Finding the way out – weary and alone

Weariness.

Weariness is an exceptional liar. Whispering things such as, “You are alone.” “Everyone else’s marriage is going great. We are the only one’s with this struggle.” “There is no hope, stop trying.  You may as well get comfortable with misery.”

Many marriages wear this as a garment. Though it may be uncomfortable and doesn’t fit properly, it remains. No one intentionally keeps company with weariness but when it settles in like a wet blanket, shedding it is not easy and can rarely be done without help. If you find yourself in a weary place right now consider the following thoughts.

  • Give voice to your vulnerabilities – Admit that you feel isolated and alone. Admit that you are facing difficult circumstances and that you can’t see your way through. Speaking up about what you are experiencing gives you a voice and finding your voice gives you power over the weariness. Rather than the voice of weariness your own voice will begin to emerge.
  • Seek out counsel and wisdom – As you begin to find your voice find a counselor, therapist, mentor or group in which you can share and listen to other voices. Recognition is one step out of weariness but health and wholeness is only possible when the word and thought culture in your mind, heart and marriage become more positive. Your words may accurately relate where you are but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are completely true. Finding people who desire to guide you towards truth and wisdom will help you sort through the lies and truths you are believing and that will benefit your life.
  • Receive help graciously – Being willing to receive help often takes more courage and grace than offering to help others. Allow other people to love you by listening to you. Be encouraged by listening to counsel and support offered. Taking steps towards health does not make you inadequate, it proves your desire to live in freedom.

Taking off the garment of weariness will lead to health and freedom in your individual life and in your marriage. Freedom is possible and there are people willing to walk with you along the way.

Yearning For Grace

Want a peak into my day job?

Here it is: Yearing

Now you try describing the vocab word “yearning” to a classroom full of 4th graders. As a substitute teacher that’s exactly what was asked of me (Megan) recently. Honestly, yearning isn’t hard for adults to understand but I wasn’t quite sure how to explain it to a group of 9 & 10 year old’s. The best synonyms I could come up with were longing and desire, not likely the most relevant experience to most of these kids.

Marriage however is filled with yearning. We long for a closer relationship with our spouse, for more time together. We desire a fulfilling and satisfying sex life. We yearn for a healthy, happy and whole marriage. We yearn for love and grace to define and permeate our marriage.

This fall Justin and I spent nine weeks leading a group of couples through Tim Kimmel’s book, Grace Filled Marriage. We had many great discussions, “ah-ha” moments and left knowing some practical things we could actually apply to our marriages. If you are in a place where you find yourself yearning for grace in your marriage I would recommend checking out that book. For today though, here are a few thoughts to consider about grace and marriage.

1.Recognize your own need for grace.

The power of grace comes through recognizing your absolute need for the good news of Jesus Christ and the grace He so freely offers to all who are willing to receive. So much of our lives is spent in selfishness and self-centeredness. Grace provides power to see that it’s not about us at all. To have grace permeate our marriages means recognizing there is not a day that goes by when we are not in need of grace, God’s unmerited favor by which He shows us kindness and mercy.

2. Extend grace out of what you have received from God, not what you want the other person to give.

We all long to receive grace but rarely want to extend grace without believing the other person “deserves” it. That’s the exact opposite of what true grace is. Grace does not consider only oneself but rather considers the needs and desires of the other. Consider offer grace in your tone of voice and the way you touch your spouse. Practice offering gracious acts of service and general kindness. Exchange an attitude of seeking grace into an attitude of generously giving grace and see the changes that can result.

3. Apply grace liberally and see God transform your marriage.

Tim Kimmel says this:

Grace is the equilibrium we apply to all the conditions and challenges that allow our marital love to improve with age. Grace is the plus sign to counter all negatives inherent in partnership. Grace is the vintage agent to covenant love that otherwise becomes flat. Grace is the deal maker in a “till death do us part” commitment.”

