How to love the unlovely

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but never published it. Since we’ve returned to Virginia to be with our grandsons and their parents, we have been too busy to write any travel blogs. But thought I’d share a bit more of my heart in the matter of marriages as we witness another marriage in crisis. How we pray others are spared the heartache we went through by a few simple steps we wish we had tried….

Real life....

I learned in Blogging 101, when you write an epistle in response to someone else’s post, Julie Sheppard’s in this case, (to join her discussion, click here to read it), it is best to write a post in your own blog! So that is what I am doing. I have actually shared this story a number of times, so I might as well tell the whole story here!

But I tell you, love your enemies. Pray for those who treat you badly. If you do this, you will be children who are truly like your Father in heaven. He lets the sun rise for all people, whether they are good or bad. He sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only those who love you, why should you get a reward for that? Even the tax collectors do that. And…

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Chapter 20 – Why be married?

During Vacation Bible School, I had a conversation with a friend about marriage.  We talked in general and due to time constraints, ended with “Why be married?”

Seeing marriages succeed is our passion.  Our hearts break every time we hear about another marriage breaking up.  If only we could put all of our lessons learned and our recipe for success in a pill.  We are very open about our marriage and the fact that we divorced after 13 years of marriage, only to be reconciled miraculously, and remarried one year after our initial separation (and now married 37 years).  Our purpose in this blog is to help encourage couples and to enhance marriages.  We are so grateful we were able to reconcile and thank God every day as we go through life’s challenges together.

Every couple’s relationship is unique and ours is no exception.  I love working with people (I am the social one), from babies to the elderly.  But if we had an expertise, it is in marriages because we not only have succeeded in our marriage we have also failed.  We learned from our mistakes and came up with a recipe for success (see Chapter 7 – RX for the BEST marriage) which we try and share frequently and often.  It is our blueprint for the success we now enjoy in our marriage.

Nearly every young girl dreams of one day being married.  I remember conversations as a teenager about my future husband, about how many children I wanted, what kind of wedding I would have, how many bridesmaids.  Bill, on the other hand, said he and his friends never talked about these things!  But yet, he is the one who says he loves being married and the reason is to be with his wife.  We love being together as much as possible!  We had much in common when we first came together and we have had to work at keeping things in common.  It takes a yielding and a desire for oneness.

We had talked about having our own business before we were married so we could be together all the time.  But that was a fantasy….until I retired at the age of 52. We finally had the opportunity to work together.  It lasted 1 1/2 years!  I loved physical labor, so I tried to hang with him while we began to invest in real estate.  As it turned out, I sort of got in his way and it was easier for him to work alone.  I was his gofer, but that became too unrewarding and I soon went back to work part-time.  So we are apart anywhere from 4 to 6 hours a day.  We also rarely travel alone.  He says, “why be married” if we are going to travel apart.  During my career, we were apart a lot and that was hard on us.

I say all that to say, we go through phases of life.  Before you are married, you want to be together all the time.  After you are married, you get into a routine.  Unless you are in business together, you go your separate ways during the day.  And then the strength of your marriage depends on how you spend your time together after work and on weekends.

And then we all live for the freedom of retirement, right?  And that is when you once again can be together all the time, like before you were married.  How many of us think about how that will work?  We planned for that day and just assumed we would enjoy our time together.  It is then, if not sooner, you find out the strength of your marriage.  Do you still have anything in common?  We knew this would be important and we worked hard at keeping our commonalities strong.  We know because when we divorced, we had grown apart!  So we try and do everything possible together!

So why be married?  Here is our list:  It starts off with our prescription for a GREAT marriage, the BEST principle – to be a Blessing, to Edify each other, to Share life with and to have that warm Touch.   God tells us in His Word, in Genesis 2:18:

Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

We know and understand each other’s aches and pains.  We have each other’s back! But as Bill likes to explain, it is the intimacy of marriage that is the most important component to keep us living “happily ever after.”  He explains what makes our relationship so special is that we have things that we only do with each and this is the glue that keeps us growing together.

Hiking in the Smokies as we celebrated 37 years together!

Chapter 19 – At the foot of the cross…

I love to share our testimony and will do so at any opportunity!  I recently shared this part of our testimony with a friend and realized, it is such a beautiful testimony, perhaps I should blog about it.  Actually, I like to believe that the Lord gave me the idea, afterall, He gave us the testimony!

