Marriage Posts

The Time of Your Life

time_of_your_lifeWe often don’t understand and appreciate the time of life we’re in, or we make choices that make our time of life harder than it needs to be. It’s true that we are all individuals who can’t be pigeonholed into a set grid, but there are also some generalized times of life for people. Even though it’s different for each of us, God has designed now to be the best time of our lives. We just need to look at things through His perspective.

Your life is not a sprint; it’s not even a marathon. It’s more of a cross-country race or a steeplechase. There are ups and downs, curves and straightaways, rivers to ford and meadows to meander, times that are fast paced, and times of coasting, pacing yourself and catching your breath.

Each time of our life morphs into the next; it doesn’t usually happen abruptly, although there are times it may feel sudden and unexpected. When we stop and reflect, there are almost always little changes we’ve adapted to that are leading to the next time of our life. They were just gradual and not very noticeable. For instance, a mom may feel like her last child going to school all day was sudden, and may wonder what she should do now. She may feel like her identity as Mom is slipping away, never to return. But the reality is, those little ones have been moving toward independence, day by day, since they were born; they were made for that.

Just like there are seasons of the year that signal change and difference, there are seasons of our lives. Just as there are places where there are distinct changes in the weather and climate, so there are also changes in our behavior. For some, summer is a time of being outside, with activity and fun, whereas winter may be a time of slowing down, staying inside by the fire and reading a good book. We need to recognize and get in step with our life seasons to make the most of the varied times of our lives.

Rather than trying to get back to the last season of life, we need to recognize the values of the new season and take advantage of them. Even the Proverbs speak of the ant that gathers in the summer for the times in the winter when there is nothing to gather (Proverbs 6:6-8). There are seasons of our lives that are fast paced, crazy busy and almost maddening. We will be much better prepared for those seasons of life if we have relished in and taken advantage of the slower paced season when we could charge our batteries and recharge our emotional strength.

Lastly, a bit of advice (from someone who has not always practiced this), no matter what season of life, no matter what time of life you are in, take time to lift your head and look for two things.

One, look for what is ahead of the immediate “right now.” It’s so easy to put our head down and forget that this is just a season, or to just coast and forget that the hairy, busy time will come. Two, look at what the Lord is doing in your life, your marriage, your family and your community of friends, and get in step with Him and what He is doing. Ask Him, “God what are you doing? What do you want me to learn? How can I get in step with you in this time of my life?” By doing so, you can live life to the fullest now, the way He intended you to live it.

The Necessity of Hope

Do you ever feel like your life is a rat race where you’re getting further and further behind and out of control, and you don’t see any way of getting beyond the daily grind? Most of us live lives that are filled with activities, work and play. We can get into a rut of one full day after another, and that can affect us emotionally. We can get discouraged, frustrated, angry, despondent, and eventually feel like we are on the proverbial treadmill, with no hope of anything changing.

When we feel weighed down by life, without hope of anything changing, it eats away at our desire to keep going, and desperation can set in.

That’s why hope is such an important reality for all of our lives.

Jesus gave us hope when He died on the cross and paid the penalty of our sins. He gave us hope when He promised that He was going away, but would come again to take us to His home – forever.

But hope in other ways is important in our everyday lives as well.

When Judy and I were first married, we had three little boys in five years. Part of that time I was a full-time student, working a job and planting a church. The other part of those five years I was in a job that was taking 80-100 hours a week. Most of that time we had only one car. Poor Judy was overwhelmed with diapers, energetic little dudes and no hope. I was pretty dense and insensitive to all that for too long, but finally I realized what was going on. I rearranged some of our monthly expenses and signed Judy up for a little day spa where she could go and get some alone time, work out, sit in the sauna and hot tub, etc. It was something she could look forward to a couple of times a week, and it made such a difference in her heart, mind and countenance.

Hope can also come in the form of setting up a monthly time away to just catch your breath, gain perspective and do some planning for the next month. If you’re a parent, you can arrange to exchange childcare once a month with another parent who could use the same kind of time away.

If you’re married, with or without children, and you’re frustrated that your marriage is feeling stale, what you need is hope. Judy and I, in the midst of marriage and family and work, used to try to get away for a predetermined weekend once a quarter or at least twice yearly. We would put it on the calendar, and I would make arrangements so we always had a time together to look forward to.

