everything together everyday? Or is there room for a freestyle day when the group splits off to pursue varied interests? A break from all that togetherness can be a great bonus!
  • Clarify expectations. What are the financial arrangements? Will the cost be shared evenly across the family? What if one couple has three kids, and another has none? Will they pay the same for the lodging, rental car, and meals you prepare in your condo or cabin? Do the math well in advance so everyone knows what to expect. And what about chores? If you’re in a rental home, consider creating a plan. Rotate cooking, clean up and trash duty. Discuss it before plans are made so no one is surprised. A family meeting to discuss the details will make a big difference.
  • Be flexible. The cabin might be a bit musty, hikes gets rained out, and rental cars break down on occasion. Know going in this stuff happens, and if it does, make the best of it. Air out the cabin, do a rainy day movie marathon, and tell Hertz you expect a big upgrade in the replacement vehicle. Remember the unofficial beatitude: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break!

The “vacation” might simply be a family visit to celebrate the holidays together. Will the grandparents be expected to be on-call babysitters? We usually offer a time to let the big kids have some time together while we enjoy our grandsons. Recently we split it up: the girls stayed in with the six little boys one night, and the guys were on duty the next. Again, communicating is key; make no assumptions.

Lastly, remember that one of the big benefits is the chance to be together, to enjoy one another’s company. It should be a feature of the vacay, not a cross to bear. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving weekend, a Christmas trip seeking sunshine, or a traditional summer vacation, a little pre-planning can make it one for the scrapbooks!

Use Your Words!


“If you’re upset or need something, don’t whine or complain. Use your words.”

I raised three sons in a busy household. A kindergartner, a toddler and a newborn in one thousand square feet. It could be the best gig ever on good days and so defeating on bad ones. Missed naps could create crabby kids. Meltdowns were rare, but an empty peanut butter jar or a lost toy could push even the best behaved into tantrum territory.

Little has changed. Kids are the same today.

“Use your words,” is a phrase I hear directed at young ones with a cranky complaint delivered via non-verbal communication. Pouting, sulking, whining and crying seem to be among the favorite methods to express dissatisfaction with life in the moment. I’m embarrassed to admit I avoid young families in the grocery store checkout line. It’s that “impulse” aisle—those candy and chewing gum infused shelves right at eye level for kids. It’s the perfect storm; a melee in the making.

I recently watched a sweet mom at church remind her three year old to “use your words if you want me to listen to you.” It made me wonder, does God ever feel that way about me?  

Perhaps like you, I have my moments. Times I’ve needed a nap, or a meal, or maybe a chill pill. Times when my communication devolves to the toddler-toned whine or the full-blown tantrum. “I’m tired” or “I was upset,” are the excuses that accompany the inevitable apology. God’s not impressed, but He’s faithful to forgive – and He’s equipped us to do better.


  • Words are a gift.     

 The Lord’s given us the ability to express our fears, our hurts, our hopes, and concerns. Among His most valuable gifts (especially when feelings run high) is our voice. Our words. Words are certainly an upgrade over the grunt or groan of the caveman. And James certainly agrees: “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it,” James 3:5 (MSG).

  • Words are powerful. 

God spoke the worlds into existence. Our confession that Jesus is Lord transforms us into new creatures in Christ and changes our destiny forever.

  • Words matter.

Jesus is the living word. His words in our mouths are the mightiest communication we can create. His words change circumstances.


When life is discouraging, disappointing, or downright devastating, His words give us hope: “ For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:13 (NLT).

When financial issues pile on and the numbers don’t add up, declare His words, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19 (NIV).

I’ve always delighted in words. I love finding the right ones, the perfect turn of phrase to express delight or dismay. To praise or petition. Turns out not only does our Abba Father listen to us, He provides us the perfect words.

His words.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path,” Psalm 119:105 (NLT).

Powerful. Effective. Always successful.

“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it,” Isaiah 55:11 (NLT).

Now, that’s quite a promise!

What words will you use today to find favor, comfort, direction, or success?




Margin For Error


Margin for Error

 My husband and I recently completed what may have been the most significant collaboration of our marriage, with the exception of creating three marvelous human being with our bare hands. Well, perhaps that’s not exactly how it worked, but you understand what I mean. We’ve written a book together. Two heads, two hearts, but only one set of hands on the keyboards. It’s only practical. Four hands could create a lot of words, but few would result in in chapters that made sense.

The topic of the book? Marital conflict. Trust me when I assure you we’ve personally tested every idea and approach in the book. We did it contemporaneously with writing the book.

At one point, we realized we’re incredibly qualified to author such a work. We’ve been disagreeing for years. Forty-plus years, to be exact. We’re both strongly opinioned people who are not hesitant to share our thoughts. Intensely, at times. But at least no one around here can say, “Gee, I didn’t know you felt that way.”

Those intense moments of fellowship, however, have not dimmed the intensity with which we love one another. It’s as fierce as it’s ever been.

Recently, however, during one of those “he said, she said” conversations, I stopped to consider whether it might be time to cut one another a break now and then. The issue at the heart of the discord was insignificant; it was a matter of principle. Or so I thought.

The Lord pulled me up short and encouraged me to examine which “principle” had placed me on my high horse, as my mom might say. “Was it love?” His Spirit inquired. “Or patience? How about selflessness or humility?

Um. No. It was the I’m right, I know I’m right, and you need to know that too, principle.

It’s not there. In the love chapter. Or the Beatitudes. Or the gifts of the Spirit.  I looked. Ugh.

