First Date

30 years ago today, my husband and I had our first date. He drove us in his family car—a yellow Duster. He had been driving for all of 6 weeks. We had dinner at Danver’s and went to see The Karate Kid, Part 2.

Bryan’s family had moved to Memphis two years prior when his dad became pastor at our church. I remember when his dad was candidating for that position, when I heard his last name, in all my young wisdom, I thought, “I hope he doesn’t come. That name is too hard to say!”

1185859_10151652732237862_1255471060_nThis picture is the first time I ever remember meeting them after their family’s arrival from Texas (note the cool Cowboys hat!). This was driving home from the football state championship game at Vanderbilt stadium where our school lost in double overtime. Bryan and his brother became good friends with my best friend’s brother, so we all spent a lot of time together at my friend’s house, in church youth group activities, and at school.

TFullSizeRender-3his next picture was taken two years later, not on our first date, but about 2 months later at some church or school event. Though we’d have a couple of short breakups during our years of dating (which I think is typical of long relationships), I don’t think we ever envisioned ourselves not together.

We would marry almost 7 years later. Life has been an adventure through Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Illinois, but God gave me the best one to travel through life with, and I give Him praise. God has been good. I take a few moments to remember and thank Him for this journey.

Thoughts on Marriage

My thoughts this morning are about Christian marriage, those who are Christians and married, seeking to live out God’s will for their marriage and home. If you are a Christian and married or know someone who is, you likely know it can be hard. Even when two people are seeking the Lord, there are still the challenges of miscommunication, unmet expectations, and a host of other hurts that come to us in our fallen world, courtesy of our flesh, the world, and the devil.

I’m aware of some situations that seem hopeless (this from the human point of view). This is not going to improve, they think, so they tough it out, lead separate lives, or even part ways. Is there any hope?

Can we acknowledge that for most, marriage is work and requires that we invest in it? We can’t hope for those initial “feelings” of love to carry us through. Though we want something to be easy and not require much from us, isn’t it often (always?) the hard work that yields the best fruit. Our marriages take commitment in ways the world doesn’t understand.

I liken it to when we are physically sick. If we get pneumonia or some kind of bacterial infection, we see a doctor and get an antibiotic. If we become dehydrated from a violent stomach virus, we see a doctor and get an IV of fluids. If we fall and break a bone, we see a doctor and have it set. We go take care of these obvious physical ailments.

But when it’s a marriage (or any number of other spiritual things), when it’s something that can be internalized or ignored, something that’s easier to let it go than to work hard, something we think we should just accept that it is what it is and not work to cultivate it, we leave a gaping wound and walk around sick inside without getting the help and attention to the ailment that is so desperately needed. We settle for status quo.

Don’t you want to rise up against that? If I’m sick, I go to a doctor. If my marriage is ailing, why would I ignore it and let days and weeks and years pass?

It’s true – we can’t control the other person, but there are some things we can do. Those are the things I’ve been looking for in Scripture as I’ve been thinking about this as I pray for a number of marriages that I know are in need of some resurrection power.

First, go to the Scriptures. Look up the passages on marriage. See what God asks us to do as husbands and wives. Write that down. I guarantee you’ll walk away with some new realization and thoughts. God’s Word is so instructive and true. This morning I read through I Peter 3:1-6, Eph. 5:22-33, Col. 3:18-19 to see what my role is.

Second, recognize that our obedience to God, our right actions in our marriages, are not BECAUSE or IF our spouses are so worthy and deserving of this, but are actually IN SPITE OF our spouses and regardless of their behavior. Our obedience comes because we trust God and believe what He says, and we fear Him. Read that I Peter 3 passage. Wives play a role such that their unbelieving husbands might be won without a word by their conduct. They imitate Jesus who is described at the end of Chapter 2. Their quiet and gentle spirit is precious in God’s sight and demonstrates that they trust in Him, not their spouses.

