Gaps and Grace. Growing in Marriage.

winding path in NZ

“You need to give each other more grace.“ Our marriage counselor intentionally looked each of us in the eye last week.

Gaps. My gaps stare at my mate. His stare right back at me. And our marriage counselor sees it all.

“Grace to focus on the motives and attempts. The grace to ease up on each other with patience and perseverance, instead of addressing the Gaps. “Lots of grace…” the message comes through no matter what the issue of the session.

“Honey, I’m sorry you’re having a bad day and I hope the rest of the day is better.”

This is the note I keep on my desk to remind me how to speak words of empathy.

Brilliant if I remember when the occasion actually arises

These are not words that spill from my mouth when my spouse is under fire from within or without. I have questions and advice or suggestions. Not this.

Gaps. Gaps and more gaps. In bad times they expand. In better times they shrink.

Recently I ran into a boomer newlywed who asked how I was doing two years into my marriage.

 “My husband is my iron man,” I winked quoting a verse… “as a friend to a friend, so iron sharpens iron.”

“This is hard!” The second-time arounder’s eyes widened, “We are going from Bible study to Bible study trying to figure this out.”

A professional communicator told me awhile back, “It took me ten years to learn how to communicate with my husband.”

Why does communicating—talking, listening and understanding each other have to be so hard?

 “Men’s and women’s brains are different,” our counselor relayed again last week. When we forget—we judge incorrectly.

The male mind sequences events and words in order—one event and action followed by the next, logical. He processes one thing at a time well and focuses on one project at a time. That allows him to complete his work.

Women’s brains have neurons that shoot from side to side and connect both sides of their brains at the same time. They can multitask because of it. They can have a few things going at the same time, whether conversation or projects, leave various ones and pick up where they left off on others, easily. It’s a brain function.

Some of our adjustments are because we have different personalities and methods of assessment and decision making.

“You are random—he is linear.” No protest.

“Steve can’t understand you when you make comments aside from a spoken context or speak quickly and change topics. You need to slow down, pace yourself and give what you say a context. It’s not a group of women chit-chatting away and running off on a hundred rabbit trails that intersect and eventually wind up complete.”

“Don’t talk to me like you talk to your girlfriends,” my husband kindly reminds me…often.

One thought at a time?  Easy to say. It’s easy to think I can but as I’m thinking and speaking of one thing, other thoughts pop up that add reference. At least I think it does? My husband says they are another topic. Hmm. A woman and ADHD. God help me, because I have to change…and I have always been this way. And so I pray and ask God to change me. When I married Steve, I committed to be the best I can be for this man, for our marriage. And he, me.  We are both so thankful we have a person who gives us wise counsel and feedback we sometimes can’t receive from each other.

“You have a different style. You need to find a compromise. Your way is not better or worse than his/her way,” we have both heard this reminder multiple times. It means dying to myself and what I want, including waiting to address issues he is not at the moment ready to address! I am the spontaneous—not the diplomat. It means Steve bends also in his time and focus. Humility and pleasant words, promote instruction. It is the growing ground for couples. “I can grow. You can grow. We can grow together.”

When one of us is in a dormant season or having a bad day, the other will have spaces and gaps that are not filled.

We will fail to meet each other’s needs and feel empty spaces in those places. We need to forgive the neglect and forget the bleakness of harsh words and bad attitudes.

Grace from God who loves and accepts us in our crazy ins and outs—is what fills the void. His unconditional love and presence makes up the difference every time and carries us through to the flowers. To the love that blooms again.

A love that is intentionally voiced or texted daily in our marriage simply as “I love you.”

Why? Because as we decided in premarital counseling to take this advice. It restates commitment to each other in good times and bad. Loyalty. Perseverance. Dedication to devote ourselves to being present even when we don’t feel like it. Presence. 90% of life is showing up,” I have posted in my bathroom.

