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12 Keys to an Extraordinary Marriage - Part 2

Dianne Barker shared six helpful keys for UPGRADING our marriages in her last post; here are the final six.

"What did a nineteen-year-old bride know about marriage…pleasing a husband…pleasing God? Not much," Dianne said. "But I had big dreams."

I (Dawn) think Dianne expresses the hearts of many women. Do we really understand what marriage is all about when we walk down the aisle. We may read, we may prepare; but there's always so much to learn!

Dianne continues...

I’d never told James my childhood dream—riding away with Prince Charming in a shiny car, “Just Married” written in shaving cream on the windows, colorful streamers and noisy cans dangling from the bumper.

James didn’t understand such dreams.

To prevent that very thing from happening, on our wedding day he hid his prized car at an uncle’s house and borrowed one to drive to the church. When friends badgered him to reveal the hiding place, I nagged him to tell so I could live my dream.

As we stuffed wedding cake into each other’s mouth, he frowned his disapproval and said, “You’re my wife. You’re supposed to be on my side.”

His buddies guessed the location and decorated his car, which secretly pleased me. My dream would come true! James drove straight to the car-wash and washed away my dream before the first mile of our honeymoon.

Although we agreed on important matters of life and faith, we approached most issues from opposite perspectives. How would we ever achieve harmony?

The Lord provided a mentor, a gracious older woman who lovingly pointed me to Jesus. When I’d complain about my exasperating husband, she’d quote Proverbs 16:7. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

I had only one assignment: pleasing the Lord.

What pleases the Lord in marriage? Ephesians 5:33 Amplified gave me a job description: “…Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].”

Time, maturity, and following Christ made amazing changes as the Lord quietly worked, doing his typical Ephesians 3:20, “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.”

The two essentials for a flourishing marriage:

1. A conviction God has a standard of conduct for our lives; and

2. A desire to live that way.

“So shall you heartily accept My commandments and conform your life and conduct to them. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 22:31 Amplified).

You can have an extraordinary marriage! [Six marriage keys were shared in Part 1; here are six more.]

  • Be kind. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31: 26).
  • Repay evil with good. “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
  • Choose a Christ-honoring response. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
  • Trust God to meet your needs, freeing you to meet your husband’s needs. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
  • Believe nothing is too hard for God. “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).
  • Expect God to do something mighty. “For the  eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him….” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

A final question: At the end of the day, we’re accountable only for our life of obedience. What action can you begin today to change the climate in your home?

Dianne Barker is a conference speaker, freelance journalist, radio host, and author of eleven books, including the 1986 best-seller Twice Pardoned. Her 2014 book, I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life, won the Christian Authors Network Golden Scrolls third-place award for non-fiction book of the year. This post is adapted from her forthcoming book, Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, which will be available at

Marriage Graphic in text, adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


12 Keys to an Extraordinary Marriage - Part 1

I asked Dianne Barkermarried almost 50 years—to share a Marriage UPGRADE with us. There's much wisdom here for all of us.

“What was I thinking," Dianne said, "leaving that man alone in the yard with pruning shears!”

Now, knowing my husband's propensity to prune with abandon, I (Dawn) couldn't wait to read Dianne's story!

Dianne continues... 

I went outside just in time to catch my husband mutilating our shrubs … again. I like sprawling new growth—he likes neatly cropped. That’s one of many different perspectives adding interest to our marriage.

Occasionally when he’s away, I use my trusty scissors to give the shrubs a gentle trim, knowing James will soon follow with a drastic cut. This time he got to them before I did.

It will take years for those shrubs to recover!

“I’ve got a surprise for you,” he said, giving me an innocent grin. Looking around, I spotted a bundle of leafy stems—sweet potato plants for our little garden! For years I’d asked him to grow sweet potatoes for me, but he insisted they were too much trouble.

Knowing my husband would choose to inconvenience himself for me drained my anger before it spewed all over him. Thank goodness!

I’ve learned the hard way if I don’t say it, I don’t have to clean up the mess.

James and I have been happily married forty-nine years … happier some days than others. We are, in fact, happily incompatible with opposite personalities causing us at times to irritate each other nearly to death.

