Author: Stronger Than Broken

The “D” Word

My husband had been married for a very brief time as a very young man. As short as the marriage was, it still hurt him that it ended in divorce. When he and I fell in love and married, we had an agreement never to use the “D” word. He knew he did not want a repeat of divorce and I could not imagine, as a 22 year old girl that I would ever be mad enough at Jimmy to threaten him with such a terrifying word. So we agreed.

Kylie-2.jpgWell, real life throws some real crap at your fan and there have been many times where one of us wanted to use it. In the 30 plus years we have been together, we broke our pledge and have used the word twice, always with that sick feeling in our gut that it was not what we truly wanted.

I enjoy a good Google search. So, I peeked at the statistics wondering why divorce used to be so rare, and is now so commonplace.  Prior to the 1930’s, less than 7% divorced. Part of that may have been that the laws of divorce were very strict. It was often hard to prove abuse, adultery or abandonment, which were the only reasons a divorce would be granted. But, in 1967 the laws changed to include “no-fault” divorces. By the 1970’s the divorce rate jumped up to 33% and culminated with 53% by 1980. Currently, it has gone down slightly and leveled off at about 50%.

Think about the phrase “no fault”. Really roll it around in your head for a few moments. Are you really ready to say there is no fault in your unhappiness? Why do we feel that things are different (more difficult) today than they were in the past? Did people 100 years ago have money problems? Did they argue? Did they have poor communication skills? Did they cheat on each other? Did they grow tired of one another? You and I both know that indeed they did. So why have we become a society where we just throw away a marriage like last years cell phone, and then take no responsibility or “fault”?

I challenge you today to look at any unhappiness you feel towards your mate and realize that they are not responsible for keeping you happy. You are in charge of how you feel, think and act. Take authority for how you are feeling and do not project it on your partner. Work on yourself first and then work toward a better alliance

If you are a law of attraction follower, don’t forget  that what you think about you bring about. If you are a Christian, you can remember that Malachi, Proverbs, Matthew and 1st Corinthians all talk about protecting marriage and hating divorce. If you are unsure where you fall in your spiritual journey, find a way or a place where you can recollect the joy you found in your original attachment to your spouse.  It won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it to co-create a loving bond where you can continue to grow and evolve together and not apart.

Busted!

Look at the base of these two trees. Very different trees interlocked at the base. It always reminds me of a married couple, different, yet growing together somehow.

Were you caught having an affair? Busted! Having been on the other side of that table I know how I reacted when it happened to me, but how the cheater reacts is what many people never delve into. Do they have feelings of remorse? Don’t those of us who have been cheated on want to understand why?

If you have wronged your partner, fess up! Be honest and tell no more lies. Determine if your real relationship is more important than the affair and get busy making things right. Put your big girl panties on or big boy pants on and get to work.

The most important decision you will both make is whether to work it out or go your separate ways. Both partners must have some desire to want to work towards a stronger marriage or else one of you is just kicking a dead horse.

The cheater must understand why he or she crossed the line. Did you two think of setting boundaries at the start of the marriage? You see, some partners have the opinion that “I don’t care where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home” so flirting, porn, internet contact etc… may be acceptable. In other marriages just looking at the opposite sex feels like cheating. In the Bible, the book of Matthew 5:28 talks about lusting for another is considered cheating.  So for some, having coffee or lunch alone with a co-worker of the opposite sex may feel inappropriate. It is all about boundaries you two should have set in the beginning. If you did not, now is as good of a time as any.

Now, look at how tall and lovely those two trees can grow. Together, side by side!

 If you want true transparency, integrity, and honesty with your spouse, begin today to break off the affair and show your newfound transparency and integrity. Start with a sincere apology. Begin to rebuild trust, even if that means sharing passwords on all of your social media sites.  I know of couples that share the same Facebook page and have nothing to hide from each other.

Remember that cheating not only ruins marriages but also sends a message to the future generations that cheating is ok or even expected. Many millennials are not even bothering to get married because they assume it may end in divorce anyway. Some see marriage as a contract and not a covenant. Big difference.

All couples should ask what kind of legacy they want to leave on this earth before satisfying a feeling, a connection or an urge with someone outside of the relationship.

Dare to be different. Boldly step into making things right and loving and honoring the commitment you made at the altar, or the courthouse. In an affair, feelings were hurt. Trust was broken. It won’t be easy, but where there is an ounce of love left, you can make it worth it.

My First Rant!

Oh boy! I usually like to be a beacon of light and positivity, but there were two separate occurrences recently that had me wondering what the heck are people thinking?

