Does Easter Matter on Monday?

Holy Week was last week. Easter was yesterday. Today life returns to normal. Or does it?

passion-3111247_1920If the reality of Easter means anything it means change. The One who conquered death rose to new life. By doing so he changed the course of history, and each of our lives.

Maybe the details of daily life have not changed (schedules, care routines, appointments, responsibilities, etc.). But how I live and experience those minutes and hours each day better be impacted by the resurrection, or it was in vain.

Yes, there are still going to be mornings I don’t feel like getting up first to prepare for Jerry to get up. There will still be days when I just don’t want to pick up one more thing that has been dropped. Times of having our plans changed at the last minute because his body unexpectedly changed course will still happen.

If the message of Holy Week, culminating in Easter, means anything then I will whine less when waking early to serve my husband. I will smile when there is one more thing pexels-photo-424517.jpegto lift off the floor. I will exude grace when helping Jerry adjust to his body’s request and while calling the friends with whom we had plans.

This weekend I read Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn. I was struck by the way Kara (who was living through chemotherapy and then hospice care while writing this book with her friend), talked about “Big Love” and the “hards.” She endeavored to leave her family and friends knowing that even through the hard and difficult times of life we can share big love and make a difference. She knew she could only do that because of Christ in her.

share-2482016_1920Does your faith make a difference in your daily life? If it does would you share an example so we can all be encouraged? If you are not sure your faith does make a difference, don’t despair. We all hit those low points sometime. That’s the beauty of grace, you can start again right now. I’d love to hear your comments too – we want to keep it real here at Marriage Mondays!

 

 

Twenty Plus Years in Graceland

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?

 

Postcards from the Journey

Six months ago Jerry and I felt a little like Abraham as we left a familiar comfortable land and began a journey toward a land we knew not of.  We did not know where we were headed, but we knew Who had called us out and promised to lead us.  Having been a follower of Jesus for more than 40 years, this level of faith and trust was unfamiliar to me, instilling both excitement and fear!

If you have not heard, we have both accepted positions with seeJesus in the Bethesda division.  Bethesda takes the excellent books, trainings and seminars that seeJesus has created and modifies them to disciple people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  I serve as administrator, assisting with development, marketing, editing, and training.

auroras-1203289_1280I am filled with gratitude and joy to enter this new land and begin to set up camp.  But, have we “arrived”?  I sure hope not.  Not because I am not delighted to be part of seeJesus, but because as distressing, challenging and painfully hard the journey has been to date it has been equally refreshing, clarifying, and amazing.

I never want to get so comfortable and set in serving Jesus that I miss trusting Him.  And I don’t want to lose sight of the lessons I’ve gathered along the way.

Take a look through some of the postcards I’ve gathered on this journey:

  • People – As tempting as it was to isolate, the truth is we needed people who would journey with us and point us to hope.  Those who just stopped by to hug or cry with us met such a deep need.  It is amazing how many people have walked a similar journey;  the stories others shared reminded us that our heartbreak, while painful. was not unique.   God continues in the redemption business.  As He had done with them He would do with us.hands-791371_1280
  • Intentional Accountability -Jerry and I knew we would each process this journey in different ways and at different times.  While we needed to keep our communication open I needed others with whom I could trust and bare my soul.  I chose eight ladies and asked them to join me in my journey as my “Soul Care Sisters”  They came from different backgrounds, churches, ages and places in my life.  Each one loves me, committed to pray for me and hold me accountable in a variety of ways.  They were not afraid to ask the hard questions.  I knew they had my back.
  • Intentional Fellowship – Along this journey we were bound to meet new people and engage in life together, but that did not mean we wanted to let go of the people who have meant so much to us from the last chapter of our lives.  We instituted “Third Sunday”,  a time when we opened our home to friends to drop in. Some came to chat, with others we colored, or played games.  There are always snacks to share.  Continuing precious relationships in new ways has been a balm for our souls.
  • God’s got this – in fact He always has.  Theologically I knew that and could expound on that truth.  Seeing others who have survived and thrived through change was an encouragement.  Living it out in my own life was a different story.  But God has met our needs through money He had us save, through friends who made work available to us, who shared gifts and food with us,  and those who gave us honest and necessary feedback.  Times I fretted did nothing to move life forward.  Times I learned to turn that fretting to trust in God took me deeper into learning His heart for me.
  • Embracing new experiences -Had we not obeyed God’s prompt to leave, we may have lived status quo for some time.  Exploring new opportunities has led to a deeper passion for writing, enhanced skills and amazing connections with writers across the country.  Through this season of change we have enjoyed meeting dozens of people from all walk of life through our Airbnb experience.  Beyond that Jerry ad I are exploring ideas we had only dreamed about before, and taking steps to make them real.
  • Life goes on. This transition much like other kinds of passing, includes grief.  Each time a memory marker arrives we’ll grieve, and sometimes wish for what was (because it was so very precious).    Yet we are developing new traditions and experiences that someday we may be called to leave as well.  Knowing pain and sorrow may be part of the future does not stop us from investing now.  Seasons change, life situations change, The way we handle the impact of that grief will change, because we too are being changed,