Great marriages are built on people who willingly and continually desire the best for their spouse. This doesn’t happen out of sheer commitment but rather it is based on a relationship with Christ, the One from whom all grace originates. Satisfy that yearning you have for grace by turning to Christ first, then extending the grace you have received to your spouse.

Finding Peace

Peace.

Such a simple concept.

Peace.

Depending on how you look at it, it involves rest, well-being and contentment.

Peace.

Far too many look for it in all the wrong places.

“Maybe when I get married, then I’ll experience peace.”

     “Maybe when I have children, then I’ll experience peace.”

          “Maybe if I have a nicer car, or a bigger house, then I’ll experience peace.”

               “Maybe if I experience sex more often, then I’ll experience peace.”

But the experience never comes.  They’re off to the next thing.  And the next.  And the next.  And then one day when it seems that true peace finally comes upon them, it disappears like a whisper.  Here one day.  Gone then next.

In a marriage, experiencing peace is even more challenging.  Not one, but two individuals are seeking peace at the same time.

Personality conflicts.  Financial difficulties.  Parenting styles.  Hobbies and interests.  The peace they thought would one day comes continues to elude them.

This subject of peace and contentment often comes up in pre-marriage counseling sessions I hold.  How can you know that your marriage is going to be strong in all seasons?  How can you know it’s going to survive no matter what?  How can you know you’re going to live and experience true peace when everyone else seems to be experiencing hell?

Answer: The Marriage Triangle

It’s a simple illustration, really.  Almost too simple.  But every time I walk through this illustration with a couple experiencing difficulties I can tell whether they’re implementing the marriage triangle or not.  Here’s what it looks like:

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The premise is simple.  The more the husband and wife grow closer to God, the closer they draw to one another.  Not only that, but the closer they draw to God, the more they experience contentment in His grace.  The more they experience contentment, the less likely they are to look for contentment somewhere else.  The more they don’t seek contentment elsewhere, the more they experience true peace themselves.  And in their marriage.  And with others.

Maybe you don’t believe in God.

Maybe you think this illustration is ridiculous.

Maybe it gives you something to think about.

Maybe you know you’re not experiencing peace yourself, or in your marriage.

Maybe there’s something to this whole God thing after all.

Maybe you should stop what you’re doing and read the Gospel of Mark.

In one sitting.

For real.

Maybe it’ll bring you peace.

Maybe it won’t.

Maybe it’ll provide you some answers.

Maybe it’ll give you more questions than answers.

Maybe you’ll keep seeking answers to those questions.

Maybe you’ll find peace.

Real peace.

Maybe your marriage will find it, too.

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To discuss with your spouse:

  1. Is there any area of our lives / marriage we’re not currently experiencing peace?
  2. What are 3 things we can do this week to experience God’s grace and love and show it to one another?
  3. Commit to read the Gospel of Mark in one sitting.  Then discuss this subject of peace.  What is it?  What isn’t it?  And what can we do to help others experience it, too?

Making Peace with Your Body

During a time of year when people are making weight loss and fitness goals, I (Megan) thought it might be important to discuss how to make peace with your body.

My story includes a fair share of issues with weight management and fitness failures, but over time I have really made peace with my body. Not because I have “arrived” at some perfect state but because I am choosing to live well in the midst of imperfection.  Having had an eating disorder through most of my childhood and it rearing it’s ugly head again just a few short years ago, this is an area where I must be extremely diligent in what I allow myself to think on. So please understand, I won’t use the words ‘simple’ or ‘easy’ in this post.  Making peace with your body, as many of you already know, is not a simple process.  There is no magic wand to wave that makes us fall in love with the way we look.  However, I do know from personal experience that it is possible to feel comfortable in your own skin. Here are some suggestions to help you on the journey:

1.  Recognize the lies media and pop culture are selling.  When you know someone is lying to you what do you do?  You don’t trust them!  You are cautious of their opinions or disregard them all together.  This is an important first step to making peace with your body; call the images you see everyday in magazines, TV commercials what they are, lies.  Airbrushed beauty is not real and if we continue to hold ourselves to that standard, we will never measure up. If you really want to make peace with your body, take some time to figure out what lies you are believing and then silence them.

