How Did Our Marriage Get Here?

Marriage Vows Under Fire 1

Everything that attacks a marriage can potentially land the relationship on its back. Adultery. Pornography. Secrecy. Meddling In-Laws. Neglect. Sins that tear us apart but can be overcome.

In Marriage Vows Under Fire, the harsh world of success, temptation, and greed surround two vulnerable families and threaten their relationships with catastrophe. But faith and prayers of a few confront the fiery trials that seem to promise devastating endings.

With comedy, suspense, and melancholy to entertain readers who can relate during moments of leisurely escape, this inspirational romance series mirrors the marital issues of couples throughout time. Set in modern-day Texas, parts one and two take us through the turbulent journeys of Natalie and Joseph, along with other couples within their families.

“Little disappearances here…inappropriate communications there. They all build up and lead to what can destroy us.” – Quoted from the heart of every desperate spouse screaming inwardly and trying to hold on to a wayward whose interests have been landing elsewhere.

Engage in the stories’ authenticity that comes within marriage along with the heartbreaks that can be overcome on the long journey of “new beginnings”. Find sweet romance in Marriage Vows Under Fire. Find the suspense and adventure. But also find reality in it. And relate.


Christian Abstinence Under Fire: How Media And Entertainment Can Attack A Pure Mind

Single Woman Battling-page1Have you ever been at the point, as a single Christian, where you’ve prayed for deliverance from lustful thoughts only to find yourself still battling them? Many Christian singles battle in mind, heart, and body with unwanted lust. This blog is actually an excerpt from a chapter in A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation:

(You may notice my use of “we” and “us” in isolated situations. When I addressed single women, as a married woman, I often wrote “we” “us” because of the battle that we as believers are in together – to uphold one another in one way or another.)

Chapter 8

Overcoming Sensual Temptations

V. 15. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. V. 16. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. V. 17. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof. But he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. – St. John 2:15-17 (KJV)

Media, Sex, And Entertainment

Sisters, we live in a world today that parades a totally different interpretation of sexuality. And it’s outside Biblical parameters. You can see that already. You can see how the entertainment industry and its media have decorated immorality. In fact, if in the flesh, we can barely recognize when something is wrong because we are so entertained.

The movies and television shows are so interesting – not the sex itself all the time, but the plots around the sexual content. Because we want to know whether So and So will live or die, whether our favorite couple will withstand their problems, or whether So and So will find her long lost son, we watch the lust-filled show and its accompanying sexual content. We watch movies that involve obstacles preventing a woman and man from getting together. Well, when they finally get together during these plots we, the viewers, are so glad that we watch their “love-making” scenes with no heed to our convictions. We’re so glad Sue and Dew are finally together. We say, “Oh, how sweet!…Aw!” We even cry.

Now, even commercials throw hard bodies in our faces tempting us to drool over these men on our screens. Advertising campaigns, such as billboard ads and magazine ads, now display models in compromising positions. The world is demonstrating now that they do not care what you’re trying to protect your kids from – let alone your adult eyes.

Entertainment is a very common weakness for most of us who belong to Jesus. We like fun and pleasure. But God wants us to discern those choices of entertainment that subtly place us in the devil’s territory where we are presented luring, enticing, convincing opportunities to commit sins that we can possibly fail to recognize under the world’s camouflage. Sin is becoming too familiar because it’s too common and appealing. It looks too good, it sounds too good, and it is too hilarious if we try to resist it in our flesh alone.

It happened to Samson. He took a liking to activities that were not God’s will for His children. As a result, he disobeyed God as he revealed the secret of his strength to Delilah. In fact, Samson laid his anointing on the line when he told her where his strength lied. When he awakened from his sleep after a few times before with his strength, he knew the last time that the Lord’s Presence was no longer with him, as his hair had been shaven off. You can read this story in Judges 13th thru 16th chapters.

Examine Samson’s life and the areas where he chose to be entertained. He flirted with what displeased his Lord. In doing so, he diluted his sensitivity toward his relationship with God. Each time a believer flirts with ungodly activity, such as compromising movies, sensual music, and ungodly company, he or she becomes less sensitive about living a holy lifestyle before the Lord. Those temptations out there are so dressed up that, continually viewing them from our living rooms with multiple channels from which we can choose, we become permissive to ungodliness.

Samson did not transfer himself from faithfulness to sinlessness overnight. From the time when he received the knowledge of God’s Presence in his life to keeping company with Delilah, Samson had taken himself through a gradual process that made sin feel more and more comfortable to him. It had to start somewhere. He had already kept company among the Philistines where he had met his wife. Gradually, Samson had maneuvered his way into those territories where he did not belong.

Likewise, we are not tempted to commit fornication just sitting at the dinner table or by simply mingling with our friends. A process has to begin in order for the devil to do a number on a sister. (That’s why Paul warns that we are not to give place to the devil. – Ephesians 4:27 James admonishes believers that we are to submit ourselves to God, resist that devil, and know he will flee from us. – James 4:7)

The devil has compelled and tempted us by what we find entertaining, usually through beautiful love stories. To us, love scenes are so sweet. He has introduced us to sensual music that depicts fornication with melodies and beats that just take our breath away. (The melodies and beats themselves many times are not the problems. But they are hidden behind sensual words.)