What were we thinking when we vowed “till death do us part?” We’re stuck in this marriage and we can’t get out!

We married young with no counseling on building relationships or teaching on how to make a marriage flourish. Being as opposite as two people can be, we needed an instruction manual for this marriage to survive.

I searched the Scriptures for a quick list, “Ten Commandments for a Successful Marriage.” I never found that list—but I discovered numerous relationship principles that would impact my marriage … if I chose to put them into practice.

What a surprise to find putting God’s instructions into practice in my life had nothing to do with my husband.

If you want an extraordinary marriage, begin here:

  • Guard your speech and thoughts. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
  • Choose nourishing communication. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your  mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
  • Forsake anger and bitterness. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
  • Live in a state of continual forgiveness. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
  • Forget the past. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
  • Practice covering love. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

One person in the relationship willing to obey God can, by His grace, change the relationship. Will you be the one? Love covers.

The shrubs will grow. Now … if James just doesn’t power-wash my Boston ferns again!

Which of the extraordinary marriage "keys" could use some work in your own relationship? [Dianne will share six more Keys in Part 2.]

Dianne Barker is a conference speaker, freelance journalist, radio host, and author of eleven books, including the 1986 best-seller Twice Pardoned. Her 2014 book, I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life, won the Christian Authors Network Golden Scrolls third-place award for non-fiction book of the year. This post is adapted from her forthcoming book, Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, which will be available at



Why Go to a Christian Women's Conference?

Why should you go to a Christian woman’s conference? In this Spiritual UPGRADE, I want to tackle that “why.”

Women go to women’s Christian conferences for a variety of reasons.

 They might go …

  • for some light entertainment,
  • for a deep worship experience,
  • to rub shoulders with or hear Christian “celebrities,”
  • for a “camp-out” experience—rooming with women for some “fun and fellowship,”
  • to open up to and learn from their girlfriends,
  • to add to their understanding of themselves—seeking a giant self-help opportunity,
  • for a change of pace (maybe some activity or some time to sleep!),
  • to search for answers to a problem,
  • to “escape” something “back home” for a while,
  • because they have a free ticket… or free airfare! (in other words, a financial incentive),
  • etc., etc., etc.

Some women avoid “women’s seminars” like the plague! And I do the same sometimes. There are some Christian women’s conferences you couldn’t pay me to attend. I consider them an enormous waste of time. They are either unbiblical, all about self-help, or do not help me in my walk with God.

Others are OK ... but not for me. They're just fluff, crafts and soft-pitch stories. There are many ways to “dress up” a conference or seminar for fun or to pull at the heart-strings. And don't get me wrong, I love crafts, stories and other "fluffy" things.

But what I’ve heard many women saying includes: 

“I’m soul hungry – I need more than warm fuzzies” … “I need to refocus with less thoughts about myself and more time with God” … “I’m so tired, and I need refreshing in the Word” … “I want solid truth - more than the self-help messages the world has to offer … “I want some encouragement for my ministry” … “I need biblical solutions for real problems.”

A woman (at a conference) told me recently,

“I don’t want silly stuff, and I don't want to be ‘blasted’ with heavy stuff. I just want to know how to live out what Jesus already accomplished for me ... the life-changing stuff!"

Amen, Sister!

A women’s conference or seminar should offer some milk for new believers, but also plenty of meat for the more mature. It must go beyond sentimental stories to a greater agenda: helping women better grasp the Good News—the most important story of all—and the implications of the gospel in practical living.

So … WHY GO to a Christian women’s conference?

1. To see your great need of Jesus. He came for sinners, and He is the Author of abundant life for all who place their faith in Him. (Luke 5:32; Acts 3:19; John 10:10b)

2. To understand the power of the cross, embrace the resurrection, and learn how to apply both in life, family, church and ministry. (1 Corinthians 1:18; Philippians 1:21; Colossians 3:1-4)

3. To learn how to identify with and abide in Christ. To understand your identity, security and dignity in Him. (Romans 6:11; 8:29; John 15:5).