2.  Stop negative self talk. I already mentioned this wasn’t going to be easy didn’t I?! Once you recognize the lies you are believing the next step is to silence another altogether negative voice, your own. The “Fat, Dumb & Ugly” soundtrack isn’t doing you any good. In fact, it has never done you, your friends or anyone any good. Ever.  So ditch it. Strive to put an end to negative self talk and adopt the more healthy habit of reflective evaluation. Rather than condemning or judging your own perceived failures, you should seek to understand what is at the base of your emotional reactions to the way you look or feel about yourself. If you discover your feelings stem from shaming words spoken to you as a child, seek help or counsel on how to overcome that. If you find depression, perfectionism, people pleasing or a number of other motivations at the root, open up and become vulnerable with a person or group you can trust.  Finding the peace and healing you desire in this area will require work. It may be slow and it may be painful at times but it is worth it to live at peace.

3.  Lean into the people in your life who find you beautiful.  For me the greatest advocate I go to for affirmation of my beauty is my husband.  I know he finds me attractive and I don’t doubt my beauty in his eyes.  I know that for some of you though, your husband is not your advocate.  In fact he may be part of the problem as to why you don’t recognize your own beauty.  In these instances I encourage you to believe the voices of those people in your life who will draw out and call on your beauty as they see it.  If you don’t have anyone who does this in your life, pray that God would bring an encourager into your life.  We all need them and it is helpful for the people we are living life with to be a positive voice in our own journey.

4.  Learn what God says about you.  On this journey called life we are all trying to figure out who we are and why we are here.  These questions cannot be answered without the help of the very One who created us.  If you want to make peace with your body, with relationships or with God; you must know who God is and what He has done for you through His Son Jesus Christ.  Your identity must rest completely in that knowledge.  Then and only then will you be able to experience peace. He loves you for who you are right now. Don’t miss out on experiencing that love.

On Helplessness

“I never thought I would be so helpless.” came the words of a very dear loved one.  It’s true. It sucks to feel helpless.  To be in a situation physically or emotionally in which you are powerless to change or feel incapable of moving forward. The helplessness and hopelessness can be so pervasive that every aspect of a persons life may be affected.

Maybe you are there today. Maybe your marriage, a close friendship or family relationship is broken and all seems lost. It could be that you are facing a debilitating physical challenge that seems impossible to face. Loneliness, depression, fear, abuse, abandonment….all of these emotions and the reality that comes with them can cause one to feel helpless.  If you find yourself there today, here is my response: You are not helpless you are in need of help. Jesus Christ is the One Who can help.

We live in a broken and marred world.  Each of our lives is wrought with difficulties and adversity.  However, the helplessness we experience is not the only truth to our existence. We are not without help or hope.  God’s word, the Bible, has this to say, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (Romans 5:6) We are all helpless and we are all in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ is that Savior.

Today if you find yourself in a situation that makes you feel helpless or hopeless know this, You are more incredibly loved and cared for than you’ve ever thought possible.  That’s the heart of the message Christ came to give on this earth.  I can’t force you to believe that nor will I add more platitudes on top of that. However it does remain that this is what I believe, “For God loved the world (that means you too!) in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) (emphasis mine)

You are not helpless in this world you are in need of help. Believe and receive the promise of new life God has given to all who call on His name.

Cyclical Work: Sex, Marriage, Life

Relationships require work. The fact that life is constantly changing proves that our relationships are also changing. Neither Justin nor I are the same person we were when we married and we’ve accepted that. Certainly there are parts of our core personalities and values that remain but there are rough edges that have smoothed. There are soft places that have solidified. There are parts that were formless that have taken shape together, as one. None of those things happened immediately and every one of them is still in progress.  There is much work yet to be done.