But the future of our marriage is more than being around. It is actively planting seeds of love and kindness, of talking and listening, of apologizing and weeding—when the time is right. Seeds planted today, irregardless years of marriage, will sprout and blossom into fragrance we can each enjoy season by season and flowers we can each touch. Sowing seeds reaps real life displays of colorful growth in our garden of love.

At two and a half years young we are feeling less gaps, as we give each other the learning time God gives us. When I feel the Gaps within myself (or Steve’s) are expanding—I spend more time with Jesus. And so does he. We each need our Mediator, our most Wonderful Counselor who is always available 24/7.

We receive His grace to say the words, “I love you” daily. As we allow the Lord to fill the gaps with His love and comfort, unconditional love we don’t always give to ourselves or each other so readily—Jesus gives freely. Our hearts needs are soothed. His grace fills the gaps as we grow closer to God… and closer and more patient with each other.

 

Gentleness; She Knew my Story

Gentleness is love in action, being considerate and meeting the needs of others, allowing time for the other person to talk and being willing to learn. What benefits we derive when we hear another’s heartbeat and we allow others to hear ours also walking down this road of life together. God called us to maintain a gentle attitude in our relationship with others, as we learn from the one who is gentle and humble of heart.

I  heard John Ortberg, pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian church refer to Christian leaders as “Guardians of the Soul.”

It touched the verse in 1 Peter 3:1, we are now called to live in righteousness for “we have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.” One thing leads to another.  So we are in this world to tend others as he tends us; to comfort with the comfort he gives us. It reminds us how God had Moses in the desert tending sheep for 40 years learning how to lead, so one day he could tend and lead a million people across that desert.

Dr. Dan Allender discussed a crossroads in his life, the decision to work at a seminary or start a graduate school. The list of advantages and disadvantages was a quickie. The pro-con list stacked up for the seminary position with benefits—and ease. But then his wife looked at him and said, “You’ve never been able to do anything normal. Why start now?”

“My wife was reading my story,” he said.

She knew the direction it went. She knew him and understood the Author’s heart for her husband. It is amazing how people who know and understand us can see better than we sometimes what we really need and the direction that fits our path. Relational living means we pursue closeness with each other.

As we pray for those on our heart, they are on His heart. God puts people in our lives to listen and encourage as we watch them head…to the Shepherd.

1Peter 5:2  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care…because you are willing as God wants you to be… eager to serve… being examples

6 Signs of a Healthy Marriage

The president of Focus on the Family, Jim Daly, shared the six signs of a healthy marriage in a recent newsletter.  It is important for singles to know these signs also…especially in that process of meeting, dating and marriage. The research is from Dr John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at University of Washington and founder of Gottman Relationship Institute.

1. There are high levels of friendship, respect, affection and humor.

2. There is a ratio of 5:1 or better of positive to negative interactions during conflict. During normal conversation the ratio is 20:1.

3. There are successful responses to "bids for connection", ie. spouses respond to each other's attempt to connect and interact.

4. There are softened start-ups for conversation about disagreements.

5 The husband accepts influence from his wife.

6. The spouses are aware of and respect the other's needs, likes and dislikes.

Focus on the Family has a counseling line at 800-A-FAMILY  or visit the website at  FocusOnTheFamily.com

  

Prevailing Love

Life is full of challenges. One of the hardest is how we deal with our hurts when we are in relationships. Many times we can feel overlooked, because we are. We must remember we overlook others also. It is easy to feel insulted and it is easy to insult our significant others, especially if we are distracted by many things. However, we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.

 

A  woman shared  when she was on vacation her husband bought a cup of cocoa for himself and their daughter, but not for her. She felt  rejected, unloved at the moment. Her bottled Hurt and anger kept her isolated from them both and wrecked the rest of their day together. Later they talked…after the day disappeared in regret.

