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Listening

This year has been about learning to listen.  I don’t mean hearing something or someone but not making it a part of the situation or a part of your life.  Listening is first about caring enough for the other person that you are willing to put aside you!

This year I have been learning how to listen to God. It took a small tic to get me to slow down enough truly listen to what he has been saying to me.  His priorities for my life had been put on the back burner as I stayed busy with people and with stuff. Then I got sick. The world stopped. My hubby cancelled trips to be by my side. My dad sat with me for hours talking about life.  My world shifted. And then….God spoke.

Time is precious and I had been wasting it.  My focus has to be on the mission he has given to me, to us all. The mission to promote Him, His values, His desire and will for His children. In my life it needs to be a focus on the areas of influence He has given me.

First: Marriage. Marriage defined by Him and then marriages that need to keep seeking to get closer to Him.  A husband willing to cancel trips because a wife needs him. A wife willing to learn how to be his cheerleader because he needs her to believe in him. A team that puts God first…. together. Years of habits that need to be changed, but a willingness to work at the changes because it is what God wants. Be willing to sacrifice self to be a part of something more than self.

The only way for us to be a part of God’s plan is to be open to listen but also open to asking hard questions. Open to putting up boundaries when we are trying harder than the couple sitting across from us want to try. Open to being hurt. God can only use me if I am open to His leading and listening to His word.

Second: Grief work. I don’t like grief. I don’t like talking about grief. But like it or not I have been given a front row seat to grief. I can’t fix the problems that grief brings but I can listen. I can hear a mom who just wants to say her child’s name out loud and have some one hear her. I can listen when tears come up in the middle of a sunny day.  I can use my gifts to be the tech geek on a website that shares the hope of tomorrow! In the midst of this I can learn a new language. The language of grief.

Then God uses both of these areas and merges them together. Because marriage can be filled with grief. The grief of not being loved, not being heard, dreams and expectations dying.  Everyone has loss in their life. The question is what do you do about it?

Back to the beginning….you (and I) have to learn how to listen. God is speaking. Can you hear Him?

 

We have heard all of the responses to the recent Supreme Court decision and I was starting to get a bit discouraged. What can I do to change this situation? What is this world coming to? What will happen next?

But then I started thinking about what the Bible tells me to do: In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

It is even more important today and tomorrow that we stand for marriage in our own lives. We need to be putting the priority on having the strongest marriage around. Our children and our children’s children will need to have truth modeled for them. The generations to come will be living in a country where Biblical truth about marriage will be condemned. It is up to us to teach others that Marriage was, is and ever will be a covenant between God and one man and one woman.  Our children are hearing that this is wrong. They are being taught the a sin is being accepted and even embraced by the world.

What can we do: Draw closer to God and to each other, Model biblical marriage, Attend every seminar and class promoting a strong marriage, Talk about your marriage and How God is being honored. We need to be the light in the darkness now more than ever.

Rick and I have been passionate about marriage for a very long time. We love to teach and speak about how God changed us and changed the Legacy of generations. We love to sit down with couples who are struggling and help them to find their center in God.  We would love to talk to you about your marriage! Our pastors at Village Church would love to talk to you about your marriage.  Stand strong. Be convicted!

Marriage = God + Man + Woman

Marriage = God + Man + Woman

Marriage: Lead Me

For the next several posts I want to share from my heart about the an issue that many will take offense to. This issue is the role of men & women as designed by God and how it affects our lives and our children’s lives.

As I meet with women in my sphere of influence I hear two cries from their hearts. They are crying out for their husbands to communicate with them. They want their husbands to share details of their days, share details of their struggles, & share compliments.  But even more I hear the cry of their hearts for a spiritual leader in their home.  When God designed men & women he gave each very specific roles.  To women, he gave the role of a helpmate. Rick tells me over and over that he couldn’t do his job without my support, that he needs my point of view on sticky subjects and that my affirmation of him makes him stand tall in the world.  This is my role. I stand beside him in life.

God designed men to have the responsibility to be the servant leader of the house. Rick leads me by doing bible studies with me. He leads me by discussing the struggles I have with my strong emotions and desires. He leads me by showing me his love and care for me and for our children.  He takes responsibility for decisions when we have reached an impasse in our discussions. He gives up guys nights out in order to spend time disciplining other guys. He gives up hobbies in order to spend time loving me. He sacrifices.

Unfortunately I don’t see a lot of men around us who are taking on the role that God designed for them.  I see men who are afraid to say, “I don’t understand the Bible” and then they won’t ask for help. I see men who put their priorities on their golf game, exercise program, their job or their “me time” over growing as the leader of their home. It breaks my heart! This is affecting their wives and their children.  But it affects even more because it affects the future generations.  Sons mimic their fathers, daughters marry someone just like their father, so the cycle is repeated.

What can we as women do? Pray, pray and pray some more. Pray for your husbands from their head to their toes. Pray that your attitude is not putting a stumbling block in their way. We can’t change the men in our lives but we can lift them up to the God who cares deeply. Read your bible, go to church, be discipled by other women and act on the values that you crave to see evident in your home. Encourage your husband to spend the time away from the family in a bible study. Sacrifice this time with him without complaining.