Then, the devil has sent these men in our directions – even in our churches. (I’m talking about to many of the active Christian women in the churches.) Some of us have met men and begun dating them with good intentions. The men themselves may have had good intentions. With no plan to fornicate, a woman will still have those entertainment seeds planted in her mind and heart. Fornication just doesn’t seem so bad because it’s so familiar. (At least you’re not conducting yourself like you’ve seen other women on the television screen. Right? Let yourself come to the point where you can recognize the devil’s many angles of justification – just to get you to fall out of the will of God.)

Well, that’s the end of that section in my book. The entire book is far more thorough with a number of different topics for single women in Christ. But I thought this section might also help with the battles with mere thoughts. These thoughts creep into the mind because of seeds that have been planted. In our society, the main way they are planted is through inappropriate and blatantly rebellious entertainment. Behind entertainment, there is a wide range of media that promotes it while they shamelessly challenge Biblical convictions. So, if you’re ever wondering why you’re battling so much despite the prayers that you’ve sent up to the Lord, remember to take heed to His Word as you pray.

Be not deceived. Evil communications corrupt good manners. – I Corinthians 15:33

Marriage Vows Under Fire is a series of Christian romance novels that address marriage as well as courtship. In a real world of real issues, the story lines are contemporary without vulgarity and profanity. The romance is sweet as any cloud 9 journey with humor, suspense, and drama. And the message of the gospel is clear in the midst of a story of couples, to which many of us can relate.

For more information on all my books and to engage in other good books, products, and services, visit

The Roles Of Each Spouse When One Has Hurt The Other

By Lanette Zavala, author of the Marriage Vows Under Fire romance series ebooks and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation

God called marriage to be the most intimate relationship that any two people can have with each other on Earth. In fact, the Lord reminded us that two married people are actually one in His eyes. (Matthew 19:5) This is why husbands and wives are so incredibly impacted by the conduct of the other spouse. If a spouse goes on a spending spree, the other will feel the financial impact in a household that relies on a meticulous budget. If a spouse engages in an inappropriate relationship with someone, the betrayal can deeply wound and haunt the other spouse.

Forgiving Spouse-page1Forgiveness, which is an attribute of a true follower of Jesus Christ, is vital to marriage. Since I’ve been born again, I don’t remember one year going by without hearing or reading a message on forgiveness at least three times within that year. Many times the message of forgiveness is delivered with urgency because even a believer can battle (during the spiritual warfare that we are in) with unforgiveness, until the wrestle is over in our victory. (II Corinthians 10:3-6)

While there is no condemnation to believers in the faith of Jesus Christ, we are always reminded with a common passage in God’s Word telling us in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” So, for this reason, again, this message is often an urgent reminder within the Body of Christ.

Unfortunately, the message of forgiveness can also be very arrogantly thrown out at those who are struggling with offenses that have occurred. The attitude of “get over it” has often attached itself to forgiveness-related passages in the gospels by many of us in our own need to conveniently forget and move on unchanged within our hearts. With access to grace that a believer has, we sometimes tend to require our spouse’s grace within favorable timing and comfort to a degree that we don’t really realize we ourselves are withholding by imposing that very attitude of “forgive me, move on, and leave me alone about it, you-bitter-ole-thing-you.”

As in any other relationship (brotherly or neighborly), spouses experience offenses. But in marriage, there are potentially more opportunities for offenses because of the time two humans spend together – many times through trial and error. Each is in a vulnerable position, though it is safe in this faith. When an offense occurs between the two, Jesus instructs both – one to be the forgiver and the other to be the pursuer. (“Forgiver and pursuer/aggressor” are just titles that I’ve labeled while identifying them reading the passages in God’s Word.)

Jesus’ Instructions To An Offended Spouse, The Potential Forgiver

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:23-35 of the essential nature of a forgiving heart. He gave the parable of a man who owed his master a large debt and, in the face of consequence for not being able to pay it, he begged for a pardon from that debt. And the master released him of it because he was moved with compassion. This same man, who was released from this great amount of debt, was able to walk away in this liberty and found in his path a man who owed him a debt that was smaller than his own pardoned debt.

In his anger for the money that was owed to him, the man put his hands around his debtor’s throat and demanded his money back. When the money could not be paid, he had his debtor thrown into prison. Well, somebody informed his master about what had happened. As a result, the master became angry and had this hypocrite thrown into prison for the past large debt.

Jesus explained that, likewise, if we are unwilling to forgive others for their sins against us, the Father will not forgive us. He used such a scenario to explain His point in order to convey that our many sins against the Father have been far greater than any sin another could do against us.

We were born into a fallen species called humans, as we all know. Humans have a nature to sin against God. Sin is such a familiar word, that many in our generation are desensitized to its actual affect and disgrace in the eyes of an infinitely perfect God. We had a nature that is so offensive to the Lord, that we were headed in the direction where the tempter of sins is himself destined to go. This place is the lake that burns with fire and brimstone where all, whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, are to be thrown by Whom the human mind cannot grasp as being yet and still a just God. (Revelation 21:27)

This just God knew the outcome of humans who had no Savior that would be acceptable before the Father. So, in His love for the world, He sent His only Begotten Son as the Ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. In Romans 5:7-9, Paul taught, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him (Jesus).”

God’s compassion for us and His forgiveness for us is far greater than we can ever imagine. Also, our sin, our offense, against the holy, blameless, just God Who sacrificed His Son for us (one evidence shown when Jesus asked His Father on that cross, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?”), is far greater than any sin anyone has done against us because, in order to save us from our sins, He went to the distance of giving His only Begotten Son as the Ultimate Sacrifice.