I took some children to a nearby farm that had a fantastic playground. It was a place where in the fall you go to buy pumpkins, kettle corn, fresh cider, donuts and then enjoy your goodies at the picnic tables while the kids run around the vast playground. This farm is a childs dream, with climbing structures, swings, a rock wall, an old tractor to pretend to drive and multiple slides.

I saw a young girl, maybe in the 8-11 age range sitting on the swing looking at her smartphone. Hmmm. An anomaly? But then I saw not one but two or three other children running at breakneck speed, laughing and having fun (as children should have) but also with their cell phones in their hands.

Why does an 8 to 12-year-old child need a cell phone to spend a half hour playing on swings and rock walls? How do you even climb with one hand? When they run and fall and break the $600. phone will mommy and daddy just buy them another?

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The second incidence happened a few days later when my husband and I were leaving a restaurant. We saw a mother with her two young (maybe 5-9 age range) children eating at a booth. Each child had a set of headphones on and a tablet with a movie playing. What?! How will this generation learn to communicate face to face? How will they know what it feels like to be unplugged? When will they learn table manners and etiquette? Most of my absolute favorite memories and stories I tell are taken from moments where the family had dinner together or went on a trip together. Having your children at a restaurant plugged into anything but you cannot be considered “together”.

I implore that parents take a look at what media is doing to your children. Take the media away during dinner, outdoor time and playtime. Learn what is really in your children’s hearts and minds. Connect with them in a way that no iPhone or gadget will ever do. These children are yours for such a short time. Teach them well and you will leave a legacy that you will not regret.

Age Old Question: The Chicken or the Egg?

I know you have heard the age-old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” I still argue that one with people just for fun. In marriage, I think about the question “Who gets most of my attention, the husband or the kids?”

I grappled with this for years. On the one hand, my husband came first, before all of the children were born. But on the other hand, the babies are so cute, innocent, needy and defenseless. Shouldn’t they get the best of my time and energy to become secure and independent adults, knowing they were loved? Or should the children see that I put God and my husband first so that they grow up strong in the faith and secure in knowing that their two parents love each other deeply?

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My husband and I love our children. They truly are a joy to us, but as each one was born, I found myself spending every waking moment thinking about them, nursing them and nurturing them. I worked extra hours at my job to afford more lessons, clubs, and toys for them and eventually I chose to homeschool them through 6th grade. They were my entire world and I made the foolish assumption that they were my husband’s world too.

I remember a woman from my church telling me a Biblical principle that my husband should still come before the children. It may have come from the passages in 1 Peter that talk about wives being submissive to husbands and husbands being considerate and respectful to their wives. Either way, I rationalized that the kids needed me more. I never imagined that by putting my husband on the back burner of our marriage that the relationship would begin to fizzle out burner by burner.

My sex drive was low, as I was so consumed by mommy duties. Our finances were off from all of their extra curricular activities. I could not justify spending money on date night when that money could be spent on new ballet shoes for our daughter or for skating lessons for our son. I could not figure out why my husband would want to spend his only night off from his job with just me and miss out on family time with the kids. (I am now flattered when he wants me all to himself)

At some point, I had even put the kid’s sleep before the sleep needs of my own husband. I breastfed each child for a long time by American standards and there always seemed to be a small person in between us at bedtime. My husband was a wreck at work from his poor nights’ sleep and the fights just led me to keep the peace by moving into the kid’s rooms at night until they were weaned.

Eventually, my husband and I fought all the time, wrote nasty notes to each other when we really didn’t want to speak face to face and the time we did spend together was at a swim meet, ballet recital, skating competition or other child related activity. I had the occasional girl time with my mommy friends and he had his guy time with, well, the guys…..or so I thought. The children grew but when we still had two of them living at home I found out that he had been having an affair with another woman for about 5 months.

What a wake-up call. We went to our pastor and eventually made our marriage better than it has ever been. That story is in the book Stronger Than Broken – One couple’s decision to move through an affair. Ah, but I digress. The lesson I learned was that although my children did need me, what they needed more was to see two happy parents.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg? We may never know. Whom shall I give my best to first, my husband or my kids? Kids are with us for 18 years. My husband and I will be together until death parts us.  I often wish I had put my husband first during those ugly years of fighting over so many things but there is no opportunity for a do-over.
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I know that our kids were always watching us and I pray that they never fall into dysfunctional relationships as they date and marry. I pray that they don’t remember the loud arguments as much as they remember the trips to the zoo and the amusement parks. I pray that they don’t remember the nasty notes on the kitchen counter as much as they remember the love notes we would also write from time to time. I pray that they don’t wonder why I slept in their rooms for years as much as they remember that we are a loving couple that sleeps together, prays together and looks forward to each passing day as a couple.

