Tag Archive | marriage

Rules and Relationship

It’s been a tough few months.

And when it affects my kids, it makes it tougher still.

Here’s the question: Does relationship trump rules?

checkoff-listI’ve been a parent for more than 21 years now, and I think I have a pretty good relationship with my kids. But I’ll tell you, they know there are rules. If I tell you to do something, you do it. Whining and fussing doesn’t get you anywhere in my house. My kids trust that I’m not going to tell them to do something immoral, illegal or impossible (although keeping their rooms clean does seem impossible at times). They trust that I love them and what I tell them to do is going to be for their benefit somewhere along the way.

Now, I’m human, and sometimes I want them to do something for my convenience. “Can you bring me my phone that I left on my bed? (because I’ve settled in my chair in the other room and you’re right there by my room)” But in the context of our relationship, they know that I’m not always doing that. And they ask me the same kinds of things, and more, because, well, kids.

Do they ever question my directives? Yes. Do I pull the mom card sometimes? (You know the drill: “But why?” “Because I’m the mom, that’s why.”) Yes. But they know that I love them. They know that they’re safe with me. They know that I ultimately want them to become fully functional members of society, and people who follow after God’s own heart.

When my kids have been pushing back against some of the things they’re told to do, child fighting with parentwhat I say to them is this: If you have a hard time obeying me, whom you can see, how much harder will it be for you to obey God when He requires something of you? This is practice for listening to God and doing what He asks because you trust Him and you know that He loves you.

I would think it should not have to be said that blind obedience to every authority is not wise. I’m talking about obedience in the context of relationship. Every parenting expert worth their salt knows that children thrive in an atmosphere of stability and boundaries. Allowed to run free with no rules, children will flounder. Loving guidelines and abounding grace create a healthy atmosphere for kids to thrive.

If my kids tell me over and over again that they love me, that’s going to mean a lot to me, but if they continually question my authority and break the family rules, some tough love is going to have to come into play. I wouldn’t stop loving them, but there would be consequences for their actions.

So how does this apply to our relationship with God?

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). He didn’t say, “Keep my commandments or I will stop loving you.” In fact, in context, He’s just been telling His disciples all about going to prepare a place for them in heaven and sending them the Holy Spirit to help them. But He knew it would be important for them to do what He has told them to do. For their sake. Not under compulsion, but because they love Him and want to do what He says. Did they mess up? Sure. Look at Peter as a classic example. He denied Christ 3 times. But oh, the restoration that took place on the beach before a fire after Jesus was resurrected. (See the 21st chapter of the book of John.)

grace tattooI love my husband. We have been married for almost 27 years. He doesn’t want me to get a tattoo. I want one. Just a little one. Nothing huge. I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with tattoos. But he doesn’t want me to get one. So am I going to go out and get one when he happens to be out of town? No. Why? Because I love him and I am going to respect this desire of his that I not get one. I do what he asks because I love him and I know that he loves me. He’s not asking me not to get one just to keep me under his thumb. I know he would love me even if I did get one, but it would be disappointing to him that I made this choice. And I would feel the break in our relationship.

Do I give rules to my kids and then reject them if they don’t follow them?

Will my husband stop loving me if I get a tattoo?

No. And we’re broken human beings who make mistakes.

We can be assured that God will not abandon us if we break His rules, put into place for our protection. But our disobedience is not without consequences. God’s love for us is not measured by how well we follow His rules, but our obedience can be a thermometer of how much we truly love God.

The gospel opposes earning but is not opposed to effort.

 

Images from agingwithpizzazz.com; whatisoppositionaldefiantdisorder.com; pinterest.com

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The Battle For Oneness

I’m just going to put this out there: The longevity of a marriage is not an indication of oneness.

sc0079bb1fMy parents-in-law divorced after 48 years of marriage. My sister-in-law and her husband separated and are heading toward divorce after 30 years of marriage. When people say they’ve been married for more than 20 years, we applaud them. But no matter how many years you are married, you have to work on oneness. It doesn’t come automatically with a ring and some vows.

Oneness means vulnerability and trust and truth and humility. It means caring about someone else’s needs before your own. It means sacrifice and teamwork. And love. Most of all, love.

My husband, David, and I will have been married 27 years on March 2nd. I think we have a really good marriage. But we definitely have room for improvement. There are things that I struggle with that I just can’t seem to overcome and he has areas that he wrestles with as well. Just last night we had to work through a situation of hurt feelings and misunderstanding. After 26 years! Sheesh, you’d think we’d have this down by now.