4. To see Jesus in all His glory—the One who is all-sufficient for our needs. (John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 3:5)

5. And to do all this in the context of biblical, edifying speakers (2 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 4:14; Romans 16:17-18; Galatians 1:8-9; Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:12) and encouraging Christian sisterhood! (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24).

That’s the kind of conference I love. And that’s the kind of conference I will always seek out and promote. (I have some friends who are powerful conference speakers.)

At the moment, I am in the middle of the True Woman ’14 national conference, an outreach of Revive Our Hearts. It is so worthwhile. I'm already hearing powerful testimonies. God is opening women’s eyes and changing their hearts.

You can JOIN THE LIVE STREAM of the conference messages here, October 9-11. (NOTE: I will be commenting on the Live Feed! Tune in!)

What is the last women’s conference you attended? What did you learn that you still practice today?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade bwith Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.


'You Matter to Me!'

Kathy Carlton Willis is a transparent, creative woman  of God. In this UPGRADE Your Worth post, she reminds us to embrace God's imput about our value, not the world's.

"October 7th is 'You Matter to Me' Day," Kathy says. "Let’s celebrate by taking a look at a woman’s worth and we’ll see just how much we matter to God and each other."

Now I (Dawn) didn't know there is such a thing as "You Matter to Me" Day ... but I can think of all kinds of ways to celebrate that! Can't you?

Kathy continues ...

I’m getting ready for an all-alumni high school reunion next month. I haven’t seen my schoolmates in over thirty years. Definitely not enough time to lose a hundred pounds!

Why do I worry about what others will think about my weight-gain? It’s because I know how petty we humans can be. We notice when other women gain weight rather than paying attention to their hearts smiling. We are cruel to ourselves and to others.

What does God think of that?

God’s been showing me that I matter to Him—that I’m a woman of worth. You are too. If you feel out of touch with who you really are, think of this quote:

“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” – Danielle LaPorte

Our Problems:

  • Appearance. The world attempts to define us based on how we look and what we do. “A woman’s worth isn’t measured by her outer appearance,” says Jarrid Wilson, “but whether or not her heart is focused on The One who created her.”
  • Busy-ness. After appearance, the next way women gain respect and clout is to have a successful career or be the SuperMother envied and resented by other moms on Pinterest. We hold up our to-do lists as proof that we matter. Who are we trying to impress? Others? Or are we trying to convince ourselves that we’re important? What does God think of that?
  • Comparisons. We always judge ourselves unfairly when we compare. We think of our worst measured against their best. We can never win that comparison trap! I’m learning not to seek the answer of my worth by comparing myself to others.

What Does the Bible Say?

Proverbs 31 shows us how unique God wants us to be. This virtuous woman has amazing power and influence on others. Her value eclipses her looks. She is worth a great deal to God and to others because of who she is on the inside. Yes, because of that she has wonderful fruit: productivity, hard work ethic, and close-knit relationships.

"A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise:

“'Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!' Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God" (Selections from Proverbs 31, MSG).

Ten Evidences of a Woman’s Worth

  1. Confident in Christ
  2. Glows with grace
  3. Loves and knows God’s Word
  4. Close to God through prayer
  5. Concerned and compassionate toward others
  6. Cares for her family
  7. Faithful to God, family and church
  8. Pursues good health by being a good caretaker of her body
  9. Tends to her resources responsibly, as gifts from God
  10. Filled with the fruit of the Spirit

You matter to God and your worth is in Him.

Others matter too, and perhaps they struggle with knowing their worth. Who can you show value by letting her know she matters to God and to you?

Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published and she has several books releasing over the next three years, including Grin with Grace with AMG Publishers. She and her husband/pastor, Russ, live in Texas. Learn more at:

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of stockimages at


Wind Up, Don't Wimp Out!

Yesterday (October 1st) was my birthday. I won't give you my age, but I'll let you in on the conversation that went on in my brain in this Attitude UPGRADE.

"You're over the hill," Satan whispered. "Beyond your productive years.”

The mirror didn't lie about the "over the hill" part. Laugh lines, wiry chin hairs, age spots—ugh.

