What I’ve Learned through a Lifetime of Marriage

My husband Randy and I recently celebrated 44 years of marriage.

Our anniversary celebration at Steak ‘N Shake

Wow–how can that be possible when we’re only 30+ years old? Well… we haven’t been that age for a long time, but it’s still hard to imagine we’ve spent most of a lifetime together.

When we first got married, I had this naive notion that all we needed was love. All together now: All you need is love. Da…da…da…da… da…When I hear those words, I automatically want to burst into song. Never mind about the misunderstandings and the immaturity of two 19 year-olds who are going to become parents before their first anniversary. As long as we have love, we will stay together. Wasn’t that also a song? Love will keep us together. If only it were that simple.

We do need love, but not the kind Hollywood portrays or most of us envision. I remember seeing the movie Love Story with Randy when we were dating. Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw (can you believe she’s 75?) looked deeply into each other’s eyes and proclaimed, Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

How sweet (and unrealistic) is that? But that’s the love I was looking for…where romantic feelings never fade and you sail off together as best friends and lovers without a disagreement or ever raising your voice or crying yourself to sleep.

After 44 years and weathering many marital ups and downs, I’ve learned a lot about real-life relationships:

  • There’s no such thing as 50/50 in marriage. Many times you’ll be the one giving more than you bargained for. It would be nice if everything were split neatly in half. The reality is that each of you will be called on at different times to give more than your share. It’s also good not to keep score.
  • Recognize the myth of the greener grass. It’s possible there is “greener grass,” but many of us see the grass and want to vault over the fence without considering the costs. The repercussions of an affair are devastating for everyone. Two families are directly affected, as well as extended family and friends. Life is never the same after trust in a marriage has been broken. God can heal and bring reconciliation, but the price paid is excruciatingly high.
  • Love the one you’re with. What would happen if you intentionally treated your spouse as if you really loved him/her? Not the Love Story type of love, but love that’s patient, kind, steadfast in sickness and in health, in good times and bad times. God’s kind of love that never fails.

Randy and I have been blessed to experience this love in our marriage. It didn’t come naturally, though. It took a lot of pain and struggle and heartache. We both realized the ability to love well was only possible if we were willing to get beyond our selfishness. As we experienced God’s grace, we were then able to begin to love each other unconditionally. Not perfectly, but in a way that says I want the best for you. I’m willing to do whatever I can to encourage you, to build you up, to help you become the person God created you to be.

And guess what? I found out I married the right guy– the one who has been God’s gift to me for almost a lifetime. And yes, we’ve learned that saying you’re sorry is at the top of the list!

If you’re struggling to love your spouse, there is hope! Small acts of kindness can be a good starting place. I would love to pray with you and encourage you to believe that God’s love never fails. 

Interested in reading more about marriage? Check out these similar posts:

Marriage Advice for Wives: 5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Got Married

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Your Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Way or the High Way

I used to think it was all Randy’s fault. If only he’d stop drinking, then we (or most importantly) I could be happy. I also thought I could change him. I could make him want to stay sober. I used ultimatums (you’d better stop drinking or…I’ll leave you…I’ll file for divorce, etc.) I thought he would be motivated to stop drinking. Wrong!

I launched my personal mission to get Randy sober. I placed inspirational books in strategic places around the house and refrigerator magnets with Bible verses on the fridge. When Randy popped open a can of beer, he would see those verses and want to change. Suddenly he would see the light, drop to his knees in gratitude, and proclaim his desire to stay sober. Wrong—again!

It is so tough to love your husband well in circumstances like this, finding the right balance in loving him that reflects Christ’s character. Maybe you’re dealing with a situation where you’ve tried everything you know to love your husband. Nothing ever changes and you feel angry and frustrated. You’ve lost all hope.

I know how you feel. For the longest time it was all about me. I don’t deserve this. Why am I going through this? It isn’t fair. Author and Women of Faith speaker, Patsy Clairmont once said, “Fair is where you buy cotton candy!”

I needed that reminder. The truth is, life isn’t fair. It’s how we respond to life’s inequities that determines whether or not we will find contentment. Looking back, I can see how my reluctant choices to take the “higher road” in our relationship, helped our marriage survive.

Maybe what we need is a road map to guide us, some cues to encourage us to let go of “our way” and become willing to choose God’s “high way.” I thought of the acronym H.I.M. I had to intentionally follow Him (Jesus) to become more Christ-like in all of my relationships.

H = Humility 

Jesus is humility personified. He had a way of zeroing in on a problem and speaking the truth in love. He had a posture of gentle strength. Humility doesn’t mean accepting or condoning your spouse’s bad behavior, but it does mean treating him the way Jesus treated others.

Dangerous Detours that almost derailed me:

1. Self-pity—Why me? This isn’t fair!
 2. Blaming—It’s not my fault.
3. Comparing—The grass is greener myth.

I shifted my thinking. I learned to admit where I had been wrong. Who me? I learned to accept responsibility for my actions.

 Humble yourself in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you. James 4:10

 I= Integrity

Integrity is courageous honesty, speaking truth in a compassionate way to ourselves and others. Jesus was also a master of integrity.  

Dangerous Detours where I often got hung up:

1. Denial—Refusing to believe or accept what is true.
2. Fear of confrontation—Lack of boundaries or inability to set limits.
3. Disrespect—Treating your spouse in a discourteous manner.