 

Recently I spoke with a friend who also felt hurt by her husband. He could have done something kind and did not. He overlooked the opportunity. Immediately, as she spoke with God about her fragile feelings, God spoke to her, “You can never overcome evil by evil. You overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21   ( Overcome means to prevail, to conquer, to be victorious.)

 

Although  she wanted to withdraw, instead, she spoke to her husband about her hurt and what he could do next time he had a similar  opportunity to bless her. I love the redemptive outcome of that human burp. Love did prevail—that’s what shines through. The love that believes, and bears and hopes  and endures all things. And doesn’t keep a record of wrong. (I Corinthians 13: 7,5)

 

Today I read a quote by Max Lucado:

“Healthy marriages have a  tenderness, an honesty, an on-going communication.  The  same is true in our relationship with God.  Sometimes we go to him with our joys, and sometimes we go with our hurts, but  we always go.  And as we go, the more we go, the more we become like Him.  People who live long lives together eventually begin to become alike.  As we walk with God, we take on His heart." 

"You were taught to be made new in your hearts, to become a new person.  …  Made to be like God – made to be truly good and holy."  Ephesians 4:23-24.

 

If we cannot forgive we cannot sustain any long term relationship. As Christians we learn to receive the forgiveness of our Savior and to give that same forgiveness to others…who know not what they do. It is contemplated in our times with Him alone and it is worked out in every day life. It is worked out as singles in relationship with others as well as in marriages.

 

We will give prevailing love  in spite of a hurt, if we learn to head towards God and his heart and mind first, for venting and filtering—before  we share our initial raw thoughts  with those we love, like or disdain. God is a great listener and his wisdom works, He will always guide us toward understanding rather than being understood (although both are important). He will always direct us in the way that is best in loving ourselves and others. After all He defines love and He lives it out everyday by loving us… unconditionally.

That “In Love” Feeling

 I just exchanged emails with a woman about infastuation, dating and the defining period of three months.  Usually 3 months is when the infatuation wears off and the real person is pleased to stand up. In couples who continue on to marry and have good marriages the core values and virtues remain strong and even improve, deepening respect.

 

 In others, that short amount of time begins to reveal a glossy paint job that's peeling. The wood underneath may be rotten. Or,realistically and commonly, the best efforts to master life long foibles can’t bear up much longer than a couple months. For example showing up on time (speaking of myself) erodes into the more characteristic trait—“always late.” People realize they are not the best match after all, given the real enchiladas.

 

It is not the elated feelings of infastuation, nor the deeper but fleeing feeling of being in love but the love from respect (quality person) that helps carry through to marriage. Even within the marriage, it helps carry them through the alternating fleeting feelings of love. Gary Chapman quotes an expert in his book, Five Loves and states the “In love” feeling generally lasts no more than two years. I heard Dr Dobson say it can begin ebbing even before a year of their meeting together.

 

I once read, “Love is a steady intent of our will toward another’s lasting good.” That is the definition that will carry a marriage through the years—not the feeling of being, “in love.” And that is agape love. God’s love to direct His best actions for our best good toward us irregardless of what space we are in.  That is the love all the couples I know have said is the glue that held their marriage boat together through the seasonal storms without shipwrecking.

 

Once I spoke with a woman married eighteen years who described a scene in her kitchen—her husband dropped a crystal glass from their wedding. When she expressed distress and made a sentimental comment, somehow a tete a tete began. It culminated when he said, “I was never ‘in love’ with you when we married.”  She was shocked and hurt, but prayed and determined to love him through her love for Jesus anyway.  A couple years later they had some loving moments. She revisited the hurt she had felt from that night. He denied what he said. “I’ve always loved you.”  Such is our human condition of “feelings.”

 

So I think of Fiddler on the Roof when Tevyah sings to his wife, “Do you love me?”

She answers, “for twenty five years I’ve washed his clothes, fed him meals, slept with him…if that’s not love what is?”  Old fashioned, practical love that does.