27 years at any job looks good on a resumé. But we’re definitely not experts yet.

But I don’t think that either one of us would say that we haven’t strengthened our oneness after 27 years.

Many years ago when our kids were still little, we went through marriage counseling to20120722-083057.jpg try and get a handle on some nagging issues. I had fought it for a long time, pridefully thinking that we could fix it ourselves. When I finally let God through, I gave the gift of agreement to my husband. It did a lot of good.

We still read books and go through daily devotionals on marriage. We talk to each other. We bring up issues, though it’s not comfortable and sometimes isn’t well received. We know that if we don’t keep these things in front of us, our oneness will be affected.

We are going in the same direction. We communicate. We try to remember to think the best of each other. We are on the same team. (I wrote a series a few years ago on how tandem biking mirrors marriage. Find the first in that series here.)

It makes a huge difference.

Once you stop thinking of your spouse as your partner and teammate, and start seeing them as the enemy, then you will be on a downward spiral that will lead you away from oneness.

Isolation is the enemy of oneness.

Anger is the enemy of oneness.

Unforgiveness is the enemy of oneness.

1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

85670316F046I realize that some marriages have been extremely hard. Perhaps there has been abuse or infidelity or addiction. The marriage covenant was broken a long time ago. I’m not suggesting by any means that anyone stay with an abuser.

Truth is, God is a God of redemption and reconciliation. The Trinity is the perfect model of oneness.

The best time to ensure that oneness grows in marriage is in the beginning.

And then do all you can to keep it going.

From Death, Life

IMG_3589This is my backyard. Looks good, doesn’t it? If you look closely, though, you can spot the imperfections. You can see the tracks the dog has made as he madly chases his thrown ball. You can see the weeds that have gone unpulled. And if you look closer still, you can see where some plants have just not made it, despite our attention.

Recently, I noticed several examples of places where we thought we had taken out a plant that was dead only to find, months later, that it is thriving again. This comes as a surprise to me, but it really shouldn’t, because it’s so much like God. He reminded me of that this morning.

First, around our pool enclosure we have rows of a pretty flowering bush called Ixora. We had a bad frost several years ago, and all those bushes suffered. Over the years the other bushes made a good comeback, but this little one never recovered. So my husband pulled it out.

Or so we thought.

Second, next to our koi pond, we had a little variegated plant called Stromanthe (at least I think that’s what it is). It grew and blossomed and did really well. For awhile. Then the leaves started turning brown. Though it was large and seemingly happy, something was not right in its little world, and it started to decline. I tried pruning it back, cutting away the dried brown leaves and trying to shape it up a little. But it didn’t respond to my touch. Eventually, we made the decision to pull it out and once again my husband did the deed.

Or so we thought.IMG_2048

Third, we had a beautiful avocado tree in our backyard tragically eaten by beetles. I wrote about that several years ago. You can read that story here. When we found a gnawed-upon fruit that the squirrels had discarded sprouted in the corner of the yard, we thought, well, what could it hurt? So we transplanted that tiny seedling into our front yard, watered it daily, kept an eye on it and hoped. You can read about that part of the story here.

And then something miraculous happened in all 3 cases. New life.

IMG_8106Our pulled-up Ixora is small but blossoming.

The seemingly dead Stromanthe is tiny but growing.

And that little avocado seedling is now a nearly 20-foot tall tree and has fruit of its own.

Amazing.

And the lesson here? Other than caring for, watching and hoping, we did nothing to cause the new growth. It was only and always in the hands of the Creator. Sometimes it took mere months to see the growth; sometimes, as in the case of the avocado, it took IMG_8077years.

In the letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7 ESV).

Do you have a child who is straying? Pray, love, care for, encourage, don’t give up hope. God is at work, whether they want to acknowledge it or not.

Given up on your marriage? As long as there is breath in your body, pray, nurture, and don’t give up hope. Oh, please, don’t give up hope.

Do you see only death around you? Death of dreams, of chances, of families? Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.

IMG_8102Make no mistake, we have had other plants over the years that have, simply put, died. The uprooting was complete and they never came back to life.

Sometimes children never come back to the Lord. Sometimes marriages fail, despite our best efforts.

But God.

He is still working. Sometimes the new life and growth is in our wandering child or our wounded marriage. And sometimes it’s simply and profoundly in us.

 

Redeeming Ruth: A Book Review

Books-Mockup-01Some may think doing hard things isn’t worth it. Some may think one little Ugandan baby with developmental problems is too big a risk for a normal family from Maine. But Meadow Rue Merrill and her family felt differently. The subtitle for this beautifully written book is “Everything Life Takes, Love Restores.” All across the pages, this truth comes through.