I imagine your relationships and marriage are the same. Change is forced by circumstances, trials and adversity. The work relationships require is cyclical. Just when one thing seems to be going well, something else is coming around the corner.  It’s possible to find seasons of rest and well being but oftentimes they don’t last very long. Busyness strikes. Betrayal happens. Illness invades.  Such is life.

The only comfort that relieves and revives in situations of change is the comfort of turning things over to God.  The brokenness of the world we live in crashes hard in to each of our lives. It’s not a matter of “if” it will happen, it’s a matter of “when”.  Learning to trust our marriages, our sex life, our parenting, our relationships to God is the ultimate exercise in faith.  This is the greatest work we can do. Our blog, and many others, provide practical information on how to work on communication, forgiveness, creativity, and sex, but the greatest work any person can do is to yield to God. To accept that a life well lived is a life of surrender to the One Who knew you before you were even born.

If you are feeling helpless today, allow God to help. If the work you are doing in any area of your life seems to be getting you nowhere, yield to God who can make all things new. There is beauty from mess awaiting every person who calls out to God. That beauty may not evidence itself in the exact way or time we expect but it is possible.  God takes brokenness aside and makes it beautiful.  Will you allow Him to do that in your situation today?

The lyrics from “Brokenness Aside” by All Sons and Daughters inspired this post. The entire album is deeply ministering to me right now.

Linking with: Messy Marriage, To Love Honor and Vacuum

Seasons of Busyness or Change

Change.

It’s one constant in life we can count on.

Unfortunately, knowing that change is part of life doesn’t always make it easier to accept. Right now, we are in the midst of some very exciting change in our personal lives.  Justin mentioned in our Frantic Friday post that we are in the midst of moving into a new facility with our church. As a pastor’s family we are extremely busy with last minute details, meetings and installations.  Feeling connected during this busy time is important to us but practically knowing how to stay connected is providing much room for improvement.

During seasons of change or busyness, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

1. Be on the look out for ways to serve your spouse.

While Justin’s love language* is words of affirmation through and through, I am finding that right now acts of service mean a great deal too. Yesterday I spent the day washing the cars and mowing the lawn because I knew it would be greatly appreciated.

Taking on a household responsibility that would normally fall to the shoulders of your spouse can lighten their load. Or perhaps you are both equally busy and neither of you can take on more responsibility. In that instance, maybe you could work together on a task to show you support each other and are on the same team. It could even mean that hiring someone else to help out for the time being would prove to be the biggest blessing you could give one another. Take time to consider how you can best serve each other and follow through.

2. Make room in your life to practice introspection and quiet.

If you’re anything like me, during busy seasons introspection is the first thing to go.  Healthy eating, regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy relational connections all seem to fade away. Though this is typical it’s not wise.  Taking a few minutes each day to evaluate what is most important and then living that out is essential.

As a believer in Christ, I know the importance of staying connected to God and it’s my chief desire to glorify Him in all I do.  By making time to sit quietly and have my mind renewed, I am being far more productive than if I were to start immediately on my “to do” list. Consider today how you can leave margin in your life in order to sit quietly and reflectively. The ability to do this will impact how you move through your day and accomplish the tasks set before you.

“Exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world.” ~ Lysa TerKeurst

3. Adopt a “what works best now” mindset.

“Always” and “Never” kind of thinking during seasons of busyness or change can be detrimental. It is selfishness that thinks everything should remain the same all the time. Stamp out selfishness by learning to accept and look for the ways love is showing up in your relationship.  Voice concerns if the period of neglect is turning into a habit of neglect but understanding that for the time being, what is working now, may not be permanent.

These are just a few of the things that I am trying to apply to our marriage right now and thought you might be able to use them as well. Please feel free to share what works for you during your most busy times in life.

* For more information on love languages, check out the book 5 Love Languages or the website.