Our own sins can remind us why we should forgive anyone. If we are willing to forget our own sins (sin being the very act that offends God and separates us from Him) and love ourselves despite our knowledge of our sins (which are all against God), do we not have love also to forgive others with the love we have for ourselves as the guide on how to do so? When Jesus told us “love your neighbor as yourself”, He really was not telling us to love ourselves first in order to love our neighbor. Such an encouraging angle, but just so out of context.

Jesus was pointing out (paraphrased in other words), “Because y’all love yourselves, you have a first-hand and very likely unfailing guide to refer to on how to love your neighbor.” Think about it. Even if you beat yourself up over a past mistake or offense, you won’t miss too many meals. You won’t let yourself go thirsty past forty-eight hours if you can help it. You’ll feed yourself and drink water or something like it. If you’re cold, you’re going to warm yourself. If you’re hot, you’re going to find out how to cool your body. If there is no other way, you will at least love yourself to this minimal extent. And Jesus knew to use such love as a sure measurement on how we are to love others.

Thus, Paul wrote in Romans 12:20, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” James and John also pointed out in each of their letters, along this same message with James’ actually on showing faith, that there is no way to show love toward someone if the opportunity to minister to their basic needs is neglected. (I John 3:16-18)

So, while the opportunity to offend our spouse is more likely to occur because of our closeness and vulnerability, as explained, the opportunity to forgive is also very likely in the life of a true believer because God transferred that forgiving nature into us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Jesus’ Instructions To An Offender, The Potential Pursuer or Aggressor of Love

At one point in my life, it would have surprised me to learn that Jesus’ message for two people, one from whom an offense came while the other one harbored anger about it, did not stop with a message addressing the offended person. Between those two people, He instructed the offended to become the forgiver but also addressed the offender to become the pursuer. In fact, the pursuer is instructed to become the initial aggressor of love.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23-24 (NKJV), “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” For the spouse who has offended the other, there is no room for any arrogant entitlement, as we can see reading this verse. (My husband of eighteen years rarely harbors anger and has made the role of pursuer primarily easy for me when I’ve done something wrong toward him.) But if he communicates to me or sends out unspoken vibes concerning some sin I committed against him that he’s been struggling to forgive, I am instructed by my Lord to address that issue in order to reaffirm my love for my husband and even to help him forgive me .

The Lord knew that having an attitude of entitlement is far easier than denying self through self-examination to the point of bearing the offended’s burden with what may be an unrecognizable heavy matter. In a form of arrogance (many times unintended), we can so easily harbor the thought, “I don’t have to pursue him/her. If he/she can’t forgive, it’s no longer my problem because God forgave me already.”

Do not require unconditional love from your offended spouse within the same heart that is failing to show unconditional love in a different way. You’re basically telling the person that he or she owes you beauty for your ashes. But God is the One to Whom we take our ashes to receive the beauty though the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So, if you take your ashes (the offense you committed against your spouse – even as that offense has been forgiven by God) and you impose those ashes on your spouse (setting up a standard of expectation that requires a beautiful response to a possibly unapologetic offense – or synthetic apology – you’re going to come out of the dispute smelling like ashes.) God did not tell us to go and impose those ashes on that vulnerable person.

Instead, God told us to go first be reconciled to that brother who has something against us before we take a gift offering at the altar. What makes us a possible aggressor of love is because aggressive love may be the extent required to win back that spouse’s comfort with us. And if we neglect this passage for our own comfort, for our own determination to move on with some pseudo-peace that we’ve defined for ourselves, and for our own facades that we like to publicly display sometimes, then we fail to obey one passage while sitting back and comfortably watching our spouse fail to obey the other passage about the same past issue. So, who’s really walking in obedience here? Neither.

Jesus is showing us how to step up, as the past offender, and show love to the point where we are willing to ensure both of us in the marriage are obeying God. Galatians 6:1-2 tells us, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

When My Husband Left Me At The Gas Station To Go Gather Coins For Unpaid Gas…

Bible PagesBy Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation

“Why won’t my husband just listen to me?” It was the question that screamed in my head and the one I screamed out loud.

                It was back in 1996 or 1997. Back then, there were still gas stations around that would allow customers to pump first and pay afterward. But I never felt right about it. Something always set wrong in my mind about my husband taking advantage of that convenience. I’d tell him all the time, “We are too broke to be so presumptuous at the pump. Pay upfront, Pookie!”

                But he knew what he was doing. That’s what he’d insist about everything. Then, one day, as I was waiting for him inside the car, he approached the passenger window and gestured for me to roll down our manual window. Right there, he broke the news to me. “Do we have any money in your purse?” It was like asking me if I had a hammer in there, as times were financially rough on us during our first seven years of marriage.

                “I have to leave you here while I rush home to get some cash,” he told me in an urgent tone. I looked at him like he had lost his mind. But he was serious. We had no money to pay for the gas that he had pre-pumped. I was so mad that I didn’t know what to do. But all I could do was get out of that car and wait right there at the gas station until my husband could return to get me with the payment we owed.

                I knew exactly where he was going to get some cash. In our bedroom, we kept a large milk container of coins. He went to empty it and brought back heaps to pay for the gas. Seeing him hand all that change to the cashier, I know today, I felt a little stronger about one concern over the other. This moment, I can’t quite remember which thought I had: “I am so embarrassed in front of all these people.” Or, “Now, we’re really broke.” Deep down, I think I did feel a sense of gratitude to the Lord, though not to the extent I should have, because the gas station was less than five minutes from our townhome.