This does not change our husbands but it changes us.  I am not as critical when I have been spending time in the Word. I am held accountable when I am discipled. I am more honoring and loving to my husband and family when I am seeing through God’s eyes. When I am asking God for wisdom, I gain an understanding of Him .

Our Pastor gave a fabulous sermon for Father’s Day. You can listen to it here: The War on Sin

Sanctus Real has the song Lead Me

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They’re just children from the outside
I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine
They’re in independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won’t You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can’t
Don’t want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I’ll show them I’m willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Father, lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Marriage & Selflessness

Bench

Bench

A very long time ago, around 2006, Rick & I found a bench that was all beaten up. Rick saw the potential and carefully took it apart and threw away the rotten wood. He carefully wrapped up the side pieces even though they were rusted and chewed up.  He put them away in our basement and waited.  When we started to pack for our move to Richmond, he looked at those pieces and decided that they were still worth saving.

As he watched me put in the memorial garden for Tonia, an idea began to grow.  He saw the Crepe Myrtle tree in the garden, he saw the bird feeder and then he saw the Blue Spruce Christmas tree that I call the Sean & Yelena tree; he realized that there was a missing piece. A place to sit and reflect. A place where conversations could happen in the future.

So he unwrapped the sides of that old bench and started stripping away the years of rust. He sanded them slowly, stopping to buy a new tool to get into the grooves. He stripped them down to their original form.  Then the fun began.  Together we spray painted them a matte black. They came alive again.

This past Saturday while I was out with my dear friend, Donna, Rick carefully measured, cut and installed the seat & back of the bench! It had been reborn! He took it outside and placed it mid way between the two trees. He took a picture and sent it to me! I was teary and overwhelmed at this gift. It was a gift of time, a gift of understanding and a gift of self. It was his way of saying “I Love You. I can’t take away the pain but I can share it with you.” This is what marriage looks like when God comes first and He is at the center of the marriage.

When I look at that bench I feel loved. But I also see God’s hand in our lives. We had to be stripped down to our original state, we were covered in grace and reborn in Him! Our lives have taken on a new look and a new purpose. So like that old bench we were saved by God and even through the trials there was a plan for the future!

God is so merciful!

Rick I love you! Thank you for my bench and your love!

Rick & I recently celebrated 29 years of marriage! Wow! What a rollercoaster it has been.  Today I can say that I am more in love, I am more loved and I am more content than I was 29 years ago.  There are some evening when we are sitting side by side and only a few words are spoken. We are tired from a long week, We have talked all day and I have finally used up all of my words or it is one of those moments that no words are needed. We are content to be with each other.  It is such a sweet but still weird feeling.  It is weird only because life has conditioned us to fill every moment with noise. Living where we do we get away from noise. We retreat into our home where the only noise at times is the sound of nature.  The birds are cheeping and singing, the wind rushes through the trees and creates music, the hummingbirds squeak as they gather their nectar.  It is peaceful.

This was not an easy place to get to. Our lives had to learn quiet! Our hearts had to turn to God and to each other. We needed to learn to trust! Trust took time, effort, hard work and lots of words.  Our communication skills needed to become about the other person. I had to learn not to overwhelm Rick with all of my words the minute he got home from work. He needed time to make the transition from work to home.  Rick learned that I needed to talk just to process my emotions. When I am scared, I talk! When I am happy, I talk!.  When i am stressed, I talk!  When I am mad, I get quiet!! He learned to understand that my lack of communication meant that we had a problem!

I learned that he talked when he wanted feedback on solving a problem. He talked when he needed my advice on how to see another point of view. When he was quiet, it meant that he was tired or  content to just be still.

I have a thought process that can jump from one topic to an entire new topic in a split second. I learned how to explain my “mind bridges” in order to explain myself to Rick. It was funny trying to explain how the conversation went from picking up the laundry to pink elephants dancing on the ceiling! The looks on his face was priceless! Over the years he has learned how to process my mind bridges most of the time!

I have learned that when he has that “scowl line” between his eyes that an issue is really bothering him. I know to wait for him to talk. When he is ready to share then the words spill out and his face changes and becomes more peaceful!

Marriage takes time, work and a lot of patience but when you care about your spouse more than yourself the reward is peaceful silences!

I’m Back!

Yes it has been almost a year since I have written anything.  I have missed sharing our lives here. So…

We are attending Village Church of Midlothian and we are very involved in several different areas.  I am the Serve Team Leader for the Welcoming Team, Rick is involved in Men’s Discipleship and together we are involved in Marriage Ministry.  This is my absolute favorite area.  We have had the honor to help with premarital counseling for several couples over the last two years, as well as leading three Art of Marriage events and two Marriage Oneness studies.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, marriage is very important to us.

With all of the tough stuff happening in the world, life can be very over whelming at times but when we focus on sharing the message of the Gospel in the realm of marriage then we know God can use us to make a difference. My biggest challenge is not to get ahead of God!