What I loved about this powerful story was Meadow’s honesty throughout. She had doubts about adopting this special-needs baby. She didn’t want to trust God with this opportunity. She questioned what seemed plain to her husband, Dana. Honesty about her faith struggles, honesty about her marriage struggles, honesty about her parenting struggles. Everything is there for everyone to read. No holds barred.

But what shines so clearly through as well is the non-stop love and care and advocacy Meadow and her family heaped upon this little girl, and the heart that they bring to the issue of special-needs kids in the poorest of countries in the world. If their family could help, so can yours.

The story comes to life through Meadow’s recounting of her trip back to Uganda with Ruth to complete the adoption process. My palms sweated and my heart raced as they encountered trial, after trial, after trial, but saw God’s provision in every instance. Tears flowed when hearts were prompted to raise money that was needed in just a couple of days. Emotional and heart breaking and heart warming all at the same time, Redeeming Ruth shows us the heart of God through the hands of His people.

Losing a child is an unspeakable tragedy, yet Meadow speaks of the place this tragedy had in her life, in her faith, in her family. Raw emotion, unconditional love, shaken faith. And redemption. God brought that to this little family in Maine through a deaf, disabled baby from Uganda. And He can bring it to you, if you will open your hearts.

You can find Redeeming Ruth starting May 1 at Amazon.com, and Christianbook.com and watch the book trailer here.

25 Years and Counting

4 weeks ago today, David and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. I know it’s cliché, but honestly, time has simply flown by. I was 29 when we got married (go ahead, do the math. I’ll wait.) I wasn’t a spring chicken, but that just meant I brought more maturity into the relationship, right?

We’ve come a long way on this journey, and we still have a long way to go, Lord willing, but here are some things I’ve learned along that journey.

You can run, but you cannot hide. Well, yes, you can hide, but then you won’t be known, nor will you know anyone fully. Hiding might make you feel IMG_5215better for awhile, but eventually you’ll need to come out of your shell. Coming out of hiding does make you vulnerable, and it’s not comfortable, but it’s so worth it to know that somebody knows you well. And loves you just the same.

You might not always know where you’re going, but if you’re walking together, you’re not lost.IMG_5222

We didn’t know when we got married that David would be diagnosed with a chronic illness. We didn’t know that we would struggle to have children. We didn’t know that we would suffer 3 miscarriages before and between our 3 beautiful kids.We didn’t know I would lose both of my parents within a year a half of each other. We didn’t know that David’s parents would divorce after 48 years of marriage. We didn’t know we’d need counseling to get our marriage back on the right path. But we walked it together. And that made all the difference.

The enemy of our souls doesn’t want us to succeed. When we IMG_5224attended a marriage conference after about a year of marriage, we heard a life-changing truth: your spouse is not your enemy. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But how often do we blame our spouse for our troubles, or take our frustration out on them, or think that they purposely do something to hurt or annoy us? David is not my enemy. In fact, he’s my greatest ally. It’s Satan who seeks to kill, steal and destroy. And he’s always looking for opportunity to do so. Don’t give him any ground.

Sometimes the directional signals are hard to find, but they’re always there. IMG_5223When life is just going along—you’re raising kids, working your job, living your life—it’s easy to forget to keep asking the Pathmaker where He wants you to go next. I recently was asked to step down from a position that I had filled for many years. It came as a surprise and wrecked me for awhile, but as I was thinking it through, it occurred to me that I had never once stopped to ask the Lord if He still wanted me to do what I was doing. I thought it was a foregone conclusion because I was good at what I did. But stopping to look around and find those arrows that will point us in the right direction is vital to not being taken aback when something happens to our neat little life. David and I have experienced a few of those changes in direction in our 25 years, but we always acknowledge that God is the one laying out the path before us.

Version 2

December 25, 1991, year 1

IMG_5218

December 23, 2015, year 25

photographs taken in the Chuluota Wilderness Area, Chuluota, Fla.

We Are At War: A Movie Review of “War Room”

War RoomI learned very early on in my marriage that my husband is not my enemy. We definitely have an enemy, but it is not each other. The movie “War Room” makes that very clear.

This movie is an unapologetic Christian film focused on a young couple with a young daughter who are caught up in the troubles of this world. He is a successful pharmaceutical salesman and she is a rising realtor. And their marriage is in trouble.

