A Letter to My Children on My 20th Wedding Anniversary

Hi Kids,

This week your dad and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage and I need to tell you a few important things.

First of all, twenty years.

Your dad married me two days before my 22nd birthday. It was the best birthday of my life.

He surprised me on our wedding day and sang to me and we’ve been making music together since.

(Yeah, this officially makes us old. And gross. Keep reading.)

You know how as musicians you play a piece over and over again, until you get it right? And sometimes even with all the practice and perseverance, you don’t play it perfectly, but you still make music? And then sometimes, you play it and the sound fills the room and you know you’ve nailed it?

That’s what marriage is like.

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It’s a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of practice, a lot of redoing and fine tuning. There are missed notes and off days mixed with magical moments and beautiful melodies. And if you ask an accomplished musician if they’ve ever played a piece perfectly, they answer no. But they keep playing.

A good marriage isn’t about one bad day or one good one. It’s about not quitting on either.

Your dad and I have had both. You’ve seen some good and bad and there are stories of freedom and forgiveness we will tell you when you’re ready.

A good marriage is about looking for the small gifts that we don’t always see.

Like when your dad got home in the middle of the night recently from his out-of-state trip. It wasn’t because of a delayed flight, it was because he stopped to help a man in the parking lot jump his car. I used to get angry about things like this–arriving home late, making dinner wait, but when I really look past the small inconveniences, I see the big heart of a good man, always looking for ways to help other people.

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Daughters, this is the kind of man I married.

And it’s the kind I pray for in your future.

I pray you’re the kind of wife who counts the good your husband does more than you count the bad.

I pray you’re the kind of wife that says I’m sorry first.

I pray you’re the kind of wife who asks Jesus for help.

Because that’s the kind of wife I want to be.

Son, since you were a little boy, you’ve been trying on your dad’s shoes. Keep following his steps.

I pray you’re the kind of husband who makes your wife laugh until her sides ache.

I pray you’re the kind of husband who whispers over your wife in prayer when she’s asleep.

I pray you’re the kind of husband who will love God more than anything else.

I pray you’re the kind of husband who will bring sweet tea on sour days.

Because that’s the kind of dad you have.

I pray you know deep, abiding love. I pray you are each other’s favorite people. I pray you are good forgivers when you drive each other crazy and believe in each other when you can’t believe in yourself.

I pray you have half of what we have.

Most of all, I pray you keep God in the middle to draw you closer to each other. I pray you keep Him above you to remind you that life is a breath and to look for the gift in every day. Because He can take the bad days and hard moments and turn them into beautiful years.

And one day when you look back, it will sound a lot like music.

Love,

Mom

The Small Things That Make or Break A Marriage

2 AM.

I was wide awake tossing and turning. Terrell asked what was wrong and I told him to go back to sleep, it’s just a backache.

I slipped out of bed and looked for the heating pad. (Everyone over 40 has one of these, right?)  I couldn’t find it and so I started a hot bath. While I soaked, I assumed my husband snoozed, but I heard some banging around and felt bad that now two of us were awake.

Hoping the hot water did the trick, I got back into bed and was surprised to find a warmed heating pad on my side of the bed.

I smiled in the dark, now understanding the creaking doors and opening drawers I heard earlier. My husband gave up sleep to serve me. I whispered thank you.

The small things that make or break a marriage

It’s the little things that make a marriage.

As I lay there and tried to go back to sleep, I couldn’t help but think about being irritated earlier in the day with this same guy. He offered to clean the kitchen after I made dinner. But when I went to get a refill on my drink, I noticed he didn’t wipe off the food on the counters.  I know, unforgivable, right? I complained about it. And probably sighed as I did the job right. I can be a brat.

It’s the little things that break a marriage.

It’s all in how we look at it.

It’s all in what we do with those little things.

Marriages usually face big hurdles at some time or another. We protect and try to fight our way to victory. We are often aware of the giants, the big problems. But for many, the true danger is in the small, day-in-and-day-out stuff that can settle deep in our hearts and grow like a bad seed. These are the small foxes that spoil the vine that Song of Solomon 2:15 warns us of–the little annoyances are like termites, nearly unnoticeable, but they cause significant damage. Sometimes we let the smallest grievances cause the biggest destruction.

the little stuff that makes or breaks a marriage

At the same time, when we look for and acknowledge the little things in our marriage and recognize them as gifts from our spouse, we strengthen our marriage. When I really look for these gifts throughout my day-the way he offers to clean up the kitchen after I cook or fills my car up with gasoline so I don’t have to or the way he turns his alarm clock down so it doesn’t wake me or the way he surprises me with a sweet tea– these are the gifts in my life and they are countless.