If anyone else has ever been at the foot of the cross, then you know how powerful and yet humbling it is to find yourself there.  If you have never been there, please join me as I share about our experience.

There are very few divorces that end amicably.  Most are very acrimonious and ours was no exception.  I wanted ours to be a “friendly” divorce – I was the one who asked for it.  Bill was stunned, he had no idea our marriage was in such bad shape!  Well, the signs were there, but he was too busy earning a living to realize he had lost me.

We had been to a professional counselor years before, but made no real progress.  That put a band-aid on the relationship, over a festering wound.  After 13 years of marriage, I went to a pastor for counseling before I filed for divorce.  I felt I had no choice but to end our marriage.  I had told Bill two other times we had a problem and that we needed to be in a church. I felt like I was spiritually dying – I actually was! But since I wanted a spiritual life, I thought it was it hypocritical to seek a divorce “just so I could go to church?”  So off to see a pastor of a church friends had invited us to attend. We liked him but Bill said we won’t go every week….

I told my story to this pastor. The pastor said, if I was so unhappy in my marriage, it sounded like a divorce was OK.  You see, in his opinion, he said God wants His children to be happy!  I should have asked where it said this in the Bible. Now I can see it was wrong headed theology! In my case, I really did not have grounds for me to seek a divorce other than I was unhappy. This particular pastor, who saw me as a potential member, blessed my request. So off I ran to a lawyer, feeling God’s blessing. And then I began to attend church regularly, taking our six-year-old daughter, who had never been in church up to this point!

If you have experienced divorce, you know it hurts so badly as the Bible says, “… they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:6)  Your spirit is literally tearing in two.  As you are divorcing, one is pulling away, while the other is clinging on for life.   In order to fend off the one clinging, you say and do many hurtful things.

To make a long story short, after our divorce, on a Sunday evening, I had arranged for Bill’s “new” pastor (interesting, he started going to church once I filed the divorce papers) to meet with us after the church service.   Bill had seen me enter “his” church.  He sat and fumed, wondering why I was in “his church.”  As soon as the service was over, the Pastor went up to Bill while I ran towards them.  Bill asked what was going on.  I informed him that the Pastor agreed to meet with us.  You see, Bill had really scared me with his anger.  He was never an angry or mean person!  Bill had to be polite in church, so he offered to buy his Pastor dinner since he said he had not eaten.

We agreed to meet at our our favorite restaurant.   The Pastor ordered dinner, but we just ordered sodas, neither hungry.  The Pastor then asked what was going on.  Well, that was like stirring up a hornets nest!  We began to attack each other, threw horrible barbs at each other.  The poor pastor, sat there helplessly, but managed to at least eat his dinner.  He tried to interject a few times but we just talked over him!  Finally, I noticed the lights dimmed, the restaurant was closing!  We were so oblivious, we had not noticed we were the only customers left!  The pastor politely said he did not think there was anything he could do for us.  Bill paid the bill and we all walked out into the parking lot.

I remember it there was a full moon.  Bill lit up a cigarette (another one of my beefs, I detested the smoke) and the pastor began to shuffle off to his car.  I asked if he could at least pray for us.  So he said sure, finally, I am sure he thought, he could do something meaningful!  I don’t recall what he prayed, but we all bowed our heads and accepted God’s grace.

Bill had not moved out of our house since we had a guest room.  I was under transfer to another state, so while we broke up housekeeping, it was easier for him to stay there. He arrived home before I did and paid the babysitter then checked on Jessica.  As soon as I got home, I went to check on Jessica, but instead, literally bumped into Bill in the hallway.  I can’t explain it, but somehow, we just stood there for a moment….and then we felt the power of the Holy Spirit.  Or maybe I should say, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit since I am speaking!  We suddenly began to ask each other for forgiveness!  We argued back and forth a bit, “it was my fault!” “No, it was my fault.” Then we agreed to admit, that it was 100% each of our faults. I remember one of us said, “after all, Jesus had forgiven us” ….and then I could imagine the image of us standing at the foot of the Cross!  Our reconciliation began!

To read what happened next, please return to Chapter 3, “OK, we forgave each other, now what?”