I’ve spent just a little bit of time perusing some reviews, and it’s evident that if you don’t understand spiritual things, you absolutely won’t understand the power of prayer and what affect God can have in a person’s life and marriage. The intention of the Kendrick brothers (writer and co-directors) was definitely not to say that abused women should stay with their abusers, as some have suggested. It’s a story of redemption and prayer and God’s work in our daily lives.

Yes, Tony was not a good husband. He had a wandering eye, a problem with business ethics and a distant relationship with his young daughter. But he was not a physical abuser and deserved to be given a chance to repent and reform. Truth is, God changes lives. It happens all the time.

I’ve mentioned that I’m not the most discerning of movie goers, but I really, really liked this movie. When we walked out, I said to David, “Did we just go to church?” People were praising God, saying “hallelujah!” and cheering all through out this God-honoring film. There was truth, there was laughter, there were tears. There were people of faith understanding that prayer is powerful and it is a battle.

The premise, of course, is that we are waging war everyday against our real enemy, Satan. Once Elizabeth started praying for her husband, Tony, things started to change. One scene I loved, and that I think should be repeated in every household in the world, was when Elizabeth finally decided to get serious about her relationship with God and walked her house kicking Satan out of every room, proclaiming that he had no place there because Jesus was now in charge. That brought down the house!

Scoff at the scene of Miss Clara thwarting a mugging by rebuking the thief in Jesus’ name? There are stories on record of that actually happening.

Think Tony had no redeeming qualities and that Elizabeth should have just dumped him and moved on? Yeah, that’s what a lot of people do nowadays. But thanks be to God that no one is beyond hope.

Instead of bemoaning her situation, Elizabeth accepted Miss Clara’s challenge to pray that God would change things. This is not an uncommon occurrence for people of faith. But the Bible says that God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). What seems utterly ridiculous to those who think they know is exactly what God uses to accomplish His purposes.

Go see “War Room.” Give God a chance to show His power. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not true.

What You Can Learn From Parenthood

ParenthoodPretty much on a weekly basis, I cry over Parenthood. I’m not talking about the actual state of parenthood, I’m talking about the TV show “Parenthood.” I was drawn to the show because it’s about family, but I was also drawn to the show because it takes place in Berkeley, Calif., a place near and dear to my heart. I love seeing familiar places and hearing them talk about the sports teams.

There is much I don’t like about the show: I don’t like the immorality. I don’t like the fact that they take things like premarital sex, abortion and drug use so lightly. Commenters on their Facebook page will tell you that they’re handling things very delicately and all, and, as I mentioned in a previous post (Speaking My Language) I shouldn’t expect people who don’t follow Jesus to embrace the things that He embraces, but it still makes me sad.

But what I love about the show is that they make family important, they don’t make the men into idiots, the adult siblings have a really great relationship, and children are valued, talked to and actually parented, not the way I would parent, but in a loving, concerned, I’m-there-for-you manner nonetheless.

When one of the siblings goes through a separation, her adopted son calls her from his dad’s apartment where he and his sister are spending the weekend. Why? He had a bad dream. All he wants is to talk to his mom.

The teenage boy of one of the sisters gets his girlfriend pregnant. She has an abortion without his consent. Who does he talk to about it? His mom. She loves her kids and they talk to her about everything. She’s been a single mom most of their lives.

Here’s the kicker for me: The patriarchs, Zeke and Camille, are still married after nearly 50 years. She feels like she’s put aside her dreams  for years to raise her family, so now she’s wanting to branch out. She spent a month in Italy painting, without Zeke. She wants to sell the family home, the place where everyone gathers and so many memories have been made. He doesn’t want to leave. It’s his home. But after spending a month without her while she pursued her dream, when his youngest son is indignant that they would consider selling his childhood home, Zeke tells him, “Your mother and I have been together 47 years, and we’ve been through a lot, we’ve been through a lot of milestones. She goes away to Europe and all of a sudden I’m left here at the house, I’m all alone, and I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do. And I miss her. I miss her like crazy. I realize that I love her a lot more than I love this house, and if selling this house makes her happy, then that’s what I’m going to do. So that’s about it, Son, that’s the ballgame right there.”

That is the ballgame. Zeke and Camille might not know a thing about having a godly marriage—one that honors God and is a window into the spiritual realm—but Zeke got it right: Oneness and commitment to his wife supersedes everything. No house is worth promoting isolation in your marriage. No other relationship means more.

Now he just needs to get that little bit of advice into his son-in-law, Joel. Sheesh.

 

Parenthood logo from tv.com