They add up-if I stop to add them.

The small stuff can break a marriage if we let it, but it can also make a marriage.

It’s all in how we look at it.

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There is Nothing Quite as Sexy as a Man Who Loves His Wife.

His beard is sprinkled with gray. His hands are rough and calloused. His boots are caked with mud. Sweat dripped from his brow as he mowed his parents’ farm in his worn Wranglers. The muscles across his back rippled as he worked hard in the hot sun.

I called out his name and he turned around.

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I snapped a picture so I could remember how good he looked. He laughed and shook his head when I told him so.

But I didn’t laugh.

Because a wife can look into a moment and see more of her husband if she wants to. But she has to be looking.

When I pause and think about my life with this man, I know that it doesn’t matter what kind of day we’ve had. . . loving each other is  a way a life. And I may be a lot of things, but unloved it not one of them. Even when I am unlovable.

He loves me like this:

It’s his protective hand on the small of my back as we walk into an unfamiliar place.

It’s the extra stop on the way home to bring me my favorite drink.

It’s the meaningful eye contact over a crowd of people.

It’s reading the tension in my shoulders and walking across the room to rub it away.

It’s one hand in mine, the other uplifted to God on a Sunday.

It’s watching him empty the change from his pockets into the jar for an anniversary trip we are hoping to take some day.

It’s catching him refolding all the towels and sheets in the linen closet because he saw it needed to be done.

It’s forgiving my grumpy attitude before I have a chance to ask.

It’s making two eggs instead of one.

It’s not leaving.

It’s staying.

No matter what.

It’s so easy in this life to name all the things our husbands don’t do. And most days we could pick them apart if we wanted to. We can always find something when we look closely.

But when I begin to count all the things he does, day-in-and-day out, the list grows long. It’s the best thing to do when you don’t want to.

There is nothing quite as sexy as a man who loves his wife.

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Flowers are nice. Jewelry is grand.  But I prefer how he tells me a thousand ways without buying a thing or saying a word.

Wives, listen. Maybe you can hear it too.

Three Things I Gave Up to Make My Marriage Better

I could tell by the tone of his voice over the phone he was upset.

He came straight home from the doctor’s appointment and shared the news: His diabetes had progressed and he needed to make (more) immediate life changes or get on more medication.

I could hear fear in his voice–not for his own health, but for his family.

And I love that about this man I’m married to. I’ve watched him lay down his dreams, desire, his life for us. He has made of life of loving us.

They say marriage is give and take.

They are right.

It’s been the secret of our 19 year union. Through the ups and downs–and there have been many– we are committed to fight together, not apart. Although some days we do this loudly.

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I love my husband.

And if nearly two decades has taught me anything, I’ve learned that sometimes we have to give up and give in, to get the best out of our marriage.

Three things we can give up to gain more in our marriages:

1. Pride: Let’s admit when we are wrong.

Which is hardly ever, amiright? It’s all-too-easy to divide marriage down the middle into rights and wrongs. Because we are human and humans excel at this. We are the best at holding grudges, stewing, making excuses. It’s time we humble ourselves and admit when we are wrong.  Apologizing, making amends, confessing is how we make marriage work. Pride will destroy a marriage and a soul.

2. Superiority: Let’s hush when we are right.

Gloating over your mate being wrong? That might be worse than never admitting wrongdoing. Sometimes we nail it. And just because we can wave the “I told you so” banner boldly, doesn’t mean we should. Some of the most powerful moments in my marriage has been when one of us was right and we didn’t say a word. It’s called grace and you just can’t have too much with your spouse.

3. Selfishness: Let’s support our spouse even if it costs us something. 

No one has to teach us how to be selfish. We just are naturally good at it. Sometimes our spouses need our support–in a job they hate, in a health crisis, emotional support or a battle for their soul.  When we join them in their fight, we are reminding them they are not alone in their struggle.

So, we have a new family game plan for my husband’s health. More of this, less of that. And the great thing is it’s really for our family’s health. Because we are a team and we want him around.

The bottom line is this: I love my husband. I love my marriage.

And I’m willing to give up some things to make it better.

 

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What I Want My Daughters To Know About My Wedding

Dear Daughters,

A few months ago you were both in a wedding and between that and all the popular TLC bridal shows on Netflix and the breathtaking wedding boards on Pinterest, it’s got you asking questions about my wedding.

