Marriage is hard – a reading plan

I love this “Marriage is hard” 4-day reading plan for its straightforward delivery style!

Here are the excerpt and the four daily topics:
1. Marriage is hard: We’re prideful
Apologizing is hard work. Apologizing and changing your behaviors is even harder, and what makes it so hard is pride…
When your spouse has an issue with something you’ve said or done, listen twice and think three times before you say anything. It may just be that the best thing you can say is, “I’m sorry.”

2. Marriage is hard: We’re selfish

3. Marriage is hard: We’re different

4. Marriage is hard: We’re stubborn

Check out a sample of the plan.

A Sunday work-day lunch at home: Homemade pesto, grilled mushrooms and vegetables and cheese ciabatta sandwich. Recipe: Bakery bought ciabatta | Grill the mushrooms and vegetables | Spread the pesto on the bread | Layer the grilled mushrooms and vegetables; cheese, on the bread | Lightly grill to warm it up and melt the cheese slightly. | Chow down.

The perks of sitting beside the office window

The sweetest thing ever this morning- As I looked out from my office window to the usual drive-by of the parents, sending their kids to the kindergarten, my eyes locked with this little girl; she then raises her hand and wave gently to me, while her eyes are still looking at me. I smiled from the inside out. Then, I heard a loud wailing. Saw a little boy refusing to go to school by throwing a tantrum to his father. I bet his father will have a lot of stories to tell this boy when he grows up. God’s creation is beautiful.

My story: How I went from totally disinterested to totally in love with God.

The real gift of Christmas

I was never interested in faith of any kind. Egoistic and self-reliant, I was an everything-is-possible-if-I-put-my-mind-to-it kind of gal. Paid top dollars to attend seminars by renowned speakers; walked on fire (burnt my toe), read many famous self-help books. Christianity? Definitely not on my list. I thought it’s weird, prudish, weak, rude and definitely geeky and boring. Christmas to me, was party, drink, presents, merry-making, heck-yeah.

This is my story of why I’ve changed, decided to accept Jesus, (remained a non-geek), and how He had changed my life.

First of all. Christianity deal breakers.
Tension and wars among people of different faiths led me to conclude that religion divides. I did not want to have anything to do with that.

Who needs God? God had nothing to do with me. I refused to believe that Jesus has anything to do with a happy life. I’d seen my share of Christian hypocrites. I’m fine, I’m cool. No, thanks.

Then one day, this thing called marriage happened. I got married to a recent divorcee, with a daughter (sole custody with him), and an ex-wife with unlimited visiting rights. Any goon would have run a mile. But not this goon.

Drumroll Introducing … the most miserable time of my life.

Before marriage—Happy and so-in-love.
After marriage—Hell.
Instant status of a wife and a step-mother, not pretty.

So naive. I did not realise what I was getting into. I thought as long as I love his then six-year-old daughter as my own, give her a stable and supportive home, we will be a happy family. Nope.

Rejected by his daughter, in-law, trouble from ‘unlimited visiting rights ex-wife’ and a husband caught in-between everything and everyone; are not ingredients for a sweet beginning to our marriage.
I came from an unconditionally loving and accepting family background, so yeah, I had the shock of my life. Slapped awake.
The dreamy-marriage bubble burst. And the nightmare begins.

I was often angry and would burst into a rage at home. I had chest pain from all the outbursts and thought I would collapse from heart attack one day.
Suicidal thoughts started entering my head as the shouting kept getting worse. I was sane enough to not kill myself as I know either it’s 1) It’s painful. 2) It’s messy.

Oh. Then husband accepted Christ one year after we got married. Great! We now had one more topic to argue about!

The concept of surrendering and obeying God in the Christian faith was another deal breaker. I don’t get it. It seemed so weak. To some, f* is a revolting word, to me then, the four letter word is o-b-e-y.

I often cried shaking, angry tears. From a happy person, I became cynical, bitter and felt very alone. I had no one to turn to. But outwardly, I look composed. Still very much a goon, influenced by movies, I kept going away for short breaks thinking that it would help, but that was a lie. The deep pain in my heart did not go away. Hollywood, dang it!

