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?
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!
If there is anything that fires me up and gets me passionate it is the subject of marriage. We have had to grow through the valleys to learn how to love each other as God designed us to love. It is not always a feel good relationship. But it is so worth it to fight for your spouse and your family. Rick and I have been involved in marriage ministry for over ten years but now we have been fueled by all of the stories we are hearing about broken marriages, about the fight to change the definition of marriage and by the number of families that are broken. We will not stop fighting for marriages and loving couples through their challenges.
Recently we have been honored to join forces with Family Life and Noble Warriors. We are planning on partnering with churches in the Chesterfield/ Powhatan County area to hold a county wide marriage event this fall. The Art of Marriage event will take place September 21-22 at Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Midlothian, VA. We have a lot of work to do in order to hold this event. We have been emailing and calling churches all over the area. We are holding a planning meeting on May 10 to put the team together. We are also holding a training Art of Marriage on May 31-June 1 at our church: Village Church of Midlothian. Would you like to attend?
We could really use your prayers and support. If you are in the area let me know if you want to be a part of the team. If you live elsewhere, please keep this in your prayers. Marriages are under attack which means families and children are under attack. Join us as we help to strengthen marriages!
In the meantime I am also working on my journal. I hope to release it before the July 1 anniversary of Tonia’s death. This has been a very tough labor of love. Thanks for walking this journey with me.