So, I want to tell you about it.

First of all, it was ugly.

No, really, it was. It was 1994, so that didn’t help.

Neither did my temporary romantic love for the Victorian era. My accent colors were mauve and forest green. Yeah. They were interesting colors against the burnt orange pews of the church and twinkling Christmas trees on the stage. (It was a December wedding).

The bridesmaids wore handmade mauve tent-like dresses that could accommodate an array of sizes, including a very pregnant bridesmaid. I’m pretty sure they were burned while I was on my honeymoon.

I had always planned on wearing a long-sleeved ivory Victorian gown. But instead I fell in love with a white off-the-shoulder sequined contemporary one. I had multiple themes going on.

Remember when you found my dress in a box in the attic a couple of years ago and asked if you could try it on? That kind of stuff is hard on moms.

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The reception was in the small, dimly-lit fellowship hall. There wasn’t dinner or dancing or enough satin to cover the drabness of the room. There was some sort of Sprite punch, a delicious wedding cake, groom’s cake (with a plastic fisherman on top) and some mixed nuts.

There weren’t party favors or sparklers. The guests threw birdseed as we ran to my blue Isuzu compact car, awash with ridiculous writing and a condom on the muffler (your Uncle’s contribution). I can still remember the look on the pastor’s face as we waved goodbye.

We immediately stopped at a fast food restaurant where I dumped a pint of birdseed from my underwear on the floor of the bathroom. That was wrong. But it was itchy.

I can’t think of a single pin-worthy picture from the day.

It wasn’t trendy or lavish.

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There wasn’t a dance floor or fresh orchids and chandeliers hanging from trees.

But I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

Somehow even with our less than glamorous wedding photo album and honeymoon on an extreme budget to exotic Arkansas, your dad and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this Christmas.

Because we understood that a marriage isn’t about a wedding.

We discovered that a lifetime of love and commitment trumps an event any day. We learned that starting our new life together debt and doubt-free was a gift to each other.

Yesterday, I read that 70% of girls creating wedding boards on Pinterest, aren’t even engaged yet. With every other marriage ending, do we have time for all this planning and pining for one perfect day?

It makes me sad that the world you’re growing up in concentrates more on the wedding than the marriage. It’s over in a sunset and it’s easy compared to the long marathon of becoming and staying one with your one and only.

I want you to know marriage is more than a venue or a menu. It’s far more than The Perfect Day or saying yes to the dress.

And I know you will probably want all of the above some day. And that’s okay.

I just want you to spend more time praying than planning. I want you to sacrifice more than you spend. I want you to understand your commitment to the man of your dreams is more than a certificate—it’s a covenant to God.

Most of all, I want you to know love. The kind of love your dad and I have that lasts through heartache and headaches. I want you to know that you are loved. You don’t have to earn or achieve it. It’s not dependent on a good hair day or bad. It’s not something you can lose. Whether you’re swept off your feet or remain a confidant single woman, you are enough.

I have seen how fast time flies. I know the days are long and the years are short. I put away the toys and clothes you outgrow regularly. I know while I write this, one of you is practicing eye shadow upstairs and the other is practicing cartwheels in the yard, and I will blink and it will be time to give you away.

You are just beginning to dream. Don’t stop.

And on this regular summer Monday, I want you to know that my wedding wasn’t much.

But my marriage is more.

Love,

Mom

The Real Threat to Marriage

Frustrated. Irritable. Tired.

I blamed it on jet lag and dirty hair. And rightly so.

But still. It’s always’s something. We can always find a reason for an interruption in happiness. Even when we are rested on the best hair day.

We stood at an airport in between time zones on the other side of the globe and in a hot minute, my soulmate was hinging on becoming my arch enemy.

Ah, love.

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There’s no guarantee we’ll be happy in marriage.

As a matter of fact, most days we can find a hundred reasons not to be.

And I’m not really talking about the big things like financial ruin, pornography, adultery and differences we can’t reconcile.

I understand marriages end every day with good reason. I understand the choice isn’t always ours.

But if we’re keeping track and letting the small things add up –those dirty socks on the floor, that burned dinner, the lack of romance, the mood swings– our marriage could be in danger.

Big or small–we can conquer all of these with God’s help.

I’ve seen marriages overcome the worst. And I’ve witnessed them end over insignificant irritations.

Because maybe the biggest threat of all is when we simply stop trying.

When we give up.

Quit.

Stop participating. Stop communicating.

