Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Small Habits That Could Transform Your Marriage

Leslie Basham: Debby Canfield describes the way she used to react when her husband let her down.

Debby Canfield: I used to say, “I’ve got to call my mom. I’ve just got to call my mom and tell her what he’s done.” But my mother would never listen to me. She said, “Don’t call me,” and that was the best advice I’d ever gotten because then I did have to seek the Lord.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, December 31.

Pressure. We will all face it in this new year. It pushes in on every marriage and family. Nancy moderated a panel discussion about pressures families face. The panel was made up of women who serve with their husbands in ministry. The way they maintain closeness during busy times of life will be helpful to any listener who knows what it’s like to feel pressure.

Nancy talked with Sue Paulus, Mary Madeline Whittinghill, Tex Tippit, Kim Butts, and Debby Canfield. Here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Most of your husbands don’t have 9 to 5 jobs, am I right? People can call them all hours of the day and night. Everybody else owns them. I see some heads nodding. Do you ever struggle with resentment or expectations that are unfulfilled and how do you deal with that?

Debby Canfield: Years ago I thought that Steve was supposed to meet all my expectations, and boy did I get disillusioned.

Nancy: How long did it take you to learn that he couldn’t meet all your expectations?

Debby: Several years! No really, it did. It was a whole process. God is teaching me that I’m on this journey. Psalm 62:5 God shared with me. “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him” (KJV). It has to come from Him. That just hit me one day that I had to start looking to Jesus to meet my expectations. I had to start looking at Jesus not to meet my needs, but for me to be there to meet Jesus’ needs—whatever He wants of me.

When that turn came into my life, I realized everything I was doing wasn’t for my husband or for my kids or for the ministry, but it was for the Lord. And that brought me peace in my life, and I don’t want to lose that peace.

Sue Paulus: It can be such a tangled web that we can get messed up in our minds, in our emotions, and in our responses. God just brought a picture to my mind that I’m holding Byron hostage to my expectations. You’ve spent all this time on the phone with this person, now I need some time.

To realize that I want our home to be a haven where he wants to come home and be with me and not a place that he’s dreading—like “Oh no, now I have to go put up with all this”—but to have a home and an attitude and expectation of how can I serve, how can I love, how can I reach out?

It’s not like I do that all the time. We’re all just like you all out there. We are in process and God takes us to different levels of yielding to Him and of being His instrument and tool in our husbands’ lives.

Tex Tippit: I think one thing too with me was I came to a major turning point in our lives. We were married ten years. I’m more private and reserved, and Sammy’s just all out there and excited and so strong. That’s what drew me to him. His passion for Jesus. Also, because of that there were times when I thought he doesn’t need me. He’s out there, he’s doing great and everything.

It came to a crisis point in our marriage. He said if you would have asked me if we had a good marriage compared to others, yes. I went to him and I said, “Sammy, I need to ask you to forgive me. I have held bitterness in my heart. There’s been things going on that I’ve not shared with you, and we need to talk.”

He would tell you that he was clueless. But part of it was my responsibility, too. So these were times that God used in our lives. I withdrew like a turtle. I just withdrew. I thought he didn’t need me. He was a debater in school and he could win all the arguments, right or wrong. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but I thought it’s not even worth talking about.

But God is so faithful. We got alone for a couple of days, and we just both wept and cried and repented. That was a turning point in my life that I saw that God put us together, and we need each other. His strength and his weaknesses—we complement one another.

So if any of you are walking through that, I would just encourage you. Maybe the shoe’s on the other foot. Maybe you’re the more outspoken one. But if that’s in your heart, I would really encourage you to go to your husband at a time when you can sit down and say, “We need to sit down and talk.” Not accusing him but saying there’s some things in my heart that I need to get right with you. We’re here today because of part of that time we spent together.

Mary Madeline Whittinghill: Al and I are total opposites. For such a long time I really had such a hard time accepting and embracing those differences. My friend would say just learn to laugh at the differences, and I didn’t think they were funny at all. They were just very, very difficult for me. Sometimes I would think, Lord, I just don’t understand why you put two people so opposite together.

We have such a sweet relationship now. It’s such a really great season in our lives, but it took me a real process to realize that God was using these differences in my life to conform me to the image of Christ and to test my faith. As Christians every single solitary one of our faith is going to be tested in a wide variety of ways.

But it’s easy to look at the other person’s test and think, that’s the one I pick. That test right there. I could pass that test, but my test is harder. So I think it’s easy to kind of covet somebody else’s test—some people’s. But I think it’s very common that God puts opposites together. I think it’s a very common thing.

If I had it to do again, I wish I would have rolled off some of the differences more often. I wish I would have not taken them to heart so much and just rolled more things off like I hope I’m learning to do and to appreciate the differences more and really just see God’s wisdom more.

If you would have asked me back then kind of a test tube question like can you see God’s purpose in putting opposites together, I would have said, “Well, sure, I can see God’s purpose,” but then it took me a while to really embrace and realize the depth of His plan and His purposes in my life.