On those weekends away we had sort of a routine. Friday night we would simply talk and evaluate the last few months, in our personal lives, our marriage, our family and our relationships in general. Saturday morning we would walk and talk about the next few months. What did we want to do differently in our personal lives, our marriage, with the kids and in other relationships? Then the rest of the weekend we would just unwind and have fun. When we left, we were always energized and ready to hit the challenges of the months ahead, knowing that we would have another time like this in just a few months because the date was already on the calendar.

Hope is a powerful need in each of our lives and relationships. What are things in your life that you have to look forward to? Things that give you hope? If you can’t think of anything, don’t give up. Ask a trusted friend for suggestions. You need hope.

If You’re Going to Fight…

fight

Richard C. Halverson was the Senior Pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland from 1958-1981. He served as the Chaplain of the United States Senate from February 2, 1981 until December 31, 1994.

One of my favorite quotes from this great man of God is, “If you’re going to fight…” I share this with you hoping it will challenge and encourage you as it does me.

If you’re going to fight…

Fight for the relationship – not against it!
Fight for reconciliation – not for alienation.
Fight to preserve the friendship – not to destroy it.
Fight to win your spouse – not to lose him/her.
Fight to save your marriage – not to cash it in.
Fight to solve the problem – not to salve your ego!

If you’re going to fight, fight to win…not to lose!

Lasting relationships are not negotiated…they are forged. That means heat and pressure. It is commitment to a relationship which sustains it…not pleasant feelings.

Treat a relationship as negotiable – it is easily lost.
Consider it non-negotiable – a way is found to make it work.

Authentic intimacy comes only through struggle.

How often in our marriages do we start thinking of and treating our spouse like our enemy rather than our partner for life? The way we communicate and treat each other can easily devolve into trying to win a battle. But consider, every time I win a battle with my wife, that makes her a loser. And in the end, that makes our marriage lose. We are going to fight sometimes. But what I am reminded of by Richard Halverson is that we ought to fight in a way that makes our marriage a win not a loss.

So, if you’re going to fight, fight to win…not to lose!

Love Letters

Love-Letters

Before Judy and I were married, we had a long distance dating relationship for a while, where Judy was in California and I was in Texas. We had to get creative, so we wrote letters – real hardcopy pen and paper letters – almost daily, and talked on the phone once a week. Even though we wrote daily letters, we didn’t always receive letters every day. Sometimes it would be three to four days between letters, and then I’d get several in one day.

No matter when I got a letter from Judy and no matter how many I received at a time, I always cherished them. I recall treating each one like a prized possession. I’d carry it from the mailbox to my apartment, put everything aside and prepare to relish every word on the pages I was about to open. The anticipation was always exhilarating.

I would take my letter opener and carefully open the top of the envelope to reveal the words on the pages that Judy had personally penned for me. I’d carefully pull the pages from the envelope and open them to reveal Judy’s heart and mind in ink – for me.

My mind and heart would race with anticipation of what I was about to read. Why? It was from Judy. A million different people could have written me a personal letter, but none of them would have steeped my expectancy like these words from Judy.

As I read the words on the pages, I savored every one. I analyzed each word and phrase. I wanted to make sure I drew out every nuance and meaning that Judy was thinking and feeling when she wrote this love letter to me.

I found myself pouring over the letter over and over again. I would read it again and walk away pondering the thoughts, the feelings, the meanings once again. There would always be a line or two that would particularly grab my heart or mind. I’d repeat it over and again in my mind. So many of Judy’s words spoke life to me, and gave me inspiration and determination to face the day ahead.

Today, Judy and I have been married for more than 44 years, but I will never forget those letters. And as I remember all that those letters meant to me – the anticipation, the pouring over them for meaning, the encouragement, the challenges, the words that spoke life and inspiration to me – I’m reminded of someone else who has written letters to me.

The God of the universe has spoken to me in the form of letters in the Bible. They are from the heart and mind of God to me – because He loves and cares for me. God did not put me here and say, “Good luck. I hope you can figure it all out.” He has given words of life. Do I cherish His words like I did Judy’s? Do I keep pouring over His words searching for meaning and intent? Do I long for the next time I can read His words? Do I keep rolling His words over and again in my mind?