When we refuse to forgive the small stuff, bury our feelings, give our spouse the cold shoulder and punish them with the silent treatment–

We always, always lose.

I read an article about a couple who on their 20 year anniversary dinner reminisced about their lives together and then when they got to dessert, they talked about who got the house and who got the kids.

There wasn’t a big reason for the split. They were growing in different directions, didn’t feel connected or happy anymore.

And while it may sound surprising to give up over so little, I think the threat is all too real. Leaving is often easier than staying.

I’ve been there:

We would falter and fail and taste brokenness like we couldn’t imagine. My solid marriage would be unrecognizable, a lot like the pieces scattered around me.- from Chapter 3, the testimony of my marriage in Rhinestone Jesus.

Here’s the thing–no marriage is perfect. Not your neighbors or your pastors. Not mine or yours. How could it be with all that humanity? Some days we don’t feel happy, or loved, or loving.

But we fight. We love. We keep forgiving.  We keep working on our marriage.

Because struggling means we are both trying.

And that beats quitting any day.

3 Intentional Ways to Celebrate Dad

He cleans up poop and puke without gagging.

He has and would work multiple jobs to provide for our family.

He is intentional with our kids.

He tells the world I rock (bonus points):

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He leads our family by example.

He is a hard worker.

He is a God-sized dreamer.

He wears a cowboy hat to mow the lawn.

He’s sexy (see above).

Yep, I hit the jackpot.

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Not only do I have a great dad, I am married to one.

He loves his kids passionately and gives them great footsteps to follow.

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Here are 3 intentional ways we can celebrate Dad (not just one day, but all year long):

  1. Say thank you personally -it may seem obvious and even overdone, but dads are sentimental, too. And those thank you letters and handmade crafts and pictures mean a lot. Ideas:   write it | make it memorable 
  2. Say thank you again without words- It’s one thing to say thank you with words, it’s entirely different to let our actions speak for our words. Maybe it’s quietly serving him or that one thing he really wants. When in doubt start with bacon
  3. Say thank you publicly- Let the world know how much your family loves Dad. Hang a banner, make a cake, celebrate him in front of friends and families. Your kids can tell the world in these cute shirts.

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Why I Share About My Broken Marriage In My Book

She pulled me close and said the words in a hush, “ Your book for me is like the book Radical was for you.”

The words stun.

Because I know what that means. I’m looking in the eyes of a woman who is about to turn her life upside down in her yes to Jesus.

“We are about to start the book as a family,” she motions to her three teens sitting at the picnic table.

“Except for that one chapter. We may skip over that one for now.”

And I knew which chapter she was referring to without even naming it.

It’s not the chapter about being a rich mom or the one about how lonely this road has been or the messy one about family life.

It’s the one about my marriage.

The one that talks about the secret sin of pornography and how it ripped my marriage apart and how God helped me choose forgiveness. It’s the intimate and hard-to-read pages of how my husband wanted freedom more than he wanted anything else. It’s the soul-splitting journal of the long, hard road to healing and the story behind the very special words on our wedding bands we gave each other the day we decided to marry all over again.

God can do anything

Most people think Rhinestone Jesus is about Mercy House. And it is. This unlikely home in the heart of Africa, funded by a bunch of moms–that is our family’s yes, our God-sized dream. It’s as wild and crazy as it sounds.

But Mercy House is today. That’s not the whole story. I know how easy it is to see where someone is today and think, “Huh. Well, my yes is small. I could never do something significant for God.”

And that’s why I start and end the book with brokenness. That’s why I invite you in -because you need to know where we started, the ups and downs, the heartbreak and healing journey to our yes.

Because it’s raw. It’s real. It’s as standing on the edge of destruction as you can get.

Not only does it make where we ended up more powerful: It’s a reminder of what God can do. He can do it for your marriage, too.

I used to hate that pornography was a part of my story. You may hate part of your story, too. I used to think I was alone in my marriage troubles. You may feel that, also. I used to think I was too broken to say yes. I was wrong. You may be, too.

Now? Today, I’m thankful for the brokenness in my marriage. I would have never known its strength if I wasn’t aware of its weakness. I would never have tasted intimacy if I hadn’t experienced void. I would never love my husband like I do today, if I didn’t nearly lose him.

I don’t know the secrets your marriage holds.

But I know who holds your marriage.

I can promise you–whatever brokenness that your story contain–don’t let it define you. Don’t let it imprison you. And please, don’t let it make you feel alone. Something miraculous happens when we release the brokenness: it sets us free.