Love your God first, husband second and everyone else next. I can assure you that you have enough love inside of you. I know that everyone will have their love tank filled and no child will ever come up to you and say that you loved their daddy too much. Go out and set the example of what a functional marriage looks like and know that you are always #strongerwithlove.

LAUGHTER

As cliché as it sounds, the secret is to a lasting relationship is laughter. It is impossible to be angry when you are happy. What have you done lately to make your husband or wife laugh?

Each day, couples can make a habit of making eye contact, but that is only half of the equation. Here is my favorite way to make Jimmy laugh. If I see him sitting on the couch, I straddle him and look straight into his eyes. I may ask about his day or tell him about mine but most of the time he knows that when I am facing him head on I simply want to stare at him. Eyes are the window to the soul and you can tell a lot about what kind of day he has had and what he is thinking or feeling. So we stare and stare and stare to see who can go the longest without blinking. Usually one of us just erupts into laughter.

He is known for making silly comments during serious moments and I can pick out one heck of a comedy on Netflix. He can break into a crazy dance over slicing potatoes for dinner and I can remember not to take life too seriously.

Let me know what you do to make your soulmate laugh.0910171911

The Importance of Intimacy

Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

I looked up the definition of intimacy and it included everything from familiarity, closeness, rapport, and affection all the way to sexual intercourse. For the sake of this blog, let’s talk about sexual intimacy. I consider sex to be the ultimate union between a married man and woman. Many people argue about the importance of intimacy in a marriage and exactly where it belongs in the scheme of the relationship. Yes, there should be respect, friendship, laughter, responsibility, honesty, trust, communication and more, but I also expect those things from my friends. I want the relationship with my husband to include those characteristics too but definitely include some good physical loving as well.

God starts right out in the first book of the Bible referencing to the importance of intimacy. In Genesis 1:28 God blesses man and woman commanding them to be fruitful and increase in number. In 2:18 He says it is not good for man to be alone, so He makes a helpmeet or helpmate for him, and we all know that in 2:24 a man is to leave his parents, cleave to a wife and become one flesh. There must be a certain level of intimacy that comes with becoming one flesh and with being fruitful.

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Still, the questions bounce around in our heads: How often should we be intimate? What is acceptable or okay in the bedroom, in the eyes of God? Is there a list of what we are allowed to do to each other? What if one of us wants to make love and the other one doesn’t? What if what he wants to do makes me feel uncomfortable? Sadly, there is no list we can check off about what is acceptable in each relationship. The Bible gives us guidelines, yes, but a list, no. Think about how Philippians 2:3-4 says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” This would answer the question about doing something that feels uncomfortable to you. Your husband or wife should never ask you to do something that feels disagreeable to you. Make sure that you are open with your spouse about any past abuse or trauma that you may have had that may interfere with sexual intimacy. Often one partner has no idea why the other had a bad reaction or an aversion to something he or she thought was no big deal.

The Bible also talks about marriage in 1 Corinthians. Read from 7:1-11 and you will see that not only does a woman’s body belong to her husband, but his body belongs to her as well. Husbands should fulfill their duty to their wives just as the wife should fulfill her duty to her husband. This clears up the question about making love even when you are not in the mood. Sometimes you have to “take one for the team” and just show up for your spouse. I know there are times when you are tired, distracted, feel frumpy, or have a lot on your mind. These may be the times when you need good love making the most! Believe me, there have been many nights where I know my husband needed an intimate moment much more than I thought I did. I would oblige simply out of respect for my husband’s desire. Almost miraculously, along the course of the evening, I would end up enjoying myself much more than I had expected. Always be open to sharing yourself with your mate.

As your marriage evolves, remember that your lovemaking will too. Don’t expect you or your spouse to always want the same position, duration, or even frequency. As you learn new ways to pray together, raise children together, and adapt to the various situations life throws at you, you will also find that your intimacy may also change and evolve. That is part of the fun of being married. It is never the same day. When it does become a burden, it is not the time to give up, but merely a time to seek help and pray about a solution. Solidify your marriage in all ways and you will never regret the intimate moments.

Song of Songs 7:10 “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.”

The Talk Table-When Critical Things Need to Be Discussed

James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

During a stressful time in my marriage (raising young kids while taking care of aging parents with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) my husband and I had a series of less than ideal date nights. I knew date night was still important but I had so many logistical things to discuss with my husband in order to keep the family unit running on all pistons. When we were on a date I felt as if it was the only time no one else was requiring my attention. One day a lovely friend of mine heard my tales of woe about our horrible dates and she pointed out to me that my date nights sounded more like board meetings. I tried hard to self-correct and to keep date nights as a time for fun, recreation, relaxation, and reconnection.