                Riding away from that filling station, as we called it at the time, I couldn’t help complaining, “If you had only listened to me, this never would have happened!” I think that’s the statement many of us as wives use in frustration when our husbands’ decisions to turn a deaf ear to our voices result in some form of chaos that seemingly impacts us (the wives) far greater.

                And what can we do about it? Are we trapped to live as some tool of security for bad judgment? After all, the Word of God tells us to submit, be quiet, obey our husbands, and live a life of ministry before a husband (if he doesn’t believe) without a word. When problems occur, a wife can feel very powerless if our roles are conveyed to us out of context for the advantage of a wayward husband.

                So, what is a woman to do? I think most of us who have lived well into adulthood as believers in Christ can agree that the first thing to do after seeking the Lord in prayer, which is ongoing, is relate to our husbands during their times of failure. And I realize, now while I’m calm, that they really need us to relate to them during those times. This has been one of my biggest challenges.

                When this man has messed up hugely, making me the bull’s eye of his thrown-off decisions, I don’t want to relate to him. There hasn’t been one time that I’ve wanted to do that, I don’t think. But, thinking back over eighteen years of marriage, I can pinpoint a number of incidents that have qualified me to relate to him.

                From the many times, I can remember one time when I became frustrated with a problem occurring in our home, which was out of both our control at that point, and left for another city over two hours away with our two youngest children in our minivan. I just up and left for the weekend to retreat. It was an impulsive decision that came from a place of a spoiled outlook. But more than impulsive and spoiled, it was crazy. That van had too many miles on it and had not been serviced.

                On the way back to home from our little trip, the van broke down. I thank the Lord we were still in that city when it broke down. I managed to putt-putt the van just barely into the service lot of the dealership that makes its model. We also experienced God’s mercy to get a rental car right there on site and drive it home.

                My husband wasn’t mad. Well, he did experience some frustration when he had to drive to the city days later to return the rental car and to tow the van back, as the dealership was going to charge too much to repair it. My decision certainly cost us more than some change for the car rental, towing, and repairs – not to mention the inn and other expenses attached to the trip. And yes, I was well outside our budget.

                Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” It’s so easy for me, still, to look at my husband and anybody else for their shortcomings and forget about the baggage that I bring on board. But if I’m spiritual (discerning, in-tune with what the Word says about a matter, and walking in the love of Christ), I have the goods necessary to give a calm word of wisdom where it’s needed. I have the goods to intervene in a matter if I’m guided by the Lord. (Long ago, I could have asked him, “Before you pump, where’s the money? Just take a look in your pocket because my purse only has a few baby items and an empty corn-purse.”) As a spiritually in-tuned wife, I have the insight to pray right there on the spot – in the face of whatever is happening.

                And Paul says that, as I perceive these circumstances Biblically, meaning as I can Biblically perceive my husband or anybody else making an adverse decision or sinning, I should consider my own vulnerability to poor judgment or sin. If not, temptation is even more likely to occur. I Corinthians 10:12 tells us, “When a man (a person) thinks he stands, let him take heed, lest he fall.” In other words, I’ve got to consider the tendency of the flesh with a willingness to allow myself to be cleansed, even if I don’t see anything wrong with myself at that point because I see myself as “standing”. In that moment, I must take heed. To what? To God’s cleansing Word. His Word to cleanse the lives of those whom I can correct, rebuke, or publicly charge out a rebuttal? No – no correcting or rebuking just yet. Correction comes after self-examination. Certainly, if openly rebutting, doing so in self-denial, not lifting ourselves up. Social Media makes that very easy to do. (Of course, opportunities to correct another person come for us to act upon in the spirit of meekness as Galatians 6:1 says.) But first thing’s first. First, I am to take heed to God’s Word as a cleansing for myself – in the face of someone else’s fault, including my husband’s. How haughty of an attitude I have had recognizing his faults when I saw myself as “standing”!

                Have I mastered this admonition? Not by a long shot. Have I experienced it? Oh, yes – from both my husband’s and my part in a very few situations. By the grace of the living God, Who gives guidance that I accept, we were able to do so.

                Any frustrated spouse could ask, “Surely, you can’t think this method, this adherence to one or two passages in the entire Bible, is the cure-all for every problem within my marriage that relates to unfairness and frustration.” No. But there will never be a time when, seeing the fault of someone else, we are exempt from self-examination and heeding to the Word for ourselves.

                As for wives submitting and living to be meek, it’s a reference to I Peter 3 that I often have to re-visit with much prayer. As believing wives, let’s do so for ourselves – search the Word in prayer, that is. And let’s pray for one another as well as for our husbands, who are held by God to a greater accountability than any hard-head could ever fathom. And if he could fathom the degree of accountability, he’d pray more than the wife does. So, we pray.

The Adjustments Of An Interracial Marriage

My next novel, due within eight weeks, is a sequel series of books that center around the marriage of an African-American woman and Hispanic man. Marriage Vows Under Fire captures experiences in the lives of Joseph and Natalie Reyes as well as the experiences of other couples on both sides of their families. Throughout much of their plots, the characters’ ethnic background differences are basically depicted without being branded as such.

I’ve been married to the love of my life on Earth for eighteen years. I’m African-American and he is Hispanic. We have four children together. We have found that an abundance of differences in an interracial marriage could spill from our tongues within a matter of a minute. Over the years, I have found the adjustments in our marriage to be challenging yet adventurous, painful yet character-building, discouraging yet promising, tearful yet loving. I would do it all over again.