 I needed to honestly confront Randy (and myself) with reality. Truth gives us the ability to walk into the light instead of staying forever hidden in the darkness. Truth brings freedom and relief.

 You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

M= Maturity

Maturity helps us extend grace to others and give up the need to be right. Maturity requires that we’re grounded in reality and that we do our best to make wise choices.

Jesus knew how to reach people. He asked probing questions and told stories to make his point.  

Dangerous Detours that kept me stuck: 

1. Unforgiveness—Bitterness and resentment, the desire to punish the person who has wronged you. 2. Selfishness—Insisting on your own agenda.
3. A hardened heart—Stubborness and unwillingness to change or accept instruction.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

I almost gave up on Randy and our marriage. I’m so thankful the Lord gave me friends who pointed me toward a “higher way.”

• Toward humility so my heart would become tender instead of critical.
• Toward integrity so I could confront the lies I’d told myself and have courage to confront my husband in love.
• Toward maturity so I could act unselfishly, desiring to awaken the goodness in my husband.

By attempting to follow Him, I have truly experienced God’s grace.

Grace is undeserved generosity. It’s a hug when I deserve a slap. And that spirit of forgiving is the soil from which grow words that impart grace to those who hear. Only tender hearts produce words that heal rather than hurt. –Jerry Harvill

Where are you on your journey to follow H.I.M.?

Keep Calm and Carry On!

Not long ago, I was browsing through Nordstrom’s with some friends. A tee-shirt with a slogan printed on it, Keep Calm and Carry On, caught my eye. What great words of encouragement and wisdom. Simple, but profound.

I was curious about this pithy statement and looked it up online. I found out the British government produced three morale-boosting posters at the onset of World War II in 1939. The first two posters, Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Victory and Freedom is in Peril were posted on public transport, in shop windows and on notice boards. The Keep Calm and Carry On poster was to be issued only if Britain was invaded by Germany. Since this never happened, the poster was never officially seen by the public. It is believed most of the Keep Calm posters were destroyed at the end of the war, in 1945. Some 60 years later, a bookseller found a poster in a pile of old books purchased at an auction. The straight-forward/to-the-point message has been revived and graces tee-shirts, mugs, stationery, and other memorabilia.

It’s good advice–especially in times of duress and uncertainty. Keep Calm and Carry On is reassuring when the cost of living continues climbing, but incomes remain the same, or even more distressing, when jobs disappear, leaving thousands of people unemployed. Random acts of nature have occurred this year with a vengeance as unprecedented tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis have wreaked havoc on communities and countries. It’s helpful to be reminded to put one foot in front of the other and not give in to panic.

I’ve experienced a number of times in my life, when Keep Calm and Carry On could have been my mantra. For me, it’s much more than a stoic determination to do this in my own strength. I realize the One who keeps me calm and gives me strength to carry on is Jesus Christ. A verse from the book of Philippians says: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I appreciate the succinctness of this British slogan now making a comeback, but I’m thankful we aren’t left alone to carry on.

How about you? How do you keep on keeping on?

Climb the Mountains!

 

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It’s a quiet Saturday morning, my favorite time to hang out in my jammies to read, pray, and simply listen for God’s still, small voice–sometimes difficult to hear over the cacophony of life’s daily demands. I’ve been thinking about a message I heard the other night from Pastor Moses from Uganda, who is visiting in our area for a few weeks…his first time in the United States–in fact his first time outside of his country!

A few friends from our community traveled to Uganda in 2005 and met Pastor Moses Zirimenya and his wife Annet. Upon returning home, these women shared Pastor Moses’ vision of building a children’s home and school for the many orphaned children in their care. As friends and family responded, Harvest Home Ministries was created. Pastor Moses’ vision has become a reality. His faith and his commitment to serving God are inspiring.

He spoke about being determined to overcome obstacles, being serious in our prayers and willing to sacrifice our time to be in God’s presence, so we can be in tune with His will for our lives. We have to wait on God for answers and never give up hope, he says. We have to learn to be “mountain climbers.” There will always be challenges, but we must climb the mountains instead of giving up.

Pastor Moses should know. When they drilled for water on the school property and couldn’t find any, he refused to give up. They drilled over and over, but no water. Moses prayed and trusted God, only to hear the same news. No water. Finally, when everyone urged him to give up, he requested that they drill one more time. “And this time, there was an explosion of water!” His grin lit up the entire room.

My faith is so small, so weak in comparison. When I face seemingly impossible situations in my life, I am quick to give up, to throw in the towel when the least bit of resistance comes. I knew I could never write that book, I say when the first rejection comes. It’s too hard and I can’t do it. I knew I couldn’t finish it. No one’s really interested anyway. And the self-fulfilling prophesy rambles on in my head.

Then this humble servant from Africa arrives to show us another way. His resources are limited beyond what we can imagine with our affluent lifestyle in the U.S. Yet, I can’t help but think that Pastor Moses is truly the one who is rich. Perhaps he was sent here to minister to us!

I’m convinced I need to be more determined to pray for our country, the issues Randy and I struggle with, our family and friends. Yes, I believe prayer changes things…but do I really? That’s a tough question. I want to believe. Lord, help my unbelief.

I pray that whatever you and I are facing, that we will be determined to climb the mountains.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17