Because He’s a good, good Father, He didn’t leave me there. He brought a turn of phrase to mind. You two need to create a margin of error for one another. What does that mean? Isn’t it a financial term? Math is my third language (apparently High Horse is #2). But I looked it up. Here’s what I found:

Margin for (of) error:

  1. an extra amount of something, such as time or money, which you allow because there might be a mistake in your calculations.
  2. an amount (usually small) that is allowed for in case of miscalculation or change of circumstances.

An extra amount of something? Like humility, patience or love, perhaps? In case of a change of circumstances? Isn’t that where we live these days? At the corner of empty nest and why don’t you listen to me anymore? 

When I consider our years together, I’m convinced we’ve beaten the odds of most who marry as teenagers. We had no clue what we were saying “I do, to” that day at the altar.

And when I consider our years, our age, while we’re certainly not old, I recognize we have a lot of stuff on our hard drive, better known as the brain. We walk into rooms without recalling why we entered. And there do seem to be more frequent, “You never told me that!” “Oh yes, I did,” conversations recently. So how do we fix it? How do we inject kindness, patience, and mercy into our interactions?

Create a margin for error. We must accept there is a possibility, no matter how slight, that you said it and I didn’t hear you. Abdicate the need to be right; send the high horse out to pasture. Release the dogma. Gumby up—be flexible enough to deposit a bit of extra love to smooth the path.

Here are a few tips to help create that margin.

  • Face to face communication. Ditch the drive by interaction with 10 assorted and unrelated topics on your way out the door or while he’s brushing his teeth. The eye contact makes a difference in retention.
  • Write it down. I’m a list maker. If it’s not on the list, I’m not responsible for it. If it’s there, it gets done. My husband doesn’t use lists, but science tells us something magic happens between the brain and the hand. We get it. It’s a done deal. Plus there’s a written record in the event you need evidence in court, “I’m sorry, your honor, I had to put him in time out. Dry cleaning pick up was definitely on the list! Please review my exhibit A!”
  • Check for understanding. Confirm you both heard and understand the details in the same way. “So, we need to leave for the airport by 4:30pm. Is that right? You’re comfortable with that?”
  • Let. It. Go. I can hardly type the words without hearing the Disney darling belting it out. Let it go. It’s not my gift. Ron once said to me, “It’s not enough that I eventually just agree with you. You want me to believe that you are right!” Why is that a problem for him? I mean, I was right, right? So it shouldn’t be difficult for him to acknowledge it. Don’t you agree? And then I hear the Holy Spirit, tapping His toe. I got it.

Another definition tells us that margin is a place of safety or something that makes a particular thing possible. Like loving one another, fiercely, all the days the good Lord gives us with fewer bumps and scrapes. Or scraps.

And you know I’m right about that.

Do We Love? Or Do We Love Well?

0036_Miller 9780891124504Today we have a special treat: a guest post from Kathy Collard Miller and her husband, Larry Miller.  This article is excerpted from their newly released book, Never Ever Be the Same (Leafwood Publishers) which offers Christians hope that they can change their ungodly reactions through identifying their self-protective strategies and trusting God instead. The book includes biblical principles, insightful stories, and helpful instruction, and it  has individual and group discussion questions. I hope you enjoy!


Do we love our family members or do we love them well? All of us love others imperfectly. But loving “well” means we love them for their benefit rather than what it does for us or how it makes us look. We’re not talking about perfection but we are talking about desiring another’s good. We’ve all been around someone who is supposedly expressing love for us but it is disingenuous because it is really about them looking good or getting what they want. We don’t really feel encouraged or cared for.

I, Larry, may be wrong but I sensed a lack of loving well when I received an e-mail from a man who was considering buying one of our marriage books for his wife. He wrote, “I choose to love my unsaved wife as I love myself. She has a lot of issues and it’s my hope, prayer and confidence that my example, the light that I allow to shine in our home, and the love that I extend to her, just as God has done for me, will be a part of what God uses to save her.”

I didn’t have any kind of relationship with this man to be able to inquire into his motives. But I could sense that he might easily come across to his wife as thinking himself better than her. I wondered if he communicated a belief that he never needed to repent of anything and that she should be grateful for the way he puts up with her.

And I also wondered, “What is his motive for needing to explain?” Does he speak to others with this same kind of superior attitude? If his wife shares with him the superior attitudes she senses, how would he respond? I had a deep sense that he wasn’t loving her well. Unfortunately, he had concluded he loved her so well that he was amazed his sparkling and pristine example of Christ’s love hadn’t compelled her to become a Christian.

Here are other common ways we do not love well:

  • A husband buys his wife for their anniversary (or birthday or Christmas) what he wants for himself, not what she values. He looks forward to the admiring looks from his friends when he uses the item himself.
  • A wife plans an elaborate surprise birthday party for her husband, but he would rather enjoy a weekend away with her. But the accolades the wife gets at the party motivates her to throw another party the next year.

We’ve all been guilty at one time or another, but we may be able to avoid this error by focusing on how God loves us well. He always responds to us for our greatest good and desires our greatest benefit. Let’s make a commitment to do the same for those we love.

How has God shown you that kind of loving “well”?



Kathy Collard Miller and Larry Miller are speakers and authors. They have been married 44 years and Larry is a retired police lieutenant. The Millers live in Southern California, and have two grown children and one grandson. Visit them at Kathy blogs at

Find their book at your local Christian bookstore and in both print and digital versions at:

Never Ever Be the Same is available at your local Christian bookstore and in both print and digital versions at:  Amazon:,  CBD:, Barnes and Noble:,