Against all odds, a couple from different ethnic backgrounds can have a strong marriage with a realistic outlook in their optimistic world. And while the rest of the world might be a mixture of pessimism and optimism, a couple can be feel various impacting differences without succumbing.

Growing up watching my African-American mother and father raise their children while nurturing a marriage that has lasted even to this day, I learned early that marriage is an incredible challenge. The laughter, the upsets, and everything in between, within the boundaries of what I was familiar with, formed my image of family. This image that I had was structured by what I observed in my surroundings, and it was somewhat romanticized as the entertainment we watched in the pre-1990’s primarily paired couples according to race. Of course, I had learned to accept mixed married couples as normal and had even dated outside my race.

But the day when I realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with my Hispanic boyfriend, what I was mostly familiar with concerning family had become a complicated inner battle that I felt I could share with no one. Only my Holy Bible could assure me that my next step in life would not devour who I was and what I aspired to accomplish in my future. On the day my husband and I married, I knew what stepping out on faith meant in a new way.

Eighteen years later, we and our four children are a picture of a typical family. In fact, we live across the street from an African-American man with his Hispanic wife and their three children. To see a bi-racial married couple today is no longer rare. But as my husband and I are often reminded in the midst of occasional circumstances, we still face our distinct challenges – one, because we are in a marriage (which often compels battles as part of the territory) and two, because we are from very different backgrounds that have so much to do with our races.

Interracial Couple

Common Causes Of Bi-Racial Marital Problems and The Solutions

Certainly, there was a time when society’s views on bi-racial couples could strain those marriages. Now, as those issues – though not gone – have far less impact than they did in the past, many couples still face other obstacles that are less likely to affect same-race couples in the same way:

Clashing Values

Different preferences in styles of food, music formats, and other cultural values can cause problems after a spouse’s build-up of constant tolerance, intolerance, vocalized objections, and silent objections alike. A series of small irritations here and heated discussions there can lead to outbursts. Sometimes impulsive decisions about a marriage can be made after a person convinces himself or herself that these types of differences are too unbearable.

Solution: As my husband and I continue to face these little hurdles, which do build up often, we are still learning to stop expecting perfection from each other living in an already imperfect world. As long as we live, there will always be an opportunity to complain about something. The task of dealing with people at work, waiting in traffic, standing in long lines with frustrated people combined with slow blase cashiers, and tolerating troublesome relatives or neighbors will still wait for our energy. And these outside nuisances build up on us, too, whether we stay married or not. So, there is no escape from any build-up of problems. They are everywhere and in every relationship.

Learning to compromise the compromiseable values like preferences and even cultural familiarities can develop patience in a person. Can you detect when you’re in the presence of someone who is rarely inclined to adjust or bend their way? And when things don’t go their way, they show a spoiled, bratty-type side of themselves. Many of these types of people are accustomed to having their way somewhere and can’t deal with giving that privilege up in other territory. We are still learning to sacrifice and give up what has been familiar to us if it threatens the household peace. Likewise, we are learning to embrace unfamiliar practices for that peace. Doing that is not harming us. It is, however, molding us.

The home environment is where character begins to build. But it builds under pressure – challenge. A person’s character cannot develop well if he or she is accommodated most of the time. If we can’t compromise and learn to adjust within our four walls of shelter, we won’t be able to function effectively once we plunge back among a mixture of good and evil forces the next business day. So, if my husband and I can start at home and weather these storms at base where it’s safe, we can both prepare for the world that encircles us.

Comparisons To Same-Race Couples

Living in a world where people constantly subject each other as well as themselves to individual comparisons, married couples are likewise subject. More so, mixed couples are subject – to the point of becoming victims of comparisons to same-race couples. And many times these comparisons are not just imposed by someone making a comment to them but also by the couple themselves making the comparisons.

Solution 1: I had to lean on Jesus Christ, my Personal Savior. Both Black and Hispanic friends of mine have made sly statements to me alluding to their conflicting views on bi-racial couples. Friends share their views with each other. So, I was okay with them sharing their views. My problem was that, at some point, I had begun to let their views tamper with my perception about my relationship with my husband, the love of my life on earth. In doing so, I was at fault for my own insecurity.

At some point, early in my marriage, I had to listen to the comparisons and then make some other comparisons of my own as a result.  When I’d hear people imply that my husband and I could not measure up to other couples, because those couples were more fortunate to be in same-race marriages, I had to lean on a Bible chapter (Numbers 12). Almighty God Himself had to intervene on behalf of Moses, who had married an Ethiopian woman. In fact, I began making comparisons between God’s disapproval of Moses’ critics to His disapproval of mine with their motives.

Solution 2: I had to look at a bigger picture that no critic was capable of pointing out. Someone pointed out to me that a bi-racial couple, with whom we used to gather at church, had divorced. He proceeded to point out that racial differences were likely their cause. This friend had always found some type of opportunity to lightly point out why couples should not mix. And he was doing it again – pointing at this former couple’s racial backgrounds as the probable underlying reason for their break up. To look past this heart-breaking news for a more objective view was not that hard to do. From the mouth of a man, who himself had once divorced from his wife of a same race, was a point at the failure of a bi-racial marriage. I had to take this route. When someone points out to me the failure of a bi-racial marriage, I have to reflect on the many same-race marriages that have ended in divorce as well. At the same time, I’m grateful for knowing one Black and Hispanic couple who have been married almost 40 years already. I have made up my mind that I must not be bound by narrow-minded comparisons but instead look at a much broader picture.