But I have also had some emotional struggles, in the last few months especially.  I miss Tonia more than I have in a very, very long time. Mother’s Day was very hard. I had a phone call from Sean but missed the call and we never connected the rest of the day. I did not feel very loved or honored.  Rick was great and he let me set the tone for the day.  We got a lot of projects done around the house! It has been hard not having Sean communicate.  He is married and he is a guy, both of these facts affect our communication.  I have been learning to keep my distance and to lower my expectations, for now.  Maybe one day he will want to share life with us. With his lack of communication and with Tonia being gone means that I don’t FEEL like a mother most of the time.  So my identity needs to be in God.  Some days this is harder than other days.  I try to stay grounded in God’s word and I try to stay busy but sometimes I have a pity party. Then I need Rick to kick me in the butt and I need to remember the blessings that I receive daily!

As life continues on we are delighted to be able to love on other young couples and their children! As I continue this blog I will be sharing some thoughts on how to grow closer to God and each other in your marriage!

Ministry direction

Wow! We have been so crazy busy! This isn’t unusual but we have been on the very fast track.  As we pause and reflect, I am looking at the direction that God is asking us to be proactive in.  Our passion together is for marriages!  If God changes a marriage, He changes a legacy.  Generations will be on a new path.  Children, Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren will be given a new vision for their futures. This is what drives us. As we continue to walk out this mission in our life we are choosing how to expand our sphere of influence.  Our sphere of influence starts at home then moves outward. Our church family, the friends of our church family and so on.  Meeting new people in all areas of Richmond is our expanding ministry. We are getting involved with other churches through our volunteer time with Family Life.  Our marriage team in Richmond is amazing. The heart for helping other people is one that we are all passionate about!

As time goes on, the sphere of influence also includes the women I have met through Umbrella Ministries.  How I wish I could have met these families before the death of their child. What a blessing that would have been. But God has been using the death of our daughter, Tonia, to increase His kingdom. This sphere of influence holds such a special place in my heart.  To hear the stories of loss and struggles in their marriages breaks my heart! What a joy it has been to share some ideas and tools to strengthen their marriage and their walk with God.

Every day brings a new dimension to our life.  Our biggest challenge is knowing when to say no!  We have to keep reminding ourselves that we are not doing this on our own strength but through the power of God!

What is your mission field? Who is in your sphere of influence? Let me know!

 

This past weekend I attended the West Coast conference of Umbrella Ministries. What a blessing! I was asked to share a little bit of our story and I got to hear the stories of so many other moms.  I made some new friends as we shared our hearts, our tears, our laughter but especially we shared our children! I got to hear from Kelly, Kim, Bernadette and Marigy as well as so many more. They shared how they our dealing with the death of their dear children. They shared their struggles and their triumphs. Their stories have become a part of mine.

I was also asked to lead a discussion group on Marriage & Grief. Wow! I knew that the statistics of divorce were high but seeing it first hand was like being slapped in the face.  So many of the women were already divorced and remarried. They were struggling how to grieve with a spouse who wasn’t the father to their child and in some cases never even knew the child that died. So many of the moms were trying to figure out how to communicate their pain with their husband. They were trying to learn how to share what they are feeling with their husbands and learn how to understand him.

Marriage is hard work. After the death of a child it becomes even harder. There needs to be a stake driven into the ground stating that they are committed to their marriage and to each other.  In order to get to this point someone has to say. “Stop, we need to get off of this roller coaster and think about what is happening now!”

During a crisis of any kind it is difficult to see the Hope of the future. But I know from my own experience that the future although different can still be beautiful! During the weekend Rick and I celebrated our 28th anniversary.  Despite our differences, despite our pasts and despite Tonia’s death, today we are holding onto God and onto each other.

Don’t give up! Commit to each other. Hold fast to God. Think about your spouse before yourself.  Love each other. Forgive each other.

I can’t wait for the next 2o years.  The roller coaster continues….

God’s Plans

A very dear couple we know awaited the birth of their 2nd child last year. Due to complications during her birth she has some brain injuries.  The doctors are helping this family learn and grow together during the process of waiting to see what the future holds. Sometimes it is hard to watch them go through this season without being able to fix everything.  Their hopes for a perfect child were dashed but their joy with this baby is also magnified.  They know that God is holding them all together and that He has a plan and a purpose for this young life. But some days are tough. Anger and tears come at a moments notice. But they continue to hold tight to God. They go sledding with their other child, they attend church where they both serve others,  they learn new medical procedures that they never expected to need, they buy groceries and have dinners together. The future according to the world is uncertain yet the future according to God has already been written. For this minute that is all they need.

For me watching this family I feel useless yet I also see glimpses of God’s glory.  When we moved to Richmond we build our house to be wheelchair accessible.  We thought we knew why we designed our home with these extra features but now I see a glimpse of the possibilities.  This young child will probably need a ramp to get into our home to visit, we have that ramp. The bathroom is wider and has support handles around the toilet and tub to assist. There are no barriers to this dear family visiting us! How wonderful to know that we can have them over and they won’t have to think about these things.  It is just a reminder that God gives us little gifts during our struggles.

I have learned that in the darkest times there is a light but I have to look for it and I have to be able to adjust my thinking. God is always by our side, no matter what the circumstances. This makes all the difference!

To our dear friends: we love you all!