Kim Butts: One of the things that I think has really helped us along those lines is from the very beginning we covenanted with one another not just in marriage, but to pray with one another. I know that’s a hot bed for a lot of you because it is in every church we go to. I see men and women just start to sweat when I say that. Even in ministry, very few ministry couples pray together as husband and wife.

I think sometimes if your husband comes home and he feels like if there’s just one more religious thing I have to do today is pray with you—he wouldn’t ever say that. But from the very beginning we just decided if we’re going to be in prayer ministry then we better be on our faces together.

So it’s our habit. We don’t make it legalistic. We do it when we can and when we can’t, it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes we’ll even call each other on the phone if we’re apart and pray together. I try to pray for him before he speaks. He prays for me before I speak. It’s a partnership in prayer together.

The hardest part of this is you can’t just go home and say, “Hey, they say we’re supposed to pray together.” You can’t do that. Don’t do that.

Nancy: So what can you do?

Kim: Start asking God to soften your husband’s heart or yours if you are the one that’s balking at that because sometimes it’s the wife, too. Ask God to draw your hearts together in love so much that you desire to seek God together.

I often tell couples to start just praying the Word together. It’s sets people free. Oftentimes a husband and wife will say, “Well, my husband prays so amazingly, and I feel like I stutter around.” My response to that is, “Well, you’re not talking to him—or her.”

Praying Scripture has really set a lot of people free. Just read a psalm back to the Lord together. Just start it, even if it’s just five minutes a day. Pretty soon you’ll find out that a half hour or an hour isn’t enough time.

I think it’s probably the single biggest divorce-proofing act that men and women can do together.

Nancy: In so many marriages, and a lot in this room I’m sure, in all marriages at times, there are areas where you have a desire or an expectation or a hope that isn’t being fulfilled. We’ve talked about relinquishing or releasing those expectations to the Lord, but then you talked about being honest with your husband. How do you know when to just let it go and when to say something?

Debby: Well, I’m one of these people I am very honest and open and kind of telling it like it is right away. But over the years the Lord has calmed me down. I’ve realized that I shouldn't talk to him in the heat of the moment. Go away. Get alone with the Lord.

I used to say, “I’ve got to call my mom. I’ve just got to call my mom and tell her what he’s done.” But my mother would never listen to me. She said, “Don’t call me,” and that was the best advice I’d ever gotten because then I did have to seek the Lord.

So when I went to the Lord, then I’d share all this with the Lord who was there and wanted to hear it and knew what was going on. Then I’d ask him when he wasn’t under pressure or when we were just having a casual time together, "Can I share something that’s on my heart with you?" Boy, it has made a total difference. 

Nancy: So praying together you said is really a key thing, Kim, to divorce-proofing your marriage. Any other single bit of counsel or suggestion that could keep a marriage strong and fresh and going the distance that you other ladies might have to suggest?

Tex: I think one of the things somebody told us as a young couple—and you all probably heard this—is to date. My husband is a romantic at heart, and he loves to do that. He loves to surprise me, and it may just be thirty minutes to forty-five minutes, but to share what’s going on in your day. Our men need to know that we listen to what they say, and we take it to heart and pray.

That would be one of the keys that I say in our marriage too is prayer—praying together. We pray together. We’ve made a commitment to pray together every night before we go to bed. This is what we do. We join hands, and we’re lying in bed and we pray for our grandkids, kids, for our lives and other people that may come across our day. That has been so special and being able to share with our kids that aspect too in their lives.

Debby: Probably five years ago now the Lord laid on my heart to write down all the things that I was grateful for, for Steve. All the things he did, character qualities that I saw. So whenever I get upset and angry at him at times, I would go back to that list and I’d start thanking God for those things, and then God would change my heart. So I think gratitude has a lot to do with it for our marriage.

Mary Madeline: Another thing that I’ve tried to be diligent to do is when I hear any positive thing about Al from anybody anywhere I run to tell him. I love to tell him, but I do not run to tell him any little negative thing that I hear. I try not to repeat that, but the positive things I try to bust through the doors telling him just as fast as I can because I want to encourage him and I want to major on those things that will be a blessing to him.

Sue: I think one of the things we learned early on in Life Action was the power of a clear conscience. This has been something that’s been a very important pillar in our marriage of not letting things keep on going—rifts between us, disagreements, wrong attitudes, wrong responses, whatever it may be—without going to each other and asking for forgiveness. I feel like that’s really been a real foundation in our marriage.

Nancy: I’m sitting here listening to you all who seem to have pretty healthy marriages that I know didn’t happen overnight. But I’m confident there are some marriages here that are not at the healthy point but are really struggling. And yet, when you’re in ministry who do you talk to? Where do you go? Where is it safe and appropriate to get some input? I’m thinking of somebody who is really struggling and wondering who they could share that with. Any words of counsel along that line?