However, I realized that in order to run a successful and Godly family, there had to be that occasional board meeting. The two problems I faced the most often were that when we talked at the couch, one of us would be distracted by the TV and when we talked at dinner, the subject matter (lack of finances, little arguments, scheduling the kids activities and such) could be a real downer at what should be a relaxing and enjoyable family time.

My brilliant plan? The talk table. What is a talk table? For us it is a small, wooden TV tray that can be put up and taken down to be stored away in a moment. When I drag out the TV tray and place 2 chairs opposite of each other, Jimmie knows it is time to talk. I chose this tiny table with a purpose. When you are facing each other at a tiny table, you are forced to have a face to face, heart to heart and soul to soul communication.

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As I am the talker in the family, (shocker, right?) I will usually lead with what is a concern for me. It may be something simple like wanting to go over the weekly schedule and see who is picking up which kid from which activity, or it could be deep like I was cleaning and I found an inappropriate magazine, or the property tax bill came and we were a bit short. No matter what the subject, the talk table is sacred for open communication and for finding solutions.

That being said, do not always expect the communication to be equal. Men and women are wired differently and often marriage counselors and therapists go out of their way to get the couples to communicate on a 50-50% basis. That will never happen. That’s ok. Women will tend to communicate more but never assume the man is not listening and taking it all in. Men hear more than we give them credit for, and most men really do want to make their wife happy.

When subjects are sensitive (like finances, health or sex) be tactful when sharing your feelings. Telling your husband that you don’t like a particular way he makes love to you or telling your wife that her weight gain has you concerned for her health are paramount to a healthy relationship, but blurted out in a callous way can cause more harm than good. Always check yourself to see if you sound judgemental or preachy. That simply will not go over well.

Do you pray before taking a test or giving a speech? Do you pray when your paycheck did not stretch far enough? I sure do. Consider praying before going to the talk table. It is just as important. A quick prayer may sound something like this: “Lord, give me the right words to discuss this sensitive issue with my man, with no anger or judgment. Let the words and the solutions we come up with be a blessing to our marriage.” If your mate is a believer too, hold hands and pray together before presenting your concerns. Always finish with a kiss and an understanding that marriages are worth the effort. Don’t forget to put the table away. Putting the table away is a physical symbol that we are done with “business” and can move onto playtime!

Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will all grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Baby Steps in Ministry in the Home

In an ideal world a marriage would consist of a saved husband and wife, happily going to church each Sunday and sharing a love of God by also ministering outside of the church. More common, however, is a couple with all sorts of baggage that they bring into the relationship and often only one of the two is a saved Christian. In my case, I was a very new Christian when I fell in love with my husband. I had not yet grown up in my salvation (1 Peter 2:2). I had not read enough of the Bible to understand how difficult it would be to be unequally yoked. Now, as a woman a bit older in my faith, I see several verses about not committing to an unbeliever. Check out 2 Corinthians 6:14, Amos 3:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Ephesians 5:7 or Isaiah 52:11.

As I truly do love my husband, I am relieved to read that Paul told the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:12-14) that if you are married to non-believer to stay with that person unless the non-believer wants out of the marriage. If you stay and can be a Godly example to them, you may have an opportunity to bring them to their faith. Now here is where it can get sticky. What if you are active in your church and outside of the church as your ministry pulls your time and attention away from your spouse? Your husband or wife may feel resentful and neglected.

Early in my faith and my marriage I had a serious conflict. As Christians, we are commanded to tithe (Malachi 3:10) but also commanded to be submissive to your husband so that if they do not believe the word, they can believe by your example (1 Peter 3:1-6). I asked my pastor “Do I tithe or listen to my husband who thinks that 10% is too much?” He told me to listen to my husband. I felt like I was cheating the church and robbing God. I felt like I would never get the big blessings that the book of Malachi talks about. I am thankful that I trusted my pastor and continued to do my fool headed best at being a good wife. Years later, I am tithing with my husband’s knowledge and no guilt.

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My husband never stepped foot in the church to see our firstborn child get Baptized. For our second child, he came to the church and sat in the very back row. For our third child, he sat closer to the front. Baby steps. Eventually, he went to a concert where a Christian artist performed. More baby steps. He also began to come to church on Christmas and Easter. Later he attended more regularly if I would ask him to. Baby steps. Now, 30 years into our marriage, he attends without being asked, seems to enjoy the sermon and even stays afterward for coffee in the fellowship hall. He volunteered once or twice to serve breakfast for a mission group I am involved in and just this past Christmas he began to sing instead of staring blankly at the church screen that shows the readings and the Hymn lyrics. Baby steps. Perhaps, one day, he will come to the Lord as I have. I must always remember that his salvation is in God’s time, not mine.