Husbands are also told how to live with and honor their wives — not because their wives are acting in such a way that deserves it — but so that their prayers might not be hindered. Our actions shouldn’t be dependent on what our spouses are doing; rather, they should be regardless of what they do, in obedience to God and trusting what He says.

Third, recognize who the true enemy is. There is an enemy, but it’s not your spouse. Your spouse may be in sin and may be struggling, but the spouse is not the real enemy. The enemy is the devil. Our flesh and sin may also be involved, likely so. But the one we need to be delivered from is not our spouse, but the schemes of the evil one.

Read Exodus 14, particularly verses 13-14 – “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace [be quiet].”

Look who is doing the active work. The LORD will fight, the LORD will accomplish it. We should not fear, but should stand still and hold our peace. At the same time, remember Ephesians 6:10-18 so that you may be strong in the Lord and his mighty power and stand firm.

Fourth, pray. Have we even begun to see what God will accomplish when we cry out to Him, seek Him, ask Him, believe Him. Study verses on prayer and what we can expect. What are God’s promises to us in His Word?

You get the idea – these truths came to me this morning while reading God’s Word and praying for many friends’ marriages and my own. I know there are many other practical things we can do, such as reading good books on marriage, perhaps together with our spouse (Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller, What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp all come to mind); talking to your spouse to come up with some goals for strengthening your marriage; praying together as a couple; and on the list goes.

Do we believe God’s Word is true? Does He indeed have for us the path of blessing and joy in this and in every circumstance? Let’s try to honor Him, believe Him, and see.

I must note here at the end: these are merely reflections as I’ve been reading this morning. I am not a counselor, a psychologist, or a theologian. I am writing about the general challenges we face in marriages, not about the extreme situations that someone may find themselves in, such as physical abuse. If that is the case, seek safety and get help, of course. Some of these principles may apply to all situations (pray, trust in God, etc.), but do take care to get professional or other help in such an extreme case. These are thoughts for the everyday challenges, but also those things that seem impossible. Let’s ask God and see what He might do.

Sabbatical

Easter Sunday

It’s been an interesting semester for us. My husband took his first sabbatical since arriving at Moody ten years ago. Though eligible after seven years, he was in the middle of writing fiction and wanted to use a sabbatical for academic work. So having completed the trilogy, now was the time.

He always dreamed of doing sabbatical work somewhere overseas where we could take the kids out of school and travel Europe while he wrote and worked. The reality, though, of my working — and particularly beginning a new job last year — really precluded any trip like that. Somehow, writing from home while regular life routines go on didn’t seem as glamorous!

When we moved here from Virginia in 2002, we went from having my husband around all the time (because we lived near campus and he could come and go quite easily) to him being gone early in the day and coming home later in the evening to make the hour long commute to Moody. At that time, I wondered how in the world we would make it with him being gone so far and for such long days. My children were four and two years old, and we had always pictured him working at a campus that would be nearby our home where we could all be around and experience his world. But such is not the case when you work in the big city and live in the suburbs. Thankfully, his family was around, and we could all be available for one another when we needed support. And we gradually became used to this new normal and the times that he would then be around.

Now, ten years later, with sabbatical beginning, I wondered how in the world we would adjust to having him around more — such as in the middle of our morning routine of getting ready and out the door for school and work! As it turns out, we have enjoyed it a lot. He has been able to accomplish a lot of writing and get one piece published in an academic journal JETS, while working on his next academic book which will include translations he has been working on. But it’s also provided time for him to do more drop off and pick up at school and just be around with us more.

One week while I was preparing for a talk at church, he made dinner 2 or 3 nights! Not just hot dogs, but he went to Southern Living and found out how to make chicken lettuce wraps like you get at PF Changs! They were delicious, and I was impressed!

His sabbatical, though, has been filled with the unexpected as well. Who knew he would lose his close friend in February and we would travel to his funeral? And this is the time God provided for my mom to move to Wheaton, so he has gladly worked to help make that happen — she arrived Tuesday — and will complete the full move when her house sells.