If I truly love God as I have loved Judy, shouldn’t I treat His words to me with at least as much anticipation, joy, excitement and urgency as I did Judy’s letters?

Biblical Families: Spiritual Growth

Rick and Judy discuss what it looks like to grow spiritually as individuals and as a couple, seeking Him first in all things (Matthew 6:33). They provide some ideas about how you can find your personal rhythms and how a husband and wife can grow spiritually together.

Biblical Families: Parenting

There are a lot of misconceptions about parenting. Rick and Judy discuss what the Bible says about helping children learn how God designed life to be lived, and how they should respond appropriately to a parent’s authority, and ultimately, to the authority of God.

 

Biblical Families: The Helper

What does it mean for the wife to be the helper of her husband? Rick and Judy take a look at the wife’s biblical role in a marriage and how a woman can be a true asset to her husband.

 

Biblical Families: Submission

Submission from The Well Community Church on Vimeo.

Many people cringe at the concept of submission. Rick and Judy explain what mutual, biblical submission in a marriage is and isn’t (Ephesians 5:21-33), and how it plays out practically and beneficially in real life.

 

 

Submission

Biblical Families: Headship

Headship from The Well Community Church on Vimeo.

God designed men and women differently. So what roles should a husband and wife have in a marriage? Rick and Judy talk about what the Bible says a husband’s role of headship really means and how that looks in a healthy marriage.

 

The Many Faces of Love: A Couple’s Love

A Couple's Love

When I first saw Judy, something happened in my heart. Her humor and joy in life shone through loud and clear, and spoke to a hole that was in my life – one I didn’t even realize was that big, until I saw that beautiful young woman so many years ago.

Then I actually met her and realized that what I thought was a hole was really a canyon. Every part of me wanted to be with her more and more. Eventually, I realized I not only wanted her in my life but also needed her in my life. And she realized she needed me as well. That was good news to me.

Now we have been married more than 43 years, and we have both learned many things about our love as a couple.

Young couples can undoubtedly love each other with an authentic love. But it is the testing of that love over time that helps it grow even deeper and stronger. Judy and I have had our love tested many times. Sure there are times when the testing pushes us further apart for periods of time, but in the long run it brings us back together with a deeper love than before.

When we lost our son Kyle in a tragic drowning accident in 1979, Judy and I faced the hardest year of our marriage. She and I needed to grieve so differently. Judy needed to process her grief out loud. I needed to be quiet and mentally process the whole experience. My quietness made Judy feel that I didn’t care. Her talking about it at every turn made me want to get away and find a place in solitude to think, ponder and make some of the biggest faith decisions of my life.

After a while, I realized Judy wasn’t trying to hurt me by talking constantly about her feelings. She was just processing her grief. And Judy realized that I wasn’t trying to ignore and run from her as much as I was just trying to process grief my own way. It was during this intense time of grieving that we learned more about each other than we had ever learned. We were so different, but we filled up what was missing in each other as well.

When our daughter developed a rare blood disease a few years later, we were able to handle it together so much better, as a couple who had drastic differences but whose love helped us appreciate and value each other as well.

When Judy’s mom, June, came to live with us for a little more than two years, our love grew once again as we moved into uncharted territory. June has Alzheimer’s. We knew very little about the disease at the time, but we had learned how to process through that hard time together. I saw Judy’s tender love and compassion for her mom, even though her mom could not understand or value her love much at the time. Watching Judy with her mom made my heart grow deeper in love with her.

We spent the last month with my mom lying in the hospital and then hospice as she suffered from congestive heart failure. She was challenged in taking each breath, her Alzheimer’s had progressed severely over the last decade, and we didn’t know what the outcome would be. Judy and I kept tag teaming being at the hospital with her. We hardly even saw each other, and when we did we were talking through end of life issues and alternatives. It wasn’t a very romantic Valentine’s season.

But as I watched Judy tenderly care for a mother that was not her own, my heart grew even closer to her. She did all this because of her love for me, which makes me love her even more. That girl I saw some 45 years ago has given me so much more than I could have ever known.

It saddens me when I see couples facing hard times and giving up, somehow thinking changing partners will solve their problems. That’s not how God designed life to be lived. It is through the hard times that love grows even deeper and stronger than you could possibly imagine. And that is the kind of love He desires for couples.