Three nightmarish years later, came the turning point in my life.
Finally, I got so tired of everything, tired of all the fighting, tired of myself. I have nothing left.

I didn’t know when or how, but my hardened heart started to slowly crack. There was a hairline opening in my heart to let God in. I remembered suddenly getting “it”. I’d realised that all the ugliness in the world was done by people, and had nothing to do with the real God.

I also started to question myself: “I’d been living life my way for 30 years, but despite all I had achieved, all I had done, something was seriously not right… I need help.”
I have attended many seminars, I stayed positive, but nothing seemed to work long-term. What else could I do?

One day, I went with my husband to a church’s 2010 Christmas production, “Mad World”. At the end of the production, I followed the pastor to say a simple prayer.

It was weird as I didn’t think about wanting to accept Jesus at all! But I felt compelled to follow along to pray. As I said this prayer in my heart, I felt my cry for help –

Lord Jesus,
I believe You died for my sins
I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life
Please forgive me. I am willing to turn from my way & follow Your way.
Thank you that you died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free.
I receive You now as my personal Saviour & Lord & invite You to manage my life from this moment.
In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen!

Then, I pursue God. I told myself that if I want to find out about Christianity, I should go to the right source and discover once and for all.
So I attended Alpha.
Asked loads of stupid questions like ‘ why the heck God planted the tree-of-life in the first place?’ ‘No tree, no fruits, no eating of fruit, no sin, helloo.’

Finally, after chasing God around, in July 2011, I said, “Yes” again and invited Jesus into my life with the above prayer (scroll up, will ya).
This time, I’m clear and sure. And the exciting journey of getting to know God and drawing close to Him began.

Four years later as a Christian…

I am still in awe of how everything changes when we have God in our lives.
I still talk about Him with sparkling eyes and childlike wonder.
I’m still love-struck.

To someone who is so proud and driven, God has to allow many tough lessons in my life. Sometimes, I do say, boy, being a Christian is tough! Of course, I don’t say ‘boy’ in real life, only Mark Twain will say that.

I struggled daily, DAILY! with God…

I do NOT want to say sorry!
He says: Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

I do NOT want to forgive! Do you know that person is wrong?
He says: Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

How can I love such a despicable character person!
He says: Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. – 1 Corinthians 13:7

It’s inconvenient to call, talk, help him/her.
He says: If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? – 1 John 3:17

I want this and that, God.
He says: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.- Matthew 6:33

I struggled and wrestled with God, wanting my way.
He says: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24

But when I obeyed, all the breakthroughs in my life happened. When I surrendered and let God take the steering wheel, that’s when He flipped my life right-side up.

Our marriage. God took our biggest mistake and turned it into something beautiful.

Relationship with our daughter. She doesn’t just call me mom with her word, but with her heart.

Our family. Three musketeers, having fun, loving life, learning from life, learning to love.

My work. Gosh, my work. I thought I gave up my precious start-up, a baby that I wouldn’t let go. But actually, He made way for me to have the best season of my working life.

Serving others. I’m joyfully serving full-time in my church. Hubs and I also started to volunteer in pre-marital counselling at our church.

His ex-wife. We are actually friends now.
And the praises to God goes on.

God is teaching me the meaning of life. I have less to complain.
My blinded eyes were open to see a lot of things which hardened my heart and gripped my life in the past.
I also realised many things that I thought were the norm, weren’t right.

Trusting and accepting Jesus—it is the most liberating thing I ever did. Unshackled my chains. Letting go and letting God into my life.

This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might LIVE through Him. – 1 John 4: 9

This, is the reason for Christmas.

Here’s the invitation…
His love is for me, you, everyone. It doesn’t matter your past. God offers us forgiveness, freedom, his Spirit to live within us, and eternal life. To accept the gift, you just have to believe and trust in Jesus. It’s an act of faith. If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can pray the simple prayer like what I’ve done (scroll up, will ya). It will be the best gift that you will ever receive. Ever.