Racial Offenses Within The Marriage

No type of stereotyping can interrupt sleep like what was said between a husband and wife of different race in the heat of an argument.

“You are just like the average Hispanic man doing this and that!”

“And you are just like the average Black woman with this way and that way about you!”

Many times when loved ones argue, as we all know, things that can’t be taken back are blurted out in wrath. And we want to be able to take back hurtful words once we calm down. Sometimes we long to have that past moment again to do over. But all we’re left with is the present and an opportunity to be more humble. In a bi-racial couple’s case, any time there is an exchange of words that point out each other’s ethnic-based flaws, we can slip into civil war right in our homes. And how is a territory restored once the war is over? Not in one day.

Sometimes those differences that attracted you to your mate in the first place can drive you straight up the wall when you find yourself on edge for various reasons. In an interracial marriage, if you admire your  mate’s unique and outspoken points of view, it could all be disrupted by one national racial divide constantly being broadcast on the media. Having an outspoken spouse whose unique views bend more toward a direction in which you disagree could create a problem from both your sides.

America’s broadcast airways are often used as a bully-infested playground full of instigators and one-sided babblers who seek to discredit anybody who does not share their views. And they clash among one another, having their different takes on almost everything. Those of us with less-heard and even no public voice are caught in the middle surrounded by many diametrically opposed positions on so many issues – many of these issues causing significant racial barriers.

Sometimes in the middle ground among everyday citizens, quarrels and accusations arise resulting from controversial events as well as statements made by public commentators. Again, many times, these create racial tension in this country. So, imagine the strain such issues can cause between a bi-racial couple who are so in love yet vulnerable to one another’s views about their racial differences. Arguments can arise abruptly and unapologetically at the mention of critical racial topics that stir up defensiveness. And all of a sudden, that sense of danger, that many bi-racial couples have felt from time to time connecting with someone so opposite yet so attractive, now just ticks them off because that danger translated from being lovingly open and exciting to something untrustworthy and even a reason to regret.

Solution: My husband and I have more immediate control confronting differences between the two of us than we have over resolving those same differences on a global level. I still sometimes have a hard time coping with the fact that he is going to think the way he was raised – as a Hispanic male. And he still sometimes finds it difficult to see that I am going to think the way I was raised – as a Black female. But we are who we are and will form many opinions accordingly – sometimes being swayed by what we see and hear in the media. If accepted, that fact does not have to be so intimidating. It’s certainly not a betrayal but the opposite; it’s transparent. And our differences don’t have to be such a threat to us individually or as a couple.

How have I dealt with unique differences with my parents when I lived with them? Sometimes very boisterously. But they are still my mother and father. I have to carry that over to my relationship with my husband.

Our one sure common ground on which my husband and I can always meet is Jesus Christ, where our faith abides. So, Bible discussions tend to mellow us out and bring us together. Outreaches and church projects bring us together.

And there are other projects which we have found to be instrumental in helping us be more agreeable with one another. Together we love to watch clean comedies, we love little leagues ball games in which our three boys participate with my husband as coach, and we love group dating with friends and family. We have taken road trips together to attend wonderful Christian marriage seminars conducted by Jimmy Evans and his wife Karen Evans (from Marriage Today). Reading Evans’ book, Marriage On The Rock has brought us into agreement during very crucial times. Also, we have written our own book, Just When You Thought They Were Your Friends.

For every time that we spend arguing our points about an ethnic-based issue or pointing out stereotypes that irritate us, we have to bring to the table of discussion things that would also make us laugh, cry, work together, and pray – together. We seek to find the balance between the pros and cons in our relationship. Even some same-race couples have not been willing to do that.

Prejudiced In-Laws

In-law conflict can sabotage any marriage and certainly a bi-racial one if given the chance. Compared to one or more resentful in-laws fuming over your marriage into their family, society’s view on interracial marriage is like a race against tricycle riders.

Growing up, I was taught to shun ignorance because of its powerlessness yet also because of its shabby influence. But ignorance does feel powerful when you’re battling it in its form of prejudice by a key person in your life – a result from an initial choice that is yours as you walk onto that battlefield as opposed to moving on without the one whom you’ve fallen in love with.

Of course, this issue does not exist in all bi-racial marriages. But I would have to wonder if it does exist in most – especially in all states of the South. After hearing many stories about the way families have mistreated newcomers of different races into their worlds, I can honestly say that my husband and I have been blessed with our own in-law experiences that could have been far worse than they were. Was there ever tension? Were there ever nagging questions about our relationship? Were there comments? Yes. They were some of the same questions I myself had once asked, some of the same concerns I once had, and some similar comments that I had once made –  minus any malicious intentions – when I was in their shoes before my love came into my life. And there were probably things said about us behind our backs by certain family hecklers. But I also believe that my God positioned advocates that spoke on our behalf on each side of our families.

When visiting with in-laws of a different race, what can sting more than a blunt challenge about the relationship is the sting of passive aggression. Those unspoken disapproving glares speak loudly. They penetrate the gut like a knife, and they are intended to do so.

Feelings of isolation during gatherings with those in-laws are more common than anyone outside the relationship could ever imagine. As well, there can also exist those feelings of discomfort and unexpressed shamefulness when someone mingles his or her own prejudice relatives with the ethnically different mate. These are silent battles that can neither be easily confronted nor easily resolved.

