This weekend Jerry and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. We marked the day quietly, just the two of us. This has been a hard year; the days that followed our 21st wedding anniversary carry some painful markings. If you are not aware of that journey, you can read some of the background here and here. Though we believe we did the right thing by resigning from a ministry we loved, the outworking of those decisions went very differently than we anticipated.

Perhaps that is why God allowed us to spend our 21st anniversary at Graceland. Yes, that Graceland in Memphis. We are not Elvis fans, but we were visiting our niece, and when in Memphis one of the things you need to do is the Graceland tour. At the time, Jerry Gracelandlaughed at the romantic way we celebrated number 21, the outlandishly decorated  rooms, gold records filling the walls, a strip of stores loaded with Elvis souvenirs, and banana cream treats. Still I found it oddly fitting to celebrate our anniversary at Graceland. The name seems to be an apt description of a good marriage.

Just a few weeks before visiting Memphis, we took another trip. This one to a marriage retreat hosted by Winshape in Rome, GA. If you are ever given the opportunity to attend a Winshape Marriage Retreat don’t hesitate for a moment – say yes without delay. The session we attended focused on working through conflict in marriage. At first I was a bit disappointed with this theme as conflict is something we had learned to manage. But it was the topic of the weekend we were gifted to attend. Little did we know how God was preparing us for the days to come.

Trustwalk Winshape
Preparing for the trust walk – Jerry will lead me through an obstacle course.

Jerry and I agree that while this year has probably been the hardest of our years together, our marriage is far better, stronger, and actually more fun. We have healthier communication, we understand and appreciate each other in new ways. For this we are thankful.

As we begin this new year of marriage, it seems appropriate to reflect on what we have learned in the graceland of marriage this past year. Winshape taught us that “Conflict is the pathway to real intimacy. It guides us to a deeper knowing” (Todd & Beverly Sandel, Winshape Speakers).The conflicts we were experiencing outside of our marriage, impacted our relationship deeply and we learned to apply a liberal amount of grace. Here are some of the signposts of grace we discovered.

1) Extend grace to one another as we each process grief and loss very differently and on our own individual time table. There was a time when we couldn’t help each other. We just needed to give space for the other to be. Thankfully most times when one of us was down the other was on their way up, so we could share encouragement.

2) Extend grace in what we hear from one another and how we respond. We had to make a conscious decision to not allow one another’s words to immediately alienate or anger us. Sometimes we simply could not get the right words out. We need to think the best of our spouse while clarifying what we heard.

3) Extend grace to ourselves rather than beat ourselves up when we have one of those days when we just need to be . . . and not do. Or just needed to be sad or cry.

4) Accept the grace offered by the other, try not to talk them out of extending that because of how messed up we are.

5)  Accept the grace from our Lord, who by allowing us to wake up together each day and sustaining us with breath and heartbeats means He is not done with us yet and still has a good plan for us together.

Winshape was right, conflict has brought us into a deeper and sweeter relationship with each other, and with our God. I wonder what lies ahead in this new year?

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What about you?  How have you see grace lived out in your marriage?