 

In an age that dotes on romance and starry starry eyes, it’s good to remember  love is from God. The best we can do in this life is love each other as He loves us and loved us through the love He gives us. In His fountain, not our own dwindling brook. The love of 1 Corinthians 13, that bears and believes all things. That does not keep a record of wrongs.  

 

The love he showed by sending His Son was not a feel good demonstration. It was a determined effort and decision to love a people who were at the time uncaring. But love won out and what a difference our response is today than when we first met Him. So our human marriages can reflect that divine love… and some do!

 

Mel Gibson loses Passion

 

By now we have all heard Mel Gibson’s marriage of 28 years and 6 children is ending. His wife has filed for divorce and since there was no pre-nup 900 million will be split. The reason for the headlines on all the celeb mags this week?

Mel is openly cavorting with other women. Nothing will destroy a marriage like adultery. Two people place their trust in one another to build a life under God. To share their hearts (really scary) and finances (scary)  often to raise children (hardest) and commit to build a future together  trusting they have a foundation that will stand the tests of life and time.

That’s why they make a commitment. It takes a commitment to each other and to God, His love and power and forgiveness.

Gibson and his wife are Catholic. As a young girl I remember learning about the Holy Sacrament of marriage. Lived out with the desire to respect and honor  each other, knowing that respects and honors God—serving each other as Jesus demonstrated by washing the disciples feet. When we see marriages like this it is a rare jewel.  All easier said than done—and only done by complete dependence on God to fill in the gaps we humans surely have with all our good intentions. I love the picture of a 3 fold cord of Ecclesiastes. 2 strands alone are weak, that extra one makes it strong. Thus, "We can do all things through Christ who strenghtens me." Philippians 4:7

But adultery is absolute destruction to a marriage. Have you ever stepped in a plane with a pilot who lands the craft badly? Trust flies out the window.  I remember such a event in a smaller plane on a Greek island. Who would choose to step back in the plane when your life is at stake?

This is why Bruce Springsteen recently accused of cavorting with a gal at his gym has verbalized denial and posted his website vehemently repudiating the allegations. He is trying to protect his marriage and his wife. He knows the work of sabatoge and suggestion. He knows the terrible consequence of adultery.

 Mel Gibson denies nothing. He is openly seen with other women and says nothing. There is nothing to protect. Nothing to repair. He is not protecting his honor, nor his wife from the pain of publicity. Has he given up? It seems like it.

Most adults realize Adultery rips hearts apart. It is difficult to function with a bleeding heart. How difficult for the offended, abandoned partner to forgive and pick up as if their life were not at stake. From the friends I have walked through this process with, it is 100% accountability at all times until trust has been semi-rebuilt again. If a relationship is a house it’s like blasting the house into smithereens so you can get back down to the foundation and start pouring all over again.

Is his marriage irrepairable? Never. But rebuilding on an old foundation is harder than building on a new foundation. It takes more work and more energy. But God can do that if both people look to Him first for all they will need.

Mel produced The Passion which I just watched again a week ago. Has he read Jesus’ words in John  9:34-36 . Does he know he is a slave to sin? Does he understand the journey of the cross he graphically detailed and directed of Jesus road to Calvary was for his sin too?  Even now, Jesus would forgive and empower him and  free him to Love and live a life that truly reflects the honor of a Christian for His Lord and his wife, his children and community. 

 If the Son makes you free you are free indeed, Jesus

John 8:36.

Marriage Lives with Memories

I met a widow tugging two small white bichon’s  tonite on my dog walk. We watched our dogs show interest in each other and started dog talk.

“She is 1 year and he is 13 years old,” she pointed to each. “This is my family now. My husband died of cancer last year,” she stated pensively followed by a gleam.

“I’m sorry,” I stated. 

She smiled and emphasized, “We had a wonderful marriage. I feel like I won the lottery. I miss my husband but I feel like I have something to miss many never even come close to experiencing.” 

“Wow,” I said agreeing with her.  “You are the second widow  this year to tell me that. A wonderful marriage is such a rare gift. Very few people in life have had it.”

