Tag Archives: Marriage

A Simple Thought with Profound Impact

Just a simple thought for today – which when put into action, creates a profound impact:

How much better would every marriage be if everyone’s goal was to add value to their spouse?

Man and woman

I recently became involved with the John Maxwell Team. John is an internationally recognized leadership expert, having spoken to governments of nations, leaders of corporations, and trained millions of people. His basic philosophy is that everything rises and falls on leadership.

Leadership is the outcome of providing value to other people.

The concept of leadership is almost exclusively aligned with the professional world in our minds – we focus on how we can excel in our careers. Over my protein shake this morning (wishing it were a dark roasted coffee with Southern Butter Pecan creamer…), it struck me that the bible calls us to be leaders in our homes too. Husbands are called to lead their wives. Parents are called to lead their children.

Ladies – how would your lives be impacted if your husband’s goal was to add value to your life? And how would your husband respond if your goal was to add value to his?

How would our children be impacted if adding value to their lives was our focus of parenting?

The impacts would be profound.

Adding value does not have to be a massive undertaking. Make your spouse’s lunch today. Put a note on the dashboard of their car. Make their coffee. Set the table. Schedule a massage. Put a heart sticker in your child’s lunchbox. Tape a note to their bedroom door. Carry their backpack upstairs. Find them an umbrella on a rainy day. Take them outside in the snow. Enjoy the freedom of giving of yourself for the betterment of another!

Now, I’m off to find some note cards…

Worlds Apart Post 1: I am the Only One to Blame for This

Jars of Clay self-titled debut album, Jars of Clay, is a deeply beautiful music composition that is both theologically sound and intensely personal. Its music speaks to every Christian at every stage of walking with Christ and grows with the listener as s/he matures in relationship with Him. I had known this compilation for nearly 14 years when during one of the darkest times of my life, a 9 month separation in my marriage, the track Worlds Apart recreated itself for me. Its lyrics came to life in a way I had never known before; they washed through me and over me as I listened to the song over and over and over for months on my way to and from work every day. It broke me apart and tore down the ugliness of the life I had created as the truth of God’s word convicted me through its words.

I recently heard this song again after many months and was moved to tears once more with awareness and humility of how great our God is and remembering how He recreated me closer to His image during that time. I was inspired to write a series of posts that are my personal exposition of the individual lyrics of the song and how they transformed my life.

“I am the only one to blame for this”

That’s the first lyric. It stands alone, a statement almost beyond verbalization. I challenge you to think of any problem you are facing right now and with it in mind, declare that statement above. If you are like me, the words just don’t want to come out. It’s too hard to believe. It’s too hard to accept. It’s too hard not to jump to all the things the other person is doing to you. This is the first thing God convicted me of regarding my separation… on my way to work… with tears ballooning over my eyelids… and running down my face… while heading toward a man’s world of developing power transistors for military devices… Good thing they didn’t care what my makeup looked like.

I am the only one to blame for this. I am the only one to blame for my separation. I am the only one to blame for the wreck the marriage ended up in.

But I tried so hard! How could that be?

I read marriage books and counseling books and personal growth books and went to counseling and *lovingly* encouraged my husband to grow past his flaws and…

I am the only one to blame for this. I did not live up to my marriage commitment, until death do us part. I did not live up to my vow, for better or for worse. I was always one foot out the door, waiting for it to fall apart. Always threatening, directly or indirectly, that “unless you…” that I was leaving.

What marriage can stand the perpetual threat of impending failure?

I was the only one to blame for everything I contributed to the decay of the marriage. I was the only one to blame for not living up to the vow I made to our God. I was the only one to blame for not taking the time to understand the institution of marriage as designed by its Creator and follow His plan for its success.

If you’ve never felt like you’ve literally been broken in half and crumbled to pieces, this could be the one that does it. Accepting this truth. And through this breaking, the freedom of shedding a life lived for yourself to a life lived for God and His Word instead, is beyond words. It is a freedom that enables you to let go of the bind that knots you up to someone else’s shortcomings and allows God to recreate you for what He intended you to be. Only then can the other person, opposite you in your problem, be free to accept their own blame and allow God into their hearts to recreate them from the inside out.