Debby: I think many times I have the privilege of pastors coming to me because I’m going to be gone in two weeks. And so pastors’ wives will come and share things that they don’t feel like they can share with anybody else. So I would say to pray and ask God to bring somebody in your life and that the Holy Spirit will give you peace so that you can just sit down share with them.

Of course, the first person needs to be Jesus. 

Mary Madeline: I so agree with Debby as far as going to the Lord first and foremost and really seeking God and His Word, but I’ve also been so richly blessed in my life with intimate friends with whom we have held up a standard of truth for each other. I would just encourage you also to pray and ask the Lord for an intimate friend that you know will keep your confidences like a secret vault.

To be able to help you sort it through, hold up a standard of truth, and be able to encourage you to obedience to the Lord. And even if you’re thinking he’s not totally off but still a friend who will help you say, yes, you’re right, I think that other person is wrong and yet what does the Lord want to do in your life? How would the Lord have you to respond? This is what comes to my mind.

It’s just encouraging to have a safe place to vent. I think with someone who will hold up the standard of truth. A secret-keeper that you can trust who will be an iron-sharpening-iron friend.

Kim: Sometimes we think we have to have it all together in ministry and that everybody’s looking at us and everybody is wondering, "Oh, well, she has this perfect life or her kids are perfect," or those kinds of things. And we all know that’s not true. Sometimes people know it’s not true too, don’t they?

We have another ministry couple that we just share those things with because other ministry couples understand ministry better than people who are not necessarily in professional ministry roles. You probably all know what I’m talking about with that. We can have friends that share moments with us and pain with us and all that. But people that really understand some of the burdens that you go through in ministry have been the people that have really helped us and that we’ve been able to feel like we can minister to, too.

One thing that God really burdened me with right off is that I don’t have the perfect family. One of our sons is a prodigal. For many years I wouldn’t talk about those things, and then one time the Holy Spirit said there’s women here that need to hear what you have to say. So I unburdened my prodigal, and I had women in ministry come out of the woodwork because they did, too. I asked God to forgive me because I’d held that in because I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to have this facade that I had it all together.

So please don’t keep it all together. I mean don’t feel . . . because Jesus knows that there are other people. He gives us burdens and He gives us struggles and suffering so that we can use it for His glory in other people’s lives. So I encourage you, don’t feel like you have to have the perfect everything because you don’t.

Leslie: That’s Kim Butts. Her honesty is refreshing, and it’s necessary in order to let God do His work. We’ve been hearing from a panel of women in ministry. That panel also included Sue Paulus, Mary Madeline Whittinghill, Tex Tippit, and Debby Canfield. Nancy Leigh DeMoss led that discussion.

Now the final issue raised during today’s panel discussion is a big one. Many of our listeners know the sting when a child doesn’t follow his parents’ faith. Tomorrow Nancy and this panel will pick up on this discussion, offering hope to parents. I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Now, Nancy's back with a final word on this final day of 2012. 

Nancy: On this New Year's Eve, my heart is so full of gratitude to the Lord for His mercies, His kindness, His goodness to me and to this ministry over this past year.

I'm especially grateful for listeners like you who have a hunger to hear the Word of God, to respond to the Word, and to partner with us as we call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. God has done great things through this past year. To God be all the glory!

I want to say a special thank you to all of you who have joined us in giving to help with our year-end needs. We've been asking the Lord this year for the most substantial year-end income of any year in our history.

For those of you who have already given, thank you so much for your sensitivity to the prompting of His Spirit, and for being part of the story that God is writing in women's lives all around the world.

Because of the holiday weekend, I can't tell you exactly where we are in what God has provided during the month of December, but I do know that our call center is open today, and it's not too late to call and make a gift to help with those year-end needs.

If you'd like to make a contribution, you can give us a call at 1-800-569-5959, or visit us online at

If you haven't had a chance to read or listen to some of the stories we've been posting there over the past month, you'll want to do that. Rejoice with us in God's goodness and power and grace that has been changing women's lives through the course of this year.

Thank you so much for being a part of that; for your prayers, your support, your encouragement. Together we want to believe God for even greater things in the year ahead as we continue seeking Him together.

Now, as we come to the end of this final Revive Our Hearts broadcast of 2012, I want to share a blessing with you in the form of a song by Marty Goetz. Let this song, "The God of Peace," wash over you. Receive this as a blessing from God's heart to you as we come to the end of this year and enter into a new year.

Now may the God of peace
Who brought up from the dead our Yeshua
That great shepherd of the sheep
Make you complete
In all you do, as you do His will
And may you always please
The One who finds His pleasure in you
Through the blood of His own Son.
To Him be glory, to Him be glory
Forever and ever, amen.

And the Lord said, "This is the way you shall bless the Children of Israel."
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Any may you always please
The One who finds such pleasure in you
Through the blood of His own Son
To Him be glory to you be glory,
Forever and ever, amen. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

Marty Goetz. "The God of Peace." Hope of Glory.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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