“Yes,” she chuckled. “Even when he had cancer I whisked by his bed one day cleaning house. He said,” Wow.”  I stopped.“What?” He said, “I love you so much.”  Her face glowed as she turned the pages of her mind. 

“He slept on his right side and I slept on my left, so we were back to back. But we would each extend our upper arms behind us and fall asleep holding hands…every night.” She smiled.

“One day he was at the apartment rentals and a gal flipped her top up. He ignored it and she followed him and did it again. “What do you think?” she coyly grinned. “My wife’s are better” he laughed.  “After she offered services, he just sat her down and lectured her on the threat of HIV and STD’s etc. – IF  you knew my husband you would know that’s just like him. He had integrity and he really cared for people. All seven of his brothers are the same from a family of 11. All are committed to their wives; all have good marriages. Men of honor. Stable.”

“My husband worked hard at two jobs. He was very busy. But every Friday night for twenty-five years we had our date night. We both looked so forward to it. Sometimes we went on a walk, or watched a movie or went out to a fancy dinner. We never missed. He was so happy, ‘What are we going to do tonight?’”

 “He watched over our only daughter so lovingly and she adored him. He always told her not to run on the bike trail alone because it wasn’t safe. ‘Walk on the sidewalks,’ he advised. Then a few months before he died, a boy was driving and texting at the same time my daughter was walking with her headphones and listening to music. He rounded the curve and hit her from behind. She was killed instantly.”

“I am so sorry,” I stated searching her eyes. “She didn’t suffer.”

“No, he hit her from behind, not in front. She never saw anything.” Her voice lilted up. I felt relieved also.

“They’re in heaven together,” I wondered aloud.

She nodded. The dogs stood still and quiet, hers and mine.

“I always feel like maybe God took her first because she couldn’t have borne to see her Dad die. They were so close.”  Her words were quiet and penetrating.

Somehow, it made sense. In some inexplainable way.

We parted. I thanked her and told her I might blog about her husband. Their’s was a gift to share with the world . A celebration of family. True love, expressed the way God intended, between a husband and wife.

 

 

Reunion Sites – Danger to Marriages?

Trish Goyer author of Generation Next Marriage, shared over the airwaves last week in a frank discussion, the day an email popped up on her computer at work and how it affected her marriage.

This is a time when email sites are devoted to hooking you up to people in your past–there are all kinds of reunion sites, the radio host stated.

Trish met her husband after she became a Christian and left a promiscuous lifestyle. "I was seventeen and pregnant on our first date." She knew her husband to be was special by the end of that date. They talked and talked and discussed God and their dreams. She knew she could have a real relationship with him and soon after they married and had children. 

Then one day I headed for work in my usual manner. Suddenly an email from the first person I'd been intimate with as a teenager popped up at work. "Seeing the email opened a flood of emotions. I emailed back which opened conversation. He had named his daughter after me. Two days later we talked. I felt guilty and emotional. I called my girl friends and told a few what was happening so I could get a prayer covering.

I sat down and told my husband, "I have an old boyfriend emailing me-my emotions are out of control; I need prayer. I have emotions and I don't want them there." 

 MY husband was surprised. We are very happy and have beautiful children. He prayed with me that our relationship would stay strong. Tears streamed down his face. I felt so bad and I loved him so much. The next day I emailed my friend and cut off all communication. It took awhile for my husband to find healing. the next few months into the next year were a growing time in our marriage.

Trish shared with the listening audience how she dealt with her emotions during that healing time.

One night I went to Jesus and pictured Him with me as I remembered and asked forgiveness for every person I had been with before I met my husband. "Jesus will you forgive me for this… Jesus will you forgive me when I turned to _______instead of to you for love."

"We need Him to dig into our hearts and take what needs to be healed…."

50 Years After the Rings

Today I had the privilege of attending a precious and rare occasion—a 50th wedding anniversary. The betrothal date, December 26th, 1958.