I am the only one to blame for this. Try to accept it for just a moment. Allow it to transform your life.

http://www.vagalume.com.br/jars-of-clay/worlds-apart.html

Three Days to Reconciliation

I’m sharing this largely because it’s just a great story.  It came up at our last session of Art of Marriage last Friday and I was inspired to share it.  It’s the story of the 3 days from divorce papers to reconciliation in my marriage.

A very brief background on my marriage.  My husband, Matt, and I were married for 17 years.  Like every marriage it was peppered with the tough times, some of them pretty intense, and some of them that were perpetual, always coming back again and again.  We were getting by, struggling, getting better, getting worse, but it abruptly hit the breaking point just a couple months after our 17th anniversary.  We separated, Matt moved out, and we were waiting out the one year requirement that North Carolina has between physical (housing) separation and divorce proceedings.

During this waiting time is when I came into real relationship with Jesus.  It was glorious… and painful.  As you may know, coming into relationship with Jesus is like looking into a mirror that has the ability to reflect back every ugly part of your character and personality that you’d rather avoid looking at.  Well, I spent many, many… many days, looking into this mirror.  And I was acutely convicted of my contributions to the failure of the marriage.  I was repentant and sorry for what I had done.  I was ready for the next go-round if the Lord blessed me with a new husband.

Six months into the separation I attended the Divorce Care class series on a recommendation from a friend.  It’s a 12 week class that focuses on a different topic each week, separation, anger, isolation, dating, etc.  I cruised through the first 10 weeks with fairly little consternation about each topic since I had already been run through the Jesus ringer anyway.  The 11th week came.  The topic was Reconciliation.  The motive was to consider it.  This class made me MAD!  I mean mad, mad, like really hot mad.  I was so mad and it was so disproportionate to my experience from the previous 10 sessions that I realized I really needed to scrutinize it.  I went into prayer that night asking the Lord for wisdom.  The answer I got was, “It’s time to ask Matt back now.”  What???!!!  I was floored.  Never, not once, had I considered this.  When I had been praying for a whole family, I meant a new one (a new husband anyway, not my kids of course).  I did NOT mean Matt.  This happened on a Thursday night.

On Friday, my brain was like a tsunami of thoughts about asking Matt back.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything.  I sent a note to my lady friends from the Divorce class and they told me to hold tight until we were meeting for coffee the next night.  So I did.  I went into prayer that night and I put God to the test.  “God, if you really want me to do this, I need a chance to talk to him in private.  I’ll know you want me to do this if he asks me out to lunch,” I prayed as Matt was already dating someone else.

The next day, Saturday, I was out shopping and I texted Matt asking him if he still wanted to go in on a bike for our oldest daughter for her birthday.  He said yes.  I asked if I could just pick it up while I was out or would he prefer to do it together.  He said together.  I asked him when would be a good time for him and he said, “How about over lunch this week”!!!!  Yes, seriously, that was his answer.  I was speechless, and totally unprepared for that.  So I went into “technicality” mode – technically, he didn’t ASK me out to lunch.  I told this little ditty to my girls from Divorce Care that night over coffee.  There were four of us, 3 white ladies and one black.  We very affectionately call each other our vanilla sisters and our chocolate sister.

My vanilla sister said, “Don’t do it!”

My chocolate sister said, “Girl, if that’s the Holy Spirit talkin’, you betta listen!”

Wow, that threw me off.  But I had to agree with her; she was right.  So then I started down the, “Well, if he this and if he that,” path.

And my chocolate sister said, “You betta just tell him you love him and would he come back.”

Double wow.  Now that was the Holy Spirit talking to me.  She was right again.

So what did I do?  I went home and put God to the test… AGAIN.  I got to the point of accepting reconciliation in my head, but it was far from in my heart.  I wanted to walk in obedience, but I wanted to be darn sure what I was being asked to do.  I prayed that night, “Lord, if you really want me to do this, just give me a really, really big sign,” and I went to bed.

I went into worship at church the next morning about the same as before… with massive tension through my entire chest cavity and up through my neck that was so painful it was starting to prevent me from being able to take a full breath.  This had started and was getting progressively worse during the separation.  I started singing during worship.  The presence of the Holy Spirit flooded me and instantly the tension and the pain melted away like hot butter.  It was gone.  I decided that was my really, really big sign.  My heart was filled with desire to reconcile with Matt.