The start toward resolving any kind of in-law issue begins with a team mindset between the couple. That is in every marriage. After that team of twosome has been established…

Solution 1: If the personality permits, a spouse must learn to put people (including family members) in check and tell certain people, except their parents and elders, completely off in defense of his or her spouse in a tactful and God-fearing way. (I didn’t read that Moses did this when he was challenged about his wife to the Ethiopian. Although he was meek with seemingly no interest in giving a rebuttal, he certainly could rely on his God to answer for him – so much that he had to ask God to take that leprous punishment off of one of his critics, who was his sister.) No one has to disassociate themselves from their family members just because some clear rules have to be set. It simply helps when a spouse will address his or her own side of the family in defense of the mate when necessary. This is more effective than a person having to fend for themselves against one or a brewd of in-laws full of venomous intentions.

Solution 2: Hanging out with other couples (the friends) on a more frequent basis provides a very neutral environment after struggles in a hostile environment.

Two Races But One Marriage

During the exchange of vows, a bride and a groom make a very serious decision to incorporate who they are as individuals in order to live as one. Living with my husband for thirteen years, although I see two ethnic backgrounds, I see one institution that we formed before our God. This institution is vulnerable to outside attacks as is any other relationship. But we have to nurture it as one institution and not as two conflicting backgrounds. The backgrounds are going to always be there. The backgrounds will always have their place of regard in both our lives. I accept that he will understand and regard his background more when forming opinions – as I do mine. After all, he regards the needs of a man more than the needs of woman because that is what he is more in touch with. Likewise, I regard the needs of a woman more. The issue of race is similar.

I’m curious about the future. From here, it looks like the mulato offspring of bi-racial parents won’t experience in their relationships the same challenges their parents experienced. But theirs are bound to exist in a different way – in a racial way. But that should never intimidate those who have fallen in love. If treated as just another difference in line with all the other differences in the world, then that is the only way race should be regarded by two people who have set their hearts on being together for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, til death parts them.

What You Should Know About Marriage Infidelity

By Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation

It is so discouraging to see extramarital affairs or to hear that a marriage is being impacted by an affair. Of course, this is especially true when the person involved is, if not your spouse, someone else whom you love dearly. In an extramarital affair, there is far more drama than pleasure to gain.

So many times we hear the saying, “Live and let live.” During times of witnessing loved ones or close friends blindly engage in destructive behavior, anyone cornered by the “live and let live” practice in our society can so easily walk away concluding, “Well, I’m not one to judge.”

But what if we know certain details about someone we love? What if we know they’re on drugs? National campaigns encourage us to reach out and speak out to help save their lives. Or what if we know a loved one who is violently wrecking havoc on somebody else’s life? Are we supposed to walk away and mind our business while somebody is in danger? Not according to the standards of our society’s values.

Adultery is approached differently – if at all in certain cases. We’re taught not to throw stones; and this is Biblical. But a person can be falsely accused of throwing stones for bringing to someone’s attention that he or she is in need of repentance for adultery. The ministry of repentance is never one of condemnation if done according to the standards of Jesus Christ. However, if adultery or any other sin is called out with motives other than promoting repentance (and the reasons for the need to repent), then stones definitely are being thrown.

As the other woman or man, consider the advice to leave an extramarital affair without wondering what the motives are for telling you. These reasons are too crucial to doubt: 1. You do not have a right to someone else’s spouse. 2. The marital problems associated with your lover can be transferred into your relationship if you succeed in stealing him or her from the previous marriage. 3. Jesus Christ offers a way out, forgiveness, and a new life after an adulterous lifestyle.


You Really Don’t Have A Right

Beware of subjecting your conscience to a haunting passion. A passion for a married person will convince you that you have a right to fulfill the desire of your heart. But that right that you feel is false. In the arms or gaze of that married person, you will evaluate all angles of your relationship and fail to perceive clearly. Those goose bumps, warm snuggles, soft kisses, sweet whispers, and convincing promises are the ingredients of a sweet-tasting poison right off the lips of someone in the very act of cheating the person to whom they made a vow. And you allow yourself to be the outlet of this person’s decision to cheat?

Jesus gave you the right to a better life. His offer is salvation to all of us who don’t deserve His forgiveness. But by believing with a genuine heart, we can be forgiven, cleansed, and be saved from the judgment He preserves for a world that rejects His love for it.

It is completely your choice to accept or reject Jesus’ offer that was made to us all in our sinful conditions. But if you choose not to accept Jesus’ offer, go on ahead and think you have a right to take somebody’s spouse. But while you feel that false right to shake up another relationship, your own deeds are leaving an invisible trail behind you. Remember that. So, if somebody on your job succeeds in taking your position, don’t forget to congratulate the person. In your book, they had a right. If anybody unfairly cheats to take anything from you, you ought to admire them.

Many people who seek to take someone else’s spouse convince themselves that their lovers are like fair game. And the wives or husbands should just except that. Well, those are the rules of an adulterer or adulteress. And those rules are forced on the victimized spouses. Well, just like you have your rules on cheating, when someone cheats you (the adulterer) they are going to cheat you according to *their* rules, not according to yours. Overly ambitious co-workers who want your job have their rules, scammers have their rules, thieves have their rules, waiters who spitefully tamper with your meals have their rules, and other cheaters of all kinds have their own rules.

