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?

 

Lane Lines of Grace

I am not a good swimmer, but I LOVE swimming, especially outside.  Somehow the combination of the water and the sun doesn’t just motivate me to exercise, but it provides a form of therapy for me.

I start my laps by doing a variety of strokes (I like to call them “freestyle” but they are not in competitive swimmers world – they are my freestyle) that have me either on front or side.  My “reward” at the end of my laps is to wrap up with back stroke for several laps.

I have no problem staying within the lane lines when I swim forward or on my side.  When doing back strokes, especially if the sun is directly overheard, I tend to angle quite a bit and then self correct when I bump into the lane lines.

 

poolWhen I do my laps I choose a lane and I stay within the confines of that boundary.  Even when I can’t see clearly where I am going I have some flexibility and freedom.  When I bump into a lane line I have a choice – to correct my course to stay in the safety of the lane that is mine or to ignore the lane line and say it doesn’t matter and cross over/under the lane line which would likely lead me to impact (and not in a good way) my fellow swimmers.

I am grateful for those lane lines.  Not only do they help me with swimming, but they give me a picture of God’s grace.  It is not exact, and certainly not a theological treatise.

I think of the water in the pool as God’s grace.  Once I enter the pool I am free to move around anyplace within the pool.  When I am in Christ I have a great deal of freedom to live within the vastness of God’s grace.

As I get more serious about what I am doing in the pool I choose a lane.  By choosing that lane I am agreeing to stay within the confines of that lane.  As I become more mature in my walk with Christ and understand more of His plan for me I submit myself to the lane He designed for me.  It may look similar to the lane my friend is in, but it is different. I still have a significant amount of freedom/movement within my lane, but there are boundaries.  I can choose to override those boundaries, but my path is much more enjoyable for me and those around when I move within the freedom of my lane in God’s grace!

 

 

Why Did You Run After Me?

It’s been nearly a year now since we reconnected with B, the daughter of our heart.  If you don’t recall the story you can read part of it here.  When we met face to face last November we also got to meet B’s roommate A who quickly endeared herself to us as the second daughter of our heart.  When I initially wrote about reconnecting Jerry and I didn’t know where things would go.  Now that it’s been a year I am a little more willing to write about this amazing and somewhat sacred journey.

We spent the afternoon with “our girls” again this past weekend.  Every time we get together, or talk, or Facebook we are blessed, humbled and so very grateful.  Each hug and every “I love you” resonate of God’s goodness.

Today we pulled out the scrap book of Jerry’s and my dating/engagement and then looked at our wedding album as well.  What a hoot that was to see things through their eyes, and for them to learn more of our “back story.”

Feet of an athlete running on a deserted road - Training for fitAs I think back over the last year there are a number of snapshots like today that fill my mind.  One of my favorites was the time B was reflecting over some of her experiences growing up.  She said, “I never got why you or other foster parents came after me when I ran away.  Didn’t you know I would come back? I had no place else to go.”

My reply to her was three fold:  1)  We didn’t know you would come back.  2)  The system frowns on foster or respite providers who say, “the child ran away and I have no idea where they are;” they expect us to look!  3)  Most importantly, we ran (or walked quickly huffing and puffing!) after you because we loved you, wanted you safe, and wanted you to see how valuable you are.  God has run after us so may times when we tried to run from Him.  He wants you to know that He loves you so much that He would run after you and give His life for you (and me and each of us).

Oh how I have needed this reminder so many times in my life.  So very grateful that God does not let me go it alone when I try to run.  And just as grateful that He doesn’t let go in the good times as well.

Oh no, You never let go. (Click to hear Matt Redman’s song)