Yet, although I was a bit depressed after Satan's assault, the truth is, I'd caught my spiritual enemy in a lie. "Only God knows how many years I have left," I quickly countered.  

And I counseled my heart: Stop acting like you have one foot in the grave!

I exited my pathetic pity party and planned my next adventure. I emailed my friend Judy about planning a conference together—something we'd talked about for a long time.

"Let's get this thing rolling," I said. This was no time to wimp out!

Yes, aging can bring a number of problems: forgetfulness, disillusionment, lack of motivation, negativity, stagnation, poor health and other issues.

But I am still alive.

I can decide to celebrate each day and not get stuck in regrets. I have hundreds, maybe thousands of fruit-bearing choices to make before God calls me home (Psalm 92:14).

I remember a cancer patient's advice to her loved ones: “Speak to the part of me that is still alive.” It's great counsel for anyone going through a crisis, but also for the senior set.

I realized I needed fresh ground rules—strong “finishing well” commitments. So I thought and prayed, and made these decisions:

1. I will keep "forever" firmly in view.

As a teenager, eternity seemed "a lifetime away;” but now I’m embracing and preparing for it.

Facing forever will affect how I live right now. I can learn to worship better, overcome hindering habits, and practice being holy, because God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).

Action Point: Study how to be more like Jesus, because we’ll live with Him forever (John 11:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

2. I will seek God daily for His plans and deeper fellowship.

As a young wife and mom, it was often tough to have a consistent time alone with God; but today, with fewer distractions, I have more time to study and pursue intimacy with Him.

We’re never too old to learn new lessons from God.

Action Point: Don't get set in your ways. Cultivate a soft, teachable heart (Psalm 25:4-5).

3. I will dream big dreams and plan adventures with God.

On the far side of 50, I want to spend time on things that matter to the Lord. I want to take risks for the Kingdom, not play it safe in my comfort zone.  

There may be times I need to pause, and maybe take some extra rest breaks. I may need more time to pause, reflect and modify my ministry to fit my season of life. But I don't want to wimp out!  

I want to stay creative and intensely involved ... be a woman of influence ... and burn out for God!

Action Point: Study the lives of Noah, Moses, Daniel, Anna and Elizabeth to see how God called and used people mightily in their elder years. Emulate contemporary seniors who are still on fire for God.

4. I will invest in people, not things.

These are years to simplify, not to accumulate—to release my grasp on possessions with an eye to stewardship. Who can I encourage? Who can I help? (In many cases, lives are at stake!)

I can’t take my stuff into heaven, but I can store up things there that matter (Matthew 6:19-21). I can pour time and resources into people by sharing the Gospel, teaching truth, assisting those who are hurting and using my creativity to meet others’ needs.

Action Point: Give possessions and funds to relatives and believers who will use them wisely. (Note: Just because there is a specific need, it doesn't mean that particular need is where God wants you to give. Pray first!) Consider ministries too. Someone may be desperate for things gathering dust in your home.

5. I will make choices to leave a spiritual legacy.

I want to make a difference long after I've gone to heaven. You probably do too.

Action Points:

  • Make sure your family knows you love them... and often, love is spelled T-I-M-E.
  • If you’re not living a godly life, ask God to give you a fresh awareness of His presence and a desire to obey Him. The world needs to see Jesus in you!
  • Scrapbook photos, adding snippets from your “life message” (Psalm 78:4).
  • Create a will with spiritual impact: Who gets your Bible? Your stewardship funds? What do you want to say to loved ones after you’re gone?

There are a lot of “I will” statements here. The truth is, no matter our age, we cannot accomplish anything of lasting value without the help of the indwelling Spirit of God. Ask for wisdom and rely on His strength (James 1:5; Galatians 5:16a). 

I want to do all things for God's glory, in God's way, and by God's power. Don't you?

God doesn’t quit on us; we must not quit on Him. So don’t wimp out. Instead, wind up for the glory of God!

Which of these "I will" statements, acted on, would most revolutionize your life right now? 

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). She co-authored the devotional LOL with God with Pam Farrel and is a contributor to It's a God Thing.  Dawn and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of iosphere /