There is far more than one way to reap. You may not reap adultery. But you could reap your very own attitude found in someone else willing to impose their rules of cheating you. God, who refuses to be mocked in any way concerning His standards for us, designed the sowing and reaping concept to be stiff – not lenient. That right you feel to take that married person from his or her spouse also entitles you to all that comes with the territory of an adulterous relationship.

Problems Are Transferable

When you break up a marriage for a relationship of your own, don’t think you’re simply going to marry a person. You are going to marry a problem and find yourself positioned at a new side of it. You’d better be prepared for the battleground that the other spouse was on. I stress *the battleground that the other spouse was on.*

There is nothing fresh about marrying someone who left his or her spouse for you. There is nothing romantic about it. And you will learn the hard way if you succeed in taking that person from the previous marriage. The challenges that belonged to the previous spouse will now belong to you. Do you think you were the only challenge in that man’s or woman’s previous marriage? Eventually, you will find out the other challenges. Those challenges may not necessarily be people. Those challenges may include keeping your looks in tact. So, you’d better be on top of your game. You’d better keep oiling your mind for more stimulating conversations. Who is to say that no one who looks better than you or no one who holds better conversations than you will ever come along?

You did not steal a faithful husband or a faithful wife. You stole a cheater. You stole a scatterbrain who really does believe that, after some time, yes, the grass is greener on the other side if things don’t work out as planned. Outside the saving grace of Jesus Christ, there is no glue in the universe that can hold this type of person down – unless he or she reaps a serious, agonizing problem that will force you to stick around and take care of it. It will be then when you will learn that you have a job meant for the first spouse. It will not be what you planned. It is never what a self-seeking cheater plans. “For better or worse” was intended for those under the original vows, unless severed by death.

Jesus Is The Way

Jesus is your Way out of a hurtful relationship or out of a relationship that can eventually hurt you. Jesus is your way out of a relationship that could possibly involve hurting children from the cheated marriage. More importantly, He is your Way to eternal life if you believe on Him as the One and true Savior Who died on the cross and rose again so that we can be saved by believing on Him.

Marriage infidelity is a very deceptive attraction that leads to a grave risk of spiritual death. The reason I say “risk” is because repentance is available to all who are willing to surrender. But there is an unspeakable danger in treating the grace of God so lightly as to go and sin with a motive to “repent” later. That’s just not repentance. That’s a sign of not knowing Christ at all.

When our former president was publicly confronted for his adulterous affair in the Oval Office, he was under the fire of modern day Pharisees. People wanted to see him out of office and shed light on that man as if no one else had any sin. But had someone close to the president, someone just outside the door of the very affair itself, or someone who had just gotten wind of what had happened could have privately pulled him aside in secret to let him know that he would answer to Almighty God of the universe (The King of kings, the LORD or lords Jehovah), then we can trust that God would follow through on that warning. God punishes yet He loves to an everlasting extent. And we can rest assured that He forgives those who ask for forgiveness with a sincere heart if motivated to completely change with complete effort and reliance on Jesus alone.

It happened to King David – the Old Testament man who killed Goliath under the old covenant law and who triumphed over many in other wars. In Biblical studies, David is known as a man after God’s own heart. Yet he committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba. He slept with her, impregnated her, and eventually placed her husband on the front lines of war where he was likely to die for his country. And that’s exactly what happened to Bathsheba’s husband.

Well, David was privately confronted by a man who truly represented God. This man, Nathan, did not publicly make this affair known. He did not demand that David give up the crown for that sin. God did not empower Nathan to do that. (That’s not the power we are ultimately given.) Nathan approached David as a humble vessel of the LORD – so humble that perhaps he could have known his own well-being was on the line for confronting the king with such humiliating news.

Nathan told David that there was man in his kingdom who had many sheep and another man who had only one little lamb. He informed the king that the man with many sheep unjustly took for his own possession the only lamb of the other man. Nathan proceeded to ask David what should be done of the man who had taken that lamb away. David boldly declared that the man who did the wrong deed should be punished greatly. This angered David. Nathan then broke the news to the king by telling him that he (David) was the unjust man. And David repented sorrowfully suffering through years of consequence yet unfailing love for the LORD who forgave him.

Where is that wisdom, which God had given Nathan, during our time when adultery is practically celebrated and glamorized on one end yet used as a weapon of knowledge to publicly humiliate somebody? We are a confused generation because we have not embraced scripture the way God intends for us to do. So, we transfer our confusion in the media. The media is full of mixed messages about adultery.

In America, we have too many opportunities to handle adultery irresponsibly. Our society makes subtle accommodations for it. Producers of media hot topics like to dig for clues about affairs in order to capitalize on scandals. Do they really care about it being morally wrong? Celebrity fans applaud their icons for relationships that stemmed from extramarital affairs. (On the other hand, people in the same society throw stones at political figures for doing what some celebrated, glamorized superstars have done.) Movies and television shows present storylines that justify adultery in a number of ways.

But the resulting scars from infidelity can never be glamorized. People play games with their own marriages and with other people’s marriages so quickly and blindly that they fail to grasp how greatly outside parties can be impacted.

To see a mistress or an unfaithful husband exposed (and vice-versa) can tempt many of us to throw stones. Look at what many in our nation did to the president in the 1990’s. Because I have sins myself to take before Jesus Christ in repentance, I present this subject carefully. My intention is to offer a wake-up call to those who have not considered the repercussions of spending inappropriate moments with married people.

One of the many marital issues within the storyline of Wedding Vows Under Fire Book Series (due to release in March, 2013) is adultery and the hurtful results it imposes on a betrayed spouse.