So I ask you, is your ministry taking time away from your husband or your wife? Remember that although God should be first in your heart, your spouse should be the most important person you minister to. Make sure it is in a way that he or she feels comfortable with. Your ministry to your mate should be subtle and loving, not badgering or placing blame or guilt. If you ever find yourself saying things like “Why are you watching that show?”, or “When was the last time you went to church with me?” then you will fail epically. I know. I was always pushing self-help and religious books on my husband, and playing the guilt card. It never worked. When I understood that he was curious but skeptical, I took the pressure not only off of him, but also off of myself. I began praying that I would continue to be a good example, but also that some Godly man would come into his life and show him that it is not nerdy or weird to love God. Several years ago we met a lovely couple on our camping vacation. Although we live in different states, we became friends. The two men get together often for weekend kayak trips and I cannot help but to wonder if the time we all met was about the time Jimmy started attending church more often. As the old saying goes……..God works in mysterious ways. Allow your ministry to shine at home as well as outside of the church.

Rivers Cannot Wash Away Love

Check out the passion in which King Solomon writes in the Bible. Song of Songs 8:6-7 Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.

Every time I read that I get goosebumps. The Song of Songs, also called Song of Solomon is filled with rich imagery of the love between a man and a woman. Some pastors also describe it as a relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. I find benefit from both theories, as I truly believe that God wanted us to have rich sex lives within our marriage as well as a rich relationship with Him.

Don’t you wish your handsome man would come home from work, sweep you into his arms and spout off beautiful poetry? Don’t you wish your wife would meet you at the door with a fresh smile and a soft kiss? Well, the real world often looks a bit more harried. You are late picking up your son from soccer practice and he sure lets you know it. Your wife is working an extra shift. Whose turn was it to get take out? Ugh! Burger King again? Who is going to fold that laundry? It has been sitting on top of the dryer for days! Sound familiar?

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Now, if you have been married for any length of time, I am sure you have already seen a facebook feed, or blog with suggestions on keeping the spark in the marriage. Perhaps you have mentored with another couple and you have heard things like keep date night sacred, go bowling, walk the dog together, and the list goes on. But often those lists have no relevance to your situation. Maybe having a specific date night set aside stresses you out because of the pay cut your job just made you take. You hate bowling and you don’t have a dog to walk.

Each couple will have different issues and different experiences that they can draw from to put a little spark back into their lives. For my husband and me, there were some silly things we enjoyed in the past and we resurrected them when things started getting old. We both enjoyed the movie Pleasantville with Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire. It is a fiction movie about getting stuck in a 1950’s TV show where everything is perfect….or is it? Anyway, one of the most significant lines in the movie is when William Macy comes home and announces “Honey, I’m home”. As simple and silly as this sounds, which ever one of us comes through the door first, we announce in that same voice “Honey, I’m home!” and that signals that the other spouse momentarily stops everything for a nice hug and kiss. It sets the tone for the rest of the evening, and the children see that we care enough to connect with love, even if only for a moment.

My favorite thing to do with my husband may seem absurd, but it really works. Now, as background, understand that he is serious, does not always enjoy eye contact, does not enjoy his job and often comes home exhausted. When he finally has a chance to sit and watch a show, I mute the commercials and straddle him and just stare into his eyes. We have a contest to see who can stare the longest before the other one just cracks up laughing. You see, eyes are the gateway to the soul. Matthew 6:22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. When I am looking straight at him, and smiling just because we are finally both finished with our crazy day, I know he can see that in that moment in time, the job he doesn’t like, the pile of bills on the desk and the laundry piled on top of the dryer just doesn’t matter.

The final nugget for keeping the marriage alive is to remember the difference between date night and a board meeting. When our children were little and always under our feet, we never had time to discuss issues like upcoming recitals, money problems, where the kids would be attending school and so on. I stupidly used our date night to go over all of the mundane things that sounded more like a board meeting than a date. I knew it was the only time I had Jimmy to myself, but now I know that we can pick a time like a Sunday evening, to go over our expectations for the week, and leave date night as a time to gaze into each other’s eyes, have a nice meal, see a band, go for a romantic walk, hold hands or any of the other things we enjoy doing.

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Think about how you would like to heal your mate and be healed by your mate. Give and give and give and I swear you will receive.