We were planning to meet for lunch that Wednesday to get the bike and I assumed this was the time I was supposed to ask him back.  But God had other plans.  He said, “Today.”  What??!!  This was Sunday, only three days after the original “Reconcile” message!!  I told Him that if I had the opportunity to talk with Matt in private when he brought the kids home that evening that I knew He really meant today.  The probability of this was absurdly small as the kids of course would crash through the door and practically bowl me over when they came home.  That evening they pulled up in the driveway.  I had the kitchen door to the garage open and could see them coming up.  The kids decided to stop and play basketball.  Seriously.  Basktetball???  They hadn’t used the hoop in months!  Then Matt came in the house, into the kitchen, by himself, not another soul around.  Seriously???

I asked him if we could chat.  I reassured him that if he were too busy we could do it another time.  He said no, now was fine.  I suggested he take a seat.  I told him I loved him.  I asked him to come back to marriage.  He actually did not fall out of the chair.  I told him I would wait until he was ready, however long that took.  It took precisely two and a half weeks.  That was April.  We celebrated our 18th anniversary together that May.  He came home that July.  And we celebrated our 20th anniversary this year.  Since then, Matt has come to know and accept the Lord also.  Our marriage is now founded on the rock that created it and it is growing stronger every day.

Matthew 26:61:  I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.

 

A Cup of Marbles

A staggering statistic from the Art of Marriage DVD series prompted this post.  On average, the ratio of negative to positive things a person will say about their spouse is 15 to 1!  15 to 1!  I was shocked when I first heard this, but in looking back and being truthful, I was excelling at this behavior and probably could have taken the blue ribbon home.  Let’s just be real afterall.  I remember many early mornings running with my ladies training for a half marathon and spending the entire time yapping in their ears about all my husband’s issues and problems, while of course I had the answers to all of them if he would only listen.  No wonder we were on the divorce course (and that’s another blog post for another time).  Let’s just say God dealt with me on that one and we’ve happily celebrated 20 years this year.  But from that, I created this visual in my mind of a cup of marbles that sits between a husband and wife that represents the relative state of either building up or tearing down the marriage.

As newlyweds, the cup is overflowing with *love marbles* and both the husband and wife are happily taking, taking marbles out of the cup.  Life is grand.  But they are depleting the supply until eventually there’s only one lonely marble rolling around in the cup.  Someone grabs it.  Hmm.  Now the husband and wife are both pulling on the cup trying to get more love marbles out but of course that’s not working.  So they start blaming each other that there’s *no love* in the cup and demanding that the other person put marbles in.  “You aren’t doing this… you aren’t doing that… if you would do this, I would be happy… if she would only change this… if he would only change that…”  We get focused on everything the other person is doing wrong and happily tell everyone about it, 15 to 1.  In our thoughts, in our words, in our actions, we are sending the message that our spouse is unworthy and we are reinforcing it in our own minds.  We are tearing the marriage down.  How do we turn this around?  How do we walk in faith in our marriages to build them up?  The answer is simple, change the ratio.

The faith walk in marriage is unconditional love from the husband and unconditional respect from the wife.  Whether or not your spouse is being a putz, you are called to be unconditionally loving or unconditionally respectful (assuming we are not talking about an abuse situation).  This means speaking to and about your spouse in loving and respectful ways.  Stop and check yourself before you say something – is it respectful or disrespectful, loving or unloving?  Make an intentional effort to say something nice to and about your spouse every day and cut down on the complaints.  Make the ratio 10 to 1, make it 5 to 1, make it 1 to 1.  Keep working it down.  You will see how quickly the *love cup* starts filling up again.  The level of resistance you feel to doing this will tell you how far off the path you’ve veered from God’s design for marriage.  When I started doing this, I was surprised to see two things (1) how much trust I had lost from my husband that I needed to rebuild; he came to expect that I was just always going to cut him down and (2) how much more committed I felt to the marriage just by staying in the game and staying respectful even during tough conversations.

Your marriage is worth it; your spouse is worth it.  Give it this much, change the ratio, to see the glory of God’s design start to manifest in it.