 

 

The celebrated couple Charles and Beth Self, met over fifty years ago in Berkeley at the First Presbyterian church. Delightfully, they recalled …the proposal.

 

“I wanted to propose by singing a song. The church pianist offered to accompany me –but I refused,” Charles eyes sparkled.  “I sang accapella on my knees in front of sixty – seventy people.”

 

 

“He sang , ‘Let me call you sweetheart,” Beth, the assiduous bride-of-his youth, smiled winsomely.

 

 

“The pianist said I should have taken him up on his offer,” he grinned as we both joined him.

 

 

"So, what do you attribute the success of your last fifty years?" I later asked each better-half out of earshot from each other.  Charles answered quickly seated on the couch with a view of endless green lawn from the living room with a country-view.

 

 

“The grace of God,” Charles quietly stated in a deliberate and serious tone. “The love of God brings you together and the grace of God keeps you together….”

 

 

Beth answered from the kitchen, where she and her daughter were busily packing the leftover baked dessert breads, cookies and finger foods from their celebration to take down to the homeless. ( Beth and Charles have helped many people over the decades; they also raised foster children and developmentally delayed young adults, besides their own two.)

 

 

“We kept our eyes on Jesus.” Beth stated solidly as she continued packing. “That is the answer. If you fix your eyes on Jesus, you don’t fuss with others. It doesn’t matter what others think or do…only Jesus. Then whatever problem comes along He gives grace and forgiveness. How can you be unforgiving when you’re always aware how much He has done for you already?”

 

 

The ins and outs of loving each other and forgiving each other are important ingredients to living together fifty Christmases. And always God showers grace on any couple, just like Beth and Charles, willing to open His marriage manual, the Bible, and learn why God came to earth 2000 Christmas’s ago…to demonstrate love in action to all people married and single.

 

 

Charles and Beth’s Favorite Verses,   I John 4:15-16 

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in Him and He in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.”

The Wedding Month and Seasoned Brides

Okay, so it is the time for June Brides. I have attended two weddings and one more to come. The rush is on. Four couples in one month, 7 over 50 first timers! It’s another tidal wave season, like it has been so many other times in my life when the waves have come in to the shores of singleness capturing a boatfull of eligibles and sweeping them away to marriage.

Yet in the June issue of The Week, reported a recent Gallup Poll revealed 70% of Americans now consider divorce to be morally acceptable, the highest number ever to hold this view. In 2001 only 59% of Americans considered divorce acceptable.

MOre and more people are quicker to divorce once the marriage bedrock seems to be crumbling. It is easier mentally and socially to head out before perceived damage is done now than ever before. Has inspection and intervention occurred? The termite man aside from God, may be marriage counselors or those who can mediate and stabilize their eroded confidence in each other and their vows of better or worse and begin rebuilding. I have seen too often, a partner leave to find him or herself, casting off their vows as if they never saw that movie they starred in.

So I celebrate the couple who just shot out an email an hour ago, “We made it to twenty and we’ll be out of town celebrating.” I replied “Yay and congratulations.” It is more and more an infrequent occurence. I woke up to the windy edges of a hurricane in Japan once. I remember standing under the the frame of a doorway wondering if the whole paper house would blow down.

Being a single who desires marriage and commitment, it is wonderful to rub shoulders with those who have born the hurricanes that attack every family and live through it to talk about. All those who mark any length of time said they couldn’t have survived without God and their vows. Simply put, simple truths were enough to keep them standing still. Loving God, loving eachother sacrificially.

So it was fun to attend a wedding yesterday and speak to a seasoned bride.

“You know the song “You’ve only Just Begun” that they play at weddings? It’s a really good song, very true. When we were married 22 years ago, we didn’t realize how much more we could love each other, how much deeper our love could grow by now. Even with all the trials and disappointments of life..it’s really rich- our love is strong.”