The thing I’ve seen in him is that though sabbbatical wasn’t what he would have dreamed of — hanging out in our home writing while helping me, grieving the loss of a close friend, and moving a mother-in-law to town (which we have all loved, by the way!), he has done so with joy, with gladness, without complaint. My husband is a very driven and active person who can accomplish a lot in a little time because he manages his time well, so to slow down and participate more fully in our home has been a blessing for us, even if it’s been challenging for him — though he’d never say it was!

He said the other day, “Sabbatical is over, I think,” as he prepares to be involved in Moody’s graduation Saturday, start teaching summer school, and travel on his annual Europe trip leading students on tours. It will be good for him to get back in the swing of his routine, but at the end of it, we’re grateful and glad he had the break and the time to be in ours a little more!

Happy Anniversary

It’s hard to believe, but 17 years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart. Our first date was August 10, 1986. This means that we’ve really been dating or married for the last almost 24 years! That is definitely over half my life.

I remember this time in the spring and summer of 1993. We were married and moved to Dallas where my husband began seminary at Dallas Theological. His brother and his wife were also married that summer and moved off to Chicago, then Boston. His parents also moved that summer to take a position at a Christian college. His sister transferred colleges to attend the one where her parents were going. My husband’s family all scattered to different places, while my family remained in Memphis. It was a fun time for us to venture out on our own.

After 9 years, we finished my husband’s Th.M. (in Dallas) and Ph.D. (in Virginia) and ended up in Chicagoland where his whole family ultimately ended up, as well. We had all come full circle, just to a different location.

How fun, then, it is to be celebrating 17 years of marriage, while also today celebrating at a brunch the 17 years that my mother-in-law has served at this college. I reflect on the last 17 years with a heart of thankfulness to God for His leading in our lives, for His faithful provision, for His love and compassion, for His presence.

I am thankful for these many years together with my husband through so many things. We’ve already known the “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” seasons, and we’ve found God faithful in them all! God ultimately gets the praise and glory for calling us to Himself, then bringing us to one another, building a marriage and a family, and leading us in His ways.

The adventures continue, with new things happening even now, and I am thankful to share life with someone who loves God so much, who loves his family, who serves the students he teaches and the church we attend, who teaches and writes and lives with the glory of God in mind, and who does all things with great passion, hard work and discipline.

Now, if we had only had digital cameras back then, I could throw in a wedding picture! 🙂 We have changed a lot! This is the best I can do (I’m sure he’ll love this! Ha!):

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!

Praising Him with Psalms and Songs

I just had an interesting follow up to a blog entry I wrote earlier. I had written about my friend praying a psalm for my husband a year or two ago, then him waking up in the night a couple of weeks after that feeling led to that psalm.

My daughter writes constantly (she is 8). I often walk over and find a poem or story or card she has put together all by herself. The other day, I found her, and she had just made a card for me and one for my husband. There was a verse on both of them. She apparently had decided to go through the Bible and randomly choose a verse for each of us. She chose a verse in Malachi for me. For my husband, she chose the first verse of that very same psalm! Out of all the verses in the Bible, that is the one she chose. I have to say, if I were my husband, I’d be giving that psalm some pretty close attention!

On another note, I started the Beth Moore Stepping Up Bible study on the Psalms of Ascent last week with some friends from work. The whole video this week was about song in Scripture and how that speaks to our heart. I’d never seen this in Scripture that much (that song accompanied creation, that God rejoices over you with singing, that Jesus will sing praises in the presence of the Father, etc.). It is its own language, and things can be expressed in song in ways that words cannot.

I find that to be so true. Praising God in song lifts our minds to higher places and even can change a bad mood to good or wrong thinking to right. I want to practice that this week and see again what God can do through praising Him and choosing to think on things above.