 

 

 

 

And the Seasons, They go Round and Round . . . (thanks Joni Mitchell)

This new season in our lives came round when life in the super fast lane suddenly and unexpectedly experienced the brakes being applied (don’t fear, we are safe I am speaking metaphorically).  As one might imagine this sudden interuption of momentum resulted inspeedometer  a great deal of change.  It has been interesting at twenty plus years of marriage to see the different ways Jerry and I respond to this experience.

Almost immediately I welcomed this “sabbatical” (of sorts) to slow down, allow my brain, body and soul to rest and replenish.  Jerry on the other hand found the slow pace unsettling and dove into tackling the enormous amount of paperwork that comes with a vocational change.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am for his leadership in this area.  My eyes glaze over with this kind of stuff, and he just plows through it.

Then a funny thing happened.  After about a week to ten days, we switched roles without realizing.  Jerry began to see the value of some down time, and I became busy with meetings, helping a friend post surgery, spending time with some of those I love, and volunteering at one of my favorite ministries.  All of a sudden I felt like I was nearly at full speed again, and wondered how I ever managed to work full time and have a life.

Now that we are two and a half weeks into our journey of transition what am I learning?

  1. Busyness is insidious.  It really has little to do with job status or hours and all to do with making right decisions.  That is knowing what to say yes to and standing firm on the things we say no to.  It doesn’t take long after stepping out of the rush to see the value of slowing down; but it also doesn’t take much to speed back up with barely a thought.  I must guard my time.
  2. We each have to process transition in our own way with our Lord. But as a married couple we also have to make time to talk, pray, worship, laugh and play together and let grace rule when one’s needs seems to be out of sync with the other’s.
  3. Proverbs is right!  There is safety in wise counsel.  “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.”  Proverbs 15:22 The Message.  In just these first few weeks we have sought counsel from our pastors, business associates, close friends who know us well, friends who have traveled a similar path and a financial planner.  We need the objectivity of others and their wisdom when our “normal” becomes abnormal.
  4. I have time.  I don’t have to know today (or even this year – good thing since we are already half way through December – ha!) what my next steps are.  I need to be obedient to the call and leading of our Lord, use this time to dream, pursue interests and explore the range of opportunities.
  5. God is the supplier of my every moment and my every need.  In just a very short amount of time needs we didn’t even know we had have been provided. Here is one example.  Friday a friend and I volunteered to wrap gifts at an urban toy store.  Afterwards we planned to stop for lunch.  As our shift was ending one of the urban church partners said he wanted to bless us all (7 volunteers) with lunch.  A short time later he returned with boxes of pizza and some drinks.  Not only was it incredibly kind of him, but it spoke volumes to me on two levels.  First, here was a man who we thought we were serving by helping him and his parishioners to have Christmas gifts.  He turned the blessing around and served us.  It is very humbling to be on the receiving end.  The second blessing came to me in realizing that here, once again, God was supplying my need.  Yes, I had budgeted for the cost of going out to lunch with my friend, but God provided for us to have lunch at no cost to us but still enjoy the fellowship together.

So how do I sum up these first few weeks of transition?  Honestly, with the words shared at the last staff Leadership Conference we attended.  We were encouraged to live “Adventurously Expectant.”  That is a call I want to live.